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

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

April 06, 2018 - 8:04 PM

Arizona, Texas send 400 troops to border after Trump's call

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Arizona and Texas announced Friday that they would send 400 National Guard members to the U.S.-Mexico border by next week in response to President Donald Trump's call for troops to fight drug trafficking and illegal immigration.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said about 150 Guard members would deploy next week. And the Texas National Guard said it was already sending Guardsmen to the border, with plans to place 250 troops there in the next 72 hours as an "initial surge," according to a Guard spokesman. Two helicopters lifted off Friday night from Austin, the state capital, to head south.

The total so far remains well short of the 2,000 to 4,000 National Guard members that Trump told reporters he wants to send. New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez's office said Friday that it had not yet deployed any Guard members. The office of California Gov. Jerry Brown did not respond to questions about whether it would deploy troops.

Trump's proclamation Wednesday directing the use of National Guard troops refers to Title 32, a federal law under which Guard members remain under the command and control of their state's governor. This leaves open the possibility that California's Brown could turn him down.

Defence Secretary James Mattis Friday night approved paying for up to 4,000 National Guard personnel from the Pentagon budget through the end of September. A Defence Department memo says the National Guard personnel will not perform law enforcement functions or "interact with migrants or other persons detained" without Mattis's approval. It said "arming will be limited to circumstances that might require self-defence," but it did not further define that.

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AP sources: EPA chief spent millions on security and travel

WASHINGTON (AP) — Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt's concern with his safety came at a steep cost to taxpayers as his swollen security detail blew through overtime budgets and at times diverted officers away from investigating environmental crimes.

Altogether, the agency spent millions of dollars for a 20-member full-time detail that is more than three times the size of his predecessor's part-time security contingent.

New details in Pruitt's expansive spending for security and travel emerged from agency sources and documents reviewed by The Associated Press. They come as the embattled EPA leader fends off allegations of profligate spending and ethical missteps that have imperiled his job.

Shortly after arriving in Washington, Pruitt demoted the career staff member heading his security detail and replaced him with EPA Senior Special Agent Pasquale "Nino" Perrotta, a former Secret Service agent who operates a private security company.

An EPA official with direct knowledge of Pruitt's security spending says Perrotta oversaw a rapid expansion of the EPA chief's security detail to accommodate guarding him day and night, even on family vacations and when Pruitt was home in Oklahoma. The EPA official spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation.

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GOP Rep. Farenthold resigns after sexual harassment claims

WASHINGTON (AP) — Texas Republican Rep. Blake Farenthold abruptly resigned Friday, four months after announcing he wouldn't seek re-election amid sexual harassment allegations.

"While I planned on serving out the remainder of my term in Congress, I know in my heart it's time for me to move along and look for new ways to serve," Farenthold said in a video statement, adding that his action was effective as of 5 p.m.

In December, Farenthold had posted another video denying a former aide's 2014 accusations, including that he'd subjected her to sexually suggestive comments and behaviour and then fired her after she complained. Still, the congressman apologized in that video for an office atmosphere he said included "destructive gossip, offhand comments, off-colour jokes and behaviour that, in general, was less than professional."

Capitol Hill has found itself in the centre of a national reckoning over sexual misconduct and gender discrimination in the workplace. Since October, eight lawmakers have either resigned or abandoned re-election bids amid allegations of sexual misconduct. Some members and aides have complained about a patchwork system for reporting offences and secrecy around settlements paid by lawmakers' offices.

A ninth lawmaker, Rep. Elizabeth Esty, announced on Monday she will not seek re-election this year amid calls for her resignation over her handling of the firing of a former chief of staff accused of harassment, threats and violence against female staffers in her congressional office.

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House's No. 2 Dem searches for a last shot at the top spot

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi is not welcome in Trump country, which was probably one reason another top Democrat — her long-term rival Steny Hoyer — was zipping through Republican-friendly corners of western Wisconsin this week.

Hoyer, the Maryland centrist and perpetual leader-in-waiting in the House of Representatives, was on a mission to woo blue-collar voters and help his party win back control of the House.

He was also looking for what could be his last shot.

"Would I like to be speaker? Of course. Would I be disappointed if it doesn't happen? No," the No. 2 House Democrat said by phone, reflecting on his long career as he cut through snow-covered rolling hills, a world away from his Chesapeake Bay home turf.

Hoyer has been eying the top spot for more than a decade, living in the shadow of a San Francisco Democrat who has a white-knuckle grip on power. Now, as the party wrestles with its ideological impulses and younger lawmakers push for a generational shift — both he and Pelosi are 78 years old — Hoyer may be looking for one more play.

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McGregor's UFC future in doubt in wake of felony charges

NEW YORK (AP) — Cocksure and uncouth, Conor McGregor was never afraid to defy authority.

He dressed in fur coats and swung chairs at news conferences, reaped the riches of his dalliance with boxing, and demanded his boss cut him an ownership stake in the MMA promotion that made him one of the sport's most notorious names.

What McGregor wanted, McGregor got — in cash, championships, and living his best luxe life.

After one more decisive victory in New York, McGregor scaled the UFC octagon and draped two championship belts over his shoulder while a sold-out crowd roared in approval.

In the underbelly of a New York arena 17 months later, McGregor went wild, using a dolly, chairs and guard rails as weapons, not his fists. Fueled by revenge and running with a pack of his "hoodlums," McGregor's antics landed him in jail — and injured two fighters on Saturday's UFC 223 card.

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Rain shuts Yosemite, threatens problems at tallest US dam

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A fierce Northern California storm Friday shut down Yosemite National Park, threatened mudslides in wildfire-ravaged wine country and could present the first test of a partially repaired offshoot of the nation's tallest dam that nearly collapsed last year.

Recent heavy rainfall has led to problems for a state recovering from devastating wildfires, forcing people to flee their homes repeatedly for fear of debris flows tearing down hillsides stripped bare by flames. But the downpours also have provided relief as parts of California plunged back into drought less than a year after a historic dry stretch

The so-called "Pineapple Express" carrying moisture from Hawaii had dumped around 2 inches (5 centimetres) of rain in many areas and as much as 5 inches (12 centimetres) in Sonoma County by Friday evening, according to the National Weather Service.

Some places in the Santa Cruz Mountains south of San Francisco could see up to 8 inches (20 centimetres) of rain over a three-day period, leading forecasters to warn of possible flooding, mudslides and rockslides.

San Francisco International Airport reported about 150 flights — 10 per cent of the flight schedule — were cancelled because of the weather and others were delayed an hour or more.

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Trump, China escalate trade dispute as markets tumble

WASHINGTON (AP) — Unwilling to yield, President Donald Trump and China's government escalated their trade clash Friday, with Beijing vowing to "counterattack with great strength" if Trump follows through on threats to impose tariffs on an additional $100 billion in Chinese goods.

Trump made his out-of-the-blue move when China threatened to retaliate for the first round of tariffs planned by the United States. But for someone who has long fashioned himself as a master negotiator, Trump left it unclear whether he was bluffing or willing to enter a protracted trade war pitting the world's two biggest economies against each other, with steep consequences for consumers, businesses and an already shaken stock market.

"They aren't going to bully him into backing down," said Stephen Moore, a former Trump campaign adviser who is now a visiting fellow at the Heritage Foundation. He said the Chinese "are going to have to make concessions — period."

The White House sent mixed signals on Friday as financial markets slid from investor concern about a significant trade fight. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told CNBC he was "cautiously optimistic" that the U.S. and China could reach an agreement before any tariffs are implemented but added, "there is the potential of a trade war."

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow told reporters the U.S. was "not in a trade war," adding, "China is the problem. Blame China, not Trump."

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Metal object in fatal police shooting was a welding torch

NEW YORK (AP) — Witnesses who called New York City police to report that a man was menacing people with a gun before police killed him were terrified but also uncertain whether the object the man had really was a gun, 911 transcripts released Friday show.

One caller Wednesday said, "He's pointing a silver thing in a lady's face."

When the dispatcher asked if it was a gun, the caller said, "I don't know if it's a gun, ma'am. It seems like a gun. It's silver."

Police said the metal object Saheed Vassell was pointing at people was actually the head of a welding torch.

Officers responding to the 911 calls fired 10 shots at the 34-year-old Vassell, killing him.

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Feds seize Backpage.com, websites in enforcement action

PHOENIX (AP) — Federal law enforcement authorities are in the process of seizing online classified site Backpage.com and its affiliated websites known for listing adult escort services.

A notice that appeared Friday afternoon at Backpage.com says the websites are being seized as part of an enforcement action by the FBI, U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Internal Revenue Service.

The notice doesn't characterize or provide any details on the nature of the enforcement action. It said authorities planned to release information about the enforcement action later Friday.

Backpage.com lets users create posts to sell items, seek a roommate, participate in forums, list upcoming events or post job openings. It also known for listings adult escorts and other sexual services, and authorities say advertising related to those services has been extremely lucrative.

Last year, the creators of the website were charged with money laundering in California.

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Reed takes lead as Masters takes shape without Tiger in mix

AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — Patrick Reed is leading a major championship for the first time, and his confidence is so high that he can only see what's ahead of him.

Maybe that's just as well at this Masters.

Reed started and finished the front nine with three straight birdies. He answered Marc Leishman's bold shot for an eagle by polishing off another run of three straight birdies. It added to a 6-under 66 and a two-shot lead over Leishman going into the weekend at Augusta National.

Right behind them are five major champions.

Nowhere near him are Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, the two names that generated so much of the buzz for a Masters that otherwise is living up to expectations.

News from © The Associated Press, 2018
The Associated Press

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