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

April 06, 2019 - 8:04 PM

Trump: Democrats would 'leave Israel out there'

LAS VEGAS (AP) — President Donald Trump warned on Saturday that a Democratic victory in 2020 could "leave Israel out there," as he highlighted his pro-Israel actions in an effort to make the case for Jewish voters to back his re-election.

Speaking at the annual meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition, Trump touted his precedent-shredding actions to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv and recognition last month of Israeli sovereignty over the disputed Golan Heights, a strategic plateau that Israel seized from Syria in 1967.

"We got you something that you wanted," Trump said of the embassy move, adding, "Unlike other presidents, I keep my promises."

The group, backed by GOP megadonor Sheldon Adelson, supported Trump's 2016 campaign and is preparing to spend millions on his 2020 effort.

"I know that the Republican Jewish Coalition will help lead our party to another historic victory," Trump said. "We need more Republicans. Let's go, so we can win everything."

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For American Jews, Trump is key figure in Israeli election

NEW YORK (AP) — Donald Trump isn't on the ballot for Israel's national election, yet he's a dominant factor for many American Jews as they assess the high stakes of Tuesday's balloting.

At its core, the election is a judgment on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has won the post four times but now faces corruption charges. In his battle for political survival, Netanyahu has aligned closely with Trump — a troubling tactic for the roughly 75% of American Jewish voters who lean Democratic.

"The world has come to understand that Netanyahu is essentially the political twin of Donald Trump," said Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of the liberal pro-Israel group J Street. "Unlike his previous elections, there is a much deeper antagonism toward Netanyahu because of that close affiliation between him and Trump and the Republican Party."

Netanyahu featured Trump in a recent campaign video, while Trump has made a series of policy moves viewed as strengthening Netanyahu in the eyes of Israeli voters, including relocating the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, withdrawing from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and officially recognizing the Golan Heights as Israeli territory.

"It's troubling," said Halie Soifer, executive director of the Jewish Democratic Council of America. "The U.S.-Israel relationship should not be about any two leaders or any two parties. The American Jewish community wants the relationship to remain on a bipartisan basis."

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Netanyahu vows to annex West Bank settlements if re-elected

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged Saturday to annex Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank if re-elected, a dramatic policy shift apparently aimed at rallying his nationalist base in the final stretch of the tight race.

Netanyahu has promoted Jewish settlement expansion in his four terms as prime minister, but until now refrained from presenting a detailed vision for the West Bank, seen by the Palestinians as the heartland of a future state.

An Israeli annexation of large parts of the West Bank is bound to snuff out any last flicker of hope for an Israeli-Palestinian deal on the terms of a Palestinian state on lands Israel captured in 1967.

A so-called two-state solution has long been the preferred option of most of the international community. However, intermittent U.S. mediation between Israelis and Palestinians ran aground after President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital early in his term. The Palestinians, who seek Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem as their capital, suspended contact with the U.S.

More recently, Trump recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, a plateau Israel captured from Syria in 1967. The move was viewed in Israel as a political gift by Trump to Netanyahu who is being challenged by former military chief Benny Gantz.

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Things to know for the NCAA Tournament's Final Four

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Following an epic Elite Eight and a week of buildup, the Final Four is finally here.

Michigan State is the regular, making its eighth appearance in the national semifinals of the NCAA Tournament under Tom Izzo.

The Spartans will face Final Four newbie Texas Tech and its oxygen-sucking defence.

Virginia, the only No. 1 seed left in the bracket, is in Minneapolis to make a new kind of history after its momentous first-round fail against No. 16 seed UMBC a year ago.

The Cavaliers and their impenetrable pack-line defence will try to stop the volume-shooting Auburn Tigers, who have poured in 3-pointers during this NCAA Tournament like they're playing pop-a-shot.

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Ex-Sen Ernest 'Fritz' Hollings of South Carolina dies at 97

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Ernest F. "Fritz" Hollings, the silver-haired Democrat who helped shepherd South Carolina through desegregation as governor and went on to serve six terms in the U.S. Senate, has died. He was 97.

Family spokesman Andy Brack, who also served at times for Hollings as spokesman during his Senate career, said Hollings died at his home on the Isle of Palms early Saturday.

Hollings, whose long and colorful political career included an unsuccessful bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, retired from the Senate in 2005, one of the last of the larger-than-life Democrats who dominated politics in the South.

He had served 38 years and two months, making him the eighth longest-serving senator in U.S. history.

Nevertheless, Hollings remained the junior senator from South Carolina for most of his term. The senior senator was Strom Thurmond, first elected in 1954. He retired in January 2003 at age 100 as the longest-serving senator in history.

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US wants 2 years to ID migrant kids separated from families

SAN DIEGO (AP) — The Trump administration wants up to two years to find potentially thousands of children who were separated from their families at the border before a judge halted the practice last year, a task that it says is more laborious than previous efforts because the children are no longer in government custody.

The Justice Department said in a court filing late Friday that it will take at least a year to review about 47,000 cases of unaccompanied children taken into government custody between July 1, 2017 and June 25, 2018 — the day before U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw halted the general practice of splitting families. The administration would begin by sifting through names for traits most likely to signal separation — for example, children under 5.

The administration would provide information on separated families on a rolling basis to the American Civil Liberties Union, which sued to reunite families and criticized the proposed timeline on Saturday.

"We strongly oppose a plan that could take up to two years to locate these families," said Lee Gelernt, the ACLU's lead attorney. "The government needs to make this a priority."

Sabraw ordered last year that more than 2,700 children in government care on June 26, 2018 be reunited with their families, which has largely been accomplished. Then, in January, the U.S. Health and Human Services Department's internal watchdog reported that thousands more children may have been separated since the summer of 2017. The department's inspector general said the precise number was unknown.

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Venezuela street rallies show deep divide in power struggle

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Rival political factions took to the streets across Venezuela on Saturday in a mounting struggle for control of the crisis-wracked nation, where U.S.- backed opposition leader Juan Guaidó is attempting to oust socialist President Nicólas Maduro.

It was the first march Guaidó has led since Maduro loyalists stripped him of legal protections he's granted as a congressman, opening a path to prosecute and possibly arrest him for allegedly violating the constitution.

The rallies also follow crippling power failures that left most of the country scrambling in the dark for days and without running water or phone service, which Maduro blamed on "terrorists" acts launched by political opponents.

Speaking before several thousand people who packed a broad Caracas avenue, Guaidó urged them to stay united and to keep up pressure until Maduro leaves power.

"Something is evident today," Guaidó said. "Venezuela is not afraid and continues taking the streets until we achieve freedom."

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Mormon leaders talk spirituality, not changes, at conference

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Leaders with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints delivered spiritual guidance aimed at strengthening members' faith amid a world of temptation and immorality and reaffirmed the faith's opposition to gay marriage during a church conference Saturday in Utah.

Many church members had been bracing for more announcements of change during the two-day conference because church President Russell M. Nelson has made a flurry of moves in his first year at the helm. Those decisions included the surprising repeal Thursday of 2015 policies that banned baptisms for children of gay parents and labeled people in same-sex marriages as sinners eligible for expulsion.

But through the first three sessions Saturday, faith leaders instead focused speeches on how members can become better followers of the faith. During an all-men's session Saturday night, Nelson encouraged men to be better husbands by making their wives a higher priority than watching sports.

"Your first and foremost duty as a bearer of the priesthood is to love and care for your wife. Become one with her. Be her partner," Nelson said. "Make it easy for her to want to be yours. No other interest in life should take priority over building an eternal relationship with her."

Neil L. Andersen, a member of a top governing panel called the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, spoke about the importance of one of the religion's signature proclamations that states marriage should be reserved for relationships between man and a woman and that a person's God-given gender is an essential part of a person's eternal identity.

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Missing boy's grandmother hopes hoax will generate new leads

WOOSTER, Ohio (AP) — The grandmother of a boy who went missing in 2011 from Illinois said she believes her grandson is still alive and hopes publicity surrounding a hoax perpetrated by an Ohio man claiming to be the 14-year-old boy will generate new leads in the authorities search for him.

Linda Pitzen, 71, told The Wooster Daily Record she tried to manage her expectations when she heard Wednesday that Timmothy Pitzen, missing since age 6, might be the teenager who told police he was Timmothy. She said she found it frightening to wonder whether Timmothy would remember his name after "supposedly being kept captive" for so long.

"You don't want to get your hopes up, but yet you are hoping that it could be him," Linda Pitzen said.

The teen was in fact 23-year-old Brian Rini , of Medina, Ohio, a convicted felon released from prison in March after serving a sentence for burglary and vandalism. Rini has been charged with make false statements to authorities in federal court in Cincinnati.

Timmothy vanished after his mother, Amy Fry-Pitzen, pulled him out of kindergarten in Aurora, Illinois, nearly eight years ago, took him on a two-day road trip to the zoo and a water park, and then killed herself at a hotel. She left a note saying that her son was safe with people who would love and care for him, and added: "You will never find him."

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Fire damages Texas home where boxing legend Johnson lived

GALVESTON, Texas (AP) — A Texas Gulf Coast home where boxing legend Jack Johnson once lived was heavily damaged by a fire.

The blaze caused a wall in the vacant Galveston home to collapse Friday. Fire Chief Mike Wisko told The Galveston County Daily News that the building was in the process of being renovated. As part of the renovation, the home was missing an exterior wall, which allowed winds to sweep in and stir up the flames, he said.

"We found a very progressed fire, which is kind of unusual for the middle of the day in the middle of town," Wisko told the newspaper.

Houston resident Sam Davis said the home was built in 1912 and that his grandfather purchased it years later, after Johnson had lived there. It's not clear when the boxer resided there.

Johnson began his boxing career in Galveston, where a bronze statue of him stands in a park naming him as the Galveston Giant. In 1908, he became the first black heavyweight world champion.

News from © The Associated Press, 2019
The Associated Press

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