ACROSS OUR STATE & NATION
AP source: Second US official
in Kyiv heard Trump call
WASHINGTON (AP) — A second U.S. Embassy staffer in Kyiv overheard a cellphone call between President Donald Trump and his ambassador to the European Union discussing a need for Ukrainian officials to pursue “investigations,” The Associated Press has learned.
The July 26 call between Trump and Gordon Sondland was first described during testimony Wednesday by William Taylor, the acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. Taylor said one of his staffers overhead the call while Sondland was in a Kyiv restaurant the day after Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy that triggered the House impeachment inquiry.
The second diplomatic staffer also at the table was Suriya Jayanti, a foreign service officer based in Kyiv. A person briefed on what Jayanti overheard spoke to AP on condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter currently under investigation.
The accounts of the two embassy staffers could tie Trump closer to alleged efforts to hold up military aid to Ukraine in exchange for investigations into political rival Joe Biden and his son Hunter’s business dealings. In defending Trump on Wednesday, Republicans repeatedly highlighted that Taylor never directly heard the president direct anyone to demand that the Ukrainians open the probe.
Trump on Wednesday said he did not recall the July 26 call with Sondland.
Squalid conditions at migrant camp shows need for help
MATAMOROS, Mexico (AP) — A smoke-filled stench fills a refugee camp just a short walk from the U.S.-Mexico border, rising from ever-burning fires and piles of human waste. Parents and children live in a sea of tents and tarps, some patched together with garbage bags. Others sleep outside in temperatures that recently dropped to freezing.
Justina, an asylum seeker who fled political persecution in Nicaragua, is struggling to keep her 8-month-old daughter healthy inside the damaged tent they share. The baby, Samantha, was diagnosed with pneumonia and recently released from a hospital with a dwindling supply of antibiotics.
“I face cold, hunger and everything because I don’t have resources, and my daughter doesn’t either,” said Justina, who didn’t want her last name used out of fear for her safety.
The camp is an outgrowth of the Trump administration’s “Remain in Mexico” policy, which has sent more than 55,000 migrants, including Justina and Samantha, south of the border to wait and pursue their asylum cases.
A humanitarian crisis is worsening each day at the camp across the border from Brownsville, Texas, where a large American flag flapping in the wind is visible from more than 700 tents. As many as 2,000 immigrants are waiting for U.S. court hearings amid deteriorating medical and sanitary conditions.
Americans struggle to ID facts
WASHINGTON (AP) — In a sharply divided country, here’s something many Americans agree on: It’s hard to know what’s a true and honest fact.
A new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and USAFacts finds that regardless of political belief, many Americans say they have a hard time figuring out if information is true. Nearly two-thirds of Americans say they often come across one-sided information and about 6 in 10 say they regularly see conflicting reports about the same set of facts from different sources.
“It is difficult to get facts. You have to read between the lines. You have to have a lot of common sense,” said Leah Williams, 29, of Modesto, California. A Republican, Williams says she relies on like-minded friends and family to help sort through conflicting information. “There are wolves in sheep’s clothing everywhere.”
The poll found that 47% of Americans believe it’s difficult to know if the information they encounter is true, compared with 31% who find it easy to do so. When deciding whether something is factual, there is widespread consensus on the importance of transparency in how the information was gathered and if it is based on data. While Democrats and Republicans alike frequently find the process challenging, USAFacts founder Steve Ballmer said he’s still optimistic about the poll’s findings.
“Americans want to know the facts,” said Ballmer, the former chief executive at Microsoft. “Facts (are) a driver of decision making, of common discussion and common dialog.”
As Gaza truce begins, Israel
could face questions on tactics
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Residents say the airstrike came without warning: With fighting raging between Israel and Islamic Jihad militants throughout Gaza, two loud blasts shook the night, destroying the Abu Malhous home and killing eight members of the family in a split second.
As Israel claims victory in its latest battle against Gaza militants, its tactics of carrying out airstrikes on private homes suspected of harboring militants could once again come under scrutiny over the civilian death toll. Among the 34 people killed in the two-day flareup were 16 civilians, including two 7-year-old boys and two toddlers, according to human rights investigators.
Abdelhaj Musleh, a neighbor, said many children lived in the house in the central Gaza town of Deir el-Balah. “If there had been a warning, no one would have waited for this death and destruction,” he said.
Since Hamas seized power in Gaza in 2007, Israel has fought three wars and dozens of skirmishes against Islamic militant groups. While the wars have inflicted heavy damage on Hamas and the smaller Islamic Jihad group, hundreds of civilians have also died in Israeli airstrikes.
The high civilian death toll has drawn heavy international criticism, and the International Criminal Court in The Hague has opened a preliminary investigation into Israel’s battlefield tactics.
Trump wants Supreme Court
to block subpoena for his taxes
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is asking the Supreme Court to block a subpoena for his tax returns, in a test of the president’s ability to defy investigations.
The filing Thursday sets the stage for a high court showdown over the tax returns Trump has refused to release, unlike every other modern president. The justices also could weigh in more broadly on Trump’s claim that sitting presidents can’t be prosecuted or investigated for crimes.
The subpoena from the Manhattan district attorney is seeking Trump’s tax returns back to 2011 from his accounting firm as part of a criminal investigation. Trump’s lawyers say a criminal probe of the president at the state or local level is unconstitutional and unprecedented in American history.
“Allowing the sitting president to be targeted for criminal investigation — and to be subpoenaed on that basis– would, like an indictment itself, distract him from the numerous and important duties of his office, intrude on and impair Executive Branch operations, and stigmatize the presidency,” said the brief signed by Jay Sekulow.
Lower courts have so far rejected Trump’s claims of immunity.
International court judges
authorize Rohingya investigation
THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — International Criminal Court judges on Thursday approved a request from prosecutors to open an investigation into crimes committed against Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslim minority.
A prominent rights group said the decision will give fresh hope to victims that those responsible for brutal crimes against the Rohingya will be brought to justice.
“Rohingya victims may finally get their day in court,” said Param-Preet Singh, associate international director at Human Rights Watch.
However, the court has no police force of its own and must rely on the cooperation of states to execute arrest warrants.
There was no immediate public reaction from Myanmar’s government, though in previous statements it has rejected the court’s jurisdiction and said it would not cooperate with any proceeding.
Charlottesville suit seeks
to link online talk to violence
The white nationalist rally that took a deadly turn in Charlottesville, Virginia, during the summer of 2017 shocked Americans with its front-row view of hatred on the rise. But weeks before the violence, organizers were making preparations for the gathering in a corner of the internet.
Using a private server on a platform designed for online gaming, supporters of the rally discussed everything from restroom access to what to wear and what weapons they could legally bring (guns, knives, pepper spray) to the August rally.
Those online chats are now at the heart of a lawsuit that accuses more than two dozen individuals and entities, including white supremacists, of engaging in a violent conspiracy to violate the rights of the counterdemonstrators who gathered in Charlottesville to denounce racism and anti-Semitism.
During the weekend’s events, a neo-Nazi plowed his car into a crowd of counterdemonstrators, killing a woman and injuring dozens of other people.
The 11 plaintiffs in the lawsuit are using the online conversations to bolster their claim of a conspiracy.
Gov. Bevin concedes to Beshear
in Kentucky governor’s race
FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Republican Gov. Matt Bevin conceded to Democratic archnemesis Andy Beshear on Thursday, putting an end to Kentucky’s bitterly fought governor’s race and setting the stage for divided government.
Bevin, an ally of President Donald Trump, made the dramatic announcement outside his statehouse office on the same day election officials across Kentucky double-checked vote totals at his request. Bevin, who trailed by several thousand votes, acknowledged that the recanvass wouldn’t change the outcome.
“We’re going to have a change in the governorship based upon the vote of the people,” Bevin said at the news conference.
Members of Bevin’s administration watched solemnly as the pugnacious governor graciously wished Beshear — the state’s attorney general — well in his new role. It capped a nearly four-year rivalry that overshadowed Kentucky politics. Beshear, wielding his authority as the state’s top lawyer, challenged a series of Bevin’s executive actions during their terms. Their feud spread to the campaign trail and a series of bare-knuckled debates this year.
“I truly want the best for Andy Beshear as he moves forward. I genuinely want him to be successful, I genuinely want this state to be successful,” Bevin said in his concession Thursday.
Old dogs, new tricks:
10,000 pets needed for science
SEATTLE (AP) — Can old dogs teach us new tricks? Scientists are looking for 10,000 pets for the largest-ever study of aging in canines. They hope to shed light on human longevity too. The project will collect a pile of pooch data: vet records, DNA samples, gut microbes and information on food and walks. Five hundred dogs will test a pill that could slow the aging process.
“What we learn will potentially be good for dogs and has great potential to translate to human health,” said project co-director Daniel Promislow of the University of Washington School of Medicine.
If scientists find a genetic marker for a type of cancer in dogs, for instance, that could be explored in humans.
For the study, the dogs will live at home and follow their usual routine. All ages and sizes, purebreds and mutts are welcome.
Ohio abortion clinic lands
license needed to stay open
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The Dayton area’s last abortion clinic has prevailed in a years-long battle over Ohio’s stringent new licensing requirements and will remain open.
The Ohio Department of Health has granted Women’s Med Center a surgical facility license.
The center in Kettering had postponed surgical abortions as it pursued multiple avenues to stay open, including state and federal court challenges and negotiations with local health systems and doctors.
After being unable to land the legally required emergency patient-transfer agreement, the center secured enough doctor signatures for a variance.
Ohio Right to Life, the state’s largest anti-abortion group, said it’s disappointed the state has licensed a facility that’s skirted laws for years that are intended to protect women.
NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, an abortion-rights group, said Ohio’s restrictive abortion laws are not medically necessary.