NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stocks fought their way to a mixed finish Tuesday as drugmakers rallied, which mostly canceled out losses for industrial companies. Investors shifted their money to less risky investments for the second day in a row.
For the second straight day, stocks started with substantial losses. Industrial companies, which have climbed lately, fell the most as UPS tumbled after a weak fourth-quarter report. Banks also slipped.
Investors bid up assets that are traditionally seen as less risky, including gold, government bonds, and stocks that pay big dividends. Drug companies also rallied after President Donald Trump met with industry executives and discussed ideas including faster drug approvals and lower taxes.
Jim Paulsen, chief investment strategist for Wells Capital Management, said investors are looking for safer investments because the change from Barack Obama’s administration to Donald Trump’s has created so many changes in government.
“More than anything right now, it’s just the pace of news,” he said. “It is so dramatic.”
The stock market made huge gains after Trump was elected last fall, and Paulsen said it’s not a surprise that investors would sell some of their holdings, take some profits, and move to lower-risk investments at some point.
The Dow Jones industrial average sank 107.04 points, or 0.5 percent, to 19,864.09 as companies like Goldman Sachs and Boeing returned some of their recent gains.
The S&P 500 lost 2.03 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,278.87. It fell as much as 13 points early on. The S&P 500 has fallen for four days in a row. While that is its longest losing streak since before the presidential election, the losses have been small.
The Nasdaq composite gained 1.07 points to 5,614.79. The Russell 2000 index of small-company stocks rose 9.49 points, or 0.7 percent, to 1,361.82. On the New York Stock Exchange, more stocks rose than fell.
Athletic apparel maker Under Armour plunged after investors were disappointed with its fourth-quarter report, which included higher expenses. Under Armour also issued a weak full-year forecast and said its chief financial officer is leaving. The stock tumbled $7.45, or 25.7 percent, to $21.49. It dropped 30 percent last year and is now trading at its lowest price in two years.
United Parcel Service sank after the package delivery company forecast an annual profit that was far smaller than analysts expected. UPS expects to earn no more than $6.10 a share this year while FactSet says experts expected $6.15 per share. UPS gave up $7.90, or 6.8 percent, to $109.13 and FedEx fell $4.14, or 2.1 percent, to $189.11. That helped pull industrial companies lower.
Drug companies jumped after Trump said he wants less regulation on prescription drugs because that could speed up drug approvals. While Trump again said he wants to reduce drug prices, investors seemed pleased with proposals that could reduce drugmakers’ costs and boost their profits, as well as with the tone of the meeting.
Just three weeks ago Trump said drugmakers were “getting away with murder” on prices.
The Nasdaq Biotech index climbed 2.8 percent. Companies that make both generic and name-brand drugs traded higher, as did prescription drug distributors.
After the market closed, Apple reported a bigger profit and greater sales than analysts expected as iPhone sales bounced back from a recent slump. The tech giant’s stock rose 2.6 percent in after-hours trading.
Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.46 percent from 2.49 percent. That hurt financial stocks, as lower bond yields reduce interest rates and the profits banks make from lending.
Investors who want income also bought stocks that pay outsize dividends, including real estate investment trusts and utility companies. Shopping mall operators Simon Property Group and GGP both traded higher after their quarterly reports. Simon gained $6.03, or 3.4 percent, to $183.77 and GGP rose 88 cents, or 3.7 percent, to $24.84.
The price of gold and silver made their biggest jumps in two weeks. Gold rose $15.40, or 1.3 percent, to $1,211.40 an ounce. Silver gained 39 cents, or 2.3 percent, to $17.54 an ounce. Copper picked up 7 cents, or 2.7 percent, to $2.73 a pound. That was its largest move in three weeks.
Another day of protests against parts of Trump’s agenda and challenges for some of his cabinet nominees who haven’t been confirmed by Congress made investors a bit more nervous early in the day. The VIX, an index known as Wall Street’s “fear gauge,” jumped 9 percent around midday, but finished only 1 percent higher. It had climbed Monday.
U.S. crude oil rose 18 cents to $52.81 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, the benchmark for international oil prices, added 47 cents to $55.70 a barrel in London. However energy companies continued to decline. After big gains over the last year, especially in November and early December, energy companies have done worse than the rest of the market. Exxon Mobil lost 97 cents, or 1.1 percent, to $83.89.
Natural gas companies fell as the price of that fuel fell 12 cents, or 3.6 percent, to $3.12 per 1,000 cubic feet. In other energy trading, wholesale gasoline rose 2 cents to $1.53 a gallon. Heating oil picked up 1 cent to $1.61 a gallon.
The dollar fell to 112.76 yen from 113.67 yen. The euro rose to $1.0803 from $1.0695.
Germany’s DAX lost 1.3 percent and the CAC 40 of France fell 0.7 percent. The FTSE 100 index in Britain lost 0.3 percent. Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 dipped 1.7 percent. The South Korean Kospi lost 0.8 percent. Markets in Hong Kong, China and Taiwan were closed for Lunar New Year holidays.
AP Markets Writer Marley Jay contributed to this report. He can be reached at http://twitter.com/MarleyJayAP
His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/journalist/marley-jay
WASHINGTON (AP) — In the face of widespread criticism, President Donald Trump and other member of his administration have staunchly defended his order temporarily banning refugees and nearly all citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries. But in a statement Sunday, tweets Monday and comments Tuesday, Trump and others misstated the facts or offered contradictory statements multiple times.
What Trump and others said and how it compares with the facts:
SEAN SPICER: “Well, first of all, it’s not a travel ban,” the White House spokesman said during his daily briefing Tuesday when asked about Trump’s executive order halting travel to the U.S. for people from seven majority Muslim countries.
JOHN KELLY: “This is not a travel ban; this is a temporary pause that allows us to better review the existing refugee and visa-vetting system,” the Homeland Security secretary told reporters Tuesday.
THE FACTS: That’s not what their boss said Monday. Trump defended the order and its immediate implementation in a tweet by saying: “If the ban were announced with a one week notice, the ‘bad’ would rush into our country during that week. A lot of bad ‘dudes’ out there!”
Spicer also called it a ban Monday at George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs, saying “the ban deals with seven countries that the Obama administration had previously identified as needing further travel restrictions.”
TRUMP: In a White House statement Sunday, he said, “My policy is similar to what President (Barack) Obama did in 2011 when he banned visas for refugees from Iraq for six months.”
THE FACTS: That’s not exactly what happened. According to State Department data, 9,388 Iraqi refugees were admitted to the United States during the 2011 budget year. The data also show that Iraqi refugees were admitted every month during the 2011 calendar year.
The Obama administration did slow processing for Iraqi nationals seeking refuge in the U.S. under the government’s Special Immigrant Visa program for translators and interpreters who worked with American troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. That happened after two Iraqi nationals were arrested on terrorism-related charges. But that year, 618 Iraqis were allowed to enter the U.S. with that special visa.
Government data show that during the 2011 budget year, more than 7,800 Iraqis were allowed into the United States on non-immigrant visas, including tourists.
TRUMP: In the same statement, he said, “The seven countries named in the Executive Order are the same countries previously identified by the Obama administration as sources of terror.”
THE FACTS: That is misleading. The Republican-led Congress in 2015 voted to require visas and additional security checks for foreign citizens who normally wouldn’t need visas — such as those from Britain — if they had visited the seven countries: Iraq, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen. This was included in a large spending bill passed overwhelmingly by Congress and signed by Obama.
As the law was enacted, the Obama administration announced that journalists, aid workers and others who traveled to the listed countries for official work could apply for exemptions. There were no special U.S. travel restrictions on citizens of those seven countries.
TRUMP, also in Sunday’s statement: “To be clear, this is not a Muslim ban, as the media is falsely reporting. This is not about religion — this is about terror and keeping our country safe. There are over 40 different countries worldwide that are majority Muslim that are not affected by this order.”
THE FACTS: Trump is right that there are many majority-Muslim countries that have not been included in the travel ban. But he’s also being misleading. The executive order signed Friday does not specifically say Muslims can’t visit the U.S., but it does create a temporary total travel ban for citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries. It also indefinitely bans Syrians.
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani recently told Fox News that Trump had asked him to create a plan for a Muslim ban that would meet legal tests. Giuliani said he ultimately made recommendations that focused on security and what countries posed security threats.
TRUMP: The president also tweeted: “If the ban were announced with a one week notice, the ‘bad’ would rush into our country during that week. A lot of bad ‘dudes’ out there!”
THE FACTS: The immigration system doesn’t allow the kind of “rush” Trump is describing. There are 38 countries, mostly European, whose citizens can visit the U.S. without a visa. But they must be approved for travel in advance by supplying background information to the U.S. government. Any other foreigner looking to visit or move to America for school or work has to get in line for a visa and be subjected to a variety of background checks, including reviews by federal law enforcement and intelligence. Before Trump’s executive order was signed, some people were eligible to skip an in-person interview if they met a variety of requirements.
And the U.S. can always stop a foreigner from boarding a U.S.-bound flight or cancel a visa upon someone’s arrival. A visa is not a guarantee that a foreigner will be allowed into the U.S.
Follow Alicia A. Caldwell on Twitter at www.twitter.com/acaldwellap
EDITOR’S NOTE _ A look at the veracity of claims by political figures
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MOSCOW (AP) — In the days since it emerged that four men had been arrested on treason charges linked to cyber intelligence and Russia’s domestic security agency, conspiracy theories and speculation about the case have swept through Moscow.
Was it some fallout from the alleged Russian hacking of the U.S. presidential election? Were they part of a hunt for a possible mole who tipped off American intelligence agencies? Was it a power struggle within Russia’s security services?
Specifics of the case are murky, and no Russian government officials have commented publicly. Russian media have been filled with lurid, often contradictory, details that most assume are leaked by warring factions of intelligence officers.
Linking the arrests to the U.S. vote would mean joining the dots between a series of shadowy actors in the Russian internet world.
In one of the few formal acknowledgements of the case, Ivan Pavlov, a Russian defense lawyer specializing in treason cases, confirmed to The Associated Press that at least four arrests on linked treason charges had taken place. He declined to elaborate.
U.S. intelligence agencies alleged in early January that President Vladimir Putin ordered a campaign to influence the U.S. presidential election in favor of Donald Trump, with actions that included using a group called Fancy Bear to hack email accounts of individuals on the Democratic National Committee.
In an unclassified version of their report, the agencies did not disclose how the U.S. learned what it said it knows, and Russia has denied the accusations.
“I have long assumed there has to be some human resource for U.S. intelligence,” said Mark Galeotti, an expert on the Russian security services and a senior researcher at the Institute of International Relations in Prague.
The first arrest emerged last week with the news of the detention of Ruslan Stoyanov, an executive at Kaspersky Lab, a cybersecurity firm.
Stoyanov apparently traveled widely as the head of the company’s computer incidents investigations. According to his LinkedIn profile, he was employed by the Russian Interior Ministry’s cybercrime unit in the early 2000s and hired by Kaspersky in 2012. Kaspersky has said the charges against Stoyanov relate to a time before he joined the company.
Multiple Russian media outlets have reported the detention of three officers working for the cybercrime division of the FSB, Russia’s domestic security agency, at around the same time as Stoyanov’s arrest in December. Two of the men have been named in Russian media as Col. Sergei Mikhailov, deputy head of the FSB’s Information Security Center (TsIB), and a subordinate, Maj. Dmitry Dokuchayev. Pavlov said a fourth defendant in the case was his client, but he refused to reveal his name.
TsIB is an “experienced cyberespionage outfit” that has expanded rapidly in recent years, according to Galeotti. “Their job is to hoover up everything they can.”
Reporting by Russia’s opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta and U.S. cybersecurity journalist Brian Krebs suggested compromising material on the FSB officers may have been a revenge operation by 26-year-old Vladimir Fomenko, revealed by U.S. cyber firm ThreatConnect last year as the owner of servers used in hacks on election systems in Arizona and Illinois, and a Russian businessman, Pavel Vrublevsky, who was jailed for a year in 2013 for organizing cyberattacks on a competitor.
Krebs said in a blog entry Saturday that Mikhailov may have passed details of Russian cyber criminals over many years to U.S. law enforcement officers and U.S. journalists, including a cache of information on Vrublevsky he himself received.
Vrublevsky told the AP on Monday he was only slightly acquainted with Fomenko. He declined to comment on the FSB officer arrests but said they were “the guys who put me behind bars.” Fomenko did not respond to a request for comment.
In a further twist, the Interfax news agency reported Tuesday that Mikhailov and Dokuchayev are accused of passing information to the CIA. The report cited a source Interfax did not identify, making it difficult to verify its accuracy. A spokesman for the CIA declined to comment on the actions of Russian law enforcement.
Mikhailov’s arrest apparently was designed to have maximum effect on fellow officers. He was detained at a gathering of FSB officials when he had a bag placed over his head and was marched out of the room, according to Novaya Gazeta and the nationalist Tsargrad network.
Another theory circulating apparently seeks to draw attention away from the U.S. hack.
News outlets Life News and Rosbalt, which has close links to the security services, reported that the FSB officers fed sensitive information to hacking group Shaltai Boltai, or Humpty Dumpty, which used it in a complex profit-making enterprise to blackmail dozens of Russian political figures.
A Moscow court confirmed Monday the arrest of Vladimir Anikeyev, reported to be one of the leaders of Shaltai Boltai, on hacking charges.
The arrests appear to add more weight to allegations against the Russian intelligence services that they recruited from the country’s vibrant hacking community to boost their offensive cyber capabilities.
As U.S. president, Barack Obama imposed sanctions on renowned hackers Yevgeny Bogachyov and Alexei Belan for their alleged role in cooperating with the GRU, Russian military intelligence, to target the DNC.
Andrei Soldatov, who has studied the Russian security services and the internet for years, said the Moscow arrests clearly pointed to intelligence officers and criminal hackers working together to hack the Democrats.
Dokuchayev, one of the FSB officers reportedly accused of treason, has been identified by Russia media as a hacker known as “Forb,” who also worked for Hacker magazine in the 2000s before apparently joining the FSB.
In a 2004 interview with the newspaper Vedomosti, Forb described how he made money from credit card fraud and boasted of hacking U.S. government websites.
In 2011, Forb was listed as an editor at Hacker. Three of his colleagues contacted by the AP declined to comment on whether he had links with the FSB.
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WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats forced delays Tuesday in planned Senate committee votes on President Donald Trump’s picks for Health and Treasury secretaries and attorney general, amid growing Democratic surliness over the administration’s aggressive early moves against refugees and an expected bitter battle over filling the Supreme Court vacancy.
Democrats abruptly boycotted a Senate Finance Committee meeting called to vote on Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., the Health nominee and Steve Mnuchin, Trump’s Treasury selection, saying both had misled Congress about their financial backgrounds.
The Democrats’ action prevented the Finance panel from acting because under committee rules, 13 of its members — including at least one Democrat — must be present for votes. It was unclear when the panel would reschedule to votes.
At the Senate Judiciary Committee, a meeting considering Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., to be attorney general lasted so long — chiefly because of lengthy Democratic speeches — that Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said the panel would meet again Wednesday.
The meeting on Sessions’ nomination was coming with Democrats and demonstrators around the country in an uproar over Trump’s executive order temporarily blocking refugees. Even some Republicans were warning it could hinder anti-terrorism efforts.
Not everything ground to a halt.
The Senate education committee voted 12-11 to send Trump’s pick to head the Education Department, Betsy DeVos, to the full Senate for a confirmation vote.
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee quickly approved former Texas Gov. Rick Perry as Energy secretary by 16-7, and Rep. Ryan Zinke, R-Mont., to head Interior by 16-6.
And the full Senate easily confirmed Elaine Chao to become transportation secretary by a 93-6 vote. Chao was labor secretary under President George W. Bush, and is wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
Just before the Finance committee was scheduled to vote on Price and Mnuchin, Democrats called a briefing for reporters and announced their plan to force a delay.
Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said Price and Mnuchin would hold positions “that directly affect peoples’ lives every day. The truth matters.”
Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, accused Democrats of “a lack of desire to fulfill their constitutional responsibilities.”
“They ought to stop posturing and acting like idiots,” he said.
In 2013 when Democrats controlled the Senate, Republicans boycotted a committee vote on Gina McCarthy to head the Environmental Protection Agency, temporarily stalling it.
Democrats cited one report in The Wall Street Journal that Price received a special, discounted offer to buy stock in a biomedical company, which contradicted his testimony to Congress.
They said another report in The Columbus Dispatch showed documents revealing that Mnuchin had not been truthful with the Senate in the confirmation process in comments about how his bank OneWest had handled home foreclosures.
Republicans have supported both men, and both have strongly defended their actions.
Democrats have opposed Price, a seven-term congressional veteran, for his staunch backing of his party’s drive to scuttle Obama’s health care law and to reshape Medicare and Medicaid, which help older and low-income people afford medical care.
They’ve also assailed Price for buying stocks of health care firms, accusing him of using insider information and conflicts of interest for backing legislation that could help his investments. Price says his trades were largely managed by brokers and that he’s followed congressional ethics rules.
Democrats have criticized Mnuchin for not initially revealing nearly $100 million in assets, and were expected to vote against both nominees. They’ve also accused him of failing to protect homeowners from foreclosures and criticized him for not initially disclosing all his assets.
DeVos, a wealthy GOP donor and conservative activist, has long supported charter schools and allowing school choice. That’s prompted opposition from Democrats and teachers’ unions who view her stance as a threat to federal dollars that support public education.
Critics have also mocked her for suggesting that guns could be justified in schools to protect students from grizzly bears.
Two prominent Republicans on the education committee, Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, said they remained uncertain if they will vote for her on the Senate floor. Murkowski said DeVos has yet to prove that she deeply cares about America’s struggling schools and its children.
This story has been corrected to show DeVos vote was 12-11, not 12-1.
AP reporters Maria Danilova, Mary Clare Jalonick and Martin Crutsinger contributed to this report.
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TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — On any given day at MacDill Air Force Base, web crawlers scour social media for potential recruits to the Islamic State group. Then, in a high-stakes operation to counter the extremists’ propaganda, language specialists employ fictitious identities and try to sway the targets from joining IS ranks.
At least that’s how the multimillion-dollar initiative is being sold to the Defense Department.
A critical national security program known as “WebOps” is part of a vast psychological operation that the Pentagon says is effectively countering an enemy that has used the internet as a devastating tool of propaganda. But an Associated Press investigation found the management behind WebOps is so beset with incompetence, cronyism and flawed data that multiple people with direct knowledge of the program say it’s having little impact.
Several current and former WebOps employees cited multiple examples of civilian Arabic specialists who have little experience in counter-propaganda, cannot speak Arabic fluently and have so little understanding of Islam they are no match for the Islamic State online recruiters.
It’s hard to establish rapport with a potential terror recruit when — as one former worker told the AP — translators repeatedly mix up the Arabic words for “salad” and “authority.” That’s led to open ridicule on social media about references to the “Palestinian salad.”
Four current or former workers told the AP that they had personally witnessed WebOps data being manipulated to create the appearance of success and that they had discussed the problem with many other employees who had seen the same. Yet the companies carrying out the program for the military’s Central Command in Tampa have dodged attempts to implement independent oversight and assessment of the data.
Central Command spokesman Andy Stephens declined repeated requests for information about WebOps and other counter-propaganda programs, which were launched under the Obama Administration. And he did not respond to detailed questions the AP sent on Jan. 10.
The AP investigation is based on Defense Department and contractor documents, emails, photographs and interviews with more than a dozen people closely involved with WebOps as well as interviews with nearly two dozen contractors. The WebOps workers requested anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the work and because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly.
The information operations division that runs WebOps is the command’s epicenter for firing back at the Islamic State’s online propaganda machine, using the internet to sway public opinion in a swath of the globe that stretches from Central Asia to the Horn of Africa.
Early last year, the government opened the bidding on a new counter-propaganda contract — separate from WebOps— that is worth as much as $500 million. Months after the AP started reporting about the bidding process, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service told the AP that it had launched an investigation. NCIS spokesman Ed Buice said the service is investigating a whistleblower’s “allegations of corruption” stemming from how the contract was awarded.
The whistleblower’s complaint alleges multiple conflicts of interest that include division officers being treated to lavish dinners paid for by a contractor. The complaint also alleges routine drinking at the office where classified work is conducted. The drinking was confirmed by multiple contractors, who spoke to AP and described a frat house atmosphere where happy hour started at 3 p.m.
One of the most damning accusations leveled by the whistleblower is against Army Col. Victor Garcia, who led the information operations division until July 2016, when he moved to a new assignment at Special Operations Command, also in Tampa. The whistleblower contended that Garcia successfully steered the contract to a team of vendors that included a close friend’s firm. The whistleblower requested anonymity for fear of professional retribution.
The AP obtained a screen-grab from a Facebook page that shows Garcia and the friend at a tiki bar in Key Largo two weeks before the winning team was officially announced Sept. 30. The photo was also turned over to NCIS investigators by the whistleblower, who said the photo created a “clear impression and perception of impropriety.”
Garcia, a West Point graduate and decorated officer, denied any wrongdoing and described the complaint as “character assassination.” Garcia, who moved to his new post two months before the contract was decided, said he scrupulously avoided any discussions about the contract with both his friend and his former deputy. His former deputy served on the five-member panel that reviewed all of the bids.
“Because I was aware of these conflicts of interest, I intentionally kept myself out of that process — with any of these contract processes,” Garcia said.
The whistleblower is a senior manager at a company that lost its bid for the work. He told AP that he was investigated for attempting to accept kickbacks on an unrelated government contract. He denied the allegations, which were made four years ago, and no charges have been filed in the case.
The problems with the WebOps operation and the personal bonds underpinning the new contract illustrate challenges awaiting President Donald Trump. He has promised to boost military spending by tens of billions of dollars while also cutting waste at the Defense Department and ensuring that contractors aren’t getting sweetheart deals.
Charles Tiefer, a professor at the University of Baltimore’s law school and a government contracting expert, reviewed AP’s findings and called Central Command’s lack of rigorous oversight inexcusable.
“These people should not be wasting the money consigned to defend us against terrorism,” said Tiefer, who served on a bipartisan Commission on Wartime Contracting. The commission reported in 2011 that at least $31 billion was lost to waste and fraud in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“DO YOU SPEAK ARABIC?”
In a large office room filled with cubicles at Central Command, about 120 people, many of them Arabic language specialists, are assigned to fight IS militants on their own turf: the internet.
The WebOps contract is run by Colsa Corp., based in Huntsville, Alabama. A major challenge for Colsa — and contractors working on other national security programs— is finding people who can speak Arabic fluently and can also get security clearances to handle classified material.
The problem, according to six current and former Colsa employees, is that to engage with operatives of the Islamic State, or their potential recruits, you need to be fluent in language, nuance and Islam — and while Colsa has some Arabic experts, those skills are not widely distributed.
“One of the things about jihadis: they are very good in Arabic,” said one specialist who worked on WebOps.
Another former employee said common translation mistakes he personally witnessed, including the “Palestinian salad” example, were the result of the company hiring young people who were faking language abilities.
He mockingly described the conversations between managers and potential hires: “‘Do you speak Arabic?'” he mimicked. “‘Yes. How do you say ‘good morning?’ Oh, you can do that? You are an expert. You are hired.'”
A third specialist said she asked a colleague, who was assigned to analyze material written in Arabic, why he was discarding much of it. While watching a soap opera online, the colleague said the material was irrelevant because it was in Farsi or Urdu. But when she checked, it was indeed Arabic. She has since left WebOps to find more meaningful work, she said.
The WebOps Arabic program focuses on Syria, Iraq and Yemen, but for most of the time Colsa has been running it, it has had no Syrian or Yemeni staff, the AP was told in separate interviews with two current employees and one who left recently.
Engaging in theological discussions on social media with people who are well versed in the Quran is not for beginners. Iraq and Syria are riven with sectarian violence between Shiite and Sunni Muslims, who follow different interpretations of Islam. Multiple workers said that WebOps “experts” often trip up on language that is specific to one sect or region.
“People can tell whether you are local, or whether you are Sunni or Shia,” said another former worker, so poorly crafted messages are not effective. He said he left WebOps because he was disgusted with the work.
A number of the workers complained to AP that a large group on staff from Morocco, in North Africa, were often ignorant of Middle Eastern history and culture — or even the difference between groups the U.S. considers terrorist organizations. The group was so dominant that colleagues jokingly referred to them as “the Moroccan mafia.”
A lot of them “don’t know the difference between Hezbollah and Hamas,” said the employee who left to find more meaningful work. Hezbollah is an Iran-backed Shiite group based in Lebanon. Hamas, based in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, is the Palestinian branch of the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood.
Cathy Dickens, a vice president for business management and corporate ethics at Colsa Corp., referred questions to CENTCOM, which declined comment.
“YOU SHOULDN’T GRADE YOUR OWN HOMEWORK”
To determine whether WebOps actually dissuades people from becoming radicalized, Colsa’s scoring team analyzes the interactions employees have online and tries to measure whether the subjects’ comments reflect militant views or a more tolerant outlook.
Three former members of its scoring team told the AP they were encouraged by a manager to indicate progress against radicalism in their scoring reports even if they were not making any.
The employee who said she left to find meaningful work recalled approaching a Colsa manager to clarify how the scoring was done shortly after starting her job. She said he told her that the bottom line was “the bread we put on the table for our children.”
The boss told her that the scoring reports should show progress, but not too much, so that the metrics would still indicate a dangerous level of militancy online to justify continued funding for WebOps, she said.
She was shocked. “Until my dying day, I will never forget that moment,” she said.
She, like other former employees, spoke only on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution from Colsa that could affect future employment.
The manager she spoke to declined to comment. AP withheld his name because of security concerns.
Employees and managers routinely inflate counts of interactions with potential terrorist recruits, known as “engagements,” according to multiple workers. Engagements are delivered in tweets or comments posted on social media to lists of people and can also be automated. That automation is at times used to inflate the actual number of engagements, said two former workers, including the one who talked about colleagues faking their language abilities.
The worker who left in disgust explained that a single tweet could be programmed to be sent out to all the followers of a target individually, multiple times. So the targets and their followers get the same tweets tagged to them over and over again.
“You send it like a blind copy. You program it to send a tweet every five minutes to the whole list individually from now until tomorrow,” the former employee said. “Then you see the reports and it says yesterday we sent 5,000 engagements. Often that means one tweet on Twitter.” The person said that he saw managers printing out the skewed reports for weekly briefings with CENTCOM officers. But the volume made it look like the WebOps team’s work was “wow, amazing,” he said.
Garcia said Colsa has a done a good job under his watch, that the data is sufficiently scrutinized and the program is succeeding.
In 2014, a group of more than 40 Defense Department data specialists came to Tampa to evaluate the program. Their unclassified report, obtained by AP, identified what one of the authors called “serious design flaws.” For instance, the report found that any two analysts were only 69 percent likely to agree on how to score a particular engagement. The author said a rate of 90 percent or higher is required to draw useful conclusions.
The report found that computers would be as accurate or better than analysts, and could evaluate effectiveness more quickly — and cheaply.
What Central Command really needed, the report said, was outside oversight.
“You shouldn’t grade your own homework,” said the author, a former U.S. military officer and data specialist once stationed at Central Command. The author, one of many people who signed off on the report, spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of professional retribution.
He said the report was given to officers, including Garcia, and to Colsa. The author said the suggestions were not implemented and WebOps managers resisted multiple attempts at oversight. The author said that when he directly appealed to Garcia for outside assessment, an officer under Garcia said the effort would cloud the mission.
“The argument was that WebOps was the only program at Central Command that was directly engaging the enemy and that it couldn’t function if its staff was constantly distracted by assessment,” he said. The argument worked, he said, and Colsa was not forced or instructed to accept outside oversight.
Garcia disputed that account but would not elaborate on what steps were taken to address the Defense Department data specialists’ concerns. The Government Accountability Office issued a report in 2015 on WebOps oversight, but it is classified.
Despite the problems behind the scenes at WebOps, Central Command will play a key role in the new $500 million psychological operations campaign against the Islamic State and other groups. The five-year contract was a hefty commitment to “degrade and ultimately defeat extremist organizations,” according to a document detailing the scope of the work. It would run parallel to WebOps.
The request for bids was announced in April. Four separate teams of companies competed for the contract, including one led by defense giant Northrop Grumman.
From the start, competitors complained among themselves that Simon Bergman, an executive with the British advertising firm M&C Saatchi, had an advantage because he was friends with Garcia. Bergman was working with Northrop to prepare the bid.
A former British officer, Bergman was deployed to Iraq while Garcia was there working on psychological operations during the Iraq war. It was well known that the two men were close, and in recent years, contractors often saw Bergman at CENTCOM offices.
In April, defense contractor CACI International held a meeting in Tampa to discuss the bid. Three contractors on the team said a CACI manager warned a roomful of people that Garcia had already told him that he would decide who got the contract. The manager said that Garcia indicated that having Bergman on the team would help.
So in mid-September, when a photo appeared on Facebook showing Garcia and Bergman together in the Florida Keys, it did not look good in the eyes of many contractors. Garcia’s girlfriend captured the old friends inside the Tiki Bar at Gilbert’s Resort in Key Largo. They were on her Facebook page, shoulder-to-shoulder, smiling and giving the thumbs up.
Within days, the photos had been taken down from her page.
Two weeks later, the government announced Northrop had won the contract. Its team included M&C Saatchi, Bergman’s firm.
A panel led by the U.S. General Services Administration chose the winner of the contract. Chris Hamm, a senior GSA acquisition executive, said a five-member team scrutinized the technical merits of the proposals for the contract. That team was led by two GSA officials and included three military officers — one of whom was Marine Corps Lt. Col. Matt Coughlin, who reported directly to Garcia before Garcia left his post. Coughlin is the information operations’ liaison with contractors.
In an interview with AP, Hamm said the contract award was handled properly.
“The process is designed to avoid bias,” Hamm said.
But several other contractors on losing teams said Coughlin would clearly have been the person on the panel with the most sway, because of both his technical expertise and the fact that he represented CENTCOM. And given Coughlin’s ties with Garcia, they found that troubling.
Garcia said that while the bids were being considered, he stayed away from any discussions of it with Coughlin, his deputy. So he didn’t even realize the award announcement was imminent when he went with Bergman to the Keys.
“I wasn’t involved with the contracting process at all,” Garcia said. “So I had no idea what the timing of the contract was.”
When asked why the photo with Bergman was taken off Facebook, Garcia declined to comment.
Bergman said that his friendship with Garcia, one of many he has with military officers, is irrelevant. He noted that M&C Saatchi was only a subcontractor.
“I don’t see why my relationship with somebody in the military would have any influence over anything,” he said.
The whistleblower complaint however, filed in December with Central Command’s inspector general, contended the photo of Garcia and Bergman created a “clear impression and perception of impropriety.”
The four-page complaint, now under investigation by NCIS, said the atmosphere at the CENTCOM division, with routine drinking at the office and myriad conflicts of interest, led to an “air of untouchable invincibility.”
Several contractors who spoke to AP, among the nearly two dozen either bidding for work or involved in CENTCOM information operations, said they suspected undue influence in the decision for the $500 million contract. In his complaint, the whistleblower alleges that Garcia told him directly at one point that “any team must include Simon Bergman.”
All the contractors asked for anonymity to discuss sensitive work because they feared repercussions for their companies.
Colsa, the primary WebOps contractor, was not involved in Northrop’s bid. However, nothing prevents Northrop from bringing the company in as a subcontractor.
That’s the plan, said several contractors who have been briefed by Northrop. Such a move would provide ample funding to keep WebOps running for up to five more years.
Associated Press researchers Jennifer Farrar, Rhonda Shafner and Monika Mathur contributed to this report.
Have a tip on government contracting? Contact the authors securely at https://securedrop.ap.org
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(PhatzNewsRoom / NYT) —- WASHINGTON — President Trump fired his acting attorney general on Monday night, removing her as the nation’s top law enforcement officer after she defiantly refused to defend his executive order closing the nation’s borders to refugees and people from predominantly Muslim countries.
In an escalating crisis for his 10-day-old administration, the president declared in a statement that Sally Q. Yates, who had served as deputy attorney general under President Barack Obama, had betrayed the administration by announcing that Justice Department lawyers would not defend Mr. Trump’s order against legal challenges.
The president replaced Ms. Yates with Dana J. Boente, the United States attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, saying that he would serve as attorney general until Congress acts to confirm Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama. In his first act in his new role, Mr. Boente announced that he was rescinding Ms. Yates’s order.
Monday’s events have transformed the confirmation of Mr. Sessions into a referendum on Mr. Trump’s immigration order. Action in the Senate could come as early as Tuesday.
Ms. Yates’s order was a remarkable rebuke by a government official to a sitting president, and it recalled the so-called Saturday Night Massacre in 1973, when President Richard M. Nixon fired his attorney general and deputy attorney general for refusing to dismiss the special prosecutor in the Watergate case.
Mr. Boente was sworn in at 9 p.m., according to White House officials, who did not provide details about who performed the ceremony. In a statement, Mr. Boente pledged to “defend and enforce the laws of our country.”
At 9:15 p.m., Ms. Yates received a hand-delivered letter at the Justice Department that informed her that she was fired. Signed by John DeStefano, one of Mr. Trump’s White House aides, the letter informed Ms. Yates that “the president has removed you from the office of Deputy Attorney General of the United States.”
Two minutes later, the White House officials lashed out at Ms. Yates in a statement issued by Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary.
“Ms. Yates is an Obama administration appointee who is weak on borders and very weak on illegal immigration,” the statement said.
The firing of Ms. Yates came at the end of a turbulent three days that began on Friday with Mr. Trump’s signing of his executive order. The action stranded travelers around the world, led to protests around the country and created alarm inside the bureaucracy.
Ms. Yates, like other senior government officials, was caught by surprise by the executive order and agonized over the weekend about how to respond, two Justice Department officials involved in the weekend deliberations said. Ms. Yates considered resigning but she told colleagues she did not want to leave it to her successor to face the same dilemma.
By Monday afternoon, Ms. Yates added to a deepening sense of anxiety in the nation’s capital by publicly confronting the president with a stinging challenge to his authority, laying bare a deep divide at the Justice Department, within the diplomatic corps and elsewhere in the government over the wisdom of his order.
“At present, I am not convinced that the defense of the executive order is consistent with these responsibilities, nor am I convinced that the executive order is lawful,” Ms. Yates wrote in a letter to Justice Department lawyers.
Mr. Trump’s senior aides huddled together in the West Wing to determine what to do.
They decided quickly that her insubordination could not stand, according to an administration official familiar with the deliberations. Among the chief concerns was whether Mr. Sessions could be confirmed quickly by the Senate.
After Reince Priebus, the White House chief of staff, received reassurances from Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, that the confirmation was on track, aides took their recommendation to Mr. Trump in the White House residence.
The president decided quickly: She has to go, he told them.
The official statement from Mr. Spicer accused Ms. Yates of failing to fulfill her duty to defend a “legal order designed to protect the citizens of the United States” that had been approved by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel.
“It is time to get serious about protecting our country,” Mr. Spicer said in the statement. He accused Democrats of holding up the confirmation of Mr. Sessions for political reasons. “Calling for tougher vetting for individuals traveling from seven dangerous places is not extreme. It is reasonable and necessary to protect our country.”
Former Justice Department officials said the president’s action would send a deep shudder through an agency that was already on edge as officials anticipated an ideological overhaul once Mr. Session takes over. One former senior official said that department lawyers would be unnerved by the firing.
Democrats, meanwhile, hailed Ms. Yates as a principled defender of what she thought was right. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, said in a statement that the “attorney general should be loyal and pledge fidelity to the law, not the White House. The fact that this administration doesn’t understand that is chilling.”
Mr. Boente has told the White House that he is willing to sign off on Mr. Trump’s executive order on refugees and immigration, according to Joshua Stueve, a spokesman for the United States attorney’s office in Alexandria, Va., where Mr. Boente has served as the top prosecutor since 2015.
Mr. Boente, who has been a prosecutor with the Justice Department for 31 years, had no hesitation about accepting the acting attorney general’s job given his “seniority and loyalty” to the department, Mr. Stueve said in a telephone interview on Monday night.
As acting attorney general, Ms. Yates was the only person at the Justice Department authorized to sign applications for foreign surveillance warrants. Administrations of both parties have interpreted surveillance laws as requiring foreign surveillance warrants be signed only by Senate-confirmed Justice Department officials. Mr. Boente was Senate-confirmed as United States attorney and, though the situation is unprecedented, the White House said he was authorized to sign the warrants.
Ms. Yates’s decision had effectively overruled a finding by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, which had already approved the executive order “with respect to form and legality.”
Ms. Yates said her determination in deciding not to defend the order was broader, however, and included questions not only about the order’s lawfulness, but also whether it was a “wise or just” policy. She also alluded to unspecified statements the White House had made before signing the order, which she factored into her review.
Mr. Trump initially responded to the letter with a post on Twitter at 7:45 p.m., complaining that the Senate’s delay in confirming his cabinet nominees had resulted in leaving Ms. Yates in place.
The 1973 “Saturday Night Massacre” led to a constitutional crisis that ended when Robert H. Bork, the solicitor general, acceded to Mr. Nixon’s order and fired Archibald Cox, the special prosecutor.
Ms. Yates, a career prosecutor, is different because she is a holdover from the Obama administration. She agreed to Mr. Trump’s request to stay on as acting attorney general until Mr. Sessions is confirmed to be attorney general.
Reporting was contributed by David E. Sanger, Ron Nixon, Michael R. Gordon and Eric Schmitt in Washington.
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SEATTLE (AP) — Washington became the first state to sue the Trump administration with a filing Monday over the president’s executive order restricting refugees and immigration. It likely will not be standing alone for long.
Since Donald Trump was elected president, Democratic state attorneys general have been forming a coordinated wall of legal resistance over immigration, environmental protections, health care and other major issues.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman told The Associated Press that lawyers, including attorneys general, are having an “awakening” regarding the Trump administration.
“This is a president who does not have respect for the rule of the law,” he said. “That’s something that bothers a lot of people.”
Schneiderman has given model legislation to local governments in New York showing them how to become sanctuary cities that would refuse to cooperate with federal authorities on some immigration enforcement matters.
Their plan for legal pushback has precedent: Several Republican attorneys general made it a practice to routinely file lawsuits against the policies of former President Barack Obama.
The American Civil Liberties Union and other groups are taking up similar fights on behalf of individuals. But attorneys general —the chief lawyers for state governments — can sue more broadly on behalf of their states. Most are elected and thus can act independently of their state legislatures or governors.
“It’s my responsibility as attorney general to defend the rule of law, to uphold the Constitution on behalf of the people of this state. And that’s what we’re doing,” Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said when announcing his lawsuit against Trump’s executive order.
He said other states could join the lawsuit, which asks a judge to throw out key provisions of the order Trump issued Friday. It temporarily closes the U.S. to all refugees and all people from seven majority-Muslim countries and bars Syrian refugees indefinitely.
The administration says such action is needed to protect the country from terrorist attacks. Since it was issued, the White House has said people from the banned countries who have permission to work in the U.S. can enter.
On Sunday, 17 Democratic attorneys general signed a letter vowing to “use all of the tools of our offices to fight this unconstitutional order.” Most of the signatories were from states controlled by Democrats and that Hillary Clinton won in November. But also signing were the Democratic attorneys general from Iowa and Pennsylvania, which voted for Trump, and Maine, where the electoral vote was split.
Attorneys general have taken smaller actions since Trump was elected, both on their own and in concert.
For example, some wrote Trump calling for him to keep former President Barack Obama’s clean power plan in place and to oppose weakening a federal agency in charge of consumer financial protection. Some banded together to urge the U.S. Senate to reject former Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency and Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions to lead the U.S. Department of Justice.
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey has hosted town hall meetings to speak with residents about how to deal with a Trump presidency.
“I don’t wish for or want opportunities to either sue the Trump administration, sue a federal agency or to have to act in a way to protect people because of something the federal government has done,” she told The Associated Press. “But we have to be prepared to do that.”
Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen said he has spoken with advocacy groups about legal strategies. Among them is Planned Parenthood, which is preparing to react if Trump and the GOP-led Congress defund the organization.
One of the first steps T.J. Donovan took when he became attorney general in Vermont this month was forming a task force to advise him on immigration policies.
State attorneys general have a history of banding together. Most notably, a series of lawsuits from them led to the 1998 tobacco industry settlement under which cigarette makers agreed to pay states more than $200 billion over 25 years.
Republican attorneys general sued President Obama over his health insurance overhaul minutes after he signed it and over his rules to limit power plant emissions even before the details were final. In both cases, courts sided with them, at least in part. After Trump won the White House in November, taking on the president became part of the job description for their Democratic counterparts.
State attorneys general have become more active since the administration of former President George W. Bush, especially when it comes to federal laws and policies, said a scholar who studies the office.
“It’s become such an established part of what AG’s do on the national level,” said Paul Nolette, an assistant professor of political science at Marquette University. “It’s become much more AG’s going on the offensive.”
Mulvihill reported from Haddonfield, New Jersey. Associated Press writer David B. Caruso in New York contributed to this article.
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QUEBEC CITY (AP) — The French Canadian university student charged with killing six Muslim men during evening prayers at a mosque was known for far-right, nationalist views and his support of the French rightist party led by Marine Le Pen.
Alexandre Bissonnette was charged Monday with six counts of first-degree murder and five counts of attempted murder over the shooting rampage at a Quebec City mosque that Canada’s prime minister called an act of terrorism against Muslims.
Bissonnette made a brief court appearance and did not enter a plea in the attack staged during evening prayers Sunday. Wearing a white prisoner jump suit, his hands and feet shackled, he stared down at the floor and fidgeted, but did not speak.
The 27-year-old suspect, who has espoused support for Le Pen and U.S. President Donald Trump on his Facebook page, was known to those who monitor extremist groups in Quebec, said François Deschamps, an official with a refugee advocacy group.
“It’s with pain and anger that we learn the identity of terrorist Alexandre Bissonnette, unfortunately known to many activists in Quebec for taking nationalist, pro-Le Pen and anti-feminist positions at Laval University and on social media,” Deschamps wrote on the Facebook page of the group, Bienvenues aux Refugiés, or Welcome to Refugees.
An anthropology and political science major at Laval University in Quebec City, Bissonnette had also expressed support on his Facebook profile for “Génération Nationale,” a group whose manifesto includes the rejection of “multiculturalism.”
Authorities said Bissonnette was unknown to police.
The grandson of a decorated World War II veteran, Bissonnette appears in a Facebook photo as a boy dressed as an army cadet, a military leadership program for Canadian youths. But cadets are not members of the Canadian Armed Forces and do not receive military training.
For Le Pen and her supporters, “massive migration,” notably from Muslim North Africa, is supplanting French civilization and is at the root of many France’s modern woes. “On est chez nous” (“We’re in our land”) is a mantra at the rallies of her party, the National Front. Her views have won the endorsement from white supremacists.
More than 50 people were at the Quebec Islamic Cultural Centre when the shooting began, and witnesses described a scene of chaos as worshippers scrambled to find friends and loved ones. In addition to the six dead, 19 people were wounded — all men. Of the five victims who remained hospitalized, two were in critical condition, authorities said. The dead ranged in age from 39 to 60.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard both characterized the attack as a terrorist act, which came amid strong criticism around the world over Trump’s temporary travel ban for people from seven Muslim countries.
Canada is generally welcoming toward immigrants and all religions, but the French-speaking province of Quebec has had a long-simmering debate about race and religious accommodation. The previous separatist government of the province called for a ban on ostentatious religious symbols, such as the hijab, in public institutions.
Trudeau said in Parliament that the victims were targeted simply because of their religion. Speaking directly to the more than 1 million Muslims who live in Canada, he said, “We are with you.”
“Thirty-six million hearts are breaking with yours,” Trudeau said.
The prime minister later attended a vigil along with thousands of people bundled in winter clothes in front of Notre-Dame-de-Foy Church, just around the corner from the mosque that was attacked. It was one of many vigils in Canada, and the Eiffel Tower in Paris was darkened in respect to the victims as was the CN Tower in Toronto.
The suspect was arrested in his car on a bridge near d’Orleans, after he called 911 to say he wanted to cooperate with police. Authorities, who initially named two suspects, said the other man taken into custody was a witness to the attack and was released. Officials said they did not believe there were others involved but were investigating.
Police did not give a motive for the attack.
Trump called Trudeau to express condolences to the Canadian people and to offer any assistance that might be needed.
The White House pointed to the attack as an example of why Trump’s policies are needed. “We condemn this attack in the strongest possible terms. It’s a terrible reminder of why we must remain vigilant and why the president is taking steps to be pro-active, rather than reactive when it comes to our nation’s safety and security,” White House spokesman Sean Spicer said.
The victims were businessmen, a university professor and others who had gathered for evening prayers, said Mohamed Labidi, vice president of the mosque.
“‘It’s a very, very big tragedy for us,” Labidi said tearfully. “We have a sadness we cannot express.”
He said the victims were shot in the back.
“Security at our mosque was our major, major concern,” he said. “But we were caught off guard.”
Asked if he blamed recent rhetoric in in the U.S. for the attack, the Quebec premier said he would “not go there”
“Quebec is a good, generally loving society, but we have these devils as other societies have. We have to recognize that and fight them,” Couillard said at a news conference at which he and Muslim leaders held hands in a display of solidarity.
The mosque has been a target of hate crimes in the past, including last summer when a pig’s head was left on its doorstep during Ramadan, when Muslims fast from dawn to sunset. Practicing Muslims do not eat pork.
Associated Press writer Tracey Lindeman reported this story in Quebec City and AP writer Rob Gillies reported from Toronto. AP writer Sean Farrell in Montreal contributed to this report.
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JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesia’s tsunami detection system, made up of seafloor sensors that communicate with transmitting buoys on the surface, has been rendered useless by vandals and lack of funding. Now Indonesian and U.S. scientists say they’ve developed a way to dispense with the expensive buoys and possibly add crucial extra minutes of warning for vulnerable coastal cities.
The prototype, nearly four years in the making, is designed for detection of so-called near-field tsunamis and has been tested off Padang on the western coast of Sumatra. It awaits a decision on government funding to connect it to disaster agencies on land.
A tsunami triggered by a Dec. 26, 2004 earthquake in the Indian Ocean that killed or left missing nearly 230,000 people, a large share in Indonesia, raised the urgency of ensuring communities have the fastest possible warnings.
But when a sizeable earthquake struck near the Mentawai islands 170 kilometers (106 miles) from Padang in March last year, none of the buoys in the area meant to transmit tsunami warnings were working. A disaster official said all of Indonesia’s 22 buoys, which cost several hundred thousand dollars each and are expensive to operate, were inoperable because of vandalism by boat crews or a lack of funds for maintenance.
That quake didn’t cause a tsunami but there was a chaotic evacuation in Padang, population 1 million, and other cities, which have at most 30 minutes before tsunami waves hit. Because of lack of information, officials didn’t cancel the tsunami warning for two hours.
“Now we have no buoys in Indonesia. They are all damaged,” said Iyan Turyana, an ocean engineer at BPPT, Indonesia’s Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology. “Where do you live in Indonesia? Jakarta! It’s ok. But if you live in Padang, if you live in Bengkulu, your life is very dangerous.”
Germany and the U.S. provided 12 of the buoys, but did not maintain them, he said.
For Indonesians, Aceh province in the north of Sumatra where more than 100,000 people died after 2004 earthquake, is synonymous with tsunami risk. Now, however, Padang and nearby cities face the greatest danger of being wiped out by giant waves.
The magnitude 9.1 quake in 2004, centered in the north of a subduction zone where one major section of the earth’s crust is being forced under another, released enough energy to make a similarly powerful quake in that area unlikely in the foreseeable future. In the section of that “megathrust” off Padang, pressure has built relentlessly and an undersea earthquake greater than magnitude 8.5 is possible in the next few decades.
To boost its detection ability, tsunami-prone Japan has linked dozens of seafloor sensors off its eastern coast with thousands of kilometers of fiber-optic cable. It cost several hundred million dollars and a similar endeavor would be impossibly expensive for Indonesia, a vast but poor archipelago that sits on the one of most seismically active regions in the world.
But with $3 million of funding from the U.S. National Science Foundation, a prototype network of undersea sensors has been deployed between Padang and the Mentawai islands.
Buoys are not needed because the undersea seismometers and pressure sensors send data-laden sound waves to the warm surface waters. From there they refract back into the depths, traveling 20-30 kilometers to the next node in the network and so on.
At its final undersea point, the network needs a few kilometers of fiber optic cable to connect it to a shore station in the Mentawai islands where the cascades of data would be transmitted by satellite to the meteorology and geophysics agency, which issues tsunami warnings, and to disaster officials in Padang.
“This entire process likely takes 1-3 minutes instead of the 5-45 minutes typical of the buoy system,” said Louise Comfort, a University of Pittsburgh expert in disaster management who has led the project, which also involves engineers from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute.
“We get a more immediate record of the seismic movement and with that more immediate record we gain a few minutes of very valuable time,” she said. “And we get a clearer signal of whether or not there is going to be a tsunami.”
Laying the cable will cost the Indonesian government about 1.5 billion rupiah ($112,000), said Turyana, the ocean engineer. The Ministry of Research, Technology and Higher Education is considering a funding proposal.
The system has not been deployed elsewhere, but could be an option for other poor countries or regions that are vulnerable to tsunamis.
Since 2004, the mantra among disaster officials in Indonesia has been that the earthquake is the tsunami warning and signal for immediate evacuation. Not everyone is convinced a tsunami detection system is essential.
“Why? Because the tsunami is too quick to arrive to the land. After the earthquake, we evacuate. No need to detect the tsunami. Just evacuate. That is the second opinion. That is why it is hard to have the budget,” said Turyana.
Memories of the 2004 tsunami are fresh enough that Indonesians living near the coast typically run for high ground whenever the land shakes, as it frequently does.
Yet without a reliable system that reduces false alarms, a “crying wolf” effect will eventually change people’s behavior, say proponents of the detection network.
Not least, it can give disaster officials give crucial information about a tsunami, such as the heights of its waves and where and when they will hit.
“This system is to make sure the tsunami is really coming,” said Febrin Ismail, a structural engineer involved in earthquake mitigation and tsunami planning for Padang.
“Sometimes after the earthquake, people are running and then they see the tsunami doesn’t come. In the future maybe they don’t run again. We are afraid the quake itself is not effective.”
(PhatzNewsRoom / NYT) — WASHINGTON — The White House on Monday warned State Department officials that they should leave their jobs if they did not agree with President Trump’s agenda, an extraordinary effort to stamp out a wave of internal dissent against Mr. Trump’s temporary ban on entry visas for people from seven predominantly Muslim countries.
Career officials at the State Department are circulating a so-called dissent cable, which says that Mr. Trump’s executive order closing the nation’s doors to more than 200 million people to weed out a handful of would-be terrorists would not make the nation safer and might instead deepen the threat.
“These career bureaucrats have a problem with it?” Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, told reporters. “They should either get with the program or they can go.”
Asked if he was suggesting that people resign, Mr. Spicer said, “If somebody has a problem with that agenda, that does call into question whether or not they should continue in that post.”
Mr. Spicer defended the visa ban, saying its effects had been grossly exaggerated and that it symbolized Mr. Trump’s overriding goal of protecting the safety of the nation. He displayed little patience for the “dissent channel,” which the State Department has long maintained as a way for its staff to register objections over administration policies.
It was the starkest confrontation yet between the new president, who is moving swiftly to upend years of government policies, and an entrenched bureaucracy, parts of which are openly hostile to Mr. Trump’s proposals or have struggled to enforce his executive orders, which have been announced with little warning and no input from the rank and file.
Mr. Trump’s visa ban has reverberated through multiple agencies: the Defense Department, which says it hurts the military’s partners in conflict zones like Iraq; the Department of Homeland Security, whose border control agents are struggling to enforce the directive; and the Justice Department, whose lawyers are charged with defending its legality.
But Mr. Spicer’s blunt warning posed a particularly difficult choice to the more than 100 State Department officials who signaled they would sign the memo. They can sign a final version, which would be put on the desk of Rex W. Tillerson, Mr. Trump’s designated secretary of state, on his first day in office. Or they can choose not to identify themselves, and instead rely on the leak of the letter to make their point.
Under State Department rules and whistle-blower laws, it is forbidden to retaliate against any employee who follows the procedures and submits a dissent memorandum. One of the signatories, in a text message, said State Department signatories were trying to figure out what to do.
The memorandum began to take shape late last week, as word of Mr. Trump’s executive order leaked out. The sponsors quickly gathered more than 100 signatures, an unusually large number, but a draft of the memo was still being refined over the weekend.
Last summer, 51 State Department officials signed one protesting President Barack Obama’s policy in Syria, which they asserted had been “overwhelmed” by the violence there. They handed the cable to Secretary of State John Kerry.
The State Department confirmed the existence of the memo on Monday, and it affirmed the right of its staff to dissent.
“This is an important process that the acting secretary, and the department as a whole, respect and value,” said a spokesman, Mark Toner.
The speed with which the memo was assembled and the number of signers underscore the degree to which the State Department has become the center of the resistance to Mr. Trump’s order. More broadly, it represents objections to his efforts to cut back on American participation in international organizations and to issue ultimatums to allies.
Not surprisingly, the diplomats and Civil Service officers of the State Department are among the most internationally minded in the government; they have lived around the world and devoted their careers to building alliances and promoting American values abroad.
That was reflected in parts of the draft of the dissent memo circulating in the State Department. It warned that the executive order “will increase anti-American sentiment,” and that “instead of building bridges to these societies,” it would “send the message that we consider all nationals of these countries to be an unacceptable security risk.”
Among those whose views will be changed are “current and future leaders in these societies — including those for whom this may be a tipping point towards radicalization.” It also warned of an immediate humanitarian effect on those who come “to seek medical treatment for a child with a rare heart condition, to attend a parent’s funeral.”
“We do not need to alienate entire societies to stay safe,” the memo concludes.
Overseas, Iraqi officials said they were surprised by the directive, which they learned about through the American news media; they had not been consulted first. Objections from Baghdad are notable because Iraq is a front-line partner in the campaign against the Islamic State.
And at the Pentagon, senior officials plan to send the White House a list of Iraqi citizens who have served with American forces with the recommendation that they be exempt. Officials said that the Iraqis who will be put on the Defense Department list have undergone a stringent form of vetting because they have served with the United States military in combat.
TOKYO (AP) — Global shares were mixed Tuesday, with gains in early European trading after a second day of losses in Asia partly in response to jitters over U.S. President Donald Trump’s travel ban.
KEEPING SCORE: France’s CAC 40 rose 0.2 percent to 4,794.49 and Germany’s DAX also added 0.2 percent to 11,703.36. Britain’s FTSE 100 added 0.2 percent to 7,131.02. U.S. shares were set to drift lower with Dow futures losing 0.1 percent to 19,871 and S&P 500 futures also 0.1 percent lower at 2,274.10.
TRUMP FACTOR: Trump’s travel ban on seven Muslim-majority countries rattled investors, hitting energy companies and airlines. Technology companies also sagged on worries that future administration moves will make it harder for them to hire skilled, foreign-born workers. Trump also suspended the U.S. refugee program for 120 days and stopped all entry by Syrians into the U.S.
THE QUOTE: “A tale of two weeks and how quickly investor sentiment can turn. Last week’s Trumpenomics’ rally has given way to a vote of no confidence from investors who are growing leery of President Trump’s agenda and are restless about the lack of focus on the fiscal front,” said Stephen Innes, a senior trader at OANDA. He added, “the market meltdown overnight was investors voting with their feet in a direct challenge to the Trump-inflation trade.”
JAPAN: Japan’s central bank left its lax monetary policy unchanged in its first board meeting of the year, but upgraded its growth estimates, citing signs of recovery in manufacturing. The most recent data, for December, paint a mixed picture, with stronger factory output but weaker retail sales and household spending. The Bank of Japan kept its 1-year-old minus 0.1 percent benchmark interest rate intact.
ASIA’S DAY: Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 dipped 1.7 percent to finish at 19,041.34 as a stronger yen helped send shares lower. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 dropped 0.7 percent to 5,620.90. South Korea’s Kospi lost 0.8 percent to 2,067.57. Markets in Hong Kong, China and Taiwan were closed for Lunar New Year holidays.
ENERGY: U.S. crude oil slid 27 cents to $52.36 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It lost 54 cents Monday to $52.63 a barrel. Brent crude, the benchmark for international oil prices, fell 29 cents to $55.03 a barrel in London.
CURRENCIES: The dollar fell to 113.86 yen from 114.38 yen on Monday. The euro dipped to $1.0702 from $1.0731.
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NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stocks fell Monday as investors grew nervous following President Donald Trump imposed a travel ban on seven Muslim-majority countries. Energy companies, which have surged over the last year, took the biggest losses.
Airlines skidded after Trump’s executive order led to protests and disruption at airports and concerns about travel. Big-name technology companies sagged on concerns that future administration moves will make it harder for them to hire workers.
Investors took profits as they sold shares of basic materials and industrial companies, which have rallied the November election. The VIX, a measure of Wall Street volatility, jumped, though it remains relatively low overall. Stocks in Europe lost ground as well.
Sameer Samana, strategist for Wells Fargo Investment Institute, said investors are not overly alarmed by the news of the travel ban, but aren’t sure what to make of it, either.
“It’s very difficult to figure out exactly what implications it has for the economy and for markets,” he said.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 122.65 points, or 0.6 percent, to 19,971.13. It dropped as much as 223 points in the morning. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index lost 13.79 points, or 0.6 percent, to 2,280.90.
The Nasdaq composite dropped 47.07 points, or 0.8 percent, to 5,613.71 after it closed at an all-time high Friday. Small-company stocks were hit harder. The Russell 2000 index shed 18.37 points, or 1.3 percent, to 1,352.33.
Late Friday Trump suspended the U.S. refugee program for 120 days and blocked travel to the U.S. by citizens of seven countries. His order is being challenged in court. Some airports became hosting grounds for protests, and investors wondered if American tourism will be affected. American Airlines fell $2.05, or 4.4 percent, to $44.90 and United Continental lost $2.70, or 3.6 percent, to $71.72.
Domestic airlines also struggled, and so did other companies that don’t necessarily have much at stake in disputes over immigration policy or global trade.
Samana said there’s no specific reason that the recent moves would hurt bank profits or small domestically-focused companies, for example, and they may not cause long-term trouble for airlines. Instead, the stocks did the worst Monday are largely the ones that have done the best since the election, including energy companies, banks, and smaller companies.
Construction and mining company Caterpillar fell $2.20, or 2.2 percent, to $96.79 and construction and technical services company Jacobs Engineering dipped 98 cents, or 1.6 percent, to $59.38.
Construction materials company Vulcan skidded $3.63, or 2.7 percent, to $130.73 and chemicals maker DuPont dropped $1.70, or 2.2 percent, to $76.
The day’s largest losses went to energy companies, which have surged over the last year as the price of oil recovered from a deep drop. Chevron retreated $1.97, or 1.7 percent, to $111.82 and ConocoPhillips fell $1.95, or 3.9 percent, to $47.48.
U.S. crude oil slid 54 cents, or 1 percent, to $52.63 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, the benchmark for international oil prices, fell 29 cents to $55.23 a barrel in London.
Rite Aid plunged after Walgreens said it will cut the price it’s paying to buy its rival to no more than $7 per share from $9. That came after the companies said they will sell more of Rite Aid’s stores to get antitrust regulators to approve the deal. Walgreens said it may have to sell up to 1,200 Rite Aid stores, about a quarter of the company’s total. Rite Aid sank $1.21, or 17.5 percent, to $5.72. Walgreens edged down 2 cents to $81.48.
Mattress maker Tempur Sealy hit a three-year low after it said retailer Mattress Firm is moving to terminate its supply contracts with the company. Tempur Sealy said Mattress Firm wanted to make big changes to supply agreements and the two sides weren’t able to reach a compromise. It expects the two companies to stop doing business during the first quarter. Tempur Sealy said it made 21 percent of its net sales last year to Mattress Firm. Its stock fell $17.70, or 28 percent, to $45.49.
Fitness tracker maker Fitbit dropped $1.15, or 16 percent, to $6.06 after the company posted weak fourth-quarter sales and said it will eliminate about six percent of its jobs, or about 110 positions.
Bond prices slipped. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.49 percent from 2.48 percent.
The dollar fell to 113.67 yen from 115.09 yen. The euro dipped to $1.0695 from $1.0698.
In other energy trading, natural gas futures fell 13 cents, or 3.8 percent, to $3.23 per 1,000 cubic feet. Wholesale gasoline lost 2 cents to $1.51 a gallon. Heating oil dipped 1 cent to $1.61 a gallon.
The price of gold rose $4.80 to $1,193.20 an ounce. Silver added 2 cents to $17.15 an ounce. Copper lost 3 cents, or 1.3 percent, to $2.66 a pound.
The DAX of Germany fell 1.1 percent and the French CAC-40 also shed 1.1 percent while Britain’s FTSE 100 was 0.9 percent lower. Japan’s Nikkei 225 fell 0.5 percent. Other major indexes in Asia were closed for the Chinese New Year.
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WASHINGTON (AP) — Holding firm to his immigration order, President Donald Trump on Monday denied it was to blame for chaos at the nation’s airports over the weekend, instead pointing to computer glitches, protesters and even the “tears of Senator Schumer.”
Later he shifted the focus away from the weekend’s immigration turmoil, signing an executive action aimed at cutting regulations for small businesses. White House officials called the directive a “one in, two out” plan, requiring government agencies requesting a new regulation to identify two others they will cut.
Trump signed the order in the Oval Office surrounded by small business leaders, saying it would “massively” cut regulations and calling it the “biggest such act that our country has ever seen.”
Trump’s business announcement came as protests continued around the country over his immigration order. Early Monday, he took to Twitter to defend the move, saying that only 109 out of 325,000 people “were detained and held for questioning.” Trump also said swift action was important, noting that there are a “lot of bad ‘dudes’ out there.”
Trump’s order temporarily suspends all immigration for citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries for 90 days.
Democratic New York Sen. Schumer choked up over the weekend while talking about the repercussions from the ban, but that brought scorn from Trump.
“I noticed Chuck Schumer yesterday with fake tears – I’m going to ask him who was his acting coach, because I know him very well. I don’t see him as a crier,” Trump said at the White House on Monday.
Top Trump aides compared the order to a 2011 policy on Iraqi refugees, when President Barack Obama imposed additional checks on Iraqi refugees after two Iraqis were charged with terrorism offenses in Kentucky. Unlike Trump’s order, the Obama policy applied only to Iraqi refugees and never specifically prohibited entry.
Meanwhile, Trump announced he will reveal his pick for the Supreme Court at 8 p.m. Tuesday. The court has had eight justices since the death last year of Justice Antonin Scalia. Obama nominated Merrick Garland for the post, but Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell refused to take up the nomination.
Trump enters his second week in office amid a global backlash to his policies. European Union officials denounced his immigration order as a dangerous embrace of isolationism and inequality, while the international aid group Doctors Without Borders accused Trump of keeping people “trapped in war zones, directly endangering their lives.”
In Iraq, two lawmakers said the Iraqi parliament has approved a “reciprocity measure” restricting the entry of Americans into Iraq.
Trump’s order does not address homegrown extremists already in America, a primary concern of federal law enforcement officials. And the list of countries in Trump’s order doesn’t include Saudi Arabia, where most of the Sept. 11 hijackers were from.
Trump’s take on the weekend turmoil: “Big problems at airports were caused by Delta computer outage, protesters and the tears of Senator Schumer.”
A Delta systems outage Sunday night led to departure delays and cancellations of at least 150 flights. However, the chaos started Saturday as protesters packed some of the country’s major airports to demonstrate against the executive order.
In the face of criticism, Trump says his order is not a “Muslim ban.”
A number of U.S. diplomats prepared a memo criticizing it.
In a “dissent cable,” being drafted for State Department leadership, the diplomats say the ban runs counter to American values and will fuel anti-American sentiment around the world. They say it won’t produce a drop in terror attacks in the U.S., but instead “a drop in international good will toward Americans.”
U.S. officials say several hundred diplomats have signed on.
The dissent cable originated in the State Department’s Consular Affairs bureau, which handles visas and whose employees are most directly affected by Trump’s order.
There appeared to be widespread confusion among authorities tasked with carrying out the order and how it would be applied to certain groups, such as U.S. legal permanent residents.
Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly issued a statement Sunday saying that, absent information indicating a serious threat to public safety and welfare, citizens of the seven countries who hold permanent U.S. residency “green cards” will not be barred as officials had previously said. It remains unclear what kind of additional screening they will face.
Republican Ohio Sen. Rob Portman urged the new president to “slow down” and work with lawmakers on how best to tighten screening.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Monday, “I think there are some people who might not like the way it was done, but they were all consulted in the process.”
A federal judge in New York has issued an emergency order temporarily barring the U.S. from deporting people from the seven nations. The order bars U.S. border agents from removing anyone who arrives in the U.S. with a valid visa from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen. It also covers anyone with an approved refugee application.
The Department of Homeland Security said Sunday the court ruling would not affect overall implementation of the White House order.
Several Democrats in Congress said they would be introducing legislation to stop the ban.
Washington state’s attorney general said Monday he would sue Trump over the executive order, making Washington the first state to announce a legal action against the administration. Bob Ferguson was one of 16 state attorneys general who released a statement Sunday calling Trump’s immigration action “un-American and unlawful.”
Associated Press writers Josh Lederman, Alicia Caldwell and Steve Peoples in Palm Springs, California, contributed to this report.
Follow Colvin on Twitter at https://twitter.com/colvinj
This story has been corrected to … Updates with comments from State Department.
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HOUSTON (AP) — Former President George H.W. Bush was released Monday from Houston Methodist Hospital where he received treatment for pneumonia for more than two weeks.
Bush, 92, was experiencing breathing difficulties when he was admitted Jan. 14. During his treatment, which included a stay in intensive care, doctors inserted a breathing tube and connected him to a ventilator.
“He is thankful for the many prayers and kind messages he received during his stay, as well as the world-class care that both his doctors and nurses provided,” Bush spokesman Jim McGrath said Monday.
Bush has been allowed to return to his Houston home, McGrath said.
The nation’s 41st president was joined at the hospital by his 91-year-old wife, Barbara, who spent five days there for treatment of bronchitis until her release a week ago.
The couple’s 72-year marriage is the longest of any presidential couple in U.S. history and the former first lady was with her husband during much of his stay, including when she was hospitalized for her own treatment. They were “essentially therapy for each other,” Dr. Clint Doerr, one of the physicians treating Bush, said last week.
Bush, who served as president from 1989 to 1993, has a form of Parkinson’s disease and uses a motorized scooter or a wheelchair for mobility.
He was hospitalized in 2015 in Maine after falling at his summer home and breaking a bone in his neck. He was also hospitalized in Houston the previous December for about a week for shortness of breath. He spent Christmas 2012 in intensive care for a bronchitis-related cough and other issues.
Despite his loss of mobility, Bush celebrated his 90th birthday by making a tandem parachute jump in Kennebunkport, Maine. Last summer, Bush led a group of 40 wounded warriors on a fishing trip at the helm of his speedboat, three days after his 92nd birthday celebration.
George Herbert Walker Bush, born June 12, 1924, in Milton, Massachusetts, also served as a congressman, CIA director and Ronald Reagan’s vice president.
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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Ocean rise already is worsening the floods and high tides sweeping California this stormy winter, climate experts say, and this month’s damage and deaths highlight that even a state known as a global leader in fighting climate change has yet to tackle some of the hardest work of dealing with it.
The critical steps yet to come include starting to decide which low-lying cities, airports and highways, along with threatened landmarks like San Francisco’s Embarcadero, to hoist above the rising water and which to abandon — and where to start getting the many billions of dollars for those climate rescues.
“People always tell us we’re ahead of the curve” on climate change, said Larry Goldzband, head of a regional San Francisco Bay commission that late last year stepped up regional efforts to identify and prioritize communities and infrastructure at risk from rising sea level. As proud as Californians are of their climate-change efforts, “I always think, ‘Man, if we are ahead of the curve, I feel sorry for the rest of the country,'” Goldzband said.
A 2009 study by the Pacific Institute, a California-based environment think-tank, estimated $100 billion in property was at risk from ocean rise in California, two-thirds of it in the low-lying San Francisco Bay region. That’s far more than the state takes in from income taxes each year.
Experts say the real cost of raising, shielding or evacuating vulnerable spots, which include mass-transit systems, power plants and sewage plants, could be far higher.
“Astronomical. The San Francisco airport? What would it cost to replace that?” asked Gary Griggs, director of the Institute of Marine Sciences at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
Griggs is part of a scientific working group requested by Gov. Jerry Brown to examine whether new evidence on melting and potential ice-sheet collapse in the Antarctic, whose ice holds almost 90 percent of the Earth’s fresh water, means sea-level rise may be even higher than the 3 feet projected for California by the end of the century.
The Pacific off California has risen just about 8 inches overall in the past century. For the next three decades or so, the accelerating pace of sea rise primarily will make worse the flooding and erosion from big storms like this month’s in California.
“Probably until mid-century, short-term events … are going to be more damaging than sea-level rise itself,” Griggs said.
In January, a series of powerful storms brought more than a foot of rain to parts of the San Francisco Bay, triggered record 34-foot waves off the state’s central coast, killed at least five people and prompted the evacuations of thousands around the state.
The dead included a cab driver who slid off a wet road and into a swollen estuary off Oakland’s airport, which along with San Francisco’s bayside airport is one of the big sites expected to be hit more and more often by flooding as the Pacific Ocean rises a foot over the next 30 years.
Brown, who declared an emergency in much of the state this month because of flooded towns and highways, crumbled roads and rockslides, has vowed to fight if the fossil-fuel friendly Trump administration goes after California’s landmark programs to reduce climate-changing carbon emissions. Brown’s administration in 2015 also sought to speed up planning for dealing with sea rise and other climate change.
On a sparkling afternoon after three storms brought some of the heaviest rain and surf to California in decades, ecologist Fraser Shilling stood on a highway bridge north of San Francisco, looking over sprawling miles of floodwater and salty bay water swallowing the highway’s exit ramp, and drowning salt marshes and fence posts as far as the eye could see.
State Route 37 is a busy highway for tens of thousands of commuters and truckers in and out of California’s wine country. Shilling, a co-director of the Road Ecology Center at the University of California, Davis, had forecast it wouldn’t be seeing this kind of regular high water for at least another 20 years.
“This is the new normal,” says Shilling, who believes sea rise already is changing conditions on the ground more than some state agencies realize. “And all of our infrastructure is not accommodating the new normal.”
Pumps and bulldozers labored to clear water from another stretch of the state highway, two weeks after the storms.
State and local governments acknowledge that low-lying sites like State Route 37 will be hit by sea-rise worsened floods and tides more and more, before the bay claims them completely.
But authorities are stymied by the financial and political difficulties of raising billions to elevate or protect the highway, or reroute it through pricey vineyards inland. As it is now, substantial state funding isn’t expected for this particular highway until 2088, long after parts of it are expected to be regularly submerged.
“Our biggest challenge is how to fund and build it before it goes underwater,” said Kate Miller, executive director of the transportation authority for Napa County.
California might not really start funding its rescues from sea rise until a major part of the public is inconvenienced, said state Sen. Jerry Hill, a Democrat from San Mateo County.
Hill’s prediction of what would free the funds: If a low-lying stretch of U.S. Highway 101 near San Francisco’s old Candlestick Park floods, and much of the Bay Area suddenly could not get to work.
“That will be the wake-up call, when the rubber hits the road,” he said. “When the water hits the tailpipe.”
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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Just two days after banning travelers from seven Muslim-majority nations, U.S. President Donald Trump invited the Saudi monarch, whose kingdom includes Islam’s holiest sites, to fly to Washington.
It points to the delicate balancing act Trump faces as he tries to deliver on campaign promises to exterminate “radical Islamic terrorism” without endangering political and economic ties with U.S. allies in the region, including some where the Trump Organization has business interests.
The executive order could upend gains on the battlefields of Mosul, where U.S. forces aid Iraqi commandos, or scuttle billions of dollars’ worth of American aircraft sales to Tehran. Trump has vigorously defended the ban, saying it is only “about terror and keeping our country safe.”
Traditional American allies in the region have kept largely silent about the ban. Many welcome tougher action against Iran, one of the seven countries included in the executive order. But any move to expand the ban to other countries will undoubtedly inflame public opinion and could force them to respond in kind.
“Such selective and discriminatory acts will only serve to embolden the radical narratives of extremists and will provide further fuel to the advocates of violence and terrorism at a critical time,” the Organization of Islamic Cooperation said Monday.
The 57-nation bloc urged the U.S. to reconsider the policy “and maintain its moral obligation to provide leadership and hope at a time of great uncertainty and unrest in the world.”
The warning came hours after Trump called Saudi King Salman and Abu Dhabi’s powerful crown prince, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the likely future president of the United Arab Emirates. King Salman also invited Trump to visit Saudi Arabia.
Official regional government reaction has been muted to the 90-day ban on travel to the U.S. by citizens of Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen. The order also suspends refugee admissions for 120 days and indefinitely bars the processing of refugees from Syria.
OPEC members Saudi Arabia and the UAE, the Arab world’s largest economies, have bought billions of dollars’ worth of weapons from the U.S., and thousands of U.S. troops remain stationed across the region.
Several Arab allies of the U.S. have carried out airstrikes against the Islamic State group and, more vitally, allow access to air bases and seaports supporting the bombing, reconnaissance and refueling runs over Iraq and Syria.
Iraq, which is on the front lines in the fight against Islamic State group, is just over a third of the way through acquiring three dozen American-made F-16 fighters. It’s unclear how the ban will affect the Iraqi pilots, who are trained in the U.S.
The Iraqi Air Force Commander, Lt. Gen. Anwar Hama Amin, said the military has yet to receive a “clear response” on whether the ban applies to members of the Iraqi security forces.
“I’m worried and surprised,” he said. “We are fighting terrorism and this order will affect the fighting. … I hope this order will be reconsidered.”
The U.S. Central Command did not respond to a request for comment.
U.S. Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham, both Republicans and retired military officers, have warned Trump’s immigration order could become “a self-inflicted wound in the fight against terrorism.”
Intelligence-sharing and counterterrorism partnerships with Arab allies could also be threatened by a souring of relations.
The UAE, for example, hosts a digital communications center focused on countering IS propaganda, and in coordination with Saudi intelligence was instrumental in thwarting a 2010 plot to blow up two U.S.-bound cargo planes.
That tight relationship makes it easier for Trump to do business in a country like the UAE, a market his company has tried to break into for over a decade. A Trump-branded golf course is set to open soon in Dubai, and another is in the works.
The Trump Organization also sought business in Egypt, Qatar and Saudi Arabia before he became president. All but four of the Sept. 11 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia, while two came from the UAE. Turkey, which is home to the Trump Towers Istanbul, has been hit by a string of deadly attacks.
Bahrain and Kuwait have booked space in the new Trump International Hotel in Washington, while Trump Tower in New York collects rent from the tourist office of Abu Dhabi. Trump announced plans to separate himself from his company earlier this month, handing its management over to his two adult sons, but ethics experts have said conflicts of interest could remain.
Even more is at stake when it comes to American jobs and investors. The Middle East is a major buyer of big-ticket, American goods, from fighter planes and missiles to turbines, cars and construction equipment. American exports to the United Arab Emirates alone topped $20 billion annually for the past five years.
Boeing Co. has sealed billions of dollars’ worth of deals with Middle Eastern airlines, including Dubai-based Emirates, the region’s largest carrier.
The Chicago-based plane maker completed a $16.6 billion agreement for 80 jetliners with Iran last month, a deal made possible by the 2015 nuclear accord, which Trump has at times threated to scrap or renegotiate.
The Gulf states, which view Iran as their biggest regional rival, are unlikely to object to its inclusion in the travel ban. But any expansion of the visa restrictions to other countries could provoke a backlash.
Abu Dhabi’s state-owned The National newspaper has already objected to the immigration order, saying it is “not just disrespectful to those who have given their lives, but it also weakens the very alliances needed to stop further attacks in the Middle East and in the U.S.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: Adam Schreck, the Gulf news director for The Associated Press, has reported from across the Middle East since 2008. Jon Gambrell, an AP reporter since 2006, has covered the Mideast from Cairo and Dubai, United Arab Emirates, since 2013. Associated Press writer Qassim Abdul-Zahra in Baghdad contributed.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Adam Schreck, the Gulf news director for The Associated Press, has reported from Baghdad and other locations across the Middle East since 2008. Jon Gambrell, an AP reporter since 2006, has covered the Middle East from Cairo and Dubai, United Arab Emirates, since 2013.
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BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq’s lawmakers on Monday backed a “reciprocity measure” that would bar Americans from entering Iraq in retaliation for President Donald Trump’s banning of Iraqis and citizens of six other majority-Muslim countries from traveling to the United States.
But though the deputy parliament speaker said the Iraqi vote is non-binding for the government, it will likely strain Baghdad’s relations with Washington amid joint efforts to quash the Islamic State group and retake Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, from the extremists.
Iraq has been a long-time U.S. ally and Iraqi forces, aided by a U.S.-led coalition, are just over three months into the fight against IS in Mosul, the largest military operation in Iraqi history since 2003.
Lawmakers Kamil al-Ghrairi and Mohammed Saadoun told The Associated Press that the decision was passed by a majority vote in favor but could not offer specific numbers. No further details were available on the wording of the parliament decision.
Deputy Parliament Speaker Sheik Humam Hamoudi described the lawmakers’ decision as a “recommendation” and called on the U.S. Congress to “pressure the American administration to reconsider” Trump’s order — at least when it comes to Iraqis.
Iraq’s Foreign Ministry also denounced Trump’s order, releasing a statement on Monday saying it “regrets such a decision against … an ally and a strategic partner of the United States.”
“It is a surprise that Iraq is covered under this order because it is not among the countries that export terrorists,” the statement added. “The Iraqi community inside the U.S. enjoys a good reputation and its members have not been involved in any terrorist acts.”
The ministry also described Trump’s decision as “wrong” and called for the new U.S. president to reconsider it.
A copy of the Iraqi parliament’s decision obtained by the AP did not say when the reciprocity ban would be enacted or who it would affect — American military personnel, non-government and aid workers, oil companies and or all other Americans doing business in Iraq.
Even if the government in Baghdad were to take up the parliament’s call and implement the ban on Americans entering Iraq, it is not certain that the semi-autonomous northern Iraqi Kurdish region — which has equally strong tie with Washington — would abide by it.
“We have seen the reports of the Parliament vote and are reviewing its details,” the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad told the AP in a written statement. “We refer you to the Government of Iraq for further clarification.”
BEIRUT (AP) — Syria warned Monday of safe zones for civilians that U.S. President Donald Trump has expressed interest in creating, saying it would have to come in coordination with the Syrian government, otherwise it would be unsafe and violate the Arab nation’s sovereignty.
The announcement was made in Damascus by Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem during a meeting with the head of the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR, Filippo Grandi, who began an official visit to Syria on Monday.
The announcement came about a week after the Trump administration’s expressed interest in setting up safe zones for civilians in war-torn Syria, an idea that was greeted with caution by Russia and Turkey, who have taken the lead in the latest peace efforts to end the Mideast country’s devastating six-year war.
The idea of safe zones, proposed by both Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton during the U.S. presidential election campaign, was ruled out by the Obama administration for fear it would put U.S. aircraft in harm’s way with Russia waging an air campaign to aid Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces since September 2015.
The recent rapprochement between Russia and Turkey, a key backer of Syrian rebels which now has thousands of troops in northern Syria, in theory makes the creation of safe zones more achievable. So does Trump’s pledge to mend ties with Moscow.
However, Syrian state news agency, SANA, said the foreign ministry and UNHCR officials agreed that any attempt to impose safe zones without coordination with the Syrian government will be an “unsafe act and will pose a violation of the Syrian sovereignty.”
Meanwhile, Al-Moallem called on all Syrians refugees who fled the war in their homeland to return home, pledging that the government will meet all their needs. It was not clear if the call was related to Trump’s signing of executive orders placing a 90-day ban on travel to the U.S. by citizens of Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia or Yemen, and a 120-day suspension of the U.S. refugee program. Syrians are indefinitely blocked from entry.
Syria’s conflict, which began in March 2011, has displaced half the country’s population and sent more than four million Syrians as refugees, mostly to neighboring countries.
SANA said al-Moallem briefed Grandi on the “huge efforts” the Syrian government is exerting to improve the living conditions of its people and the displaced as well.
For his part, Grandi stressed that the offering of humanitarian aid will continue.
Earlier on Monday, the Syrian military said the evacuation of rebels and their families from the Barada Valley as part of an agreement to surrender the capital region’s primary water source has been completed.
The military said via the Telegram messaging system that 1,142 fighters and 760 members of their families have been evacuated from the region northwest of the capital Damascus. They were taken in buses to the rebel-held northwestern province of Idlib.
The evacuation marks the end of a nearly six-week-long standoff between rebels and pro-government forces that led to severe water cuts to some 5 million people around Damascus.
Syrian state TV reported later Monday that pumping water to some neighborhoods of the capital resumed after technical teams fixed some of the pumps at the Ein al-Fijeh spring. It said work is ongoing to fix all pumping stations in the area in what would mark an end to the weeks-long water crisis.
The military said more people are to be evacuated from the nearby village of Harira but it has been delayed because the roads are closed with snow.
Meanwhile, the Russian military said its heavy bombers struck the Islamic State group in eastern Syria on Monday, the latest in a series of such raids in recent days.
The Russian Defense Ministry said six Tu-22M3 bombers flew from their base in Russia to strike IS targets in the province of Deir el-Zour. It followed four previous such raids Jan. 21-25. Monday’s raid targeted two militant command facilities along with weapons and ammunition depots and militants.
Syrian troops have been struggling to repel an IS offensive in Deir el-Zour since earlier this month. The extremists control the entire province except for a small pocket of the provincial capital and a nearby air base.
Associated Press writers Albert Aji in Damascus, Syria, and Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow contributed to this report.
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ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) — The U.N. Secretary General has commended African countries for opening their borders to refugees and people fleeing violence while other parts of the world, including the developed West, close boundaries and build walls.
Antonio Guterres made the remarks Monday in Addis Ababa where several dozen African leaders are attending the summit of the African Union.
“African nations are among the world’s largest and most generous hosts of refugees,” said Guterres, attending the summit for the first time as head of the U.N. “African borders remain open for those in need of protection when so many borders are being closed, even in the most developed countries in the world.”
Guterres didn’t make a direct reference to the recent executive orders signed by U.S President Donald Trump to build a wall along the Mexican border and also ban the entry of people from seven Muslim nations, including three in Africa, but his comment drew enthusiastic applause from 2,500 attending the opening, including African leaders, officials, diplomat and dignitaries.
Speaking later at a press conference, Guterres said he hopes the U.S ban will only be temporary. “It is clear for me that refugee protection is something that is absolutely essential … The U.S. has a large tradition of refugee protection.”
Sub-Saharan Africa hosts more than 18 million refugees, about 26 percent of the world’s refugees, according to the U.N. refugee agency. The refugees have fled conflicts in Somalia, Central African Republic, Nigeria, South Sudan and Burundi.
The world’s largest refugee camp is Dadaab in Kenya which houses more than 300,000 refugees, mostly from neighboring Somalia. However, the Kenyan government last year announced that it intends to close Dadaab, which has been open for more than 20 years, saying that the camp is a security threat because it harbors Islamic extremists.
The African Union Commission selected Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chad’s foreign minister, as its new chairman to succeed outgoing chairwoman, South African Nkosazana Dlami- Zuma. Guinea’s President Alpha Conde has succeeded Chad’s President Idris Deby as chairman of the African Union.
African leaders are expected to hear Morocco’s request to rejoin the body. Morocco left the pan-African bloc 32 years ago after a majority of the member states recognized the disputed territory of Western Sahara as a member. Morocco claims the territory in defiance of U.N. resolutions for a referendum on the independence. Morocco is now trying to rejoin as it claims it has backing from two-thirds of the African Union’s member states.
Gambia’s new leader, Adama Barrow, did not attend the summit but send his deputy.
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QUEBEC CITY (AP) — A shooting at a Quebec City mosque during evening prayers left six people dead and eight others wounded in an attack that Canada’s prime minister called an act of terrorism. Police arrested two suspects.
More than 50 people were at the Quebec Islamic Cultural Centre at the time of Sunday’s attack. Some of the wounded were gravely injured, Quebec provincial police spokeswoman Christine Coulombe said early Monday. The dead ranged in age from age 35 to 70, she said. Thirty-nine people were unharmed.
One suspect was arrested at the scene and another nearby in d’Orleans, Quebec. Police don’t believe there are other suspects. They didn’t release the names of the two, and didn’t immediately speculate on a possible motive.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard both characterized the attack as a terrorist act, which came amid heightened tensions worldwide over President Donald Trump’s travel ban on several Muslim countries.
“We condemn this terrorist attack on Muslims in a center of worship and refuge,” Trudeau said in a statement. “It is heart-wrenching to see such senseless violence. Diversity is our strength, and religious tolerance is a value that we, as Canadians, hold dear.
“Muslim-Canadians are an important part of our national fabric, and these senseless acts have no place in our communities, cities and country,” he said.
In the summer of 2016 a pig’s head was left on the doorstep of the Quebec Islamic Cultural Centre. The incident occurred in the middle of Ramadan, when Muslims fast from dawn to sunset. Practicing Muslims do not eat pork.
Canada is generally very welcoming toward immigrants and all religions, but less so in the French-speaking province of Quebec which has had a long-simmering debate about race and religious accommodation. A few years ago, Quebecers debated a “charter of values” under the previous separatist government, which called for a ban of ostentatious religious symbols such as the hijab in public institutions.
“The Muslim community was the target of this murderous attack,” Couillard said at an early morning news conference.
Couillard said that there will be solidarity rallies across Quebec on Monday and says the province’s people will all be together to express horror.
Quebec City Mayor Regis Labeaume appeared visibly shaken.
“No person should have to pay with their life, for their race, their color, their sexual orientation or their religious beliefs,” Labeaume said.
Quebec City Islamic Cultural Centre President Mohamed Yangui said the shooting in the provincial capital happened in the men’s section of the mosque. He said he wasn’t at the center when the attack occurred, but he got some details from people on the scene.
“We are sad for the families,” he said.
Ali Hamadi said he left the mosque a few minutes before the shooting. He said his friend and co-worker Abdelkrim Hassen, who worked in IT for the government, was killed. He said Hassen has three daughters and a wife. He got the neighbor to bring the wife to the hospital so she could hear the news.
She asked, “was he badly hurt?” Hamadi said he had to tell her that Hassen was dead.
Quebec City police spokesman Constable Pierre Poirier said the mosque had been evacuated and the situation was under control.
Trudeau had earlier reacted to Trump’s visa ban for people from some Muslim-majority countries by tweeting Saturday: “To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada.”
Trudeau also posted a picture of himself greeting a Syrian child at Toronto’s airport in late 2015. Trudeau oversaw the arrival of more than 39,000 Syrian refugees soon after he was elected.
The mayor of Gatineau, Quebec, near Canada’s capital of Ottawa, said there would be an increased police presence at mosques around his city following the attack.
The New York Police Department said it was also stepping up patrols at mosques and other houses of worship.
“NYPD is providing additional protection for mosques in the city. All New Yorkers should be vigilant. If you see something, say something,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Twitter.
“Our prayers tonight are with the people of Quebec City as they deal with a terrible attack on a mosque. We must stand together,” de Blasio said in another tweet.
Canada’s public safety minister, Ralph Goodale, said on Twitter Sunday that he was deeply saddened by the loss of life. His office said no motive had been confirmed.
Francois Deschamps, an organizer of a refugee-support group in Quebec City, said the motive for Sunday’s attack is unknown, but right-wing groups are very organized in Quebec City, distribute fliers at the university and plaster stickers around town.
Deschamps said he has received death threats after starting a refugee support group on Facebook and people have posted his address online.
“I’m not very surprised about the event,” Deschamps said.
Associated Press writer Sean Farrell in Montreal contributed to this report. Rob Gillies reported from Toronto.
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Oscar season is looking more and more like one very well-dressed protest against President Donald Trump.
In speech after fiery speech at Sunday night’s Screen Actors Guild Awards, winners struck a defiant tone against Trump’s sweeping immigration ban. Their words varied from tender personal reflections to full-throated battle cries, but they were nearly uniform in channeling the nationwide demonstrations sparked by Trump’s halting of immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim nations.
The SAG Awards culminated with the evening’s top honor, best movie ensemble, going to the cast of “Hidden Figures,” an uplifting drama about African-American mathematicians who aided NASA’s 1960s space race, starring Taraji P. Henson, Janelle Monae and Octavia Spencer. Henson concluded the show the same way its first presenter, Ashton Kutcher, began it: with the kind of pointed politics that have traditionally been more an aberration than a constant at Hollywood award shows.
“This story is about unity,” said Henson, who stars alongside Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae in “Hidden Figures.” ”This story is about what happens when we put our differences aside and we come together as a human race. We win. Love wins. Every time.”
It was a surprise win for “Hidden Figures.” With the Oscar front-runner “La La Land” (which took the Producers Guild Awards’ top honor on Saturday) not nominated in the category, most expected a contest between “Moonlight” or “Manchester by the Sea.” Such a result could now mean “Hidden Figures” is the strongest challenger to the “La La Land” dominance, or, perhaps, that none of the three films will be able to muster enough to topple the song-and-dance juggernaut.
Yet if Damien Chazelle’s musical is to go on to win best picture, it will be just the second film to do so without a SAG ensemble nod in the category’s history. Only Mel Gibson’s “Braveheart” managed it in 1996.
But such Oscar handicapping — usually the prime drama at the SAG Awards — largely took a backseat to politics on Sunday. (That is, with the possible exception of Denzel Washington’s surprise win over Casey Affleck.) Whichever film ultimately triumphs at the Oscars, it seems assured of being dwarfed by the growing off-screen clamor.
The immigration ban has already altered the Academy Awards. On Sunday, the revered Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi, whose “A Salesman” is nominated for best foreign language film, said he would boycott the Oscars, even if he was allowed to travel for them.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who added another honor for her performance on the political satire “Veep,” said she was the daughter of an immigrant who fled religious persecution in Nazi-occupied France.
“Because I love this country, I am horrified by its blemishes,” said Louis-Dreyfus. “And this immigrant ban is a blemish and it is un-American.”
Perhaps the most moving speech came from Mahershala Ali, who won best supporting actor for his acclaimed performance in Barry Jenkins’ coming-of-age portrait, “Moonlight.” Ali said the film, about a shy, gay Miami boy’s hard life, held lessons of acceptance. “We see what happens when you persecute people,” Ali said. “The fold into themselves.”
Ali said his own relationship with his mother exemplified tolerance. The son of a Protestant minister, Ali converted to Islam 17 years ago.
“We put things to the side,” Ali said of their differences. “I’m able to see her. She’s able to see me. We love each other. The love has grown. That stuff is minutia. It’s not that important.”
Ali was among the several Oscar favorites who cemented their front-runner status, including best-actress winner Emma Stone for “La La Land” and best-supporting actress winner Viola Davis for “Fences.” But best actor went to Davis’s co-star (and director) Washington for his performance in the August Wilson adaptation. Most expected the award to go to Affleck, apparently including Washington himself.
“I’m a God-fearing man,” he said, still shaking his head as he reached the podium. “I’m supposed to have faith, but I didn’t have faith.”
The most blistering speech was by David Harbour, who led the cast of Netflix’s “Stranger Things” — another big surprise winner — on stage to accept best ensemble in a TV drama series. “We will hunt monsters,” Harbour vowed in lengthy remarks that drew a standing ovation.
The hit Netflix series “Orange Is the New Black” won best ensemble in a comedy series for the third straight year.
“We stand up here representing a diverse group of people, representing generations of families who have sought a better life here from places like Nigeria, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Ireland,” said star Taylor Schilling, while a cast member added “Brooklyn!” ”And we know that it’s going to be up to us and all you, probably, to keep telling stories that show what unites us is stronger than the forces that divide us.”
Lily Tomlin was the lifetime achievement honoree Sunday. The 77-year-old actress gave a warm, rollicking speech that dispensed both drinking advice and regret over wasting “a lot of time being ambitious about the wrong things.”
“Did you hear? The Doomsday Clock has been moved up to two and a half minutes before midnight,” said Tomlin. “And this award, it came just in the nick of time.”
Sandy Cohen in Los Angeles contributed to this report.
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WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump signed an executive order Friday that makes major changes to America’s immigration system, sparking confusion at airports, protests around the country and denunciations from leaders around the world.
A look at what Trump ordered and the reaction:
Trump’s executive order temporarily suspends all immigration for citizens of seven majority Muslim countries for 90 days. They are: Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen. The order also calls for Homeland Security and State department officials, along with the director of national intelligence, to review what information the government needs to fully vet would-be visitors and come up with a list of countries that don’t provide it. The order says the government will give countries 60 days to start providing the information or citizens from those countries will be barred from traveling to the United States.
GREEN CARD HOLDERS AND DUAL CITIZENS:
Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly issued a statement Sunday declaring that, absent information indicating a serious threat to public safety and welfare, residency would be a “dispositive factor in our case-by-case determination.” That means citizens of the seven target countries who hold permanent U.S. residency “green cards” will not be barred from re-entering the U.S., as officials had previously said.
Officials also clarified Sunday that dual citizens who are nationals of one of the seven target countries and a country that’s not on the list will be subject to additional security screenings, but will likely be allowed through.
Trump ordered a four-month suspension of America’s refugee program. The suspension is intended to provide time to review how refugees are vetted before they are allowed to resettle in the United States.
Trump’s order also cuts the number of refugees the United States plans to accept this budget year by more than half, to 50,000 people from around the world.
During the last budget year the U.S. accepted 84,995 refugees, including 12,587 people from Syria. President Barack Obama had set the current refugee limit at 110,000.
The temporary halt to refugee admissions does include exceptions for people claiming religious persecution, so long as their religion is a minority faith in their country.
Trump’s order directs the State Department to stop issuing visas to Syrian nationals and halts the processing of Syrian refugees. That will remain in effect until Trump determines that enough security changes have been made to ensure that would-be terrorists can’t exploit weaknesses in the current vetting system.
Trump’s order did not spell out specifically what additional steps he wants to see the Homeland Security and State departments add to the country’s vetting system for refugees. Instead he directed officials to the review the refugee application and approval process to find any other security measures that can be added to prevent people who pose a threat from using the refugee program.
During the Obama administration, vetting for refugees included in-person interviews overseas, where they provided biographical details about themselves, including their families, friendships, social or political activities, employment, phone numbers, email accounts and more. They also provided biometric information, including fingerprints. Syrians were subject to additional, classified controls that administration officials at the time declined to describe, and processing for that group routinely took years to complete.
THE RESPONSE AT HOME
Trump’s order sparked an immediate backlash and sowed chaos and outrage, with travelers getting detained at airports, panicked families searching for relatives and protesters marching against the sweeping measure — parts of which were blocked by several federal courts.
Protests were held across the country, including in sight of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island in New York City and at international airports where travelers were temporarily detained.
THE RESPONSE ABROAD
Leaders of Britain and Germany joined other American allies in criticizing Trump’s entry ban, voicing anger and dismay, even as some far-right politicians expressed hope the move would inspire similar measures in Europe. The far-right National Democratic Party in Germany, for instance, celebrated “the massive restriction on the entry of pseudo-refugees and Muslims to the USA.”
A petition on the British Parliament’s website, meanwhile, attracted hundreds of thousands of signatures backing its call for Trump, who has been invited to meet Queen Elizabeth II, to be barred on the basis of misogyny and vulgarity.
TOKYO (AP) — Shares fell in Europe and Asia on Monday, rattled by weak data and the potential impact of President Donald Trump’s travel ban on seven Muslim-majority countries and other immigration actions.
KEEPING SCORE: Germany’s DAX lost 0.6 percent to 11,744.80 and the CAC 40 in France shed 0.9 percent to 4,798.53. Britain’s FTSE 100 also skidded 0.9 percent, to 7,122.43. Dow futures fell 0.2 percent and S&P futures were down 0.3 percent.
TRUMP TRAVEL BAN: The executive order signed by Trump on Friday placed a 90-day ban on travel to the U.S. by citizens of Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia or Yemen. It imposed a 120-day suspension of the U.S. refugee program and blocked Syrians from entry indefinitely. The move triggered protests and confusion at U.S. airports and raised uncertainty for airlines and high-tech industries that employ many foreign-born workers, analysts said.
ANALYST VIEWPOINT: “World leaders were quick to condemn President Trump’s executive order to ban U.S. travel from seven Muslim countries. The global reaction has been one of universal condemnation,” Stephen Innes, a senior trader at OANDA, wrote in a commentary. “The increase in civil unrest alone should be a concern for investors, and with a lack of clarity on the economic policy front, markets will be cantankerous early in the week as they’re completely uncertain of what’s next from President Trump on the geopolitical landscape.”
JAPAN DATA: Monthly data for December released Monday showed retail sales fell 1.7 percent from a month earlier. Core inflation excluding volatile food items fell 0.2 percent in December, showing deflation still is weighing on the economy and discouraging the wage increases needed to spur more consumption and investment. That raises doubts over how much momentum the economy may have gathered late in the year, just as the Bank of Japan holds its first policy meeting of 2017.No major changes are expected from the meeting, which wraps up Tuesday.
WALL STREET: Wall Street capped a week of milestones Friday with a day of listless trading that left U.S. stock indexes mostly lower. The Dow was nearly flat at 20,093.78. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index edged 0.1 percent lower to 2,294.69 and the Nasdaq composite eked out a 0.1 percent gain to 5,660.78, setting another all-time high. The market drifted between small gains and losses through much of the day as investors weighed company earnings and new data on the U.S. economy showing annual growth of just 1.9 percent in the last three months of 2016, a slowdown from 3.5 percent in the previous quarter. For 2016, the economy grew 1.6 percent, the worst showing since 2011 and down from 2.6 percent in 2015.
ASIA’S QUIET DAY: Japan’s Nikkei 225 index fell 0.5 percent to 19,368.85. The S&P ASX 200 in Australia dropped 0.9 percent to 5,661.50 and India’s Sensex edged 0.1 percent lower to 27,849.92. Shares were flat in Thailand and fell in Indonesia. Many other regional markets were closed.
ENERGY: U.S. crude oil lost 23 cents to $52.94 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It fell 61 cents on Friday to $53.78. Brent crude, which is used to price international oils, fell 29 cents to $55.41 a barrel. It lost 79 cents to $55.70 a barrel on Friday.
CURRENCIES: The dollar slipped to 114.69 yen from 115.08 on Friday. The euro fell to $1.0696 from $1.0699.
Co-authored by Ira C. Lupu, F. Elwood and Eleanor Davis Professor of Law Emeritus, George Washington University Law School
(PhatzNewsRoom /HP) —- Donald Trump’s recent order, cruelly and arbitrarily barring refugees and Muslim immigrants from entering the United States, is just the latest despicable act by an illegitimate president. Orders of this sort are unfortunately unsurprising. They are an expected outgrowth of Trump’s racist, misogynist, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, anti-LGBTQIA agenda.
Trump’s illegitimate presidency and his anti-American agenda are why millions of people joined the Women’s March the day after his inauguration. Marchers advocated human rights for all, social and economic justice for all. The marchers, and many millions of others, are determined to oppose and resist a President who lost the popular vote, and whose election came about through voter suppression, intervention by the FBI, and conspiracy with Russian operatives.
Since his Inauguration, Trump has taken numerous actions that reinforce the necessity for this resistance. In addition to his viciously inhumane and unlawful order to block refugees and Muslim immigrants from entering the United States, his anti-immigrant agenda has already taken the form of an order to build a hateful, wasteful, and ridiculously expensive wall on portions of our border with Mexico.
His outrageous lies, continuously repeated in a hopeless effort to legitimize his illegitimate presidency, about supposedly fraudulent voting in the 2016 election, provide additional cause to refuse to normalize. Like his absurd claim that more people attended his Inauguration than any other, his assertion about voter fraud would be laughable if it were not so subversive of our democracy.
But phony allegations of fraud are the only way for Trump to argue that he won more votes than Hillary Clinton. Trump’s neurotic claims about the size of his electoral and popular support, his minions’ outlandish lies in support of his claims, and their clumsy attempts to intimidate the press, would all be laughable if they too weren’t so serious. Those actions are a threat to the Constitution and the norms of American democracy.
Trump’s nominations of corrupt and incompetent nominees for high public office are dangerous and deplorable, and risk grave harm to the social fabric, economic well-being, and quality of justice in the United States. Trump’s character failings, his illegitimacy, and his dangerous plans for the nation all require resistance. All demand a concerted and collective determination to never normalize.
The American people, including many who have never before engaged in politics, are galvanized, determined and strong. The admirable and energetic resistance has included public protests; phone calls to our elected representatives; financial contributions to the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and other organizations committed to fight Trump’s radical agenda; and a vast array of mobilizations and creative acts, large and small.
In a rapid response to the order banning refugees and Muslims, several federal judges quickly ordered the government not to return detainees, stranded in U.S. airports, back to their countries of nationality, but their status remains uncertain. Spontaneous protests erupted at JFK airport and elsewhere. The University of Michigan announced it would not provide the government information about its students’ immigration status, and New York cab drivers boycotted JFK airport during rush hour as a symbol of solidarity and protest.
The resistance has, so far, arisen organically. Millions of Americans have been encouraging, demanding, participating in, and even leading the resistance. Our Democratic Senators and representatives in Congress ideally should be at the point of this spear, at the front of this resistance. At the least, they should be following the lead of the American people, and joining the all-out resistance.
What they absolutely should not do is subtly undercut the resistance by acts of collaboration and normalization. Unfortunately, they have done so. Democratic leaders have publicly stated their plan is to not block everything, but rather to pick their fights. Even before Trump was nominated, they offered an olive branch, asserting that they would work with Trump on issues where they agreed. Those are commitments to normal behavior by members of the opposition party at the beginning of a normal presidency.
We admire the seventy members of the House of Representatives who boycotted the Inauguration, but it would have been far more powerful if every Democratic Senator and House member had similarly boycotted. That would not have undermined the peaceful transfer of power, but it would have signaled that this president does not deserve and should not receive any semblance of normal respect.
We admire the two New York Representatives who traveled to JFK airport to stand in solidarity with the refugees being held there. But it would have been far more powerful – and an important act of leadership of the resistance – if many more elected officials had joined them and had called for work stoppages, demonstrations, or other forms of protest.
Normalizing was acquiescing and participating in hearings and votes on cabinet nominees, even when Trump had not yet been sworn into office and thus lacked any authority to make those nominations. That, too, is normal behavior from every opposition party at the beginning of a presidency. And the business-as usual treatment of nominees has taken other forms, as well. Ben Carson is totally unqualified to be Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, yet even Senators Elizabeth Warren and Sherrod Brown, two of the most progressive and thoughtful members, voted in his favor in Committee. That is an act of normalizing Trump.
In fairness, Warren, Brown and others have resisted. Schumer, for example, pledged to fight Trump and his fellow Republicans “tooth and nail” on most issues, but he added that “Democrats wouldn’t say ‘no’ to a proposal just because the president-elect supports it.” The qualification about selective opposition, presumably made in an effort to sound reasonable, is also a form of normalization.
What would it mean for Democratic leaders to stop normalizing? First, they must forcefully object to every nominee unless he or she offers persuasive evidence of integrity and competence. Second, every Executive Order the president signs should be met by legislation, sponsored by all Democrats, designed to overturn the order unless it is demonstrably good policy. None of the Executive Orders to date come close to meeting that standard. In order to slow down all action, Democratic Senators should refuse unanimous consent to everything. The Deputy Chief of Staff to now-retired Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid has provided an excellent justification for why this should be done, a blueprint for how to accomplish it, and an analysis of its beneficial impact.
Unanimous consent should only be granted if Democrats wrest concessions for doing so. If Democratic legislators determine it is in the national interest to support legislation, they can do so, but they should not announce they will do so ahead of time, and certainly not trade their legitimizing votes for crumbs.
They should not be restrained by normal rules of decorum at the State of the Union and other public addresses. While they should attend and let Trump speak, they should be quick to boo and to shout “You lie!” and “Putin’s Puppet!” when Trump’s assertions call for those reactions. Perilous times call for disruptive measures.
When this illegitimate president and his GOP collaborators act outrageously, such as issuing a ban on refugees, and when resistors start to act, Democratic leaders should help shine a spotlight on those actions and join in them. Perilous times call for courage and solidarity.
In addition to resisting, Democratic leaders should offer positive alternatives to bad policy proposals. In response to the Republican calls for repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act, Democrats should demand Medicare for all. They should hold their own hearings – outside the Senate, if the Republicans refuse them space – on every issue where the American people are not being heard.
Democrats must offer a new, bold, and progressive agenda, on which the next election can be a referendum. In short, they should lead the resistance and offer hope to a dispirited, angry, and frightened nation.
We recognize that much of what we are calling for represents a radical inversion of the norms of our democracy. But a horrifying inversion of those norms by those in power demands a response in kind. Many may believe that the kind of behavior we are recommending will undermine our political institutions, and stimulate a race to the bottom in political decency. In normal times, we might agree, but the breadth and intensity of the resistance to Trump’s presidency is a powerful signal that these are not normal times. Under current conditions, lawful resistance is essential to preserve our democracy.
These are dangerous moments for the Republic, and the rapidly exploding political crisis of early 2017 is what brings resisters to the street. We will be back in the streets on many occasions in the immediate future. The minority party must act like the loyal opposition – loyal to the Constitution, not to the pretenders to the throne.
We recognize that it will take courage of many kinds – political, economic, and even physical – for the established institutions of political opposition to rise to this moment. But the Democratic Party, and a fiercely independent press, must not fail us. If they do, the consequences will be irreparable.
If Democratic legislators have doubts about what resistance looks like, they should simply remember Republican opposition to Barack Obama, who took office with full legal, political, and moral authority. With far fewer protestors in the street – and with those protestors angry at both Wall Street and Washington – Republican legislators refused to acknowledge Obama’s legitimacy, and instead, sought to block him at every turn possible. An illegitimate, dangerous, egomaniacal, racist, xenophobic, misogynist, and narcissistic autocrat in the White House today deserves resistance proportional to the danger he presents.
Nancy J. Altman is the founding co-director of Social Security Works. Ira C. Lupu, a constitutional law scholar, is the F. Elwood & Eleanor Davis Professor of Law, Emeritus at George Washington University Law School
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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Opening in theaters amid controversy over animal treatment on set and calls for a boycott, “A Dog’s Purpose” still managed to earn $18.4 million, according to studio estimates Sunday.
Tracking expectations had pegged the family film to open in the mid $20-million range, but it had a healthy debut nonetheless for a movie that cost only $22 million to produce.
Representatives of Universal Pictures, which distributed the Amblin-produced film starring Dennis Quaid, say the opening was in line with their hopes.
Audiences gave the film an “A” CinemaScore, indicating that word of mouth should be positive going forward.
“It’s a great start for what I think is going to be a long-term playout on the title,” said Nick Carpou, Universal’s president of domestic distribution.
First place at the box office went again to M. Night Shyamalan’s multiple personality thriller “Split.” It grossed $26.3 million in its second weekend in theaters — a relatively minuscule 34 percent drop from its first weekend, which is nearly unheard of for a horror thriller.
Rounding out the top five were “Hidden Figures” in third with $14 million, new opener “Resident Evil: The Final Chapter” in fourth with $13.9 million, and “La La Land” in fifth place with $12.1 million.
Damien Chazelle’s candy colored musical crossed the $100 million mark domestically after earning 14 Oscar nominations that helped fuel its earnings.
“They definitely got a nice boost,” comScore senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian said. “They’re riding that perfect wave of Oscar attention with the perfect release pattern.”
But even with the newly anointed Oscar nominees and the sleeper hit of “Split,” many eyes were on “A Dog’s Purpose” this weekend. On Jan. 18, TMZ released a video of a frightened dog from “A Dog’s Purpose” that apparently was forced into rushing water during the making of the film. The footage quickly went viral.
PETA called for a boycott of the film, while the studio and filmmakers canceled its press junket and premiere but still proceeded with releasing the film in over 3,000 locations as planned.
Carpou acknowledged that the video, which he and the filmmakers have said is “highly edited,” surfaced at “a very inopportune moment in the build-up to the release of our movie” and they knew that it would have some effect.
And yet, Carpou said, “It’s very difficult to qualify what is a success for this film by trying to quantify negative result because of some controversy.”
Other industry observers, like Dergarabedian, note that the video and the resulting media attention actually heightened awareness about the movie.
Dergarabedian also thinks that, even without the controversy, the weekend likely would have played out in the same way, with “A Dog’s Purpose” taking second place to “Split.”
“It had an impact, we just don’t know what the impact is,” Dergarabedian said. “To have close to $20 million is a pretty good showing. I really feel like we just don’t know what the impact was. I think it’s a fine result for the film.”
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to comScore. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.
1.”Split,” $26.3 million.
2.”A Dog’s Purpose,” $18.4 million.
3.”Hidden Figures,” $14 million.
4.”Resident Evil: The Final Chapter,” $13.9 million.
5.”La La Land,” $12.1 million
6.”xXx: The Return of Xander Cage,” $8.3 million.
7.”Sing,” $6.2 million.
8.”Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” $5.1 million.
9.”Monster Trucks,” $4.1 million.
10.”Gold,” $3.5 million.
Universal and Focus are owned by NBC Universal, a unit of Comcast Corp.; Sony, Columbia, Sony Screen Gems and Sony Pictures Classics are units of Sony Corp.; Paramount is owned by Viacom Inc.; Disney, Pixar and Marvel are owned by The Walt Disney Co.; Miramax is owned by Filmyard Holdings LLC; 20th Century Fox and Fox Searchlight are owned by 21st Century Fox; Warner Bros. and New Line are units of Time Warner Inc.; MGM is owned by a group of former creditors including Highland Capital, Anchorage Advisors and Carl Icahn; Lionsgate is owned by Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.; IFC is owned by AMC Networks Inc.; Rogue is owned by Relativity Media LLC.
Follow AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/ldbahr