War on women? GOP silent as Trump sounds off on abortion
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Frustrated Republicans grappled with new fears about Donald Trump’s impact on their party Wednesday, as the billionaire businessman’s campaign rivals targeted his punitive plan for fighting abortion and extraordinary defense of his campaign manager, who police say assaulted a female reporter.
Concern rippled through Republican circles nationwide, yet few dared criticize the GOP front-runner directly when pressed, leery of confronting the man who may well lead their election ticket in November.
Their silence underscored the deep worries plaguing the party’s leaders — particularly its most prominent women — who are growing increasingly concerned that a Trump presidential nomination could not only cost the 2016 election but also tarnish the party brand for a generation of women and young people.
“A nominee who cannot speak to women cannot win,” New Hampshire party chairwoman Jennifer Horn said, though declining to rebuke Trump by name.
Trump added to his challenge when asked to explain his prescription to fight abortion, a subject that remains highly controversial decades after the Supreme Court legalized it.
Trump backtracks on question of punishing women for abortion
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump said Wednesday that women who get an abortion should receive “some form of punishment” if it is ever outlawed, drawing swift condemnation from activists on both sides of the divisive social issue.
Within hours, Trump’s campaign sought to take back his comments in two separate statements, ultimately saying the billionaire businessman believes abortion providers — and not their patients — should be the ones punished.
“My position has not changed,” Trump argued in both statements released by his campaign. “Like Ronald Reagan, I am pro-life with exceptions.”
Trump’s original remarks about abortion came in a heated exchange with MSNBC host Chris Matthews at the Wednesday afternoon taping of a town hall in Green Bay, Wisconsin, scheduled to air that night. Matthews asked Trump whether he believes abortion should be outlawed.
After an extended back-and-forth, Trump said, “you have to ban” abortion and “there has to be some form of punishment” for women who violate such a restriction.
After Brussels, leaders tackling threat of nuclear terrorism
WASHINGTON (AP) — Still reeling from attacks in Brussels and Paris, world leaders are wrestling this week with the chilling prospect of the Islamic State group or other extremists unleashing a nuclear attack on a major Western city.
Preventing terrorists from obtaining nuclear materials is the central focus as President Barack Obama hosts leaders from roughly 50 countries for a nuclear security summit starting Thursday. Despite three previous summits and six years of Obama’s prodding, security officials warn that the ingredients for a nuclear device or a “dirty bomb” are alarmingly insecure.
“We know that terrorist organizations have the desire to get access to these raw materials and to have a nuclear device,” said Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser. Still, the White House said there was no indication of an imminent plot.
Decades after the Cold War, the threat of a nuclear war between superpowers has given way to growing concerns about non-state actors, including Islamic State and al-Qaida offshoots operating in North Africa and in Yemen and Saudi Arabia. Although the U.S. and its allies still worry about North Korea, Obama believes the threat posed by Iran has subsided due to the nuclear deal, leaving extremist groups among the likeliest perpetrators.
The havoc such an attack could wreak in an urban area like New York or London is concerning enough that leaders scheduled a special session on the threat during the two-day summit. U.S. officials said the leaders would discuss a hypothetical scenario about a chain of events that could lead to nuclear terrorism.
Belgium premier’s residence, office found on bomber’s laptop
BRUSSELS (AP) — A laptop used by one of the Brussels bombers contained images of the Belgian prime minister’s home and office, an official said Wednesday, heightening fears after last week’s attacks on the airport and subway system.
A government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing, said that “it is alarming that they were apparently scouting the terrain” around the lush Royal Park where both his office, “Le 16,” and his Lambermont residence are located.
Security around Prime Minister Charles Michel has increased since the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris and in Brussels last week. Michel also has had several unspecified death threats over the past years, the official said.
A laptop found near the hideout of the suspects of the March 22 airport bombing first gained notoriety because it contained a sort of will of suicide bomber Ibrahim El Bakraoui, in which he spoke of being “in a haste” and “no longer know what to do.”
The computer was also “full of stuff” on many locations around Brussels in information garnered from the Internet, said an official linked to the investigation.
Complaint: Court sentences Latinos to costly English classes
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A suburban New Orleans court discriminates against Latinos by charging them for inadequate English interpreters and making them attend overpriced, ineffective English classes as a condition of probation, the Southern Poverty Law Center said Wednesday in a letter to the U.S. Justice Department.
The SPLC complaint centers on practices in 1st Parish Court of Jefferson Parish, which handles traffic and misdemeanor cases in a part of Louisiana that has seen an influx of Spanish speakers in the years since Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005. The complaint cites the experience of four people with limited English speaking abilities who said interpreters rushed them through proceedings and failed to adequately explain their cases — including what they were charged with and, in at least one case, what they were pleading guilty to.
For instance, Omar Roman-Velasquez said interpreters rushed him through various court proceedings and he wound up pleading guilty to one offense — driving with an expired inspection sticker — that he would like to have disputed.
As a condition of probation, he and others were ordered to attend English class.
The class to which those with limited English abilities are sent, the complaint says, “does not usefully teach English.”
Last 5 hostages on hijacked Egypt plane recall fear, photo
LARNACA, Cyprus (AP) — First the hijacker said the women could leave. All the children, too. Then the man in the suicide vest agreed that all Egyptians and others from Muslim backgrounds would be allowed to escape from the plane.
That left five Western men — at least one of whom thought they were about to die.
“We looked each other in the eyes and we said: Here we are. We’re at the end of the line. It’s over,” recalled the Italian in the group, Andrea Banchetti, the day after an Egyptian man took control of a short EgyptAir flight to Cairo by donning a fake explosives belt and diverting it across the Mediterranean to Cyprus.
Seif Eddin Mustafa, 59, was arrested by Cypriot police Tuesday without physically harming a soul. The final five from Britain, Italy and the Netherlands were ultimately released just like the others. A day later, passengers openly second-guessed themselves over whether they had been right to feel terrified, skeptical or somewhere in between.
“I was going out of my mind,” said Banchetti, a 47-year-old mechanic from the Italian city of Genoa, recalling those confused, nerve-racking final minutes as the plane emptied with only the five men kept on board. They had been singled out after the hijacker confiscated their European passports.
Paris prosecutor: Suspect charged with terrorism offenses
PARIS (AP) — A 34-year-old Frenchman arrested last week has been charged with a string of terrorism offenses for allegedly plotting an imminent attack and operating an explosives arsenal of what prosecutors called “unprecedented scale.”
Paris Prosecutor Francois Molins said Wednesday that the suspect, Reda Kriket, is accused of participating in a terrorist group with plans for at least one attack, possessing and transporting arms and explosives, and holding fake documents, among other charges.
Kriket is believed to have traveled to Syria in 2014 and 2015 and made several trips between France and Belgium, Molins said.
At least three other people are in custody in the case in Belgium and the Netherlands.
Molins did not say whether Kriket’s purported plot was linked to the Islamic State network behind last week’s attacks in Brussels and last November’s attacks in Paris. Before the Paris attacks, Kriket and the suspected Paris plot ringleader were convicted in absentia last summer on terrorism charges.
FDA: Women can take abortion pill later; pare clinic visits
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Women will be able to take the so-called abortion pill later in a pregnancy and with fewer doctor visits under a new federal label for the drug that undermines several state laws aimed at restricting medical abortions.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) notified the manufacturer of the drug Mifeprex in a letter on Tuesday that the drug is safe and effective for terminating a pregnancy in accordance with the new label. Also known as mifepristone or the abortion pill, the drug manufactured by Danco Laboratories is used in combination with another drug, misoprostol, to end a pregnancy.
While abortion providers in most states already are using the protocol outlined in the new label, laws in effect in Ohio, North Dakota and Texas prohibited “off-label” uses of the drug and mandated abortion providers adhere to the older protocol approved in 2000. Similar laws in Arkansas and Oklahoma have been on hold pending legal challenges, while a county judge in Arizona ruled in October that state’s law was unconstitutional.
Under the new label, a smaller dose of mifepristone can be used up to 70 days after the beginning of the last menstrual period instead of the 49-day limit in effect under the old label. Also, the second drug in the protocol, which follows a day or two later, can be taken by a woman at home and not be required to be administered at a clinic, reducing the number of office visits a woman must make.
“The FDA’s approval of a label reflecting a more updated, evidence-based protocol for medication abortion has the potential to expand women’s options for safely ending a pregnancy in the earliest weeks,” said Nancy Northup, the president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “This label change underscores just how medically unnecessary and politically motivated restrictions on medication abortion in states like Texas and Oklahoma truly are, and demonstrates the lengths politicians will go to single out reproductive health care to restrict women’s rights.”
No charges for 2 Minneapolis officers in fatal shooting
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Two white police officers involved in the fatal shooting of a black man last fall will not face criminal charges, a prosecutor announced Wednesday in a decision that drew outrage from community members who said the move showed the legal system is rigged against African-Americans.
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said his decision not to charge the officers in the death of 24-year-old Jamar Clark was based on forensic evidence that showed Clark was not handcuffed, as claimed by some people who said they saw the shooting, and had attempted to grab an officer’s weapon, which made them fear for their lives and justified use of deadly force.
Clark ignored warnings to take his hands off Mark Ringgenberg’s gun before he was shot and told Ringgenberg and officer Dustin Schwarze: “I’m ready to die,” the prosecutor said.
Freeman painstakingly described his decision, starting with police reports and witnesses. Community members who attended the presentation said the prosecutor relied too heavily on police accounts and disregarded what others said they saw.
“This is a fairy tale. None of this happened,” said Mel Reeves, an organizer for a group called Twin Cities Coalition 4 Justice 4 Jamar Clark. “It’s not justice. It sends us a clear message that the police are above the law.”
North Korea, again, demands halt to US-South Korea war games
PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — It’s a demand North Korea has been making for decades: The United States and South Korea must immediately suspend their annual military exercises if there is to be peace on the Korean Peninsula. And, once again, it’s a demand that is falling on deaf ears. Following the North’s recent nuclear test and rocket launch, this year’s exercises are bigger than ever.
In the Koreas, the cycle of tensions is as predictable as the changing of the seasons — they surge every spring, when Washington and Seoul hold their annual Key Resolve and Foal Eagle military exercises. This year’s drills, which are to continue through April, are not only bigger but also reportedly include for the first time training for precision strikes directed at the North’s leadership and Kim Jong Un himself.
In the eyes of North Korea’s ruling regime, that is a bridge too far.
Even before the exercises began, North Korea’s formidable propaganda machine had been churning out articles every day condemning the United States and South Korea in the strongest terms, displaying nuclear bomb and missile mock-ups and warning it is ready at any time to launch a pre-emptive strike against the presidential residence in South Korea or even a nuclear attack on the U.S. mainland.
Nightly news programs have been dominated by videos of leader Kim watching North Korea’s own drills, replete with large-scale artillery arrays firing barrages from beachfront positions into the ocean and repeated claims that the North now has an H-bomb — which it says it tested in January — and a means of taking the war to the U.S. mainland.