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

April 01, 2019 - 8:04 PM

Trump's threat to close border stirs fears of economic harm

EL PASO, Texas (AP) — President Donald Trump's threat to shut down the southern border raised fears Monday of dire economic consequences in the U.S. and an upheaval of daily life in a stretch of the country that relies on the international flow of not just goods and services but also students, families and workers.

Politicians, business leaders and economists warned that such a move would block incoming shipments of fruits and vegetables, TVs, medical devices and other products and cut off people who commute to their jobs or school or come across to go shopping.

"Let's hope the threat is nothing but a bad April Fools' joke," said economist Dan Griswold at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University in Virginia. He said Trump's threat would be the "height of folly," noting that an average of 15,000 trucks and $1.6 billion in goods cross the border every day.

"If trade were interrupted, U.S. producers would suffer crippling disruptions of their supply chains, American families would see prices spike for food and cars, and U.S. exporters would be cut off from their third-largest market," he said.

Trump brought up the possibility of closing ports of entry along the southern border Friday and revisited it in tweets over the weekend because of a surge of Central Americans migrants who are seeking asylum. Trump administration officials have said the influx is straining the immigration system to the breaking point.

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UK Parliament rejects alternatives to May's Brexit deal

LONDON (AP) — Britain's Parliament has spoken — and it has said no, again.

Lawmakers seeking a way out of the country's Brexit morass on Monday rejected four alternatives to the government's unpopular European Union divorce deal that would have softened or even halted Britain's departure.

With just 12 days until the U.K. must come up with a new plan or crash out of the bloc in chaos, the House of Commons threw out four options designed to replace Prime Minister Theresa May's thrice-rejected Brexit deal — though in some cases by a whisker.

The result leaves May's Conservative government facing difficult and risky choices. It can gamble on a fourth attempt to push May's unloved deal through Parliament, let Britain tumble out of the bloc without a deal, or roll the dice by seeking a snap election to shake up Parliament.

Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay said the government would continue to seek support for a "credible" plan for leaving the EU.

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2 major cases add up to big doubts about Chicago prosecutor

CHICAGO (AP) — Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx was elected in 2016 mainly because of anger that the prosecutor she ousted had waited a year to charge a Chicago police officer in the killing of black teenager Laquan McDonald. Then Foxx, who is a survivor of sexual assault as a child, grabbed national attention by charging singer R. Kelly with aggravated sexual abuse.

But in the course of just a few days, her reputation as rising political star and legal crusader was badly tarnished by her office's handling of two celebrity cases involving "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett and Kelly.

The dismissal of all charges against Smollett enraged many, from President Donald Trump to Chicago's mayor and the city's police union. They accuse her of allowing Smollett to walk away from faking a hate crime attack and lying about it to police without so much as an apology or admission of guilt.

And adding to her woes, Kelly's attorney Steve Greenberg on Monday accused Foxx of caving in to pressure from celebrity attorney Michael Avenatti to charge Kelly. Avenatti, who is accused by federal prosecutors in a separate case of trying to shake down shoe company Nike, said he had provided Foxx with a video of Kelly having sex with a 14-year-old girl.

David Erickson, a former state appellate judge who teaches at Chicago-Kent College of Law, said you'd have to go back 50 years to find a Chicago prosecutor so embroiled in controversy. Edward Hanrahan was charged with conspiracy in the deaths of two Black Panther members in a raid by agents from Hanrahan's office in 1969. He was acquitted, but ultimately ousted by voters.

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AP sources: Trump considers adding 'immigration czar'

WASHINGTON (AP) — As he threatens to shut down the southern border, President Donald Trump is considering bringing on a "border" or "immigration czar" to co-ordinate immigration policy across various federal agencies, according to four people familiar with the discussions.

Trump is weighing at least two potential candidates for the post: former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, according to the people, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the conversations publicly.

Kobach and Cuccinelli are far-right conservatives with strong views on immigration. Cuccinelli was seen at the White House on Monday.

The planning comes as Trump is threatening anew to close the U.S.-Mexico border as soon as this week if Mexico does not completely halt illegal immigration into the U.S. And it serves as the latest sign that the president plans to continue to hammer his hardline immigration rhetoric and policies as he moves past the special counsel's Russia investigation and works to rally his base heading into his 2020 re-election campaign.

Aides hope the potential appointment, which they caution is still in the planning stages, would serve as the "face" of the administration on immigration issues and would placate both the president and his supporters, showing he is serious and taking action.

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Mourning for Nipsey Hussle goes well beyond his music

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Nipsey Hussle thought Marathon Clothing could be a seed to revive the impoverished Los Angeles community where he grew up.

The 33-year-old rapper and his business partner purchased property in the Crenshaw neighbourhood, intending to knock it down and erect a six-story residential building atop a commercial plaza, with Marathon as its anchor.

But as Hussle stood in that same plaza Sunday afternoon, he was shot and killed by an unknown assailant. On Monday, the neighbourhood he sought to improve mourned him for much more than his music.

Hussle's philanthropic work went well beyond the usual celebrity "giving back" ethos, and political and community leaders were as quick and effusive in their praise as his fellow hip-hop artists.

"Nipsey's activism, leadership and dedication to community was an inspiration for Californians and beyond," tweeted California senator and presidential candidate Kamala Harris. "His senseless death leaves us worse off."

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Detailed and public, Kim Jong Nam murder may never be solved

KUAL LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — The murder of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's estranged half brother at an airport in Malaysia was brazen, intricately orchestrated and, thanks to scores of security cameras, witnessed by millions around the world.

The real masterminds behind the killing, however, may never be brought to justice.

The murder charge was dropped against an Indonesian woman, who was freed last month. Her co-defendant, a Vietnamese woman who is the only suspect in custody, pleaded guilty — not to murder, but to the lesser charge of using a deadly weapon to cause injury — and will be freed as early as next month.

Her guilty plea and sentencing on Monday concluded more than two years of legal proceedings. But it cleared up none of the mystery.

Here's a look back at the crime, the missing masterminds and the ending.

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Biden team blasts 'trolls' amid scrutiny over behaviour

WASHINGTON (AP) — Aides to Joe Biden struck a more aggressive tone on Monday as the former vice-president faced scrutiny over his past behaviour toward women.

In a statement, Biden spokesman Bill Russo blasted "right wing trolls" from "the dark recesses of the internet" for conflating images of Biden embracing acquaintances, colleagues and friends in his official capacity during swearing-in ceremonies with uninvited touching.

The move came on a day in which a second woman said Biden had acted inappropriately, touching her face with both hands and rubbing noses with her in 2009. The allegation by Amy Lappos, a former aide to Democratic Rep. Jim Hines of Connecticut, followed a magazine essay by former Nevada politician Lucy Flores, who wrote that Biden kissed her on the back of the head in 2014.

The developments underscored the challenge facing Biden should he decide to seek the White House. Following historic wins in the 2018 midterms, Democratic politics is dominated by energy from women. The allegations could leave the 76-year-old Biden, long known for his affectionate mannerisms, appearing out of touch with the party as the Democratic presidential primary begins.

Lappos told The Associated Press that she and other Himes aides were helping out at a fundraiser in a private home in Hartford, Connecticut, in October 2009 when Biden entered the kitchen to thank the group for pitching in.

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Venezuelan judge moves to strip opposition leader's immunity

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuela's chief justice on Monday asked lawmakers to strip opposition leader Juan Guaido of immunity, taking a step toward prosecuting him for alleged crimes as he seeks to oust President Nicolas Maduro.

Supreme Court Justice Maikel Moreno said Guaido should be prosecuted for violating a ban on leaving the country when he went on a tour of Latin American nations that back a change in Venezuela's government. The opposition leader is also accused of inciting violence linked to street protests and receiving illicit funds from abroad.

It's unclear when the pro-Maduro National Constituent Assembly will consider whether to remove Guaido's immunity from prosecution as head of the National Assembly.

Guaido dismissed the Maduro-stacked high court and Constituent Assembly as illegitimate and continued his calls for Maduro to step down.

"We must unite now more than ever," said Guaido at a Caracas university earlier Monday. "We must mount the biggest demonstration so far to reject what's happening."

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Trump team overruled 25 clearance denials, official says

WASHINGTON (AP) — A career official in the White House security office says dozens of people in President Donald Trump's administration were granted security clearances despite "disqualifying issues" in their backgrounds, including concerns about foreign influence, drug use and criminal conduct.

Tricia Newbold, an 18-year government employee who oversaw the issuance of clearances for some senior White House aides, says she compiled a list of at least 25 officials who were initially denied security clearances last year but then had those denials overruled by senior administration officials.

The allegations were detailed in a letter and memo released Monday by Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee. The documents, which are based on Newbold's March 23 private committee interview, don't identify the officials on the list but say they include "two current senior White House officials, as well as contractors and individuals" in different parts of the Executive Office of the President.

"According to Ms. Newbold, these individuals had a wide range of serious disqualifying issues involving foreign influence, conflicts of interest, concerning personal conduct, financial problems, drug use and criminal conduct," the memo says.

The release of the documents sets the stage for another fight between the White House and the Democratic-controlled House, and immediately drew criticism from House Republicans who called the allegations overblown and "cherry-picked."

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Federal study gives new options for people with rare cancers

ATLANTA (AP) — People with rare cancers have been out of luck — not only do most lack good treatments but drug companies also don't pursue them because of small potential sales. Now, a federal study that pools these folks gives them strength in numbers and new options.

The first results from this novel effort were revealed at an American Association for Cancer Research conference in Atlanta on Sunday. They suggest that for people with one of these unusual diseases, there seems to be a way to predict who will benefit from a drug combo that boosts the immune system and who will not.

"For the patients that it works for, it's phenomenal, it's life-changing ... but it's not for everybody," said one study leader, Dr. Sandip Patel of the University of California, San Diego's Moores Cancer Center.

Brigitte Sagasser, 54, of San Marcos, California, is one study participant who seems to be benefiting. Her tumors have been shrinking since starting the treatment a year ago for a rare type of ovarian cancer that defied surgeries, chemotherapy and hormone therapy.

"I've tried all kinds of stuff before and nothing really helped in the long run," she said. "I felt like I was kind of out of choices on what could be done."

News from © The Associated Press, 2019
The Associated Press

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