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

August 01, 2019 - 8:05 PM

North Korea fires projectiles in 3rd weapons test in 8 days

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea fired unidentified projectiles twice Friday into the sea off its eastern coast in its third round of weapons tests in just over a week, South Korea's military said.

The increased testing activity is seen as brinkmanship aimed at increasing pressure on Seoul and Washington over the stalled nuclear negotiations. North Korea also has expressed frustration at planned U.S.-South Korea military exercises, and experts say its weapons displays could intensify in the coming months if progress on the nuclear negotiations isn't made.

By test-firing weapons that directly threaten South Korea but not the U.S. mainland or its Pacific territories, North Korea also appears to be dialing up pressure on Seoul and testing how far Washington will tolerate its bellicosity without actually causing the nuclear negotiations to collapse, analysts say.

Seoul's Joint Chiefs of Staff said the launches were conducted at 2:59 a.m. and 3:23 a.m. from an eastern coastal area but did not immediately confirm how many projectiles were fired or how far they flew. An official from the JCS, who didn't want to be named, citing office rules, said more analysis would be required to determine whether the projectiles were ballistic missiles or rocket artillery.

South Korea's presidential office said chief national security adviser Chung Eui-yong held an emergency meeting with government ministers to discuss the latest launch. Kim Eun-han, a spokesman for South Korea's Unification Ministry, said the Seoul government expressed "deep regret" over the launches that it believes could negatively affect efforts to stabilize peace on the Korean Peninsula.

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Hard-won budget, debt deal clears Senate, advances to Trump

WASHINGTON (AP) — A hard-won budget and debt deal easily cleared the Senate on Thursday, powered by President Donald Trump's endorsement and a bipartisan drive to cement recent spending increases for the Pentagon and domestic agencies.

The legislation passed by a 67-28 vote as Trump and his GOP allies relied on lots of Democratic votes to propel it over the finish line.

Passage marked a drama-free solution to a worrisome set of looming Washington deadlines as both allies and adversaries of the president set aside ideology in exchange for relative fiscal peace and stability. The measure, which Trump has promised to sign, would permit the government to resume borrowing to pay all its bills and would set an overall $1.37 trillion limit on agency budgets approved by Congress annually.

It does nothing to stem the government's spiraling debt and the return of $1 trillion-plus deficits but it also takes away the prospect of a government shutdown in October or the threat of deep automatic spending cuts .

The administration and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., played strong hands in the talks that sealed the agreement last week, producing a pragmatic measure that had much for lawmakers to dislike.

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Puerto Ricans have no idea who will be new governor Friday

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Less than 24 hours before Gov. Ricardo Rosselló was expected to leave office, Puerto Ricans had no idea who would replace him as political chaos threatened to paralyze the island with a constitutional crisis.

Rosselló has promised to step down at 5 p.m. Friday in response to huge street protests by Puerto Ricans outraged at corruption, mismanagement and an obscenity-laced chat that was leaked in which the governor and 11 male allies made fun of women, gay people and victims of Hurricane Maria.

"It's frustrating. We're in limbo," said Jose Ramos, a taxi driver. "The island doesn't have a path forward."

As one of his last acts, Rosselló put forward veteran politician and lawyer Pedro Pierluisi to fill the vacant secretary of state post, next in line for the governorship under the U.S. territory's constitution.

Pierluisi is a former representative to the U.S. Congress seen by most ordinary Puerto Ricans as a conciliatory, relatively uncontroversial figure, unlikely to be met by continued street demonstrations.

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Robert F. Kennedy's granddaughter, Saoirse Hill, dies at 22

HYANNIS PORT, Mass. (AP) — Robert F. Kennedy's granddaughter, Saoirse Kennedy Hill, has died, the family announced Thursday night.

The Kennedy family's statement followed reports of a death at the storied Kennedy Compound in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts. The statement was issued by Brian Wright O'Connor, a spokesman for Saoirse Hill's uncle, former congressman Joseph P. Kennedy II.

Hill was the daughter of Robert and Ethel Kennedy's fifth child, Courtney, and Paul Michael Hill, who was one of four falsely convicted in the 1974 Irish Republican Army bombings of two pubs.

"She lit up our lives with her love, her peals of laughter and her generous spirit," the statement said, adding that she was passionate about human rights and women's empowerment and worked with indigenous communities to build schools in Mexico.

She attended Boston College, where she was a member of the class of 2020, the university confirmed to The Boston Globe.

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Katy Perry, others ordered to pay $2.78M for copying song

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Katy Perry, her collaborators and her record label must pay more than $2.78 million because the pop star's 2013 hit "Dark Horse" copied a 2009 Christian rap song, a federal jury decided Thursday.

It was an underdog victory for rapper Marcus Gray, a relatively obscure artist once known as Flame, whose 5-year-old lawsuit survived constant court challenges and a trial against top-flight attorneys for Perry and the five other music-industry heavyweights who wrote her song.

The amount fell well short of the nearly $20 million sought by attorneys for Gray and the two co-writers of "Joyful Noise" — Emanuel Lambert and Chike Ojukwu — but they said they were pleased.

"We weren't here seeking to punish anyone," said Gray's attorney, Michael A. Kahn. "Our clients came here seeking justice, and they feel they received justice from a jury of their peers."

Perry herself was hit for just over $550,000, with Capitol Records responsible for the biggest part of the award — $1.2 million. Defence attorneys had argued for an overall award of about $360,000.

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Walloped by heat wave, Greenland sees massive ice melt

BERLIN (AP) — The heat wave that smashed high temperature records in five European countries a week ago is now over Greenland, accelerating the melting of the island's ice sheet and causing massive ice loss in the Arctic.

Greenland, the world's largest island, is a semi-autonomous Danish territory between the Atlantic and Arctic oceans that has 82% of its surface covered in ice.

The area of the Greenland ice sheet that is showing indications of melt has been growing daily, and hit a record 56.5% for this year on Wednesday, said Ruth Mottram, a climate scientist with the Danish Meteorological Institute. She says that's expected to expand and peak on Thursday before cooler temperatures slow the pace of the melt.

More than 10 billion tons (11 billion U.S. tons) of ice was lost to the oceans by surface melt on Wednesday alone, creating a net mass ice loss of some 197 billion tons (217 billion U.S. tons) from Greenland in July, she said.

"It looks like the peak will be today. But the long-term forecast is for continuing warm and sunny weather in Greenland, so that means the amount of the ice loss will continue," she said Thursday in a telephone interview from Copenhagen.

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Gunmaker asks US Supreme Court to hear Sandy Hook appeal

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — The maker of the rifle used in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear its appeal Thursday of a state ruling against the company.

Remington Arms, based in Madison, North Carolina, cited a much-debated 2005 federal law that shields firearms manufacturers from liability in most cases when their products are used in crimes.

Gunman Adam Lanza opened fire at the Newtown, Connecticut, school with a Bushmaster AR-15-style rifle on Dec. 14, 2012, killing 20 first graders and six educators. The 20-year-old gunman earlier shot his mother to death at their Newtown home, and killed himself as police arrived at the school. The rifle was legally owned by his mother.

A survivor and relatives of nine victims filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Remington in 2015, saying the company should have never sold such a dangerous weapon to the public and alleging it targeted younger, at-risk males in marketing and product placement in violent video games.

Citing one of the few exemptions in the federal law, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled 4-3 in March that Remington could be sued under state law over how it marketed the rifle to the public. The decision overturned a ruling by a trial court judge who dismissed the lawsuit based on the 2005 federal law, named the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act.

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Japan downgrading South Korea trade status, raising tensions

TOKYO (AP) — Japan's Cabinet on Friday approved the removal of South Korea from a "whitelist" of countries with preferential trade status, a move sure to fuel antagonism already at a boiling point over recent export controls and the issue of compensation for wartime Korean labourers.

The decision expanding controls over exports of sensitive materials takes effect on Aug. 28. It follows an earlier requirement that Japanese companies' exports to South Korea be approved on a case-by-case basis for three materials used in semiconductors, smartphones and other high-tech devices.

In addition to escalating tensions between the Asian neighbours, the move will ripple across the high-tech sector, further affecting supply chains already rattled by U.S.-China trade tensions.

The loss of preferential trade status will apply to dozens more products on a list of items that potentially could be converted to weapons. That's in addition to more than 200 other items requiring individual inspection for exports to all countries.

Japan's trade ministry says Seoul has undermined a "relationship of trust" in export controls after repeatedly ignoring or postponing Japan's request for explanation over what Japan considered problematic shipments. It said it had concerns about whether South Korean export controls would prevent misuse of sensitive materials.

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Leaders of religious right balk at labeling Trump a racist

NEW YORK (AP) — Many religious leaders have strongly condemned President Donald Trump's disparaging remarks about minority members of Congress. Prominent figures on the religious right have not joined in, instead maintaining public silence or insisting that Trump's tactics reflect hard-nosed politics rather than racism.

"He does not judge people by the colour of their skin," said the Rev. Robert Jeffress, pastor of the Southern Baptist megachurch First Baptist Dallas and a frequent guest at the White House.

"He judges people on whether they support him," Jeffress said. "If you embrace him, he'll embrace you. If you attack him, he'll attack you. That's the definition of colorblind."

Debate over Trump's inflammatory tweets and comments has flared over the past few weeks. He told four outspoken congresswomen of colour — three of them born in the U.S.--to "go back" where they came from. He also derided two black leaders — the Rev. Al Sharpton and Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings, of Maryland — and called the majority-black city of Baltimore a "rodent-infested mess."

In response, 11 leaders of Protestant and Catholic groups in Maryland issued a public letter Tuesday imploring Trump to "stop putting people down."

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Justice Department declines to prosecute Comey over memos

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department has declined to prosecute former FBI Director James Comey over his handling of a series of memos he wrote that documented personal interactions with President Donald Trump, a person familiar with the matter said Thursday.

The memos, some of which Justice Department officials later determined contained classified information, were written in the weeks and months before Comey's firing by Trump in May 2017. A week after he was fired, Comey authorized a friend to describe the contents of one of the memos to the news media. He has said his hope in having one of the memos become public was to spur the appointment of a special counsel to run the Justice Department's investigation into possible ties between Russia and the Trump campaign.

The memos, taken together, reveal conversations with Trump that Comey has said unnerved him or made him uncomfortable. Those include a White House dinner at which Comey says Trump asked him for his loyalty, and a private Oval Office discussion where the ex-FBI head said the president asked him to end an investigation into Michael Flynn, the former White House national security adviser.

FBI agents collected four memos from Comey's house one month after he was fired, according to court documents made public this week as part of a lawsuit by the organization Judicial Watch.

In court documents arguing against the public release of the memos, the FBI has contended that the memos include "highly sensitive information" about the Russia probe as well as certain classified details, including the code name and true identity of a source and details of foreign intelligence information.

News from © The Associated Press, 2019
The Associated Press

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