AP Exclusive: US missed chance to woo Venezuela generals
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Around May 2017, an unusual request from a prominent Venezuelan general made its way to the White House: Gen. Ivan Hernández, head of both the presidential guard and military counterintelligence, wanted to send his 3-year-old son to Boston for brain surgery and needed visas for his family.
After days of internal debate, the still young Trump administration rejected the request, seeing no point in helping a senior member of a socialist government that it viewed as corrupt and thuggish but wasn’t yet prepared to confront.
That decision, revealed to The Associated Press by a former U.S. official and another person familiar with the internal discussions, might have gone unnoticed if National Security Adviser John Bolton hadn’t admonished Hernandez this week on live TV as one of three regime insiders who backed out of a plan — allegedly at the last minute — to topple President Nicolás Maduro.
It might also have been one of several missed opportunities to curry favour with Venezuela’s normally impenetrable armed forces.
The U.S. also rebuffed a back channel to the alleged ringleader of the would-be defectors, Defence Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez.
North Korea fires several short-range projectiles into sea
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea on Saturday fired several unidentified short-range projectiles into the sea off its eastern coast, the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff said, a likely sign of Pyongyang’s growing frustration at stalled diplomatic talks with Washington meant to provide coveted sanctions relief in return for nuclear disarmament.
South Korea’s military has bolstered its surveillance in case there are additional weapons launches, and South Korean and U.S. authorities are analyzing the details. If it’s confirmed that the North fired banned ballistic missiles, it would be the first such launch since the North’s November 2017 test of an intercontinental ballistic missile. That year saw a string of increasingly powerful weapons tests from the North and a belligerent response from President Donald Trump that had many in the region fearing war.
The South initially reported Saturday that a single missile was fired, but later issued a statement that said “several projectiles” had been launched and that they flew up to 200 kilometres (125 miles) before splashing into the sea toward the northeast. Experts say the North may increase these sorts of low-level provocations to apply pressure on the United States to agree to reduce crushing international sanctions.
The launch comes amid a diplomatic breakdown that has followed the failed summit earlier this year between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un over the North’s pursuit of nuclear bombs that can accurately target the U.S. mainland. The North probably has viable shorter range nuclear armed missiles but still needs more tests to perfect its longer-range weapons, according to outside analysts.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement that the United States was aware of North Korea’s actions and would continue to monitor the situation.
Hiring surge lifts economy – and Trump’s re-election chances
NEW YORK (AP) — The lowest unemployment rate in a half century. More than 260,000 new jobs. And higher hourly wages.
“I’ll be running on the economy,” President Donald Trump declared on Friday. And why wouldn’t he?
The day’s new round of sunny employment figures offered fresh evidence of a strong national economy — and a big political advantage for Trump just as the 2020 presidential campaign begins to intensify. Stocks are at or near record levels , too, as the president often notes.
Democrats pointed to regional disparities in the new government report. And overall income inequality hasn’t narrowed.
But the Democrats who are fighting to deny the Republican president a second term are beginning to acknowledge the weight of their challenge: Since World War II, no incumbent president has ever lost re-election in a growing economy.
Trump discusses ‘Russian Hoax’ in long call with Putin
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump and Russia’s Vladimir Putin discussed what Trump again dismissed as the “Russian Hoax” in their first known phone call since the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russia’s extensive meddling during the 2016 election campaign. Putin chuckled about Mueller’s conclusions, Trump said.
During their conversation on Friday, which the White House and Kremlin said lasted more than an hour, they also discussed a possible three-party arms control pact with China, North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, Ukraine and the crisis in Venezuela, where Moscow is propping up the current government over the U.S.-backed opposition.
“We had a good conversation about many things,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office.
Trump said the two leaders were considering a new nuclear agreement “where we make less and they make less. And maybe even where we get rid of some of the tremendous firepower that we have right now.” He said they had discussed the possibility of including China in the deal and that China would “very much would like to be a part of” it.
But more interesting, perhaps, was what was left unsaid.
Plane crashes into Florida river at end of runway, no deaths
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Officials say a charter plane travelling from Cuba to north Florida ended up in a river at the end of a runway.
A Naval Air Station Jacksonville news release says a Boeing 737 arriving from Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, crashed into the St. Johns River Friday night.
The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office posted on Twitter that a marine unit responded to assist. The plane was in shallow water and not submerged. Officials say everyone on the plane was alive and accounted for.
A photo posted by deputies shows a Miami Air International logo on the plane. The company didn’t immediately respond to messages from The Associated Press.
Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry posted on Twitter that teams were working to control jet fuel in the water.
Judges declare Ohio’s congressional map unconstitutional
CINCINNATI (AP) — A panel of federal judges ruled Friday that Ohio’s congressional districts were unconstitutionally drawn by the Republicans for their political advantage, and it ordered a new map for the 2020 elections.
The ruling, if it stands, could prove an important victory for the Democrats, who are hoping redrawn boundaries will not only help them pick up House seats but also energize voters and boost turnout in this longtime battleground state, helping them defeat President Donald Trump. Republican officials said they would appeal.
The panel unanimously declared the current map an “unconstitutional partisan gerrymander,” saying the GOP-controlled Ohio Legislature put the Democrats at a disadvantage by packing lots of them into four districts and scattering the rest across the remaining 12.
“Democratic candidates must run a significantly longer distance to get to the same finish line,” the judges wrote in a 301-page ruling.
The Republicans hold a 12-4 advantage in Ohio’s congressional delegation under the current map, which went into effect for the 2012 elections.
Ebola outbreak deaths top 1,000 in Congo amid clinic attacks
KINSHASA, Congo (AP) — More than 1,000 people have died from Ebola in eastern Congo since August, the country’s health minister said Friday as hostility toward health workers continues to hamper efforts to contain the second-deadliest outbreak of the virus.
Health Minister Oly Ilunga told The Associated Press that four deaths in the outbreak’s epicenter of Katwa helped push the death toll to 1,008. Two more deaths were reported in the city of Butembo.
The outbreak declared almost nine months ago already had caused the most deaths behind the 2014-2016 outbreak in West Africa’s Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia that killed more than 11,000 people.
A volatile security situation and deep community mistrust have hampered efforts to control the epidemic in eastern Congo. Ebola treatment centres have come under repeated attack, leaving government health officials to staff clinics in the hotspots of Butembo and Katwa.
International aid organizations stopped their work in the two communities because of the violence. A Cameroonian epidemiologist working with WHO was killed last month during an assault on a hospital in Butembo.
European, US investigators make major darknet bust
BERLIN (AP) — European and American investigators have broken up one of the world’s largest online criminal marketplaces for drugs, hacking tools and financial-theft wares in raids in the United States, Germany and Brazil.
Three German men, ages 31, 22 and 29, were arrested after the raids in three southern states on allegations they operated the so-called “Wall Street Market” darknet platform, which hosted about 5,400 sellers and more than 1 million customer accounts, Frankfurt prosecutor Georg Ungefuk told reporters in Wiesbaden on Friday.
A Brazilian man, the site’s alleged moderator, was also charged.
The three Germans, identified in U.S. court documents as Tibo Lousee, Jonathan Kalla and Klaus-Martin Frost, face drug charges in Germany on allegations they administrated the platform where cocaine, heroin and other drugs, as well as forged documents and other illegal material, were sold.
They have also been charged in the United States with conspiring to launder money and distribute illegal drugs, according to a criminal complaint filed in Los Angeles federal court.
‘Hell no:’ Defiant Semenya wins, says she won’t take drugs
Caster Semenya was defiant in every way at what very well could be her last 800 metre race.
Her raised fist at the start. Her unstoppable victory. And with her reply Friday to the big question of whether she will now submit to new testosterone regulations in track and field and take hormone-reducing medication.
“Hell no,” the Olympic champion from South Africa said.
Semenya responded to her defeat in a landmark court case against track and field’s governing body two days earlier with a resounding win in a place where she’s done nothing but win the last four years — over two laps of the track.
She won the 800 metres at the opening Diamond League meeting of the season in Doha, Qatar, with a meet record of 1 minute, 54.98 seconds. It was her fourth-fastest time ever. The only person ahead of her at any time during the race was the pacemaker.
3 black women win Miss USA, Miss Teen USA and Miss America
NEW YORK (AP) — When Cheslie Kryst won the Miss USA crown, it marked more than a personal triumph: It meant that for the first time, three black women are the reigning Miss USA, Miss Teen USA and Miss America.
The North Carolina lawyer completed the historic triple Thursday with pageant winners 2019 Miss America Nia Franklin and recently crowned 2019 Miss Teen USA Kaliegh Garris.
“The three young women who have focused their energy on demonstrating how standards of black beauty speak for American standards of beauty are to be commended,” said Thomas DeFrantz, a professor in the Department of African and African American Studies at Duke University.
“These three standard-bearers prove that black beauty is at the heart of a 21st century American ideal,” he added.
Franklin, from New York, won her title in September in Atlantic City, New Jersey, becoming the first woman also to win the Miss America crown without having to don a swimsuit. Garris, from New Haven, Connecticut, won her crown in April, and hopes to become a trauma nurse.
The Associated Press
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