ACROSS OUR STATE & NATION

Trump threatens to cut off US

aid to Palestinian Authority

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is threatening to cut off U.S. aid money to the Palestinian Authority and acknowledging that the Middle East peace process appears to be stalled.

Trump says in a pair of tweets that, “we pay the Palestinians HUNDRED OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS a year and get no appreciation or respect. They don’t even want to negotiate a long overdue … peace treaty with Israel.”

He adds that, “with the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?”

Trump infuriated many when he announced late last year that the U.S. would consider Jerusalem the capital of Israel and move its embassy there.

Trump has long said he wants to broker Mideast peace, calling it “the ultimate deal.”

Trump throws full US support behind protesters in Iran

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration on Tuesday threw the weight of the U.S. government behind the protesters taking to the streets of Iran, rooting them on despite the risk of helping Iranian authorities dismiss a week of major demonstrations as the product of American instigation.

As Iran’s supreme leader accused “enemies of Iran” of trying to destabilize his country, the State Department pressed Tehran to unblock social media sites used by the protesters. It even offered advice to tech-savvy Iranians on circumventing state internet controls.

President Donald Trump declared it was “time for change” in Iran, and other officials floated the possibility of additional sanctions. At the United Nations, Ambassador Nikki Haley sought a Security Council meeting to show support for those protesting in the Islamic Republic.

“We want to help amplify the voices of the Iranian people,” said Haley, who appeared before cameras to recite the chants of protesters across Iran. She said Iran’s claim that other countries were fomenting the unrest was “complete nonsense,” describing the dissent as homegrown.

Borrowing from a response playbook it has used before, Iran’s government blamed the U.S., Saudi Arabia and Britain for the protests. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the 78-year-old supreme leader, said Iran’s enemies were using money, weapons, politics and spies “to create problems for the Islamic system, the Islamic Republic and the Islamic Revolution.”

Sen. Hatch to

retire, opening door for possible Romney run

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah said Tuesday he will not seek re-election after serving more than 40 years in the Senate, opening the door for 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney to run for his seat.

The 83-year-old Hatch, the longest-serving Republican in the Senate, opted for retirement despite a full-court press from President Donald Trump to stay in Washington, particularly as Romney’s ambition for the seat became apparent.

Romney was a vocal critic of Trump’s during the 2016 election and could be a potential thorn in the president’s side in the Senate. He also has drawn the ire of Trump’s former White House adviser, Steve Bannon, who recently derided Romney as a draft dodger who “hid behind” his Mormon religion to avoid serving in the Vietnam War.

Hatch said he decided to retire at the end of his seventh term after “much prayer and discussion with family and friends” over the holiday break. He said he’s always been a fighter, “but every good fighter knows when to hang up the gloves.”

“Only in a nation like ours could someone like me — the scrappy son of a simple carpenter — grow up to become a United States Senator,” he added.

Most big public colleges don’t track suicides,

AP finds

BOSTON (AP) — Most of the largest U.S. public universities do not track suicides among their students, despite making investments in prevention at a time of surging demand for mental health services.

Tabulating student suicides comes with its own set of challenges and problems. But without that data, prevention advocates say, schools have no way to measure their success and can overlook trends that could offer insight to help them save lives.

“If you don’t collect the data, you’re doing half the job,” said Gordon Smith, a former U.S. senator from Oregon who became a prevention advocate after his son, Garrett, took his life in 2003 while attending college. “We need information in mental health if we’re actually going to be able to better tailor health and healing.”

The Associated Press asked the 100 largest U.S. public universities for annual suicide statistics and found that 46 currently track suicides, including 27 that have consistently done so since 2007. Of the 54 remaining schools, 43 said they don’t track suicides, nine could provide only limited data and didn’t answer questions about how consistently they tracked suicides, and two didn’t provide statistics.

Schools that don’t track suicides include some of the nation’s largest, including Arizona State University and the University of Wisconsin, which have both dealt with student suicides in the recent past, according to news reports. There were at least two suicides at Arizona State in 2017. Health officials at Wisconsin said they’re finalizing a database to track the causes of student deaths.

Deadly cold

disrupts US;

warming centers open in South

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Dangerously cold temperatures blamed for at least nine deaths have wreaked havoc across a wide swath of the U.S., freezing a water tower in Iowa, halting ferry service in New York and leading officials to open warming centers even in the Deep South.

The National Weather Service issued wind chill advisories and freeze warnings Tuesday covering a vast area from South Texas to Canada and from Montana through New England.

Indianapolis early Tuesday tied a record low of minus 12 degrees Fahrenheit (-24 Celsius) for Jan. 2 set in 1887, leading Indianapolis Public Schools to cancel classes. And the northwest Indiana city of Lafayette got down to minus 19 (-28 Celsius), shattering the previous record of minus 5 (-21 Celsius) for the date, set in 1979, the National Weather Service said. After residents there began complaining of a hum, Duke Energy said it was caused by extra power surging through utility lines to meet electricity demands.

“The temperatures are certainly extreme, but we’ve seen colder,” said Joseph Nield, a meteorologist in Indianapolis, noting that the all-time low temperature in Indiana was minus 36 (-38 Celsius) in 1994.

Nevertheless, the cold is nothing to trifle with, forecasters warned.

2 new faces and old partisan

standoffs as

Congress returns

WASHINGTON (AP) — There will be two fresh Senate faces and some familiar but stubborn clashes facing lawmakers Wednesday as Congress begins its 2018 session staring at the year’s first potential calamity — an election-year government shutdown unless there’s a bipartisan spending pact by Jan. 19.

Looking to prevent a closure of federal agencies, top White House officials planned to meet at the Capitol Wednesday with House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and each chamber’s top Democrat.

Their goal is to find a compromise on raising limits on defense and domestic spending that eluded lawmakers before they left Washington for the holidays. In a statement Tuesday, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said President Donald Trump wants a two-year pact “that provides realistic budget caps and provides certainty for our national security,” suggesting he was open to a bargain.

In one complication, Democrats have linked closure on the budget to protecting from deportation hundreds of thousands of immigrants who arrived in the U.S. illegally as children. Both parties have been divided over the so-called Dreamers.

Parachuting into this is a Democratic duo whose Senate arrivals are extraordinary.

Teenager gets

probation in firetruck collision that killed 2

AKRON, Ohio (AP) — A teenager who pleaded guilty to juvenile charges in the deaths of two teen passengers who died when she drove an SUV through a red light and collided with an Ohio firetruck has received probation.

A juvenile court judge in Akron ordered a suspended sentence for the 16-year-old girl on Tuesday. The judge says the girl will go to youth prison if she violates the terms of the one-year probation.

The girl earlier pleaded guilty to juvenile charges of aggravated vehicular homicide and aggravated vehicular assault in the July crash, which killed 15-year-old Briyana Hayes and 16-year-old Lashae Johnson.

The firetruck was headed to training and didn’t have lights or sirens on during the collision.

The girl apologized in court. Her attorney has said she’s remorseful.

Attorney: Family

of ‘swatting’

victim wants

officer charged

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The attorney for the family of a Kansas man fatally shot at the door of his home after a hoax emergency call wants the police officer who killed him criminally charged for his death.

Police have said 28-year-old Andrew Finch was shot after a prankster called 911 last week with a fake story about a shooting and kidnapping at Finch’s Wichita home.

In a letter Tuesday, Finch’s mother, Lisa Finch, says officials are compounding the family’s grief by not allowing her to see her son’s body or returning it for burial.

The family’s Chicago attorney, Andrew M. Stroth, says justice for them would include criminal charges against the SWAT team officer who shot Finch.

Prosecutors are seeking to have a California man accused of making the call sent to Kansas.

Ex-reporter for Cleveland TV

station dies at 38

CLEVELAND (AP) — A former Cleveland television reporter has died at age 38.

Kathleen Cochrane DePiero formerly worked at WJW-TV, known in the area as Fox 8. The television station reports that DePiero died Saturday after a brief illness.

DePiero worked at the station beginning in 2005 before stepping away from her career to spend time with her children, 7-year-old Blake and 5-year-old Hadley.

She most recently worked for the station on special assignment during the 2016 Republican National Convention, held in Cleveland.

WJW news director Andy Fishman said the station is “heartbroken” at the loss of a reporter described as “hard-working, determined and thorough.”

DePiero’s husband, Dean DePiero, is a former Democratic state lawmaker and a former mayor of Parma.

1st of 9 Rikers

Island jails set

to close

amid overhaul

NEW YORK (AP) — The city will close one of nine Rikers Island jails in the summer as part of a plan to shut down the troubled jail complex, the mayor announced on Tuesday.

“Every day we are making New York City’s jail system smaller and safer,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement. “This announcement is an important step in our plan to close Rikers Island and create more community-based facilities to better serve people in custody and our hard-working correctional staff.”

De Blasio, a Democrat, said the city’s jail population fell to below 9,000 for December. As of Monday, the Department of Correction’s jail population was 8,705.

The city is working to identify sites that can replace Rikers, which sits in the East River between Queens and the Bronx. Officials also are assessing the capacity of three existing correction facilities in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens.

De Blasio revealed in March he intended to close the Rikers complex, saying it will take a decade. An independent commission formed after a string of brutality cases that exposed poor supervision, questionable medical care and corruption at Rikers also recommended its closure.

Crime has been falling in the nation’s largest city. De Blasio, at the swearing-in ceremony for his second term, boasted about the city recording the lowest number of annual homicides since the early 1950s. The police department’s preliminary count is 290 homicides for last year, a 14 percent drop from the year before.

Court won’t

rehear defamation case against Cosby

BOSTON (AP) — A federal appeals court won’t rehear a defamation lawsuit filed against Bill Cosby by a woman who said he raped her decades ago.

The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently denied Kathrine McKee’s request for a full-court hearing. A three-judge panel of the court had ruled against her in October.

The former actress said Cosby defamed her in a letter his lawyer sent to the New York Daily News demanding a retraction of a story about McKee’s allegations. Cosby’s lawyers said the letter was protected by the First Amendment.

McKee was among dozens of women who went public with allegations against Cosby. Cosby has denied all allegations of wrongdoing.

A separate defamation lawsuit filed by seven other women is also pending in Massachusetts, where Cosby owns a home.

Famed Muscle Shoals music

producer Rick Hall dies at 85

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Alabama record producer Rick Hall, who recorded some of the biggest musical acts of the 1960s and ’70s and helped develop the fabled “Muscle Shoals sound,” has died.

Hall died at his home Tuesday following a fight with cancer, said longtime friend Judy Hood. He was 85.

Hall founded FAME Recording Studios in northwestern Alabama in 1959 and went on to record major acts including R&B stars Aretha Franklin and Wilson Pickett. Hall also recorded country artists including George Jones and Brenda Lee and produced pop acts including Paul Anka and the Osmonds.

A new generation of listeners knows Hall through the 2013 documentary “Muscle Shoals.” The movie tells the story of Hall, the region’s musicians and their distinctive, soulful sound featuring heavy bass, guitar and electronic organ or piano.

David Hood, Judy Hood’s husband and a member of the “Swampers” rhythm section immortalized in the Lynyrd Skynyrd song “Sweet Home Alabama,” said Hall “had a very definite idea of how things were supposed to sound.”