NKorea launches ICBM in possibly its longest-range test yet
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — After 2 1/2 months of relative peace, North Korea launched its most powerful weapon yet early Wednesday, claiming a new type of intercontinental ballistic missile that some observers believe could put Washington and the entire eastern U.S. seaboard within range.
The North said in a special televised announcement hours after the launch that it had successfully fired what it called the Hwasong-15, a new nuclear-capable ICBM that's "significantly more" powerful than the North's previously tested long-range weapon. Outside governments and analysts backed up the North's claim to a jump in missile capability.
A resumption of Pyongyang's torrid testing pace in pursuit of its goal of a viable arsenal of nuclear-tipped missiles that can hit the U.S. mainland had been widely expected, but the apparent power and suddenness of the new test still jolted the Korean Peninsula and Washington. The launch at 3:17 a.m. local time and midday in the U.S. capital indicated an effort to perfect the element of surprise and to obtain maximum attention in the United States.
The firing is a clear message of defiance aimed at the Trump administration, which had just restored the North to a U.S. list of terror sponsors. It also ruins nascent diplomatic efforts, raises fears of war or a pre-emptive U.S. strike and casts a deeper shadow over the security of the Winter Olympics early next year in South Korea.
A rattled Seoul responded by almost immediately launching three of its own missiles in a show of force. The South's president, Moon Jae-in, expressed worry that North Korea's growing missile threat could force the United States to attack the North before it masters a nuclear-tipped long-range missile, something experts say may be imminent.
Judge sides with Trump's pick to take over consumer agency
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump scored a victory Tuesday when a federal judge refused to block the president's choice to temporarily run the nation's top consumer financial watchdog and, for the moment, ended a two-way battle for leadership of the agency.
Judge Timothy Kelly declined to stop the Republican president from putting Mick Mulvaney in place as the acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. In doing so, Kelly ruled against Leandra English, the bureau's deputy director, who had requested an emergency restraining order to stop Mulvaney from becoming the acting director.
Mulvaney and English had claimed to be the rightful acting director, each citing different federal laws. The leadership crisis developed over the weekend after the bureau's permanent director, Richard Cordray, resigned and appointed English as his successor. Shortly afterward, the White House announced that Mulvaney, currently budget director, would take over the bureau on an interim basis.
The judge's ruling Tuesday is not the final decision in the case. But in making his decision, the judge said that English had not shown a substantial likelihood that she eventually would succeed on the merits of her case. The judge's decision is not immediately appealable.
The judge was nominated by Trump and was confirmed by the majority-Republican Senate in September.
GOP shoves tax overhaul ahead; shutdown still a threat
WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans held together and shoved their signature tax overhaul a crucial step ahead Tuesday as wavering GOP senators showed a growing openness. But its fate remained uncertain, and a planned White House summit aimed at averting a government shutdown was derailed when President Donald Trump savaged top Democrats and declared on Twitter, "I don't see a deal!"
"It's time to stop tweeting and start leading," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer retorted after he and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi rebuffed the budget meeting with Trump and top Republicans.
Trump lunched with GOP senators at the Capitol and declared it a "love fest," as he had his previous closed-doors visit. But the day underscored the party's yearlong problem of unifying behind key legislation — even a bill slashing corporate taxes and cutting personal taxes that's a paramount party goal.
Tuesday's developments also emphasized the leverage Democrats have as Congress faces a deadline a week from Friday for passing legislation to keep federal agencies open while leaders seek a longer-term budget deal. Republicans lack the votes to pass the short-term legislation without Democratic support.
In a party-line 12-11 vote, the Senate Budget Committee managed to advance the tax measure to the full Senate as a pair of wavering Republicans — Wisconsin's Ron Johnson and Tennessee's Bob Corker — fell into line, at least for the moment. In more good news for the GOP, moderate Sen. Susan Collins of Maine said it was a "fair assumption" that she was likelier to support the bill after saying Trump agreed to make property taxes up to $10,000 deductible instead of eliminating that break entirely.
More pressure on Conyers to resign after new accusations
WASHINGTON (AP) — Calls for Michigan Rep. John Conyers to resign increased on Tuesday after a former staffer said the longest-serving member of the House made unwanted sexual advances that included partially undressing in front of her in a hotel room and inappropriate touching.
Deanna Maher, 77, who ran a Michigan office for Conyers from 1997 to 2005, told The Associated Press Tuesday that the first incident occurred in 1997 during a three-day Congressional Black Caucus event in Washington, which she said she "felt honoured" to attend.
Maher said while she was in the bedroom of a hotel suite, Conyers walked in, called room service and ordered sandwiches.
"I had my nightclothes on," said Maher, who now lives in the Holland area in western Michigan. "I was just scared to death. I was married at the time. He sat in the bedroom taking his clothes off. I didn't say anything and he didn't say anything."
Nothing happened between them, she added.
Bannon to campaign for embattled Moore in Alabama
Former White House strategist Steve Bannon told CNN Tuesday he is going to campaign for Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore at a rally in the state next week, making a strong show of support for the embattled Republican a week before the special election.
The announcement came hours after The Associated Press reported that Bannon, who had not campaigned for Moore since days before the Sept. 26 Republican runoff, had no plans to campaign for Moore.
Bannon associates had told The Associated Press that Bannon was not planning to return to Alabama before the Dec. 12 election. The associates spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter.
But Bannon told CNN later, "I look forward to standing with Judge Moore and all of the Alabama 'deplorables' in the fight to elect him to the United States Senate and send shockwaves to the political and media elites."
Bannon uses "deplorables" as a term of endearment for supporters of President Donald Trump. During the 2016 campaign, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton once described some of Trump's supporters as "a basket of deplorables."
Bali volcano ash drifts 4.7 miles high, airport shut 3rd day
KARANGASEM, Indonesia (AP) — An erupting volcano with a deadly history on Indonesia's Bali, one of the world's most popular resort islands, has spread drifting ash 7,600 metres (4.7 miles) into the atmosphere and closed the island's international airport for a third day Wednesday.
Authorities have told 100,000 people to leave an area extending 10 kilometres (6 miles) from Mount Agung as it belches grey and white ash plumes, the low clouds hanging over the volcano at times hued red from the lava welling in the crater. The volcano's last major eruption in 1963 killed about 1,100 people, but it's unclear how bad the current eruption might get or how long it could last.
Officials extended the closure of Bali's international airport for another 24 hours due to concerns the thick volcanic ash could harm aircraft.
Airport spokesman Ari Ahsanurrohim said more than 440 flights were cancelled Tuesday, affecting nearly 60,000 passengers, about the same as Monday. The closure was in effect until Thursday morning. Without aircraft, getting in or out of Bali requires travelling hours by land and taking a boat to another island, enduring choppy seas in Bali's rainy season.
Ahsanurrohim said Wednesday morning that volcanic ash has not been detected at the airport yet, but observations from the Darwin Volcanic Ash Advisory Center show the ash has reached an altitude of 25,000 feet (7,600 metres) and was being blown southward and southwestward toward the airport.
Libyan cleared of murder charges in Benghazi attack
WASHINGTON (AP) — A Libyan militant was convicted Tuesday of terrorism charges stemming from the 2012 Benghazi attacks that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans. But a federal jury found him not guilty of murder, the most serious charge associated with the rampage he was accused of orchestrating.
The attack became instant political fodder in the 2012 presidential campaign, with Republicans accusing the Obama administration of intentionally misleading the public and stonewalling congressional investigators, though officials denied any wrongdoing. Some were particularly critical of then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's handling of the conflict, which dogged her during her presidential campaign.
But the seven-week trial of Ahmed Abu Khattala was largely free of political intrigue.
Jurors convicted Khattala on four counts, including providing material support for terrorism and destroying property and placing lives in jeopardy at the U.S. compound, but acquitted him on 14 others. Even with the mixed verdict, Khattala, 46, still faces the possibility of life imprisonment for his conviction on a federal firearms charge.
Prosecutors accused Khattala of directing the attack aimed at killing personnel and plundering maps, documents and other property from the U.S. mission in Benghazi. But defence attorneys said their evidence against him was shoddy.
FCC head Ajit Pai goes after Hollywood, tech companies
NEW YORK (AP) — The head of the Federal Communications Commission defended his plan to undo the country's net-neutrality rules by bringing the culture wars to telecommunications policy.
There has been constant media coverage since Chairman Ajit Pai last week unveiled his plan to gut the Obama-era net neutrality rules, which were meant to keep broadband providers from playing favourites with websites and apps. Tech companies, including Airbnb, Etsy and Twitter, sent him a letter in support of the current rules. Hollywood celebrities are speaking out against his proposal.
So Pai, a Republican picked by President Donald Trump to be the head of the FCC, is pushing back. His targets: the generally liberal bastions of Silicon Valley and Hollywood.
Pai's policies have been more favourable to the phone, cable and broadcasting industries than those of the Obama-era FCC. One criticism of Pai's plan to gut the net neutrality rules is that it will allow phone and cable companies to block some sites and apps while favouring others.
But Pai asserted in a Tuesday speech that internet companies are "a much bigger actual threat to an open internet" because they choose what people see on their services.
Conservative speaker arrested at UConn after altercation
STORRS, Conn. (AP) — A conservative commentator was arrested at the University of Connecticut Tuesday night after a fight broke out during his speech titled "It's OK To Be White."
Lucian Wintrich's speech was cut short when a young woman in the audience appeared to take something off the podium he was using and then began to leave.
Cellphone videos posted on Twitter show Wintrich running up to the woman and grabbing her before other audience members get involved.
Police quickly stepped in and led Wintrich away. There was no immediate word on any potential charges.
"I can confirm that Lucian Wintrich was arrested by UConn police and is in police custody," said UConn spokeswoman Stephanie Reitz. "There were no other arrests and no injuries."
AP Explains: How Trump's Pocahontas remark can be offensive
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — Members of Virginia tribes that count Pocahontas among their ancestors said Tuesday that President Donald Trump should not use her name for political gain.
The historical figure is well-known through a Disney movie and Halloween costumes but less so for her sacrifices to protect her people from British forces, historians say.
The White House invited Navajo war veterans to Washington, D.C., on Monday to honour them for using a code based on their native language in World War II that the Japanese could not crack.
But the story became less about the Navajo Code Talkers and more about Pocahontas when Trump said, "We have a representative in Congress who they say was here a long time ago. They call her Pocahontas," referring to U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts in a bid to mock her claims about being part Native American.
Anne Richardson, chief of the Rappahannock Tribe in Virginia, said Trump showed he knows little about the role Pocahontas played in establishing the United States and disrespected Pocahontas and the Code Talkers in taking aim at Warren.