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Trump ally Bannon now willing to testify before Jan. 6 panel

WASHINGTON (AP) — Steve Bannon, a former White House strategist and ally of Donald Trump who faces criminal charges after months of defying a congressional subpoena over the Capitol riot, has told the House committee investigating the attack that he is now willing to testify.

Bannon’s turnabout was conveyed in a letter late Saturday from his attorney, lawmakers said, as the committee prepares to air some of its most striking revelations yet this week against Trump in what may be its final set of hearings.

“I expect that we will be hearing from him and there are many questions that we have for him,” said Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif. She and other committee members said in television interviews Sunday they intend to have Bannon sit for a private interview, which they typically conduct in a deposition with sworn testimony.

Bannon had been one of the highest-profile Trump-allied holdouts in refusing to testify before the committee, leading to two criminal counts of contempt of Congress last year for resisting the committee’s subpoena. He has argued that his testimony is protected by Trump’s claim of executive privilege. The committee contends such a claim is dubious because Trump had fired Bannon from the White House in 2017 and Bannon was thus a private citizen when he was consulting with the then-president in the run-up to the riot on Jan. 6, 2021.

Still, in recent days, as the former president grew frustrated with what he decried as a one-sided presentation by the committee of seven Democrats and two Republicans, Trump said he would waive that privilege claim, according to a letter Saturday to Bannon’s lawyer.


In Mideast, Biden struggling to shift policy after Trump

WASHINGTON (AP) — Joe Biden took office looking to reshape U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, putting a premium on promoting democracy and human rights. In reality, he has struggled on several fronts to meaningfully separate his approach from former President Donald Trump’s.

Biden’s visit to the region this week includes a meeting with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the oil-rich kingdom’s de facto leader who U.S. intelligence officials determined approved the 2018 killing of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey.

Biden had pledged as a candidate to recalibrate the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia, which he described as a “pariah” nation after Trump’s more accommodating stand, overlooking the kingdom’s human rights record and stepping up military sales to Riyadh.

But Biden now seems to be making the calculation that there’s more to be gained from courting the country than isolating it.

Biden’s first stop on his visit to the Mideast will be Israel. Here, again, his stance has softened since the firm declarations he made when running for president.


15 killed in Russian strike in Ukraine, 20 believed trapped

CHASIV YAR, Ukraine (AP) — Dozens of Ukrainian emergency workers labored Sunday to pull people out of the rubble after a Russian rocket attack smashed into apartment buildings in eastern Ukraine, killing at least 15 people. More than 20 people were believed still trapped.

The strike late Saturday destroyed three buildings in a residential quarter of the town of Chasiv Yar, inhabited mostly by people who work in nearby factories.

On Sunday evening, rescuers were able to remove enough of the bricks and concrete to retrieve a man who had been trapped for almost 24 hours. Rescuers laid him on a stretcher and he was quickly taken to a hospital.

Ukraine’s Emergency Services said the latest rescue brought to six the number of people dug out of the rubble. Earlier in the day, they made contact with three others still trapped alive beneath the ruins.

Pavlo Kyrylenko, governor of the Donetsk region that includes Chasiv Yar, said an estimated 24 people were believed still trapped, including a 9-year-old child.


Japan ruling party wins big in polls in wake of Abe’s death

TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s governing party and its coalition partner scored a major victory in a parliamentary election Sunday imbued with meaning after the assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe amid uncertainty about how his loss may affect party unity.

The Liberal Democratic Party and its junior coalition partner Komeito raised their combined share in the 248-seat chamber to 146 — far beyond the majority — in the elections for half of the seats in the less powerful upper house.

With the boost, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida stands to rule without interruption until a scheduled election in 2025.

That would allow Kishida to work on long-term policies such as national security, his signature but still vague “new capitalism” economic policy, and his party’s long-cherished goal to amend the U.S.-drafted postwar pacifist constitution.

A charter change proposal is now a possibility. With the help of two opposition parties supportive of a charter change, the governing bloc now has two-thirds majority in the chamber needed to propose an amendment, making it a realistic possibility. The governing bloc already has secured support in the other chamber.


Abe’s killing haunts Japan with questions on homemade guns

TOKYO (AP) — The shooting sent shudders through low-crime, orderly Japan: A prominent politician was killed by a man emerging from a crowd, wielding a homemade firearm so roughly constructed it was wrapped in tape.

The 40-centimeter-long (16-inch) weapon used to kill former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday as he campaigned for his ruling party in western Japan, looked crude, more like a propellant made of pipes taped together and filled with explosives.

A raid of the suspect’s home, a one-room apartment in Nara, turned up several such guns, police said. Unlike standard weapons, homemade guns are practically impossible to trace, making an investigation difficult.

Firearms are rarely used in Japan, where most attacks involve stabbings or dousing a place with gasoline and setting it ablaze, or running haywire on the street in a vehicle.

Strict gun control laws likely forced the attacker to make his own weapon. Tetsuya Yamagami, who was arrested on the spot, was a former member of Japan’s navy and knew how to handle and assemble weapons.


EXPLAINER: Why Sri Lanka’s economy collapsed and what’s next

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Sri Lanka’s prime minister said late last month that the island nation’s debt-laden economy had “collapsed” as it runs out of money to pay for food and fuel. Short of cash to pay for imports of such necessities and already defaulting on its debt, it is seeking help from neighboring India and China and from the International Monetary Fund.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who took office in May, was emphasizing the monumental task he faced in turning around an economy he said was heading for “rock bottom.” On Saturday both he and President Gotabaya Rajapaksa agreed to resign amid mounting pressure from protesters who stormed both their residences and set fire to one of them.

Sri Lankans are skipping meals as they endure shortages and lining up for hours to try to buy scarce fuel. It’s a harsh reality for a country whose economy had been growing quickly, with a growing and comfortable middle class, until the latest crisis deepened.


HOW SERIOUS IS THIS CRISIS?


Biden says he’s mulling health emergency for abortion access

REHOBOTH BEACH, Del. (AP) — President Joe Biden said Sunday he is considering declaring a public health emergency to free up federal resources to promote abortion access even though the White House has said it doesn’t seem like “a great option.”

He also offered a message to people enraged by the Supreme Court’s ruling last month that ended a constitutional right to abortion and who have been demonstrating across the country: “Keep protesting. Keep making your point. It’s critically important.”

The president, in remarks to reporters during a stop on a bike ride near his family’s Delaware beach house, said he lacks the power to force the dozen-plus states with strict restrictions or outright bans on abortion to allow the procedure.

“I don’t have the authority to say that we’re going to reinstate Roe v. Wade as the law of the land,” he said, referring to the Supreme Court’s decision from 1973 that had established a national right to abortion. Biden said Congress would have to codify that right and for that to have a better chance in the future, voters would have to elect more lawmakers who support abortion access.

Biden said his administration is trying to do a “lot of things to accommodate the rights of women” after the ruling, including considering declaring a public health emergency to free up federal resources. Such a move has been pushed by advocates, but White House officials have questioned both its legality and effectiveness, and noted it would almost certainly face legal challenges.


Yosemite fire grows as crews protect iconic sequoias

YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, Calif. (AP) — A wildfire threatening the largest grove of giant sequoias in Yosemite National Park more than doubled in size in a day, and firefighters were working in difficult terrain Sunday to protect the iconic trees and a small mountain town as the U.S. weathers another very active year for fires.

Campers and residents near the blaze were evacuated but the rest of the sprawling park in California remained open, though heavy smoke obscured scenic vistas and created unhealthy air quality.

“Today it’s actually the smokiest that we’ve seen,” Nancy Phillipe, a Yosemite fire information spokesperson, said Sunday. “Up until this morning, the park has not been in that unhealthy category, but that is where we are now.”

More than 500 mature sequoias were threatened in the famed Mariposa Grove but there were no reports of severe damage to any named trees, including the 3,000-year-old Grizzly Giant.

A sprinkler system set up within the grove kept the tree trunks moist and officials were hopeful that the steady spray of water along with previous prescribed burns would be enough to keep flames at bay, Phillipe said.


Crypto plunge is cautionary tale for public pension funds

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — When the Houston Firefighters Relief and Retirement Fund bought $25 million in cryptocurrencies, with the fund’s chief investment officer touting their potential, retired fire Capt. Russell Harris was concerned.

Harris, 62, has attended the funerals of 34 firefighters killed in the line of duty. He was already worried about his pension after an overhaul by state and city officials cut payments as they grappled with the ability to pay out benefits. He didn’t see crypto, unproven in his eyes, as an answer.

“I don’t like it,” Harris said. “There’s too many pyramid schemes that everybody gets wrapped up in. That’s the way I see this cryptocurrency at this time. … There might be a place for it, but it’s still new and nobody understands it.”

The plunge in prices for Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies in recent weeks provides a cautionary tale for the handful of public pension funds that have dipped their toes in the crypto pool over the past few years. Most have done it indirectly through stocks or investment funds that serve as proxies for the larger crypto market. A lack of transparency makes it difficult to tell whether they’ve made or lost money, let alone how much, and for the most part fund officials won’t say.

But the recent crypto meltdown has prompted a larger question: For pension funds that ensure teachers, firefighters, police and other public workers receive guaranteed benefits in retirement after public service, is any amount of crypto investment too risky?


Report: Uber lobbied, used ‘stealth’ tech to block scrutiny

WASHINGTON (AP) — As Uber aggressively pushed into markets around the world, the ride-sharing service lobbied political leaders to relax labor and taxi laws, used a “kill switch” to thwart regulators and law enforcement, channeled money through Bermuda and other tax havens and considered portraying violence against its drivers as a way to gain public sympathy, according to a report released Sunday.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, a nonprofit network of investigative reporters, scoured internal Uber texts, emails, invoices and other documents to deliver what it called “an unprecedented look into the ways Uber defied taxi laws and upended workers’ rights.”

The documents were first leaked to the Brtiish newspaper The Guardian, which shared them with the consortium.

In a written statement. Uber spokesperson Jill Hazelbaker acknowledged “mistakes” in the past and said CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, hired in 2017, had been “tasked with transforming every aspect of how Uber operates … When we say Uber is a different company today, we mean it literally: 90% of current Uber employees joined after Dara became CEO.”

Founded in 2009, Uber sought to skirt taxi regulations and offer inexpensive transportation via a ride-sharing app. The consortium’s Uber Files revealed the extraordinary lengths that the company undertook to establish itself in nearly 30 countries.

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