AP News in Brief 06-06-19

Trump irked by slow progress in Mexico trade talks

WASHINGTON — Straining to stave off threatened U.S. tariffs, Mexican and American officials claimed progress in White House talks late Wednesday, but President Donald Trump declared it was “not nearly enough” to halt the import taxes he is holding out as a way to force Mexico to stanch the flow of Central American migrants flooding America’s southern border.

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Talks continued into the night at the State Department and were to resume Thursday.

Underscoring the scope of the problem, the Department of Homeland Security announced separately that U.S. Border Patrol apprehensions of migrants illegally crossing the border hit the highest level in more than a decade in May: 132,887 apprehensions, including a record 84,542 adults and children traveling together and 11,507 children traveling alone.

Trump halts fetal tissue research by government scientists

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration said Wednesday that it is ending medical research by government scientists that uses human fetal tissue,.

The Health and Human Services Department said in a statement that government-funded research by universities that involves fetal tissue can continue for now, subject to additional scrutiny — although it also ended one major university project that used the tissue to test HIV treatments. That school — University of California, San Francisco — called the decision “politically motivated.”

Administration officials said the federal policy changes will not affect privately funded research.

Ending the use of fetal tissue by the National Institutes of Health has been a priority for anti-abortion activists, a core element of President Donald Trump’s political base. A senior administration official said it was the president’s call. The official wasn’t authorized to publicly discuss internal deliberations and spoke on condition of anonymity.

From wire sources

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Texas couple stands by story after US cardinal pushes back

VATICAN CITY — The Texas couple that accused top U.S. Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of mishandling a sexual misconduct case involving his former deputy is denying his office’s claims against them, saying the church is mistreating them the way it mistreats other victims.

DiNardo’s Galveston-Houston diocese has said that the couple fabricated quotes in an Associated Press story and demanded $10 million, and that it “categorically rejects” the story as biased and one-sided. George Pontikes said Wednesday he stood by his comments recounting meetings with DiNardo in 2016 and 2017, and called the diocese’s response disappointing but not surprising.

“It is another example of a smoke screen designed to cover up wrongdoings,” said Pontikes, president and CEO of the Houston-based construction firm Satterfield &Pontikes.

His wife, Laura Pontikes, had approached DiNardo’s Galveston-Houston archdiocese in April 2016 to report that the then-vicar general had taken advantage of problems in her marriage and business to manipulate her into a sexual relationship. Emails turned over to the archdiocese and AP show that while the sexual relationship grew, Rossi heard her confessions, counseled her husband on their marriage and solicited hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations for the church.

Houston police are now investigating. Following inquiries by AP, Rossi’s new bishop placed him on leave Tuesday pending the outcome of the police investigation.

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Feds: No more education, legal services for immigrant kids

PHOENIX — The federal government has stopped paying for English-language courses and legal services at facilities that hold immigrant children around the country, imposing budget cuts it says are necessary at a time when record numbers of unaccompanied children are arriving at the border.

The Health and Human Services department notified shelters around the country last week that it was not going to reimburse them for teachers’ pay or other costs such as legal services or recreational equipment. The move appears to violate a legal settlement known as the Flores agreement that requires the government to provide education and recreational activities to immigrant children in its care.

But the agency says it doesn’t have the funding to provide those services as it deals with a soaring number of children coming to the U.S., largely from Central America.

It’s now up to the various nonprofit and private organizations run facilities for the children to cover the cost of teachers, supplies, legal services and even recreational activities and equipment — if they can, or choose to.

BCFS, a nonprofit provider in several Texas cities, said in a statement that it would continue providing services because not doing so would violate state licensing standards. It said it will use emergency funding from its parent organization.

Fiat Chrysler says French politics ended Renault merger

PARIS — Fiat Chrysler abruptly withdrew an offer to merge with French automaker Renault late Wednesday, a shocking reversal of a deal that could have reshaped the global auto industry.

The Italian-American automaker blamed its move on France’s government, saying that the country’s political climate would stop the tie-up from being successful. The government owns 15% of Renault and would have had to approve the merger.

“It has become clear that the political conditions in France do not currently exist for such a combination to proceed successfully,” Fiat Chrysler said in a statement. “FCA will continue to deliver on its commitments through the implementation of its independent strategy.”

Officials on each side blamed the other for making demands that caused the deal to fall apart with little hope of revival. The moves came on a tumultuous day in which FCA and the government reached a tentative deal on merger terms but it was scuttled later as Groupe Renault’s board met for six hours outside of Paris. The board postponed any action on the merger at the government’s request, Renault said.

Fiat Chrysler proposed the 50-50 merger in late May, saying it would save more than 5 billion euros ($5.62 billion) per year in purchasing expenses and costs developing autonomous and electric vehicles. The combined company would have produced some 8.7 million vehicles a year, more than General Motors and trailing only Volkswagen and Toyota. The merger would have created the world’s third-largest automaker worth almost $40 billion.

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Police thwarted by electronic doors during Virginia shooting

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Police responding to the deadly mass shooting at a Virginia Beach municipal building were unable to confront the gunman at one point because they didn’t have the key cards needed to open doors on the second floor.

Over the radio, they desperately pleaded for the electronic cards and talked of bringing in a sledgehammer, an explosive charge or other means of breaking down the doors.

The killer was eventually gunned down, and whether the delay contributed to the toll of 12 victims dead and four wounded is unclear. But the episode last week illustrated how door-lock technology that is supposed to protect people from workplace violence can hamper police and rescue workers in an emergency.

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“That’s definitely a blind spot that this particular shooting has shown,” said Gregory Shaffer, a retired FBI agent and former member of the bureau’s elite hostage rescue team. “We need to make sure that first responders have full access to the building.”

The attacker, 40-year-old city engineer DeWayne Craddock, went from floor to floor shooting his co-workers in the rampage last Friday before he was finally killed on the second floor in a gun battle with police.

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