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World News

    No joke: Switzerland has minted a gold coin so small you'd need to look very closely to see Albert Einstein sticking out his tongue at you. State-owned Swissmint said Thursday that the 2.96-millimeter (0.12-inches) gold coin is the smallest in the world. It weighs 0.063 grams (1/500th of an ounce) and has a nominal value of 1/4 Swiss francs ($0.26). Swissmint said the coin, of which just 999 have been made, will be sold for 199 francs with a special magnifying glass so owners can see the famous physicist on its face.
  • Germany's top security official has announced a ban on the neo-Nazi group Combat 18 Deutschland. A spokesman for Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said police were conducting raids early Thursday in six German states. The spokesman, Steve Alter, said police operations were being carried out in Brandenburg, Hesse, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate and Thuringia. The group Combat 18 was founded in Britain in the early 1990s as a militant wing of the British National Party. It has since spawned chapters in several European countries. The number 18 stands for the first and eighth letters of the alphabet, AH, which are the initials of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.
  • Dozens of world leaders descended upon Jerusalem on Thursday for the largest-ever gathering focused on commemorating the Holocaust and combating modern-day anti-Semitism. Russian President Vladimir Putin, French President Emmanuel Macron, Britain's Prince Charles, Vice President Mike Pence and the presidents of Germany, Italy and Austria were among the more than 40 dignitaries attending the World Holocaust Forum, which coincides with the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp. Pence and Putin arrived Thursday morning within less than an hour of each other and both were scheduled to meet Israeli leaders before and after the main event. The three-hour-long event at Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial — called “Remembering the Holocaust: Fighting Antisemitism” — looks to project a united front in commemorating the genocide of European Jewry amid a global spike in anti-Jewish violence in the continent and around the world. But the unresolved remnants of World War II’s politics have permeated the solemn assembly over the differing historical narratives of various players. Poland’s president, who’s been criticized for his own wartime revisionism, has boycotted the gathering since he wasn’t invited to speak while Putin was granted a central role even as he leads a campaign to play down the Soviet Union’s pre-war pact with the Nazis and shift responsibility for the war’s outbreak on Poland, which was invaded in 1939 to start the fighting. On the eve of the gathering, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin implored world leaders assembled for a dinner at his official residence to “leave history for the historians.' 'The role of political leaders, of all of us, is to shape the future,' he said. The event marks one of the largest political gatherings in Israeli history, as a cascade of delegations including European presidents, prime ministers and royals, as well as American, Canadian and Australian representatives, arrived at Ben-Gurion Airport. More than 10,000 police officers were deployed in Jerusalem and major highways and large parts of the city were shut down ahead of the event. For Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu it offered another opportunity to solidify Israel’s diplomatic standing and boost his profile as he seeks re-election on March 2. He was hoping to use his meetings with world leaders to bolster his tough line toward Iran and rally opposition to a looming war crimes case against Israel in the International Criminal Court. “Iran openly declares every day that it wants to wipe Israel off the face of the earth,” he told Christian broadcaster TBN. “I think the lesson of Auschwitz is, one, stop bad things when they're small ... and, second, understand that the Jews will never ever again be defenseless in the face of those who want to destroy them.” For historians, though, the main message is one of education amid growing signs of ignorance and indifference to the Holocaust. A comprehensive survey released this week by the Claims Conference, a Jewish organization responsible for negotiating compensation for victims of Nazi persecution, found that most people in France did not know that 6 million Jews were killed during World War II. Among millennials, 45% said they were unaware of French collaboration with the Nazi regime and 25% said they weren’t even sure they had heard of the Holocaust. The World Holocaust Forum is the brainchild of Moshe Kantor, the president of the European Jewish Congress, an umbrella group representing Jewish communities across Europe. The group recently reported that 80% of European Jews feel unsafe in the continent. Kantor established the World Holocaust Forum Foundation in 2005 and it has held forums before in Auschwitz, the Ukrainian killing fields of Babi Yar and at the former concentration camp Terezin. Thursday’s event is the first time it is convening in Israel. The official commemoration marking the 75th anniversary of Auschwitz’s liberation will be held next week at the site itself in southern Poland. Tel Aviv University researchers reported last year that violent attacks against Jews grew significantly in 2018, with the largest reported number of Jews killed in anti-Semitic acts in decades. They recorded 400 cases, with the spike most dramatic in western Europe. In Germany, for instance, there was a 70% increase in anti-Semitic violence. In addition to the shooting attacks, assaults and vandalism, the research also noted increased anti-Semitic vitriol online and in newspapers, as extremist political parties grew in power in several countries. In advance of the forum, an anthology of statements from world leaders sending delegations to Jerusalem was published to project a newfound commitment to quelling a climate some said was reminiscent of that before World War II. “I express my fervent hope that by continued vigilance and positive education, the iniquities perpetrated during one of the darkest periods in our history will be eliminated from the face of the earth,” Pope Francis wrote. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau specifically mentioned “the scourge of antisemitism and hatred that is becoming all too common once again.” “The murder of six million Jews by the brutal and antisemitic Nazi regime started with a slow erosion of rights, and the normalization of discrimination,” he wrote. “We cannot permit the passage of time to diminish our resolve never to allow such horrors to happen again.' ____ Follow Aron Heller at www.twitter.com/aronhellerap ____ See all of AP’s coverage of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz at https://apnews.com/Auschwitz
  • The United Nations' highest court is set to rule Thursday on whether to order Myanmar to halt what has been described as a genocidal campaign against the country's Rohingya Muslims. The International Court of Justice heard a case brought by the African nation of Gambia on behalf of an organization of Muslim nations that accuses Myanmar of genocide in its crackdown on the Rohingya. At public hearings last month, lawyers for Myanmar's accusers used maps, satellite images and graphic photos to detail what they call a campaign of murder, rape and destruction amounting to genocide perpetrated by Myanmar's military. The hearings drew intense scrutiny as Myanmar's former pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi defended the campaign by military forces that once held her under house arrest for 15 years. Suu Kyi, who as Myanmar's state counselor heads the government, was awarded the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize for championing democracy and human rights under Myanmar's then-ruling junta. Buddhist-majority Myanmar has long considered the Rohingya to be 'Bengalis' from Bangladesh even though their families have lived in the country for generations. Nearly all have been denied citizenship since 1982, effectively rendering them stateless. They are also denied freedom of movement and other basic rights. In August 2017, Myanmar's military launched what it called a clearance campaign in northern Rakhine state in response to an attack by a Rohingya insurgent group. The campaign forced more than 700,000 Rohingya to flee to neighboring Bangladesh and led to accusations that security forces committed mass rapes, killings and burned thousands of homes. Suu Kyi told world court judges in December that the exodus was a tragic consequence of the military's response to 'coordinated and comprehensive armed attacks' by Rohingya insurgents. She urged judges to drop the genocide case and allow Myanmar's military justice system to deal with any abuses. Thursday's ruling comes two days after an independent commission established by Myanmar's government concluded there are reasons to believe security forces committed war crimes in counterinsurgency operations against the Rohingya, but that there is no evidence supporting charges that genocide was planned or carried out. The report drew criticism from rights activists. Pending release of the full report, Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of New York-based Human Rights Watch, said the panel's findings were “what would have been expected from a non-transparent investigation by a politically skewed set of commissioners working closely with the Myanmar government.' At December's public hearings, Paul Reichler, a lawyer for Gambia, cited a U.N. fact-finding mission report at hearings last month that said military 'clearance operations' in Myanmar's northern Rakhine state spared nobody. 'Mothers, infants, pregnant women, the old and infirm. They all fell victim to this ruthless campaign,” he said. Gambia's Justice Minister Aboubacarr Tambadou urged the world court to act immediately and “tell Myanmar to stop these senseless killings, to stop these acts of barbarity that continue to shock our collective conscience, to stop this genocide of its own people.” The world court's orders are legally binding but it relies on the United Nations to add political pressure, if necessary, to enforce them. The court is expected to take years to issue a final ruling in the case.
  • The Trump administration is coming out with new visa restrictions aimed at restricting “birth tourism,' in which women travel to the U.S. to give birth so their children can have a coveted U.S. passport. Visa applicants deemed by consular officers to be coming to the U.S. primarily to give birth will now be treated like other foreigners coming to the U.S. for medical treatment, according to State Department guidance sent Wednesday and viewed by The Associated Press. The applicants will have to prove they are coming for medical treatment and they have the money to pay for it. The State Department planned to publicize the rules Thursday, according to two officials with knowledge of the plans who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity. The rules will take effect Friday. The practice of coming to the U.S. to give birth is fundamentally legal, although there are scattered cases of authorities arresting operators of birth tourism agencies for visa fraud or tax evasion. And women are often honest about their intentions when applying for visas and even show signed contracts with doctors and hospitals. The Trump administration has been restricting all forms of immigration, but the president has been particularly plagued by the issue of birthright citizenship — anyone born in the U.S. is considered a citizen, under the Constitution. He has railed against the practice and threatened to end it, but scholars and members of his administration have said it's not so easy to do. Regulating tourist visas for pregnant women is one way to get at the issue, but it raises questions about how officers would determine whether a woman is pregnant to begin with, and whether a woman could get turned away by border officers who suspect she may be just by looking at her. Consular officers right don't have to ask during visa interviews whether a woman is pregnant or intends to become so. But they would have to determine whether a visa applicant would be coming to the U.S. primarily to give birth. Birth tourism is a lucrative business in both the U.S. and abroad. American companies take out advertisements and charge up to $80,000 to facilitate the practice, offering hotel rooms and medical care. Many of the women travel from Russia and China to give birth in the U.S. The U.S. has been c racking down on the practice since before Trump took office. There are no figures on how many foreign women travel to the U.S. specifically to give birth. The Center for Immigration Studies, a group that advocates for stricter immigration laws, estimated that in 2012, about 36,000 foreign-born women gave birth in the U.S., then left the country. The draft rule is “intended to address the national security and law enforcement risks associated with birth tourism, including criminal activity associated with the birth tourism industry,” a State Department spokesperson said. ___ Associated Press writer Ellen Knickmeyer contributed to this report.
  • Three American crew members died Thursday when a C-130 Hercules aerial water tanker crashed while battling wildfires in southeastern Australia, officials said. New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian confirmed the crash deaths in the state's Snowy Monaro region as Australia attempts to deal with an unprecedented fire season that has left a large swath of destruction. Coulson Aviation in the U.S. state of Oregon said in a statement that one of its Lockheed large air tankers was lost after it left Richmond in New South Wales with retardant for a firebombing mission. It said the accident was “extensive' but had few other details. “The only thing I have from the field reports are that the plane came down, it's crashed and there was a large fireball associated with that crash,” said Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons. He said all three aboard were U.S. residents. “Unfortunately, all we've been able to do is locate the wreckage and the crash site and we have not been able to locate any survivors,” he said. The tragedy brings the death toll from the blazes to at least 31 since September. The fires have also destroyed more than 2,600 homes and razed more than 10.4 million hectares (25.7 million acres), an area bigger than the U.S. state of Indiana. Coulson grounded other firefighting aircraft as a precaution pending investigation, reducing planes available to firefighters in New South Wales and neighboring Victoria state. The four-propeller Hercules drops more than 15,000 liters (4,000 gallons) of fire retardant in a single pass. Australian Transport Safety Bureau, the national air crash investigator, and state police will investigate the crash site, which firefighters described as an active fire ground. “There is no indication at this stage of what's caused the accident,” Fitzsimmons said. Berejiklian said there were more than 1,700 volunteers and personnel in the field, and five fires were being described at an “emergency warning' level — the most dangerous on a three-tier scale — across the state and on the fringes of the national capital Canberra. Also Thursday, Canberra Airport closed temporarily because of nearby wildfires, and residents south of the city were told to seek shelter. The airport reopened after several hours with Qantas operating limited services, but Virgin and Singapore Airlines canceled flights for the rest of the day. The blaze started Wednesday but strong winds and high temperatures caused conditions in Canberra to deteriorate. A second fire near the airport that started on Thursday morning is at a “watch and act” level — the middle of the three tiers. Residents in some Canberra suburbs were advised to seek shelter and others to leave immediately. 'The defense force is both assisting to a degree and looking to whether that needs to be reinforced,' Chief of Defense Angus Campbell told reporters. 'I have people who are both involved as persons who need to be moved from areas and office buildings that are potentially in danger, and also those persons who are part of the (Operation) Bushfire Assist effort,' he said.
  • China closed off a city of more than 11 million people Thursday in an unprecedented effort to try to contain a deadly new viral illness that has sickened hundreds and spread to other cities and countries in the Lunar New Year travel rush. Normally bustling streets, shopping malls, restaurants and other public spaces in Wuhan were eerily quiet. Social media users posted that movie theaters were canceling showings and complained that food vendors were exploiting the situation with huge price increases on fresh produce. Police, SWAT teams and paramilitary troops guarded the city's train station, where metal barriers blocked the entrances at 10 a.m. sharp. Only travelers holding tickets for the last trains were allowed to enter, with those booked for later trains being turned away. Virtually everyone at the scene was wearing masks, news website The Paper's live broadcast showed. “To my knowledge, trying to contain a city of 11 million people is new to science,' Gauden Galea, the World Health Organization's representative in China, told The Associated Press in an interview at the WHO's Beijing office. “It has not been tried before as a public health measure. We cannot at this stage say it will or it will not work.' Local authorities have demanded all residents wear masks in public places and urged government staff to wear them at work and for shopkeepers to post signs for their visitors, Xinhua news agency quoted a government notice as saying. Train stations, the airport, subways, ferries and long-distance shuttle buses were stopped in the city, an industrial and transportation hub in central China's Hubei province. Xinhua cited the city's anti-virus task force as saying the measures were taken in an attempt to “effectively cut off the virus spread, resolutely curb the outbreak and guarantee the people's health and safety.” Cake Liu left Wuhan last Friday after visiting her boyfriend there. She said everything was normal then, before human-to-human transmission of the virus was confirmed. But things have changed rapidly. “(My boyfriend) didn't sleep much yesterday. He disinfected his house and stocked up on instant noodles,' Liu said. “He's not really going out. If he does he wears a mask.' The illnesses from a newly identified coronavirus first appeared last month in Wuhan, and the vast majority of mainland China's 571 cases have been in the city. Other cases have been reported in the Thailand, the United States, Japan and South Korea. One case was confirmed Thursday in Hong Kong after one was earlier confirmed in Macao. Most cases outside China were people from Wuhan or who had recently traveled there. A total of 17 people have died, all of them in and around Wuhan. Their average age was 73, with the oldest 89 and the youngest 48. The significant increase in illnesses reported just this week come as millions of Chinese travel for the Lunar New Year, one of the world's largest annual migrations of people. Analysts have predicted the reported cases will continue to multiply. “Even if (the number of cases) are in the thousands, this would not surprise us,' Galea said, adding, however, that the number of cases is not an indicator of the outbreak's severity, so long as the mortality rate remains low. The coronavirus family includes the common cold as well as viruses that cause more serious illnesses, such as the SARS outbreak that spread from China to more than a dozen countries in 2002-2003 and killed about 800 people, and Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome, which developed from camels. China is keen to avoid repeating mistakes with its handling of SARS. For months, even after the illness had spread around the world, China parked patients in hotels and drove them around in ambulances to conceal the true number of cases and avoid WHO experts. In the current outbreak, China has been credited with sharing information rapidly, and President Xi Jinping has emphasized that as a priority. “Party committees, governments and relevant departments at all levels must put people's lives and health first,” he said Monday. “It is necessary to release epidemic information in a timely manner and deepen international cooperation.” The first cases in the Wuhan outbreak were connected to people who worked at or visited a seafood market, which has since been closed for an investigation. Experts suspect the virus was first transmitted from wild animals but the virus also may be mutating. Mutations can make it deadlier or more contagious. WHO plans another meeting of scientific experts Thursday on whether to declare the outbreak a global health emergency, which it defines as an “extraordinary event” that constitutes a risk to other countries and requires a coordinated international response. Many countries are screening travelers from China for illness, especially those arriving from Wuhan. North Korea has banned foreign tourists, a step it also took during the SARS outbreak and in recent years due to Ebola. Most foreigners going to North Korea are Chinese or travel there through neighboring China. ___ Associated Press researcher Shanshan Wang in Shanghai contributed to this report.
  • U.S. President Donald Trump’s special envoy for talks between Balkan rivals Serbia and Kosovo was in Pristina on Wednesday in an effort to urge both countries to resume negotiations and reach a final reconciliation agreement. Richard Grenell, the U.S. ambassador to Germany, met Kosovo’s President Hashim Thaci and said President Donald Trump “has been singularly focused on trying to solve this problem by not looking backward, by not having the same old political stalemate and arguments.” Grenell was appointed by Trump as the special envoy for Kosovo and Serbia in October. The dialogue between the two countries mediated by the European Union, which started in 2011, stalled in November 2018 after Kosovo set a 100% tariff on Serbia’s goods and services. Belgrade says no dialogue will take place until Kosovo lifts or suspends the tariff. “We’re going to push both the government and the leaders in Kosovo and Serbia to say: Look at the people, start moving forward with the jobs,” said Grenell, speaking at a Pristina restaurant before dinner with Thaci. “President Trump has been focused on this by saying: When you have a vibrant economy, when you have people that are participating in the economy in a new way, with new businesses and better jobs, the political issues tend to fall apart because then people focus on their daily life,” he said. The U.S. and European business communities would like to have a larger presence in the region, Grenell said, adding that “you can’t do that if there is conflict between the political establishments.” More than three months after a snap parliamentary election, Kosovo has yet to create a new government with the two winning political parties still in disagreement over who will fill the posts of president and parliamentary speaker. Grenell said he was not going to get involved in the political debate, which he considered as “looking backwards.” “I want to start looking at the problems that we’ve had and move us forward, both Kosovo and Serbia, toward a greater sense of working together for the people,” Grenell concluded. ——- Semini reported from Tirana, Albania
  • Africa's reputed richest woman is a formal suspect in an investigation into mismanagement and the siphoning off of funds during her time with Angola's state-run oil company, the country's attorney general announced Wednesday. The remarks by Helder Pitta Gros to reporters in the capital, Luanda, come days after a global investigation accused the billionaire Isabel dos Santos of murky dealings in the oil- and diamond-rich southern African nation whose people remain some of the poorest on Earth. Wednesday's announcement is the latest sign that Angola's government under President Joao Lourenco is determined to pursue accountability after the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists accused dos Santos of using “unscrupulous deals” to build her fortune, estimated at $2 billion. Dos Santos, daughter of Angola's former president, has denied any wrongdoing. Already Angolan authorities this week have said they are reaching out to other countries for help in tackling the corruption that critics say has robbed millions of citizens of basic needs like quality health care. And businesses are cutting ties. Portuguese bank EuroBic this week said it will stop doing business with companies and people linked to dos Santos, its main shareholder. In a new statement Wednesday, the bank said dos Santos had decided to sell her stake in the institution. The allegations in the investigation were based on more than 715,000 confidential financial and business records provided by the Platform to Protect Whistleblowers in Africa, an advocacy group based in Paris, as well as hundreds of interviews. The cache of documents is known as Luanda Leaks. Jose Eduardo dos Santos, Isabel's father, ruled Angola for 38 years until 2017. Human rights groups have long accused him of stealing vast amounts of state money during his rule. Before stepping down, he appointed his daughter head of the state oil company, Sonangol. Last December, a Luanda court froze Isabel dos Santos' major assets, which include banks and a telecom company. The government says it is trying to recover $1.1 billion it says the country is owed by dos Santos, her husband and a close associate of the couple. Dos Santos has said the legal action against her is a “witch hunt” launched by officials who replaced her father.
  • Lebanon's new government made of appointees nominated by the Shiite group Hezbollah and its allies got down to business Wednesday, a day after it was formed. Questions arose immediately about its ability to halt spiraling violence and economic and financial collapse. As the government headed by Hassan Diab held its first meeting, protesters briefly closed off major roads in and around the capital Beirut, denouncing it as a rubber stamp Cabinet for the same political parties they blame for widespread corruption. Later on Wednesday, a few hundred protesters engaged in some of the most violent confrontations yet with security forces in the capital. Groups of young men rampaged through streets near Parliament and the Beirut Souks shopping mall in the capital's commercial district. They smashed windows at luxury shops and restaurants in the shopping area and ripped tiles off buildings and broke them up to use as projectiles to throw at police. The area was the scene of fierce battles between warring factions during the country's 15-year civil war, which ended in 1990. Thick grey smoke hung over the city center as police fired volley after volley of gas canisters that left protesters retching and gasping for breath. “We are here to say this government doesn’t represent the revolutionaries as the prime minister Hassan Diab says. ... They are the same parties, the same corrupt political elite,” said Mahmoud Shaar, a 40-year-old from the southern market town of Nabatiyeh, who was among the protesters. Protesters first took to the streets in mid-October in a mass uprising against the country’s ruling elite, which they blame for decades of corruption and mismanagement that have brought Lebanon to the brink of economic collapse. Since then, the country has sunk deeper into a political crisis. The Lebanese pound, long pegged to the dollar, has lost up to 60% of its value against the dollar and banks have imposed unprecedented capital controls to preserve liquidity. The once strikingly peaceful protests, praised around the world, recently turned violent as anger and frustration mounts. Over 500 people were injured over the weekend in confrontations in Beirut that saw security forces fire rubber pullets to disperse protesters. Although the government announced Tuesday is technically made up of specialists, the ministers were named by political parties in a process involving horse trading and bickering with little regard for the demands of protesters for a transparent process and independent candidates. Key political parties are not part of the government, making it one made up exclusively of nominees backed by Hezbollah and its allies. Diab vowed to tackle the country's crippling crisis — the worst since the civil war — saying his Cabinet will adopt financial and economic methods different than those of previous governments. But analysts said it was highly unlikely a government backed by the powerful militant group would be able to drum up the international and regional support needed to avoid economic collapse. Hezbollah is considered a terrorist organization by the U.S. and oil-rich Gulf countries whose support is badly needed for debt-ridden Lebanon. The European Union considers the military wing of Hezbollah a terrorist organization. 'These ministers and this government will not be able to make independent decisions related to the economy or the political situation, so long as their decisions are up to the parties that formed this government, first and foremost Hezbollah,” said political analyst Youssef Diab. Sherine, an 18-year-old student studying radio and TV journalism, said she was against the vandalism and violence targeting security forces. “The government is creating this separation between us. We need to go and break the power holders. This violence might be the only way to achieve anything but I am against it,” she said. President Michel Aoun told the new ministers they have a 'delicate mission' to win the confidence of the Lebanese people by working to improve living conditions and the economy. He said they should also work to win the confidence of the international community in “Lebanon's state institutions.” In some of the first international reaction, French President Emmanuel Macron pledged to do “everything” to help Lebanon out of its crisis. He added, however, that France is concerned about any “terrorist activity originating in Lebanon or stirred up in Lebanon, which could threaten Israel as well.' U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres welcomed the formation of a new government, saying 'he looks forward to working with' Diab and his Cabinet, 'including in support of Lebanon's reform agenda and to address the pressing needs of its people.' There was no immediate comment from U.S. officials to the government formation. Speaking about the economic and financial deterioration, Finance Minister Ghazi Wazni told the local Al-Jadeed TV that “stopping the deterioration in the coming period cannot be achieved without foreign help.” Samir Geagea, head of the Christian Lebanese Forces party that refused to take part in the Cabinet, criticized the new government saying that after three months of protests the state 'is behaving as if nothing happened.' He said “most of the ministers are connected to political groups that brought the country to where it is” today. The Association of Banks in Lebanon said it expects from the new government a “clear financial and economic program that takes into consideration the big challenges that Lebanon is facing.” It added that the banking sector is ready to help in getting Lebanon out of its crisis. Also on Wednesday, the U.S. dollar was being bought at exchange shops around the country for 2,000 Lebanese pounds after hitting a record of 2,500 pounds to the dollar last week. The official rate remained at 1,507 pounds to the dollar. Panic and anger have gripped the public as the pound, pegged to the dollar for more than two decades, plummeted in value. It fell more than 60% in recent weeks on the black market. ___ Associated Press writer A.J. Naddaff contributed reporting.
  • Jenks has grown a lot during the past few years, but the city is gearing up for what Jenks Chamber of Commerce President  Josh Driskell says will be a game-changer: the new outlet mall. It's set to open in the middle part of next year. He says it will bring in lots of shoppers and lots of spending all over Jenks. “They're going to be in downtown Jenks, they're going to be visiting Riverwalk, they're going to be visiting restaurants all throughout the community,” Driskell said. Besides the mall, there are other notable projects, including a new hotel that recently broke ground near the Gateway Mortgage headquarters near Highway 75. Driskell said there could be a new office building coming to that area too. He says city leaders are also excited about a new octopus exhibit at the Oklahoma Aquarium which is expected to boost attendance figures there when it opens in March.
  • Beginning up to 24 hours of opening arguments, House impeachment managers started Wednesday to lay out the basics of their case against President Donald Trump, arguing the evidence is overwhelming that the President is guilty of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. 'Ultimately, the question for you is whether the President's undisputed actions require the removal of the 45th President from office,' said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), who opened the House presentation with a speech of over two hours. 'Over the coming days, you will hear remarkably consistent evidence of President Trump's corrupt scheme and cover up,' Schiff added, arguing that Mr. Trump tried to use Ukraine to do his 'political dirty work' in an effort to smear former Vice President Joe Biden. Democrats charge the President withheld over $200 million in military aid for Ukraine in a bid to force the government to announce an investigation of Biden, and another investigation into what Schiff labeled 'that crazy conspiracy theory,' where Ukraine - and not Russia - hacked Democrats during the 2016 campaign. At the first break of the afternoon, the sharp break along party lines was clearly evident as Senators spilled out of the chamber. 'So far, we haven't heard anything new,' Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) told reporters just off the Senate floor.  'What we ought to be presented is evidence by witnesses that have personal knowledge,' Cornyn said, drawing an approving reaction from Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer, who was waiting to speak to reporters. But Cornyn made clear those witnesses should have testified in the House - not in the Senate, as Democrats have asked the Senate to hear testimony. Asked if there was any deal in the works between the two parties to have witness testimony - where Democrats would be able to call former Trump aide John Bolton, and Republicans would question Hunter Biden, the son of former Vice President Joe Biden - Schumer told reporters that was not happening. 'That's not even on the table,' Schumer said. Under the rules, House prosecutors have up to 24 hours - over three days - to present their case, which means they could be talking on the Senate floor through Friday. For now, there was no evidence that it was changing any GOP minds. 'I stayed awake, but I didn't hear anything new,' said Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY).
  • Spain’s new government declared a national climate emergency on Tuesday, taking a formal first step toward enacting ambitious measures to fight climate change. The declaration approved by the Cabinet says the left-of-center Socialist government will send to parliament within 100 days its proposed climate legislation. The targets coincide with those of the European Union, including a reduction of net carbon emissions to zero by 2050. Spain’s coalition government wants up to 95% of the Mediterranean country’s electricity to come from renewable sources by 2040. The plan also foresees eliminating pollution by buses and trucks and making farming carbon neutral. Details of the plan are to be made public when the proposed legislation is sent to parliament for approval. More than two dozen countries and scores of local and regional authorities have declared a climate emergency in recent years. Scientists say the decade that just ended was by far the hottest ever measured on Earth, capped off by the second-warmest year on record. Also Tuesday, young climate activists including Greta Thunberg told the elites gathered at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland they are not doing enough to deal with the climate emergency and warned them that time was running out.
  • Mayor G.T. Bynum has confirmed to KRMG that he will name TPD Major Wendell Franklin as the next police chief for the city of Tulsa. Franklin, 46, had most recently served as commander of the department's Headquarters Division. In a public forum featuring the four finalists for the position held last Friday, Franklin spoke about the importance of using modern technology and data-driven decision making to enhance public safety. And, he promised to make the gathering and dissemination of that data as transparent as possible. Franklin was promoted over three deputy chiefs who were also finalists, Jonathan Brooks, Eric Dalgleish, and Dennis Larsen. Franklin grew up in Tulsa, and at only two years old, lost his mother to violence. But, he said Friday, he hadn't planned on a career in law enforcement until after he graduated from Booker T Washington High School. He enrolled at Tulsa Community College, where a counselor steered him toward criminal justice. He has served with the department for 23 years. 
  • Drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline has announced a temporary halt to its production of certain Excedrin headache pills, multiple news outlets are reporting. According to CNN and WSYR-TV, the company said in a statement Tuesday that it “discovered inconsistencies in how we weigh ingredients for Excedrin Extra Strength Caplets and Geltabs, and Excedrin Migraine Caplets and Geltabs.” The inconsistencies should not affect customer safety, the statement read. The company added that it is “working hard to resolve the issue as quickly as possible” but could not say when it would start producing the items again, the outlets reported. “Other Excedrin products are available along with other pain-relieving drugs, but dosages may differ,” the statement said. WSYR reported that some drugstores had a shortage of Excedrin products as a result. Read more here or here.

Washington Insider

  • Beginning up to 24 hours of opening arguments, House impeachment managers started Wednesday to lay out the basics of their case against President Donald Trump, arguing the evidence is overwhelming that the President is guilty of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. 'Ultimately, the question for you is whether the President's undisputed actions require the removal of the 45th President from office,' said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), who opened the House presentation with a speech of over two hours. 'Over the coming days, you will hear remarkably consistent evidence of President Trump's corrupt scheme and cover up,' Schiff added, arguing that Mr. Trump tried to use Ukraine to do his 'political dirty work' in an effort to smear former Vice President Joe Biden. Democrats charge the President withheld over $200 million in military aid for Ukraine in a bid to force the government to announce an investigation of Biden, and another investigation into what Schiff labeled 'that crazy conspiracy theory,' where Ukraine - and not Russia - hacked Democrats during the 2016 campaign. At the first break of the afternoon, the sharp break along party lines was clearly evident as Senators spilled out of the chamber. 'So far, we haven't heard anything new,' Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) told reporters just off the Senate floor.  'What we ought to be presented is evidence by witnesses that have personal knowledge,' Cornyn said, drawing an approving reaction from Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer, who was waiting to speak to reporters. But Cornyn made clear those witnesses should have testified in the House - not in the Senate, as Democrats have asked the Senate to hear testimony. Asked if there was any deal in the works between the two parties to have witness testimony - where Democrats would be able to call former Trump aide John Bolton, and Republicans would question Hunter Biden, the son of former Vice President Joe Biden - Schumer told reporters that was not happening. 'That's not even on the table,' Schumer said. Under the rules, House prosecutors have up to 24 hours - over three days - to present their case, which means they could be talking on the Senate floor through Friday. For now, there was no evidence that it was changing any GOP minds. 'I stayed awake, but I didn't hear anything new,' said Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY).
  • The first substantive day of President Donald Trump's Senate impeachment trial turned into a late night, insult-filled battle between House prosecutors and the President's legal team, as Republicans voted down repeated efforts by Democrats to have the Senate subpoena witnesses and documents related to the Ukraine impeachment investigation. 'They will not permit the American people to hear from the witnesses,' Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) said, taking direct aim at the President's lawyers. 'And they lie. And lie and lie and lie.' That prompted an immediate response from White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, who demanded that Nadler apologize, accusing him of making repeated false allegations about President Trump. 'The only one who should be embarrassed, Mr. Nadler, is you,' Cipollone said. Just before 1 am, Chief Justice John Roberts warned both sides to tone it down, his first real foray into the impeachment trial. 'I think it is appropriate at this point for me to admonish both the House managers and the President's counsel, in equal terms, to remember that they are addressing the world's greatest deliberative body,' as the Chief Justice made clear the debate was not following along the lines of civil discourse. 'I do think those addressing the Senate should remember where they are,' Chief Justice Roberts added. Democrats kept the Senate working past midnight in a bid to put Republicans on the record on calling witnesses like former Trump National Security Adviser John Bolton, acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, and other top officials who defied subpoenas from the House. 'The House calls John Bolton. The House calls Mick Mulvaney,' Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) said at one point. 'Let's get this trial started, shall we?' But with Republicans sticking together, GOP Senators defeated a series of Democratic amendments to an impeachment rules resolution on identical votes of 53-47 - straight along party lines. Democrats said there was only one reason why Republicans were not looking to hear from new witnesses - because they don't want to hear the real Ukraine story. On the other side, Republicans joined the White House legal team in blasting the demands of Democrats. 'The only thing that’s rigged is Democrats’ perpetual effort to undo the results of the 2016 election,' said Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). In the end, no Republicans broke ranks, as the GOP defeated 11 different amendments by Democrats to change the GOP rules plan, bringing about a final vote over 12 hours after the Senate convened.
  • Facing opposition from within Republican ranks, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell presented an amended rules proposal on Tuesday to govern the start of President Donald Trump's impeachment trial, most significantly giving more time for House prosecutors and the President's lawyers to make their opening arguments. The changes came after a lunch meeting of GOP Senators, where Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and others expressed reservations about the idea of forcing each side to cram 24 hours of opening arguments into just two days. 'She and others raised concerns about the 24 hrs of opening statements in 2 days,' a spokeswoman for Collins told reporters. Along with that change, McConnell backed off a provision which would not allow evidence from the House impeachment investigation to be put in the record without a vote of the Senate. The changes were made as House prosecutors and the President's legal team made their first extended statements of the Trump impeachment trial. 'Why should this trial be any different than any other trial? The short answer is, it shouldn't,' said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), as he made the case that the Senate rules would not pass muster in a regular courtroom. 'This idea that we should ignore what has taken place over the last three years is outrageous,' said Jay Sekulow, the President's personal attorney, who joined White House Counsel Pat Cipollone in arguing against the impeachment charges. 'It's very difficult to sit there and listen to Mr. Schiff tell the tale that he just told,' Cipollone said, in one of the first direct jabs of the impeachment trial. “A partisan impeachment is like stealing an election,” Cipollone added. While there were GOP differences on the rules package offered by Republican leaders, GOP Senators stuck together on the first substantive vote of the impeachment trial, defeating an effort by Democrats to subpoena certain materials from the White House. The first vote was 53-47 to block an amendment offered by the Democratic Leader, Sen. Schumer.  It was straight along party lines. A second vote along party lines blocked a call by Democrats to subpoena documents from the State Department. Opening arguments are expected to begin on Wednesday.
  • A GOP rules plan for the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump unveiled by Senate Republicans on Monday could pave the way for the trial to be finished in as little as two weeks, as the plan envisions squeezing 48 hours of opening arguments into just four days, with the option of voting on the impeachment articles without any additional witnesses or evidence. 'Just because the House proceedings were a circus that doesn’t mean the Senate’s trial needs to be,' said Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), who fully endorsed the proposal from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. While GOP Senators said the plan would be modeled on a bipartisan rules deal at the start of the Clinton impeachment trial, there were two notable differences from 21 years ago, governing opening arguments, and the submission of evidence. While each side would get 24 hours to make their opening arguments, this GOP plan would force that time to be used in just two days - raising the specter of an impeachment trial which could stretch well into the night because of those time constraints. Another change would require an affirmative vote by the Senate to simply put the investigatory materials from the House into the trial record, something which was done automatically in the Clinton impeachment trial. Also, even if extra witnesses were approved by Senators, it would not guarantee their testimony on the Senate floor, as there would have to be a vote after the depositions on whether the witness would testify publicly. With a Tuesday debate set on the rules, Republicans also made clear they would not support any move to add witnesses until after opening arguments have been completed. 'If attempts are made to vote on witnesses prior to opening arguments, I would oppose those efforts,' said Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT). Meanwhile, Democrats roundly denounced the GOP rules details. 'The proposal that Majority Leader McConnell just released looks more like a cover up than a fair trial,' said Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE). 'Mitch McConnell doesn't want a fair trial, he wants a fast trial,' said Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI). 'It's all about the cover up,' said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT). 'These are not the Clinton rules.' 'There’s nothing in this resolution that requires hearing witnesses or admitting evidence — which is unlike any trial I’ve ever seen,' said Sen. Tina Smith (D-MN). 'Under this resolution, Senator McConnell is saying he doesn’t want to hear any of the existing evidence, and he doesn’t want to hear any new evidence,' said Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer, who promised to offer amendments to the plan on Tuesday afternoon. Debate and votes on the rules resolution will start on Tuesday afternoon - and could turn into an extended battle on the floor of the U.S. Senate.
  • In a 171 page submission made to the U.S. Senate on Monday, President Donald Trump's legal team said the impeachment charges submitted by the House do not identify any violations of criminal law and should immediately by dismissed by Senators. 'The articles should be rejected and the President should immediately be acquitted,' the legal brief states, arguing the charge of 'abuse of power' does not state an impeachable offense - even though that charge was drawn up by the House in 1974 against President Richard Nixon. 'House Democrats’ novel conception of “abuse of power” as a supposedly impeachable offense is constitutionally defective,' the Trump brief states. 'It supplants the Framers’ standard of “high Crimes and Misdemeanors” with a made-up theory that the President can be impeached and removed from office under an amorphous and undefined standard of 'abuse of power.'' On the question of whether President Trump held back military aid for Ukraine while pressing the Ukraine government to announce investigations related to Joe Biden and his son, the White House legal team says there is no evidence to support those claims. 'The most important piece of evidence demonstrating the President’s innocence is the transcript of the President’s July 25 telephone call with President Zelenskyy,' the trial brief states, referring to the call which President Trump has repeatedly said was 'perfect.' 'President Trump did not even mention the security assistance on the call, and he certainly did not make any connection between the assistance and any investigation,' the White House legal team states, without mentioning that a hold was put on the aid to Ukraine 90 minutes after that phone call concluded on July 25, 2019. From the White House on Monday, the President tweeted out his familiar opposition to the impeachment trial, continuing to characterize the House impeachment process as unfair. Minutes after the White House filed its trial brief, Democrats in the House responded to his initial 'answer' to the Senate trial summons. 'The House denies each and every allegation and defense in the Preamble to the Answer,' the nine page response began. 'He used Presidential powers to pressure a vulnerable foreign partner to interfere in our elections for his own benefit,' referring to the President's interactions with the leader of Ukraine.  'President Trump maintains that the Senate cannot remove him even if the House proves every claim in the Articles of impeachment,” the House reply added. “That is a chilling assertion. It is also dead wrong,' the House concluded.