Trump pushes ‘America first’ during tough trade talk in Asia
DANANG, Vietnam (AP) — President Donald Trump stood before a summit of Asian leaders keen on regional trade pacts and delivered a roaring “America first” message Friday, denouncing China for unfair trade practices just a day after he had heaped praise on President Xi Jinping in Beijing.
“We are not going to let the United States be taken advantage of anymore,” Trump told CEOs on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference. “I am always going to put America first, the same way that I expect all of you in this room to put your countries first.”
The president — who pulled the United States out of the Pacific Rim trade pact known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership — said the U.S. would no longer join “large agreements that tie our hands, surrender our sovereignty and make meaningful enforcement practically impossible.”
Instead, he said, the U.S. will pursue one-on-one trade deals with other nations that pledge fair and reciprocal trade.
As for China, Trump said he’d spoken “openly and directly” with Xi about the nation’s abusive trade practices and “the enormous trade deficits they have produced with the United States.”
Moore denies sexual misconduct, but GOP fears election risk
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — His party suddenly and bitingly divided, Alabama Republican Roy Moore emphatically rejected increasing pressure to abandon his Senate bid on Friday as fears grew among GOP leaders that a once-safe Senate seat was in jeopardy just a month before a special election.
Moore, an outspoken Christian conservative and former state Supreme Court judge, attacked a Washington Post report that he had sexual contact with a 14-year-old girl and pursued three other teenagers decades earlier as “completely false and misleading.”
In an interview with conservative radio host Sean Hannity, he did not wholly rule out dating teenage girls when he was in his early 30s.
Asked if that would have been usual for him, Moore said, “Not generally, no.” He added: “I don’t remember ever dating any girl without the permission of her mother.” As for the encounter with 14-year-old Leigh Corfman, as described by Corfman in Thursday’s Post article, he said, “It never happened.”
The story has produced a wave of concern among anxious GOP officials in Washington but little more than a collective shrug from many Republicans in Alabama, which holds a special election on Dec. 12 to fill the seat previously held by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
US joins calls for PM’s return to Lebanon from Saudi Arabia
BEIRUT (AP) — Lebanese officials insisted Friday on the return home of Prime Minister Saad Hariri from Saudi Arabia, and the leader of the militant group Hezbollah said the Saudis had “declared war” on Lebanon by holding Hariri against his will.
The U.S. added its voice to those urging that Hariri be allowed to return to Lebanon. A political crisis has gripped the country and shattered the relative peace maintained by its coalition government ever since his stunning announcement Nov. 4 from the Saudi capital that he was resigning.
The announcement from the Saudi-aligned Hariri jolted Lebanon and thrust it back into the regional rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The move and exceptionally strong statements by the Saudis against Iran that followed have deepened the mystery about Hariri’s fate and led to rumours that he is being held in the kingdom against his will, despite his denials.
For the past year, Hariri has headed a coalition government that included members of the Iranian-backed Hezbollah militia. He cited meddling in Lebanon and elsewhere in the region by Iran and Hezbollah in his decision to step down, adding that Iran’s arm into the region will be “cut off.”
Saudi Arabia appears to want to see Lebanon headed by someone would form a government without Hezbollah, perhaps believing Hariri has become too lenient toward the group.
Pacific trade deal closer but leaders won’t endorse it yet
DANANG, Vietnam (AP) — Trade ministers from 11 Pacific Rim countries said they reached an agreement Saturday to proceed with the free-trade Trans-Pacific Partnership deal that was in doubt after President Donald Trump abandoned it. However, an immediate formal endorsement by the countries’ leaders meeting in Vietnam appeared unlikely.
A statement issued in the early hours Saturday said an accord was reached on “core elements” of the 11-member pact. The compromise was delayed by last-minute disagreements that prevented the TPP leaders from meeting to endorse a plan on Friday.
“Ministers are pleased to announce that they have agreed on the core elements of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership,” the 11 nations said in a statement.
A news conference was scheduled for later Saturday morning Vietnam time.
Japan’s delegate to the talks, Economy Minister Toshimitsu Motegi, told reporters that disagreements that cropped up Friday had been resolved in five hours of talks that stretched late into the night.
‘How do I spend the rest of my life without my daughter?’
URBANA, Ill. (AP) — For more than four months, Ronggao Zhang has walked to his missing daughter’s apartment almost every day. At first, he stood outside, hoping she would show up one afternoon. But even after he was told she’d been kidnapped and was presumed dead, he’s continued his routine.
“It brings peace and comfort to my heart,” Zhang explained in Mandarin, through a translator.
His daughter, Yingying Zhang (ying ying zahng), a 26-year-old visiting scholar at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, disappeared June 9 on her way to sign an apartment lease. A former graduate student has been charged with kidnapping and killing her. Zhang’s body has not been found.
A few days ago, Zhang’s father made a final visit to the Orchard Downs apartments with his wife, 24-year-old son and daughter’s boyfriend as they prepared to return to China. They arrived here after Zhang vanished, hopeful in the beginning that she’d be found alive. After authorities relayed the grim news, they decided to stay until her remains were found so they could take her home for a proper burial, in accordance with Chinese customs.
Now they plan to leave Sunday, reluctantly, without her. Zhang’s mother is in fragile health — she broke down at the start of a recent court hearing — and there’s no way of knowing when this cruel mystery will be solved. Each day they wait, in agony.
Anger rises as toxic air chokes India’s capital
NEW DELHI (AP) — As thick smog crept over India’s capital this week and smudged landmarks from view, Nikunj Pandey could feel his eyes and throat burning.
Pandey stopped doing his regular workouts and said he felt tightness in his lungs. He started wearing a triple layer of pollution masks over his mouth. And he became angry that he couldn’t safely breathe the air.
“This is a basic right,” he said. “A basic right of humanity.”
Pandey is among many people in New Delhi who have become more aware of the toxic air in recent years and are increasingly frustrated at the lack of meaningful action by authorities.
This week the air was the worst it’s been all year in the capital, with microscopic particles that can affect breathing and health spiking to 75 times the level considered safe by the World Health Organization.
Louis C.K. says he misused his power and ‘brought pain’
NEW YORK (AP) — With his career imploding over allegations of sexual misconduct, comedian Louis C.K. confessed Friday to masturbating in front of women and expressed remorse for wielding his influence “irresponsibly.”
The comedian said in a statement that the harassment claims by five women detailed in a New York Times report published Thursday “are true.”
“I can hardly wrap my head around the scope of hurt I brought on them,” he said.
“There is nothing about this that I forgive myself for,” he wrote. “And I have to reconcile it with who I am. Which is nothing compared to the task I left them with.”
He apologized to the cast and crew of several projects he’s been working on, his family, children and friends, his manager and the FX network, among others.
Marine drill instructor gets 10 years for abusing recruits
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A Marine Corps drill instructor was sentenced Friday to 10 years in prison for choking, punching or otherwise tormenting recruits, especially three Muslims — one of whom ultimately killed himself by leaping down a stairwell.
A military jury handed out the punishment to Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Felix a day after convicting him of abusing more than a dozen trainees at the Marine boot camp at Parris Island, South Carolina.
Among other things, he taunted the Muslims as “terrorists” or “ISIS” and ordered two of them to climb into an industrial clothes dryer, spinning one of them around in the scorching machine until he renounced his faith, the jury decided.
Felix, a 34-year-old Iraq veteran, was also ordered to forfeit all pay, demoted to private and given a dishonourable discharge.
Felix was a central figure in what was found to be a group of abusive drill instructors at Parris Island. After the March 2016 suicide at the base, a hazing investigation led to charges against Felix, five other drill instructors and the training battalion’s commanding officer. Eleven others faced lesser discipline.
Taxe split between House, Senate poses a big challenge
WASHINGTON (AP) — The House and Senate tax overhaul plans are broadly similar, but crucial differences are creating headaches for Republican leaders determined to keep myriad interest groups and factions of the GOP satisfied. And then there’s the ambitious timetable they’ve set of finishing in time to get legislation to President Donald Trump by Christmas.
The most politically challenging decisions involve dealing with popular and widely used tax deductions, structuring tax cuts for business and balancing personal income tax rates between middle-class families and the rich.
All of these decisions come against a generous — but firm — 10-year, $1.5 trillion cap on the measure’s cost to the federal deficit. Both House and Senate have adopted accounting gimmicks to squeeze tax cuts that appear larger down to fit that restraint.
Trump’s enormously expensive demand for a cut in the corporate tax rate to 20 per cent — from the current 35 per cent — is a big complication, as is unrest among House Republicans hailing from affluent suburban districts who are upset over the proposed loss of the deduction for state income taxes.
Here’s a rundown on the major differences between the House and Senate bills:
UK panel rules Uber drivers have rights on wages, time off
LONDON (AP) — Uber lost the latest round in the battle over its operating model Friday, when a British panel ruled that the company’s drivers are workers, not independent contractors, in a decision with broad implications for the so-called gig economy.
The Employment Appeal Tribunal upheld a lower panel’s decision, agreeing that the two drivers in this case were “workers” under British law and therefore should receive the minimum wage and paid holidays. Uber said it would appeal.
Judge Jennifer Eady rejected Uber’s argument that the men were independent contractors, because the drivers had no opportunity to make their own agreements with passengers and the company required them to accept 80 per cent of trip requests when they were on duty.
The tribunal, Eady wrote in her decision, found “the drivers were integrated into the Uber business of providing transportation services.”
The ride-hailing service said it has never required drivers in the U.K. to accept 80 per cent of the trips offered to them and that drivers make well above the minimum wage. Employment lawyers expect the case to be heard by higher courts as early as next year.