Thousands salute Bush funeral train 4141 on final Texas ride
COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) — Thousands waved and cheered along the route as funeral train No. 4141 — for the 41st president — carried George H.W. Bush’s remains to their final resting place on Thursday, his last journey as a week of national remembrance took on a decidedly personal feel in an emotional home state farewell.
Some people laid coins along the tracks that wound through small town Texas so a 420,000-pound locomotive pulling the nation’s first funeral train in nearly half a century could crunch them into souvenirs. Others snapped pictures or crowded for views so close that police helicopters overhead had to warn them back. Elementary students hoisted a banner simply reading “THANK YOU.”
The scenes reminiscent of a bygone era followed the more sombre tone of a funeral service at a Houston church, where Bush’s former secretary of state and confidant for decades, James Baker, addressed him as “jefe,” Spanish for “boss.” At times choking back tears, Baker praised Bush as “a beautiful human being” who had “the courage of a warrior. But when the time came for prudence, he maintained the greater courage of a peacemaker.”
Baker also offered Bush as a contrast to today’s divisive, sometimes vitriolic politics, saying that his “wish for a kinder, gentler nation was not a cynical political slogan. It came honest and unguarded from his soul.”
“The world became a better place because George Bush occupied the White House for four years,” said Baker.
Why Huawei arrest deepens conflict between US and China
WASHINGTON (AP) — The dramatic arrest of a Chinese telecommunications executive has driven home why it will be so hard for the Trump administration to resolve its deepening conflict with China.
In the short run, the arrest of Huawei’s chief financial officer heightened skepticism about the trade truce that Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping reached last weekend in Buenos Aires, Argentina. On Thursday, U.S. stock markets tumbled on fears that the 90-day cease-fire won’t last, before regaining most of their losses by the close of trading.
But the case of an executive for a Chinese company that’s been a subject of U.S. national security concerns carries echoes well beyond tariffs or market access. Washington and Beijing are locked in a clash over which of the world’s two largest economies will command economic and political dominance for decades to come.
“It’s a much broader issue than just a trade dispute,” said Amanda DeBusk, chair of the international trade practice at Dechert LLP. “It pulls in: Who is going to be the world leader essentially.”
The Huawei executive, Meng Wanzhou, was detained by Canadian authorities in Vancouver as she was changing flights Saturday — the same day that Trump and Xi met at the Group of 20 summit in Argentina and produced a cease-fire in their trade war. The Globe and Mail newspaper, citing law enforcement sources, reported that Meng is suspected of trying to evade U.S. sanctions on Iran. She faces extradition to the United States, and a bail hearing was set for Friday.
Appeals to Scott Walker: Don’t stain legacy, veto bills
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A bipartisan group of political figures appealed to Gov. Scott Walker to avoid staining his legacy and behaving like a sore loser by signing legislation that would weaken the powers of the Democrat who defeated him.
Rather than notching another partisan victory in his final weeks in office, they said, Walker should think bigger. Think of your recently deceased father, they pleaded. Think of former President George H.W. Bush. Think of Christ.
“You can have a long, successful career ahead,” longtime Republican and major GOP donor Sheldon Lubar wrote to Walker in a deeply personal email. “Don’t stain it by this personal, poor-loser action. Ask yourself, what would my father say, what would the greatest man who ever lived, Jesus Christ, say.”
Walker, never one to shy away from a fight, gave no signs Thursday of tipping his hand. A spokesman said only that he was reviewing the bills. He’s been generally supportive of the measures in the past, without promising to sign or veto them.
The choice is whether to satisfy fellow Republicans, who passed the bills over objections from Democrats, or strike them down to let his successor, Tony Evers, take office under the same rules in place when Walker was in charge.
Clashing views colour future of stalled N.Korea nuclear talks
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — To hear a beaming Donald Trump at his June summit with Kim Jong Un in Singapore, the solution to North Korea’s headlong pursuit of nuclear weapons, a foreign policy nightmare that has flummoxed U.S. leaders since the early 1990s, was at hand.
Since the remarkable claims made during the first-ever meeting of leaders from the archrival nations, however, there have been recriminations, simmering bad blood — and very little progress. In other words, just what skeptics in Seoul and Washington have come to expect from North Korean nuclear diplomacy.
So even as Trump says he’s keen on another summit, possibly early next year, continuing sanctions and pressure from Washington are met with anger and foot-dragging from Pyongyang, which has bluntly stated that an “improvement of relations and sanctions are incompatible.”
One of the problems is a matter of wording. The statement hammered out in Singapore, which called for “the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” was so vague that it seemed tailor made for a stalemate: Each side can claim to be right when they say that they’ve done more than enough and it’s the other side’s responsibility to act.
So where do we go from here?
Police investigating telephone bomb threat at CNN offices
NEW YORK (AP) — Police are investigating a phoned bomb threat at a building housing CNN’s offices in Manhattan.
Police said the threat was received at the Time Warner building at 25 Columbus Circle Thursday night.
CNN said several fire alarm bells signalling an evacuation rang inside its newsroom shortly after 10:30 p.m.
In a tweet, CNN’s Brian Stelter said the office had been evacuated and that CNN was airing taped programming.
In October, the building was partially evacuated after a suspicious package containing a crude pipe bomb was delivered to the company.
Disputed House race puts spotlight on ‘ballot harvesting’
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — An investigation into whether political operatives in North Carolina illegally collected and possibly stole absentee ballots in a still-undecided congressional race has drawn attention to a widespread but little-known political tool called ballot harvesting.
It’s a practice long used by special-interest groups and both major political parties that is viewed either as a voter service that boosts turnout or a nefarious activity that subjects voters to intimidation and makes elections vulnerable to fraud.
The groups rely on data showing which voters requested absentee ballots but have not turned them in. They then go door-to-door and offer to collect and turn in those ballots for the voters — often dozens or hundreds at a time. Some place ballot-collection boxes in high-concentration voter areas, such as college campuses, and take the ballots to election offices when the boxes are full.
In North Carolina, election officials are investigating whether Republican political operatives in parts of the 9th Congressional District harvested ballots from minority voters and didn’t deliver them to the election offices. In some cases they are accused of harvesting ballots that were not sealed and only partially filled out. Ballot harvesting is illegal under state law, which allows only a family member or legal guardian to drop off absentee ballots for a voter.
Investigators are focusing on areas in the district where an unusually high number of absentee ballots were not returned. They want to know whether some ballots were not turned in as promised to the local elections office, were unsealed or only partially filled out.
North Carolina Democrat drops race concession amid probe
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The Democrat trailing in a North Carolina congressional race withdrew his concession Thursday as state election officials investigated allegations of absentee ballot fraud.
Dan McCready’s reversal came as a top leader at the state’s Republican Party said it would support a new election in the unresolved 9th Congressional District race if an investigation shows that wrongdoing swayed its outcome.
Unofficial totals have Republican Mark Harris leading McCready by 905 votes. But the state elections board refused to certify the results last week because of allegations of “irregularities and concerted fraudulent activities” involving mail-in ballots in the district. The board is meeting later this month to hear evidence, but it’s unclear whether the race will be settled then. The board could order a new election.
McCready, an Iraq War veteran who outraised Harris in the campaign, initially conceded the day after the election, when Harris’ lead was less than 1,900 votes. The margin was cut by half the next week, but he declined to seek a recount. He changed his mind with the arrival of the allegations, some of which have been linked to a man who worked for Harris’ chief strategist.
“I didn’t serve overseas in the Marine Corps just to come back and watch politicians and career criminals attack our democracy,” McCready said. “That’s why today I withdraw my concession to Mark Harris, who’s remained completely silent.”
Feds won’t pursue third trial against Border Patrol agent
PHOENIX (AP) — Federal prosecutors on Thursday said they will not seek a third trial for a Border Patrol agent who has been acquitted twice after fatally shooting a Mexican teenager across a border fence.
A filing in court shows prosecutors say they will no longer pursue the case against Lonnie Swartz, the agent who killed 16-year-old Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez in October 2012.
“Agent Swartz is relieved and looking forward to moving on with his life without the threat of criminal prosecution hanging over his head,” his attorney, Sean Chapman, said in an email to The Associated Press.
In April, Swartz was acquitted of second-degree murder, but a jury deadlocked on manslaughter charges. Prosecutors re-tried Swartz on voluntary and involuntary manslaughter charges. They said Swartz lost his cool when he became frustrated at rock-throwers from the Mexican side of the border while on the job.
The second trial, which began in October, ended with a not guilty verdict on the involuntary charge, but the jury again deadlocked on voluntary manslaughter.
Trump EPA acts to roll back control on climate-changing coal
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Environmental Protection Agency acted again Thursday to ease rules on the sagging U.S. coal industry, this time scaling back what would have been a tough control on climate-changing emissions from any new coal plants.
The latest Trump administration targeting of legacy Obama administration efforts to slow climate change comes in the wake of multiplying warnings from the agency’s scientists and others about the accelerating pace of global warming.
In a ceremony Thursday at the agency, acting EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler signed a proposal to dismantle a 2015 rule that any new coal power plants include cutting-edge techniques to capture the carbon dioxide from their smokestacks.
Wheeler called the Obama rules “excessive burdens” for the coal industry.
“This administration cares about action and results, not talks and wishful thinking,” Wheeler said.
Trump expected to pick State spokeswoman for UN ambassador
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is expected to announce he will nominate State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert to be the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, officials familiar with the plans said Thursday.
Two administration officials confirmed Trump’s plans. A Republican congressional aide said the president was expected to announce his decision by tweet on Friday morning. The officials were not authorized to speak publicly before Trump’s announcement.
Trump has previously said Nauert was under serious consideration to replace Nikki Haley, who announced in October that she would step down at the end of this year. If Nauert is confirmed by the Senate, she would be a leading administration voice on Trump’s foreign policy.
Trump told reporters last month that Nauert was “excellent,” adding, “She’s been a supporter for a long time.”
Still, with Trump, no staffing decision is final until he makes the formal announcement, since he has been known to change course in the past.
The Associated Press