Combative Franken quits, points to GOP tolerance of Trump
WASHINGTON (AP) — Sen. Al Franken, a rising political star only weeks ago, reluctantly announced Thursday he’s resigning from Congress, succumbing to a torrent of sexual harassment allegations and evaporating support from fellow Democrats. But he fired a defiant parting shot at President Donald Trump and other Republicans he said have survived much worse accusations.
“I of all people am aware that there is some irony in the fact that I am leaving while a man who has bragged on tape about his history of sexual assault sits in the Oval Office, and a man who has repeatedly preyed on young girls campaigns for the Senate with the full support of his party,” Franken said.
The 66-year-old Minnesotan, a former “Saturday Night Live” comedian who made a successful leap to liberal U.S. senator, announced his decision in a subdued Senate chamber three weeks after the first accusations of sexual misconduct emerged but just a day after most of his Democratic colleagues proclaimed he had to go. His remarks underscored the bitterness many in the party feel toward a GOP that they say has made a political calculation to tolerate Trump and Alabama GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore, who’ve both been accused of sexual assaults that they’ve denied.
In largely unapologetic remarks that lasted 11 minutes, Franken said “all women deserve to be heard” but asserted that some accusations against him were untrue. He called himself “a champion of women” during his Senate career who fought to improve people’s lives.
“Even on the worst day of my political life, I feel like it’s all been worth it,” he said.
Arizona GOP lawmaker resigns over surrogacy allegation
WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican Rep. Trent Franks of Arizona said Thursday he is resigning next month after revealing that he discussed surrogacy with two female staffers.
The eight-term lawmaker, a staunch conservative and fierce opponent of abortion, said in a statement that he never physically intimidated, coerced or attempted to have any sexual contact with any member of his congressional staff.
Instead, he says, the dispute resulted from a discussion of surrogacy. Franks and his wife, who have struggled with infertility, have 3-year-old twins who were conceived through surrogacy.
Franks, 60, says he had become familiar with the surrogacy process in recent years and “became insensitive as to how the discussion of such an intensely personal topic might affect others.”
He said he regrets that his “discussion of this option and process in the workplace” with two female staffers made them feel uncomfortable.
10 Things to Know for Friday
Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Friday:
1. AL FRANKEN TO QUIT SENATE
The embattled Minnesota lawmaker bows to demands to resign amid multiple allegations of sexual misconduct, the second Democrat to fall in a week.
2. CONGRESS PASSES STOPGAP SPENDING BILL
The votes in the House and Senate prevent a government shutdown this weekend and buy time for challenging talks on a wide range of unfinished business on Capitol Hill.
Wildfire destroys mobile homes in California retirement park
FALLBROOK, Calif. (AP) — A brush fire driven by gusty winds that have plagued Southern California all week exploded rapidly Thursday north of San Diego, destroying dozens of trailer homes in a retirement community and killing race horses at an elite training facility.
The fire expanded to 4 square miles (10 square kilometres) in a matter of hours and tore through the tightly packed Rancho Monserate Country Club community in the small city of Fallbrook, known for its avocado orchards and horse ranches. At least two people were hospitalized with burns.
The destructive blaze broke out as firefighters tried to corral the largest fire in the state that was burning around Ventura — 130 miles (209 kilometres) to the north — and destroyed 430 buildings as it grew to 180 square miles (466 square kilometres) since Monday. Fire crews also fought large fires around Los Angeles, though they made enough progress to lift most evacuation orders.
Like other fires that have broken out this week, Fallbrook has a history of destructive blazes. Ten years ago, as a series of similar fires raced across Southern California, a blaze in Fallbrook injured five people, destroyed 206 homes and burned 14 square miles (36 square kilometres).
Thursday’s fire wiped out rows of trailer homes in the retirement community and left behind charred and mangled metal where they had stood.
Australian prime minister rushes gay marriage into law
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia’s prime minister rushed gay marriage into law on Friday by gaining a final signature on a bill hours after it was overwhelming endorsed by Parliament and as the nation started planning weddings that can take place in a month.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull travelled to Government House where Governor-General Peter Cosgrove signed the bill into law on behalf of Queen Elizabeth II, Australia’s constitutional head of state.
Cosgrove’s signature makes gay marriage legal in Australia from Saturday, when same-sex couples who wed overseas will be recognized as married under Australian law. Couples who intend to marry must give a calendar-month notice, making gay weddings legal on Jan. 9, Turnbull said.
Neville Wills, 98, plans to marry his partner of 39 years, Ian Fenwicke, 74, next month.
Some practical reasons to marry become pressing with age. Relatives have contested wills that left estates to same-sex partners, and gays and lesbians want rights to access and medical consultation when a partner is hospitalized.
Chronicler of Islamic State ‘killing machine’ goes public
The historian carried secrets too heavy for one man to bear.
He packed his bag with his most treasured possessions before going to bed: the 1 terabyte hard drive with his evidence against the Islamic State group, an orange notebook half-filled with notes on Ottoman history, and, a keepsake, the first book from Amazon delivered to Mosul.
He passed the night in despair, imagining all the ways he could die, and the moment he would leave his mother and his city.
He had spent nearly his entire life in this home, with his five brothers and five sisters. He woke his mother in her bedroom on the ground floor.
“I am leaving,” he said. “Where?” she asked. “I am leaving,” was all he could say. He couldn’t endanger her by telling her anything more. In truth, since the IS had invaded his city, he’d lived a life about which she was totally unaware.
Pearl Harbor survivors in their 90s attend solemn ceremony
HONOLULU (AP) — Survivors gathered Thursday at the site of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor to remember fellow servicemen killed in the early morning raid 76 years ago, paying homage to the thousands who died with a solemn ceremony marking the surprise bombing raid that plunged the U.S. into World War II.
About 20 survivors attended the event at a grassy spot overlooking the harbour and the USS Arizona Memorial. They were joined by about 2,000 Navy sailors, officials and members of the public.
Gilbert Meyer, who lived through the Dec. 7, 1941 bombing, said he returned to pay his respects to his shipmates from the USS Utah — and say a prayer for them.
The 94-year who lives near Lytle, Texas, was an 18-year-old fireman first class when a torpedo hit the port side of the Utah. He said he’s still alive because he happened to be on the ship’s starboard side.
“I think about my shipmates and how they were killed. It reminds me that we’re lucky we got off and we’ve made a good country for them,” Meyer said.
EPA chief defends spending on travel and soundproof booth
WASHINGTON (AP) — Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt on Thursday defended his frequent taxpayer-funded travel and his purchase of a custom soundproof communications booth for his office, saying both were justified.
Pruitt made his first appearance before a House oversight subcommittee responsible for environmental issues since his confirmation to lead EPA in February. While his fellow Republicans largely used their time to praise Pruitt’s leadership, Democrats pressed Pruitt on his proposed rollbacks of environmental regulations, his past statements denying carbon emissions are primarily to blame for climate change and his spending while in office.
The former Oklahoma attorney general is under scrutiny after expense reports showed he often leaves Washington on Thursdays and Fridays for appearances in westward states before spending the weekend at his home in Tulsa and then returning to EPA headquarters on Mondays. The EPA’s inspector general is currently investigating whether Pruitt’s trips violate EPA’s travel policies and procedures.
“Every trip I’ve taken to Oklahoma with respect to taxpayer expenses has been business related,” Pruitt said, before giving examples of meetings and environmental issues in his home state that he said required his personal attention. “When I’ve travelled back to the state for personal reasons, I’ve paid for it. And that will bear out in the process.”
Rep. Diana DeGette, a Colorado Democrat, asked about the nearly $25,000 he spent on a custom soundproof booth for making private phone calls in his office — something none of his predecessors had.
Palestinians protest Trump move, more unrest feared
JERUSALEM (AP) — Thousands of Palestinian protesters clashed with Israeli forces in east Jerusalem and the West Bank, demonstrators in the Gaza Strip burned U.S. flags and pictures of President Donald Trump, and a top Palestinian official said Vice-President Mike Pence would not be welcome in the West Bank, in a show of rage Thursday over the American decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Israeli forces were bracing for the possibility of even stronger violence on Friday, when tens of thousands of Palestinians attend weekly prayers at Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa Mosque, the city’s most sacred Islamic site. In Gaza, the supreme leader of the Hamas militant group called on Palestinians to launch a new uprising against Israel.
The Palestinians were blindsided by Trump’s move to depart from decades of U.S. policy on Jerusalem and upend longstanding international assurances that the fate of the city would be determined in negotiations.
The Palestinians seek east Jerusalem, captured by Israel in 1967, as their capital. Israel claims the entire city, including east Jerusalem, home to sensitive Jewish, Muslim and Christian holy sites, as its undivided capital. The opposing claims lie at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and have often spilled over into deadly violence.
The Palestinians declared three “days of rage,” shuttering schools and businesses, and staging angry demonstrations at Damascus Gate, one of the entrances to Jerusalem’s Old City, and cities across the West Bank and Gaza.
Ex-priest convicted of murdering Texas woman in 1960
EDINBURG, Texas (AP) — An ex-priest was convicted of murdering a 25-year-old Texas schoolteacher and beauty queen on Thursday, more than 57 years after Irene Garza went to Sacred Heart Catholic Church in McAllen intending to go to confession.
Garza’s bludgeoned body was found days after her April 16, 1960, disappearance. An autopsy revealed that she had been raped while unconscious and had been beaten and suffocated.
A Hidalgo County jury deliberated 6 1/2 hours before returning its verdict in the murder trial of John Bernard Feit, an 85-year-old former priest, after hearing five days of testimony.
Feit, who was 28 at the time of her death, came under suspicion early on, telling police that he heard Garza’s confession — in the church rectory, not in the confessional — but denying he killed her.
This week, prosecutors presented evidence that elected and church officials suspected Feit killed her but wanted to avoid prosecuting him because it might harm the church’s reputation and elected officials politically. Most elected officials at the time in Hidalgo County were Catholic, and Sen. John F. Kennedy, a Catholic, was running for president that year.