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

February 07, 2019 - 8:04 PM

Bezos says Enquirer threatened to publish revealing pics

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said Thursday he was the target of "extortion and blackmail" by the publisher of the National Enquirer, which he said threatened to publish revealing personal photos of him unless he stopped investigating how the tabloid obtained his private exchanges with his mistress.

Bezos, who is also owner of The Washington Post, detailed his interactions with American Media Inc., or AMI, in an extraordinary blog post Thursday on Medium.com. The billionaire did not say the tabloid was seeking money — instead, he said, the Enquirer wanted him to make a public statement that the tabloid's coverage was not politically motivated.

Bezos' accusations add another twist to a high-profile clash between the world's richest man and the leader of America's best-known tabloid, a strong backer of President Donald Trump. Bezos' investigators have suggested the Enquirer's coverage of his affair — which included the release of risque texts — was driven by dirty politics.

"Of course I don't want personal photos published, but I also won't participate in their well-known practice of blackmail, political favours, political attacks, and corruption," Bezos wrote of AMI, in explaining his decision to go public. "I prefer to stand up, roll this log over, and see what crawls out."

A spokesman and an attorney for AMI did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.

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Former Rep. Dingell, US's longest-serving lawmaker, dies

DETROIT (AP) — Former U.S. Rep. John Dingell, the longest-serving member of Congress in American history and a master of legislative deal-making who was fiercely protective of Detroit's auto industry, has died. The Michigan Democrat was 92.

Dingell, who served in the U.S. House for 59 years before retiring in 2014, died Thursday at his home in Dearborn, said his wife, Congresswoman Debbie Dingell.

"He was a lion of the United States Congress and a loving son, father, husband, grandfather and friend," her office said in a statement. "He will be remembered for his decades of public service to the people of Southeast Michigan, his razor sharp wit and a lifetime of dedication to improving the lives of all who walk this earth."

Dubbed "Big John" for his imposing 6-foot-3 frame and sometimes intimidating manner, a reputation bolstered by the wild game heads decorating his Washington office, Dingell served with every president from Dwight D. Eisenhower to Barack Obama.

He was a longtime supporter of universal health care, a cause he adopted from his late father, whom he replaced in Congress in 1955. He also was known as a dogged pursuer of government waste and fraud, and even helped take down two top presidential aides while leading the investigative arm of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee, which he chaired for 14 years.

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Supreme Court blocks Louisiana abortion clinic law

WASHINGTON (AP) — A divided Supreme Court stopped Louisiana from enforcing new regulations on abortion clinics in a test of the conservative court's views on abortion rights.

The justices said by a 5-4 vote late Thursday that they will not allow the state to put into effect a law that requires abortion providers to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.

Chief Justice John Roberts joined the court's four liberals in putting a hold on the law, pending a full review of the case.

President Donald Trump's two Supreme Court appointees, Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, were among the four conservative members of the court who would have allowed the law to take effect.

Kavanaugh wrote a dissenting opinion in which he said the court's action was premature because the state had made clear it would allow abortion providers an additional 45 days to obtain admitting privileges before it started enforcing the law.

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Crisis firm and tunnels: how Virginia Gov. survives scandal

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — He promised to start an honest conversation about race and how to heal the lingering wounds of Virginia's painful past. Then he disappeared.

For the past week, Gov. Ralph Northam has defied widespread calls for his resignation after a racist yearbook picture and a bungled response upended his career. The 59-year-old Democrat has hired a crisis communications firm, used underground tunnels at the Capitol to stay out of sight and unveiled no strategy for how he might govern effectively over the next three years.

His best hope of survival in the short term might be the eruption of two other controversies that have since hit the two men next in line to succeed him, both Democrats. The party might be loath to oust the three for fear of handing the governor's office over to the Republican legislative leader who is next in line.

But Northam's long-term plans are still a mystery. The uncertainty has led opponents to pile on, left his staff rudderless and prompted supporters to urge him to act quickly.

"I'm not privy to any plans, but I suspect he will step up and lead," said Republican Sen. Richard Stuart, a close friend who talks to the governor daily. Asked when that might be, Stuart said: "Soon, I hope."

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Facility where incapacitated woman gave birth to shut down

PHOENIX (AP) — A long-term care facility in Arizona where an incapacitated woman was raped and later gave birth announced Thursday that it would shut down operations.

Officials with Hacienda HealthCare said its board of directors determined it's not sustainable to keep operating its intermediate care facility in Phoenix. It serves infants, children and young adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities who require a high level of medical care.

Hacienda officials said they were working with state agencies to develop a plan to move 37 patients to other centres. Its skilled nursing facility will stay open.

"We will continue to work with these agencies in the weeks and months ahead to ensure an appropriate and safe transition moving forward," the provider said in a statement. "The care of our patients remains our top priority and we will do everything in our power to ensure a smooth transition for them and their families."

State regulators, meanwhile, called the decision "disturbing news" and not in the best interest of patients.

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Democrats and GOP square off over Trump's tax returns

WASHINGTON (AP) — With Democrats now controlling the House and holding the legal key to seeking President Donald Trump's tax returns, Republican lawmakers are invoking privacy in defending Trump's flank.

At an oversight hearing Thursday, lawmakers examined proposals to compel presidents and presidential candidates to make years of their tax returns public. And they discussed the authority under current law for the head of the House Ways and Means Committee — now Democratic Rep. Richard Neal — to make a written request for any tax returns to the Treasury secretary.

The law says the Treasury chief "shall furnish" the requested information to members of the committee for them to examine behind closed doors.

Republicans accused the Democrats of using powers in the tax law to mount a political witch hunt for Trump's tax returns.

"In reality, this is all about weaponizing our tax laws to attack a political foe," Rep. Jackie Walorski of Indiana said at the hearing by the Ways and Means oversight subcommittee.

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Historic candidacy of princess upends tradition in Thailand

BANGKOK (AP) — A Thai political party on Friday named a princess as its nominee to be the next prime minister, upending tradition that the royal palace plays no public role in politics and upsetting all predictions about what may happen in next month's election.

The selection of 67-year-old Princess Ubolratana Mahidol by the Thai Raksa Chart Party marks a shock realignment of Thai politics, as she is now affiliated with a political machine that had been dismissed by hardcore royalists as opposed in spirit to the monarchy.

Her selection to lead the government after the March 24 general election also pits her against the preferred candidate of the military, which is considered one of Thailand's most royalist institutions.

Current Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who led the 2014 coup that ousted Thailand's last elected government, on Friday accepted his selection as candidate to lead the next government by Palang Pracharat Party, widely considered a proxy for the military.

Ubolratana, whose official name is considerably longer than that under which she was registered with the Election Commission, is the first-born child of the late King Bhumibol and Queen Sirikit. Although her father's favourite, she was virtually disowned by him in 1972 when she married an American who was a fellow student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She lost two of her royal titles and lived in the United States, where she and her husband, Peter Jensen, had three children. Only after a bitter divorce did she move back permanently to Thailand in 2001.

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Parkland attack fueled big shift in America's gun politics

Last year's shooting at a Florida high school sparked a movement among a younger generation angered by gun violence and set the stage for a significant shift in America's gun politics.

Thousands of student protesters took to the streets and inspired hashtags such as #NeverAgain and #Enough. They also mobilized to register a new generation of voters.

Candidates were emboldened too. Many of them confronted the issue in the midterm elections and were rewarded with victory over incumbents supported by the National Rifle Association. That helped Democrats take back control of the House.

As the one-year anniversary of the shooting approaches, the legacy of the massacre remains an ever-present force in the nation's politics and gun laws.

"What we've seen here is a tectonic shift in our politics on the guns issue," said Peter Ambler, executive director of Giffords, the gun violence prevention group founded by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. These people "didn't get elected despite their advocacy for safer gun laws. They got elected because of their advocacy for safer gun laws. They made that a core part of their message to the American people."

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Former NY Times editor acknowledges sourcing errors in book

NEW YORK (AP) — The former executive editor of The New York Times acknowledged Thursday that her new book, "Merchants of Truth," contains some sourcing errors and said she would correct them.

In an email Thursday to The Associated Press, Jill Abramson wrote that some page numbers in sourcing notes needed to be fixed and some sources "should have been cited as quotations in the text."

"The notes don't match up with the right pages in a few cases, and this was unintentional and will be promptly corrected. The language is too close in some cases and should have been cited as quotations in the text. This, too, will be fixed," she wrote.

A Twitter thread posted Wednesday by Vice correspondent Michael C. Moynihan listed several examples of passages in Abramson's book that closely resembled the work of other publications, including Time Out and The New Yorker.

"I wouldn't want even a misplaced comma so I will promptly fix these footnotes and quotations as I have corrected other material that Vice contested," Abramson wrote, noting that Vice had previously pointed out factual mistakes.

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Frank Robinson, baseball's fearsome trailblazer, dies at 83

Crowding the plate, fearsome and fearless, Frank Robinson hammered his way into the Hall of Fame.

His legacy, however, was cemented that day in 1975 when he simply stood in the dugout at old Cleveland Stadium — the first black manager in Major League Baseball.

Robinson, the only player to earn the MVP award in both leagues and a Triple Crown winner, died Thursday at 83. He had been in failing health and in hospice care at his home in the Bel Air section of Los Angeles. MLB said he was with family and friends at the time.

"Frank Robinson's resume in our game is without parallel, a trailblazer in every sense, whose impact spanned generations," Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement.

Robinson hit 586 home runs — he was fourth on the career list behind only Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth and Willie Mays when he retired and now ranks 10th. An MVP with Cincinnati and Baltimore, he led the Orioles to their first World Series championship in 1966.

News from © The Associated Press, 2019
The Associated Press

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