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AP News in Brief at 11:04 p.m. EDT

April 08, 2018 - 8:04 PM

Syrian news reports missile attack; US denies it fired them

BEIRUT (AP) — Missiles struck an air base in central Syria early Monday, its state-run news agency reported. Although the agency said it was likely "an American aggression," U.S. officials said the U.S. had not launched airstrikes on Syria.

The missile attack followed a suspected poison gas attack Saturday on the last remaining foothold for the Syrian opposition in the eastern suburbs of Damascus. At least 40 people were killed, including families found in their homes and shelters, opposition activists and local rescuers said.

SANA reported that the missile attack on the T4 military air base in Homs province resulted in a number of casualties.

Earlier, President Donald Trump had promised a "big price to pay" for the suspected chemical attack. After the airstrikes were reported, however, Pentagon spokesman Christopher Sherwood said in a statement, "At this time, the Department of Defence is not conducting air strikes in Syria."

The U.S. launched several dozen Tomahawk cruise missiles at a Syrian air base last year after a chemical attack in the northern Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun killed dozens of people. Israel has also struck inside Syria in recent years.

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Trump warns Assad: 'Big price to pay' for fatal Syria attack

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump on Sunday condemned a "mindless CHEMICAL attack" in Syria that killed women and children, called Syrian President Bashar Assad an "animal" and delivered a rare personal criticism of Russian President Vladimir Putin for supporting the Damascus government.

As Washington worked to verify the claim by Syrian opposition activists and rescuers that poison gas was used, Trump said there would be a "big price to pay" for resorting to outlawed weapons of mass destruction. A top White House aide, asked about the possibility of a U.S. missile strike in response, said, "I wouldn't take anything off the table."

Just over a year ago, Trump ordered dozens of cruise missiles to be fired at a Syrian air base after declaring there was no doubt Assad had "choked out the lives of helpless" civilians in an attack that used banned gases. White House advisers said at the time that images of hurt children helped spur the president to launch that air strike, and television new shows on Sunday aired similar depictions of suffering young Syrians.

"Many dead, including women and children, in mindless CHEMICAL attack in Syria," Trump tweeted. "Area of atrocity is in lockdown and encircled by Syrian Army, making it completely inaccessible to outside world. President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad. Big price to pay. Open area immediately for medical help and verification. Another humanitarian disaster for no reason whatsoever. SICK!"

Saturday's attack took place in a rebel-held town near Damascus amid a resumed offensive by Syrian government forces after the collapse of a truce. Syrian activists, rescuers and medics said a poison gas attack in Douma killed at least 40 people, with families found suffocated in their houses and shelters. The reports could not immediately be independently verified.

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Canada town's arena focus of mourning after crash kills 15

HUMBOLDT, Saskatchewan (AP) — The people of this small town grieved at their hockey arena Sunday, laying flowers and jerseys in a makeshift memorial at the entrance and later gathering inside to mourn the deaths of 15 people when a semi-trailer slammed into the bus carrying the local youth hockey team.

The 14 others on the bus were injured, some critically, in Friday night's collision, which has Canada, its national sport and the hockey-obsessed town of Humboldt reeling. Among the dead are Broncos head coach Darcy Haugan, team captain Logan Schatz and radio announcer Tyler Bieber.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited the injured at the hospital Sunday and then attended the vigil held in the town's arena Sunday night. Trudeau sat among the crowd with his 11-year-old son, Xavier, a hockey player

Team President Kevin Garinger choked back tears as he read out the names of the 15 dead. People embraced each other, crying. Boxes of Kleenex were passed down rows.

Behind them, flowers ringed the team logo at centre ice. In front of them, there were pictures of the dead and injured.

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Stormy Daniels again seeks Trump's answers under oath

WASHINGTON (AP) — A porn actress who says she had an affair with Donald Trump renewed an effort Sunday to get the president to answer her attorney's questions under oath.

An attorney for Stormy Daniels filed the motion in federal court in Los Angeles. Michael Avenatti is seeking a jury trial and wants sworn testimony from Trump and his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen about a $130,000 payment made to Daniels days before the 2016 presidential election as part of a nondisclosure agreement she is seeking to invalidate.

Trump answered questions about Daniels for the first time last week, saying he had no knowledge of the payment made by Cohen and adding that he didn't know where Cohen had gotten the money. The White House has consistently said Trump denies the affair and Cohen has held that he made the payment out of his own pocket, without involvement from the Trump Organization or the Trump campaign.

Cohen did not immediately respond to a request seeking comment Sunday.

Avenatti filed a similar motion over a week ago, which a judge deemed premature. He refiled after Trump asked a federal judge to order private arbitration in the case. Trump and Cohen filed papers last week asking a judge to rule that the case must be heard by an arbitrator instead of a jury. Avenatti opposes private arbitration.

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North Korea tells US that Kim Jong Un ready to discuss nukes

WASHINGTON (AP) — North Korea's government has communicated with the United States to say that leader Kim Jong Un is ready to discuss his nuclear weapons program with President Donald Trump, officials said Sunday, increasing the likelihood that the unprecedented summit will actually occur.

The confirmation from Pyongyang directly, rather than from third countries like South Korea, has created more confidence within Trump's administration about the wisdom of holding such a meeting, as U.S. officials make secretive preparations. The Trump administration has long said that if the North Koreans weren't ready to discuss giving up their nuclear program, there was no reason for the two countries to hold negotiations.

Trump took his own administration and other countries by surprise last month when he accepted an unusual offer from Kim to hold a meeting. The North had conveyed the invitation to a visiting delegation from South Korea, which in turn travelled to Washington and relayed the message to Trump.

The president said yes to the meeting on the spot, even though the U.S. had not yet heard directly from North Korea about Kim's intentions. The U.S. later heard from other countries including China, where Kim paid a rare visit, that the North was serious about the offer.

Still, North Korea's government has not said anything publicly at all about a meeting with Trump, and the lack of known contact between Pyongyang and Washington about the meeting has fueled further speculation about the seriousness of Kim's offer.

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Hungarian populist Orban wins new term, party super majority

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said his "decisive" re-election victory and the super majority in parliament his right-wing populist party appeared to have won Sunday were "an opportunity to defend Hungary."

Critics said they feared Orban will use his third consecutive term and the Fidesz party's two-thirds control of Hungary's national legislature to intensify his attacks on migration and to strengthen his command of the country's centralized power structure.

Hungary's remaining independent media, the courts that have made numerous rulings the government did not like and a university founded by Hungarian-American billionaire George Soros, also are among Orban's likely targets.

"We created the opportunity for ourselves to defend Hungary," Orban told a rapturous crowd after his landslide win became undisputable. "A great battle is behind us. We have achieved a decisive victory."

With 98.5 per cent of the votes counted, Fidesz and its small ally, the Christian Democrat party, together had secured 133 of the 199 seats in parliament, the minimum needed for a two-thirds majority.

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Trump once fought measure requiring sprinklers in buildings

NEW YORK (AP) — The 50th-floor apartment in Trump Tower where a man was killed in a raging fire did not have sprinklers — a requirement Donald Trump once fought as a powerful real estate developer.

Todd Brassner, 67, died at a hospital on Saturday after a fire ripped through his apartment in the high-rise, which opened in 1983 at a time when building codes did not require the residential section to have sprinklers.

Subsequent updates to the codes required commercial skyscrapers to install sprinklers retroactively, but owners of older residential high-rises are not required to install them unless the building undergoes major renovations.

Some fire safety advocates pushed for a requirement that older apartment buildings be retrofitted with sprinklers when the city passed a law requiring them in new residential high-rises in 1999, but officials in the administration of then-mayor Rudolph Giuliani said that would be too expensive.

Trump was among the developers who spoke out against the retrofitting as unnecessary and expensive.

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Opening statements set in Bill Cosby's sex assault retrial

NORRISTOWN, Pa. (AP) — With opening statements in Bill Cosby's sexual assault retrial set for Monday, prosecutors have lined up a parade of accusers to make the case that the man revered as "America's Dad" lived a double life as one of Hollywood's biggest predators.

Cosby's retrial likely won't be anything like his first one. He's fighting back with a new, high-profile lawyer and an aggressive strategy: attacking Andrea Constand as a greedy liar and casting the other women testifying as bandwagon accusers looking for a share of the spotlight.

"You've seen previews and coming attractions, but things have changed," said professor Laurie Levenson of Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.

Cosby's first trial last spring ended in a cliffhanger, with jurors unable to reach a unanimous verdict after five days of tense deliberations on charges that the man who made millions of viewers laugh as wise and understanding Dr. Cliff Huxtable on "The Cosby Show" drugged and molested Constand at his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004.

The 80-year-old comedian, who has said the sexual contact was consensual, faces three counts of aggravated indecent assault, each punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

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AP PHOTOS: Editor selections from Bill Cosby's life

This photo gallery highlights some of the top news images made by Associated Press and newspaper photographers surrounding Bill Cosby's life and trial published over the years.

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Actor and comedian Bill Cosby earned his first acclaim in 1964 when he won a Grammy for best comedy performance.

Cosby then broke barriers as a star of "I Spy" in 1965. It was the first TV drama to feature a black actor in a leading role.

Overall, Cosby has been part of 14 TV shows including the hit "The Cosby Show."

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Reed wins first major title, holding off Fowler at Masters

AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — The tepid applause that greeted Patrick Reed on the first tee made it clear he wasn't the people's choice.

All he cared about was being the Masters champion.

He turned back an early move by Rory McIlroy and a late charge by Rickie Fowler. Most daunting in the middle of the final round Sunday was a familiar name at Augusta National — Jordan Spieth — on the verge of the greatest comeback in Masters history.

Reed had the game and the grit to beat them all. And when he slipped on that green jacket, he had everyone's respect.

"I knew it was going to be a dogfight," Reed said. "It's just a way of God basically saying, 'Let's see if you have it.' Everyone knows you have it physically with the talent. But do you have it mentally? Can you handle the ups and downs throughout the round?"

News from © The Associated Press, 2018
The Associated Press

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