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Diplomats accuse Trump as impeachment hits Americans’ TVs

WASHINGTON (AP) — For the first time, the Democrats’ case for President Donald Trump’s impeachment streamed from Americans’ TVs Wednesday, including a new contention that he was overheard asking about political “investigations” that he demanded from Ukraine in trade for military aid.

On Day One of extraordinary public U.S. House hearings — only the fourth formal impeachment effort in U.S. history — career diplomats testified in the open after weeks of closed-door interviews aimed at removing the nation’s 45th president.

The account they delivered was a striking though complicated one that Democrats say reveals a president abusing his office, and the power of American foreign policy, for personal political gain.

“The matter is as simple and as terrible as that,” said Rep. Adam Schiff, the Democratic chairman of the Intelligence Committee, as he opened the daylong hearing. “Our answer to these questions will affect not only the future of this presidency but the future of the presidency itself.”

Career diplomat William Taylor, the charge d’affaires in Kyiv, offered new testimony that Trump was overheard asking on the phone about “the investigations” of Democrats that he wanted Ukraine to pursue that are central to the impeachment inquiry.

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Takeaways from 1st day of House public impeachment hearings

WASHINGTON (AP) — Wednesday’s start of public impeachment hearings in Congress marked the first time that the American public could watch and listen to the witnesses whose testimony is at the core of the Democrats’ investigation.

In several hours of testimony, punctuated by occasional bickering among lawmakers, some memorable moments emerged.

Some key takeaways from the first public witnesses, George Kent and William Taylor:

TRUMP PUSHED FOR BIDEN INVESTIGATION

Hearings like this one can be scripted affairs. But there was an early surprise.

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AP FACT CHECK: GOP presses empty Ukraine meddling theory

WASHINGTON (AP) — Congressional Republicans pressed the discredited theory that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 U.S. election in defending President Donald Trump in Wednesday’s impeachment hearings.

A look at some of the remarks in the House Intelligence Committee proceeding:

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REP. DEVIN NUNES, top Republican on the committee: “The Democrats cooperated in Ukrainian election meddling. … Officials showed a surprising lack of interest in the indications of Ukrainian election meddling that deeply concerned the president at whose pleasure they serve.”

THE FACTS: The theory that Ukrainians interfered in the U.S. election and that Democrats cooperated in that effort is unsubstantiated. If U.S. officials showed a lack of interest in pursuing the matter, it’s because they considered it “fiction,” as one put it.

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‘Bits and pieces’: Americans view impeachment on their terms

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — Cattle rancher Jeffery Gatzke in South Dakota was listening in as he worked on his tractor in his workshop. The first public hearing on impeaching President Donald Trump is a political show, he thinks, but one he wanted to tune into.

Nadxely Sanchez, 18, watched on her phone, splitting her attention during a psychology lecture at Marquette University in Milwaukee. As a child of immigrants, she says she takes Trump’s presidency personally: “Living in the Trump era right now is scary and we’re just wondering what’s going to happen next.”

Randy Johnson, a 63-year-old semi-retired Tennessee man and Trump voter, cast his fishing line into the Gulf of Mexico from a seawall in St. Petersburg, Florida. He was happily missing the opening gavel. “Oh, is that today?” he said.

If Americans have devoured past live hearings in Washington, following each dramatic twist and turn, many seemed only to nibble and graze on Wednesday’s proceedings. They scanned headlines on their phones, read social media posts or clicked on snippets of video pushed out online. They planned to catch up with highlights or clips later, from a range of sources, and were content to let it play in the background.

The fractured and filtered way the country consumed the testimony — and all news — may have consequences. Democrats are hoping to use a series of hearings to tell a complex tale of overseas intrigue involving unfamiliar figures and a distant war. There were signs Wednesday that many Americans were falling back on their partisan allegiances, rather than diving into the details.

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AP sources: Ex-Gov. Patrick says he’ll make presidential bid

WASHINGTON (AP) — Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick has told allies he will join the 2020 presidential race, according to two people familiar with his plans. An official announcement is expected before Friday, the filing deadline for the New Hampshire primary.

Patrick’s move injects a new layer of uncertainty into the contest less than three months before the first votes. A popular two-term Democratic governor with a moderate bearing and close ties to former President Barack Obama, he is starting late but with a compelling life story and political resume.

The two people with knowledge of Patrick’s plans spoke to The Associated Press on Wednesday on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.

In addition to Patrick, Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire former mayor of New York City, has taken steps toward launching a last-minute presidential campaign, filing candidate papers in Alabama and Arkansas. Even 2016 nominee Hillary Clinton this week said in a BBC interview that she is “under enormous pressure from many, many, many people to think about it,” adding that she has no such plans but still would “never, never, never say never.”

The moves reflect uncertainty about the direction of the Democratic contest with no commanding front-runner. Joe Biden entered the race as the presumptive favorite and maintains significant support from white moderates and black voters, whose backing is critical in a Democratic primary. But he’s facing spirited challenges from Patrick’s home-state senator, Elizabeth Warren, and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, progressives whose calls for fundamental economic change have alarmed moderates and wealthy donors.

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US and Turkey have friendly talks but differences persist

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump says he and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan are “very good friends,” but their meeting Wednesday at the White House failed to resolve an issue that has badly strained relations between the two NATO allies.

Trump and Erdogan concluded a visit without achieving an agreement on Turkey’s decision earlier this year to accept delivery of a Russian air defense system that poses such a threat to NATO security that the U.S. suspended Turkish participation in the multinational F-35 fighter jet program.

The Turkish president told reporters he might be persuaded to use the U.S.-made Patriot system “as well” as the Russian S-400. Trump said they would agree to keep working on the issue.

“The acquisition of the S-400 creates some very serious challenges for us,” Trump said. “Hopefully we’ll be able to resolve that situation.”

Despite the differences, Trump said he believes the two sides can substantially increase trade, which amounted to about $24 billion in 2017.

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Clashes rock Bolivia as new interim leader challenged

LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) — Renewed clashes rocked Bolivia’s capital Wednesday as the woman who claimed the presidency, a second-tier lawmaker thrust into the post because of a power vacuum, faced challenges to her leadership from supporters of the ousted Evo Morales.

A day after Jeanine Añez assumed power, violent clashes broke out between rock-throwing Morales’ backers and police in riot gear, who fired volleys of tear gas to disperse the large crowd of protesters as fighter jets flew low overhead in a show of force.

Opposition was also building in Congress, where lawmakers loyal to Morales were mounting a challenge to Añez’s legitimacy by trying to hold new sessions that would undermine her claim to the presidency. The sessions — dismissed as invalid by Añez’s faction — added to the political uncertainty following the resignation of Morales, the nation’s first indigenous leader, after nearly 14 years in power.

In the streets, angry demonstrators tore off corrugated sheets of metal and wooden planks from construction sites to use as weapons, and some set off sticks of dynamite. Many along flooded the streets of the capital and its sister city of El Alto, a Morales stronghold, waving the multicolored indigenous flag and chanting, “Now, civil war!”

“We don’t want any dictators. This lady has stepped on us — that’s why we’re so mad,” said Paulina Luchampe. “We’re going to fight with our brothers and sisters until Evo Morales is back. We ask for his return. He needs to put the house in order.”

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Vote totals set to be double-checked in Kentucky gov’s race

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Republican Gov. Matt Bevin could face a legacy-defining decision when the vote totals from the Kentucky governor’s race are double-checked Thursday — concede to Democrat Andy Beshear or contest last week’s election in a historic move that could put the outcome in the hands of state lawmakers.

Bevin faces a growing chorus of Bluegrass State Republicans urging him to accept the results of the recanvass unless he can point to evidence of substantial voter fraud.

Even Bevin acknowledges that the recanvass, which he requested, is highly unlikely to change the outcome.

“There might be some adjustment, but it usually may be a number moves up and a number moves down,” he told The Associated Press in an interview Wednesday. “But it’s not likely to be a material change.”

Asked if he’ll concede if the vote totals stay about the same, Bevin replied: “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”

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Female country acts across generations unite at CMA Awards

Female acts may be scarce on contemporary country radio and the country charts, but they brought girl power to the 2019 Country Music Association with a resilient performance featuring top women from the genre, from Dolly Parton to Carrie Underwood to Reba McEntire.

The three acts, who are hosting Wednesday’s show together, were joined by Tanya Tucker, Terri Clark, Crystal Gayle, Sara Evans, Little Big Town’s Karen Fairchild and Kimberly Schlapman, Maren Morris, Brandi Carlile, Gretchen Wilson, Martina McBride and more, singing classic country songs across two stages.

After the performance Parton asked, “What do you call three women hosting the CMAs?”

“Your lucky night,” she screamed.

McEntire added they joined forces to host the show and perform the opening number to inspire young women watching the awards show from their TV screens.

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Astros sign stealing charges latest to tarnish reputation

HOUSTON (AP) — Not too long ago, the Houston Astros were the feel-good story of baseball. Led by their diminutive Venezuelan dynamo and featuring smart play on the field and in the front office, they emerged from a morass of awful seasons that got them mocked as the ‘Lastros and ascended to the top of the big league galaxy as World Series champions.

That picture of the sheer joy as the Astros celebrated their 2017 crown at Dodger Stadium sure looks different now.

Fresh off a bitter Game 7 loss in its bid for another title, and tarnished by an executive’s clubhouse rant at female reporters and the failed attempt to smear the journalist who wrote about the scene, the franchise is now embroiled in a new scandal: allegations with on-the-record comments from a former player the Astros turned to technology to devise a sign-stealing scheme during their greatest season.

Sign stealing may be as old as baseball. From a clandestine buzzer-and-spyglass system the New York Giants invented to overtake the Brooklyn Dodgers in their famed 1951 pennant race, to the Boston Red Sox being fined two years ago for a high-tech ploy using an Apple Watch to pilfer catcher’s signals by the Yankees, cheating is engrained in the game’s lore going back to the day of spitballs.

Getting close to the line, or even crossing it, has long been a part of sports — witness the suspicions that have followed the New England Patriots during their dynasty.

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Have lived and invested in Venezuela full time for the last eight years and visited for each of twelve years prior to that. Studied and closely followed developments in Venezuela since 1996.