Thursday, March 30, 2017

A Look At Latest Ruling On Trump Administration Travel Ban


Hawaii Attorney General Douglas Chin speaks outside federal court in Honolulu, Wednesday, March 29, 2017. A federal judge in Hawaii questioned government attorneys Wednesday who urged him to narrow his order blocking President Donald Trump's travel ban because suspending the nation's refugee program has no effect on the state. U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson is hearing arguments on whether to extend his temporary order until Hawaii's lawsuit works its way through the courts. Even if he does not issue a longer-lasting hold on the ban, his temporary block would stay in place until he rules otherwise.

HONOLULU (AP) — A federal judge in Hawaii who temporarily blocked President Donald Trump's revised travel ban hours before it was set to take effect issued a longer-lasting order Wednesday. U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson held a hearing Wednesday on Hawaii's request to extend his temporary hold. Several hours later, he issued a 24-page order blocking the government from suspending new visas for travelers from six Muslim-majority countries and halting the U.S. refugee program.

Hawaii Attorney General Douglas Chin argued that even though the revised ban has more neutral language, the implied intent is still there. He likened it to a neon sign flashing "Muslim Ban," which the government hasn't bothered to turn off.

Chad Readler, a Department of Justice attorney defending Trump's executive order, told the judge via telephone that Hawaii hasn't shown how it is harmed by various provisions, including one that would suspend the nation's refugee program.

Watson disagreed. Here's a look at Watson's ruling and what comes next:

This month, Watson prevented the federal government from suspending new visas for people from six countries and freezing the nation's refugee program. The ruling came just hours before the ban was to take effect.

Watson, nominated to the bench by former President Barack Obama in 2012, agreed with Hawaii that the ban would hurt the state's tourism-dependent economy and that it discriminates based on nationality and religion.

Trump called the ruling an example of "unprecedented judicial overreach."

The next day, a judge in Maryland also blocked the six-nation travel ban but said it wasn't clear that the suspension of the refugee program was similarly motivated by religious bias.

The federal government appealed the Maryland ruling to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and sought to narrow the Hawaii ruling.

Like his temporary order, Watson notes that Hawaii has shown the state's universities and tourism industry will suffer from the ban. A plaintiff in Hawaii's lawsuit, the imam of a Honolulu mosque, will be harmed if the ban is enforced, Watson said: "These injuries have already occurred and will continue to occur if the Executive Order is implemented and enforced; the injuries are neither contingent nor speculative."

Government attorneys have tried to convince the judge not to consider comments Trump has made about the travel ban. "The court will not crawl into a corner, pull the shutters closed, and pretend it has not seen what it has," Watson wrote.

Watson also refused to narrow his ruling to only apply to the six-nation ban, as the government requested.

The ruling won't be suspended if the government appeals, Watson said.

"Enforcement of these provisions in all places, including the United States, at all United States borders and ports of entry, and in the issuance of visas is prohibited, pending further orders from this court," he wrote.

Watson's ruling allows Hawaii's lawsuit challenging the ban to work its way through the courts.

"While we understand that the President may appeal, we believe the court's well-reasoned decision will be affirmed," the Hawaii attorney general's office said in a statement.

Ismail Elshikh, the imam of a Honolulu mosque who joined the lawsuit as a plaintiff, argues that he's harmed by Trump's order because it prevents his Syrian mother-in-law from visiting family in the U.S. It's not clear how Watson's ruling will affect the mother-in-law's ability to obtain a visa.

The Department of Justice didn't immediately comment after Watson issued his decision.

The Department of Justice opposed Hawaii's request to extend Watson's temporary order. But the department said that if the judge agrees, he should narrow the ruling to cover only the part of Trump's executive order that suspends new visas for people from Somalia, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Libya and Yemen.

Other provisions of the order have little or no effect on Hawaii, including a suspension of the nation's refugee program, Department of Justice attorney Chad Readler said Wednesday.

In an attempt to downplay the effect suspending the nation's refugee program would have on Hawaii, Readler said only a small amount of refugees have been resettled in Hawaii. But Watson questioned that reasoning by noting that the government said there have been 20 refugees resettled in Hawaii since 2010.

Other parts of Trump's order allow the government to assess security risks, which don't concern the plaintiffs in Hawaii's lawsuit, Readler said.

The revised order removes references to religion, he said.

The president is asking the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to put the ruling by the judge in Maryland on hold while it considers the case.

The Richmond, Virginia-based appeals court will hear arguments May 8. If the court sides with the federal government, it would not have a direct effect on the Hawaii ruling, legal experts said.

The Trump administration's best bet for saving the travel ban is to have the case go before the U.S. Supreme Court, said Richard Primus, a professor of constitutional law at the University of Michigan law school.

"What a ruling in 4th Circuit in favor of the administration would do is create a split in authority between federal courts in different parts of the country," he said. "Cases with splits in authority are cases the U.S. Supreme Court exists to resolve."

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

When The Diaspora Collides

We're All Black, Right?


Black, African American, West Indian, African, Black American, Afro-Latinx. These and the myriad of other ways that individuals of African descent have come to define themselves and each other come packed with a host of unspoken/underlying meanings. They house myths, hidden assumptions, stereotypes and declarations about who we are, how we see ourselves and the identities and communities that we hope to create.

This month, conversations and controversies have been ignited about the meaning of Blackness, the salience of ethnicity over race (and vice versa) and which members of the diaspora have ownership over what parts of the Black experience. While some individuals have assuaged this conversation entirely for a host of reasons, these discussions can be fruitful and serve as a learning opportunity if we use these moments wisely.

Last weekend, Canadian rapper Drake released his latest album More Life to both criticism and praise that swiftly swept through social media. Among these discussions, was curiosity and commentary around Drake's decision to heavily employ Jamaican patois and sample music from Caribbean artists-- choices that echo his previous work but seem to play a larger role in this album. Given his own personal heritage (Drake grew up in Canada and was born to a white mother and Black American father) fans questioned whether his use of Caribbean slang constitutes appropriation despite the fact that he too identifies as a person of African descent.

Mirroring these questions was an arguably more intense storm of controversy that came down earlier in the month when actor Samuel L. Jackson criticized the highly successful thriller Get Out, and the decision made by director Jordan Peele to cast Black British actor Daniel Kaluuya as a Black American. In an interview on Hot 97, Jackson asked “What would a brother from America have made of that role? I’m sure the director helped but some things are universal, but everything ain't” In response, Kaluuya expressed disappointment at Jackson's comments. “I resent that I have to prove that I'm black”, Kaluuya argued, “I see black as one, man”.

What lies at the heart of these two stories and the controversies embedded with them are questions surrounding the diversity of the Black community and how to parse out those differences while still recognizing that we all share the same racial background. In the context of the US, these queries are particularly interesting given the relatively recent rise of Black immigration to the country. This influx of new immigrants has resulted in the melding of cultures between Blacks of other ethnic backgrounds and their Black American (people of African descent who have roots in America dating back to US Slavery) peers. According to a 2015 report released by the Pew Research Center examining the rising population of foreign-born Blacks, the Black Immigrant population in America has nearly quadrupled since 1980. Even between the years of 2000 and 2013, the Black immigrant population (comprised of immigrants from Africa, the Caribbean, and Latin America) rose from 6.7% to 8.7%.

Studies conducted throughout the 90s have highlighted the tensions between various Black ethnic groups within the States particularly those between Black Americans and first generation- Black immigrants. Researchers have suggested that the driving force behind these tensions is the concept of segmented assimilation, which posits that since Black Americans have historically been oppressed in the US, it would be strategically disadvantageous for Black immigrants to fully assimilate into the Black American community.

Highlighting one's ethnic background and nationality during job interviews or social interactions, thus signals a difference from Black Americans and it was one of the many ways that Black immigrant respondents in these studies avoided categorization as Black Americans. Follow-up studies in the late 90s and early 2000s however, surveyed second and third generation Black immigrants and found that many of these trends and negative stereotypes about Black Americans were less prevalent. In fact, this later research also found that children of Black immigrants were far more likely to view themselves as one and the same to their Black American peers.

While these more recent studies highlight the strengthening of ethnic solidarity amongst Blacks, discussions around the sometimes strained relationship within the African diaspora have endured and even been amplified in interesting---and at times, vitriolic---ways on social media. For example, Black Twitter, the community of Black Twitter users that in large part drive the social media platform and offer hilarious and thought-provoking commentary on current events, often displays the social cohesion and cultural similarities within the African diaspora. However, every once in awhile trending topics such as #DiasporaWars emerge and highlight the ways in which inter-ethnic division and misunderstanding still persist.

For those who have chosen to disengage from these conversations, the reason is simple: at the end of the day, the outside world views us all as Black regardless of our nationality or ethnic background and thus, we should use our energy to band together and combat more grave issues that impact us all. However, while there is an overwhelming tendency for these conversations to become negative and rooted in stereotype as opposed to fact, the idea that we ought to shy away completely from discussing the diversity of the diaspora may not be the wisest decision. At their best, such moments --whether they emerge from newly released literature, music, film, or even academic research-- can serve as a learning and sharing opportunity. They can be seeds into further exploration as to why the music, language, food and customs of each community within the diaspora is unique due to political, economic and historical trends that have shaped where we wound up and who we are now.

Recognizing these differences need not be the foundations of hierarchy or ill-spirited division but rather it could allow us to celebrate the diversity, resilience, and adaptability of Black culture at large. It would also allow us to ask more interesting and thought-provoking questions about the malleability of, and intersections between, cultures within the diaspora. The media that we consume serves greater utility when we are challenged to (constructively) ask “what if” as opposed to taking what we are given at face value.

Our decision to engage in conversations about the diaspora also enables us to wrestle with questions of ownership and whether narratives, histories and cultural trends can be appropriated across ethnic lines even when they remain within the boundaries of race. Sure, we could chew on Jackson's question of how would a Black American approach Kaluuya’s role in Get Out, but we could also ask how (or would) the film's narrative be different if Kaluuya had been cast in the same role except as a Black British man living in America and dating a White American woman? What (if any) changes would we want to have seen and why would we want to see them? To address the other aforementioned story, we could pose the question of what does it mean when Drake employs patois despite not having familial roots in the island nation? How would it differ had it been a non-Black rapper who did the same?

There aren't any right, wrong or even clear answers to these questions or the host of other queries that these recent controversies could have ignited. The beauty of Black culture, however, is that there is such a wide array of individuals with their own diverse set of experiences and perspectives. That means that there is endless potential for conversations that will extend beyond simply asserting our singularity---and they can be civil, constructive and always of course, colorful.

Monday, March 27, 2017

AP FACT CHECK: Obama, Trump Had Role In Flint Water Relief

MARCH 27, 2017

The Flint Water Plant water tower is seen in Flint, Mich. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said on March 27, 2017, that a $100 million grant to address drinking water issues in the city was approved after a formal application from Michigan state officials.

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump and former President Barack Obama had a hand in last week's grant of $100 million to address the lead in the drinking water crisis in Flint, Michigan, despite a report that seeks to give Trump credit for the funding. The report also says Obama refused to give money to Flint, which is false.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency, which is part of the executive branch of government led by the president, announced last week that it had granted $100 million to the state of Michigan to fund drinking water infrastructure upgrades in Flint. The EPA said in its announcement that the funding was provided by the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act of 2016, a measure passed by Congress and signed into law by Obama in December.

The law provides a total $170 million to address drinking water safety issues. Part of the money is set to go to new pipes for Flint, where residents have struggled with lead-tainted water for nearly three years.

The $100 million grant was awarded earlier this month after the EPA reviewed and approved a formal request from state officials, the EPA said. A story by the right-wing partisan website The Red Elephants is headlined, "Trump's EPA sending $100 million to Flint to fix water - something Obama refused to do." Another from the Conservative Tribune reads: "First Real Hope for Flint Water as Trump Bestows $100 Million." Obama pledged $80 million in funding to Michigan to address drinking water issues during a visit to the state in January 2016.

This story is part of an ongoing Associated Press effort to fact-check claims in suspected false news stories.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

NIGERIA: N4trn Revenue Leakage: Senate To Probe Customs

NAN, MARCH 26, 2017

Senator Hope Uzodinma, Chairman Senate Committee on Customs and Excise (NAN)

ABUJA, NIGERIA (NAN) -- The Senate Committee on Customs, Excise and Tariff, has commenced investigation into alleged over N4 trillion revenue leakage in the Nigeria Customs Service between 2006 and 2016.

The Chairman of the committee, Sen. Hope Uzodinma, made this known in an interview with newsmen on Sunday in Abuja.

He said that the committee would stop at nothing in recovering the money, which was lost to lapses and various infractions.

He pointed out that preliminary investigation by the committee revealed that the over N4 trillion revenue leakage was due to abuse and non implementation of Form M (Foreign Exchange forms).

He added that wrong classification of cargo under HS Code (Harmonised System Codes), non screening of cargoes coming into Nigeria and lack of adequate ICT infrastructure for revenue collection, were equally responsible.

Uzodinma further explained that cancellation of pre-arrival assessment reports and abandonment of single goods declaration were equally responsible for the leakage.

“The Senate Committee on Customs has condemned the inability of the technical committee on the implementation of comprehensive import supervision scheme to ensure that provisions of Import Control Management Act are followed to the latter.

“The committee frowns at the quantum of revenue losses and it will stop at nothing in ensuring that those involved in this ugly act return all recoverable monies with them.

“The committee also frowns at the level of collusion and corruption within the Customs Service.

“At the end of our current investigation, all these will become a thing of the past and customs revenue will be enhanced while non oil revenue will be improved upon.

“What we are investigating is not money spent. It is the leakages.

“For instance, I am supposed to pay XYZ amount of duty, I will abandon the documentation, go get fake documents, collude with customs, pay maybe a fraction of it and carry my goods. With that, the true import circle is not closed.

“Another instance is that assessment is abandoned or I fill the form M for example with a pro forma invoice, apply for foreign exchange in Central Bank, XYZ amount of money is allocated to me, money moves in but no goods shipped.

“ I will then go get fake documents, collude with customs and then retire the allocation,’’ he said.

The lawmaker decried that this sharp practice, including round tripping and false declarations, had over time led to increase in the exchange rate.

He said that in most cases, the amount of money spent was not commensurate with the number of goods being imported.

According to him, the committee has started questioning the companies and banks indicted in this act.

“We will not mention the companies involved because we are also very careful of the integrity and public perception of some of these companies, because some of them are in the Stock Market.

“We will be diplomatic in carrying out this investigation.

“This is to the extent that little or no damage will be done to the integrity and image of such companies provided that government revenues in their hands will be recovered,’’ he said.

On concerns that little or nothing was often heard of outcome of investigations carried out by the Senate, Uzodinma said the Upper Chamber was sometimes faced with constitutional limitations.

However, he assured that the current investigation would be brought to a logical conclusion because it had to do with the economy and revenue loss.

He stressed the need to get the country out of recession, saying that the committee would get the necessary support to conclude investigation and recover the necessary funds.

“ I am sure that the executive arm of government will be willing and interested to ensure that the monies that are littered here and there are recovered.”

The chairman said a public hearing would be held as part of the investigation process.

On the committee’s investigation into non-repatriation of proceeds from oil and non-oil products by Joint Venture companies, the lawmaker said report on the investigation had been concluded and it would be laid in plenary on Tuesday.

On the retrospective policy on payment of customs duties on old vehicles, the lawmaker expressed concern over such anti-people policy.

He added that the service was overstepping its bounds by making policies rather than implementing policies made by the Ministry of Finance, which is the supervisory ministry.

According to him, the power to make policies for the customs service is vested in the Ministry of Finance.

“Having gone through the legislations and books available to my office as it has to do with the administration of the customs service, it only implements policies made by the Ministry of Finance.

“So, it sounds very strange to hear that Customs get up and says they are making a policy.

“That is what I am yet to understand and there is no way to fathom that before the law.

“The referral is already before us. I was waiting for him to appear before the senate before we commence a full blown investigation into some of those issues that have been referred to us.

“Concerning the suspended policy on payment of customs duties on old vehicles, the committee will continue to interface with the service to ensure that the policy is cancelled not suspended.

“The whole idea is about governance and governance is about the people and nobody is licenced or entitled to talk about the people more than the elected representatives.

“So in my view there is no hullaballoo. We will discuss with them and wise reasoning will prevail,’’ he said.

Medical Pot Bill In S. Carolina Bolstered By Conservatives

MARCH 26, 2017

Rep. Eric Bedingfield, R-Greenville, walks through the House chamber during the first day of legislative session at the South Carolina Statehouse in Columbia, S.C. Bedingfield once shunned marijuana use, but when his eldest son died of an overdose last Easter, ending a six-year struggle with opioid addiction, the conservative Republican co-sponsored this year's medical cannabis legislation.

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina Rep. Eric Bedingfield once shunned all marijuana use, but when his eldest son's six-year struggle with opioid addiction ended with his overdose a year ago, the conservative Republican co-sponsored medical cannabis legislation.

"My mindset has changed from somebody who looked down on it as a negative substance to saying, 'This has benefits,'" Bedingfield said recently. The 50-year-old teetotaler believes marijuana may effectively wean addicts from an opioid dependence. Ultimately, the Marine veteran hopes medical marijuana can be an alternative to people being prescribed OxyContin or other opioid painkillers to begin with, helping curb an epidemic he's seen destroy families of all economic levels.

Two decades after California became the first state to legalize medical marijuana, efforts to let patients legally access pot are slowly taking root in the South. While 28 states allow comprehensive medical marijuana programs, only two of those are in the South. Arkansas and Florida voters approved theirs through the ballot last November. Neither is in place yet. A law signed in Louisiana last year, also not yet in effect, doesn't allow the smoking or vaping of marijuana.

This year's renewed push in South Carolina is bolstered by some of the state's most conservative legislators, such as Bedingfield, whose opinions have shifted due to personal losses or the pleadings of parents and pastors in their districts.

Three years ago, state lawmakers passed a very narrow law allowing patients with severe epilepsy, or their caregivers, to legally possess cannabidiol, or CBD, a non-psychoactive oil derived from marijuana. Bedingfield voted against that idea.

Bill Davis, a Christian author who leads a Bible study for people fighting drug addiction, said he was bedridden before trying marijuana. Diagnosed two years ago with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a lung disease with no cure, he was put on an experimental drug with "horrible side effects."

"I had to decide whether I wanted to die of lung disease or kidney or liver failure," Davis said. Then he started vaping marijuana, which he says allows him to control the amount of CBD and THC he receives.

"I'm praying this state will allow me to be treated legally for me to live" using "a plant that God made," he said. Republican Rep. Jonathon Hill said he signed onto the bill after hearing Davis' story over dinner at his home.

"He is living, walking proof that there can be some very real benefits," he said. A bill allowing people with a debilitating medical condition, or their adult caregivers, to legally possess 2 ounces (57 grams) of marijuana advanced last month to the House's full medical committee. Its Republican backers tout the bill's "seed-to-sale tracking" as guarding against recreational use. A Senate subcommittee is considering an identical bill.

"We shouldn't be forcing a choice between breaking the law or not taking care of members of your family," said Republican Rep. Bill Herbkersman. Marijuana was the only thing that gave his brother an appetite and kept the pain at bay before he died of skin cancer in 2011, Herbkersman said.

"They call it a gateway drug, but sometimes it's just a gateway to a little bit better life, or what you have left of a life," he said. The idea still has strong opposition — chiefly from South Carolina's law enforcement agencies, including State Law Enforcement Division Chief Mark Keel.

Jarrod Bruder, director of the state Sheriffs' Association, told the House panel that sheriffs can't support legalizing a drug the federal government still puts in the same class as heroin and cocaine.

His predecessor, however, stunned observers when he stood to support the bill. Jeff Moore, who retired in 2014 after 32 years leading the association, credits marijuana with saving his son's life. But he says it also prevents his son, an Army veteran, from coming home to South Carolina for fear of being arrested.

In 2008, six weeks into his son's first of two tours in Iraq, their convoy was surrounded in Mosul. He watched as five of his friends were killed by an IED and he fought for his life for 2 ½ hours. He suffers from PTSD and traumatic brain injury as that battle scene and others replay in his mind. He was honorably discharged after two suicide attempts, Moore said.

Eventually, his son's father-in-law, a Vietnam veteran, convinced him to move near him in Michigan, where he can legally smoke a high-CBD, low-THC strain of marijuana Moore says does not get him high. He's stopped drinking, returned to college and organized an all-veteran support group. He is also an elder in his church, Moore said.

"His life has made a complete, 180-degree turnaround. Had he stayed in South Carolina, he'd have ended up killing himself," Moore said.

Friday, March 24, 2017

After Health Care Bill's Withdrawal, Elation And Anger

MARCH 24, 2017

Janella Williams receives treatment at Lawrence Memorial Hospital in Lawrence, Kan., Friday, March 24, 2017. The 45-year-old graphic designer receives medication from an intravenous drip for a neurological disorder, getting the drugs that she says allow her to walk. Under her Affordable Care Act plan, she pays $480 a month for coverage and has an out-of-pocket maximum of $3,500 a year. If she were to lose it, she wouldn’t be able to afford the $13,000-a-year out-of-pocket maximum under her husband’s insurance. Her treatments cost about $90,000 every seven weeks.

NEW YORK (AP) — Some Americans breathed a sigh of relief, others bubbled with frustration, and nearly all resigned themselves to the prospect that the latest chapter in the never-ending national debate over health care would not be the last.

The withdrawal of the Republican-sponsored health bill in the face of likely defeat Friday in the U.S. House seemed to ensure that the deep divisions over the Affordable Care Act and its possible replacement will continue to simmer.

As news spread, Americans fell into familiar camps, either happy to see a Democratic effort live another day, or eager to see Republicans regroup and follow through with their "repeal Obamacare" promises.

"Yessssss," an elated 27-year-old artist, Alysa Diebolt of Eastpointe, Michigan, typed on Facebook in response to the news, saying she was relieved those she knows on Affordable Care Act plans won't lose their coverage. "I'm excited, I think it's a good thing," she said.

Millions more shared her view, and #KillTheBill was a top trending topic on Twitter on Friday afternoon. Among those who have long sought to see Obama's health law dismantled, though, there was disappointment or chin-up resolve that they still could prevail.

"Hopefully they'll get it right next time," said Anthony Canamucio, the 50-year-old owner of a barbershop in Middletown Township, Pennsylvania. He gave his vote to Trump in November and wanted to see Obama's health law repealed, but found himself rooting for the GOP replacement bill to fail. He is insured through his wife's employer, and laments the growing deductibles and out-of-pocket costs, blaming Obama's law even as health economists say those trends in employer-provided health coverage preceded the legislation.

For Canamucio, the Republicans' bill didn't go far enough in dismantling the ACA. But he remains steadfast behind Trump and said he believes the president will still deliver. Cliff Rouse, a 34-year-old banker from Kinston, North Carolina, likewise was willing to give the president he helped elect a chance to make good on his promise. He sees Obama's law as government overreach, even as he knows it could help people like his 64-year-old father, who was recently diagnosed with dementia but refused to buy coverage under a law he disagreed with. Rouse sees Trump's moves on health care as hasty, but believes the GOP will eventually come around with better legislation.

"They've not had enough time to develop a good plan," Rouse said. "They should keep going until they have a good plan that Americans can feel confident in." It remained far more than a petty political debate, though, and some like Janella Williams, framed the issue as a question of life and death.

The 45-year-old graphic designer from Lawrence, Kansas, spent Friday in the hospital hooked up to an intravenous drip for a neurological disorder, getting the drugs that she says allow her to walk. Under her Affordable Care Act plan, she pays $480 a month for coverage and has an out-of-pocket maximum of $3,500 a year. If she were to lose it, she wouldn't be able to afford the $13,000-a-year out-of-pocket maximum under her husband's insurance. Her treatments cost about $90,000 every seven weeks.

As she followed the efforts to undo Obama's law, Williams found herself yelling at the TV a lot. She wrote her senators, telling how she felt "helpless and out of control," and how her hope was dwindling.

After watching coverage on Friday while tethered to a port in an outpatient area, she said when the bill was withdrawn, "I am thankful. I hope that this makes Trump the earliest lame duck ever." Whatever comes of the developments, they became the latest chapter in a long-running policy debate — from Teddy Roosevelt's call for national health insurance in 1912, through waves of New Deal and Great Society legislation that brought Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, but no comprehensive health system for all, to an unsuccessful attempt at universal coverage at the start of Bill Clinton's administration. For now at least, Trump joins a list of American presidents who sought but failed to bring major health reform.

Trump has railed against the 2010 ACA since the start, and GOP leaders in Congress have rallied for its repeal with dozens of votes during the Obama years. Republicans won the chance to replace the health law with Trump's win and control of both chambers of Congress.

"This is our opportunity to do it," White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Friday. "We've talked about this thing since 2010. Every Republican ... has campaigned, from dogcatcher on up, that they would do everything they could to repeal and replace 'Obamacare.'"

Meantime, the Affordable Care Act has enjoyed growing approval with Obama's departure from the White House and the emergence of details of Trump's plan. For the first time, the law drew majority approval in a Pew Research Center poll last month, with 54 percent of Americans in favor.

Even some of Trump's voters have come around to supporting the Obama law, or to a late realization that their coverage was made possible by it. Walt Whitlow, a 57-year-old carpenter from Volente, Texas, gave Trump his vote even as he came to view Obama's law as "an unbelievable godsend." He went without health coverage for nearly 20 years, but after the ACA passed, he signed up. Two months later, he was diagnosed with tongue cancer. He proclaims himself opposed to government handouts that he thinks people grow too dependent on, though he wouldn't say what he hoped would happen with the GOP bill. Still, its withdrawal brought relief for a man who says his ACA coverage kept him from massive debt and maybe worse.

"It saved my life," he said. "I really don't know what to say."

Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers David Lieb in Jefferson City, Missouri; Kelli Kennedy in Fort Lauderdale, Florida; P. Solomon Banda in Broomfield, Colorado; Mike Householder in Detroit; Rachel D'Oro in Anchorage, Alaska; and Carla K. Johnson in Chicago.

Sedensky can be reached at or

US Jews Wrestle With Arrest Of Jew In Bomb Threats Case

MARCH 24, 2017

Rosenbloom Monument Co. workers from left, Nathan Fohne, Derek Doolin and Philip Weiss hoist a headstone at the Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in University City, Mo., where over 150 headstones were tipped over. The cemetery is getting a show of support from cleanup volunteers, well-wishers and financial contributors from across many faiths.

NEW YORK (AP) — Jewish groups had pointed to scores of bomb threats against their communities as the most dramatic example of what they considered a surge in anti-Semitism. Some blamed a far-right emboldened by President Donald Trump. Now, that picture has been complicated by the arrest of an Israeli Jewish hacker who authorities say is responsible for the harassment.

Israeli police said the motive behind the threats was unclear. An attorney for the 19-year-old man, who was arrested Thursday, said her client had a "very serious medical condition" that might have affected his behavior. Earlier this month, U.S. law enforcement had arrested a former journalist in St. Louis, Juan Thompson, on charges he threatened Jewish organizations as part of a bizarre campaign to harass his former girlfriend. But Israeli police say the Jewish teen is the primary suspect in the more than 150 bomb threats in North America since early January.

Previously, Jonathan Greenblatt, chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League, which fights anti-Semitism and monitors extremism, had partly blamed Trump for creating an atmosphere that fueled the bomb threats and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, among other recent harassment. "His well-documented reluctance to address rising anti-Semitism helped to create an environment in which extremists felt emboldened," Greenblatt wrote last month.

On Feb. 28, in a meeting with state attorneys general, Trump had suggested the phoned-in bomb threats may have been designed to make "others look bad," according to Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro. The remark raised concerns that Trump was downplaying bigotry. That same night, Trump opened his address to Congress with a strong condemnation of the threats and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, which occurred in suburban St. Louis, Philadelphia and elsewhere.

In a phone interview Thursday from Washington, where Greenblatt was discussing anti-Semitism with members of Congress, he said, "It's not the identity of the culprit that's the issue," but the outcome of threats themselves, which terrified Jews and disrupted Jewish life.

He said anti-Semitism remained a serious concern, pointing to other recent incidents around the country. Swastikas were drawn throughout a New York City subway car with messages such as "Jews belong in the oven." In South Carolina, a white supremacist with felony convictions was charged with plotting an attack on a synagogue that officials said was inspired by the massacre at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. A Seattle synagogue was vandalized with a spray-painted message, "The Holocaust is fake history."

Steven Goldstein, executive director of the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect, a civil rights and social justice group based in New York, said the arrest in Israel doesn't change Trump's record of being slow and insufficiently forceful in condemning anti-Jewish prejudice and bigotry in general. The center had repeatedly pointed to the bomb threats as evidence of "a national emergency of anti-Semitism" and accused Trump of failing to recognize the "real evidence" behind the problem.

"Nobody has said that Donald Trump himself has spray-painted swastikas or tipped over gravestones or that he picked up the phone and made bomb threats," Goldstein said. "What we were condemning was the silence. Organizations had to shame Donald Trump into responding."

The White House has not commented on Thursday's arrest. Melissa Plotkin, director of community engagement and diversity at the York Jewish Community Center in Pennsylvania, which was the target of a bomb threat last month, said it was "troubling" to find out the suspect was Jewish. "I'm trying to make sense of it and wonder what was going through the mind of the person when they were carrying this out," Plotkin said. The Jewish Federations of North America called the case "heartbreaking."

Rabbi Joshua Hammerman of Temple Beth El in Stamford, Connecticut, said the case was an uncomfortable reminder of what he had been through. In 1999, medical waste marked with swastikas was left in his synagogue parking lot. The incident prompted an outpouring of support from religious leaders and others in the community. But then police charged a member of his congregation, an outcome Hammerman described as "somewhat embarrassing" and "difficult."

The rabbi expressed concern that the arrest of the Israeli-American teen would fuel denial of anti-Semitism and the Holocaust. Goldstein said his office had received emails Thursday claiming all reports of anti-Semitism were "fake news."

"I think we should never jump to conclusions as to who did a particular act and allow the process of investigation to play itself out," Hammerman said in a phone interview. "On the other hand, we should be equally vocal in calling out those who seem to condone such activity or at least don't explicitly condemn it."

Andrew Rehfield, chief executive of the Jewish Federation of St. Louis, said "finding out this guy was Jewish was baffling to us." Rehfield was among local leaders who organized the community's response to the cemetery vandalism last month, which drew donations and offers of help from Christians and Muslims, and political leaders from around the country. Some Jewish institutions in Missouri had also received bomb threats.

Rehfield worried that efforts to combat anti-Semitism would be undermined not only by the identity of the bomb threat suspect, but also the partisan prism through which such incidents are viewed. Rehfield had been criticized by opponents of Trump for accompanying Vice President Mike Pence on a visit to the vandalized cemetery. Then on Thursday, Rehfield said a Jewish Trump supporter distributed an email demanding Jewish leaders apologize to the president now that police say a Jew was responsible for the threats.

"I think it does speak to the extremism on either side and the lack of charity and the lack of nuance," Rehfield said. "None of us attributed this to Trump. None of us attributed this to (White House chief strategist Steve) Bannon. None of us attributed it to David Duke. I'm not going to apologize for wanting the administration to clearly condemn anti-Semitism."

How DSS Arrested Osama, Dantata, Okadigbo, Adenoyi Other Boko Haram Fighters

By Soni Daniel, Northern Region Editor
Vanguard, Nigeria, March 24, 2017

(ABUJA, NIGERIA) -- The Department of State Security Services, DSS, working in collaboration with other security agencies across Nigeria says it has arrested and detained two notorious Boko Haram fighters nicknamed Osama and Okadigbo.

Similarly, the security agency has taken into its custody several other leaders of the Boko Haram terrorists, who were on a mission to launch ferocious onslaught on many locations in the country before their arrests.

In a statement by Mr. Tony Opuiyo, the DSS explained that its proactive measures had resulted in the degrading of the capability of the malevolent elements to launch attacks on their designated targets.

Opuiyo said, “On 15th March 2017, Nasiru SANI (a.k.a OSAMA) was arrested along Ahmadu Bello Way, Bauchi. He is a Boko Haram top commander, and discovered to have escaped from Bauchi Central Prison in October 2010 and hid in Maiduguri, Borno State.

“On 1st and 2nd March, 2017, at Ngalda Town of Fika LGA, Yobe State and Nagazi area of Adavi LGA, Kogi State, Abdulazeez UMARU and Nuhu USMAN a.k.a OKADIGBO were respectively arrested. UMARU, who has confessed his membership of the Boko Haram sect, was arrested by the Service in concert with the local vigilante. Preliminary investigations have revealed the participation of USMAN in several deadly insurgent attacks in Kogi State.

“In the same vein, on 20th March, 2017, a suspected Boko Haram kingpin, Adenoyi ABDULSALAM was arrested in Ado Ekiti, Ekiti State by a Joint Military/DSS operation team. An Ak-47 rifle was recovered from the suspect who is presently undergoing investigation.

“ABDULSALAM was on the final stages of kidnapping some high level targets in Ekiti, not only to raise funds but to terrorise communities in the State. Prior to this arrest, several other Boko Haram suspects had been apprehended in various parts of Northern Nigeria especially the States of Bauchi, Yobe, Gombe, Nasarawa, Kaduna and Kogi.

“Similarly, on the same 13th March 2017, at Jeka-da-Fari Market, Gombe State, Adamu JIBRIN was arrested. He operated under the pseudo name of Dantata SULE and served as a middleman for Boko Haram members and their commanders especially the one simply identified as KANUMBU. Suspect affirmed his membership of the sect.

“Typical cases of arrest include that of 29 year Boko Haram member, Usman Ladan RAWA (a.k.a Mr. X) on 17th March 2017 at Lafia, Nasarawa State. RAWA was discovered to have rented accommodation at Lafia for Abdullahi ISA, known for his notorious terrorist actions. His plan was to establish an effective base to conduct terrorism, kidnapping and robbery operations in Abuja, Minna, and other adjoining States.

Opuiyo also revealed that a deadly terrorist gang that had been terrorizing parts of Kogi and Yobe states had been arrested by the operatives of the DSS. Among those arrested in the two states were: Suleiman YAHAYA who had been on the wanted list of security agencies but was arrested during a raid in Potiskum LGA, Yobe State, for his role in several terrorist attacks in Borno and Yobe States and Mohammed ISYAKA (a.k.a Maikwano), was also arrested for his complicity in Boko Haram attacks in the North East.

Others were the trio of Uwais ABUBAKAR, Abdullahi UMARU and Mukhtar SULEMAN who are Boko Haram terrorists arrested by the Service’s tactical team on the 9th February, 2017, at Ayingba, Dekina LGA of Kogi said to have been actively involved in series of attacks on select targets such as the Federal Polytechnic Idah, Kogi State University and the newly constructed Kogi State Revenue House, Lokoja.

House Sets Risky Health Care Vote After Trump Demands It

MARCH 24, 2017

Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney, right, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, and White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, depart after a Republican caucus meeting on Capitol Hill, Thursday, March 23, 2017, in Washington.

WASHINGTON (AP) — In a gamble with monumental political stakes, Republicans set course for a climactic House vote on their health care overhaul after President Donald Trump claimed he was finished negotiating with GOP holdouts and determined to pursue the rest of his agenda, win or lose.

House Speaker Paul Ryan set the showdown for Friday, following a nighttime Capitol meeting at which top White House officials told GOP lawmakers that Trump had decided the time for talk was over. "We have been promising the American people that we will repeal and replace this broken law because it's collapsing and it's failing families. And tomorrow we're proceeding," Ryan tersely told reporters after scheduling what loomed as the most momentous vote to date for Trump and for the Wisconsin Republican's own speakership.

In an embarrassing and stinging setback hours earlier, leaders abruptly postponed the vote because a rebellion by conservatives and moderates would have doomed the measure. They'd hoped for a roll call Thursday, which marked the seventh anniversary of President Barack Obama's enactment of his landmark health care statute that Republicans have vowed ever since to annul.

There was no evidence that leaders had nailed down sufficient support to prevail, nor that their decision to charge ahead was a feint and that they'd delay again if necessary. But they seemed to be calculating that at crunch time, enough dissidents would decide against sabotaging the bill, Trump's young presidency and the House GOP leadership's ability to set the agenda, with a single, crushing defeat.

"The president has said he wants the vote tomorrow," White House budget chief Mick Mulvaney told the lawmakers, according to Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., a Trump ally. "If for any reason it goes down, we're just going to move forward with additional parts of his agenda. This is our moment in time."

Even if they prevail, Republicans face an uphill climb in the Senate, where conservatives and moderates are also threatening to sink it. The GOP bill eliminates the Obama statute's unpopular fines on those who do not obtain coverage and the often generous subsidies for those who purchase insurance.

Instead, consumers would face a 30 percent premium penalty if they let coverage lapse. Republican tax credits would be based on age, not income. The bill would also end Obama's Medicaid expansion and trim future federal financing for the federal-state program and let states impose work requirements on some of its 70 million beneficiaries.

In a bid to coax support from conservatives, House leaders proposed a fresh amendment — to be voted on Friday — repealing Obama's requirement that insurers cover 10 specified services like maternity and mental health care. Conservatives have demanded the removal of those and other conditions the law imposes on insurers, arguing they drive premiums skyward.

Many moderates are opposed because they say the GOP bill would leave many voters uninsured. Medical associations, consumer groups and hospitals are opposed or voicing misgivings, and some Republican governors say the bill cuts Medicaid too deeply and would leave many low-income people uncovered.

Republicans can lose only 22 votes in the face of united Democratic opposition. A tally by The Associated Press found at least 32 "no" votes, but the figure was subject to fluctuation amid frantic GOP lobbying.

Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., head of the hard-right House Freedom Caucus, said he remained a "no" but didn't answer when asked whether the group still had enough votes to kill the legislation. He'd long said caucus opposition alone would defeat it without changes.

One member of that group, Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., responded indirectly when asked if his opposition had changed. "Everybody asked us to take a moment and reflect. Well, we'll reflect," he said. Other foes said they'd not flipped. These included moderate Reps. Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania, Dan Donovan of New York and Leonard Lance of New Jersey, plus conservative Walter Jones of North Carolina, who had his own words of warning.

"He's there for three-and-a-half more years," Jones said of Trump. "He better be careful. He's got a lot of issues coming." The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said changes Republican leaders had proposed before Thursday to win votes had cut the legislation's deficit reduction by more than half, to $150 billion over the next decade. But it would still result in 24 million more uninsured people in a decade.

Obama's law increased coverage through subsidized private insurance for people who don't have access to workplace plans, and a state option to expand Medicaid for low-income residents. More than 20 million people gained coverage since the law was passed in 2010.

Many who purchase individual health insurance and make too much to qualify for the law's tax credits have seen their premiums jump and their choices diminished.

Associated Press writers Matt Daly, Kevin Freking, Mary Clare Jalonick, Richard Lardner, Stephen Ohlemacher, Vivian Salama, Ken Thomas and Erica Werner contributed to this report.

Egypt's Mubarak Returns Home After Years-Long Detention

MARCH 24, 2017

Ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak waves to his supporters from his room at the Maadi Military Hospital as they celebrate the 43rd anniversary of the Oct. 6, 1973 war. An Egyptian security official said Froday, March 24, 2017 that the country’s ousted President Hosni Mubarak returned home, after his release.

CAIRO (AP) — Egypt's former President Hosni Mubarak returned home on Friday, free following his release from custody after legal proceedings that took years since his 2011 ouster — years during which the country witnessed major upheavals and rights activists saw their hopes scuttled that the autocrat would face justice for the deaths of hundreds who defied his rule.

Mubarak's release also marked a new chapter in the saga of an ignominious fate of a president whose people rose up against him, demanding the end of a 30-year rule hollowed out by corruption, economic inequities and reliance on feared security officials to keep its hold on power.

It also underscored how the aspirations of the Arab Spring movement that swept the entire region have bottomed out. Six years on, the mass uprisings in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, and Syria have each failed in some way, leading to civil wars or failed states.

According to an Egyptian security official, Mubarak left the Armed Forces hospital in Cairo's southern suburb of Maadi earlier in the morning. From there, he went to his house in the upscale district of Heliopolis under heavy security measures.

Two groups of security forces secured the route from the hospital to his house, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media. Mubarak's lawyer, Farid el-Deeb, refused to comment when contacted by The Associated Press.

The lawyer, however, told the Egyptian daily Al-Masry al-Youm that the ailing former president returned home with his two sons, Alaa and Gamal, and that the entire family, including Mubarak's wife Suzanne came together at his house to celebrate his return and have breakfast together.

The 88-year-old Mubarak was acquitted by Egypt's top appeals court on March 2 of charges that he ordered the killing of protesters during the 2011 popular uprising that led to his ouster. At that point, he had already served a three-year sentence for embezzling state funds while in detention in connection with the case on the deaths of protesters. A criminal court had ruled in May 2015 to jail Mubarak for three years and fine him millions of Egyptian pounds following his conviction for embezzling funds earmarked for the maintenance and renovation of presidential palaces. The ruling was upheld by another court in January 2016.

Prosecutors, however, reopened another corruption case on Thursday, linked to allegations that Mubarak received gifts from the state-run Al-Ahram newspaper worth $1 million, along with his family members. The case was closed before however the prosecutors appealed and the case restarted.

The order to release Mubarak was the latest in a series of court rulings in recent years in Egypt that acquitted some two dozen, Mubarak-era cabinet ministers, top police officers and aides charged with graft or in connection with the killing of some 900 protesters during the uprising.

Some of those acquitted have made a comeback in public life, while others partially paid back fortunes they illegally amassed. Activists, meanwhile, say Mubarak's acquittal of killing protesters has confirmed long-held suspicions that his trial — and that of scores of policemen who faced trial on the same charge — would never bring the justice they demanded.

It has also, according to activists and Egypt's beleaguered rights campaigners, confirmed widely-held suspicions that their "revolution" — as the uprising against Mubarak was dubbed — had effectively been reversed by the government of President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, a general-turned-politician, in order to restore the status quo in a country ruled undemocratically by men of military background for most of the past 60-plus years.

Powerful media figures loyal to el-Sissi have relentlessly vilified the 2011 uprising as a conspiracy and demonized its icons as foreign agents who pose a threat to the country's national security. The fallen protesters, contend some of them, were shot by members of the now-banned Islamist group, the Muslim Brotherhood.

The attacks began soon after el-Sissi, as army chief, led the 2013 ouster of the Brotherhood's Mohammed Morsi, after Mubarak Egypt's first freely elected leader whose one-year in office proved divisive.

Mubarak's sons were also convicted and sentenced to three years in prison in the same embezzlement case. They still face charges in an insider trading case, but both are free and have recently made a series of intensely publicized appearances greeted enthusiastically by hardcore supporters of their father.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Top Senate Dem Opposes Supreme Court Pick, Vows Filibuster

MARCH 23, 2017

Graphic shows profile information for Supreme Court nominee and selected opinions; 2c x 9 inches; 96.3 mm x 228 mm;

WASHINGTON (AP) — The top Senate Democrat said Thursday he will oppose President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee and lead a filibuster of the choice, setting up a politically charged showdown with Republicans with far-reaching implications for future judicial nominees.

New York Sen. Chuck Schumer criticized Judge Neil Gorsuch, saying he "almost instinctively favors the powerful over the weak" and would not serve as a check on Trump or be a mainstream justice. "I have concluded that I cannot support Neil Gorsuch's nomination," Schumer said on the Senate floor. "My vote will be no and I urge my colleagues to do the same."

Shortly before Schumer's announcement, Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey, who faces re-election next year in a state Trump won, also announced his opposition. Casey said he had "serious concerns about Judge Gorsuch's rigid and restrictive judicial philosophy, manifest in a number of opinions he has written on the 10th Circuit." Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., also announced he would oppose Gorsuch.

Democrats are still furious that Republicans blocked former President Barack Obama's nominee, Merrick Garland, and the seat on the high court has remained vacant for 13 months and counting. The GOP insisted that the next president make the nomination.

Liberals have pressured Democrats to resist all things Trump, including his nominees, although Gorsuch emerged unscathed from two days of testifying. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., now must decide whether to take the same step his Democratic predecessor did and change Senate rules to confirm Gorsuch and other Supreme Court nominees with a simple majority rather than the 60 votes now required to move forward.

"Gorsuch will be confirmed; I just can't tell you exactly how that will happen, yet," McConnell said in an interview with The Associated Press earlier this week. The Judiciary panel is expected to vote in the next two weeks to recommend Gorsuch favorably to the full Senate.

Democrats Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Ed Markey of Massachusetts have declared their opposition.

No Democrat has yet pledged to support the judge, but Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia said Wednesday he is open to voting for him. Hearings for a Supreme Court nominee usually dominate Congress, but that's not been the case over the four days of hearings. The Republican push to dismantle Obama's Affordable Care Act and the controversy surrounding the investigation into contact between Trump associates and Russia overshadowed the hearings.

On Thursday, lawyers, advocacy groups and former colleagues got their say on Gorsuch. Critics said he tended to rule for powerful interests and against workers, the disabled and environmental groups, but those who worked with him over the years sought to assure senators that he goes into each case committed to hearing and evaluating all points of view before making up his mind.

The American Bar Association's Nancy Scott Degan explained how a committee evaluating Gorsuch came up with its highest rating of well qualified. She said the committee contacted almost 5,000 people nationwide who might have knowledge of his qualifications. They examined his qualifications based on integrity, professional competence and temperament.

"The scope of our investigation was deep and broad," Degan said. "We do not give the well-qualified rating lightly." Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., also noted that Garland received the ABA's well-qualified rating, but didn't get a hearing. Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah said he agreed that Garland is a wonderful person and well qualified.

Retired U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Deanell Reece Tacha served with Gorsuch and told senators he brings to the bench a powerful intellect and does not use his role as judge for anything other than deciding the case before him.

Some witnesses who were critical of Gorsuch worried that he would not be a strong check on executive overreach. Elisa Massimino, president and CEO of Human Rights First, described him as someone "who wouldn't stand up against a presidential power grab," stemming from his service in the Justice Department during the Bush administration. And a Colorado man criticized Gorsuch for ruling against his autistic son in a case, saying Gorsuch's opinion eviscerated the minimal education requirements schools must provide disabled children.

Associated Press writer Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Prosecutor Charged With Taking $100,000 In Gifts, Trips

MARCH 22, 2017

Acting New Jersey U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick speaks during a news conference announcing corruption charges against Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams, Tuesday, March 21, 2017, in Philadelphia. Williams, Philadelphia's top prosecutor, was charged Tuesday with taking more than $160,000 in luxury gifts, Caribbean trips and cash, often in exchange for official favors that included help with a court case, according to a bribery and extortion indictment unsealed Tuesday.

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The city's top prosecutor accepted more than $100,000 in luxury gifts, Caribbean trips and cash, often in exchange for official favors including help with a court case, according to a bribery and extortion indictment unsealed Tuesday.

The indictment caps a nearly two-year investigation into District Attorney Seth Williams' financial affairs. Williams, a Democrat and career prosecutor who makes $175,000 a year, has said he ran into financial trouble after a divorce and while paying private-school tuition for his daughters.

However, defense lawyer Michael Diamondstein said Williams "vehemently denies that he ever compromised any investigation, case or law enforcement function." The 23-count indictment describes gifts from one business owner that included trips Williams took with his then-girlfriend to a Dominican Republic resort, where they stayed in a presidential suite; a custom $3,400 sofa; and $9,000 in cash or checks.

In exchange, authorities said, Williams offered to help the businessman's friend seek reduced jail time in a criminal case his office handled. He also had the businessman meet with an airport police official in an attempt to avoid enhanced screening when returning to the U.S. from abroad, they said.

Williams, known to frequent cigar bars and dine at the city's ritzy Union League private club, also spent $20,000 in funds earmarked for a relative's nursing home care, the indictment said. He was spending Tuesday huddled with family, a spokesman said, and was expected to surrender and be arraigned Wednesday.

Williams, the city's first black district attorney, announced last month he would not run for a third term this year. The 50-year-old said he showed poor judgment and regretted "mistakes in my personal life and in my personal financial life." Eight people, seven of them Democrats, are running for his seat in the predominantly Democratic city.

As recently as January, Williams had hoped to weather the scandal, vowing to earn back the "trust and respect" of his staff and the public. However, questions about the investigation dogged him as he tried to carry out his duties. The charges announced Tuesday included honest-services fraud.

Special agents with the FBI, the IRS and the Department of Homeland Security declined to elaborate on the charges. They would not explain, for instance, why the foreign traveler sought quicker screenings, but New Jersey acting U.S. Attorney William Fitzpatrick said no security measures had been thwarted. His office supervised the case given Williams' work ties to Department of Justice officials in Philadelphia.

The indictment also offered no evidence that Williams intervened in the criminal case, although texts show Williams suggested the defendant delay his plea so he could get the file and "see what can be done" to get him a lower jail sentence.

"There is very little I can do the day before without it looking extremely suspicious," Williams texted the defendant's friend. The charges come as former Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane, the first woman and first Democrat elected as the state's top prosecutor, appeals her conviction and 10- to 23-month sentence in a 2016 perjury and obstruction case.

Williams failed to disclose income sources and 89 gifts on financial statements from 2010 through 2015 and omitted 10 more on a belated filing, authorities said. Those gifts, not all of them mentioned in the indictment, ranged from sideline passes for Philadelphia Eagles games for several years to $21,000 in airfare to a free roof on his house and a $6,500 Rolex watch from a girlfriend.

At the same time, he led a high-profile prosecution of city lawmakers who had taken cash or jewelry, valued at perhaps a few thousand dollars, from an informant. During his seven-year tenure, his office filed the first charges against several Roman Catholic priests and earned a trial conviction against the first U.S. church official charged over the handling of priest sex-abuse complaints. The conviction has since been overturned, although the official served nearly three years in prison.

State laws require public officials to file annual reports and list gifts over $250. City officials cannot take anything worth more than $99 from anyone with an interest in any official action. Federal bribery laws typically involve a quid pro quo, or evidence the person got something in exchange for the gift.

This story has been corrected to show the indictment lists more than $100,000 in proceeds, not $160,000.

US, UK Bar Laptop Carry-Ons From Mideast, N. Africa Flights

MARCH 21, 2017

A laptop is seen in Las Vegas. Royal Jordanian Airlines is advising passengers that laptops, iPads, cameras and other electronics won’t be allowed in carry-on luggage for U.S.-bound flights starting Tuesday, March 21, 2017.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. and British governments, citing unspecified threats, are barring passengers on some international flights from mostly Middle Eastern and North African countries from bringing laptops, tablets, electronic games and other devices on board in carry-on bags.

Passengers flying to the United States from 10 airports in eight countries will be allowed only cellphones and smartphones in the passenger cabins, senior Trump administration officials said. Larger electronic items must be checked.

The British security rules will affect flights from six countries and will bar passengers from taking "any phones, laptops or tablets larger than a normal sized mobile or smartphone," into the cabin. The U.S. rules took effect Tuesday, and airlines will have until 3 a.m. EDT Saturday to implement them or face being barred from flying to the United States, the officials said.

They said the decision was prompted by "evaluated intelligence" about potential threats to airplanes bound for the United States. The officials would not discuss the timing of the intelligence or if any particular terror group is thought to be planning an attack.

Trump administration officials briefed reporters on condition they not be identified publicly. That was despite President Donald Trump's repeated insistence that anonymous sources should not be trusted.

The electronics ban affects flights from international airports to the U.S. from in Amman, Jordan; Kuwait City, Kuwait; Cairo; Istanbul; Jeddah and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; Casablanca, Morocco; Doha, Qatar; and Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. About 50 flights a day, all on foreign carriers, will be affected. The officials said no U.S.-based airlines have nonstop flights from those cities to the United States.

The British security rules will apply to flights from Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia. With the order affecting flights from predominantly Muslim nations, the ban may invite comparisons to Trump's orders barring travel from several Muslim-majority-nations, which have been blocked by courts. Early in his candidacy, Trump had called on barring Muslims from entering the United States.

But the comparison has its limits. The travel ban was more severe, separating families and barring students from studying in the U.S. The laptop ban is more of an inconvenience and its stated reason is to protect the very travelers who are affected by it. Still, it's bound to annoy powerful business people and diplomats, and could affect the travel plans of wealthy tourists sought after by the U.S. travel industry.

Details of the electronics ban were first disclosed by Royal Jordanian and the official news agency of Saudi Arabia. In its statement, Royal Jordanian said the electronics ban would affect its flights to New York, Chicago, Detroit and Montreal.

A spokesman for Royal Jordanian says the airliner has not yet started to enforce the new U.S. regulation. Basel Kilani has told The Associated Press that the airline was still awaiting formal instructions from the relevant U.S. departments, which could possibly come later on Tuesday.

EgyptAir officials said the airline will implement that ban on Friday, while Emirates officials said the new security procedures would start on Saturday for its passengers. However, the Mideast's biggest airline is confirming that U.S.-bound passengers will be prevented from carrying electronic gadgets aboard aircraft.

Dubai-based Emirates said Tuesday the ban takes effect on Saturday. That guidance differs from the information provided by senior Trump administration officials, who have said the ban is in place from Tuesday

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly phoned lawmakers over the weekend to brief them on aviation security issues that have prompted the impending electronics ban, according a congressional aide briefed on the discussion. The aide was not authorized to speak publicly about the issue and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The administration officials who briefed reporters about the ban said foreign officials were told about the impending order starting Sunday. A U.S. government official said such a ban has been considered for several weeks. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to disclose the internal security discussions by the federal government.

The ban would begin just before Wednesday's meeting of the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State group in Washington. A number of top Arab officials were expected to attend the State Department gathering. It was unclear whether their travel plans were related to any increased worry about security threats.

Most major airports in the United States have a computer tomography or CT scanner for checked baggage, which creates a detailed picture of a bag's contents. The equipment can warn an operator of potentially dangerous material, and may provide better security than the X-ray machines used to screen passengers and their carry-on bags. All checked baggage must be screened for explosives.

Associated Press writers Adam Schreck in Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Karin Laub in Amman, Jordan; Maamoun Youssef in Cairo, David Koenig in Dallas, Paisley Dodds and Danica Kirka in London, and Matthew Lee, Joan Lowy and Ted Bridis in Washington contributed to this report.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

AP Explains: Senate Confirmation And Supreme Court Pick

MARCH 19, 2017

Supreme Court Justice nominee Neil Gorsuch, center, accompanied by former New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte, right, arrives for a meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2017. Thirteen months after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, the Senate is finally holding confirmation hearings to fill the vacancy, considering President Donald Trump’s choice of Gorsuch for the high court. Republicans refused even to grant a hearing to former President Barack Obama’s choice, but now the Senate will exercise its “advice and consent” role, a politically fraught decision with liberals pressuring Democrats to reject Gorsuch. A look at the process.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Thirteen months after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, the Senate is finally holding confirmation hearings to fill the vacancy, considering President Donald Trump's choice of Neil Gorsuch for the high court.

Republicans refused to even grant a hearing to former President Barack Obama's choice, Merrick Garland, insisting the next president should decide. Now, the Senate will exercise its "advice and consent" role, a politically fraught decision with liberals pressuring Democrats to reject Gorsuch.

The Senate has confirmed 124 Supreme Court justices since the United States was founded. The process is arduous, with dozens of one-on-one meetings with senators in recent weeks giving way to days of testimony starting Monday. Gorsuch and the Judiciary Committee's 20 members will give opening statements that day. Gorsuch will answer questions Tuesday and Wednesday, and outside witnesses will testify Thursday.

A look at the confirmation process, its rules, terminology and politics:


The Constitution lays out the process in just a few words, saying the president shall nominate Supreme Court justices "by and with the advice and consent of the Senate." Senate rules and tradition dictate the rest. President Donald Trump nominated Gorsuch, a judge on the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, on Jan. 31 and set the process in motion.


Gorsuch has met with 72 of the 100 senators in advance of his hearings. Like other nominees, he has participated in mock questioning facilitated by the Trump administration. These are sometimes dubbed "murder boards" because of their intensity.

On Monday, Gorsuch will have to sit through 10-minute statements from each of the 20 members of the committee, which will take several hours. After that, Gorsuch will finally speak, delivering his own 10-minute opening statement.


In past hearings, the questions have centered around the nominee's legal qualifications, decisions as a judge, positions on political issues, interpretations of the Constitution, general legal philosophy and current legal controversies.

The stakes are high with any court pick, and especially now as confirmation of Gorsuch would ensure a conservative advantage on the court.

Gorsuch will face the same dilemma of many nominees before him — how to answer the questions clearly and concisely without weighing in on issues that could come before the Court or get himself in political trouble.

Democrats are likely to push him if he is reluctant. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York has already criticized him for deflecting questions when he asked him during their meeting whether Trump's immigration ban is constitutional.


The fourth and final day of the hearings, Thursday, will feature outside witnesses, usually former colleagues and advocacy groups who will testify for or against Gorsuch. In the past, one of the first to testify has been the chair of the American Bar Association's Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary. That group has given Gorsuch a unanimous "well qualified" rating.


By tradition, the committee will report the nomination to the Senate floor even if the majority of the panel opposes the nominee, so the full Senate can have the ultimate say. So instead of approving or rejecting the nominee, the committee will usually report the nomination favorably, unfavorably or without recommendation.

Of the 15 most recent nominations, 13 were reported favorably. Robert Bork, whose nomination was ultimately rejected by the Senate, was reported unfavorably in 1987; Clarence Thomas, who won confirmation, was reported without recommendation in 1991.

Gorsuch is expected to be reported favorably by the Republican-led committee.


Gorsuch is expected to have support from more than half the Senate, but getting to that vote will require several procedural maneuvers. Some Democrats have already said they will try to hold up the nomination, which means Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., will have to hold a procedural vote requiring 60 votes to move forward.

Republicans have a 52-48 majority, so at least eight Democrats and independents will have to vote with Republicans. It's unclear whether Republicans will have those votes, meaning Democrats have the ability to block the nomination.

If the nomination is blocked, McConnell has another option. He could hold a vote to change the rules and lower the vote threshold. Former House Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., made a similar change for lower court nominations in 2013, a move called "the nuclear option." McConnell was extremely critical of that move but may have to do it if that's his last option to confirm Gorsuch.


Once the Senate gets past procedural votes, it can hold a simple majority vote to confirm. In recent years, senators have sat at their desks during a Supreme Court vote and stood one by one to cast their votes. The votes have become more partisan over the years; the last unanimous vote was for Justice Anthony Kennedy in 1987.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Travel Ban Fight Personal For Hawaii's 'Scholarly Gentleman'

MARCH 18, 2017

Hawaii Attorney General Douglas Chin sits in his office in Honolulu. Hawaii was the first state to file a lawsuit challenging President Donald Trump's revised travel ban. For Chin, the son of Chinese immigrants, fighting the travel ban is personal.

HONOLULU (AP) — Growing up in Washington state, Douglas Chin says he was the stereotypical "smart Chinese kid that got straight As." His parents taught him not to stick out too much and used to say "don't poke the lion."

So when Chin, now the Hawaii attorney general, was deciding on whether to challenge the Trump administration's latest travel ban, he understood those who said that it wasn't the state's fight. But the Stanford University-educated lawyer stepped into the spotlight, making Hawaii the first state to challenge President Trump's revised travel ban — and convince a federal judge to temporarily block it before it took effect.

His motivation was personal, he said. Chin said he felt as if he was invisible during his time in an overwhelmingly white suburban Seattle high school, and wanted to fight for an invisible minority in Hawaii: Muslims.

"It really hits home with me," he said. "It worries me about this society and what's happening." Before his appointment as attorney general, Chin, 50, was Honolulu's managing director (who would serve as acting mayor when the mayor was out of town) and a prosecutor. People who know and worked with him say he is nice, smart and a fast walker.

Some, however, criticized him for challenging the travel ban. "Let's allow the big states with more resources to fight this issue," Republican state Rep. Gene Ward said in a statement. "My sense is that the people of Hawaii would rather see potholes fixed rather than trying to lead the nation against an executive order."

Those who have worked with Chin say the reason he is fighting the ban is simple: He's kind. Jean Ireton was a fellow Honolulu prosecutor with Chin, who started out in traffic court. He had "some of the toughest, most god-awful trials that we had there," she said.

Those kinds of cases showed her the worst in humanity, she said, but Chin didn't see them that way: "He's just a kinder person than I am. I don't have as much faith in people as he does." Ireton and Chin have differing views on the travel ban. "I do have a problem with the amount of vetting they're able to do in those countries," she said. "Doug sees it from a people perspective. He sees it from people who are suffering."

U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson on Wednesday blocked the federal government from enforcing its ban on travel from six mostly Muslim countries and its suspension of the nation's refugee program. The judge agreed with Hawaii that the travel ban amounts to discrimination based on nationality and religion.

Trump called the ruling an example of "unprecedented judicial overreach" and called his new travel ban a watered-down version of the first one. He said the order was a necessary measure to prevent terrorists from entering the country.

For Chin, the issue of immigration is a personal one. He is named after the Christian missionary doctor who sponsored his Chinese parents' immigration to Washington state, where Chin was born. His middle name Shih-Ging means "scholarly gentleman, which is weird," Chin said.

"I think that's where you probably can catch a spark of a personal sense of duty about this whole travel ban," he said, describing his parents emigrating in 1957 at a time when U.S. immigration policy still imposed nation-based quotas.

Chin eventually moved to Honolulu in 1989 as part of a job transfer with IBM, and was exposed to Hawaii's diversity. "All of a sudden I wasn't in this place where I felt invisible anymore so that was really empowering," he said.

Chin's career after IBM took him to the University of Hawaii law school and then various stints in the Honolulu prosecutor's office and private practice. On a bookshelf in Chin's office is a newspaper front page from a murder conviction he won in 2010. A 15-year-old boy who was tried as an adult and convicted of murdering his 51-year-old neighbor is one of Chin's most memorable cases.

Near the shelf are portraits of Chin's children and wife, who is white and from New York. He describes his daughter, 18, and son, 16, as "hapa," a Hawaiian term that locals use for mixed-race people. Former Honolulu prosecutor and former mayor Peter Carlisle recalled first meeting him at Chin's church while Carlisle was campaigning. Carlisle said he was so impressed with Chin's public speaking, he told him to look him up if he ever needed a job.

Chin attends Oahu Church of Christ, a nondenominational Christian church that meets in rented spaces at the university or an elementary school. At church, Chin arranges music and sings acapella — he has perfect pitch, he notes sheepishly.

He found the time to go to Sunday services the week of the Honolulu hearing. After the hearing, Chin stopped at his office and then to Waikiki where he was hosting a meeting of the Conference of Western Attorneys General because he's the group's chairman.

Chin has also spent a lot of time giving interviews to news organizations nationwide about his lawsuit. Part of the reason he does that is to educate — even those who live in Hawaii. "It's a no-brainer why we have to object to this. I totally know how there's another segment of the population that to them it just doesn't connect," he said. "What does the Middle East have to do with Hawaii?"

The answer, he said, is Hawaii's some 5,000 Muslims are the invisible minority and Chin knows first-hand what that feels like. "People in Hawaii don't know how to process a Muslim other than what they see on TV," he said.

Young Americans: Most See Trump As Illegitimate President

MARCH 18, 2017

Graphic shows results of GenForward poll on younger Americans̢۪ attitudes toward Donald Trump and his presidency; 2c x 4 inches; 96.3 mm x 101 mm;

WASHINGTON (AP) — Jermaine Anderson keeps going back to the same memory of Donald Trump, then a candidate for president of the United States, referring to some Mexican immigrants as rapists and murderers.

"You can't be saying that (if) you're the president," says Anderson, a 21-year-old student from Coconut Creek, Florida. That Trump is undeniably the nation's 45th president doesn't sit easily with young Americans like Anderson who are the nation's increasingly diverse electorate of the future, according to a new poll. A majority of young adults — 57 percent — see Trump's presidency as illegitimate, including about three-quarters of blacks and large majorities of Latinos and Asians, the GenForward poll found.

GenForward is a poll of adults age 18 to 30 conducted by the Black Youth Project at the University of Chicago with The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. A slim majority of young whites in the poll, 53 percent, consider Trump a legitimate president, but even among that group 55 percent disapprove of the job he's doing, according to the survey.

"That's who we voted for. And obviously America wanted him more than Hillary Clinton," said Rebecca Gallardo, a 30-year-old nursing student from Kansas City, Missouri, who voted for Trump. Trump's legitimacy as president was questioned earlier this year by Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga.: "I think the Russians participated in helping this man get elected. And they helped destroy the candidacy of Hillary Clinton."

Trump routinely denies that and says he captured the presidency in large part by winning states such as Michigan and Wisconsin that Clinton may have taken for granted. Overall, just 22 percent of young adults approve of the job he is doing as president, while 62 percent disapprove.

Trump's rhetoric as a candidate and his presidential decisions have done much to keep the question of who belongs in America atop the news, though he's struggling to accomplish some key goals. Powered by supporters chanting, "build the wall," Trump has vowed to erect a barrier along the southern U.S. border and make Mexico pay for it — which Mexico refuses to do. Federal judges in three states have blocked Trump's executive orders to ban travel to the U.S. from seven — then six — majority-Muslim nations.

In Honolulu, U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson this week cited "significant and unrebutted evidence of religious animus" behind the travel ban, citing Trump's own words calling for "a complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States."

And yes, Trump did say in his campaign announcement speech on June 6, 2015: "When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best...They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people." He went farther in subsequent statements, later telling CNN: "Some are good and some are rapists and some are killers."

It's extraordinary rhetoric for the leader of a country where by around 2020, half of the nation's children will be part of a minority race or ethnic group, the Census Bureau projects. Non-Hispanic whites are expected to be a minority by 2044.

Of all of Trump's tweets and rhetoric, the statements about Mexicans are the ones to which Anderson returns. He says Trump's business background on paper is impressive enough to qualify him for the presidency. But he suggests that's different than Trump earning legitimacy as president.

"I'm thinking, he's saying that most of the people in the world who are raping and killing people are the immigrants. That's not true," said Anderson, whose parents are from Jamaica. Megan Desrochers, a 21-year-old student from Lansing, Michigan, says her sense of Trump's illegitimacy is more about why he was elected.

"I just think it was kind of a situation where he was voted in based on his celebrity status verses his ethics," she said, adding that she is not necessarily against Trump's immigration policies. The poll participants said in interviews that they don't necessarily vote for one party's candidates over another's, a prominent tendency among young Americans, experts say. And in the survey, neither party fares especially strongly.

Just a quarter of young Americans have a favorable view of the Republican Party, and 6 in 10 have an unfavorable view. Majorities of young people across racial and ethnic lines hold negative views of the GOP.

The Democratic Party performs better, but views aren't overwhelmingly positive. Young people are more likely to have a favorable than an unfavorable view of the Democratic Party by a 47 percent to 36 percent margin. But just 14 percent say they have a strongly favorable view of the Democrats.

Views of the Democratic Party are most favorable among young people of color. Roughly 6 in 10 blacks, Asians and Latinos hold positive views of the party. Young whites are somewhat more likely to have unfavorable than favorable views, 47 percent to 39 percent.

As for Trump, 8 in 10 young people think he is doing poorly in terms of the policies he's put forward and 7 in 10 have negative views of his presidential demeanor. "I do not like him as a person," says Gallardo of Trump. She nonetheless voted for Trump because she didn't trust Clinton. "I felt like there wasn't much choice."

The poll of 1,833 adults age 18-30 was conducted Feb. 16 through March 6 using a sample drawn from the probability-based GenForward panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. young adult population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 4 percentage points.

The survey was paid for by the Black Youth Project at the University of Chicago, using grants from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Ford Foundation.

Respondents were first selected randomly using address-based sampling methods, and later interviewed online or by phone.


GenForward polls:

Black Youth Project: