AP News in Brief 07-29-19

  • Riot police fire tear gas at protesters during a protest against police brutality at Sai Wan district in Hong Kong, Sunday. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

  • The European Union’s political director Helga Schmid and Iran’s deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi, center from left, wait for a bilateral meeting as part of the closed-door nuclear talks with Iran at a hotel in Vienna, Austria, Sunday. (AP photo/pool)

World powers attempt to salvage Iran nuclear deal

VIENNA — Diplomats from Iran and five world powers recommitted Sunday to salvaging a major nuclear deal amid mounting tensions between the West and Tehran since the U.S. withdrew from the accord and reimposed sanctions.

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Representatives of Iran, Germany, France, Britain, China, Russia and the European Union met in Vienna to discuss the 2015 agreement that restricts the Iranian nuclear program.

“The atmosphere was constructive, and the discussions were good,” Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Seyed Abbas Araghchi told reporters after the meeting ended.

“I cannot say that we resolved everything” but all the parties are still “determined to save this deal,” he added.

Fu Cong, the head of Chinese delegation, said that while there were “some tense moments” during the meeting, “on the whole the atmosphere was very good. Friendly. And it was very professional.”

Both diplomats said there was a general agreement to organize a higher-level meeting of foreign ministers soon, but also that preparations for such a summit needed to be done well. A date has not been set.

Iran is pressuring the European parties to the deal to offset the sanctions U.S. President Donald Trump reinstated after pulling out. The country recently surpassed the amount of low-enriched uranium it is allowed to stockpile and started enriching uranium past a 3.67% limit permitted, to 4.5%, saying the actions could be reversed if the Europeans came up with incentives that compensated for the impact of the sanctions on the Iranian economy.

Iran’s recent moves — which it defends as permissible after the U.S. withdrawal — are seen as a way to force the others to openly confront the sanctions. Araghchi told reporters in Farsi after the meeting that Iran would continue decreasing its commitments until the Europeans meet its demands.

Police fire tear gas, rubber bullets at Hong Kong protesters

HONG KONG — Police repeatedly fired tear gas and rubber bullets to drive back protesters blocking Hong Kong streets with road signs and umbrellas Sunday in another night of pitched battles as protests for democracy in the Chinese territory escalate.

It was the second night in a row that tear gas was used against protesters. Their demonstrations began early last month in opposition to an extradition bill that has since been suspended, but the movement has become a broader push for full democracy.

Protesters occupied two areas at opposite ends of central Hong Kong on Sunday following a midafternoon rally against police use of tear gas at a demonstration the previous weekend.

On the western end of Hong Kong Island, one group blocked areas near the Chinese government’s liaison office and began to move forward as night fell. Police issued warnings, and protesters threw eggs at them. Officers fired tear gas to halt the advance.

Police then embarked on an hourslong effort to push the protesters eastward and get them to disperse.

Trump says national intelligence director is resigning

WASHINGTON — Dan Coats, director of national intelligence, will leave his job next month, President Trump announced Sunday, after a turbulent two years in which Coats and the president were often at odds over Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Trump announced Coats’ departure as Aug. 15 in a tweet that thanked Coats for his service. He said he will nominate Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas, to the post and that he will name an acting official in the coming days. Ratcliffe is a frequent Trump defender who fiercely questioned former special counsel Robert Mueller last week during a House Judiciary Committee hearing.

Coats often appeared out of step with Trump and disclosed to prosecutors how he was urged by the president to publicly deny any link between Russia and the Trump campaign. The frayed relationship reflected broader divisions between the president and the government’s intelligence agencies.

Coats’ public, and sometimes personal, disagreements with Trump over policy and intelligence included Russian election interference and North Korean nuclear capabilities. Trump had long been skeptical of the nation’s intelligence agencies, which provoked his ire by concluding that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election with the goal of getting him elected.

In a letter of resignation released Sunday night, Coats said serving as the nation’s top intelligence official has been a “distinct privilege” but that it was time for him to “move on” to the next chapter of his life. He cited his work to strengthen the intelligence community’s effort to prevent harm to the U.S. from adversaries and to reform the security clearance process.

Stepping up feud, Trump assails Cummings as ‘racist’

WASHINGTON — Facing growing accusations of racism over his incendiary tweets, President Donald Trump on Sunday tried to deflect the criticism by labeling a prominent minority congressman as himself racist and accusing Democrats of trying to “play the race card.”

Trump assailed Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., as a racist after the president’s criticisms of the congressman’s majority-black district in the Baltimore area as a “rodent-infested mess” where “no human being would want to live” drew widespread condemnation from Democrats as race-baiting.

Trump insisted there was nothing racist about his criticism and tweeted back, “If racist Elijah Cummings would focus more of his energy on helping the good people of his district, and Baltimore itself, perhaps progress could be made in fixing the mess that he has helped to create over many years of incompetent leadership.”

“His radical ‘oversight’ is a joke!” Trump added. He offered no detail to back up his accusation of racism against Cummings.

The president’s comments capped a weekend of attacks on Cummings, the powerful chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, and marked his latest rhetorical shot against non-white lawmakers, exacerbating racial tensions. Two weeks ago, Trump caused a nationwide uproar with racist tweets directed at four Democratic congresswomen of color.

From wire sources

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Woman set to replace Puerto Rico’s governor doesn’t want job

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The woman who is supposed to replace Puerto Rico’s embattled governor announced Sunday that she doesn’t want the job as the U.S. territory reels from political crisis.

Justice Secretary Wanda Vázquez said in a Twitter post that she hopes Gov. Ricardo Rosselló will appoint a secretary of state before resigning Aug. 2 as planned.

Former Secretary of State Luis Rivera Marín would have been next in line as governor, according to the U.S. territory’s constitution. But he is one of more than a dozen officials who have resigned in recent weeks since someone leaked an obscenity-laced chat in which Rosselló and close advisers insulted people including women and victims of Hurricane Maria.

Rosselló on Wednesday announced that he would step down following nearly two weeks of massive protests amid anger over the chat, corruption charges against several former government officials and a 13-year recession. In the chat, the 40-year-old Democrat and son of a governor called a female politician a “whore,” referred to another as a “daughter of a bitch,” and made fun of an obese man with whom he posed in a photo.

Rosselló became the first governor to resign in the modern history of Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory of 3.2 million American citizens. He is more than halfway through his four-year term.

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NYC police seek 2 shooters in Brooklyn playground shooting

NEW YORK — A popular community festival was coming to a close when gunfire erupted in a Brooklyn neighborhood, leaving one man dead, another person in critical condition and 10 others wounded, authorities said Sunday as they searched for two shooters they believe were involved.

New York Police Commissioner James O’Neill said the shooting late Saturday in the borough’s Brownsville section “was a tragic end to a wonderful weekend” that involved thousands of people gathering to take part in the annual Old Timers Event, which featured musical performances from former residents and current local talent.

The crowd at the celebration was dispersing when gunshots rang out from a playground area in the park where it was taking place, officials said.

Twelve people were hit — seven men and five women between the ages of 21 and 55. A 38-year-old man died from a bullet wound to the head. His name was not immediately released.

Six of the wounded had been released from the hospital by midday Sunday, O’Neill said.

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Attorney: Hunger-striking immigrants forced to hydrate

EL PASO, Texas — Three Indian nationals seeking asylum in the U.S. have been forced to receive IV drips at a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in Texas as they approach their third week of a hunger strike, according to their attorney.

Lawyers and activists who spoke with the men fear that force-feeding may be next.

The U.S. Department of Justice filed orders with federal judges last week that relate to non-consensual hydration or feeding for four men, according to a court official. Linda Corchado, the lawyer for three of the four men named in the court orders, said the fourth man is also Indian and is represented by another attorney. It’s unclear if that man was also forced to accept an IV.

The men have been locked up for months — one for more than a year — and they are trying to appeal or reopen asylum claims that were denied, according to Corchado. As of Sunday, they had gone 20 days without food, she said.

“My clients made the decision to begin a hunger strike to protest prolonged detention and what they believe were biased and discriminatory practices by the immigration court toward their cases,” Corchado said.

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Italy: Teen held in officer’s death ‘illegally blindfolded’

ROME — An American teenager was illegally blindfolded before he was interrogated as a suspect in the slaying of a newlywed police officer in Rome, an Italian police commander said Sunday after the emergence of a photo showing the young tourist restrained with handcuffs and with his head bowed.

Gabriel Christian Natale-Hjorth, 18, was blindfolded “for a very few minutes, four or five” on Friday just before he taken to the interrogation in a police station about the fatal stabbing, Rome Provincial Cmdr. Francesco Gargaro told The Associated Press in a phone interview.

Natale-Hjorth and another suspect from California, 19-year-old Finnegan Lee Elder, remained jailed while Italians lined up outside a chapel to pay respects to Deputy Brigadier Mario Cerciello Rega. The 35-year-old officer had recently returned to duty on the Carabinieri paramilitary police force after a honeymoon.

The officer was attacked with a knife on a street close to the teens’ upscale hotel in Rome. An autopsy showed he had been stabbed 11 times.

“Whoever killed him is an animal,” said the mayor of the officer’s hometown, Somma Vesuviana. Mayor Salvatore Di Sarno spoke after leaving a wake for the officer in a chapel close to the police station in Rome where he had worked for years.

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Montana searchers find body of missing Oregon child

MEDFORD, Ore. — The body of a missing Oregon boy whose parents died in an apparent murder-suicide is believed to have been found in a remote area of Montana, police said.

Police in Medford, Oregon, said Montana authorities reported finding the body Sunday thought to be that of 2-year-old Aiden Salcido, the son of Daniel Salcido and Hannah Janiak.

The family formerly lived in Medford.

Aiden was the subject of an intense search after his parents were found dead Wednesday in Kalispell, Montana.

Police stopped them following a chase because they had felony burglary warrants for their arrest.

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Biden’s full embrace of Obama health law has political risks

WASHINGTON — Joe Biden had just rolled out his health care plan when he made what could be a fateful pledge to a crowd in Iowa: “If you like your health care plan or your employer-based plan, you can keep it.”

The remark echoed assurances President Barack Obama made repeatedly as he sold the Affordable Care Act, which became known as “Obamacare.” But Obama’s promise proved an exaggeration, if not a falsehood, and it anchored early GOP attacks on the law as new regulations led private insurers to cancel certain policies, even if they had to offer replacements to consumers.

Biden’s promise on job-based coverage , which almost 160 million Americans use, underscores the risks of positioning himself as the health overhaul’s chief defender. Fully embracing the health law and pledging to expand it also means exposing Biden to attacks from all sides: from the left that wants more than what Biden is offering; from the right that loathes the law in any form; and from the middle, where voters remain skeptical about the nation’s complex and expensive health care system.

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“This is one of those issues where the pendulum has swung back-and-forth since ‘Obamacare’ passed,” Democratic pollster Paul Maslin said, pointing to health care’s role in Republican victories in 2010 and Democratic wins last November. “Right now we have the advantage,” Maslin said, “but I’d be a fool to say there’s no risk here.”

Indeed, the Republican National Committee has seized on Biden’s policy rollout. “Biden has to deal with the fact that he would be the 2020 face of Barack Obama’s notorious lie that if you like your health care plan you can keep it,” said Steve Guest of the Republican National Committee.

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