Nation & World

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

White House vows total halt to impeachment probe cooperation

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House declared Tuesday it will halt any and all cooperation with what it termed the "illegitimate" impeachment probe by House Democrats, sharpening the constitutional clash between President Donald Trump and Congress.

Trump attorneys sent a lengthy letter to House leaders bluntly stating White House refusal to participate in the inquiry that was given a boost by last week's release of a whistleblower's complaint that the president sought political favors from Ukraine.

"Given that your inquiry lacks any legitimate constitutional foundation, any pretense of fairness, or even the most elementary due process protections, the Executive Branch cannot be expected to participate in it," White House Counsel Pat Cipollone wrote.

That means no additional witnesses under administration purview will be permitted to appear in front of Congress or comply with document requests, a senior official said.

The White House is objecting that the House has not voted to begin an impeachment investigation into Trump. It also claims that Trump's due process rights are being violated.

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Trump shifts tone on Turkey in effort to halt Syria invasion

WASHINGTON (AP) — In a span of 24 hours, President Donald Trump moved from threatening to obliterate Turkey's economy if it invades Syria to inviting its president to visit the White House.

But Trump did not back away Tuesday from a plan to withdraw American troops from Syria as he tried to persuade Turkey not to invade the country and attack the U.S.-allied Kurds — a needle-threading strategy that has angered Republican and Democratic lawmakers and confused U.S. allies.

"This is really dangerous," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said.

Trump tweeted that while U.S. forces "may be" leaving Syria, the U.S. has not abandoned the Kurds, who stand to be destroyed if Turkey follows through with its planned invasion. The Kurds lead a group of Syria fighters who have been steadfast and effective American allies in combating the Islamic State in Syria. Turkey, however, sees the Kurds as terrorists and a border threat.

Joseph Votel, a retired Army general who headed Central Command's military operations in Syria until last spring, wrote on The Atlantic website Tuesday that mutual trust was a key ingredient in the U.S. partnership with the Kurds.

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Johnson & Johnson, Risperdal maker hit with $8B verdict

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A Philadelphia jury on Tuesday awarded $8 billion in punitive damages against Johnson & Johnson and one if its subsidiaries over a drug the companies made that the plaintiff's attorneys say is linked to the abnormal growth of female breast tissue in boys.

Johnson and Johnson immediately denounced the award after the jury's decision in the Court of Common pleas, saying it's "excessive and unfounded" and vowing immediate action to overturn it.

The antipsychotic drug Risperdal is at the center of the lawsuit, with the plaintiff's attorneys arguing it's linked to abnormal growth of female breast tissue in boys, an incurable condition known as gynecomastia.

Johnson & Johnson used an organized scheme to make billions of dollars while illegally marketing and promoting the drug, attorneys Tom Kline and Jason Itkin said in a statement.

Kline and Itkin said that Johnson & Johnson was "a corporation that valued profits over safety and profits over patients." Thousands of lawsuits have been filed over the drug, but the attorneys said this was the first in which a jury decided whether to award punitive damages and came up with an amount.

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California faces historic power outage due to fire danger

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Millions of people were poised to lose electricity throughout northern and central California after Pacific Gas & Electric Co. announced Tuesday it would shut off power in the largest preventive outage in state history to try to avert wildfires caused by faulty lines.

PG&E said it would begin turning off power to 800,000 customers in 34 counties starting after midnight Wednesday amid forecasts of windy, dry weather that create extreme fire danger. To the south, Southern California Edison also said Tuesday that more than 106,000 of its customers in parts of eight counties could face power cuts.

Outages are planned in more than half of California's 58 counties, although not everyone in those counties will have their power cut.

The news came as residents in the region's wine country north of San Francisco marked the two-year anniversary of deadly wildfires that killed 44 and destroyed thousands of homes. San Francisco is the only county in the nine-county Bay Area where power will not be affected.

The utility had warned of the possibility of a widespread shut-off Monday, prompting residents to flock to stores for supplies as they prepared for dying cellphone batteries, automatic garages that won't work and lukewarm refrigerators.

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Recuperating Sanders says he may slow down campaigning pace

BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — Bernie Sanders began reintroducing himself to the 2020 campaign on Tuesday, venturing outside his Vermont home to say that he doesn't plan on leaving the presidential race following last week's heart attack — but that he may slow down a frenetic pace that might have contributed to his health problems.

"We were doing, in some cases, five or six meetings a day, three or four rallies and town meetings and meeting with groups of people. I don't think I'm going to do that," Sanders told reporters when asked what his schedule may look like going forward. "But I certainly intend to be actively campaigning. I think we're going to change the nature of the campaign a bit. I'll make sure that I have the strength to do what I have to do."

Pressed on what that meant, Sanders replied: "Well, probably not doing four rallies a day."

Sanders' campaign has said he will be at next week's Democratic presidential debate in Ohio. But it hasn't commented on if or when he'll resume campaigning before that — or what his next steps will be. NBC News announced it would air an "exclusive" interview with Sanders, his first since the heart attack, on Wednesday.

His health problems come at a precarious time, since Sanders was already facing questions about being the oldest candidate seeking the White House, and he has seen his recent poll numbers decline compared to 2020 rival Elizabeth Warren, his chief competitor for the Democratic Party's most-progressive wing.

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Killer's lifetime of evil backed up by a prodigious memory

Samuel Little's depravity is matched only by his prodigious memory.

Little, a California inmate considered by the FBI to be the most prolific serial killer in U.S. history, has confessed to 93 slayings committed across the country between 1970 and 2005, recounting the crimes with astonishing, near-photographic detail. He even drew color portraits of dozens of the women he strangled.

His case, featured on "60 Minutes" on Sunday, has offered a frightening look inside the mind of a killer and the wrongheaded assumptions on the part of law enforcement that enabled him to escape justice for so long.

Little, who is 79 and has been behind bars since 2012 for several killings, preyed on prostitutes, drug addicts and other women on the margins, many of them black like Little himself, and many of the deaths were originally deemed overdoses or attributed to accidental or undetermined causes. Some bodies were never found.

In a case out of Tennessee, for example, Martha Cunningham's body was found bruised and nude from the waist down in the woods in 1975, her pantyhose and girdle bunched around her knees. Detectives initially attributed her death to natural causes; the cause was later classified "unknown."

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Trump escalates impeachment fight, barring envoy's testimony

WASHINGTON (AP) — Escalating his fight against Congress' impeachment inquiry, President Donald Trump flouted Democratic warnings about impeachable conduct Tuesday in blocking a U.S. diplomat from testifying about Trump's dealings with Ukraine. House committee chairmen quickly issued a subpoena to force the envoy to appear before the House next week and produce documents recovered from his personal devices.

Gordon Sondland, the U.S. European Union ambassador, was barred by the administration from appearing in a closed-door session with three House panels investigating Trump's entreaties to Ukraine. His attorney said Sondland, who had agreed to the interview without a subpoena, was "profoundly disappointed" to be prevented from testifying.

Sondland was to have been asked about text messages released last week that show him and two other U.S. diplomats acting as intermediaries as Trump urged Ukraine to investigate the 2016 U.S. election and a gas company linked to Democrat Joe Biden's son. Sondland also spoke directly to Trump hours before sending a text message assuring another U.S. envoy that there was nothing untoward about their plans, according to a person familiar with the exchange who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the conversation.

Rep. Adam Schiff, the House Intelligence Committee chairman, said Sondland's no-show was "yet additional strong evidence" of obstruction of Congress by Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Sondland's boss.

"By preventing us from hearing from this witness and obtaining these documents, the president and secretary of state are taking actions that prevent us from getting the facts needed to protect the nation's security," said Schiff, D-Calif. "For this impeachment inquiry we are determined to find answers."

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Divided Supreme Court weighs LGBT people's rights

WASHINGTON (AP) — A seemingly divided Supreme Court struggled Tuesday over whether a landmark civil rights law protects LGBT people from discrimination in employment, with one conservative justice wondering if the court should take heed of "massive social upheaval" that could follow a ruling in their favor.

With the court's four liberal justices likely to side with workers who were fired because of their sexual orientation or transgender status, the question in two highly anticipated cases that filled the courtroom was whether one of the court's conservatives might join them.

Two hours of lively arguments touched on sex-specific bathrooms, locker rooms and dress codes, and even a reference to the androgynous character known simply as Pat on Saturday Night Live in the early 1990s.

A key provision of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 known as Title 7 bars job discrimination because of sex, among other reasons. In recent years, some courts have read that language to include discrimination against LGBT people as a subset of sex discrimination.

Justice Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump's first Supreme Court appointee, said there are strong arguments favoring the LGBT workers. But Gorsuch suggested that maybe Congress, not the courts, should change the law because of the upheaval that could ensue. "It's a question of judicial modesty," Gorsuch said.

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Lion patrol: Learning to share the savannah with big animals

LOIBOR SIRET, Tanzania (AP) — Saitoti Petro scans a dirt road in northern Tanzania for recent signs of the top predator on the African savannah. "If you see a lion," he warns, "stop and look it straight in the eyes — you must never run."

Petro points to a fresh track in the dirt, a paw print measuring nearly the length of a ballpoint pen. He walks along a few more yards reading tracks the way an archaeologist might decipher hieroglyphics, gleaning meaning from the smudges in the dust. A large male passed here within the past two hours, he says. "Here he's walking slowly, then you see his claws come out in the tracks. Perhaps he's running after prey, or from something else."

The tall, slender 29-year-old is marching with four other young men who belong to a pastoralist people called the Maasai. Beneath the folds of his thick cloak, he carries a sharpened machete. Only a few years ago, men of Petro's age would most likely have been stalking lions to hunt them — often, to avenge cattle that the big cats had eaten.

But as Petro explains, the problem now is that there are too few lions, not too many. "It will be shameful if we kill them all," he says. "It will be a big loss if our future children never see lions."

And so he's joined an effort to protect lions, by safeguarding domestic animals on which they might prey.

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Aging Holocaust survivors try to sue over Nazi-era insurance

AVENTURA, Fla. (AP) — When David Schaecter was a child in Slovakia in the 1930s, he counted more than 100 people in his extended family. By the end of World War II, he alone survived. The rest had been killed in Nazi concentration camps or by roving SS death squads.

Schaecter lost not only his family, but all they owned, including life insurance covering his murdered relatives. And as time runs out on aging Holocaust survivors, some are trying to recover insurance policies that were not honored by Nazi-era companies, which could be worth at least $25 billion altogether in today's dollars, according to the Holocaust Survivors' Foundation USA.

The survivors want to take insurance companies to court in the U.S. to recover the money, but it would take an act of Congress to allow it.

For nearly two decades, the foundation members have tried and failed to gain access to U.S. courts.

"This is an insult to humanity," said Schaecter, 90, president of the organization and a survivor of the Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps. "I think they are trying to sweep it under the carpet. The fact is, we are a dying breed. There are so few of us left."

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