Diplomat makes the case for quid pro quo in Ukraine scandal
The Associated Press
US diplomat: Trump linked Ukraine aid to demand for probe
WASHINGTON (AP) — A top U.S. diplomat testified Tuesday that President Donald Trump was holding back military aid for Ukraine unless the country agreed to investigate Democrats and a company linked to Joe Biden's family, providing lawmakers with a detailed new account of the quid pro quo central to the impeachment probe.
In a lengthy opening statement to House investigators obtained The Associated Press, William Taylor described Trump's demand that "everything" President Volodymyr Zelenskiy wanted, including vital aid to counter Russia, hinged on making a public vow that Ukraine would investigate Democrats going back to the 2016 U.S. election as well as a company linked to the family of Trump's potential 2020 Democratic rival.
Taylor testified that what he discovered in Kyiv was the Trump administration's "irregular" back channel to foreign policy led by the president's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and "ultimately alarming circumstances" that threatened to erode the United States' relationship with a budding Eastern European ally facing Russian aggression.
In a date-by-date account, detailed across several pages, the seasoned diplomat who came out of retirement to take over as charge d'affaires at the embassy in Ukraine details his mounting concern as he realized Trump was trying to put the newly elected president of the young democracy "in a public box."
"I sensed something odd," he testified, describing a trio of Trump officials planning a call with Zelenskiy, including one, Ambassador Gordon Sondland, who wanted to make sure "no one was transcribing or monitoring" it.
Russia, Turkey seal power in northeast Syria with new accord
ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Russia and Turkey reached an agreement Tuesday that would cement their power in Syria, deploying their forces across nearly its entire northeastern border to fill the void left by President Donald Trump's abrupt withdrawal of U.S. forces.
The accord caps a dramatic and swift transformation of the Syrian map unleashed by Trump's decision two weeks ago to remove the American soldiers.
U.S. troops in Syria fought five years alongside Kurdish-led forces in northeast Syria and succeeded in bringing down the rule of the Islamic State group there at the cost of thousands of Kurdish fighters' lives. Now much of that territory would be handed over to U.S. rivals.
The biggest winners are Turkey and Russia. Turkey would get sole control over areas of the Syrian border captured in its invasion, while Turkish, Russian and Syria government forces would oversee the rest of the border region. America's former U.S. allies, the Kurdish fighters, are left hoping Moscow and Damascus will preserve some pieces of their autonomy dreams.
Meanwhile, the Americans are stumbling out of Syria in a withdrawal that has proved chaotic, its extent and goals seeming to shift on the fly as they grasp to keep some influence on the ground.
Trump finds no simple fix in Syria, other world hotspots
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump's plan to reverse America's involvement in "endless wars" has run up against a difficult truth: When it comes to national security, rarely can a simple solution solve a complex problem.
After abruptly announcing last week that he would "bring our soldiers home" from Syria, Trump recalibrated and his administration said it would instead redeploy more than 700 to western Iraq to help counter the Islamic State group.
And now his latest plan faces another wrinkle: The Iraqi military said Tuesday those U.S. troops don't have permission to stay in Iraq.
Meanwhile, Turkey and Russia announced Tuesday that they would jointly patrol most of the northeastern Syrian border with Turkey, underscoring the effects of the U.S. creating a power vacuum the Russians have been quick to fill.
In Washington, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, typically a strong Trump supporter, introduced legislation prodding the president to halt the withdrawal. But he counseled against economic sanctions on Turkey, lest the U.S. "further drive a NATO ally into the arms of the Russians."
Lori Loughlin, other parents charged again in college scheme
BOSTON (AP) — "Full House" actress Lori Loughlin, her fashion designer husband and nine other parents faced new federal charges Tuesday in a scandal involving dozens of wealthy parents accused of bribing their children's way into elite universities or cheating on college entrance exams.
A grand jury in Boston indicted the parents on charges of trying to bribe officials at an organization that receives at least $10,000 in federal funding. In this case, they're accused of paying to get their children admitted to the University of Southern California.
The charge of conspiracy to commit federal program bribery carries a maximum sentence of up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. Prosecutors are pressuring those who have pleaded not guilty in the college admissions scandal to acknowledge their guilt.
A total of 35 wealthy and celebrity parents have been charged in the scheme that showed how far some will go to get their children into top universities like Stanford and Yale.
Some parents are accused of paying admissions consultant William "Rick" Singer to falsely portray their children as star athletes and then bribe college sports officials to get them admitted as recruited athletes. Others are accused of paying Singer to help cheat on their children's SAT and ACT exams.
Boris Johnson inches toward securing Brexit but delay likely
LONDON (AP) — For a brief moment Tuesday, Brexit was within a British prime minister's grasp.
Boris Johnson won Parliament's backing for the substance of his exit deal but lost a key vote on its timing, a result that inches him closer to his goal of leading his country out of the European Union — but effectively guarantees it won't happen on the scheduled date of Oct. 31.
European Council President Donald Tusk tweeted that because of the vote he would recommend that the other 27 EU nations grant Britain a delay in its departure to avoid a chaotic no-deal exit in just nine days.
The good news for the prime minister was that lawmakers — for the first time since Britons chose in 2016 to leave the EU — voted in principle for a Brexit plan, backing by 329-299 a bill to implement the agreement Johnson struck with the EU last week.
But minutes later, legislators rejected his fast-track timetable to pass the bill, saying they needed more time to scrutinize it. The vote went 322-308 against the government.
Trump likens House impeachment inquiry to 'a lynching'
WASHINGTON (AP) — Stirring up painful memories of America's racist past, President Donald Trump on Tuesday compared the Democratic-led impeachment inquiry to a lynching, a practice once widespread across the South in which angry mobs killed thousands of black people.
The use of such inflammatory imagery to lash out at the House investigation into Trump's dealings with Ukraine triggered an outcry from Democratic legislators, some mild rebukes but also some agreement from the president's Republican allies and condemnation from outside the Washington Beltway. It also led to the unearthing of decades-old comments from some Democratic lawmakers, including now-presidential candidate Joe Biden, comparing the process of impeaching President Bill Clinton to a lynching.
Trump has spent recent days pressuring Republicans to give him stronger support in countering the impeachment investigation.
His tweeted suggestion that they "remember what they are witnessing here — a lynching" came a day after Trump said the GOP needs to "get tougher and fight" against the fast-moving inquiry into whether he tried to withhold U.S. military aid until Ukraine's government agreed to investigate Democrat Joe Biden and his son.
The White House said later Tuesday that Trump was not comparing impeachment to "one of the darkest moments in American history." Spokesman Hogan Gidley said Trump sent the tweet to point out what he feels is his continued mistreatment by the news media.
One of Europe's last untamed rivers is threatened by dams
ALONG THE VJOSA RIVER (AP) — Under a broad plane tree near Albania's border with Greece, Jorgji Ilia fills a battered flask from one of the Vjosa River's many springs.
"There is nothing else better than the river," the retired schoolteacher says. "The Vjosa gives beauty to our village."
The Vjosa is temperamental and fickle, changing from translucent cobalt blue to sludge brown to emerald green, from a steady flow to a raging torrent. Nothing holds it back for more than 270 kilometers (170 miles) in its course through the forest-covered slopes of Greece's Pindus mountains to Albania's Adriatic coast.
This is one of Europe's last wild rivers. But for how long?
Albania's government has set in motion plans to dam the Vjosa and its tributaries to generate much-needed electricity for one of Europe's poorest countries, with the intent to build eight dams along the main river.
Blackout Round 2? Californians brace for possible outage
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Hundreds of thousands of Northern California residents braced for another possible power outage as the state's largest utility warned that a return of dangerous fire weather could prompt shut-offs across 16 counties.
The warning from Pacific Gas & Electric about a possible blackout Wednesday prompted a feeling of resignation among residents and business owners and renewed rushes to stock up on emergency supplies.
"I think it's not panic per se, just 'Eh, we gotta do this AGAIN?'" said Kim Schefer, manager of Village True Value Hardware in Santa Rosa.
Schefer was busy Tuesday directing customers to gas cans and batteries as they prepared for what many see as a costly, frustrating new routine.
It would be the second blackout in two weeks for much of the state.
Biogen reanalyzes studies, presses ahead on Alzheimer's drug
Biogen Inc. said Tuesday it will seek federal approval for a medicine to treat early Alzheimer's disease, a landmark step toward finding a treatment that can alter the course of the most common form of dementia.
The announcement was a surprise because the drug company earlier this year stopped two studies of the drug when partial results suggested it was not likely to be successful. The company now says a new analysis of more results suggest that the drug helped reduce a decline of thinking skills at the highest dose.
The drug, called aducanumab, aims to help the body clear harmful plaques from the brain. Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Biogen is developing it with a Japanese company, Eisai Co. Ltd.
More than 5 million people in the United States and millions more worldwide have Alzheimer's. Current drugs only temporarily ease symptoms and do not slow the loss of memory and thinking skills. Dozens of efforts to develop a drug to slow or reverse the course of the disease have failed.
The two studies tested aducanumab, given as monthly infusions, in more than 3,000 patients with mild cognitive impairment or early dementia due to Alzheimer's. The company said Tuesday that in one study, those given a high dose showed 23% less decline on one measure of thinking skills and smaller declines on other measures.
Devenski replaces Abreu on Astros' roster for World Series
HOUSTON (AP) — Chris Devenski replaced Bryan Abreu on the Houston Astros' World Series roster against the Washington Nationals in a swap of right-handed pitchers.
A right-hander who turns 29 next month, Devenski has not pitched in a game since Sept. 29, the last day of the regular season. He made five appearances in the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers two years ago and got the win in Game 2 despite allowing Charlie Culberson's 11th-inning homer. He failed to hold a three-run lead in the ninth inning of Game 5, giving up Yasiel Puig's two-run homer and Chris Taylor's RBI single.
Abreu, a 22-year-old rookie who made his debut in July, was not on the roster for the Division Series against Tampa Bay, then was added for the League Championship Series against the New York Yankees. His only appearance was in the Astros' opening 7-0 loss, when he relieved to start the ninth inning, allowed a first-pitch home run to Gio Urshela, gave up Gleyber Torres' RBI grounder and was replaced with two outs and two on.
Houston again is carrying 12 pitchers, all right-handed, for the Series, which starts Tuesday night.