AP News in Brief at 6:04 a.m. EDT


Trump’s trap: GOP nominee can’t let go of perceived slights

WASHINGTON (AP) — For Donald Trump, it’s become a familiar pattern. The Republican nominee can’t let go of a perceived slight, no matter the potential damage to his presidential campaign or political reputation.

Trump spent the days after winning the Republican nomination criticizing a U.S. district court judge’s Mexican heritage. The morning after accepting the Republican nomination at the party’s convention, Trump re-litigated months-old grievances with primary rival Ted Cruz. Now, he’s sparring with an American Muslim family whose son was killed in Iraq.

Republican leaders have urged Trump to drop his attacks on Khizr and Ghazala Khan, who appeared at last week’s Democratic convention and harshly criticized the GOP nominee. It’s not just the optics of picking a fight with a military family that has GOP officials eager for Trump to move on, but the timing of his attacks: Election Day is just three months away.

Those who have worked with Trump say that in private meetings, he can often appear amenable to putting a controversy aside. But the businessman can quickly be drawn back in by an interview, especially if he believes he’s already answered the question, or if he grows irritated by commentary on cable television.

“It’s just who he is,” said Stuart Jolly, a former campaign staffer and current political director for the pro-Trump Great America PAC.

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Strategist’s bolt from GOP a sign of Trump’s impact of party

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado (AP) — Less than four years ago, the Republican Party tapped a few respected party officials to help the GOP find its way forward. This week, one of them says she’s leaving the party — driven out by Donald Trump.

While not a household name, Sally Bradshaw’s decision to leave the GOP rocked those who make politics their profession. The longtime aide to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush was one of the five senior Republican strategists tasked with identifying the party’s shortcomings and recommending ways it could win the White House after its losing 2012 presidential campaign.

Now, she says, she’ll vote for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton if the race in her home state of Florida appears close come Election Day.

“Sally is representative of an important segment of our party, and that is college-educated women, where Donald Trump is losing by disastrous margins,” said Ari Fleischer, who worked with Bradshaw on the GOP project and was a senior adviser to President George W. Bush. “Trump has moved in exactly the opposite direction from our recommendations on how to make the party more inclusive.”

Fleischer still supports Trump over Clinton. But Bradshaw is among a group of top Republican operatives, messengers, national committee members and donors who continue to decry Trump’s tactics, highlighting almost daily — with three months until Election Day — the rifts created by the billionaire and his takeover of the party.

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Snapping up cheap spy tools, nations ‘monitoring everyone’

LIMA, Peru (AP) — It was a national scandal. Peru’s then-vice president accused two domestic intelligence agents of staking her out. Then, a top congressman blamed the spy agency for a break-in at his office. News stories showed the agency had collected data on hundreds of influential Peruvians.

Yet after last year’s outrage, which forced out the prime minister and froze its intelligence-gathering, the spy service went ahead with a $22 million program capable of snooping on thousands of Peruvians at a time. Peru — a top cocaine-producing nation — joined the ranks of world governments that have added commercial spyware to their arsenals.

The purchase from Israeli-American company Verint Systems, chronicled in documents obtained by The Associated Press, offers a rare, behind-the-scenes look into how easy it is for a country to purchase and install off-the-shelf surveillance equipment. The software allows governments to intercept voice calls, text messages and emails.

Except for blacklisted nations like Syria and North Korea, there is little to stop governments that routinely violate basic rights from obtaining the same so-called “lawful intercept” tools that have been sold to Western police and spy agencies. People tracked by the technology have been beaten, jailed and tortured, according to human rights groups.

Targets identified by the AP include a blogger in the repressive Central Asian republic of Uzbekistan, opposition activists in the war-ravaged African nation of South Sudan, and politicians and reporters in oil-rich Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean.

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Balloon pilot was never grounded due to gap in oversight

LOCKHART, Texas (AP) — If Alfred “Skip” Nichols had been a commercial airplane pilot, he probably would have been grounded long ago.

Nichols, the pilot of a hot air balloon that crashed over the weekend in Texas, killing 16, was able to keep flying despite having at least four convictions for drunken driving and twice spending time in prison — pointing to gaps in oversight of hot air balloon pilots.

Whether the pilot’s drinking habits had anything to do with the crash was unclear. A former girlfriend described Nichols as a recovering alcoholic. She said he had been sober for at least four years and never piloted a balloon after drinking.

The Federal Aviation Administration might allow a recovering alcoholic to fly commercial jets if the pilot could show that he or she was being successfully treated, said John Gadzinski, an airline captain and aviation safety consultant. But the agency is unlikely to accept an airline pilot with convictions for driving under the influence, he said.

The 49-year-old Nichols also had a long history of customer complaints against his balloon-ride companies in Missouri and Illinois dating back to 1997. Customers reported to the Better Business Bureau that their rides would get canceled at the last minute and their fees never refunded.

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AP FACT CHECK: Trump gets much wrong on Ukraine

WASHINGTON (AP) — Donald Trump is trying to claw back a string of inaccurate comments about Ukraine, but he’s yet to get it right.

On the weekend, Trump asserted in an ABC interview that Russia would not enter Ukraine, not seeming to know Russian troops were already there. He suggested the 2014 annexation of Crimea didn’t count because the peninsula’s people preferred being part of Russia, which was Russian President Vladimir Putin’s stated reason for taking it.

Prodded by his interviewer, the Republican presidential candidate modified his statement afterward.

“Already in Crimea!” Trump tweeted Monday, referring to Russian forces. “That’s what I said!”

The attempted clarifications left much unclarified.

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Pence defends military mom’s right to criticize Trump

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence defended a military mom’s right to criticize Donald Trump’s comments about the Muslim parents of a slain U.S. Army veteran during a campaign stop in Nevada, and then lashed out at the media’s coverage of the controversy at the next.

Pence quieted a crowd that was booing a woman who asked Pence at a town hall meeting in Carson City Monday how he could tolerate Trump’s disrespect for American servicemen. In Reno a few hours later, Pence said that both he and Trump have stated that “Capt. Humayun Khan is an American hero.”

Pence said he understands and appreciates the attention given to Kahn’s family. But he doesn’t understand “why the media maligned and continues to ignore the moving mother of fallen Air Force veteran and diplomat Sean Smith.”

Pence said much of the same media criticizing Trump earlier condemned Patricia Smith’s speech at the GOP convention about the U.S. information officer killed in the 2012 attack in Benghazi.

“Let’s demand the media listen to and honor all of the families of the fallen in this country,” he said.

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Senate Republicans on the spot over Trump comments on Khan

WASHINGTON (AP) — The uproar over Donald Trump’s criticism of a bereaved Army family put vulnerable GOP senators in a tight spot, underscoring anew the political challenges created for Republicans by their newly minted presidential nominee. And with the general election campaign now squarely underway, the firestorm over Trump’s attacks on the Khan family is likely just a taste of trials to come as Republicans negotiate how closely to align with their volatile nominee.

Senate Republicans running for re-election weighed in one after another Monday to condemn Trump’s repeated attacks on the parents of slain U.S. Army Capt. Humayun Khan, with former prisoner of war Sen. John McCain of Arizona leading the charge.

McCain issued a lengthy statement insisting that Trump has no right “to defame those who are the best among us” and pleading: “I hope Americans understand that the remarks do not represent the views of our Republican Party, its officers, or candidates.”

Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa said Trump’s comments “are not in line with my own beliefs about how the members of the military and their families should be treated.”

Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina said that “Captain Khan is an American hero in every sense of the term and the Khans deserve our sincerest gratitude.”

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Paid family leave benefits rising in some sectors, regions

NEW YORK (AP) — The call for paid family leave on the Democratic party platform is the most ambitious attempt by a major party in years to reverse the United States’ status as the only industrialized nation without any standard for paid time off for new parents. But over the last five years a handful of states and some industries have been quietly increasing this benefit.

Last week’s convention put paid family leave on the list of workplace election issues along with the minimum wage and equal pay. The Democrats say they will try to secure up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave to care for a new child. While the Republican platform makes no specific reference to paid family leave, the GOP in 2015 called for establishing a “flexible credit hour program” in which workers could exchange overtime hours worked for future leave time.

While Americans generally support paid family leave — a poll conducted this spring by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that 72 percent of Americans 40 and older support the benefit — efforts to adopt a national standard haven’t gone anywhere. Advocates are now more hopeful. “It’s taken on an inevitability,” said Ellen Bravo, executive director of Family Values @ Work, an advocacy group. “Not that it will happen by itself, that it will take work. It took a decade to get the first three states.”

More reason for optimism is that a few states and several competitive industries have slowly been bolstering paid parental leave laws and policies.

Here’s a look at the current best and worst industries and regions with regard to paid family leave benefits.

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Battle within tiny Indian Muslim sect on circumcising girls

MUMBAI, India (AP) — When Bilqis talks about having circumcised her daughter, she goes back and forth on how she feels — sometimes within the same sentence.

The slender 50-year-old doctor defends what is widely known as female genital mutilation within her small, prosperous Shia Muslim sect in India, saying it’s a mild version that amounts to “just a little nick. No harm done.” Yet she also acknowledges regret and guilt at putting her daughter through a practice the United Nations calls a violation of girls’ rights.

“It’s really nothing, it changes nothing,” repeats Bilqis, who asks to be anonymous except for her religious name because of the personal nature of the subject. But she adds: “I have no doubt in my mind that it is not helpful. … If I had a young daughter now there’s no way I would have her circumcised.”

The struggle within Bilqis and her Dawoodi Bohra community reflects a growing debate over the best way to address a custom that is proving stubbornly hard to eradicate. At least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone some form of female genital cutting, according to the United Nations — 70 million more than in 2014 because of increases in both population and reporting. And the U.N. predicts the number of victims will increase significantly over the next 15 years because of population growth.

Faced with this prospect, experts in the respected international Journal of Medical Ethics in February proposed permitting small female genital cuts that “uphold cultural and religious traditions without sacrificing the health and wellbeing of girls and young women.” But this approach is already carried out in the Bohra community and is proving highly controversial.

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Godzilla comes back to Japan, in ways fresh and familiar

TOKYO (AP) — Godzilla is back in its homeland of Japan after a 12-year absence, still breathing fire and mercilessly stomping everything in its way. The Associated Press noted four ways the new film “Shin Godzilla,” or “New Godzilla,” breaks from its past, and other ways it is reassuringly familiar. It’s now showing in theaters in Japan and is promised for the U.S. and other countries later this year.

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WHAT’S DIFFERENT:

— The Americans: Japan’s most important ally sends scientists and other advisers, their participation depicted at times as a nuisance. A Japanese-American special envoy, played impudently by Satomi Ishihara, asks where the nearest Zara store is, but mainly mediates between Japan and the U.S., which is worried Godzilla might reach its shores. She resists a U.S. proposal to nuke Godzilla. “Is Japan going to have the atomic bomb dropped for the third time?” she asks mournfully. Given that the 2014 Hollywood Godzilla helped Toho film studio decide to revive the series it originated, the U.S. has proved a true ally for Godzilla’s silver screen survival.

— The man behind the monster: Godzilla is not a man wearing a rubber suit, like in the 1954 original. Toho used motion-capture technology based on the movements of Mansai Nomura, an actor in traditional Kyogen theater whose casting was a secret until opening day. The center of gravity is kept low during Kyogen moves, similar to Noh dance, except that Kyogen specializes in comedy. Nomura said he was honored to be chosen for the role, stressing that he hoped to communicate the spiritual and the ghostly in Godzilla. “I am thrilled that the DNA of Kyogen, which has more than 650 years of history, will now be part of the DNA of the pride of Japanese cinema — that life called Godzilla,” he said in a statement.

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