Trump, Biden trade insults during dueling Iowa visits
MOUNT PLEASANT, Iowa — President Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden assailed each other during overlapping visits to Iowa on Tuesday, previewing what the country might get in next year’s election if Biden becomes his party’s nominee.
Even before he left the White House, Trump unleashed a series of schoolyard taunts, declaring that “Joe Biden is a dummy.” Biden quickly retorted that the president is “an existential threat to this country.”
The back-and-forth laid bare the rising political stakes for each, even with Election Day 2020 still about 17 months away. Trump has zeroed in on Biden as a potential threat to his re-election chances and is testing themes to beat him back. Biden, meanwhile, is campaigning as a front-runner, relishing the one-on-one fight with Trump while making sure he doesn’t ignore the demands of the Democratic primary.
“I’d rather run against Biden than anybody,” Trump told reporters before flying to Iowa. “I think he’s the weakest mentally and I like running against people that are weak mentally.”
Biden said such behavior is beneath the office of the presidency. He noted that Trump “found time to go after Bette Midler in the middle of the D-Day ceremonies,” referring to the president’s ongoing online feud with the actress.
US Catholic bishops convene to confront sex-abuse crisis
BALTIMORE — The nation’s Roman Catholic bishops convened a high-stakes meeting Tuesday under pressure to confront the child sexual abuse crisis that has disillusioned many churchgoers, with one scholar warning: “We find ourselves at a turning point, a critical moment in our history.”
How the bishops confront the problem “will determine in many ways the future vibrancy of the church and whether or not trust in your leadership can be restored,” Francesco Cesareo, an academic who chairs a national sex-abuse review board set up by the bishops, said as the four-day gathering began.
Key proposals on the agenda call for compassionate pastoral care for abuse victims, a new abuse reporting system, and a larger role for lay experts in holding bishops accountable. Votes on the proposals are expected on Wednesday and Thursday.
The deliberations will be guided by a new law that Pope Francis issued on May 9. It requires priests and nuns worldwide to report sexual abuse as well as cover-ups by their superiors to church authorities.
Advocates for abuse victims have urged the U.S. bishops to go further by requiring that suspicions be reported to police and prosecutors, too.
Ex-slugger David Ortiz had counted on fans to protect him
SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic — Beloved in his hometown, David Ortíz traveled the dangerous streets of Santo Domingo with little or no security, trusting in his fans to protect him.
Big Papi’s guard was down even at hotspots like the Dial Bar and Lounge, where the Dominican business and entertainment elite can cross paths with shadier figures in a country where fortunes are often made in drug smuggling and money laundering.
As the former Red Sox slugger lies in intensive care in Boston, recovering from the bullet fired into his back at the Dial on Sunday night, police are investigating what aspect of the national hero’s life made him the target of what appeared to be an assassination attempt.
Ortíz was so relaxed at the open-air hotspot Sunday that he had his back to the sidewalk as a gunman — a passenger on a motorcycle — got off the bike just before 9 p.m., approached the 43-year-old retired athlete and fired a single shot at close range before escaping.
Enraged fans captured the 25-year-old motorcyclist and beat him bloody before handing him over to police, but the gunman was still at large Tuesday.
Pelosi says Dems ‘not even close’ to starting impeachment
WASHINGTON — Brushing back calls for impeachment, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday “it’s not even close” to having enough support in the House, while Democrats pushed forward on other fronts to investigate President Donald Trump.
The House voted 229-191 to approve a resolution that will allow Democrats to accelerate their legal battles with the Trump administration over access to information from the Russia investigation.
At the same time, they’re convening hearings this week on special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, in an effort to boost public interest in the findings of the Trump-Russia probe while digging into a legal strategy aimed at forcing the administration into compliance with congressional oversight.
“We need answers to the questions left unanswered by the Mueller report,” Pelosi said on the House floor ahead of voting.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy countered that the Democratic maneuvers are all “just a desperate attempt to relitigate the Mueller investigation.” He called it “an impeachment effort in everything but name.”
Jon Stewart lashes out at Congress over 9/11 victims fund
WASHINGTON — Comedian Jon Stewart scolded Congress Tuesday for failing to ensure that a victims’ compensation fund set up after the 9/11 attacks never runs out of money.
Stewart, a longtime advocate for 9/11 responders, angrily called out lawmakers for failing to attend a hearing on a bill to ensure the fund can pay benefits for the next 70 years. Pointing to rows of empty seats at a House Judiciary Committee hearing room, Stewart said “sick and dying” first responders and their families came to Washington for the hearing, only to face a nearly deserted dais.
The sparse attendance by lawmakers was “an embarrassment to the country and a stain on this institution,” Stewart said, adding that the “disrespect” shown to first responders now suffering from respiratory ailments and other illnesses “is utterly unacceptable.”
Lawmakers from both parties said they support the bill and were monitoring the hearing amid other congressional business.
Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., predicted the bill will pass with overwhelming support and said lawmakers meant no disrespect as they moved in and out of the subcommittee hearing, a common occurrence on Capitol Hill.
Tariff deal gives momentum to ‘Remain-in-Mexico’ policy
SAN DIEGO — In a cramped San Diego courtroom, immigrant mothers cradled restless babies and toddlers as they waited to go before a judge. After a quick exchange, they were whisked back to Mexico where they face months, or possibly years, before their cases play out in the U.S.
Hundreds of miles away, a judge in El Paso, Texas, noticed that an infant was fussing and let the child’s mother stand up and burp the baby before shipping her and about a dozen others, including six pregnant women, back to the Mexican border city of Juarez.
“I am afraid to return to Mexico and I’m about to have my baby,” a pregnant woman from Honduras told the judge, her belly pushing out against her red shirt as she blew her runny nose.
Nearby, another Honduran woman waited with her two young children, who began to fidget about an hour into the hearing. The 5-year-old boy hummed to himself while teasing and tickling his 7-year-old sister.
Scenes like these playing out in U.S. border courtrooms in recent weeks would become even more common under a deal that led President Donald Trump to suspend his threat of tariffs on all Mexican exports to the U.S. A centerpiece of the agreement calls for rapid expansion of a policy that makes Central American asylum seekers wait in Mexico while their cases wind through U.S. immigration courts.
Pilot killed in crash wasn’t certified to fly in bad weather
NEW YORK — The pilot killed Monday when his helicopter slammed into the roof of a New York City skyscraper was not authorized to fly in limited visibility, according to his pilot certification, raising questions about why he took off in fog and steady rain.
Tim McCormack, 58, was only certified to fly under regulations known as visual flight rules, which require generally good weather and clear conditions, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.
The rules require at least 3 miles (4.8 kilometers) of visibility and that the sky is clear of clouds for daytime flights. The visibility at the time of Monday’s crash was about 1¼ miles (2 kilometers) at nearby Central Park, with low clouds blanketing the skyline.
McCormack was not certified to use instruments to help fly through cloudy or bad weather, said the FAA.
The crash in the tightly controlled airspace of midtown Manhattan shook the 750-foot (229-meter) AXA Equitable building, obliterated the Agusta A109E helicopter, sparked a fire and forced office workers to flee.
In hot water? Study says warming may reduce sea life by 17%
WASHINGTON — The world’s oceans will likely lose about one-sixth of their fish and other marine life by the end of the century if climate change continues on its current path, a new study says.
Every degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) that the world’s oceans warm, the total mass of sea animals is projected to drop by 5%, according to a comprehensive computer-based study by an international team of marine biologists. And that does not include effects of fishing.
If the world’s greenhouse gas emissions stay at the present rate, that means a 17% loss of biomass — the total weight of all the marine animal life — by the year 2100, according to Tuesday’s study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. But if the world reduces carbon pollution, losses can be limited to only about 5%, the study said.
“We will see a large decrease in the biomass of the oceans,” if the world doesn’t slow climate change, said study co-author William Cheung, a marine ecologist at the University of British Columbia. “There are already changes that have been observed.”
While warmer water is the biggest factor, climate change also produces oceans that are more acidic and have less oxygen, which also harms sea life, Cheung said.
Russian journalist freed after police abruptly drop charges
MOSCOW — In a stunning turnaround, Russian authorities Tuesday abruptly dropped all charges against a prominent investigative reporter after a public and media outcry over his arrest, and they promised to go after the police who allegedly tried to frame him as a drug dealer.
The release of Ivan Golunov marked an extremely rare case of security officials admitting a mistake. It also highlighted the difficulties that Russian journalists routinely face when reporting on sensitive topics like graft, corruption and President Vladimir Putin’s personal life.
The 36-year-old Golunov was stopped Thursday by police on a Moscow street and taken into custody, where his defense team said he was beaten and denied a lawyer for more than 12 hours. The journalist, who works for the independent website Meduza, had been facing drug charges that could put him in prison for up to 20 years.
Supporters mounted a nationwide campaign on his behalf, with journalists and others picketing Moscow police headquarters for five days. More than 20,000 people signed an online pledge to march in the capital on Wednesday, a public holiday, to protest Golunov’s arrest.
But Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev surprised the nation when he announced that all charges against Golunov were dropped after police found “no proof of his part in a crime.”
Holocaust Museum digitizing letters from Anne Frank’s father
YARMOUTH, Mass. — Ryan Cooper was a 20-something Californian unsure of his place in the world when he struck up a pen pal correspondence in the 1970s with Otto Frank, the father of the young Holocaust victim Anne Frank.
Through dozens of letters and several face-to-face meetings, the two forged a friendship that lasted until Frank died in 1980 at the age of 91.
Now 73 years old, Cooper, an antiques dealer and artist in Massachusetts, has donated a trove of letters and mementos he received from Frank to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington ahead of the 90th anniversary Wednesday of Anne Frank’s birth on June 12, 1929.
He wants the letters to be shared so that people can have a deeper understanding of the man who introduced the world to Anne Frank, whose famous World War II diary is considered one of the most important works of the 20th century.
“He was a lot like Anne in that he was an optimist,” Cooper said of Otto Frank at his house on Cape Cod recently. “He always believed the world would be right in the end, and he based that hope on the young people.”
New Jersey requires hotels to provide ‘panic buttons’ for cleaners
New Jersey on Tuesday became the first state to mandate that hotels provide their room cleaners with wearable “panic buttons.” The devices, which call for help, aim to protect workers from sexual harassment and other dangers.
In September, major hotel brands — including Marriott, Hilton, and Hyatt — agreed to provide the buttons to their employees after hotel workers with the union Unite Here held protests across the country calling for panic buttons and other safety measures.
The law applies to hotels with 100 rooms or more, which includes all nine casino hotels in Atlantic City, and will take effect in January.
Local governments have begun taken to passing worker-protection laws where the federal government has not. In January, New Jersey said it would raise its minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2024. Last year, New Jersey’s earned sick leave law went into effect, mandating paid sick days. Meanwhile, in Philadelphia, legislators have passed laws like “Fair Workweek” scheduling for service workers and “just-cause” prevention of unfair firings for parking lot workers.
California man imprisoned in Vietnam to go on trial in late June
LOS ANGELES — An Orange County man imprisoned in Vietnam for more than 11 months is set to go on trial in late June, without access to legal counsel since his arrest, family members say.
Vietnamese authorities have been investigating Michael Phuong Minh Nguyen, a father of four from Orange, for “actions” to overthrow the government, according to Mark Roberts, his brother-in-law. He said he expects government officials will appoint a lawyer for Nguyen for the trial, which is expected to start on June 24.
Nguyen “is severely disadvantaged and unable to properly defend against any accusations” because “he and his family have not even been formally advised of the actual charges or accusations against him,” Roberts said. “He has also been denied the time to properly address any alleged claims against him.”
Authorities arrested Nguyen in July while he was touring the central city of Da Nang on a visit with elderly relatives. During his confinement, he has been in good health, though only allowed to speak briefly with a representative from the U.S. Embassy once a month, according to Helen Nguyen, his wife.
An operating room nurse, she said she has spent the months during her husband’s absence juggling two hospital jobs, caring for their school-age daughters and lobbying legislators for help. She was invited to President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address in February to call attention to her husband’s plight.
Nguyen’s family believes his arrest “may be lumped together with Vietnamese citizens who may have previously protested groundwater contamination,” Roberts said, adding that they are hoping for a fair trial.
The cocaine on my nose belongs to someone else, suspect tells deputies
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Two recent drug cases in the Tampa area are unusually noteworthy — even by Florida standards.
In one, a passenger in a vehicle stopped for an alleged traffic infraction had a white, powdery substance on his nose that tested positive for cocaine, according to an item posted Monday to the Facebook page of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.
Fabricio Tueros Jimenez, 20, of New Port Richey, was charged after deputies also found 250 grams of marijuana and 13 Xanax pills in a backpack, the sheriff’s office said.
“Jimenez was arrested without incident, but he attempted to tell the deputies the cocaine on his nose was not his,” the posting said.
There was no information about who Jimenez indicated the drug may have belonged to.
A picture accompanying the Facebook posting showed flecks of a white substance covering the nostrils of the person officials identified as Jimenez.
Then, in a Facebook posting Tuesday, the same sheriff’s office said it found 6 grams of methamphetamine mixed in with a man’s side order of “hot, fresh potato wedges.”
That case began with another traffic stop in which the passenger, James Simpson, was found to have an arrest warrant for drugs from Polk County, the sheriff’s office said.
The drugs were found inside a food container and Simpson was charged with possession of a controlled substance, officials said.
Ai Weiwei visits Assange in prison hospital
LONDON — Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei visited WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in a London prison hospital on Tuesday, saying that his health is “deteriorating” and urging Britain and other European nations to prevent his extradition to the United States.
Berlin-based Ai said he visited the Australian national at Belmarsh prison alongside Assange’s father on Tuesday, one day before a British court is scheduled to hold a case management hearing on a U.S. extradition request.
“He is in the prison hospital and his health is deteriorating,” Ai wrote on Twitter and Instagram.
“He is grateful for the support given to him. The UK and Europe must defend human rights and stop his extradition to the US where he faces 18 charges and up to 175 years in jail.”
The U.S. government has accused Assange, 47, of conspiring with former U.S. military intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to leak a trove of classified material in 2010.
He has been held at the prison since police dragged him from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London on April 11. He had spent seven years inside the embassy to avoid arrest.
The British extradition process, which Assange opposes, is expected to take up to one year to resolve.
Last week, a Swedish court rejected a request to detain Assange in absentia on suspicion of rape, but the allegation against him remains active.
Tribune News Service (TNS) contributed to this report.