Virginia's Gov. Northam says that wasn't him in racist photo
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Resisting widespread calls for his resignation, Virginia's embattled governor on Saturday pledged to remain in office after disavowing a blatantly racist photograph that appeared under his name in his 1984 medical school yearbook.
In a tumultuous 24 hours, Gov. Ralph Northam on Friday apologized for appearing in a photograph that featured what appeared to be a man in blackface and a second person cloaked in Ku Klux Klan garb. In a video posted on Twitter, he said he could not "undo the harm my behaviour caused then and today."
But by Saturday, he reversed course and said the racist photo on his yearbook profile page did not feature him after all. The governor said he had not seen the photo before Friday, since he had not purchased the commemorative book or been involved in its preparation more than three decades ago.
"It has taken time for me to make sure that it's not me, but I am convinced, I am convinced that I am not in that picture," he told reporters gathered at the Executive Mansion in Richmond, calling the shot offensive and horrific.
While talking with reporters, Northam admitted that he had previously worn blackface around that time, saying he once had used shoe polish to darken his face as part of a Michael Jackson costume he fashioned for a 1984 dance contest in San Antonio, Texas, when he was in the U.S. Army. Northam said he regrets that he didn't understand "the harmful legacy of an action like that."
US sees limitations on reuniting migrant families
SAN DIEGO (AP) — The Trump administration says it would require extraordinary effort to reunite what may be thousands of migrant children who have been separated from their parents and, even if it could, the children would likely be emotionally harmed.
Jonathan White, who leads the Health and Human Services Department's efforts to reunite migrant children with their parents, said removing children from "sponsor" homes to rejoin their parents "would present grave child welfare concerns." He said the government should focus on reuniting children currently in its custody, not those who have already been released to sponsors.
"It would destabilize the permanency of their existing home environment, and could be traumatic to the children," White said in a court filing late Friday, citing his years of experience working with unaccompanied migrant children and background as a social worker.
The administration outlined its position in a court-ordered response to a government watchdog report last month that found many more migrant children may have been split from their families than previously reported. The government didn't adequately track separated children before a federal judge in San Diego ruled in June that children in its custody be reunited with their parents.
It is unknown how many families were split under a longstanding policy that allows separation under certain circumstances, such as serious criminal charges against a parent, concerns over the health and welfare of a child or medical concerns.
Venezuela's Guaido urges military defections amid protests
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuela's opposition leader called on more members of the military to abandon the country's socialist government following Saturday's defection of a high-ranking general, while President Nicolas Maduro proposed holding early National Assembly elections that could potentially oust his challenger.
Maduro's call for early legislative voting is likely to intensify his standoff with rival Juan Guaido, who heads the opposition-controlled National Assembly and is demanding a new presidential election. Guaido declared himself Venezuela's legitimate ruler on Jan. 23, and has the support of Washington and most South American nations.
Speaking from behind a podium decorated with Venezuela's presidential seal, Guaido told supporters he would keep his opposition movement in the streets until Maduro stopped "usurping" the presidency and agreed to a presidential election overseen by international observers. On Saturday, tens of thousands of Venezuelans joined opposition protests against Maduro in Caracas and other cities.
Guaido called on "blocks" of the military to defect from Maduro's administration and "get on the side of the Venezuelan people."
"We don't just want you to stop shooting at protesters," Guaido said in a hoarse voice. "We want you to be part of the reconstruction of Venezuela."
Set against a shaky global picture, US economy looks sturdy
WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. economy, well into its 10th year of growth, still has a spring in its step. And it's all the more visible when set against a tiring global picture.
A robust January jobs report on Friday showed that America's companies are, for now, brushing off an array of economic perils and still hiring at a brisk pace. The risks that for months had induced hand-wringing among economists about a possible looming recession appear to have had little effect on employers.
Overseas growth is stumbling, led by weakness in China, the world's second-largest economy. Europe is hamstrung by a recession in Italy and the potential for an unruly Brexit. A trade war between the U.S. and China and higher U.S. mortgage rates, partly engineered by the Federal Reserve, remain threats.
No matter. Employers added 304,000 jobs in January — the healthiest burst of hiring in nearly a year. The unemployment rate ticked up a notch to a still-low 4 per cent. But that was mostly because thousands of furloughed federal workers were considered temporarily unemployed because of the partial government shutdown. That quirk should reverse itself this month.
The solid jobs report and a separate survey that showed Friday that U.S. factory growth picked up last month "stood in stark contrast with evidence of slower economic momentum in China and Europe," said Lydia Boussour, senior U.S. economist at Oxford Economics.
Powerful storm hits Southern California, flooding highways
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The second in a string of powerful storms battered California on Saturday, shutting key highways after water and mud rushed into lanes from bare hillsides in wildfire burn areas where thousands of residents were under evacuation orders.
Flash flood warnings were issued for huge swaths of Southern California and forecasters said the system brought more than 4 inches (10 centimetres) of rain at lower elevations and several feet of snow in the mountains, where whiteout conditions closed roads.
A wind gust in Santa Barbara County topped 80 mph (128 kph) as the storm moved south and at one point dropped more than a half-inch (1.27 centimetres) of rain in five minutes. Trees and power lines were down across the region.
In Malibu, where the Woolsey fire last year destroyed homes and burned hillsides bare, officials closed Pacific Coast Highway and many other roadways after mud carried trees and rocks into lanes. Residents whose homes survived the flames barricaded their properties with sandbags to protect their properties from floodwaters.
Carol Cavella was evacuated during the November fire and again Saturday when the creek behind her house threatened to overflow and inundate her backyard.
#MeToo movement was not 1-year phenomenon in state capitols
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — In the first week of 2019, an investigation by Oregon's labour agency deemed the state capitol to be a hostile workplace because of an unchecked pattern of sexual harassment among lawmakers.
A few days later, two Washington state lawmakers accused of sexual misconduct resigned. Then came new allegations of sexual wrongdoing in Georgia, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, where a veteran male lawmaker was accused of groping a newly elected female colleague during a pre-session reception.
"We've heard for a long time that this is the culture in the building, and then of course we get there and it immediately surfaces," said Massachusetts state Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa, a first-time lawmaker.
Barely a month into the 2019 legislative sessions, it already is clear that the #MeToo movement was not a one-year phenomenon in many state capitols. New claims of sexual misconduct are continuing to be made public concerning actions ranging from a few weeks ago to many years ago.
The latest came Friday, when Montana legislative leaders revealed that a previously unpublicized allegation of sexual harassment helped drive their current push to update policies on harassment, discrimination and retaliation.
Senate reasserts foreign policy role, reshapes Trump agenda
WASHINGTON (AP) — Two years into Donald Trump's presidency, his allies in Congress are quietly trying to influence and even reshape his "America First" foreign policy agenda.
The Republican-led Senate is reasserting itself as a check on Trump's instincts, while individual GOP lawmakers are seeking sway — defence hawks vying with noninterventionists — over policy in the Middle East, Latin America and beyond.
Within one recent week, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio led a group of lawmakers to the White House encouraging Trump to back Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as the interim president. Trump tweeted his support. Days earlier, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul was at the White House reinforcing Trump's plan to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria and Afghanistan.
The result can often seem like a foreign policy in flux, zigzagging from bold pronouncements to more measured actions as "a number of different voices on the Hill are trying to put their imprint on the policy," said Brian Katulis, a former Clinton administration national security adviser now at the Center for American Progress.
"It's sort of this great improvisation directed by the president of the United States, that doesn't really follow any of the notes or sheets of music," Katulis said. "Like he's making things up as he goes along."
TSA officer jumps to his death at Orlando airport
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — An officer from the Transportation Security Administration jumped to his death from a balcony inside Florida's busiest airport Saturday, creating panic that brought some security checkpoints to a halt for hours, grounded flights and caused serious delays.
Panicked passengers rushed past checkpoints leading to about half of the gates at Orlando International Airport after the man jumped, resulting in checkpoint closures for up to three hours and some flight cancellations.
"At no point were passengers in any danger," airport officials said in a statement.
Those affected by the stoppage included Alaska, Air Canada, Delta and Southwest airlines.
By Saturday afternoon, Southwest Airlines had cancelled 49 inbound flights and 45 outbound flights, according to the airport.
APNewsBreak: Detainee on hunger strike details force-feeding
Nine men — up from six earlier this week — are being force-fed under court order in a detention centre in El Paso, Texas, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said.
One of the hunger strikers, a 22-year-old man from Indian who called The Associated Press on Friday, described how he is dragged from his cell three times a day and strapped down on a bed. He said a group of people force-feed him by pouring liquid into tubes pushed through his nose.
The man, who AP is identifying only by his last name Singh out of family concerns for his safety, stopped eating more than a month ago. In mid-January, ICE obtained court orders to begin non-consensual hydration and feeding, and so for weeks they've had nasal tubes inserted in their noses and IVs in their arms.
The AP first reported on the force-feeding Wednesday.
"They tie us on the force-feeding bed, and then they put a lot of liquid into the tubes, and the pressure is immense so we end up vomiting it out," said Singh. "We can't talk properly, and we can't breathe properly. The pipe is not an easy process, but they try to push it down our noses and throats."
Chiefs QB Mahomes takes MVP and top offensive player awards
ATLANTA (AP) — Patrick Mahomes' breathtaking breakthrough season earned him the NFL's Most Valuable Player award.
The Chiefs quarterback landed a pair of honours at NFL Honors on Saturday night, taking The Associated Press 2018 MVP and Offensive Player of the Year awards. In his second pro season, Mahomes led Kansas City to its first AFC title game since 1993 with some of the most creative and clutch plays the league has seen in years.
"I'm so humbled," he said. "This is just the beginning. We've got a long ways to go.
"It is an honour. It's a hard award to win. The next award I hope I can get is the Super Bowl."
Mahomes received 41 votes from a nationwide panel of media members who regularly cover the league. New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees got the other nine.