AP News in Brief for Oct. 18

NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch prepare on the International Space Station for the first all-female spacewalk, scheduled for Oct. 18, 2019.(Photo courtesy of NASA)

The Associated Press

Turkey cease-fire, Clinton email probe, withholding Ukraine aid, Syria cease-fire, Brexit deal, El Chapo's son, spacewalk and more

Trump touts Turkey cease-fire, even as it appears shaky

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump punched back Friday at criticism that his Syria withdrawal is damaging U.S. credibility, betraying Kurdish allies and opening the door for a possible resurgence of the Islamic State. He touted a cease-fire agreement that seemed at risk as Turkey and Kurdish fighters differed over what it required and whether combat had halted.

"We've had tremendous success I think over the last couple of days," Trump declared. He added that "we've taken control of the oil in the Middle East" -- a claim that seemed disconnected from any known development there.

He made the assertion twice Friday, but other U.S. officials were unable to explain what he meant.

Calling his Syria approach "a little bit unconventional," the president contended that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as well as the Syrian Kurdish fighters the Turks are battling agree that the U.S.-brokered case-fire was the right step and were complying with it.

"There is good will on both sides & a really good chance for success," he wrote on Twitter.

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38 people cited for violations in Clinton email probe

WASHINGTON (AP) — The State Department has completed its internal investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's use of private email and found violations by 38 people, some of whom may face disciplinary action.

The investigation, launched more than three years ago, determined that those 38 people were "culpable" in 91 cases of sending classified information that ended up in Clinton's personal email, according to a letter sent to Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley this week and released on Friday. The 38 are current and former State Department officials but were not identified.

The investigation covered 33,000 emails that Clinton turned over for review after her use of the private email account became public. The department said it found a total of 588 violations involving information then or now deemed to be classified but could not assign fault in 497 cases.

For current and former officials, culpability means the violations will be noted in their files and will be considered when they apply for or go to renew security clearances. For current officials, there could also be some kind of disciplinary action. But it was not immediately clear what that would be.

Although the report identified violations, it said investigators had found "no persuasive evidence of systemic, deliberate mishandling of classified information."

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Shifting explanations for withholding aid draw GOP alarm

WASHINGTON (AP) — The shifting White House explanation for President Donald Trump's decision to withhold military aid from Ukraine drew alarm Friday from Republicans as the impeachment inquiry brought a new test of their alliance.

Trump, in remarks at the White House, stood by his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, whose earlier comments undermined the administration's defense in the impeachment probe. Speaking Thursday at a news conference, Mulvaney essentially acknowledged a quid pro quo with Ukraine that Trump has long denied, saying U.S. aid was withheld from Kyiv to push for an investigation of the Democratic National Committee and the 2016 election. He later clarified his remarks.

Trump appeared satisfied with Mulvaney's clarification and the president dismissed the entire House inquiry as "a terrible witch hunt. This is so bad for our country."

But former Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who ran against Trump in the 2016 Republican primary, said he now supports impeaching the president.

Mulvaney's admission, he said, was the "final straw." ''The last 24 hours has really forced me to review all of this," Kasich said on CNN.

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Syria cease-fire off to rocky start amid reports of fighting

CEYLANPINAR, Turkey (AP) — The cease-fire in northern Syria got off to a rocky start Friday, as Kurdish leaders accused Turkey of violating the accord with continued fighting at a key border town while casting doubt on provisions in the U.S.-brokered deal with Ankara.

Turkey's president warned that Turkish forces would go back on the attack in four days unless Kurdish-led fighters withdraw "without exception" from a zone 20 miles (30 kilometers) deep in Syria running the entire 260-mile (440-kilometer) length of the border.

"Without exception, if the promise is not fulfilled, Operation Peace Spring will resume the minute the 120 hours end with even more determination," President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told journalists in Istanbul.

There was no sign of any pullout by the Kurdish-led forces. They say the deal only covers a much smaller section of the border, about 125 kilometers (75 miles) and haven't committed to pull out from anywhere.

Some fighters have vowed not to withdraw, calling the accord an "insult to Kurdish dignity" and tantamount to a surrender arranged by the U.S., the former ally that abandoned them to the Turkish assault.

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'Only God is with us': A Syrian family feels betrayed by US

BARDARASH, Iraq (AP) — For months, every time Turkey threatened to invade northern Syria, Salwa Hanna told her husband they should take their children and flee from the border town of Kobani. And every time, he told her not to worry, because the Americans were there.

Now the Christian family is among an estimated 160,000 Syrians who have fled Turkey's offensive, which began last week after President Donald Trump announced he would move U.S. forces out of the way, abandoning their Kurdish allies. The invasion transformed one of the safest parts of Syria into a war zone, leaving displaced residents with a deep sense of betrayal.

Hanna and her husband arrived Thursday at a newly reopened camp in Iraq with their children and two small bags of clothes. They said they borrowed $200 to pay a smuggler to lead them across the border and have nothing left. They were shown to an empty tent with a bare concrete floor.

"I left my home, and I had just started a new home, and I left it all behind," Hanna said. "There are no emotions anymore. We live as if we are dead."

They are originally from Afrin, a Kurdish enclave in northwestern Syria that fell to Turkish troops and allied Syrian fighters in early 2018. There were no Americans in Afrin, and after the Kurds retreated there was no one to prevent the Syrian fighters — a motley crew of former rebels, Islamists, guns for hire and outright bandits — from looting and pillaging.

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Johnson urges support for Brexit deal before knife-edge vote

LONDON (AP) — Boris Johnson worked behind the scenes Friday to win enough support to push his new Brexit deal through the fractious British Parliament and pave the way for Britain — finally — to leave the European Union in two weeks.

His message to allies and opponents alike: Approve the agreement so Britain can finally put the tortuous, three-year Brexit saga behind it.

Johnson returned overnight from the EU summit in Brussels where he sealed the divorce deal and began a busy day of meetings and phone calls as he attempted to persuade lawmakers to ratify the pact at a rare Saturday sitting of Parliament. He met Friday with his Cabinet ahead of what's expected to be a knife-edge House of Commons vote on what was being billed by an excited media as Super Saturday.

"I want colleagues on all sides of the House to think about a world tomorrow night in which we've got this thing done and we've got it over the line," he told British broadcaster ITV. "Because I think the nation will heave a great sigh of relief because that will be our moment to get on with the priorities of our country."

Johnson's Conservative Party holds only 288 seats in the 650-seat House of Commons, so he will have to rely on support from other parties and independent lawmakers to get over the line.

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Failed raid against El Chapo's son leaves 8 dead in Mexico

CULIACAN, Mexico (AP) — Mexican security forces aborted an attempt to capture a son of imprisoned drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman after finding themselves outgunned in a ferocious shootout with cartel henchmen that left at least eight people dead and more than 20 wounded, authorities said Friday.

The gunbattle Thursday paralyzed the capital of Mexico's Sinaloa state, Culiacan, and left the streets littered with burning vehicles. Residents took cover indoors as automatic gunfire raged outside.

It was the third bloody and terrifying shootout in less than a week between security forces and cartel henchmen, raising questions about whether President Andrés Manuel López Obrador's policy of avoiding the use of force and focusing on social ills is working.

López Obrador defended the decision to back down, saying his predecessors' strategy "turned this country into a cemetery, and we don't want that anymore."

But Mike Vigil, a former chief of international operations for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration who worked undercover in Mexico, called the violence "a massive black eye to the Mexican government" and a "sign that the cartels are more powerful" than it is.

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First all-female spacewalking team makes history

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — The world's first all-female spacewalking team made history high above Earth on Friday, replacing a broken part of the International Space Station's power grid.

As NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir completed the job with wrenches, screwdrivers and power-grip tools, it marked the first time in a half-century of spacewalking that men weren't part of the action. They insisted they were just doing their job after years of training.

America's first female spacewalker from 35 years ago, Kathy Sullivan, was delighted. She said it's good to finally have enough women in the astronaut corps and trained for spacewalking for this to happen.

"We've got qualified women running the control, running space centers, commanding the station, commanding spaceships and doing spacewalks," Sullivan told The Associated Press earlier this week. "And golly, gee whiz, every now and then there's more than one woman in the same place."

President Donald Trump put in a congratulatory call from the White House to mark "this historic event ... truly historic."

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Cummings remembered as a mentor to many in Baltimore

BALTIMORE (AP) — The top prosecutor in Baltimore knew exactly where to go for guidance after she made the decision to file charges in an explosive case involving the death of a black man in police custody. She called Rep. Elijah Cummings, her trusted adviser and friend.

After that call in May 2015, State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced charges ranging from assault to murder against six officers in the case of Freddie Gray, whose death from a neck injury suffered during a jolting ride in the back of a police van had set off some of the worst riots in decades in Baltimore.

Cummings "said he was there with me. He said he believed in me," Mosby said Friday, recalling the telephone conversation.

Later, when Mosby came under public attack over her handling of the case, "he would say 'No, I stand with Marilyn Mosby. I stand with her decision.'"

Mosby is not the only Baltimore resident who relied on Cummings for advice. The congressman and civil rights advocate, who died Thursday at 68, mentored countless young people, faith leaders, activists, politicians and others over the years.

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FAA confronts Boeing over internal messages revealing flaws

DALLAS (AP) — A former senior Boeing test pilot told a co-worker that he unknowingly misled safety regulators about problems with a flight-control system that would later be implicated in two deadly crashes of the company's 737 Max.

The pilot, Mark Forkner, told another Boeing employee in 2016 that the flight system, called MCAS, was "egregious" and "running rampant" while he tested it in a flight simulator.

"So I basically lied to the regulators (unknowingly)," wrote Forkner, then Boeing's chief technical pilot for the 737.

The exchange occurred as Boeing was trying to convince the Federal Aviation Administration that MCAS was safe. MCAS was designed at least in part to prevent the Max from stalling in some situations. The FAA certified the plane without fully understanding MCAS, according to a panel of international safety regulators.

Forkner had asked FAA about removing mention of MCAS from the pilot's manual for the Max. FAA allowed Boeing to do so, and most pilots did not know about MCAS until after the first crash, which occurred in October 2018 in Indonesia. The plane was grounded worldwide in March after the second crash, in Ethiopia.

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Oct 18, 2019 Coverage of First All Female Spacewalk - ISS Expedition 61 U.S. Spacewalk #58

Coverage of International Space Station Expedition 61 U.S. spacewalk #58 to replace a battery charge/discharge unit - astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir,


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