AP News in Brief at 11:04 p.m. EST - InfoNews

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

January 31, 2019 - 8:04 PM

Trump, Pelosi stances on wall suggest deal will be difficult

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared Thursday that there'll be no "wall money" in any compromise border security deal as she and President Donald Trump signalled that congressional negotiators may never satisfy his demands for his cherished Southwest border proposal.

Trump, who in recent weeks has expressed indifference to whether the term "wall" or something else is used, clung with renewed tenacity to the word that became his campaign mantra, declaring, "A wall is a wall." Yet in a series of tweets and statements, he issued conflicting messages about what he'd need to declare victory and suggested that merely repairing existing structures along the boundary could be a major component of a triumph.

Amid signs that Trump's leverage in Congress is atrophying, he seemed to aim one tweet at his conservative followers. He wrote that Democrats "are not going to give money to build the DESPERATELY needed WALL. I've got you covered. Wall is already being built, I don't expect much help!"

Pelosi, D-Calif., left the door open for an accord that could finance some barriers, citing what she said was already existing "Normandy fencing" that blocks vehicles.

"If the president wants to call that a wall, he can call that a wall," she told reporters. She added: "Is there a place for enhanced fencing? Normandy fencing would work."

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Long johns to short sleeves: Rapid thaw follows polar blast

CHICAGO (AP) — In Illinois, temperatures could rise by 80 degrees within days. In Michigan, melting snow and rain and a 17-mile ice jam could lead to flooding. Across the Midwest, the sudden warmth was sure to bring more broken roads and busted water mains.

The polar vortex that brought many cities to a standstill was expected to end with a rapid thaw that experts say could be unprecedented. But the sudden swing from long johns to light jackets and short sleeves could create problems of its own.

"I don't think there's ever been a case where we've seen (such a big) shift in temperatures," in the winter, said Jeff Masters, meteorology director of the Weather Underground firm. "Past record-cold waves have not dissipated this quickly. ... Here we are going right into spring-like temperatures."

On Thursday, the system marched east, spreading arctic conditions over an area from Buffalo to Brooklyn. In western New York, a storm that dumped up to 20 inches of snow (51 centimetres) gave way to subzero temperatures and face-stinging wind chills. In New York City, about 200 firefighters battling a blaze in a commercial building took turns getting warm on buses. The number of deaths that could be blamed on the cold climbed to at least 15.

For the nation's midsection, relief was as close as the weekend.

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US expected to announce treaty withdrawal as soon as Friday

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration is poised to announce Friday that it is withdrawing from a treaty that has been a centerpiece of superpower arms control since the Cold War and whose demise some analysts worry could fuel a new arms race.

An American withdrawal, which has been expected for months, would follow years of unresolved dispute over Russian compliance with the pact, known as the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces, or INF, treaty. It was the first arms control measure to ban an entire class of weapons: ground-launched cruise missiles with a range between 500 kilometres (310 miles) and 5,000 kilometres (3,100 miles). Russia denies that it has been in violation.

U.S. officials also have expressed worry that China, which is not party to the 1987 treaty, is gaining a significant military advantage in Asia by deploying large numbers of missiles with ranges beyond the treaty's limit. Leaving the INF treaty would allow the Trump administration to counter the Chinese, but it's unclear how it would do that.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in early December that Washington would give Moscow 60 days to return to compliance before it gave formal notice of withdrawal, with actual withdrawal taking place six months later. The 60-day deadline expires on Saturday, and the administration is expected to say as early as Friday that efforts to work out a compliance deal have failed and that it would suspend its compliance with the treaty's terms.

The State Department said Pompeo would make a public statement on Friday morning, but it did not mention the topic.

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Trump plan would channel prescription discounts to patients

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration Thursday unveiled a plan to channel now-hidden prescription drug rebates directly to patients, saying it would bypass middlemen and lower prices for consumers.

The proposed regulation from Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar would eliminate behind-the-scenes discounts among drugmakers, insurers and go-betweens and instead require that they be paid directly to consumers when they buy their medications.

The idea is to do away with a hidden cost seen as contributing to artificially high list prices for prescription drugs. The proposal was co-authored with the Health and Human Services inspector general's office.

The plan comes as President Donald Trump is under political pressure to deliver results on his repeated promises to slash prescription drug costs. Democrats in Congress want to empower Medicare to directly negotiate prices with drug companies, but Republicans prefer a market-based approach that keeps the government out of setting prices.

The impact for consumers would not be immediate, since the changes would take effect over the next year if all goes according to plan. Also, drugmakers do not currently provide discounts for all their medications.

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US border agency says it's made biggest-ever fentanyl bust

PHOENIX (AP) — U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials announced Thursday their biggest fentanyl bust ever, saying they captured nearly 254 pounds (114 kilograms) of the synthetic drug that is fueling a national epidemic of fatal opioid overdoses from a secret compartment inside a load of Mexican produce heading into Arizona.

The drug was found hidden Saturday morning in a compartment under the rear floor of a tractor-trailer after a scan during a secondary inspection indicated "some anomalies" in the load, and the agency's police dog team alerted officers to the presence of drugs, Nogales CBP Port Director Michael Humphries said.

Most of the seized fentanyl with an overall street value of about $3.5 million was in white powder form, but about 2 pounds of it (1 kilogram) was contained in pills. Agents also seized nearly 395 pounds (179 kilograms) of methamphetamine with a street value of $1.18 million, Humphries said.

"The size of a few grains of salt of fentanyl, which is a dangerous opioid, can kill a person very quickly," Humphries said. The seizure, he said, had prevented an immeasurable number of doses of the drug "that could have harmed so many families."

President Donald Trump praised the bust in a tweet Thursday, writing: "Our great U.S. Border Patrol Agents made the biggest Fentanyl bust in our Country's history. Thanks, as always, for a job well done!"

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Venezuela opposition leader to police: Leave my family alone

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — The Venezuelan opposition leader challenging Nicolas Maduro's claim to the presidency warned officers from a feared state security unit Thursday to stay away from his family after he accused them of showing up at his apartment in a tense brush with the very force he is trying to persuade to switch allegiance and back him.

A visibly flustered but determined Juan Guaido told a crowd gathered at a university that members of a special police unit known for its brutal tactics had gone to his high-rise apartment in a middle-class neighbourhood of Caracas while his 20-month-old daughter was inside.

"I hold you responsible for anything that might happen to my baby," the 35-year-old lawmaker said as his wife stood beside him.

He rushed home and emerged an hour later holding his smiling daughter, named for Francisco de Miranda, a Venezuelan patriot who paved the way for Venezuela's independence, and described how four agents from the police's Special Action Force had arrived at the building and asked security guards stationed there for his wife.

"Children are sacred," he admonished the agents as a crowd of supporters applauded. "Wives are sacred. So don't cross that red line."

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Trump says State of Union address to stress 'unity'

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump said Thursday that "unity" will be the theme of his first State of the Union address under divided government and that he respects Stacey Abrams, who will give the Democratic response.

"I hope she does a good job. I respect her," Trump said of Abrams, who will be the first black woman to deliver the rebuttal.

Trump will give his speech Tuesday before a joint session of Congress at a sensitive time in talks over keeping the government open and funding the border wall he is demanding as part of any deal. Members of Congress are inviting federal workers worried about another shutdown after Feb. 15. Special counsel Robert Mueller's probe into Russian election meddling also hovers.

Trump will also be surrounded by living reminders of the changes wrought by the 2018 midterm elections that ushered Democrats into the House majority.

Sitting behind him: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who manoeuvred the president into retreating last week on his demand for a border wall in exchange for an end to the longest government shutdown in history.

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Study: Many small kids in US are using too much toothpaste

NEW YORK (AP) — Too many young kids are using too much toothpaste, increasing their risk of streaky or splotchy teeth when they get older, according to a government survey released Thursday.

About 40 per cent of kids ages 3 to 6 used a brush that was full or half-full of toothpaste, even though experts recommend no more than a pea-sized amount, the study found.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention findings were based on a survey of parents of more than 5,000 kids ages 3 to 15.

Health officials recommend that all people drink fluoridated water, and that everyone 2 or older brush twice a day with fluoride toothpaste.

But the amount is important. Children under 3 are only supposed to use a smear of toothpaste the size of a grain of rice. Kids 3 to 6 are supposed to keep it to a pea-sized amount.

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'Empire' actor's family calls for justice in Chicago attack

CHICAGO (AP) — Jussie Smollett's family said Thursday that the attack on the black and gay "Empire" actor in downtown Chicago this week was a "hate crime" and they pushed back against any suggestion that he was anything but honest with the police.

Smollett, who plays the gay character Jamal Lyon on the hit Fox television show, hasn't spoken publicly about the early Tuesday attack, though his representative said Wednesday that Smollett was recovering at home. Smollett's family issued a statement through a spokesman Thursday saying they believe he was the victim of an unprovoked "racial and homophobic hate crime" and that he has been forthright with the police, who are still searching for surveillance video of the attack.

"Jussie has told the police everything from the very beginning. His story has never changed, and we are hopeful they will find these men and bring them to justice," the family said.

They thanked the public "for their prayers" and said the family is "so grateful that God saw him through this cowardly attack alive."

"We want people to understand these targeted hate crimes are happening to our sisters, brothers and our gender non-conforming siblings, many who reside within the intersection of multiple identities, on a monthly, weekly, and sometimes even daily basis all across our country," the family said. "Oftentimes ending fatally, these are inhumane acts of domestic terrorism and they should be treated as such."

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Facebook says Apple is restoring a key developer tool

NEW YORK (AP) — Facebook says Apple is restoring its access to a key development tool that the iPhone maker disabled Wednesday.

Late Tuesday, TechCrunch reported that Facebook paid teens and other users who agreed to download an app called Facebook Research. That app could extensively track their phone and web use. Apple said Facebook was abusing the tool , known as a developer enterprise certificate, to distribute the app on iPhones in a way that allowed the social network to sidestep Apple restrictions on data collection.

By revoking the certificate for the iOS software that powers the iPhone and iPad, Apple closed off Facebook's efforts to sidestep Apple's app store and its tighter rules on privacy.

Apple did not immediately respond to a message for comment Thursday afternoon. Facebook did not say whether it agreed to any conditions for the certificate restoration.

In an internal memo sent on Wednesday, Facebook told employees it is "working closely" with Apple to reinstate access. It also told workers to install the public versions of apps from the app store. Apps that it said "may not work" included internal versions of Facebook, Workplace, Instagram and the Ride app, which helps workers with transportation. WhatsApp was not affected.

News from © The Associated Press, 2019
The Associated Press

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