Loading articles...

AP News in Brief at 11:04 p.m. EDT

Last Updated Oct 22, 2017 at 11:20 pm EST

Trump urges House GOP to move quickly on budget, tax cuts

WASHINGTON, D.C. (AP) — President Donald Trump warned House Republicans on Sunday that 2018 would be a political failure for the GOP and disappointment for the nation if they fail on tax overhaul.

A GOP aide familiar with the conversation said Trump told the lawmakers again and again that the party would have a steep price to pay in next year’s midterm elections if they failed to pass his plan. It would slash the corporate tax rate to 20 per cent and double the standard deduction used by most average Americans.

The president also said that, beyond the looming elections, his plan was the right thing to do for the country, the person said.

Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence both joined the House GOP conference call in which Trump called on members to adopt the budget passed by the Senate this week, so that they can move on to passing his tax reform plan

Trump told the members they were on the verge of doing something historic by passing the tax cuts, according to one Republican official. That official, like others, spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss publicly what was intended as a private update for members.

___

Dramatic sentencing hearing expected in Bergdahl case

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The fate of Bowe Bergdahl — the Army sergeant who pleaded guilty to endangering his comrades by leaving his post in 2009 in Afghanistan — now rests in the hands of a judge.

A sentencing hearing for Bergdahl starts Monday at Fort Bragg and is expected to feature dramatic testimony about soldiers and a Navy SEAL badly hurt while they searched for the missing Bergdahl, who was held captive for five years by Taliban allies after leaving his post. Bergdahl faces up to life in prison on charges of desertion and misbehaviour before the enemy after pleading guilty to the charges last week.

Bergdahl made his plea without striking a deal with prosecutors for a lesser punishment, opting instead for a move known as a “naked plea,” in hopes of leniency from the judge. The plea, legal experts say, may be a sign that the evidence against Bergdahl was strong.

Eric Carpenter, a former Army lawyer who teaches law at Florida International University, said a naked plea can be advantageous by allowing the defence to refrain from agreeing to certain facts that it might otherwise have to concede to under a plea agreement.

Greg Rinckey, a former Army prosecutor and defence attorney now in private practice, said such a plea is risky.

___

10 Things to Know for Monday

Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Monday:

1. WHO TOOK SYRIA’S LARGEST OIL FIELD FROM IS GROUP

U.S.-backed fighters captured Syria’s largest oil field from the Islamic State group.

2. WHICH TRUMP COMMISSION IS CRITICIZED FOR LACK OF TRANSPARENCY

Two members of President Donald Trump’s advisory commission on election integrity have raised concerns about a lack of information about the panel’s agenda.

___

US-backed forces take Syria’s largest oil field from IS

BEIRUT (AP) — U.S.-backed fighters captured Syria’s largest oil field from the Islamic State group Sunday, marking a major advance against the extremists in an area coveted by pro-government forces.

With IS in retreat, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces and the Syrian government have been in a race to secure parts of the oil-rich Deir el-Zour province along the border with Iraq.

The Al-Omar oil field was a major source of income for the militant group and is considered one Syria’s most productive. The condition of the field, which has been controlled by IS for three years, was not clear following intense coalition and Russian airstrikes.

The SDF, with air support from the U.S.-led coalition, said it captured the field in a “swift and wide military operation.” It said some militants have taken cover in oil company houses nearby, where clashes are underway. The U.S.-led coalition confirmed the SDF had retaken the oil field.

After coming under heavy fire from IS, pro-government forces retreated from the area around Al-Omar field, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The SDF said government forces were 3 kilometres (2 miles) away from the fields.

___

Tillerson seeks Arab help in US effort to isolate Iran

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson took the Trump administration’s case for isolating and containing Iran in the Middle East and beyond to two Gulf Arab nations on Sunday, pushing for Saudi Arabia and Iraq to unite to counter growing Iranian assertiveness. He also called for a quick resolution to the ongoing crisis between Qatar and its Arab neighbours, which he said was unintentionally bolstering Iran.

In Saudi Arabia and later Qatar, Tillerson denounced Iran’s “malign behaviour” and urged nations of the region and elsewhere, notably Europe, to join the administration to halt any business they do with Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard. He also demanded that Iranian and Iran-backed Shiite militia in Iraq either return to their homes, integrate into the Iraqi army or leave the country.

“Those fighters need to go home,” Tillerson said. “Any foreign fighters need to go home.”

In Riyadh for the inaugural meeting of the Saudi Arabia-Iraq Coordination Council — a vehicle that U.S. officials believe can wean Iraq from Iran — Tillerson told Saudi King Salman and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi that the nascent partnership between their countries held great promise for Iraq’s reconstruction after devastating battles to wrest territory from the Islamic State group and its independence from foreign influence.

“We believe this will in some ways counter some of the unproductive influences of Iran inside of Iraq,” he said at a news conference with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir after the council meeting.

___

Spanish leader moves aggressively to clip Catalonia’s wings

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy left the nation breathless when he announced the steps he wants to take to crush the separatist movement in the prosperous Catalonia region.

Rajoy called on Spain’s Senate on Saturday to trigger a previously untapped section of the constitution that allows the central government to temporarily intervene in the running of a region if its leaders have broken the law.

Activating the constitutional authority granted by Article 155 is Madrid’s boldest response so far to avowals from Catalonia’s leaders to declare independence based on an Oct. 1 referendum that a court has judged as illegal.

There are some of the regional powers Rajoy is seeking by triggering Article 155:

DEPOSE LEADERS

___

Japanese Prime Minister Abe heads to impressive election win

TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s ruling coalition appeared headed to an impressive win in national elections in what would represent an endorsement for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s nearly five-year leadership.

A victory would boost Abe’s chances of winning another three-year term next September as leader of the Liberal Democratic Party. That could extend his premiership to 2021, giving him more time to try to win a reluctant public over to his longtime goal of revising Japan’s pacifist constitution.

In the immediate term, a victory likely means a continuation of the policies Abe has pursued since he took office in December 2012 — a hard line on North Korea, close ties with Washington, including defence, as well as a super-loose monetary policy and push for nuclear energy.

Japanese media projected shortly after polls closed Sunday that Abe’s LDP and its junior partner Komeito might even retain their two-thirds majority in the lower house of parliament.

In unofficial results in the early hours of Monday, the ruling coalition had won 312 seats in the 465-seat lower house, exceeding a two-thirds majority at 310, and other parties had 143 seats, Japanese public broadcaster NHK said. Final results may not be tallied until Monday.

___

Fire-ravaged California city turns to hockey for respite

SANTA ROSA, Calif. (AP) — For one Sunday, the fires that staggered this small city and wiped out thousands of homes were an afterthought at Snoopy’s Home Ice In Northern California.

In an ice rink built by Peanuts cartoon creator Charles Schulz, hundreds of 7- and 8-year-olds gathered to play the annual Great Halloween Jamboree tournament, a daylong hockey tournament that brought the Santa Rosa community together after the devastation.

The annual tournament routinely attracts dozens of the youngest hockey players throughout the area. Canceling the event this year was considered — and then quickly rejected. Organizers found ways to work through a weeklong power outage that melted the ice, a lack of motel space and burned-up gear for 19 hockey families who lost their homes.

The nearby San Jose Sharks of the National Hockey League donated new skates and gear to the affected families. A Santa Rosa coach also owns a local pizza parlour, which donated pizza for lunch. Families greeted each other with hugs as their children returned to the ice for the first time since the fires started the night of Oct. 8, killing at least 43 people and destroying more than 8,000 buildings.

“We needed to be here,” said Rebecca Henderson, one of the tournament’s organizers.

___

No joke: TV host Letterman honoured with Mark Twain Prize

WASHINGTON (AP) — David Letterman was celebrated at the Kennedy Center Sunday night for his record run on late-night TV, innovative comedy routines and for helping the nation start to heal by reassuring that it was OK to laugh again after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Fellow entertainers gathered to honour Letterman where he was receiving the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.

Among those in attendance were previous recipients Steve Martin and late-night host Jimmy Kimmel, who recalled a monologue Letterman gave on his show shortly after 9-11.

“You let us know it was OK to move on and OK to laugh again,” Kimmel said. “Dave, you led the way for all of us.”

Kimmel jokingly blamed the election of President Donald Trump on Letterman’s retirement in 2015.

___

About 2 dozen NFL players protested during anthems Sunday

Days after the NFL declined to change its rule on the national anthem, about two dozen players protested around the league Sunday.

Associated Press journalists counted 22 players protesting during the anthems in some way before day games. Some took a knee, others sat on the bench, stayed in the tunnel or raised a fist.

On Sept. 25, days after President Donald Trump said players should be fired for protesting during the anthem, more than 200 players protested.

On Sunday, the Seahawks and 49ers had the most protesters. Seattle defensive end Michael Bennett and seven Seahawks teammates did not stand during the anthem before their game with the New York Giants.

As a New York City police officer sang the anthem, Bennett was joined by defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, defensive end Brandon Jackson, defensive end Marcus Smith, defensive tackle Jarran Reed, defensive end Frank Clark and defensive end Quinton Jefferson. Defensive end Cliff Avril, scratched for the game, sat between Clark and Bennett.