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

April 08, 2019 - 8:04 PM

Shake-up at Homeland Security goes beyond Nielsen's exit

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump and White House allies pressing for a harder line on immigration sped up their campaign Monday to clean house at the Department of Homeland Security with a mission far wider than just the departure of Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.

The dismantling of the government's immigration leadership is being orchestrated by Trump adviser Stephen Miller, the impetus behind some of the administration's most controversial policies, according to three people familiar with the matter. Beyond changing names and faces, Trump is considering separating migrant families at the border again, resuming the practice that drew so much outrage last year, the same people said.

The shake-up is a result of Trump's frustration with the increasing number of migrants at the border and his diminishing options for action. Court challenges, immigration laws and his own advisers have blocked several of his proposals as his re-election campaign looms. The White House has lashed out by demanding new leadership, although a new team is likely to face the same obstacles.

The head of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, L. Francis Cissna, and Homeland Security General Counsel John M. Mitnick are expected to be pushed out of their positions, the officials said. Nielsen submitted her resignation Sunday after meeting with Trump at the White House, and three days earlier, the administration withdrew the nomination of Ron Vitiello to lead Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Other longtime civil servants in agency posts are also on the chopping block, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

Adding to the turmoil, the director of the Secret Service is being forced out of his job, but that departure is said to be unrelated to the immigration upheaval.

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Huffman, 12 other parents to plead guilty in college scheme

BOSTON (AP) — "Desperate Housewives" star Felicity Huffman and a dozen other prominent parents have agreed to plead guilty in the college admissions bribery scam that ensnared wealthy families and athletic coaches at some of the nation's most selective universities, federal authorities said Monday.

The actress and the other parents were charged last month in the scheme, which authorities say involved rigging standardized test scores and bribing coaches at such prestigious schools as Yale and Georgetown.

Huffman, 56, was accused of paying a consultant $15,000 disguised as a charitable donation to boost her daughter's SAT score. Authorities say the actress also discussed going through with the same plan for her younger daughter but ultimately decided not to.

She will plead guilty to a single charge of conspiracy and fraud, according to court documents. Those charges are punishable by up to 20 years in prison, but the plea agreement indicates prosecutors will seek a sentence of four to 10 months.

Experts have said they expect some parents will avoid prison time if they quickly accept responsibility. All of the defendants will have to return to Boston to enter formal guilty pleas, but no new court dates were set.

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Vaccines blocked as deadly cholera raged across Yemen

ADEN, Yemen (AP) — In the summer of 2017, a plane chartered by the United Nations idled on the tarmac at an airport in the Horn of Africa as officials waited for final clearance to deliver half a million doses of cholera vaccine to Yemen. Amid the country's ruinous war, the disease was spiraling out of control, with thousands of new cases reported each day.

The green light for the plane to head to northern Yemen never came. The U.N. wasn't able to distribute cholera vaccines to Yemen until May 2018 and the outbreak ultimately produced more than 1 million suspected cholera cases — the worst cholera epidemic recorded in modern times and a calamity that medical researchers say may have been avoided if vaccines had been deployed sooner.

U.N. officials blamed the cancelled flight on the difficulties in distributing vaccines during an armed conflict. But officials with knowledge of the episode told The Associated Press that the real reason was that the Houthi rebels who control northern Yemen refused to allow the vaccines to be delivered, after spending months demanding that the U.N. send ambulances and other medical equipment for their military forces as a condition for accepting the shipment.

The cancellation of the shipment was just one of the setbacks that aid agencies faced in battling the cholera epidemic, which has killed nearly 3,000 Yemenis.

Relief workers and government officials said they have seen repeated indications that insiders in both the Houthi government in the north and the U.S.-backed government in the south have skimmed off money and supplies for cholera vaccination and treatment and sold them on the black market. In some cases, treatment centres for people who had contracted cholera existed only on paper even though the U.N. had disbursed money to bankroll their operations, according to two aid officials familiar with the centres.

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Michael Cohen's usefulness to prosecutors may be at an end

NEW YORK (AP) — When FBI agents raided Michael Cohen's home and office a year ago Tuesday, some pundits declared it the beginning of the end of Donald Trump's presidency. It was only a matter of time, they speculated, before Cohen gave investigators a roadmap to Trump's supposed misdeeds.

Cohen stoked those flames as recently as Thursday by saying he was co-operating in federal probes he wasn't at liberty to discuss.

And yet, there are mounting indications that Cohen's usefulness to federal prosecutors is drying up — and that he may wind up being the only person to go to prison for the hush-money scandal that has dogged Trump's presidency.

Several members of the team that prosecuted Trump's former lawyer and fixer in New York have announced they are moving on to other jobs, something that usually happens when a big case is winding down.

Prosecutors have also been returning electronic devices and documents seized from Cohen, an indication those materials might not be needed for future prosecutions.

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'Smallville' actress pleads guilty in sex-trafficking case

NEW YORK (AP) — TV actress Allison Mack pleaded guilty Monday to charges she was involved in a scheme to turn women into sex slaves for the spiritual leader of a cult-like upstate New York group, a development that came on the same day jury selection began for a federal trial in the case.

Mack, 36, wept as she admitted her crimes and apologized to the women who prosecutors say were exploited by Keith Raniere and the purported self-help group called NXIVM.

"I believed Keith Raniere's intentions were to help people, and I was wrong," Mack told a Brooklyn judge.

Mack - best known for her role as a young Superman's close friend on the series "Smallville" - said that after months of reflection since her arrest, "I know I can and will be a better person."

The actress is to be sentenced Sept. 11 on two racketeering counts that each carry maximum terms of 20 years in prison. However, it's likely she would face far less time under sentencing guidelines.

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Attorney: Mar-a-Lago infiltrator had hidden-camera detector

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — A Chinese woman recently arrested at President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago club lied repeatedly to Secret Service agents while carrying computer malware unlike anything a government analyst had ever seen and had more than $8,000 in cash at her hotel room, along with an electronic device that detects hidden cameras, federal authorities told a judge Monday.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Rolando Garcia told Magistrate Judge William Matthewman during a bond hearing that "there are a lot of questions that remain" about 32-year-old Yujing Zhang

He said the FBI is still investigating whether Zhang is a spy.

Zhang was arrested March 30 after Secret Service agents said she lied to gain admission to the president's Palm Beach resort and was found to be carrying two Chinese passports, four cellphones, a laptop computer, an external hard drive and a thumb drive containing the malware.

Matthewman adjourned the hearing until next Monday as Zhang's public defender said he's still gathering evidence that could justify her release on bail on charges of lying to federal agents and illegal entry to a restricted area. Garcia said he expects Zhang will be indicted by a federal grand jury this week on those charges.

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Storm to hit Rockies before forming new 'bomb cyclone'

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Flood, snow, avalanche and fire alerts popped up Monday from Idaho to Colorado, as parts of the U.S. interior that were paralyzed by blizzards and floods last month braced for round two of an unusual weather phenomenon.

Welcome to springtime in the Rockies and parts of the Great Plains.

It's not unusual for floods, snow and fire to co-exist in the Rockies thanks to powerful storms blowing through the mountains, melting snow swelling waterways and high winds sweeping across dry grasslands and trees that haven't seen their first green shoots and leaves.

Those conditions are what drove a wildfire Sunday on southeastern Montana's Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation, where a house fire sparked a blaze that quickly burned through 1,700 acres (688 hectares) of dry grass and trees. It forced evacuations Sunday in Lame Deer, a town of about 2,000 people that is the seat of the tribal government, before fire crews were able to contain it.

Also normal are the fire warnings issued for eastern Colorado on Monday, a day after a wildfire near Colorado Springs forced the temporary evacuation of about 20 homes. Forecasters frequently issue red flag warnings for March and April on the eastern and southeastern Colorado plains as the jet stream moves southward and brings stronger weather systems and higher wind, said Jennifer Stark, meteorologist in charge for the National Weather Service in Pueblo, Colorado.

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Virginia, Texas Tech chase first NCAA championship in final

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Texas Tech and Virginia are each going for their first national titles backed by hard-nosed defences that were among the best in the nation.

Virginia (34-3) the standard-bearer in lockdown basketball. The Cavaliers are going against the new kids on the defensive block, the Texas Tech Red Raiders (31-6).

The over/under for points is 118. The over/under on bruises may be higher.

The result will give the NCAA Tournament its first first-time champion since coach Billy Donovan won it all with Florida in 2006.

Texas Tech reached the Elite Eight for the first time last season and Virginia lost its previous two trips to the Final Four, in 1981 and 1984.

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Facebook, Google face widening crackdown over online content

LONDON (AP) — Tech giants like Facebook and Google came under increasing pressure in Europe on Monday when countries proposed stricter rules to force them to block extreme material such as terrorist propaganda and child porn.

Britain called for a first-of-its-kind watchdog for social media that could fine executives and even ban companies. And a European Union parliamentary committee approved a bill giving internet companies an hour to remove terror-related material or face fines that could reach into the billions.

"We are forcing these firms to clean up their act once and for all," said British Home Secretary Sajid Javid, whose department collaborated on Britain's proposal.

Opponents warned the British and EU measures could stifle innovation and strengthen the dominance of technology giants because smaller companies won't have the money to comply. That, in turn, could turn Google and Facebook into the web's censors, they said.

The push to make the big companies responsible for the torrent of material they carry has largely been driven by Europeans. But it picked up momentum after the March 15 mosque shootings in New Zealand that killed 50 people and were livestreamed for 17 minutes. Facebook said it removed 1.5 million videos of the attacks in the 24 hours afterward.

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US measles tally hits 465, with most illnesses in kids

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. measles cases are continuing to jump, and most of the reported illnesses are in children.

Health officials say 465 measles cases have been reported this year, as of last week. That's up from 387 the week before.

The numbers are preliminary. The 2019 tally is already the most since 2014, when 667 were reported. The most before that was 963 cases in 1994.

Outbreaks have hit several states, including California, Michigan and New Jersey. New York City accounted for about two-thirds of the U.S. cases reported last week.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated the numbers Monday. Roughly 80% of the cases are age 19 or younger.

News from © The Associated Press, 2019
The Associated Press

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