News in brief: Fights over history, a spreading virus, and Hall of Fame
The Associated Press
Chief Justice John Roberts admonishes House prosecution, White House defense
WASHINGTON (AP) — Chief Justice John Roberts drew little attention to himself in the beginning 12 hours of his first impeachment trial. But it was just before 1 a.m., as tempers on the floor had started to wear thin, that he reminded senators, House impeachment managers and President Donald Trump's defense team who was in charge.
"I think it is appropriate at this point for me to admonish both the House managers and the president's counsel in equal terms to remember that they are addressing the world's greatest deliberative body," Roberts said, after a particularly tense exchange between House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler and the president's lawyers.
Roberts asked them to "avoid speaking in a manner and using language that is not conducive to civil discourse."
He did not say what prompted his comments, but they came after Nadler told senators that voting to deny certain witnesses in the trial, as many GOP senators had, was a "treacherous vote" and a vote against the United States. Trump's defense team then said Nadler should be embarrassed and should apologize to the president and the American people.
Roberts' new role presiding over the trial is one of two jobs he is juggling as the impeachment session gets underway. On Tuesday morning, he donned his black robe and oversaw two arguments at the Supreme Court before heading across the street to the U.S. Capitol where he is presiding over the trial in the Senate chamber. His busy schedule meant he didn't have time to join his fellow justices for a group lunch, a high court custom following arguments.
Cases of new viral respiratory illness rise sharply in China
BEIJING (AP) — Chinese health authorities urged people in the city of Wuhan to avoid crowds and public gatherings, after warning that a new viral illness that has infected more than 400 people and killed at least nine could spread further.
The appeal came ahead of a World Health Organization meeting in Geneva later Wednesday to determine whether the outbreak should be declared a global health crisis.
The number of new cases has risen sharply in China, the center of the outbreak. There were 440 confirmed cases as of midnight Tuesday in 13 jurisdictions, said Li Bin, deputy director of the National Health Commission. Nine people have died, all in Hubei province, since the outbreak emerged in its provincial capital of Wuhan late last month.
"There has already been human-to-human transmission and infection of medical workers," Li said at a news conference with health experts. "Evidence has shown that the disease has been transmitted through the respiratory tract and there is the possibility of viral mutation."
The illness comes from a newly identified type of coronavirus, a family of viruses that can cause the common cold as well as more serious illnesses such as the SARS outbreak that spread from China to more than a dozen countries in 2002-2003 and killed about 800 people.
Russia-Poland feud over history clouds Auschwitz anniversary
WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Over the next several days, world leaders will gather twice to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the most notorious of Nazi Germany's death camps.
That there will be two competing ceremonies — one in Jerusalem on Thursday and the other at the Auschwitz site in southern Poland on Monday — underlines how politically charged World War II remains as nationalist governments in Russia and Poland seek to use their own interpretation of the past for contemporary political gain.
Leaders at both sites, joined by elderly survivors, will pay tribute to the 6 million Jews killed in the Holocaust. Yet the commemorations risk being overshadowed by a bitter dispute between Poland — where Nazi German occupiers operated Auschwitz and other infamous camps — and Russia, the successor state to the Soviet Union.
"I am afraid this will not help the commemoration of the Holocaust," said Dariusz Stola, a Polish historian and former director of the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews.
Such commemorations, he said, should ideally be a moment "for the present to serve the past."
Facing humiliating controls, Lebanese focus fury on banks
BEIRUT (AP) — Before picking up cash from a downtown bank in Lebanon's capital, Mey Al Sayegh mentally braces herself for what would have been a routine trip before the country's crippling cash crunch.
For starters, it will be at least an hour's wait in line before her turn comes. And if she's lucky, she'll be able to withdraw $300 — the weekly limit on dollar withdrawals imposed by banks to preserve liquidity — without having to bargain with the teller.
"I tell my family 'I'm going to the bank, but I don't know when I'll return,'" said the communications manager. "It's very unpleasant. You see people's expression — worried, confused, they're scared that they're going to lose their deposits."
For years, many Lebanese have lived beyond their means, supporting their out-sized spending with loans and generous remittances from diaspora relatives scattered across the globe, including family members working in oil-rich Arab Gulf countries.
A severe financial crisis and unprecedented capital controls have put an end to this, uniting both rich and poor in anger against corrupt politicians who have brought the country to the brink of economic collapse, and a banking system they accuse of holding their deposits hostage.
A #MeToo moment: Harvey Weinstein trial set to open
NEW YORK (AP) — Harvey Weinstein spawned the #MeToo movement. Now, the former film titan is starring in the biggest trial of its era — a landmark moment in a global reckoning that has empowered women while shining a light on power dynamics in workplaces from Hollywood Boulevard to Main Street.
Opening statements and the first witness testimony are expected Wednesday in Weinstein's New York City rape trial, where the possibility of life in prison looms for the once-celebrated "Pulp Fiction" producer now vilified as a predator by scores of women.
Weinstein's accusers include some well-known actresses who plan to testify or attend the trial and others who are looking to the New York case for a form of justice because their allegations haven't resulted in criminal charges.
"This trial is so important because the enormity of Harvey Weinstein's international power and fame offers an opportunity to shine a spotlight on the rampant abuse of power that permeates our culture on a global level," actress Jessica Barth said Tuesday.
"Not only the outcome of this trial, but the trial as a whole, is precedent setting," said Barth, a star of the "Ted" films who says Weinstein once invited her to his hotel suite and demanded a naked massage.
Democrats swarm industrial Iowa to prove they can beat Trump
MOUNT PLEASANT, Iowa (AP) — Since their surprise loss to President Donald Trump in 2016, Democrats have struggled with how to regain territory that long supported the party before suddenly flipping to Republicans. Their answer could lie with voters like Martie Boyd.
The 71-year-old retired insurance worker is a lifelong Republican who supported Donald Trump in 2016, but says she won't do it again. Even better for Democrats, she lives in Danville, a tiny town in Des Moines County, one of 31 Iowa counties that backed Barack Obama in 2012 before switching to Trump.
"I wish I hadn't wasted my vote," Boyd said Tuesday after watching Pete Buttigieg speak at Iowa Wesleyan University. "Not this time. I'm definitely caucusing for a Democrat and voting for one in the fall."
As Buttigieg campaigned throughout this swath of southeast Iowa, voters like Boyd were at the front of his mind. He and his fellow Democratic candidates are hoping to lure them not just to win the upcoming Iowa caucuses but to prove to voters in the states that follow that they have the unique ability to win in places that shifted from the Democrat Obama to the Republican Trump.
"I'm not only meeting fellow Democrats who have been working hard for that day here, but independents who can't wait for that day and an awful lot of what I like to call future former Republicans who are more than welcome to join us," Buttigieg said at Iowa Wesleyan.
Mexico begins flying, busing migrants back to Honduras
CIUDAD HIDALGO, Mexico (AP) — Hundreds of Central American migrants who entered southern Mexico in recent days have either been pushed back into Guatemala by Mexican troops, shipped to detention centers or returned to Honduras, officials said Tuesday. An unknown number slipped past Mexican authorities and continued north.
The latest migrant caravan provided a public platform for Mexico to show the U.S. government and migrants thinking of making the trip that it has refined its strategy and produced its desired result: This caravan will not advance past its southern border.
What remained unclear was the treatment of the migrants who already find themselves on their way back to the countries they fled last week.
"Mexico doesn't have the capacity to process so many people in such a simple way in a couple of days," said Guadalupe Correa Cabrera, a professor at George Mason University studying how the caravans form.
The caravan of thousands had set out from Honduras in hopes Mexico would grant them passage, posing a fresh test of U.S. President Donald Trump's effort to reduce the flow of migrants arriving at the U.S. border by pressuring other governments to stop them.
S. Korean military decides to discharge transgender soldier
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea's military decided Wednesday to discharge a soldier who recently undertook gender reassignment surgery, a ruling expected to draw strong criticism from human rights groups.
It was the first time in South Korea that an active-duty member has been referred to a military panel to determine whether to end his or her service due to a sex change operation. South Korea prohibits transgender people from joining the military but has no specific laws on what to do with those who have sex change operations during their time in service.
The army said in a statement that it concluded that the soldier's sex change operation can be considered as a reason for discharge.
The statement said the decision went through due process and was based on a related military law on personnel changes. Army officials cited the law's provision that allows the military to discharge a member with physical and mental disabilities.
The non-commissioned officer had a male-to-female sex operation abroad late last year. The staff sergeant has since been hospitalized at a military-run facility and expressed a desire to continue serving as a female soldier, according to the army.
Derek Jeter is a vote shy of unanimous, Walker also elected to Hall
NEW YORK (AP) — Known for two decades as No. 2, Derek Jeter is now linked to the number 1 — as in, who was the lone Hall of Fame voter who didn't put a check mark next to his name?
Jeter came within one vote of being a unanimous pick, falling just shy of the standard set when longtime New York Yankees teammate Mariano Rivera became the first unanimous selection last year. Larry Walker also earned baseball's highest honor Tuesday in his last chance on the ballot.
For now, the identity and motivation of the non-conformist remains a mystery.
"Well, I look at all the votes that I got," Jeter said. "Trying to get that many people to agree on something is pretty difficult to do. So that's not something that's on mind."
Longtime shortstop and captain of the Yankees, Jeter appeared on 396 of 397 ballots cast by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. His 99.7 percent moved above Ken Griffey Jr. (99.3 percent) for the second-highest share.