Trump digs in on racist tweets: ‘Many people agree with me’
WASHINGTON (AP) — Defiant in the face of widespread criticism, President Donald Trump renewed his belligerent call on Monday for four Democratic congresswomen of colour to get out of the U.S. “right now,” cementing his position as the most willing U.S. leader in generations to stoke the discord that helped send him to the White House.
Content to gamble that a sizeable chunk of the electorate embraces his tweets that have been widely denounced as racist, the president made clear that he has no qualms about exploiting racial divisions once again.
“It doesn’t concern me because many people agree with me,” Trump said at the White House. “A lot of people love it, by the way.”
The episode served notice that Trump is willing to again rely on incendiary rhetoric on issues of race and immigration to preserve his political base in the leadup to the 2020 election.
There was near unanimous condemnation from Democrats for Trump’s comments and a rumble of discontent from a subset of Republicans — but notably not from the party’s congressional leaders.
Trump tweets send stinging message to countless Americans
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — When President Donald Trump tweeted that four congresswomen should “go back” where they came from, Erika Almiron was reminded of the first time she heard the same comments. She was a new fourth-grader at a predominantly white Italian-Catholic school.
Since then, the daughter of immigrants from Paraguay has heard the remark dozens of times. “I was like, ‘I was born in South Philly, so what do you want me to do?'” said Almiron, now 42 and an immigrant-rights worker in Philadelphia.
For countless Americans, Trump’s words on Sunday sent a stinging message that they are not fully welcome in their own country. His comments echoed painful remarks they have heard throughout their lives. But this time, they came not from a stranger or even a political candidate, but straight from the occupant of the Oval Office.
Trump “feels so emboldened to believe that he has the right to be here and other people don’t, and he gets to determine what that looks like,” Almiron said.
The president doubled down on his remarks Monday, telling reporters that if the lawmakers “hate our country,” they can leave. He defended his tweets by saying the backlash he received “doesn’t concern me because many people agree with me.”
Final blast of torrential rains unleashed by weakened Barry
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Tropical Depression Barry spared New Orleans and Baton Rouge from catastrophic flooding, but even as it weakened and moved north through Arkansas, its trailing rain bands swamped parts of Louisiana with up to 17 inches (43 centimetres) of rain and transformed part of the Mississippi Delta into “an ocean.”
As of Monday evening, with the centre of the storm about 105 miles (170 kilometres) northwest of Little Rock, the National Weather Service said flash flood watches remained in effect in southeast Texas through the lower Mississippi Valley.
Forecasters said the storm was expected to produce up to 4 inches (10 centimetres) of rain — and in isolated spots as much as 8 inches (20 centimetres) — across Arkansas, western Tennessee and Kentucky, southeast Missouri, and northwest Mississippi.
No fatalities or serious injuries reported from Barry.
Some of the earliest fears that the storm posed didn’t play out: A shift in its path decreased the possibility of major Mississippi River levees being overtopped at New Orleans, where catastrophic levee breaches along canals devastated the city after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. And the torrents of rain forecasters had said were possible — portending repeats of catastrophic Baton Rouge area flooding in 2016 — didn’t happen.
Trump abortion restrictions effective immediately
WASHINGTON (AP) — Taxpayer-funded family planning clinics must stop referring women for abortions immediately, the Trump administration said Monday, declaring it will begin enforcing a new regulation hailed by religious conservatives and denounced by medical organizations and women’s rights groups.
The head of a national umbrella group representing the clinics said the administration is following “an ideological agenda” that could disrupt basic health care for many low-income women.
Ahead of a planned conference Tuesday with the clinics, the Health and Human Services Department formally notified them that it will begin enforcing the ban on abortion referrals, along with a requirement that clinics maintain separate finances from facilities that provide abortions. Another requirement that both kinds of facilities cannot be under the same roof would take effect next year.
The rule is widely seen as a blow against Planned Parenthood, which provides taxpayer-funded family planning and basic health care to low-income women, as well as abortions that must be paid for separately. The organization is a mainstay of the federally funded family planning program and it has threatened to quit over the issue.
Planned Parenthood President Leana Wen said in a statement that “our doors are still open” as her organization and other groups seek to overturn the regulations in federal court. “We will not stop fighting for all those across the country in need of essential care,” Wen said.
‘Chatgate’ scandal throws Puerto Rico’s governor into crisis
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Nearly two years ago, Hurricane María exposed the raw dysfunction of Puerto Rico, collapsing long-neglected infrastructure and leaving several thousand dead on Gov. Ricardo Rosselló’s watch. Last week, two of his top former officials were arrested by the FBI on corruption charges.
But the scandal that is threatening to buckle the boyish 40-year-old governor centres on a profanity-laced and at times misogynistic online chat with nine other male members of his administration in which some of the U.S. territory’s most powerful men act like a bunch of teenagers. The leak of at least 889 pages of the private chat has sunk Rosselló into the deepest crisis of his career.
In the chats on the encrypted messaging app Telegram, Rosselló calls one New York female politician of Puerto Rican background a “whore,” describes another as a “daughter of a bitch” and makes fun of an obese man he posed with in a photo. The chat also contains vulgar references to Puerto Rican star Ricky Martin’s homosexuality and a series of emojis of a raised middle finger directed at a federal control board overseeing the island’s finances.
For many Puerto Ricans still recovering from one of the United States’ worst-ever disasters, on the back of the island’s biggest public financial collapse, the scandal analysts and ordinary people are calling “Chatgate” or “Rickyleaks” has proven to be too much.
Thousands of protesters marched in the capital for a third day Monday to call for Rosselló’s resignation. Police tried to disperse the marchers with pepper spray in front of the Fortaleza governor’s residence, which was protected by barricades.
Joe Biden draws line against progressives on health care
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Joe Biden is taking an aggressive approach to defending the Affordable Care Act, challenging not just President Donald Trump but also some of his rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination who want to replace the current insurance system with a fully government-run model.
The former vice-president has spent the past several weeks highlighting his support for the health care law often called “Obamacare.” He told voters in Iowa that he was “against any Republican (and) any Democrat who wants to scrap” the law. He’s also talked of “building on” Obamacare.
He released a proposal Monday to add a “public option” to the 2010 health care overhaul, with expanded coverage paid for by tax increases on the wealthiest Americans. Returning to Iowa, he touted the public option as “the quickest … most rational way to get universal coverage.” A sudden transition to “Medicare for All,” he said, “is kind of risky.”
Biden hopes his positioning as Obamacare’s chief defender will remind voters of his work alongside former President Barack Obama, who remains popular among Democrats. And it could reinforce his pitch as a sensible centrist promising to rise above the strident cacophony of Trump and more liberal Democrats who are single-payer advocates.
The emerging divide between Biden and his progressive rivals could allow him to go on offence ahead of the next debates at the end of the month. Biden spent recent weeks on defence, reversing his position on taxpayer funding for abortions and highlighting his long-ago relationships with segregationist senators. During the first debates, Sen. Kamala Harris of California slammed Biden for his Senate recollections and his opposition to federal busing orders to desegregate public schools during the same era.
Treasury chief: Facebook currency plan ripe for illicit use
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration came out strongly Monday against Facebook’s ambitious plan to create a new digital currency, as the Treasury chief warned it could be used for illicit activity such as money laundering, human trafficking and financing terrorism.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin expressed “very serious concerns” about the currency proposed by the social network giant, to be called Libra. “This is indeed a national security issue,” Mnuchin told reporters at the White House.
His comments came a few days after President Donald Trump tweeted that Libra “will have little standing or dependability.”
Trump, fresh off a “social media summit” he led at the White House that gathered conservative critics of Big Tech, tweeted last week: “I am not a fan of Bitcoin and other Cryptocurrencies, which are not money, and whose value is highly volatile and based on thin air. Unregulated Crypto Assets can facilitate unlawful behaviour, including drug trade and other illegal activity.”
If they want to get into the financial business, Facebook and its dozens of partner companies in the venture will have to accept the kind of tight regulation that banks are under, the president said.
Protests flare over construction of telescope in Hawaii
MAUNA KEA, Hawaii (AP) — Singing, chanting and lying on the ground in the road, hundreds of people demonstrated on Monday against the construction of a giant telescope on a mountaintop that some Native Hawaiians consider sacred.
The protests were the latest salvo in a yearslong fight that pits scientific discovery against cultural preservation.
Scientists hope the massive telescope planned for the site, a world-renowned location for astronomy, will help them peer back to the time just after the Big Bang and answer fundamental questions about the universe. But some Native Hawaiians consider the land holy, as a realm of gods and a place of worship.
The protesters gathered in response to an announcement by the state that officials would close the road to the summit of Mauna Kea on Monday so they could begin bringing equipment to the construction site in coming days.
At about daybreak, a group of kupuna, or elders, sitting in chairs, tied themselves together with rope and blocked the road to the summit in hopes of preventing construction equipment from getting past. Another group of protesters spent the day lying prone on the ground, with their arms shackled under a grate in the road.
Venezuelan migrants take arepas to new lands amid crisis
BOGOTÁ, Colombia (AP) — Venezuelans like to jest that their beloved arepas are so widely consumed that babies come out of the womb with the corn flatbreads already in hand.
Now, as millions flee their homeland’s turmoil, they are taking Venezuela’s most ubiquitous dish with them.
Humble street stalls and sit-down restaurants serving arepas are popping up throughout the streets of Colombia’s capital and in cities around the world, where many are finding the white corn flour patties an ideal means for gaining their footing in a foreign nation. Others are exchanging traditional fillings for local flavours in a nod to their adopted countries.
“For us, the arepa represents Venezuela,” says Alejandra Castro, who opened an arepa business in Buenos Aires, Argentina over a year ago. “It’s our culture, our daily bread. What one misses and longs for the most is an arepa.”
The arepa’s surge on the world stage comes as its consumption steadily declines back home amid a punishing financial crisis worse than the U.S. Great Depression, leading an estimated 4 million people to flee.
Avenatti: R. Kelly paid $2M to silence girl he assaulted
CHICAGO (AP) — Celebrity attorney Michael Avenatti said Monday that R&B singer R. Kelly paid $2 million to keep the alleged victim in a child pornography case off the witness stand during a 2008 trial that ended with his acquittal on all charges.
“R. Kelly bought his acquittal,” Avenatti said at a news conference in which he provided details of what he said has been a yearslong effort by Kelly to prevent his sexual abuse of several girls from becoming public. He said Kelly paid at least one associate $100,000 to hunt down videos of him having sex with a minor that had gone missing.
Avenatti said he represents three alleged victims, three parents of victims and three associates of Kelly that he called “whistleblowers.”
Avenatti faces his own mounting legal problems. The one-time lawyer for Stormy Daniels — who says President Donald Trump tried to pay her off after she had a sexual encounter with him before he became president — has been charged both in California and New York with stealing money from clients and attempting to extort money from sportswear maker Nike.
Avenatti’s comments come just days after federal prosecutors announced they’d indicted Kelly in New York and Chicago on charges that he and his entourage recruited girls and young women to engage in illegal sexual activity and covered it up by paying and threatening witnesses and victims. The 52-year-old Kelly was arrested and remains in federal custody. He is scheduled to appear in court Tuesday for a bond hearing, during which prosecutors are expected to argue that he should remain locked up because he is both dangerous and a flight risk. His attorney has denied the allegations.
The Associated Press