US hails Turkish cease-fire; Kurds must vacate border area
ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — The U.S. and Turkey agreed Thursday to a cease-fire in the Turks' deadly attacks on Kurdish fighters in northern Syria, requiring the Kurds to vacate the area in an arrangement that largely solidifies Turkey's position and aims in the weeklong conflict. The deal includes a conditional halt to American economic sanctions.
After negotiations with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence hailed the five-day cease-fire as the way to end the bloodshed caused by Turkey's invasion. He remained silent on whether it amounted to a second abandonment of America's former Kurdish allies in the fight against the Islamic State group.
Turkish troops and Turkish-backed Syrian fighters launched their offensive against Kurdish forces in northern Syria a week ago, two days after President Donald Trump suddenly announced he was withdrawing the U.S. military from the area. Trump was widely criticized for turning on the Kurds, who had taken heavy casualties as partners with the U.S. in fighting IS extremists since 2016.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the United States had accepted the idea of a "safe zone" long pushed by Turkey, and he insisted Turkish armed forces will control the zone. He also made clear that Turkey will not stop at a previously limited zone; he said Turkish control of the Syrian side of the border must extend all the way to the Iraqi border.
The commander of Kurdish-led forces in Syria, Mazloum Abdi , told Kurdish TV, "We will do whatever we can for the success of the cease-fire agreement." But one Kurdish official, Razan Hiddo, declared that Kurdish people would refuse to live under Turkish occupation.
White House: Ukraine aid held up in part over election probe
WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House acknowledged Thursday that President Donald Trump's decision to hold up military aid to Ukraine was linked to his demand that Kyiv investigate the Democratic National Committee and the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign.
The admission from acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney raised questions at the Justice Department and brought swift rebuke from Democrats, who cast his words as an admission of wrongdoing. Mulvaney said Trump did nothing improper because he was asking for help investigating a prior election, not seeking assistance with the 2020 contest. It's illegal to seek or receive foreign help of value in a U.S. election.
In the White House's most granular explanation of the decision to withhold military aid from Ukraine, Mulvaney said the president's move was part of efforts to clean up corruption in the Eastern European country. He appeared to be referring to unsubstantiated conspiracy theories about a purported Ukrainian link to Russia's hack of the DNC during the last presidential election.
"The look back to what happened in 2016 certainly was part of the thing that he was worried about in corruption with that nation," Mulvaney told reporters in the White House briefing room.
"Did he also mention to me in the past the corruption that related to the DNC server? Absolutely, no question about that," Mulvaney continued. "That's why we held up the money."
US envoy says Giuliani was given role on Ukraine policy
WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. ambassador to the European Union said Thursday that President Donald Trump instructed him and other envoys to work with his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, on Ukraine policy and that he was "disappointed" by the directive and disagreed with it.
Gordon Sondland's closed-door testimony to House impeachment investigators was aimed at distancing himself from Trump and Giuliani's efforts to pressure Ukraine into investigating Democratic rival Joe Biden and his son Hunter.
Sondland said he was concerned that the president delegated to Giuliani foreign policy responsibilities that he thought belonged to the State Department, but Sondland followed Trump's instructions anyway. He insisted that he played no role in encouraging investigations of Biden, telling lawmakers that he thought it improper to invite a foreign government to conduct criminal probes to influence American elections.
The ambassador was the latest in a series of witnesses to be privately interviewed by three House committees conducting the impeachment investigation. He was one of several current and former Trump administration officials who have provided new information — and detailed diplomats' concerns — about Trump and Giuliani and their attempts to influence Ukraine.
White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney defended Giuliani's involvement in foreign policy, saying, "That's the president's call." Even if some people don't like it, he added, "it's not Illegal. It's not impeachable. The president gets to use who he wants to use."
Boris Johnson gets EU Brexit deal; next hurdle is Parliament
BRUSSELS (AP) — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's career of disdain for the European Union was a thing of the past on Thursday as he and the bloc's leaders celebrated their long-sought Brexit deal. He now faces an opponent closer to home: his own Parliament.
With the ink barely dry on the proposal and Johnson still happily backslapping EU leaders at a summit in Brussels, a chorus of British party leaders said they would vote against the deal. Crucially, the Northern Irish party that supports Johnson's minority government also stood opposed, leaving it uncertain if the prime minister would get the votes he needs to ratify the agreement.
After an intense week of talks and with only two weeks to go until Britain's scheduled departure on Oct. 31, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker broke the tension with a tweet Thursday morning: "We have one! It's a fair and balanced agreement for the EU and the UK and it is testament to our commitment."
The deal found a way to avoid a hard border between Ireland, an EU member, and the U.K.'s Northern Ireland. It crucially also lays a path for Britain's orderly departure, which Britons approved in a referendum more than three years ago.
European leaders unanimously endorsed the proposal on Thursday, formally sending it to the British Parliament, which will consider it in a special session Saturday.
Cummings, powerful congressman leading Trump probe, has died
BALTIMORE (AP) — Maryland Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, a sharecropper's son who rose to become a civil rights champion and the chairman of one of the U.S. House committees leading an impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump, died Thursday of complications from longstanding health problems. He was 68.
Cummings was a formidable orator who advocated for the poor in his black-majority district , which encompasses a large portion of Baltimore and more well-to-do suburbs.
As chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, Cummings led investigations of the president's government dealings, including probes in 2019 relating to Trump's family members serving in the White House.
Trump criticized the Democrat's district as a "rodent-infested mess" where "no human being would want to live." The comments came weeks after Trump drew bipartisan condemnation following his calls for Democratic congresswomen of color to go back to their "broken and crime-infested countries."
Cummings replied that government officials must stop making "hateful, incendiary comments" that distract the nation from its real problems, including mass shootings and white supremacy.
Fort Worth police shooting shatters community trust
FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Yashunn Hale isn't sure he would call the police to report a crime. Not since an officer killed Hale's neighbor in her home.
Residents of Atatiana Jefferson's Fort Worth neighborhood said they were hesitant to dial 911 even before a white officer shot the 28-year-old black woman through a bedroom window Saturday. Now, some in the overwhelmingly black and Hispanic area say calling law enforcement is too dangerous.
"It would have to be extreme" to call, said Hale, a 51-year-old black man. "It's too much 50/50 in the air. It's not that I'm scared of the police, but you just don't know who you're going to catch on the wrong day."
Jefferson was playing video games with her 8-year-old nephew late at night when she was killed by an officer responding to a call about an open front door. Aaron Dean, 34, did not identify himself as an officer before opening fire and there was no evidence he knocked on the door. He resigned and was charged Monday with murder.
The woman's death shattered the trust police have been trying to build with communities of color in the Texas city of 900,000, which has long had complaints of racially unequal policing and excessive force.
School's out: Chicago teachers strike, 1st day deal unlikely
CHICAGO (AP) — Striking teachers marched in picket lines outside hundreds of Chicago schools on Thursday after their union and city officials failed to reach a contract deal in the nation's third-largest school district, canceling classes for more than 300,000 students for the duration of a walkout that seemed likely to head into a second day.
The strike in the nation's third-largest school district came after the Chicago Teachers Union confirmed Wednesday night that its 25,000 members would not return to their classrooms. It follows months of negotiations between the union and Chicago Public Schools that failed to resolve disputes over pay and benefits, class size and teacher preparation time.
Picketing teachers said Thursday the walkout was about getting more resources and smaller class sizes for students in the cash-strapped district, not about putting more money in their pockets.
Outside Smyth Elementary, a predominantly black and low-income school on the city's near South Side, art teacher John Houlihan said "we're not fighting for paychecks and health care. It's the kids."
"It's ridiculous to say that you can put these kids who are dealing with profound poverty and profound homelessness in classes of 30-40 kids," said Houlihan, who picketed with about 20 other teachers and staff as drivers passed by, honking their horns. "That's not manageable and it is not an environment for learning."
US picks Trump resort for G-7; critics call choice 'brazen'
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump's suggestion that his Miami golf resort host next year's Group of Seven summit became a reality Thursday, sparking an outcry from critics who called it the most blatant example yet of him using the power of his office to boost his business empire.
"There are folks who will never get over the fact that it's a Trump property, but we're still going to go there," acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said in announcing Trump National Doral as host. "It's not the only place. It's the best place."
Mulvaney said that the president will not profit from the summit because it will be booked "at cost" and that it stood out from a dozen sites considered because of its location and amenities. But it at least creates the appearance of a conflict of interest because, unlike foreign dignitaries who can choose to stay at the president's Washington hotel and other properties, they have no choice but to spend money at his resort during the June 10-12 summit.
"He is doubling down on his corruption," said ethics lawyer Kathleen Clark of Washington University School of Law in St. Louis. "He's daring anyone to prevent him from further enriching himself from the presidency."
The decision comes as several lawsuits accuse Trump of violating the Constitution's emoluments clause, which bans the president from receiving gifts or payments from foreign governments. It also comes as Trump has been repeatedly accusing Joe Biden's family of profiting from public office because of Hunter Biden's business activities in Ukraine when his father was vice president.
Riots darken Catalan separatist dream of peaceful secession
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — For years, Catalonia's separatist movement painstakingly built an amiable image of its quest to secede from Spain: Smiling parents and grandparents with children in tow marched under the Mediterranean sun, waving the flags of their cause and cheerily chanting "independence!"
But over the course of this week, that friendly face was replaced by the snarling visage of a furious young man hurling gasoline bombs and chunks of pavement at police struggling to contain riots that have turned downtown Barcelona and other towns in the wealthy northeastern region into no-go zones at night.
A failed 2017 attempt to declare independence left the separatist movement rudderless: Twelve of its leaders were arrested in the wake of the illegal referendum held by Catalonia's government, and the rest of the top echelon, including former Catalan regional president Carles Puigdemont, fled Spain. Frustration over the fact that the breakaway attempt received no international support has been building since then.
So the fuse was lit when Spain's the Supreme Court on Monday found 12 of the movement's leaders guilty for their role in the referendum. Nine were given nine to 13 years for sedition. With no major leader left on the ground to contain it, the rage exploded — aided by technology that has helped much more loosely organized groups to plan protests and hide their movements from police.
For four successive nights, protests have spiraled out of control come nightfall, with demonstrators burning cars and hundreds of trash cans, causing 1.1-million-euros-worth of damage ($1.2 million) and eventually clashing with police in Barcelona, a leading European tourist destination. Fires also raged in other towns across Catalonia, an industrial powerhouse region that is home to 7.5 million people and has its own language and cultural traditions.
Space station's 2 women prep for 1st all-female spacewalk
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — Men have floated out the hatch on all 420 spacewalks conducted over the past half-century.
That changes Friday with spacewalk No. 421.
NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir will make "HERstory," as NASA is calling it, with the first all-female spacewalk. All four men aboard the International Space Station will remain inside, as Koch and Meir go out to replace a broken battery charger.
The battery charger failed after Koch and a male crewmate installed new batteries outside the space station last week. NASA put the remaining battery replacements on hold to fix the problem and moved up the women's planned spacewalk by three days.
NASA, meanwhile, is asking schoolteachers to share photos of their students celebrating "HERstory in the making." The pictures might end up on the spacewalk broadcast.