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

March 30, 2018 - 8:04 PM

In private, Trump has mused about Syria pullout for weeks

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump's unscripted remark this week about pulling out of Syria "very soon," while at odds with his own policy, was not a one-off: For weeks, top advisers have been fretting about an overly hasty withdrawal as the president has increasingly told them privately he wants out, U.S. officials said.

Only two months ago, Trump's aides thought they'd persuaded him that the U.S. needed to keep its presence in Syria open-ended — not only because the Islamic State group has yet to be entirely defeated, but also because the resulting power vacuum could be filled by other extremist groups or by Iran. Trump signed off on major speech in January in which Secretary of State Rex Tillerson laid out the new strategy and declared "it is vital for the United States to remain engaged in Syria."

But by mid-February, Trump was telling his top aides in meetings that as soon as victory can be declared against IS, he wanted American troops out of Syria, said the officials. Alarm bells went off at the State Department and the Pentagon, where officials have been planning for a gradual, methodical shift from a military-led operation to a diplomatic mission to start rebuilding basic infrastructure like roads and sewers in the war-wracked country.

The officials weren't authorized to comment publicly and demanded anonymity.

In one sign that Trump is serious about reversing course and withdrawing from Syria, the White House this week put on hold some $200 million in US funding for stabilization projects in Syria, officials said. The money, to have been spent by the State Department for infrastructure projects like power, water and roads, had been announced by outgoing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson at an aid conference last month in Kuwait.

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Autopsy disputes police account of fatal Sacramento shooting

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Sacramento police shot Stephon Clark seven times from behind, according to autopsy results released Friday by a pathologist hired by Clark's family, a finding that calls into question the department's assertion the 22-year-old black man was facing officers and moving toward them when he was killed.

Dr. Bennet Omalu also determined Clark took three to 10 minutes to die. Police waited about five minutes before rendering medical aid.

"The proposition that has been presented that he was assailing the officers, meaning he was facing the officers, is inconsistent with the prevailing forensic evidence," Omalu said at a news conference with family attorney Benjamin Crump.

He said it was not clear if Clark would have survived had he gotten immediate medical attention.

Sacramento police responded with a brief statement that said the department had not yet received an official autopsy report from the Sacramento County coroner's office. It said the coroner's death investigation is independent from the investigation being conducted by police and the state Department of Justice.

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Buzzkill? Coffee cancer warnings could go beyond California

LOS ANGELES (AP) — It's fair to say that a lot of people awoke Friday to a headline that might have jolted them more awake than a morning cup of joe: A California judge had ruled that coffee sold in the state should carry a cancer warning.

Here are some things to know about the ruling and how it might affect you:

WHAT'S THE BEEF WITH COFFEE?

Like many foods that are cooked, coffee-roasting creates a chemical byproduct called acrylamide that is a carcinogen.

The Council for Education and Research on Toxics, a small non-profit, took the coffee industry to court under a California law that requires warnings where chemicals known to cause cancer or birth defects are present.

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Promises, promises: Facebook's history with privacy

MENLO PARK, Calif. (AP) — "We've made a bunch of mistakes." ''Everyone needs complete control over who they share with at all times." ''Not one day goes by when I don't think about what it means for us to be the stewards of this community and their trust."

Sound familiar? It's Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg addressing a major privacy breach — seven years ago .

Lawmakers in many countries may be focused on Cambridge Analytica's alleged improper use of Facebook data, but the social network's privacy problems go back more than a decade. Here are some of the company's most notable missteps and promises around privacy.

2007

The social media darling unveils its Facebook Platform to great fanfare. Zuckerberg says app developers can now access the web of connections between users and their friends, a set of connections Facebook calls the "social graph."

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Deadly clashes in Gaza mark start of Palestinian campaign

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Thousands of Palestinians marched to Gaza's border with Israel on Friday in the largest such demonstration in recent memory, and 15 were killed by Israeli fire on the first day of what Hamas organizers said will be six weeks of daily protests against a stifling border blockade.

It was the bloodiest day in Gaza since the 2014 cross-border war between Israel and Hamas.

Fourteen of the marchers were killed and more than 750 wounded by Israeli fire in clashes along the border fence, the Palestinian Health Ministry said. Another Palestinian was killed earlier Friday.

The Israeli military said thousands of Palestinians threw stones and rolled burning tires toward troops deployed on the other side of the border fence. It accused militants of trying to carry out attacks under the cover of mass protests, saying that in one incident, Palestinian gunmen fired toward soldiers.

The large turnout of the flag-waving marchers in the dangerous border zone was a testament to Hamas' organizing skills, but it also signalled desperation among Gaza residents after a decade-old border closure. Life in the coastal strip has deteriorated further in recent months, with rising unemployment, grinding poverty and daily blackouts that last for hours.

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Russian sent to US on charges he hacked Dropbox, others

A Russian man arrested over a year ago in the Czech Republic made his first appearance Friday in a U.S. courtroom, denying that he hacked computers at LinkedIn, Dropbox and other U.S. companies, compromising the personal information of millions of Americans.

Yevgeniy Nikulin, 30, pleaded not guilty to computer intrusion, aggravated identity theft and other charges in federal court in San Francisco. Nikulin had been extradited from Prague earlier in the day.

Prosecutors say Nikulin penetrated the computers of Silicon Valley firms in 2012 and potentially gained access to the personal information of millions of Americans.

"This is deeply troubling behaviour once again emanating from Russia," U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a news release.

He said computer hacking is "a direct threat to the security and privacy of Americans" and that the U.S. won't tolerate it.

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1,000 march in Salt Lake City over Mormon youth interviews

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — About 1,000 current and former Mormons marched to the church's headquarters in Salt Lake City Friday to deliver petitions demanding an end to closed door, one-on-one interviews between youth and lay leaders where sexual questions sometimes arise.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints changed its policy this week to now allow children to bring a parent or adult with them to the interviews, but protesters said that doesn't go far enough to keep children safe.

The policy change followed recent revelations that a former prominent missionary leader was accused of sexually assaulting two women in the 1980s. The ex-leader denies the allegations.

Protesters carried signs such as "Mormon children we have your back" and "No more closed doors," saying the so-called "worthiness" meetings can lead to unhealthy shaming of youth. Some cried as they recalled being asked detailed questions about their sexual activity or being punished after admitting to masturbation.

"This is my church and it has many good things but it has one thing that has to be eliminated," said campaign organizer Sam Young, a Mormon from Houston, urging an end to one-on-one interviews and all sexually explicit questions.

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New videos show clearest account of Alton Sterling's killing

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Kept under wraps for nearly two years, body camera footage of a policeman killing Alton Sterling shows the officer threatening to shoot the man and screaming profanities before firing the fatal shots that stoked protests across the nation.

The videos, released Friday as Baton Rouge's police chief announced the firing of the white officer who shot Sterling six times, came days after the state attorney general declined to bring criminal charges against the two officers involved in the incident.

The tapes show a police encounter that rapidly turned violent, descending into death threats, a football-style tackle and finally, the killing of a 37-year black man who was selling homemade CDs outside a convenience store in Louisiana's capital city.

Two cellphone videos of the incident quickly spread on social media after the shooting, but the new footage show the clearest and most complete picture of what happened that night.

In July 2016, Officers Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake II approached Sterling in the parking lot of the Triple S Food Mart and ordered him to put his hands on the hood of a nearby car.

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NOT REAL NEWS: A look at what didn't happen this week

A roundup of some of the most popular but completely untrue headlines of the week. None of these stories is legit, even though they were shared widely on social media. The Associated Press checked these out; here are the real facts:

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NOT REAL: Autopsy Results From Vince Foster's Exhumed Body-Cause Of Death To Be Changed!

THE FACTS: U.S. Navy doctors haven't found evidence former White House deputy counsel Vince Foster was the victim of a homicide. A story on the usapoliticstoday site claimed the body of Foster, who worked in the Clinton White House until he killed himself in 1993, had recently undergone an autopsy at "the Naval Hospital in Norfolk, Virginia." There is no naval hospital in Norfolk. The Navy said in a statement that its closest hospital, Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, "has verified that an autopsy was not performed on Mr. Vince Foster at their facility."

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Widow of Orlando nightclub gunman is acquitted in the attack

The widow of the gunman who slaughtered 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, was acquitted Friday of helping to plot the attack and lying to the FBI afterward — a rare and stinging defeat for the U.S. government in a terrorism case.

Noor Salman, 31, sobbed upon hearing the jury's verdict of not guilty of obstruction and providing material support to a terrorist organization, charges that could have brought a life sentence. Her family gasped each time the words "not guilty" were pronounced.

On the other side of the Orlando courtroom, the families of the victims of the June 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting sat stone-faced and silent.

Within hours, Salman was released from jail after 14 months and got into a waiting car without answering questions.

"Noor is so grateful. Her belief in the process was shown. She wants to get back to her son," her attorney Linda Moreno said. Family spokeswoman Susan Clary said Salman's family "always thought that Noor was the first victim" of her husband, Omar Mateen.

News from © The Associated Press, 2018
The Associated Press

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