Former US security leaders blast Trump for yanking clearance
WASHINGTON (AP) — Former U.S. security officials issued scathing rebukes to President Donald Trump on Thursday, admonishing him for yanking a top former spy chief’s security clearance in what they cast as an act of political vengeance. Trump said he’d had to do “something” about the “rigged” federal probe of Russian election interference.
Trump’s admission that he acted out of frustration about the Russia probe underscored his willingness to use his executive power to fight back against an investigation he sees as a threat to his presidency. Legal experts said the dispute may add to the evidence being reviewed by special counsel Robert Mueller.
In an opinion piece in The New York Times, former CIA Director John Brennan said Trump’s decision, announced Wednesday, to deny him access to classified information was a desperate attempt to end Mueller’s investigation. Brennan, who served under President Barack Obama and has become a vocal Trump critic, called Trump’s claims that he did not collude with Russia “hogwash.”
The only question remaining is whether the collusion amounts to a “constituted criminally liable conspiracy,” Brennan wrote.
Later Thursday, the retired Navy admiral who oversaw the raid that killed Osama bin Laden called Trump’s moves “McCarthy-era tactics.” Writing in The Washington Post, William H. McRaven said he would “consider it an honour” if Trump would revoke his clearance, as well.
Detroit residents remember Aretha Franklin, impact on city
DETROIT (AP) — To the rest of the world, she was the “Queen of Soul” — a woman whose strong and soulful voice could effortlessly jump multiple octaves whether belting out tear-jerking ballads or jump-and-shout gospel.
To residents in her hometown of Detroit who followed her more than 50-year career, she was simply “Aretha” or more personally “Ree-Ree” — the city’s favourite daughter, often singing at the Baptist church her father once led or headlining charity functions for kids or the less fortunate.
“She was a pioneer woman for Detroit,” said Myron Pullin, fighting back tears Thursday morning outside New Bethel Baptist Church after learning of Franklin’s death from pancreatic cancer.
“It really hurt my heart. I wanted to cry,” Pullin, 56, added beneath sombre, grey and swollen clouds. “Her music touches you, but her voice. Patti LaBelle, Gladys Knight, they’re beautiful singers, but to me, Aretha just stood out differently from all of them.”
Franklin, who died at her home in Detroit, had moved to the city from Tennessee as a young child.
Pentagon delays Trump’s military parade until at least 2019
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Defence Department said Thursday that the Veterans Day military parade ordered up by President Donald Trump won’t happen in 2018.
Col. Rob Manning, a Pentagon spokesman, said the military and the White House “have now agreed to explore opportunities in 2019.”
The announcement came several hours after reports that the parade would cost about $92 million, according to U.S. officials citing preliminary estimates more than three times the price first suggested by the White House.
According to the officials, roughly $50 million would cover Pentagon costs for aircraft, equipment, personnel and other support for the November parade in Washington. The remainder would be borne by other agencies and largely involve security costs. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss early planning estimates that have not yet been finalized or released publicly. The estimate was first reported by CNBC.
Officials said the plans had not yet been approved by Defence Secretary Jim Mattis.
More than 1,000 Google workers protest censored China search
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — More than a thousand Google employees have signed a letter protesting the company’s secretive plan to build a search engine that would comply with Chinese censorship.
The letter calls on executives to review ethics and transparency at the company.
The letter’s contents were confirmed by a Google employee who helped organize it but who requested anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the debate.
The letter says employees lack the information required “to make ethically informed decisions about our work” and complains that most employees only found out about the project — nicknamed Dragonfly — through media reports.
The letter is similar to one thousands of employees had signed in protest of Project Maven, a U.S. military contract that Google decided in June not to renew.
Record-breaking fire tornado killed California firefighter
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — In the history of California wildfires there has never been anything like it: A churning tornado filled with fire, the size of three football fields.
An official report describes in chilling detail the intensity of the rare fire phenomenon and how quickly it took the life of Redding firefighter Jeremy Stoke, who was enveloped in seconds as he tried to evacuate residents on July 26.
Three videos released with the report late Wednesday show the massive funnel of smoke and flames in a populated area on the edge of Redding, about 250 miles (400 kilometres) north of San Francisco.
The smoke-and-fire tornado was about 1,000 feet (300 metres) wide at its base and shot approximately 7.5 miles (12 kilometres) into the sky; it reached speeds of up to 165 mph (265 kph), with temperatures that likely exceeded 2,700 degrees Fahrenheit (1,480 degrees Celsius), said the report by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
The tornado exploded in the middle of what was already a gigantic, devastating wildfire that started on July 23 with a spark from a vehicle driving on a flat tire. Stoke is one of eight people killed since the blaze started and destroyed nearly 1,100 homes. It was 71 per cent contained as of Thursday.
Where White House touts a boom, most economists see a blip
WASHINGTON (AP) — Is the latest pickup in U.S. economic growth destined to slow in the years ahead as most analysts say?
Or, as the Trump administration insists, is the economy on the cusp of an explosive boom that will reward Americans and defy those expectations?
On Thursday, President Donald Trump’s chief economic adviser made his case for the boom. Calling mainstream predictions “pure nonsense,” Larry Kudlow declared that the expansion — already the second-longest on record — is merely in its “early innings.”
“The single biggest event, be it political or otherwise, this year is an economic boom that most people thought would be impossible to generate,” Kudlow said at a Cabinet meeting, speaking at the president’s request and looking directly at him. “Not a rise. Not a blip.”
“People may disagree with me,” Kudlow continued, “but I’m saying this, we are just in the early stages.”
Bodies of missing wife, daughters found in Colorado
FREDERICK, Colo. (AP) — After his pregnant wife and two daughters disappeared, Christopher Watts stood on his porch in Colorado and lamented to reporters how much he missed them.
He longed for the simple things, he said, like telling his girls to eat their dinner and gazing at them as they curled up to watch cartoons.
“Last night, I had every light in the house on. I was hoping that I would just get ran over by the kids running in the door, just barrel-rushing me, but it didn’t happen,” he told Denver TV station KMGH.
On Thursday, Watts was in jail after being arrested on suspicion of killing his family, probably before he spoke those words. Authorities did not offer a motive.
The body of 34-year-old Shanann Watts was found on property owned by Anadarko Petroleum, one of the state’s largest oil and gas drillers, where Christopher Watts worked, police said. Investigators found what they believe are the bodies of 4-year-old Bella and 3-year-old Celeste nearby on Thursday afternoon.
Vatican in ‘shame and sorrow’ over abuses in Pennsylvania
VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Vatican expressed “shame and sorrow” Thursday over a scathing Pennsylvania grand jury report about clergy who raped and molested children in six dioceses in that state, calling the abuse “criminally and morally reprehensible” and saying Pope Francis wants to eradicate “this tragic horror.”
In a written statement using uncharacteristically strong language for the Holy See even in matters like the long-running abuse scandals staining the U.S. church, Vatican spokesman Greg Burke sought to assure victims that “the pope is on their side.”
Pope Francis himself wasn’t quoted in the statement, and there was no mention of demands in the United States among some Roman Catholics for the resignation of Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington.
The grand jury report made public this week accused the cardinal of helping to protect some molester priests while he was bishop of the Pennsylvania city of Pittsburgh. Wuerl has defended his actions in Pittsburgh while apologizing for the damage inflicted on victims.
Burke said the incidents of abuse graphically documented in the report were “betrayals of trust that robbed survivors of their dignity and their faith.”
Judge finds conspiracy to kill Kim with VX, women to testify
SHAH ALAM, Malaysia (AP) — Two women accused in the brazen assassination of the North Korean leader’s half brother were told Thursday to make their defence after a Malaysian judge found evidence they participated in a “well-planned conspiracy” to kill, extending their murder trial until next year.
Indonesia’s Siti Aisyah and Vietnam’s Doan Thi Huong are accused of smearing VX nerve agent on Kim Jong Nam’s face in an airport terminal in Kuala Lumpur on Feb. 13, 2017. They face the death penalty if convicted.
High Court Judge Azmi Ariffin found inadequate proof of a political assassination and said he wasn’t persuaded by defence arguments that the women thought they were playing a prank for a hidden-camera show. But enough evidence had been presented in the six-month trial to infer the women and four North Korean suspects at large had meticulously engaged in a “well-planned conspiracy” to kill Kim “systemically,” he said.
“I must therefore call upon them to enter their defence,” the judge said after reading his ruling for more than two hours.
Indonesian Ambassador Rusdi Kirana told reporters outside court that he was shocked by the decision but his government will abide by it.
Kroger rolls out driverless cars for grocery deliveries
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) — At a time when big-box retailers are trying to offer the same conveniences as their online competitors, the biggest U.S. grocery chain is testing the use of driverless cars to deliver groceries in a Phoenix suburb.
Kroger’s pilot program launched Thursday morning with a robotic vehicle parked outside one of its own Fry’s supermarkets in Scottsdale. A store clerk loaded the back seat with full grocery bags. A man was in the driver’s seat and another was in the front passenger seat with a laptop. Both were there to monitor the car’s performance.
Under the self-driving service, shoppers can order same-day or next-day delivery online or on a mobile app for a flat rate of about $6. After the order is placed, a driverless vehicle will deliver the groceries curbside, requiring customers to be present to fetch them. The vehicles will probably be opened with a numeric code.
Currently, Kroger is operating with Toyota Prius vehicles. During the next phase of testing in the fall, deliveries will be made by a completely autonomous vehicle with no human aboard.
Cincinnati-based Kroger Co., is partnering with Nuro, a Silicon Valley startup founded by two engineers who worked on autonomous vehicles at Google.