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

November 04, 2017 - 8:06 PM

Trump calls Japan 'crucial ally' as he kicks off Asia trip

FUSSA, Japan (AP) — President Donald Trump praised Japan as a "treasured partner" and "crucial ally" Sunday, as he kicked off a grueling and consequential first trip to Asia.

Trump landed at Yokota Air Base on the outskirts of Tokyo, where he was greeted by cheers from service members. Trump then donned a bomber jacket for a speech in which he touted American firepower and the U.S. alliance with Japan.

"Japan is a treasured partner and crucial ally of the United States and today we thank them for welcoming us and for decades of wonderful friendship between our two nations," he said, speaking in front of an American flag inside an airplane hangar.

"On behalf of the United States of America, I send the warmest wishes of the America people to the citizens of this remarkable country," he said.

After the speech, Trump was set to head to a private golf course for an informal lunch and golf with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

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AP finds hackers hijacked at least 195 Trump web addresses

WASHINGTON (AP) — Four years ago, well before the furor over allegations Moscow meddled in the 2016 election that put Donald Trump in the White House, at least 195 web addresses belonging to Trump, his family or his business empire were hijacked by hackers possibly operating out of Russia, The Associated Press has learned.

The Trump Organization denied the domain names were ever compromised. But a review of internet records by the AP and cybersecurity experts shows otherwise. And it was not until this past week, after the Trump camp was asked about it by the AP, that the last of the tampered-with addresses were repaired.

After the hack, computer users who visited the Trump-related addresses were unwittingly redirected to servers in St. Petersburg, Russia, that cybersecurity experts said contained malicious software commonly used to steal passwords or hold files for ransom. Whether anyone fell victim to such tactics is unclear.

A further mystery is who the hackers were and why they did it.

The discovery represents a new twist in the Russian hacking story, which up to now has focused mostly on what U.S. intelligence officials say was a campaign by the Kremlin to try to undermine Democrat Hillary Clinton's candidacy and benefit Trump's.

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Lebanese premier resigns, plunging nation into uncertainty

BEIRUT (AP) — Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri resigned from his post in a televised address from the Saudi capital Saturday, accusing Hezbollah of taking the country hostage, in a surprise move that plunged the nation into uncertainty amid heightened regional tensions.

In his resignation speech, Hariri fired a vicious tirade against Iran and its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah group for what he said was their meddling in Arab affairs and said that "Iran's arms in the region will be cut off."

"The evil that Iran spreads in the region will backfire on it," Hariri said, accusing Tehran of spreading chaos, strife and destruction throughout the region.

Hariri was appointed prime minister in late 2016 and headed a 30-member coalition government that included members of the Shiite militant Hezbollah. But it's been an uneasy partnership between Hariri, who heads a Sunni-led camp loyal to Saudi Arabia, and Hezbollah, which represents a camp loyal to Shiite Iran. President Michel Aoun, who was elected in October 2016 after more than a two-year presidential vacuum, is a close ally of Hezbollah.

As U.S. and Saudi Arabia sought ways to curb Iran's growing influence in the region, Hariri has come under pressure to distance himself from the militant group which has sent thousands of troops to neighbouring Syria to shore up President Bashar Assad's forces.

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Son of Japan abductee to N. Korea hopes Trump raises issue

TOKYO (AP) — Koichiro Iizuka only knows her as Yaeko-san, a pretty woman smiling in an old photo and in stories told by his relatives. A 16-month-old baby, he was at a childcare centre in downtown Tokyo with his 3-year-old sister, waiting to be picked up by their mother. She never returned.

Yaeko Taguchi, then 22, was kidnapped by North Korea agents in June 1978, presumably on her way to the nursery from a night job she was working to raise the children as a divorced mother. The baby boy was adopted by Taguchi's brother, Shigeo Iizuka, and raised as his fourth child; his sister was adopted by an aunt.

Taguchi's whereabouts weren't known for nearly a quarter century until North Korea, after years of denials, acknowledged in 2002 abducting about a dozen Japanese citizens. Iizuka, now a 40-year-old computer programmer, wants President Donald Trump to learn about the ordeal of the relatives of those abducted when he meets some of them in Tokyo on Monday.

Japan says North Korea snatched at least 17 people in the 1970s and '80s to train its spies in Japanese culture and language so they pass as Japanese and spy on South Korea. Pyongyang has admitted abducting 13 of them, including Taguchi, and has allowed five to visit Japan — they stayed instead of returning to the North. North Korea said the other eight had died, and no other abductee has since returned.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has made resolving the abduction issue a top policy goal that he pledged would not be put to rest until all victims return home. There is no sign of any progress amid new tensions created by North Korea's escalating missile and nuclear threats, making it more difficult to seek answers from Pyongyang.

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AP Explains: Bergdahl judge weighed complex leniency factors

FORT BRAGG, N.C. (AP) — Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl's brutal five years of captivity by Taliban allies carried significant weight in an Army judge's decision to spare him prison time for leaving his post in Afghanistan in 2009, legal experts said. Criticism of Bergdahl by President Donald Trump also appeared to push the judge toward leniency.

Army Col. Jeffery Nance didn't explain how he formulated the sentence that also included a dishonourable discharge, reduction in rank and a fine. But the judge had to consider a complex array of arguments for and against leniency.

Prosecutors asked for a 14-year prison sentence, citing several service members' serious wounds while searching for Bergdahl. The defence sought to mitigate the punishment with evidence of Bergdahl's captivity, mental illnesses, contrition and Trump's harsh criticism.

"It's really rare for there to be this much mitigation evidence," said Eric Carpenter, a former Army lawyer who teaches law at Florida International University. "It's kind of hard to distinguish which is the one that Nance gave the most weight to. But I think the Taliban conditions were pretty onerous."

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AP FACT CHECK: Trump on terrorism, taxes and Russia probe

WASHINGTON (AP) — Terrorism, taxes and Russia tribulations provided fertile ground for President Donald Trump and others to sow confusion over the past week.

Over days of head-snapping developments, the special counsel's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election produced indictments and a guilty plea reaching into Trump's campaign team, then eight people died in New York City in what authorities called a terrorist attack by a man acting in the name of the Islamic State group.

Trump opened an Asia trip after House Republicans came out with a tax overhaul that, if successful, could mark Trump's first major legislative achievement after a series of health care flops.

A look back at the rhetoric:

TRUMP: "It's a tax bill for middle class; it's a tax bill for jobs, it's going to bring a lot of companies in; and it's a tax bill for business, which is going to create the jobs." — meeting with business leaders Tuesday.

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Police: Sen. Paul suffers minor injury in assault at home

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (AP) — A man has been arrested and charged with assaulting and injuring U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, authorities said Saturday.

Kentucky State Police said in a news release that Paul suffered a minor injury when 59-year-old Rene Boucher assaulted him at his Warren County home on Friday afternoon.

The release did not provide details of the assault or the nature of Paul's injury. In a statement, Paul spokeswoman Kelsey Cooper said the Republican senator is "fine." The statement said Paul was "blindsided" by the assault but she did not provide further details.

Boucher, of Bowling Green, is charged with fourth-degree assault with a minor injury, a misdemeanour. He is being held at Warren County's jail on $5,000 bond. An automated phone system at the jail did not provide access to lawyer information for Boucher.

Kentucky State Police Master Trooper Jeremy Hodges said he could not release details of the assault because of security issues. Hodges did say that Boucher is an acquaintance of Paul, an ophthalmologist who was elected to the Senate in 2010. It was not immediately clear how they knew each other.

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Inside story: How Russians hacked the Democrats' emails

WASHINGTON (AP) — It was just before noon in Moscow on March 10, 2016, when the first volley of malicious messages hit the Hillary Clinton campaign.

The first 29 phishing emails were almost all misfires. Addressed to people who worked for Clinton during her first presidential run, the messages bounced back untouched.

Except one.

Within nine days, some of the campaign's most consequential secrets would be in the hackers' hands, part of a massive operation aimed at vacuuming up millions of messages from thousands of inboxes across the world.

An Associated Press investigation into the digital break-ins that disrupted the U.S. presidential contest has sketched out an anatomy of the hack that led to months of damaging disclosures about the Democratic Party's nominee. It wasn't just a few aides that the hackers went after; it was an all-out blitz across the Democratic Party. They tried to compromise Clinton's inner circle and more than 130 party employees, supporters and contractors.

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Local voting districts seen as crucial to election security

CONYERS, Ga. (AP) — Last November, election officials in a small Rhode Island town were immediately suspicious when results showed 99 per cent of voters had turned down a noncontroversial measure about septic systems.

It turned out that an oval on the electronic ballot was misaligned ever so slightly and had thrown off the tally. The measure actually had passed by a comfortable margin.

The scary part: The outcome might never have raised suspicion had the results not been so lopsided.

Amid evidence that Russian hackers may have tried to meddle with last year's presidential election, the incident illustrates a central concern among voting experts — the huge security challenge posed by the nation's 10,000 voting jurisdictions.

While the decentralized nature of U.S. elections is a buffer against large-scale interstate manipulation on a level that could sway a presidential race, it also presents a multitude of opportunities for someone bent on mischief.

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Sprint, T-Mobile end merger talks

NEW YORK (AP) — Wireless carriers Sprint and T-Mobile called off a potential merger, saying the companies couldn't come to an agreement that would benefit customers and shareholders.

The two companies have been dancing around a possible merger for years, and were again in the news in recent weeks with talks of the two companies coming together after all. But in a joint statement Saturday, Sprint and T-Mobile said they are calling off merger negotiations for the foreseeable future.

"The prospect of combining with Sprint has been compelling for a variety of reasons, including the potential to create significant benefits for consumers and value for shareholders. However, we have been clear all along that a deal with anyone will have to result in superior long-term value for T-Mobile's shareholders compared to our outstanding stand-alone performance and track record," said John Legere, president and CEO of T-Mobile US, in a prepared statement.

T-Mobile and Sprint are the U.S.' third- and fourth-largest wireless carriers, respectively, but they are significantly smaller than AT&T and Verizon, who effectively have a duopoly over U.S. wireless service. The two companies have said they hoped to find a way of merging to make the wireless market more competitive.

Sprint and its owner, the Japanese conglomerate SoftBank, have long been looking for a deal as the company has struggled to compete on its own. But Washington regulators have frowned on a possible merger. D.C. spiked AT&T's offer to buy T-Mobile in 2011 and signalled in 2014 they would have been against Sprint doing the same thing. But with the new Trump administration, it was thought regulators might be more relaxed about a merger.

News from © The Associated Press, 2017
The Associated Press

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