Monthly Archives: September 2017

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Congress might not be able to protect Mueller from firing

(PhatzNewsRoom / AP)    —-   WASHINGTON – Congress may be unable to provide any additional job protection for special counsel Robert Mueller, whose investigation into Russian meddling into the 2016 election and possible collusion or obstruction of justice continues to frustrate President Donald Trump.

A bill sponsored by North Carolina Republican Thom Tillis and Delaware Democrat Chris Coons would allow a fired special counsel to have his dismissal reviewed by a three-judge panel within 14 days of the firing. A bill sponsored by Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Cory Booker, D-N.J., would require the Justice Department to clear the firing of a special counsel with a panel of judges before it could take place.

But at a Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, constitutional scholars gave senators competing conclusions on the constitutionality of these bills designed to protect Mueller from an improper firing by Trump or someone in the Justice Department.

“The bills in their current form are unwise and unconstitutional,” said Akhil Reed Amar, a constitutional law professor at Yale Law School and a Democrat who publicly opposed Trump in the election.

John Duffy, a law professor at the University of Virginia, argued that parts of both bills were legally questionable, but they could be tweaked to help pass judicial reviews. He, however, declined to offer an opinion on how the Supreme Court might view them.

“With such judicial variability, I have to balk,” Duffy said.

Said Eric Posner, a law professor at the University of Chicago: “I’ve concluded they do not violate the principle of the separation of powers and on the contrary advance important constitutional values.”

The complex legal issues and the various answers to their questions seemed to give senators pause about the direction moving forward.

The law professors referenced almost a dozen Supreme Court cases, most notably Morrison v. Olson, a 1988 decision that held the Independent Special Counsel Act was constitutional.

“It’s hard to make a point of what’s constitutional,” said committee chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa.

Tillis agreed to make changes to his bill, including removing a line that makes the legislation retroactive to Mueller’s hiring date.

“This is about checks and balances. This is about the Senate asserting its authority,” said Tillis, who stressed his support for Trump during and after the hearing.

But he acknowledged the committee has plenty on its calendar and was uncertain about when the bills might be back before the panel.

Trump has repeatedly called the Russia investigations – the Senate has two ongoing and the House one, in addition to Mueller – a “hoax.” During the summer there were several reports that Trump was, at least, considering asking Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to fire Mueller – prompting senators to draw up legislation.

In August, Trump said he wouldn’t fire Mueller.

“We’re trying to make sure something out bounds doesn’t happen, and Mr. Mueller can proceed with some confidence,” Graham said. “What I’m trying to avoid is a Saturday night massacre and the upheaval in the nation. … I want the president to know there is a process in place. There are checks and balances long before you got here and they’ll be here long after you’re gone.”

The Saturday night massacre references former President Richard Nixon’s decision to fire independent special prosecutor Archibald Cox during Watergate.

In the end, said Wake Forest professor Katy Harriger, the biggest value might be not in the actual bills but in Congress’ very public support for Mueller.

“The much more important thing it did was sort of put the president on notice that there’s bipartisan support for Mueller,” said Harriger, author of “The Special Prosecutor in American Politics.” “He may have the constitutional authority, if he can find someone in the Department of Justice to do it. Mueller is not protected from that right now, except by politics.”

Mueller appears to be making progress in his investigation, which seems focused, for the moment, on former Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort. The special counsel has also asked for numerous emails and notes about the firing of former FBI Director James Comey, according to reports.


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Puerto Ricans say US relief efforts failing them

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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — The Trump administration declared Thursday that its relief efforts in Puerto Rico are succeeding, but people on the island said help was scarce and disorganized while food supplies dwindled in some remote towns eight days after Hurricane Maria devastated the U.S. territory of 3.4 million people.

President Donald Trump cleared the way for more supplies to head to Puerto Rico by issuing a 10-day waiver of federal restrictions on foreign ships delivering cargo to the island. And House Speaker Paul Ryan said the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s disaster relief account would get a $6.7 billion boost by the end of the week.

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke declared that “the relief effort is under control.”

“It is really a good news story, in terms of our ability to reach people,” she told reporters in the White House driveway.

Outside the capital, San Juan, people said that was far from the truth.

“I have not received any help, and we ran out of food yesterday,” said Mari Olivo, a 27-year-old homemaker whose husband was pushing a shopping cart with empty plastic gallon jugs while their two children, 9 and 7, each toted a large bucket. They stood in line in a parking lot in the town of Bayamon near the hard-hit northern coast, where local police used hoses to fill up containers from a city water truck.

US Coast Guard personnel, Federal and local aid workers and Puerto Rican police officers teamed up to deliver 3,000 meals and 4,500 litres of water to Humacao, Puerto Rico on Tuesday. Military officials also viewed damage in Guaynabo. (Sept. 28)

“I have not seen any federal help around here,” said Javier San Miguel, a 51-year-old accountant.

Trump tweeted later: “FEMA & First Responders are doing a GREAT job in Puerto Rico.” He also took issue with media coverage of the administration’s response, writing: “Wish press would treat fairly!”

Sen. Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat, called for the U.S. military to immediately provide security and distribution of aid in remote areas. “As was said after Hurricane Andrew: ‘Where the hell is the cavalry?’” he said in a statement.

Earlier in the day, Presidential spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said 10,000 government workers, including more than 7,000 troops, were helping Puerto Rico recover.

The U.S. military was sending a three-star general to Puerto Rico to help direct the hurricane response. Lt. Gen. Jeff Buchanan, commander of U.S. Army North, was set to arrive Thursday to assess the situation so that the military can provide the highest possible level of support, Northern Command spokesman John Cornelio said.

In the town of San Lorenzo, about 40 miles west of the capital, people walked through calf-high water to get supplies because the bridge over the Manati river outside town was washed away in the storm.

San Lorenzo residents are collecting spring water to drink and taking turns cooking food for each other because residents are running low on basic supplies.

“Just like God helps us, we help each other,” said resident Noemi Santiago, weeping. “Here one person makes food one day, another makes it the other day, so that the food that we have goes further.”

FEMA, which is leading the relief effort, has sent 150 containers filled with relief supplies to the port of San Juan since the hurricane struck on Sept. 20, said Omar Negron, director of Puerto Rico’s Ports Authority. He said all the containers were dispatched to people in need but private aid supplies have not reached Puerto Rico.

“The federal response has been a disaster,” said lawmaker Jose Enrique Melendez, a member of Gov. Ricardo Rossello’s New Progressive Party. “It’s been really slow.”

He said the Trump administration had focused more on making a good impression on members of the media gathered at San Juan’s convention center than bringing aid to rural Puerto Rico.

“There are people literally just modeling their uniforms,” Melendez said. “People are suffering outside.”

Trump and his advisers defended the administration’s response to the hurricane, which destroyed much of the island’s infrastructure and left many residents desperate for fresh water, power, food and other supplies.

“The electric power grid in Puerto Rico is totally shot. Large numbers of generators are now on Island. Food and water on site,” Trump tweeted early in the day.

Bayamon Mayor Ramon Luis Rivera told The Associated Press that FEMA officials sent a truck with a limited amount of food Monday. Rivera said he began distributing it to hard-hit rural areas.

“I don’t wait,” he said when asked whether federal officials helped with distribution.

In the nearby fishing town of Catano, authorities said they would open a distribution point over the weekend to hand out food and water, nearly two weeks after the hurricane hit.

“We need food,” said Maritza Gonzalez, a 49-year-old government worker.

FEMA officials said Thursday that a million meals and 2 million liters of fresh water had been distributed in Puerto Rico and 2 million more meals and 2 million more liters of water were on the way. There were conflicting figures: A day earlier, FEMA said it had distributed 167,000 meals and 539,000 bottles of water.

The Department of Homeland Security’s acting administrator of the region that includes Puerto Rico said distribution had been hampered by the destruction of roads and bridges, which makes it hard to get supplies to those in need.

“In addition to building that first line of the supply chain, we are also rebuilding the entire distribution system … how we’re going to deliver commodities and resources to the people of Puerto Rico,” acting administrator John Rabin told reporters in San Juan. “We have often had to recreate the system in order to deliver food, water and commodities throughout the island.”

The House speaker announced that the FEMA’s disaster relief account would get “a huge capital injection” of $6.7 billion by the end of the week to help Puerto Rico recover. Ryan noted that Trump had waived a matching funds requirement, which means the cash-strapped island won’t have to contribute to the initial costs of the federal assistance. The Wisconsin Republican said he expects the Trump administration to send Congress a request for a long-term recovery package once damage assessments are conducted.

“We will quickly act on that request,” Ryan said.

Duke, the acting homeland security secretary, had waived a law known as Jones Act earlier this month to help ease fuel shortages in the U.S. Southeast following hurricanes Harvey and Irma. That order included Puerto Rico but expired last week, shortly after Maria struck. The nearly century-old Jones Act bars foreign-flagged ships from carrying cargos from U.S. port to another.

The Trump administration initially said a waiver was not needed for Puerto Rico because there were enough U.S.-flagged ships available to ferry goods to the island.


Associated Press writer Danica Coto reported this story in San Juan and AP writer Laurie Kellman reported from Washington. AP writer Michael Weissenstein in Havana and AP videographer David Barraza in San Lorenezo, Puerto Rico, contributed to this report.


Danico Coto on Twitter: https://twitter.com/danicacoto

Laurie Kellman on Twitter: https://twitter.com/APLaurieKellman

Tillerson carries full agenda as he prepares to visit China

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is making his second trip to China since taking office in February, and relations between the two world powers have rarely mattered so much.

The standoff over North Korea’s nuclear weapons has entered a new, dangerous phase as its leader, Kim Jong Un, and President Donald Trump exchange personal insults and threats of war with no sign of a diplomatic solution.

Even as Washington and Beijing grapple with that security crisis, Trump wants action from China for more balanced trade with America — a dispute with ramifications for the global economy.

Tillerson, facing criticism at home for his muted impact as the top U.S. diplomat, will be laying the groundwork for Trump’s planned visit to China in November. He meets Saturday with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and other Chinese leaders.

What will be on the agenda:



Tillerson will be pushing China to fully implement the latest U.N. Security Council resolutions on North Korea and take further steps on limiting crucial oil supplies to its troublesome neighbor. If the restrictions on trade in textiles, coal and other commodities are properly enforced, North Korea will lose the vast majority of its export revenue. In its latest step to comply with the sanctions, China on Thursday ordered North Korean-owned businesses to close by early January.

China accounts for about 90 percent of North Korea’s foreign trade, so it’s pivotal in the U.S.-led campaign to exert economic pressure with the aim of getting the pariah nation to disarm. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Tuesday that “China has taken tremendous steps in the right direction.” Trump has also lauded an order by China for its banks to stop dealing with North Korea, although Beijing has yet to announce such a measure.

But U.S. praise always comes with a proviso: that China needs to do more. There’s a growing sense of urgency. North Korea is moving closer to its goal of having a nuclear-tipped missile that could strike America. Yet Beijing remains skeptical about the efficacy of sanctions and wary of drastic action that could cause North Korea to collapse. China wants the U.S. to restart dialogue with Pyongyang. That’s an increasingly distant prospect after the recent angry exchanges between Trump and Kim.



China doesn’t want Tillerson’s visit to be consumed by North Korea. It wants attention paid to Trump’s state visit in November.

Stewardship of the U.S. relationship is crucial for the standing of any Chinese leader. It will be Trump’s first trip to Asia and it will come just weeks after Xi Jinping is due to be anointed with a second five-year term as the leader of China’s communist party.

Despite his tough criticism of China’s trade practices, Trump has forged a personal connection with Xi. He hosted the Chinese president at his Mar-a-Lago resort in April, where they agreed on four high-level dialogues to cover various aspects of relations. In a prelude to his trip to Beijing, Trump met Thursday with Chinese Vice Premier Liu Yandong, who was attending the inaugural dialogue on people-to-people ties in Washington.

The November meeting of the two leaders will be grander and more choreographed than the informal talks in Florida that were most memorable for Trump’s ordering a missile strike on Syria and then informing Xi about it afterward over dinner as they ate chocolate cake.

Other than North Korea, the U.S. and China have other security concerns to address. They remain at odds over Beijing’s military buildup and assertive claims to disputed islands in the South China Sea.



Trump has slammed China’s large trade surpluses with the United States and last month ordered an investigation into whether Beijing improperly pressures companies to hand over their technology in exchange for market access. Last year, the U.S. ran up a $347 billion trade deficit in goods with China — accounting for nearly half the total.

During the Mar-a-Lago summit, the two leaders agreed on a 100-day plan for trade talks. After visiting China this week, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said there’s been some progress, including a deal to let U.S. beef into China, but they need to tackle “bigger things and more difficult things.” The U.S. priorities are better market access, less protectionism and protecting intellectual property rights.

In Beijing this weekend, Tillerson is likely to restate those U.S. concerns and raise the impact of national security legislation on American companies operating in China. Washington wants Beijing to make good on its promise to let market forces have a bigger role in its economy, give equal treatment to foreign and Chinese companies and roll back state industry’s dominance.

Myanmar Rohingya hatred has roots in Buddhist nationalism

BANGKOK (AP) — The prejudice and hostility that Rohingya Muslims face in Myanmar stretch beyond the country’s notoriously brutal security forces to a general population receptive to an often-virulent form of Buddhist nationalism that has seen a resurgence since the end of military rule.

Many of Myanmar’s Buddhists have objected to the way the media and international community have portrayed the crisis in Rakhine state, which has caused a half million Rohingya to flee the country in the past month. Rather than recognize what the U.N. calls ethnic cleansing, they see a threat to national sovereignty and the future of Myanmar as a Buddhist-majority nation.

The standard academic work cited by Buddhist nationalists seeking to argue their case against the Rohingya — who they see as migrants living illegally in Myanmar — has a telling title: “Influx Viruses: The Illegal Muslims in Arakan.”

“They are seen as foreigners trying to infiltrate the country, and Buddhists of the strident type see them as trying to undermine their faith,” said Robert Taylor, a scholar of Myanmar’s political history.

Yet just as Rohingya have roots in Myanmar stretching back centuries, so do the historical forces that have shaped their oppression.


BRITISH COLONIALISM: The Rohingya, while not recognized as an ethnic group in Myanmar, are decedents of centuries of intermingling between indigenous Muslims and migrants from the area that is now Bangladesh and India’s West Bengal. They lived mostly untroubled until after the British arrived and Myanmar became part of British colonial India and later the separate colony of Burma.

For about a century until the 1930s, more than a million South Asians — Muslims and Hindus alike — flooded into the country to take jobs as laborers, civil servants and moneylenders, leading to a “deep resentment” among the Burmese, said Mikael Gravers, a Danish anthropologist specializing in Myanmar.

They “took work from Burmese and land from peasants who could not pay their debt,” he said.

The identity of Indians was intertwined with the British colonizers, and that was seized upon in the 1920s by the nascent Burmese nationalist movement in which Buddhist monks were closely involved.

“Burmese nationalists saw themselves as colonized twice, first by the British, secondly by the Indians who, in particular, dominated the economy,” Taylor wrote in a 2015 study of ethnicity in Myanmar.

The Rohingya, with their dark skin and South Asian features, were caught up in this resentment. By the time the British were pushed out by the Japanese in 1942 — an invasion welcomed by the nationalists — Buddhist locals in Arakan, which is now Rakhine, took out their frustrations on those seen as British allies: Muslims, including the Rohingya. Thousands were killed in attacks and Muslim counterattacks.


RELIGION: Myanmar is almost 90 percent Buddhist, and for nationalists, religion has always been a successful issue with which to whip up support. That has been helped, both past and present, by the involvement of Buddhist monks in the movement.

With monks involved, “the alleged threat posed to the persistence of Buddhism as the religion of the majority of the population began to seem real,” Taylor wrote. “The memory of ‘Indian domination’ and ‘Buddhism in danger’ became part of the legacy of the nationalist movement inherited by Myanmar politicians and historians.”

Gen. Ne Win, who led a 1962 coup that led to five decades of military rule, wasn’t known as a particularly devout Buddhist, yet he was influenced by the Buddhist nationalism of the colonial era.

His nationalization of private enterprise put much of the large ethnic Indian trading class out of business. He was also responsible for letting loose the security forces on the Rohingya in 1977 and 1978, launching a hunt for illegal immigrants that set off the first major exodus to Bangladesh of some 200,000 people.

His most toxic legacy for the Rohingya was a 1982 citizenship law that basically granted full citizenship rights only to members of ethnic groups settled in Myanmar before 1823. Some 135 ethnic groups were officially listed as meeting this historical deadline, but not the Rohingya. This official decertification of Rohingya rights still serves as justification within Myanmar for their statelessness and social ostracism.

Myanmar also has a Muslim population distinct from the Rohingya who live in a mostly assimilated manner in other parts of the country outside Rakhine. Yet Muslims of every kind become targets of scapegoating in times of tension, a trend that has grown in recent years.

Rohingya, who numbered about 1 million among Myanmar’s 53 million people before the recent exodus, evoke an oversized fear and loathing among nationalists, who trot out statistics purporting to show that they have far higher birth rates than others in Myanmar.


DEMOCRACY & DEMOGOGUERY: Myanmar began the shift away from military rule in 2011 with the seating of an elected, though military-backed, government. An election in 2015 brought democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi to power, though with military restraints on her authority.

“Since the start of the political transition in 2011, Buddhist nationalism in Myanmar has become significantly more visible,” Brussels-based International Crisis Group said in a report this month. “As authoritarian controls were lifted after years of repression, deep-seated grievances emerged into the open, and new freedoms of expression allowed individuals and the media to give voice to these grievances in ways that were not possible before.”

Access to new forms of communication, such as cellphones and social media, has helped accelerate the spread of nationalist narratives, hate speech and rumors, it said. Often such rumors are tales of sexual violence allegedly perpetrated by Muslims against Buddhist women.

Rakhine state has Myanmar’s largest concentrations of Muslims by far, and historically has been regarded as a buffer against Muslim neighbors to the west. Yet it wasn’t until violence broke out in 2012 that it became a focal point for Buddhist nationalists.

“If you asked about the Rohingya 20 years ago, most Burmese in Rangoon would be indifferent,” Michael Charney, a Southeast Asia specialist at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, said, using another name for Yangon, the country’s largest city. “This situation has changed in the last few years — in part, ironically, because of the greater freedoms made possible since 2010.”

Events outside Myanmar also lent credibility to dire warnings of a Muslim takeover: the rise of militant Islamist groups, and the consequent tide of Islamophobia in the West.

“It is important to take the fear of Muslim conquest seriously. It is a result of 50 years of isolation, limited education, violence, injustice and insecurity during military rule,” said Gravers, the anthropologist. “This paranoia has returned during the transition from military rule. But now global influence in the form of al-Qaida and Islamic State has an important role too.”

Trump to promote tax plan in address to manufacturers group

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WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump will promote his plan for a sweeping rewrite of the tax code to an audience eager for the proposed change.

Trump is set to address the National Association of Manufacturers on Friday in Washington. A senior administration official says Trump will promote the tax plan as one that will help make American businesses more competitive. The official insists on anonymity to discuss the speech ahead of time.

The president and congressional Republicans this week released the outlines of a nearly $6 trillion tax cut plan that would deeply reduce taxes for corporations, simplify tax brackets and nearly double the standard deduction used by most tax filers. Many details remain to be fleshed out.

In the remarks, Trump is expected to highlight a provision that would allow businesses for the next five years to write off the full cost of new equipment in the year it’s purchased.

Under the broader proposal, corporations would see their top tax rate cut from 35 percent to 20 percent. Seven personal tax brackets would be reduced to three: 12 percent, 25 percent and 35 percent. But the information released didn’t include the income levels applied to the rates, making it difficult to know how a typical family’s tax bill may be affected.

The plan also recommends a surcharge for the very wealthy. The standard deduction would nearly double to $12,000 for individuals and $24,000 for families, basically increasing the amount of personal income that would not be taxed. Deductions for mortgage interest and charitable giving would remain, but the plan seeks to end most other itemized deductions.

In the address, Trump will also review policy changes since he took office in January that are intended to improve the business climate, the official said. Those changes include lifting restrictions on energy production, reversing environmental rules and rolling back regulations. He’ll also review economic gains of the past eight months.

Jay Timmons, president and CEO of the association, said Trump has been a “tireless advocate” for manufacturers. Timmons said U.S. manufacturers “have never been as enthusiastic or as optimistic about their future as they are this year, and that is because of the huge opportunity we have to get tax reform done.”

Trump wants to sign tax legislation into law by the end of the year.


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Farmers say Maria wrecked bright spot of Puerto Rico economy

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(PhatzNewsRoom / AP)    —-   For 21 years Hector Alejandro Santiago spread joy throughout Puerto Rico with the poinsettias, orchids and other ornamental plants he raised and sold to major retailers including Costco, Walmart and Home Depot. In a matter of hours Hurricane Maria wiped it away.

The greenhouses and other buildings on the 40 acres where he grew the plants and prepared them for customers lie in tatters, ripped to shreds by 155 mph (244 kph) winds and driving rain. Trees are flattened.

“I will need to begin from zero,” said Santiago, 43, whose Cali Nurseries is located in Barranquitas, a small mountain city 34 miles (55 kilometers) southwest of San Juan. He’s determined to rebuild and get back into business despite the losses he estimates at $1.5 million.

Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico on Sept. 20 as a Category 4 storm, the strongest to hit the island in a century. At least 16 people died and nearly all 3.4 million people on the island were left without power and most without water.

The hurricane devastated agriculture, a small bright spot of economic growth in a U.S. territory mired in a decade-long recession and crushing debt.

While most of the island’s food is imported, statistics from the governor as of late 2016 show about 7,000 people working in agriculture, farm income growing and acres under cultivation up 50 percent over the past four years.

Agricultural income is divided nearly equally between crop and livestock production, according to the most recent Census of Agriculture compiled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for Puerto Rico in 2012.

Crop sales generate about $271 million a year led by production of plantains, vegetables and melons, nursery and greenhouse crops, fruits and coffee. Livestock sales are about $276 million led by milk production, poultry and cattle, the report said.

Noel Lopez, 40, operates 10 dairy farms with his father and brother. Before the storm they were milking 12,000 cows, producing 22,000 gallons (85,000 liters) of milk a day. Maria destroyed 90 percent of the barns and as many as 700 cows are missing or dead, each one valued at $2,500.

Without electricity, Lopez spent days after the storm focusing on finding enough diesel fuel to keep generators running so the cows could be milked and the milk could be kept cool. Failure to milk the cows could lead to an infection that could kill them and the milk can spoil within days without refrigeration.

Lopez said he has managed to get back into operation.

“A lot of people will never be able to get back to business,” he said. “The ones that will be able to get back into business will never be as they were.”

Jayson Harper, a professor of agricultural economics at Penn State University, spent three months in Puerto Rico in 2014 and said the hurricane has destroyed the high value crops that farmers produce, some which take years to replace.

The losses are different from crops in the Midwest, where a tornado could take out a field of corn. It’s a major loss but the farmer can replant the next year. Coffee trees, when destroyed by wind, take several years to mature enough to produce beans again.

“It’s a very large investment and it’s just a different kind of situation,” Harper said.

The coffee industry was hit at the worst time, just before the beans are picked, said Eva Legner, who with her husband Kurt operates Hacienda Pomarrosa in Ponce, a city on the island’s southern coast where they have 8 acres of coffee plants.

The couple operates a small specialty coffee growing operation and a cottage where guests can stay on the coffee farm, tour the field and experience production. It is part of the island’s growing agri-tourism industry.

She said the storm cut right through the island’s mountainous coffee-growing area. The specialty beans their farm produces grow on bushes that are planted beneath taller trees to protect them from direct sun.

“We’ve lost many trees which fell on the bushes and broke them,” Legner said. “My husband tells me we lost a complete harvest.”

Santiago, the ornamental plants farmer, said he was unable to get to his farm for five days after Maria. When he arrived he found his employees had been working since the first day.

“I just started crying, I choked up, when I saw them working like nothing had happened,” Santiago said. “They give me the strength to not give up and to do whatever I have to do to continue with my business.”

Business: Global shares mixed; Japan benchmark falls on weak dollar

TOKYO (AP) — Global shares were mixed Friday following a record-high close on Wall Street. The Tokyo benchmark fell in Japan, where a pause in the dollar’s strengthening dampened optimism about exporters.

KEEPING SCORE: France’s CAC 40 fell 0.1 percent to 5,290.31, while Germany’s DAX added 0.2 percent to 12,732.50 in early trading. Britain’s FTSE 100 gained 0.5 percent to 7,362.13. U.S. shares looked set to drift slightly lower with Dow futures inching down less than 0.1 percent to 22,314. S&P 500 futures were little changed at 2,506.30.

ASIA’S DAY: Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 inched down, less than 0.1 percent, to finish at 20,356.28, while Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.2 percent to 5,681.60. South Korea’s Kospi stood at 2,394.47, up 0.9 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng edged up 0.5 percent to 27,554.30, and the Shanghai Composite added 0.3 percent to 3,348.94.

THE FED: Trading in Asia was muted overall as market players are weighing an anticipated rate hike by the U.S. Federal Reserve in December.

THE QUOTE: “Following the Fed’s somewhat surprisingly hawkish stance last week with inflation forecast and dot-plot being kept unchanged, expectation on a December rate hike has been gradually building,” says Zhu Huani of the Singapore Treasury Division at Mizuho Bank.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude gained 20 cents to $51.76 a barrel. It fell 58 cents to $51.56 a barrel in New York Thursday. Brent crude, the standard for international oil prices, rose 10 cents to $57.26 per barrel in London.

CURRENCIES: The dollar dipped to 112.54 yen from 112.90 yen late Thursday in Asia. The euro rose to $1.1792 from $1.1735.


Yuri Kageyama can be reached at https://twitter.com/yurikageyama

Her work can be found at https://www.apnews.com/search/yuri%20kageyama

$5 trillion question for Trump tax plan: How to pay for it?

WASHINGTON (AP) — How do you pay for an estimated $5.8 trillion tax cut?

For President Donald Trump and Republican congressional leaders, that is the mostly unanswered $5,800,000,000,000 question.

The plan they released Wednesday took a first step toward outlining how Republicans propose to cover some of the monumental cost over the next 10 years, mainly by removing certain tax breaks. But even those proposed changes were left vague — and wouldn’t remotely pay the full cost of the tax cut.

The administration says it would eliminate most personal tax breaks. Possibly gone would be people’s ability to deduct state and local taxes as well as eligible medical expenses. But doing so would still leave the tax cut more than $2 trillion shy of paying for itself.

The Trump administration argues that it can accelerate the economy’s growth far beyond its current pace and, in doing so, generate enough federal revenue to cover the shortfall. Most economists have called that wishful thinking.

That’s why analysts say the government would have to help pay for the tax cut by slashing programs that serve the middle class. Or it would be forced to run the national debt up to dangerous levels, likely driving up borrowing rates for consumers and businesses.

Because the administration has put off a full accounting of the trade-offs it’s prepared to make, the politically perilous decisions are being left for the tax-writing committees in the House and Senate to turn the blueprint into an actual bill.

Inevitably, analysts say, any tax-cut plan produces losers.

“You can’t have responsible tax reform and everyone wins,” said Marc Goldwein, senior policy director for the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

The tax cut is being proposed at a time when the publicly held national debt is already $14.6 trillion. Even if tax rates for companies and families were unchanged, the debt is expected to balloon by an additional $10 trillion over the next decade. That increase largely reflects the rising costs of Social Security and Medicare as the vast generation of baby boomers continues to retire.

The proposed tax cuts in the Trump plan would total $5.8 trillion over 10 years, according to an analysis by the Committee for Responsible Federal Budget and other reports. That figure includes the effects of reducing the number of individual tax brackets and shrinking the corporate tax rate to 20 percent from 35 percent, among other changes. (The plan doesn’t specify which income levels would apply to each individual bracket.)

The plan does list a few changes to generate additional revenue. But these ideas could undermine some of Trump’s claims that the middle class as a whole would benefit from the changes.

For example, families could no longer reduce their taxable income with personal exemptions for dependents in their household. This would return about $1.6 trillion to the government. It could also nullify the benefits Trump says would result from doubling the standard deduction people now receive if they don’t itemize their taxes.

Losing the personal exemption means some middle class families might end up paying more in taxes, said Ernie Tedeschi, a former Treasury Department adviser who is a policy economist at the investment bank Evercore ISI.

“For the average family, they don’t have enough details yet” to know whether the plan helps them, Tedeschi said.

An additional $1.6 trillion would, in theory, be generated by repealing most of the itemized deductions (excluding mortgage interest and charitable deductions). The administration has said itemized deductions usually help only the affluent. But in fact, many middle class households benefit from itemizing deductions in any given year. A prime example is the state and local tax deduction, which can help moderate income households in such high-cost states as California and New York.

There are other unmentioned deductions that could be lost to the middle class. Families can now itemize deductions for outsized medical costs or property damaged by natural disasters such as hurricanes, noted Seth Hanlon, a senior fellow at the liberal Center for American Progress and a former economic aide to President Barack Obama.

“There is going to be a large number of middle class families that are going to be severely disadvantaged,” Hanlon said.

Even with all the additional revenue from these changes and others, the Trump plan would add $2.2 trillion to the debt. Estimates suggest that that figure would swell to $2.7 trillion if additional interest payments on the debt were included.

So how to cover that cost?

Senate Republicans have signaled their willingness to let the national debt rise by as much as $1.5 trillion over the next decade. Even that wouldn’t likely be enough.

The administration has a ready response to that problem. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Gary Cohn, Trump’s top economic adviser, argue that the tax cut would spark economic growth exceeding 3 percent annually, well above its recent 2 percent average. That added growth would, they say, generate revenue to cover the remainder of the cost of the tax cut.

“Honestly, we think we can get over 3 percent, so it’s not just the 3 percent bogey we’re shooting at,” Cohn said in an interview.

Academic economists surveyed by the University of Chicago in May overwhelmingly asserted that the tax cuts would fail to deliver the growth the White House is promising. That perspective is shared by economists monitoring the financial and credit markets.

“It’s very hard to imagine growth rates topping 2.5 percent, let alone 3 percent,” said Beth Ann Bovino, U.S. chief economist at S&P Global Ratings.

Now even money is running out in storm-hit Puerto Rico

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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — First, Hurricane Maria knocked out power and water to Puerto Rico. Then diesel fuel, gas and water became scarce. Now, it’s money.

The aftermath of the powerful storm has resulted in a near-total shutdown of the U.S. territory’s economy that could last for weeks and has many people running seriously low on cash and worrying that it will become even harder to survive on this storm-ravaged island.

There are long lines at the banks that are open with reduced hours or the scattered ATMs that are operational amid an islandwide power outage and near total loss of telecommunications. Many people are unable to work or run their businesses because diesel to run generators is in short supply or they can’t spend all day waiting for gas to fill their car.

Engineer Octavio Cortes predicts it will only get worse because so many of the problems are inter-connected and cannot be easily resolved.

“I don’t know how much worse it’s going to get,” Cortes said as he joined other motorists stopping on a bridge over a river in northern Puerto Rico to catch a faint cellphone signal. “Right now it’s manageable, but I don’t know about next week or after that.”

US Coast Guard personnel, Federal and local aid workers and Puerto Rican police officers teamed up to deliver 3,000 meals and 4,500 litres of water to Humacao, Puerto Rico on Tuesday. Military officials also viewed damage in Guaynabo. (Sept. 28)

The father of six typically works from home or travels around the world for his job, but neither approach is possible now because the power is still out for nearly all 3.4 million people in Puerto Rico and flights off the island are down to only a few each day.

While Cortes is OK for the moment, others don’t have nearly the same resources.

Cruzita Mojica is an employee of the Puerto Rico Treasury Department in San Juan. While she, like many public sector workers, has been called back to work she can’t go because she has to care for her elderly mother in the aftermath of the storm. She got up at 3:30 a.m. Wednesday and went to four ATM machines only to find each one empty.

“Of course I took out money before the hurricane, but it’s gone already,” she said. “We’re without gasoline. Without money. Without food. This is a disaster.”

Surgical technician Dilma Gonzalez said she had only $40 left and her job hasn’t called people back to work yet in the capital. “Until they let us know otherwise, I’m not supposed to go back,” she said with a shrug as she pressure washed the street in front of her house, sending muddy debris flying.

All are struggling with the overwhelming devastation of Hurricane Maria, which began tearing across the island early in the morning of Sept. 20 as a Category 4 storm with winds of 155 mph. It destroyed the entire electricity grid while grinding up homes, businesses, roads and farms. At least 16 people were killed. There still is no exact tally of the cost and full extent of the damage, but Gov. Ricardo Rossello says it will bring a complete halt to the economy for at least a month.

“This is the single biggest, major catastrophe in the history of Puerto Rico, bar none, and it is probably the biggest hurricane catastrophe in the United States,” Rossello said Wednesday as he delivered aid to the southern town of Salinas, whose mayor says 100 percent of the agriculture there was wiped out when the wind tore up plantain, corn, vegetables and other crops.

Antonia Garcia, a retiree who lives in the city of Bayamon, said she was down to her last $4. She spent a day using precious gas to look for an ATM that was in operation because she couldn’t get into her credit union, which was taking only 200 customers a day. “This has become chaotic,” she said.

Puerto Rico was already struggling before the storm. The island has been in a recession for more than a decade, the poverty rate was 45 percent and unemployment was around 10 percent, higher than any U.S. state. Manufacturers of medical equipment and pharmaceuticals, which are the most important segment of the economy, have been shedding jobs for years. Now everything from multinational companies to small businesses and ranches are scrambling to get enough fuel to run generators while their employees struggle to even get to work.

Before the storm, the island’s government was in the midst of bitter negotiations with creditors to restructure a portion of its $73 billion in debt, which the previous governor declared unpayable. Rossello appeared to warn the bondholders that the storm had made things worse. “Puerto Rico practically will have no income for the next month,” he told reporters.

Making matters worse for many consumers is the fact that those food stores that are open, typically on reduced hours, are unable to process credit or bank cards or the local system of welfare payments. The businesses are insisting on cash, even though that is technically illegal.

Still, as in any economic crisis, there are people who find the upside. Christian Mendoza said the car wash where he works hasn’t re-opened so he has been selling bottled water, even without refrigeration. “The water hot and it still went like you wouldn’t believe,” he said.

Another relative success story is Elpidio Fernandez, a 78-year-old who sells coconut and passion fruit ice cream from a pushcart on the streets of San Juan and has a supplier with a generator. He has made up to $500 on some days since the storm.

“Business has multiplied by a thousand,” he said, but he quickly added: “Even though I’m doing well, I don’t feel good because I know other people are suffering.”

Iranian Americans in limbo, despair after new travel rules

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LONG BEACH, Calif. (AP) — U.S. Navy veteran Mohammed Jahanfar has traveled overseas four times in the last year to visit his Iranian fiancee, most recently hoping to complete government paperwork that would allow her to come live with him in the United States.

But the 39-year-old now fears they will be forever separated after President Donald Trump’s administration rolled out new restrictions blocking most Iranians from traveling to America. The new restrictions covering citizens of Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen — and some Venezuelan government officials and their families — are to go into effect Oct. 18.

“It is devastating,” said Jahanfar, who works as a salesman in Long Beach, California, and has lived in the United States for three decades. “There should be no reason why my fiancée, who is an educated person in Iran, who has a master’s degree, why we cannot be with each other. I cannot wrap my head around it.”

This is the Trump administration’s third measure to limit travel following a broad ban that sparked chaos at U.S. airports in January and a temporary order issued months later that was challenged in the courts and expired last weekend.

Jahanfar is among 385,000 Iranian immigrants in the United States, according to the Census Bureau, more than any of the other countries covered by the travel restrictions issued last weekend.

The U.S. has a many-layered history with Iran, a Middle Eastern ally until the pro-American shah was overthrown by the Islamic Revolution of 1979. The shah came to the U.S. and so did tens of thousands of other Iranians.

Now, the U.S. and Iranian governments have no diplomatic relations. Even so, many Iranians and Iranian-Americans have been able to regularly travel back and forth and kept close family relations.

The new restrictions range from an indefinite ban on visas for citizens of Syria to more targeted limitations. Iranians will not be eligible for immigrant, tourism or business visas but remain eligible for student and cultural exchange visas if they undergo additional scrutiny.

The measures target countries that the Department of Homeland Security says fail to share sufficient information with the U.S. or haven’t taken necessary security precautions.

Iranian-American advocates said they’ve been fielding phone calls from frantic community members who fear they will remain separated from family or their dreams. Already, many Iranian visa applicants find themselves caught up in lengthy security checks, delaying their travel plans.

“People don’t know what to do,” said Ally Bolour, an immigration attorney in Los Angeles. “If you are from one of these banned countries, there is just so much going on already. This just adds another layer and people are just petrified.”

Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council, said the ban seems aimed at punishing mainly Muslim countries.

“This process does not start with, ‘OK, where does the threat emanate from, and what can we do about it?’” Parsi said. “It started with, ‘What are the countries we have bad relations with and what can we do there?’”

The new rules permit, but do not guarantee, case-by-case waivers for citizens of the affected countries who meet certain criteria. It’s unclear, however, how difficult it will be to obtain a waiver and consular officers have broad discretion over these applications, said Diane Rish, associate director of government relations for the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

The rules have also damped some Iranians’ desire to be here. Hanieh, who did not want her last name used fearing reprisals from officials in the U.S. or Iran, said she is finishing her doctorate in the United States but seeking jobs in Canada due to uncertainty about whether she will be able to work here and what she sees as growing anti-Iranian sentiment.

She said her parents received word from U.S. consular officials this week they will not be able to travel for her graduation because of the ban.

Jahanfar, whose family left Iran after the country’s revolution, said he doesn’t know what he will do. He proposed to his fiancee last year after the pair, who met as children in Iran, had reconnected. He applied for a fiancee visa in January and traveled to Abu Dhabi earlier this month for an interview with U.S. consular officials, but was told it would be delayed.

Now, he said their lives are in limbo.

“It is pointless,” he said. “One person can decide something — they don’t understand how many lives they’ll affect with one decision they make.”

Twitter to talk to House, Senate in Russia probe

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Social media giant Twitter will visit Capitol Hill Thursday as part of the House and Senate investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 elections.

Twitter’s closed-door meetings with staff follow similar briefings from Facebook earlier this month, and the House and Senate panels have invited both tech giants, along with Google, to appear at public hearings this fall. The committees are scrutinizing the spread of false news stories and propaganda on social media, to what extent Russia was involved and whether anyone in the United States helped target those stories.

Unlike Facebook, which has said phony accounts on its platform attempted to stir up divisiveness in the election, Twitter has remained mostly silent. The two social media companies have different types of platforms, as Twitter allows users to register anonymously and has more public accounts than Facebook. Many lawmakers have expressed concerns about the proliferation of anonymous “bots” on Twitter and their potential to spread misinformation.

Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate intelligence panel, said Wednesday that he hopes Twitter will be forthcoming.

“They have obviously a different business model, and also they’ve never tried to prevent fake accounts, use of bots,” Warner said, comparing the company to Facebook. “They don’t deny they have allowed more anonymity. So they’ve got a different business model, we’ve got different questions for them.”

Still, Warner said, the investigation is ultimately up to how people manipulated both of those platforms.

“People deserve to know,” Warner said.

Twitter last week confirmed that officials would be meeting with the Senate panel and issued a statement pledging to improve defenses on its platform.

“Twitter deeply respects the integrity of the election process, a cornerstone of all democracies, and will continue to strengthen our platform against bots and other forms of manipulation that violate our Terms of Service,” the company said in a statement.

Staff on both panels are likely to ask Twitter about the bots, and also about some of the potential vulnerabilities in terms of tracing potential foreign intrusions. There have been concerns among some lawmakers that the company doesn’t move quickly enough to remove posts and isn’t able to track the original postings that were spread and retweeted.

Twitter, Facebook and Google haven’t yet said whether they will accept the invitations to testify publicly before both intelligence committees. The House intelligence committee is planning to hold a hearing in October and the Senate intelligence committee has invited witnesses to appear on Nov. 1.

Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, confirmed the House invitation in an interview with the AP, though he noted a date had not yet been set. The details of the invitation from the Senate intelligence committee were confirmed by two people familiar with the panel’s interactions with the companies. They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the private invitations.

The companies have some incentive to comply, as Warner and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar have said they are preparing legislation that would enhance transparency for online political ads and require social media companies to keep a public file of election ads and communications. The bill would also ask companies to “make reasonable efforts” to ensure that election ads are not purchased directly or indirectly by a foreign national.

Warner said it’s his “hope and expectation” that the companies would work with him on the legislation, which he called “probably the lightest touch possible.”

Congress so far has been reluctant to regulate social media companies. But Warner and Klobuchar started working on the legislation as Facebook acknowledged that the hundreds of phony Facebook accounts, likely run from Russia, spent about $100,000 on ads aimed at stirring up divisive issues such as gun control and race relations during the 2016 campaign.

Facing pressure from lawmakers and the public after that original announcement, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said last week that the company will provide congressional investigators with the contents of 3,000 ads bought by a Russian agency, while also pledging to make political advertising on its platform more transparent.

“I don’t want anyone to use our tools to undermine democracy,” Zuckerberg said in a Facebook video and wrote in an accompanying post. “That’s not what we stand for.”

On Wednesday, a GOP member of the Senate intelligence panel said Russian internet trolls are exploiting the controversy over NFL players kneeling during the national anthem to stir up divisions in the United States.

Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma said paid social media users, or “trolls,” were hash-tagging “take a knee” and “boycott NFL” to amplify the issue.


Associated Press writers Chad Day and Tom LoBianco contributed to this report.

Hugh Hefner, leader of the sexual revolution, dies at 91

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Hugh Hefner turned silk pajamas into a work uniform, women into centerfolds and sexual desire into a worldwide multimedia empire that spanned several generations of American life.

With Playboy, he helped slip sex out of the confines of plain brown wrappers and into mainstream conversation.

In 1953, a time when states could legally ban contraceptives and the word “pregnant” was not allowed on “I Love Lucy,” Hefner published the first issue of Playboy, featuring naked photos of Marilyn Monroe and an editorial promise of “humor, sophistication and spice.”

The Great Depression and World War II were over and Playboy soon became forbidden fruit for teens and a bible for men with time and money, primed for the magazine’s prescribed evenings of dimmed lights, hard drinks, soft jazz, deep thoughts and deeper desires. Within a year, circulation neared 200,000. Within five years, it had topped 1 million.

Hefner, the pipe-smoking embodiment of the lifestyle he touted, died at his home of natural causes on Wednesday night, Playboy said in a statement. He was 91.

Hefner and Playboy were brand names worldwide. Asked by The New York Times in 1992 of what he was proudest, Hefner responded: “That I changed attitudes toward sex. That nice people can live together now. That I decontaminated the notion of premarital sex. That gives me great satisfaction.”

Playboy founder Hugh Hefner has died at age 91. For decades, Hefner was known as the pipe-smoking hedonist who revved up the sexual revolution in the 1950s and built a multimedia empire. Playboy says Hefner died of natural causes at his home. (Sept. 28)

By the 1970s, Playboy magazine had more than 7 million readers and had inspired such raunchier imitations as Penthouse and Hustler. Competition and the internet reduced circulation to less than 3 million by the 21st century, and the number of issues published annually was cut from 12 to 11. In 2015, Playboy ceased publishing images of naked women, citing the proliferation of nudity on the internet but restored its traditional nudity earlier this year.

Hefner became the flamboyant symbol of the lifestyle he espoused. For decades he was the pipe-smoking, silk-pajama-wearing center of a constant party with celebrities and Playboy models. By his own account, Hefner had sex with more than a thousand women, including many of pictured in his magazine. One of rock n’ roll’s most decadent tours, the Rolling Stones shows of 1972, featured a stop at the Hefner mansion.

Throughout the 1960s, Hefner left Chicago only a few times. In the early 1970s, he bought the second mansion in Los Angeles, flying between his homes on a private DC-9 dubbed “The Big Bunny,” which boasted a giant Playboy bunny emblazoned on the tail.

Hefner was host of a television show, “Playboy After Dark,” and in 1960 opened a string of clubs around the world where waitresses wore revealing costumes with bunny ears and fluffy white bunny tails. In the 21st century, he was back on television in a cable reality show — “The Girls Next Door” — with three live-in girlfriends in the Los Angeles Playboy mansion. Network television briefly embraced Hefner’s empire in 2011 with the NBC drama “The Playboy Club,” which failed to lure viewers and was canceled after three episodes.

Censorship of the magazine was inevitable. Playboy has been banned in China, India, Saudi Arabia and Ireland. In the 1950s, Hefner successfully sued to prevent the U.S. Postal Service from denying him second-class mailing status. 7-Eleven stores for years did not sell the magazine. Stores that did offer Playboy made sure to stock it on a higher shelf.

He was a widely admired but far from universally beloved figure. Many feminist and religious leaders regarded him as nothing but a glorified pornographer who degraded and objectified women with impunity.

Women were warned from the first issue: “If you’re somebody’s sister, wife, or mother-in-law,” the magazine declared, “and picked us up by mistake, please pass us along to the man in your life and get back to Ladies Home Companion.”

Playboy proved a scourge, and a temptation. Drew Barrymore, Farrah Fawcett and Linda Evans are among those who have posed for the magazine. Several bunnies became celebrities, too, including singer Deborah Harry and model Lauren Hutton, both of whom had fond memories of their time with Playboy. Other bunnies had traumatic experiences, with several alleging they had been raped by Hefner’s close friend Bill Cosby, who faced dozens of such allegations in recent years. Hefner issued a statement in late 2014 he “would never tolerate this behavior.” But two years later, former bunny Chloe Goins sued Cosby and Hefner for sexual battery, gender violence and other charges over an alleged 2008 rape.

One bunny turned out to be a journalist: Feminist Gloria Steinem got hired in the early 1960s and turned her brief employment into an article for Show magazine that described the clubs as pleasure havens for men only. The bunnies, Steinem wrote, tended to be poorly educated, overworked and underpaid. Steinem regarded the magazine and clubs not as erotic, but “pornographic.”

“I think Hefner himself wants to go down in history as a person of sophistication and glamour. But the last person I would want to go down in history as is Hugh Hefner,” Steinem later said.

“Women are the major beneficiaries of getting rid of the hypocritical old notions about sex,” Hefner responded. “Now some people are acting as if the sexual revolution was a male plot to get laid. One of the unintended by-products of the women’s movement is the association of the erotic impulse with wanting to hurt somebody.”

Hefner added that he was a strong advocate of First Amendment, civil and reproductive rights and that the magazine contained far more than centerfolds. Playboy serialized Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451” and later published fiction by John Updike, Doris Lessing and Vladimir Nabokov. Playboy also specialized in long and candid interviews, from Fidel Castro and Frank Sinatra to Marlon Brando and then-presidential candidate Jimmy Carter, who confided that he had “committed adultery” in his heart. John Lennon spoke to Playboy in 1980, not long before he was murdered.

The line that people read Playboy for the prose, not the pictures, was only partly a joke.

Playboy’s clubs also influenced the culture, giving early breaks to such entertainers as George Carlin, Rich Little, Mark Russell, Dick Gregory and Redd Foxx. The last of the clubs closed in 1988, when Hefner deemed them “passe” and “too tame for the times.”

By then Hefner had built a $200 million company by expanding Playboy to include international editions of the magazine, casinos, a cable network and a film production company. In 2006, he got back into the club business with his Playboy Club at the Palms Casino in Las Vegas. A new enterprise in London followed, along with fresh response from women’s groups, who protested the opening with cries of “Eff off Hef!’”

Hefner liked to say he was untroubled by criticism, but in 1985 he suffered a mild stroke that he blamed on the book “The Killing of the Unicorn: Dorothy Stratten 1960-1980,” by filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich. Stratten was a Playmate killed by her husband, Paul Snider, who then killed himself. Bogdanovich, Stratten’s boyfriend at the time, wrote that Hefner helped bring about her murder and was unable to deal with “what he and his magazine do to women.”

After the stroke, Hefner handed control of his empire to his feminist daughter, Christie, although he owned 70 percent of Playboy stock and continued to choose every month’s Playmate and cover shot. Christie Hefner continued as CEO until 2009.

He also stopped using recreational drugs and tried less to always be the life of the party. He tearfully noted in a 1992 New York Times interview: “I’ve spent so much of my life looking for love in all the wrong places.”

Not surprisingly, Hefner’s marriage life was also a bit of a show. In 1949, he married Mildred Williams, with whom he had two children. They divorced in 1958. In July 1989, Hefner married Kimberley Conrad, the 1989 Playmate of the Year, who was then 27. The couple also had two children.

On the eve of his marriage, Hefner was asked if he would have a bachelor party. “I’ve had a bachelor party for 30 years,” he said. “Why do I need one now?”

They separated in 1998 but she continued living next door to the Playboy mansion with their two sons. The couple divorced in 2010 and he proposed in 2011 to 24-year-old Crystal Harris, a former Playmate. Harris called off the wedding days before the ceremony, but later changed her mind and they married at the end of 2012.

“Maybe I should be single,” he said a few months later. “But I do know that I need an ongoing romantic relationship. In other words, I am essentially a very romantic person, and all I really was looking for, quite frankly, with the notion of marriage was continuity and something to let the girl know that I really cared.”

Hefner is survived by Crystal as well as his daughter, Christie; and his sons, David, Marston and Cooper. Playboy announced no immediate funeral plans, but Hefner owned a plot in a Los Angeles cemetery next to Marilyn Monroe.

He was born in Chicago on April 9, 1926, to devout Methodist parents who he said never showed “love in a physical or emotional way.”

“At a very early age, I began questioning a lot of that religious foolishness about man’s spirit and body being in conflict, with God primarily with the spirit of man and the devil dwelling in the flesh,” Hefner said in a Playboy interview in 1974.

“Part of the reason that I am who I am is my Puritan roots run deep,” he told the AP in 2011. “My folks are Puritan. My folks are prohibitionists. There was no drinking in my home. No discussion of sex. And I think I saw the hurtful and hypocritical side of that from very early on. ”

Hefner loved movies throughout his life, calling them “my other family.” He screened classic films and new releases at the mansion every week. Every year on his April 9 birthday, he’d run his favorite film, “Casablanca,” and invite guests to dress in the fashions of the 1940s.

He long hoped to be the subject of a biopic and was helping to develop a screenplay for such a film in 2011.

He was a playboy before Playboy, even during his first marriage, when he enjoyed stag films, strip poker and group sex. His bunny obsession began with the figures that decorated a childhood blanket. Years later, a real-life subspecies of rabbit on the endangered species list, in the Florida Keys, would be named for him: Sylvilagus palustris hefneri.

When Hefner was 9, he began publishing a neighborhood newspaper, which he sold for a penny a copy. He spent much of his time writing and drawing cartoons, and in middle school began reading Esquire, a magazine of sex and substance Hefner wanted Playboy to emulate.

He and Playboy co-founder Eldon Sellers launched their magazine from Hefner’s kitchen in Chicago, although the first issue was undated because Hefner doubted there would be a second. The magazine was supposed to be called Stag Party, until an outdoor magazine named Stag threatened legal action.

Hefner recalled that he first reinvented himself in high school in Chicago at 16, when he was rejected by a girl he had a crush on. He began referring to himself as Hef instead of Hugh, learned the jitterbug and began drawing a comic book, “a kind of autobiography that put myself center stage in a life I created for myself,” he said in a 2006 interview with the AP.

Those comics evolved into a detailed scrapbook that Hefner would keep throughout his life. It spanned more than 2,500 volumes in 2011 — a Guinness World Record for a personal scrapbook collection.

“It was probably just a way of creating a world of my own to share with my friends,” Hefner said, seated amid the archives of his life during a 2011 interview. “And in retrospect, in thinking about it, it’s not a whole lot different than creating the magazine.”

He did it again in 1960, when he began hosting the TV show, bought a fancy car, started smoking a pipe and bought the first Playboy mansion.

“Well, if we hadn’t had the Wright brothers, there would still be airplanes,” Hefner said in 1974. “If there hadn’t been an Edison, there would still be electric lights. And if there hadn’t been a Hefner, we’d still have sex. But maybe we wouldn’t be enjoying it as much. So the world would be a little poorer. Come to think of it, so would some of my relatives.”


AP National Writer Hillel Italie and Entertainment Writer Sandy Cohen contributed to this report.

Business: Global stocks stable as investors gauge US tax plan impact

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Global stock markets were mostly higher Thursday as investors tried to gauge the impact of the sweeping tax reform plan unveiled by U.S. President Donald Trump, while geopolitical tensions surrounding North Korea kept risk sentiment in check.

KEEPING SCORE: Britain’s FTSE 100 was flat in early trading at 7,315.79 while France’s CAC 40 added 0.2 percent to 5,291.33. Germany’s DAX advanced 0.3 percent to 12,700.07. Futures augured a lukewarm start on Wall Street. S&P futures and Dow futures both fell 0.1 percent.

ASIA’S DAY: Asian markets finished mixed. Japan’s Nikkei rose 0.5 percent to 20,363.11 and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 added 0.1 percent to 5,670.40. In South Korea, the Kospi finished flat at 2,373.14. But Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index slipped 0.8 percent to 27,421.60 and China’s Shanghai Composite Index fell 0.2 percent to 3,339.64. Stocks in Southeast Asia were mixed.

US POLITICS WATCH: Trump and congressional Republicans proposed a $5 trillion tax plan on Wednesday, calling it much-needed relief for the middle class and a boost for the economy. The proposal would deeply cut taxes for corporations from the current 35 percent to 25 percent and simplify the tax system, while nearly doubling the standard deduction used by most Americans. The plan was widely expected by investors but with negotiations ahead, the final picture of the tax plan is unclear.

THE QUOTE: “While the impact from the new framework on Asian markets remains debatable with repatriation of offshore earnings one to expect, investors will likely look to the improvement it may bring to U.S. companies and in turn stock market in the near term,” said Jingyi Pan, a market strategist at IG in Singapore.

CHIP DEAL: Asian chipmakers involved in Toshiba’s chip unit sales gained ground after a consortium of companies from Japan, South Korea and the United States disclosed that it will purchase the struggling Japanese tech company’s memory chip business. Shares of South Korean chipmaker SK Hynix Inc., which is part of the consortium that also includes Bain Capital Private Equity and Apple, rose 1 percent. Toshiba Corp.’s stock jumped 2.3 percent.

OIL: Benchmark U.S. crude rose 54 cents to $52.68 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract added 26 cents to close at $52.14 a barrel on Wednesday. Brent crude, the standard for international oil prices, gained 43 cents to $58.02 per barrel in London.

CURRENCIES: The dollar fell to 112.77 yen from 112.82 yen. The euro rose to $1.1768 from $1.1750.

Trump, GOP roll out tax plan; cuts rates, doubles deduction

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans are rolling out a wide-ranging plan to cut taxes for individuals and corporations, simplify the tax system, and likely double the standard deduction used by most Americans.

Months in the making, the plan meets a political imperative for Republicans to deliver an overhaul of the U.S. tax code after the failure of the health care repeal.

The public reveal of the plan was set for Wednesday. The day before, details emerged on Capitol Hill while Trump personally appealed to House Republicans and Democrats at the White House to get behind his proposal.

“We will cut taxes tremendously for the middle class. Not just a little bit but tremendously,” Trump said as he met with members of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee. He predicted jobs “will be coming back in because we have a non-competitive tax structure right now and we’re going to go super competitive.”

Among the details: repeal of the tax on multimillion-dollar estates, a steep reduction in the rate corporations pay from 35 percent to 20 percent and potentially four tax brackets, down from the current seven. The current top rate for individuals, those earning more than $418,000 a year, is 39.6 percent.

The goal, the architects say, is a simpler tax code that would spur economic growth and make U.S. companies more competitive with overseas rivals. Delivering on the top legislative goal will be crucial for Republicans intent on holding onto their congressional majorities in next year’s midterm elections.

The tax overhaul plan assembled by the White House and GOP leaders aims at the first major revamp of the tax system in three decades. It would deliver on a major Trump campaign pledge.

The outlines of the plan were described Tuesday by GOP officials who demanded anonymity to disclose private deliberations.

The plan would likely cut the tax rate for the wealthiest Americans from 39.6 percent to 35 percent. A new surcharge on wealthy taxpayers might soften the appearance of the wealthiest Americans and big corporations benefiting from generous tax cuts.

Republicans already were picking at the framework, pointing up how divisions within GOP ranks can complicate efforts to overhaul taxes as has happened with the series of moves to repeal the Obama health care law.

The White House said Trump planned to point to Indiana as a model for cutting taxes and regulations when he outlines his overhaul plan at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis on Wednesday.

Trump will cite Indiana’s time under Vice President Mike Pence, the state’s former governor, as an example of how a tax revamp can produce economic growth. A senior White House official said Trump will tell supporters that “it’s time for Washington to learn from the wisdom of Indiana.” The official spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of the formal announcement.

The trip will offer a bipartisan flavor as well. Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly, a Democrat, said he would travel with Trump on Air Force One to the event. Donnelly is running for re-election in 2018 and is a top target for Republicans in next year’s mid-term elections.

The proposal was crafted behind closed doors over months by top White House economic officials, GOP congressional leaders and the Republican heads of tax-writing panels in the House and Senate. Trump and the Republicans were putting the final touches on the plan when the Democrats were brought in. A senior House Democrat saw it as the opening of negotiations.

Trump had previously said he wanted a 15 percent rate for corporations, but House Speaker Paul Ryan has called that impractically low and has said it would risk adding to the soaring $20 trillion national debt.

Trump said Tuesday some of the components included doubling the standard deduction used by individuals and married couples, and increasing the child tax credit. Most Americans would be able to file their taxes on a single page. “We must make our tax code simple and fair. It’s too complicated,” Trump said.

Some conservative GOP lawmakers, meanwhile, dug in their heels on the shape of the plan.

Rep. Mark Meadows, head of the House Freedom Caucus, said he’d vote against legislation if it provided for a corporate tax rate over 20 percent, a rate for small businesses higher than 25 percent, or if it fails to double the standard deduction.

“That’s the red line for me,” Meadows said at a forum of conservative lawmakers. He noted he was speaking personally, not as head of the conservative group.

The Democrats have insisted that any tax relief should go to the middle class, not the wealthiest. Tax cuts shouldn’t add to the ballooning debt, they say.

Rep. Richard Neal of Massachusetts, the top Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee, came away from the White House meeting in a negotiating mood. “This is when the process gets kicked off,” Neal told reporters at the Capitol.

The rate for wealthiest taxpayers shouldn’t be reduced, he said.

Still, there may be room to negotiate over the Republicans’ insistence on repealing the estate tax, Neal indicated, since “there are other things you can do with it” to revise it, short of complete elimination.


Associated Press writer Ken Thomas contributed to this report.

Mexicans displaced by quake: ‘This is like a horror story’

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MEXICO CITY (AP) — Inside the Francisco Kino Elementary School a miniature city has emerged at the site of a shelter for people who lost their homes in last week’s deadly earthquake.

On the school’s open-air courtyard, doctors test blood pressure and glucose levels at a makeshift triage center set up on a plastic table. Nearby, children get haircuts while stressed-out parents receive massages.

But frustration is growing inside the gym, where families camp out on mattresses alongside piles of new, donated belongings. Days without easy access to a shower and the loss of simple liberties like deciding when to turn out a light to go to asleep have become aggravating.

They want to know: How long will they be stuck here?

“This is like a horror story,” said Ana Maria Castaneda, 49, who is living at the shelter with five relatives.

More than 12,000 people whose homes were destroyed or damaged by the magnitude 7.1 quake have spent at least one night in a shelter since the quake, the Mexican government says.

Officials pledged Tuesday to give families chased from their homes a monthly payment of 3,000 pesos — the equivalent of about $170 — to find a new place to live for a total of three months. But an average one-bedroom apartment outside Mexico City’s center can easily run twice as much.

“We will directly support families with resources and materials to repair damages or build a new home,” President Enrique Pena Nieto said in a televised address Tuesday night.

Government employees fanned out Tuesday urging the 25 families living at the Francisco Kino school to visit a nearby park where officials have set up areas for victims to sign up for benefits, but the suggestion was met with skepticism and resistance. If they went to the plaza, some people worried, they might lose their coveted spots at the shelter. Some 500 families were forced from nearby apartment buildings after one collapsed and the school had space only for two dozen.

“Sorry to interrupt you,” one elderly woman sitting on a donated mattress said at a meeting with a visiting representative from Mexico City’s Women’s Institute. “They tell us if we leave here, we’ll lose our shelter. But if we don’t go there, we might miss out on government benefits.”

“After the fright of the quake, why are they scaring us with these threats?” she asked.

The residents were urged to go one-by-one to sign up for government assistance, leaving family members to watch over their belongings.

According to Mexico City Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera, inspectors have examined damage at 10,903 properties so far and 83 percent of the structures are safe to live in. That means about 1,800 have been marked uninhabitable.

In all, some 43 shelters across the capital have tended to 24,000 people since the Sept. 19 quake, though many came just for a plate of food before finding a place to stay with friends or family.

It’s unclear how long the shelters will be operating. Volunteers and government employees stationed at the Francisco Kino school — a shelter run largely by neighborhood residents — said it would stay open for the foreseeable future.

“As long as is necessary,” said Elizabeth Garcia, a government worker inspecting the site Tuesday.

The mountain-like piles of donated water bottles and medical supplies along with the growing level of organized services give the impression of a population that is starting to settle in. Rows of toothbrushes and toothpaste rest on sinks outside a children’s bathroom. A room that once held school materials has been fashioned into a space for medical donations. A cardboard box holds mounds of antibiotics. On a desk are Styrofoam cups holding injectable medicines like anti-inflammatories that are labeled with a black marker.

Dr. Misael Dominguez, an attending physician, said doctors have “practically everything we require.”

“We have seen a lot of high blood pressure and sugar levels from the stress,” he added.

At that moment, a doctor was poking one of Roberto Ramirez’s fingers with a needle to draw blood and test his glucose levels. Ramirez, a 33-year-old musician and computer programmer, is a diabetic and lives in an apartment that has been deemed too dangerous to inhabit. He was away from home when the quake struck and wasn’t able to retrieve his glucose testing kit.

He said he has been trying to take better care of his health since the quake, saying, “I value things more.”

The result came back high: 259.

To the left of the entrance are signs offering psychological services. Many of those sheltering at the school have arrived with the quake’s trauma still weighing heavily on their minds.

Florencia Cortes, 37, was pulled from the rubble of her apartment building along with her 20-month-old son, Jonatan. In order to get her son out, she had to swing him toward the building’s plumber, who happened to be outside. He caught hold of the boy by his foot.

Jonatan used to follow his mother around everywhere. Now she says he stick by his father, who wasn’t home during the quake.

“He’s not the same,” Cortes said. “Maybe he thinks I threw him and don’t love him.”

Many of the shelter residents harbor a deep mistrust of their government to set things right. While government workers occasionally come in, for the most part officials have been absent, they say. Some are vowing to stay until they’re given a new place to call home.

“The government has the last word and no one knows anything about the government here,” said Angelina Usuna, 81.

Night can bring the hardest hours. A lucky few have donated mattresses, but most are sleeping on uncomfortable foam mats. They get a few hours of sleep at best. Wary of sharing a collective space, no one feels entitled to tell someone else to be quiet or turn out a light.

In fact, it’s impossible to make the gym completely dark. As part of the shelter’s safety protocol, one light must be kept on in case another tremor strikes.

Scope of Puerto Rico damage so wide that US aid hard to see

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MONTEBELLO, Puerto Rico (AP) — Relatives helped Maribel Valentin Espino find shelter when Hurricane Maria roared through her community in northern Puerto Rico. Neighbors formed volunteer brigades to cut fallen trees and clear twisty mountain roads after the storm had passed. Now, friends and a local cattle ranch provide the water they need to survive in the tropical heat.

Valentin and her husband say they have not seen anyone from the Puerto Rican government, much less the Federal Emergency Management Agency, since the storm tore up the island Sept. 20, killing at least 16 people and leaving nearly all 3.4 million people in Puerto Rico without power and most without water.

“People say FEMA is going to help us,” Valentin said Tuesday as she showed Associated Press journalists around the sodden wreckage of her home. “We’re waiting.”

Many others are also waiting for help from anyone from the federal or Puerto Rican government. But the scope of the devastation is so broad, and the relief effort so concentrated in San Juan, that many people from outside the capital say they have received little to no help.

A day after traveling to Puerto Rico, FEMA chief Brock Long said the U.S. federal government is “dramatically increasing the federal footprint” in Puerto Rico and working tirelessly to stabilize the situation. (Sept. 26)

Valentin, her husband and teenage son live in one such area, Montebello, a 20-minute drive into what used to be lushly forested mountains near the northern coastal municipality of Manati. Hurricane Maria’s Category 4 winds stripped the trees bare and scattered them like matchsticks. “It seemed like a monster,” she recalled.

The roads are passable now but the community is still isolated. “Nobody has visited, not from the government, not from the city, no one,” said Antonio Velez, a 64-year-old who has lived there his entire life.

The same complaint echoed throughout the southeast coastal town of Yabucoa, the first town Maria hit as it barreled across the island with 155 mph winds.

“Nothing, nothing, nothing,” said 58-year-old retiree Angel Luis Rodriguez. “I’ve lost everything, and no one has shown up to see if anyone lives here.”

At a nearby river, dozens of people gathered to bathe and wash clothes as they grumbled about the lack of aid.

“There’s been no help from the mayor or from the federal government,” said 64-year-old retiree Maria Rodriguez as she held a coconut in her right hand and took sips from it. “After Georges hit us (in 1998), they responded quickly. But now? Nothing. We need water and food.”

Nearby, one girl engaged in a thumb war with a friend as she filled an empty water bottle with her other hand. Downstream, a woman sat cross-legged in the water behind a friend and helped wash her hair.

The recovery in the first week since the storm has largely been a do-it-yourself affair. People collect water from wells and streams, clear roads and repair their own homes when they are not waiting in day-long lines for gasoline and diesel. For most, the only visible sign of authority are police officers directing traffic, a critical service because traffic lights are out across the island.

“I have seen a lot of helicopters go by. I assume those are people from FEMA,” said Jesus Argilagos, who lives in Manati and works at a grocery store that is only open part of the day because of the power crisis. “People get pissed off because they see them going back and forth and not doing anything.”

There are several thousand U.S. federal employees in Puerto Rico helping with the recovery effort. They are most visible in San Juan, where officials with FEMA, Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection have a presence at hotels that before the storm served tourists in the Condado neighborhood or at the convention center that has become a staging ground for relief efforts.

Federal workers supplied diesel to generators at hospitals and delivered desperately needed food and water to hard-hit communities across the island. They have repaired the air traffic control systems and power at the airport, which is receiving about 100 flights a day but is still far from normal operations. U.S. agents have also provided security across the island and the Coast Guard has worked with local authorities to restore the sea ports, a vital link because Puerto Rico is almost completely dependent on imports.

In addition, teams from the Army Corps of Engineers are helping to repair the electricity grid and to inspect and look for ways to avert the collapse of a dam near the western town of Quebradillas that has developed a crack and that officials have said could potentially fail. And personnel from Health and Human Services, the Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs have provided care and helped evacuate people from Puerto Rico with chronic medical conditions.

Teams also were scheduled to visit the central mountain town of Aibonito, which was cut off from the rest of the island for five days. Many people began rationing their food and water supplies as they dwindled, unclear of when they would have contact with the outside world.

“We thought somebody was going to stop by,” said Ana Lidia Mendoza, a 48-year-old cook at a barbecue restaurant who lost part of her roof. “They told us that we had to stay calm.”

Gov. Ricardo Rossello and Resident Commissioner Jennifer Gonzalez, the island’s representative in Congress, have said they intend to seek more than a billion dollars in federal assistance and they have praised the response to the disaster by President Donald Trump, who plans to visit Puerto Rico next week, as well as FEMA Administrator Brock Long.

“I am confident that they understand the seriousness of the situation,” the governor said Tuesday.

Still, it is hard to avoid the fact that the response looks different than previous ones. After hurricanes in Louisiana, Texas and Florida, waves of power company trucks from other states descended in long convoys, something that is obviously not possible on an island 1,000 miles to the southeast of the mainland. After the devastating earthquake in Haiti in January 2010, the U.S. military sent ships and the skies seemed to be filled with heavy-lift helicopters and planes carrying emergency relief, though the scale of that disaster was far worse.

Hurricane Maria was the strongest hurricane to hit Puerto Rico in nearly 100 years and officials say the cost of recovery will dwarf that of the punishing Hurricane Georges in 1998. Whatever the final bill, Valentin just hopes it will factor in people like her. “If FEMA helps us, we are going to build again,” she said.

‘Obamacare’ survives; GOP concedes on last-gasp repeal try

WASHINGTON (AP) — “Obamacare” lives on.

Senate Republicans, short of votes, abandoned their latest and possibly final attempt to kill the health care law Tuesday, just ahead of a critical end-of-the-week deadline.

The repeal-and-replace bill’s authors promised to try again at a later date, while President Donald Trump railed against “certain so-called Republicans” who opposed the GOP effort. But for now, Trump and fellow Republicans who vowed for seven years to abolish President Barack Obama’s law will leave it standing and turn their attention to overhauling the nation’s tax code instead.

The GOP’s predicament was summed up bluntly by Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, a lead author of the legislation: “Through events that are under our control and not under our control, we don’t have the votes.”

“Am I disappointed? Absolutely,” he said after a GOP lunch attended by Vice President Mike Pence.

Standing alongside Cassidy, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said: “We haven’t given up on changing the American health care system. We are not going to be able to do that this week, but it still lies ahead of us.”

“We do think it’s time to turn to our twin priority, reforming the tax code,” McConnell said.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said he and other GOP Congress members are “frustrated” with the Senate’s inability to make moves on their health care bill. (Sept. 26)

There was much talk of returning to the repeal effort later, but not all Republican senators were putting on that brave face.

Sen John Kennedy of Louisiana described the bill as “dead as a doornail.”

The bill Cassidy co-authored with Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina would have unraveled the central elements of Obama’s law, including the requirement for Americans to carry health insurance or pay fines, and offered block grants to states to design their own systems with less federal control.

Republicans are also strongly in agreement on a need for action on overhauling the loophole-ridden U.S. tax code, and hope that if they also succeed in getting Americans a tax cut, their failure on health care will be forgiven.

Yet they began the health care effort with unanimity, too, up until the devilish details began to emerge and divide them as they pursued a partisan effort against united Democratic opposition.

Much the same could happen on taxes, where Republicans are at the beginning of the process, with plans to unveil a blueprint on Wednesday.

On health care, the urgency confronting the GOP this week lay in special budget rules that protected the legislation from a Democratic filibuster, allowing the Republicans to pass it with just 50 votes, plus a tie-breaker from Pence, instead of the 60 often required. Those special rules expire Sept. 30.

Even with that advantage McConnell had little room for error given his slim 52-48 vote majority in the 100-member Senate. And as in July, when Arizona Sen. John McCain cast a dramatic late-night thumbs down to kill the previous repeal bill, McConnell was unable to corral the 50 “Ayes.”

In addition to McCain, moderate GOP Sen. Susan Collins of Maine announced her opposition, as did conservative Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky. Several other senators were skeptical or undeclared, among them Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who waited until McConnell had conceded defeat Tuesday to issue a statement criticizing “a lousy process” on the legislation.

A full analysis of the legislation was never completed by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, contributing to critics’ complaints of a rushed process, but independent experts warned that millions could lose coverage, states could relax existing requirements, and coverage could end up being unaffordable for many, including people with pre-existing conditions.

That last element drew attention from late-night TV host Jimmy Kimmel, who got involved in the health debate in April after his son was born with a heart defect. He was outspoken on his ABC show in denouncing the bill and accusing Cassidy of lying about it. On Tuesday Kimmel tweeted a photo of his smiling baby son and wrote, “Thanks to all who stood up and spoke out from this happy guy and his less-fortunate friends #GoodbyeGrahamCassidy.”

The legislation also would have cut $1 trillion from Medicaid over the next decade, prompting angry protesters in wheelchairs to descend on the one hearing held on the bill, on Monday, chanting “No cuts to Medicaid! Save our liberty!” Dozens were pulled out and arrested as cameras captured the striking scene.

For Trump, the failure added one more justification for his ongoing grudge against McConnell, and provided another reason to turn his back on Republicans and make deals with Democrats instead, as he’s begun to do of late. Indeed, he said in a private bipartisan meeting of House Ways and Means members Tuesday that he would work with Democrats on health care if the Republicans “didn’t get repeal done,” according to Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., who was present.

Neal quoted Trump as saying, “You get a better deal if it’s bipartisan.”

Graham insisted that despite Tuesday’s failure, Republicans would return to the health issue after disposing of taxes. But even under the optimistic assumption that Republicans will pass tax legislation in the coming months, Graham’s timeline would put the next health care debate into the 2018 congressional campaign season, and that would be unlikely to improve the bill’s chances.

It’s unclear how the collapse of the GOP’s latest repeal effort will affect Americans’ 2018 sign-up season for subsidized private health policies under the Affordable Care Act.

Wednesday is the deadline for insurers to finalize 2018 contracts. Uncertainty over whether the Trump administration will continue to pay monthly subsidies for assistance with copays and deductibles has been blamed for driving up next year’s premiums.

Earlier this month senators launched a bipartisan effort to try to stabilize premiums for next year, but that was put on hold as Republicans pursued repeal. Talks are resuming, but it’s unclear if they can succeed, particularly since feelings are raw on both sides.


Associated Press writers Alan Fram, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Ken Thomas and Marcy Gordon contributed to this report.

In Alabama, a McConnell rebuke, a Trump miscalculation

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HOMEWOOD, Ala. (AP) — A firebrand Alabama jurist wrested a U.S. Senate nomination from an appointed incumbent backed by millions of dollars from national Republicans, adding a new chapter Tuesday to an era of outsider politics that ushered Donald Trump into the White House yet leaves his presidency and his party in disarray.

Roy Moore’s 9-point victory over Sen. Luther Strange, backed by the White House and Republican leaders on Capitol Hill, ranks as a miscalculation and temporary embarrassment for the president; it’s a more consequential rebuke for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who Moore said should step aside as GOP floor chief.

The Kentucky Republican already is struggling to capitalize on his narrow 52-48 majority. He failed this week to deliver a long-promised health care overhaul, with equally perilous fights looming on taxes, the budget, immigration and the nation’s credit limit. Now, McConnell may also face a 2018 midterm election cycle complicated by GOP primary challengers who, like Moore, make the Senate leader an albatross for establishment candidates, including incumbents Dean Heller of Nevada and Jeff Flake of Arizona.

Firebrand jurist Roy Moore won the Alabama Republican primary runoff for U.S. Senate on Tuesday, defeating an appointed incumbent, Sen. Luther Strange, backed by President Donald Trump in an upset likely to rock the GOP establishment. (Sept. 26)

Moore, the famed “Ten Commandments judge” twice removed from elected judicial office for defying federal courts, declared his nomination a message to Washington leaders “that their wall has been cracked and will now fall,” though he excepted the president from his ire. “Together we can make America great,” he said, echoing Trump’s campaign slogan.

In Mississippi, state lawmaker Chris McDaniel, who nearly defeated Sen. Thad Cochran in 2014, called Moore’s win an “incredibly inspiring” blueprint that leaves him on the cusp of challenging Sen. Roger Wicker in 2018. “We know Mitch McConnell was rejected tonight — and Roger Wicker is just another part of Mitch McConnell’s leadership apparatus,” McDaniel told The Associated Press, saying he expects conservative challengers to emerge in other states, as well.

Trump and McConnell quickly closed ranks behind Moore after Strange conceded, underscoring their desire to keep the seat in Republican hands. Trump tweeted congratulations to Moore after the win. “Luther Strange started way back & ran a good race. Roy, WIN in Dec!” he said

Three tweets supporting Strange on Monday and Tuesday disappeared from Trump’s account. The White House didn’t immediately respond with an explanation.

The Senate Leadership Fund, a McConnell-aligned political action committee, also pledged to support Moore after spending $9 million on Strange’s behalf.

A West Point graduate and Vietnam veteran, Moore now is the favorite over Democrat Doug Jones in a Dec. 12 special election, though Republicans quietly worry the sometimes controversial Moore could yield an uncomfortably close race to fill the seat previously held by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Trump, meanwhile, must reconcile being the president who promised to “drain the swamp” yet endorsed and campaigned alongside Strange, 64, a lobbyist-turned-politician, in lieu of Moore, a 70-year-old figure steeped in anti-establishment fervor. Adding intrigue was the fact that Strange got his Senate post by being promoted from his job as Alabama attorney general by a now-convicted former governor whom Strange’s office had been investigating for corruption.

Trump’s choice left him opposite from his campaign architect and departed White House adviser Steve Bannon, who campaigned for Moore and introduced the nominee to his supporters Tuesday night as revelers watched returns showing Moore victorious in 63 of Alabama’s 67 counties.

Bannon cast Moore’s romp as a win for Trump, regardless of the president’s Strange endorsement. “Who is sovereign, the people or the money? Alabama answered today,” Bannon said.

Mississippi’s McDaniel said conservatives never blamed Trump for taking sides. “We supported Donald Trump because he was an agent of change, and he’s still an agent of change,” McDaniel said. “In this instance, he must have been given bad advice to retain this particular swamp creature.”

And it’s worth noting that Trump turned his trip to Alabama last week into a national spectacle having nothing to do with Strange or Moore, as the president blasted professional athletes who protest during the national anthem. The fallout cemented Trump’s bond with his core supporters and raised questions about how interested Trump really was in the Alabama race.

Elsewhere in Republican ranks, there are warnings not to make the Alabama results more than one state’s choice.

Republican pollster Whit Ayres, who has worked for Senate campaigns across the country, said Trump learns the same lesson his predecessor, Barack Obama, learned watching Democrats lose control of Congress and then seeing Trump defeat his chosen successor, Hillary Clinton. “You can’t just transfer the popularity of your brand to another candidate,” Ayres said.

As for Strange, Ayres noted the freshman senator was facing voters for the first time since being appointed by a governor who eventually resigned in disgrace. “No other Republican Senate incumbent will carry that baggage,” Ayres said.

In defeat, Strange did not directly confront those variables, telling a subdued crowd in suburban Birmingham he was proud of his team’s effort and grateful both to Trump and his Senate colleagues, but befuddled by the campaign he’d just concluded.

“We’re dealing with a political environment that I’ve never had any experience with,” Strange said. “The political seas and winds in this country right now … are very hard to navigate, very hard to understand.”


Chandler reported from Montgomery, Alabama.


Follow Barrow and Chandler on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/BillBarrowAP and https://twitter.com/StatehouseKim .

Business: Global stocks mixed as investors focus on US tax reform

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Global stock markets were mixed on Wednesday as investors awaited the outlines of tax overhaul plans by U.S. President Donald Trump while news headlines on geopolitical tensions surrounding North Korea have quieted.

KEEPING SCORE: European markets opened with modest gains. Britain’s FTSE 100 rose 0.2 percent in early trading to 7,298.35. France’s CAC 40 added 0.1 percent to 5,275.97 and Germany’s DAX gained 0.5 percent to 12,669.64. Futures augured a tepid start on Wall Street with S&P and Dow futures both up 0.1 percent.

ASIA’S DAY: Asian markets closed mostly lower. Japan’s Nikkei 225 fell 0.3 percent to 20,267.05 and South Korea’s Kospi dipped less than 0.1 percent to 2,372.57. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 lost 0.1 percent to 5,664.30. But Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index rose 0.5 percent to 27,642.43. China’s Shanghai Composite Index added 0.1 percent at 3,345.27. Stocks in Southeast Asia were mixed.

US POLITICS WATCH: House Republicans and Trump administration officials are due to give details of plans for a long-awaited tax proposal on Wednesday, which are expected to reduce individual and corporate tax rates. While analysts expect not much will be done immediately, with the absence of other headline-dominating news, it will still be the key event.

ANALYST’S TAKE: “With the focus back on monetary policy and particularly fiscal policies in the U.S., markets in the Asian region may sit tight midweek awaiting updates,” said Jingyi Pan, a market strategist at IG in Singapore. “The impact of a successfully implemented (tax overhaul) plan would be far-reaching with President Trump placing a key focus on bringing back funds from U.S. firms ‘parked overseas.’”

YELLEN TALK: Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said at a conference of economists that the Fed is puzzled that inflation remains so low. While she and other policymakers still think inflation will eventually reach the Fed’s 2 percent target, Yellen conceded the Fed may need to change its assumptions. Yellen also said the Fed should take care not to raise rates too slowly. The comments may have changed some economists’ view on the prospects of a December rate hike but it still seems likely that the Fed will continue to lift the rate gradually higher, said Ric Spooner, chief market analyst at CMC Markets.

OIL: Benchmark U.S. crude rose 4 cents to $51.92 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract slid 34 cents to finish at $51.88 a barrel on Tuesday. Brent crude, the standard for international oil prices, fell 9 cents to $57.83 a barrel in London. It gave up 51 cents to $57.92 a barrel on Tuesday.

CURRENCIES: The dollar rose to 112.89 yen from 112.23 yen. The euro fell to $1.1744 from $1.1791.

SEC chairman faces questions from Congress after data breach

NEW YORK (AP) — The chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission is likely to face an especially tough hearing in front of Congress on Tuesday, after the agency acknowledged that it also was a victim to a hack.

News about the breach of an SEC network that delivers company news and data to investors follows the disclosure of the massive data breach from credit company Equifax that allowed hackers to access or steal the personal information of 143 million Americans.

Jay Clayton, who has been at the head of the SEC since May, is not likely to face calls for his removal since the breach happened a year ago, before he was sworn in. But he may be questioned about whether the SEC — the federal government’s main arm for enforcing rules and regulations on Wall Street — is up to the task of keeping data secure.


Two major issues in this SEC breach are the potential for insider trading and whether the SEC knew about the security breach for months and only recently decided to disclose it.

The SEC operates a system known as EDGAR, which allows publicly traded companies to upload digitally the documents they are required to share with investors. What appeared to happen is that hackers were able to get into the system in a way that allowed them to see companies filing their documents to the SEC but before those documents would be dispersed to the general public.

Clayton will likely have to answer how probable it is that insider trading took place and what the scope of it might be. He is also likely to be asked why the commission sat on the news of this breach until August when it happened a year ago. The hack occurred despite repeated warnings in recent years about weaknesses in the agency’s data security controls. Members of the Senate Banking Committee may well want to know what the SEC has done to secure its systems.

On Monday the SEC said it had created a new cyber unit that will target market manipulation, hacking and dark web operatives.

The agency also revealed a new team tasked with protecting every day investors from unsafe offers like pump-and-dump schemes in which the value of an investment is driven artificially high before being sold aggressively.


The hack of the document system is especially worrisome because of how widely investors have used and trusted the system, which came online in the early 1990s. Companies use EDGAR to alert investors to important developments that could affect their share prices, like government investigations, executive shake-ups and approaches for a takeover. If hackers were able to see information before the rest of the investment community did, they would have a trading advantage.

The SEC’s disclosure also follows one from Equifax, which said this month that information about millions of people was exposed. The SEC is currently investigating the Equifax breach, and news of the hack will raise questions about whether an agency that is tasked with sanctioning companies is unable to keep their own house in order.


The SEC hasn’t said which individuals or companies may have been affected or who might have carried out the breach. Experts say a hack by Chinese or Russian actors can’t be ruled out.

While it discovered the breach last year, the agency says it only became aware last month that information obtained by the intruders may have been used for illegal trading profits.

Critics say the SEC isn’t meeting the same security standards it demands of corporate America.

Iraqi Kurdish vote latest in series of de facto breaks

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CAIRO (AP) — The Iraqi Kurds’ independence referendum that was just held could mean further instability in the Middle East, where formal borders have remained in place for decades but recent conflicts have resulted in several de facto partitions.

The vote is not binding, and opposition from the international community, as well as Iraq and its neighbors, makes any formal separation unlikely. But the poll has escalated tensions between the Kurds and Iraq’s Arab majority, raising fears of unrest.

The Kurds already enjoy virtual statehood in their autonomous zone in northern Iraq, which was established after the 1991 Gulf war and formalized following the U.S.-led invasion of 2003. The Kurds boast their own government, parliament and armed forces, and Kurdish flags in the region far outnumber Iraqi ones.

That kind of de facto partition, once rare in the Mideast, has become far more common in the chaos that followed the 2011 Arab Spring.

Here is some background on secession and informal breakups in four Arab nations:



It always seemed to be just a matter of time before the mainly animist and Christian south of Sudan would break away from the Muslim and Arab north of the vast country. In July 2011, South Sudan became the world’s newest nation, following an overwhelmingly “yes” vote in an independence referendum held seven months earlier.

The vote was part of a 2005 peace deal that ended a civil war with heavy ethnic and religious undertones between the north and the south that began in 1983. An earlier civil war in Sudan lasted 17 years.

Now, South Sudan is mired in a new civil war, pitting the members of the Dinka tribe, traditionally South Sudan’s powerhouse, against the Nuer.

The 2011 secession robbed the Khartoum government of most of its energy resources, with many of the oilfields now south of the border. It also has underlined the Arab world’s seeming inability to accept and invest in the diversity of its population. The strong secessionist sentiment in southern Sudan was fueled by the perceived injustices by successive Khartoum governments, discriminating against the southerners and denying them a fair share of the national wealth.



For all practical purposes, Libya has been carved up by rival administrations, one based in the capital of Tripoli and the other in the eastern city of Tobruk. An army general backed by Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and several Western nations is fighting militant Islamic groups in the eastern, central and southern parts of the country as he pursues his goal of uniting Libya under his leadership.

The chaos and lawlessness are the result of the uprising against dictator Moammar Gadhafi that came amid the 2011 Arab Spring. The revolt soon turned into a civil war that resulted in mostly Islamist militias becoming the real source of power, carving up fiefdoms of influence and showing little or no respect for government authority.

The division, underpinned by historical tribal rivalries between eastern and western Libya, has meant minimal popular interaction between the two parts of the oil-rich nation and dual diplomatic representation abroad. Fighting by rival militias over oilfields and export terminals frequently flares up, deepening the country’s instability.



The impoverished nation in the southwest corner of the Arabian Peninsula has always been somewhat chaotic, with the central government wielding weak authority. So when Yemen slipped into its latest civil war in 2014, the country appeared to come unglued easily.

Now, Iranian-backed Shiite rebels and their allies control the capital of Sanaa and much of northern Yemen, while government troops and allied militias are in charge in the south. That division of spheres of influence has in effect carved up the country. The country also has been under a sea, ground and air blockade by a Saudi-led coalition fighting on the government’s side, with Sanaa’s airport closed for more than a year and flights to southern destinations, like Aden, significantly curtailed.

The war also has fueled secessionist sentiment in the south, a region that was an independent, socialist nation until 1990 when it entered a union with the conservative north. Southerners rebelled against the union in 1994, but their forces were crushed by the north.



Syria’s vexingly many-tiered civil war has produced a northeastern enclave controlled by the main Syrian Kurdish party, known as the PYD, which has benefited from a tacit nonaggression pact with President Bashar Assad’s government since the early months of the war in 2011. At the time, the Syrian army withdrew from much of northeastern Syria to battle rebels elsewhere.

The PYD’s armed wing, the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, later expanded that enclave by battling the Islamic State group with the aid of U.S. airstrikes.

The Kurds also drove westward. In August 2016, they captured the town of Manbij, a key Islamic State supply hub west of the Euphrates River. The move triggered a Turkish military intervention in Syria. Ankara sent its troops across the border, effectively severing Kurdish plans to form a contiguous territory stretching along the border from west to east Syria, and pushing them nearly 100 kilometers (60 miles) back from the border.


This story has been corrected to show that the Gulf War was in 1991, not 1990; and that the Syrian town of Manbij was retaken in August 2016, not last month.

Water and some food scarce as Puerto Rico emerges from storm

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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Supermarkets are gradually re-opening in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico but the situation is far from normal and many customers are going home disappointed.

Most food stores and restaurants remain closed. That is largely because power is out for most of the island and few have generators or enough diesel to power them. The shops that were open Monday had long lines outside and vast empty shelves where they once held milk, meat and other perishables. Drinking water was nowhere to be found.

Mercedes Caro shook her head in frustration as she emerged from the SuperMax in the Condado neighborhood of San Juan with a loaf of white bread, cheese and bananas.

“There is no water and practically no food,” she said. “Not even spaghetti.”

Maria Perez waited outside a Pueblo supermarket in a nearby part of San Juan, hoping to buy some coffee, sugar and maybe a little meat to cook with a gas stove that has enough propane for about a week more. “We are in a crisis,” she said. “Puerto Rico is destroyed.”

The fact that some stores and restaurants have re-opened for the first time since Category 4 Hurricane Maria roared across the island Sept. 20 is welcome in a place where nearly everyone has no power and more than half the people don’t have water.

Puerto Ricans are trying to make contact with relatives and friends after Hurricane Maria knocked out power and telephone services. Hundreds of other residents and tourists packed San Juan Airport on Sunday, which is barely functioning. (Sept. 25)

Gov. Ricardo Rossello and other Puerto Rican officials said some ports have been cleared by the Coast Guard to resume accepting ships, which should allow businesses to restock. But the situation remains far from normal.

SuperMax opened on a reduced schedule for several stores in the San Juan area as well as in the hard-hit towns of Caguas and Dorado. Walgreens has reopened about half of its 120 locations in Puerto Rico on a limited basis. Walmart says it has a “handful” of its 48 stores and Sam’s Clubs open but the process has been slowed by the power outages, port closures and the near total collapse of communications.

Two Medinia supermarkets opened in the coastal town of Loiza. But Manager David Guzman said he had to impose restrictions on cooking gas and other products that were running low and might not be restocked soon. “We are restricting so we can give something to everyone, to extend what we have left,” he said.

Therese Casper was among several dozen people waiting for a Walmart in the Santurce section of San Juan to open its doors, but that didn’t happen Monday. She and her husband were looking for something to get rid of all the moisture that had accumulated in the apartment they rented three weeks ago when they moved to Puerto Rico from Denver, Colorado. They have been getting by in their dark, sweltering apartment on instant oatmeal and anything else they can cook on a propane stove as they wait for a flight back home.

“I tell my husband it’s like camping. It’s ‘Survivor’ Puerto Rico,” Casper said. “It’s not what we bargained for.”

Stores are still packed with dozens of brands of shampoo and other consumer products, but those aisles were largely empty as people rushed to buy the basics, using cash sparingly since that is also in short supply and credit card transactions aren’t being processed at all places. Ruth Calderon, a retiree, filled her basket with processed sausages that she planned to cook up with rice and share with an older neighbor who can’t leave her apartment. “I’m surviving,” she said with resignation. “I have what I need.”

Others also described helping neighbors and there are no signs of widespread hunger, at least not yet. “There is a tradition here of people helping each other especially during disasters,” Doris Anglero said as she looked for what was available in an Old San Juan supermarket.

Some disappointed shoppers were also sharply aware that there are others on the island in a worse situation. Caro began to weep as she talked about her four grandchildren in Rincon, the western town that has been largely cut off from aid shipments as well as contact with the outside world. “Not knowing is so hard,” she said, turning to walk off.


Associated Press writer Chris Gillette contributed to this report.

Experts: NKorea lacks ability, intent to attack US planes

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Military analysts say North Korea doesn’t have either the capability or the intent to attack U.S. bombers and fighter jets, despite the country’s top diplomat saying it has every right do so.

They view the remark by North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho and a recent propaganda video simulating such an attack as tit-for-tat responses to fiery rhetoric by U.S. President Donald Trump and his hardening stance against the North’s nuclear weapons program.

By highlighting the possibility of a potential military clash on the Korean Peninsula, North Korea may be trying to create a distraction as it works behind the scenes to advance its nuclear weapons development, said Du Hyeogn Cha, a visiting scholar at Seoul’s Asan Institute for Policy Studies. Another possibility is that North Korea is trying to win space to save face as it contemplates whether to de-escalate its standoff with Washington, he said Tuesday.

Speaking to reporters before leaving a U.N. meeting in New York, Ri said Trump had “declared war” on his country by tweeting that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “won’t be around much longer.” Ri said North Korea has “every right” to take countermeasures, including shooting down U.S. strategic bombers, even when they’re not in North Korean airspace.

The U.S. frequently sends advanced warplanes to the Korean Peninsula for patrols or drills during times of animosity. Last weekend, U.S. bombers and fighter escorts flew in international airspace east of North Korea to the farthest point north of the border between North and South Korea that they have in this century, according to the Pentagon.

Hours after the flights Sunday, a North Korean government propaganda website posted a video portraying U.S. warplanes and an aircraft carrier being destroyed by attacks. The video on DPRK Today, which was patched together from photos and crude computer-generated animation, also included footage of North Korean solid-fuel missiles being fired from land mobile launchers and a submarine. The North was clearly trying to claim it has the ability to conduct retaliatory strikes against U.S. attacks, said Hong Min, an analyst at Seoul’s Korea Institute for National Unification.

Moon Seong Mook, a former South Korean military official and current senior analyst for the Seoul-based Korea Research Institute for National Strategy, said it’s highly unlikely North Korea has the real-world capability to match Ri’s words. North Korea’s aging MiG fighters won’t stance a chance against much more powerful U.S. fighters escorting long-range bombers. And while North Korea touted in May that it’s ready to deploy new surface-to-air missiles that analysts say could potentially hit targets as far as 150 kilometers (93 miles) away, it’s questionable how much of a threat the unproven system could pose to U.S. aircraft operating far off the country’s coast, Moon said.

It’s also unclear whether North Korea would be able to even see the advanced U.S. warplanes when they come. South Korea’s National Intelligence Service told lawmakers in a closed-door briefing on Tuesday that the North’s inadequate radar systems failed to detect the B-1B bombers as they flew east of North Korea.

The last time North Korea fired on a U.S. aircraft was in 1994 when it shot down a U.S. Army helicopter around the heavily armed inter-Korean border, killing one of the pilots and capturing the other. The surviving pilot said after his release he was pressured by North Korean officials to confess that the helicopter had crossed into North Korea. In 1969, a North Korean fighter jet shot down an unarmed U.S. reconnaissance plane and killed all 31 crewmembers on board.

It’s highly unlikely North Korea would attempt a similar attack now, experts say. Amid tension created by the North’s nuclear weapons tests and threat to detonate a thermonuclear missile over the Pacific Ocean, such an attack would pretty much guarantee retaliation from the United States that could lead to war, Cha said.

“The most obvious reason Ri made those comments was because North Korea simply can’t tolerate such high-profile insults to its supreme leadership,” Cha said. It’s also possible that the North is trying to fan concerns about a potential military clash in the region now so that it can win room to save face later when it tries to de-escalate, he said.

“If Kim Jong Un ever offers a moratorium on his missile tests or makes whatever other compromise, he could say made a big-picture decision to reduce military tension in the Korean Peninsula,” Cha said. He said Ri’s comments also allow China and Russian to restate their calls for a “dual suspension” of North Korean weapons tests and displays of military capability by the U.S. and South Korea.

The Trump administration’s stance on North Korea has been hardening in recent months as the North has been stepping up the aggressiveness of its nuclear and missile tests. It conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test on Sept. 3, which it said was a thermonuclear weapon built for intercontinental ballistic missiles. It tested two ICBMs in July, displaying their potential ability to reach deep into the continental United States. North Korea has also fired two powerful midrange missiles over Japan in recent weeks.

Trump in a speech at the United Nations General Assembly last week said the United States would “totally destroy” North Korea if provoked, which prompted Kim to pledge to take the “highest-level” action against the United States. Ri then said North Korea might conduct the “most powerful” atmospheric hydrogen bomb test in the Pacific Ocean, but added that no one knew what Kim would decide.

As senators defect, GOP concedes health bill’s fate bleak

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican Sen. Susan Collins’ decision to oppose the GOP push to repeal President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul leaves the effort all but dead, with even party leaders conceding that their prospects are dismal.

“It’s going to be a heavy lift,” South Dakota Sen. John Thune, the No. 3 GOP Senate leader, said Monday, after Collins joined a small but pivotal cluster of Republicans saying they’re against the measure. He called the prospects “bleak.”

“We don’t have the support for it,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.

The collapse marks a replay of the embarrassing loss President Donald Trump and party leaders suffered in July, when the Senate rejected three attempts to pass legislation erasing Obama’s 2010 statute. The GOP has made promises to scrap the law a high-profile vow for years, and its failure to deliver despite controlling the White House and Congress has infuriated conservatives whose votes Republican candidates need.

To resuscitate their push, Republicans would need to change opposing senators’ minds, which they’ve tried unsuccessfully to do for months. Collins told reporters that she made her decision despite a phone call from Trump, who’s been futilely trying to press unhappy GOP senators to back the measure.

Hundreds of disability rights activists and others opposed to the Republican health care bill stood in line outside the Senate hearing room

Barring a reversal, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., must decide whether to hold a roll call at all.

Three GOP “no” votes would doom the bill. GOP Sens. John McCain of Arizona, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Texas’ Ted Cruz have said they oppose the measure, though Cruz aides said he was seeking changes that would let him vote yes.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, remains undecided. Murkowski, who voted against the failed GOP bills in July, has said she’s analyzing the measure’s impact on her state, where medical costs are high.

This was the last week Republicans had any chance of prevailing with their narrow 52-48 Senate margin. Next Sunday, protections expire against a Democratic filibuster, bill-killing delays that Republicans lack the votes to overcome.

Republicans had pinned their last hopes on a measure by GOP Sens. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham. It would end Obama’s Medicaid expansion and subsidies for consumers and ship the money — $1.2 trillion through 2026 — to states to use on health services with few constraints.

Collins announced her decision shortly after the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said “millions” of Americans would lose coverage under the bill and projected it would impose $1 trillion in Medicaid cuts through 2026.

The Maine moderate said in a statement that the legislation would make “devastating” cuts in the Medicaid program for poor and disabled people, drive up premiums for millions and weaken protections Obama’s law gives people with pre-existing medical conditions. She said the legislation is “deeply flawed,” despite eleventh-hour changes its sponsors have made in search of support.

Desperate to win over reluctant senators, GOP leaders revised the measure several times, adding money late Sunday for Alaska, Arizona, Maine, Kentucky and Texas in a clear pitch for Republican holdouts. They also gave states the ability — without federal permission — to permit insurers to charge people with serious illnesses higher premiums and to sell low-premium policies with big coverage gaps and high deductibles.

Loud protesters forced the Senate Finance Committee to briefly delay the chamber’s first and only hearing on the charged issue. Police lugged some demonstrators out of the hearing room and trundled out others in wheelchairs as scores chanted, “No cuts to Medicaid, save our liberty.”

On Monday, Trump took on McCain, who’d returned to the Senate after a brain cancer diagnosis in July to cast the key vote that wrecked this summer’s effort. Trump called that “a tremendous slap in the face of the Republican Party” in a call to the “Rick & Bubba Show,” an Alabama-based talk radio program.

Cassidy and Graham defended their bill before the Finance committee.

“I don’t need a lecture from anybody about health care,” Graham told the panel’s Democrats. Referring to Obama’s overhaul, he added, “What you have created isn’t working.”

Also testifying was Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, who learned earlier this year that she has kidney cancer.

She said colleagues and others have helped her battle the disease with compassion, saying, “Sadly, this is not in this bill.”


Associated Press Washington bureau chief Julie Pace, and writers Andrew Taylor, Richard Lardner, Laurie Kellman, Ken Thomas and Erica Werner contributed to this report.

Business: Global stocks lower as investors watch US-N. Korea tensions

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BEIJING (AP) — Global stocks declined Tuesday as investors watched U.S.-North Korean tensions and looked ahead to a speech by the American central bank chief.

KEEPING SCORE: In early trading, London’s FTSE 100 fell 0.2 percent to 7,282.99 and Germany’s DAX lost 0.1 percent to 12,576.42. France’s CAC 40 shed 0.1 percent to 5,259.49. On Monday, the CAC 40 lost 0.3 percent, the FTSE 100 dipped 0.1 percent and the DAX was little-changed. On Wall Street, futures for the Dow Jones industrial average and the Standard & Poor’s 500 were down 0.1 percent.

ASIA’S DAY: Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 lost 0.3 percent to 20,330.19 and the Shanghai Composite Index was unchanged at 3,343.58. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng gained just under 0.1 percent to 27,517.13 and Sydney’s S&P-ASX 200 lost 0.2 percent to 5,671.00. India’s Sensex shed 0.3 percent to 31,535.50 and Seoul’s Kospi declined 0.3 percent to 2,374.32. Benchmarks in Bangkok and New Zealand rose while other Southeast Asian markets declined.

WALL STREET: Losses for technology stocks overshadowed gains in other areas to send broad U.S. indexes lower. Tech stocks in the Standard & Poor’s index lost 1.4 percent — more than three times the loss of any of the other 10 sectors that make up the index. Facebook fell 4.5 percent, Nvidia lost 4.5 percent and video-game developer Electronic Arts lost 3.6 percent. The S&P dropped 0.2 percent to 2,496.66. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 0.2 percent to 22,296.09 and the Nasdaq composite dropped 0.9 percent to 6,370.59.

NORTH KOREA: Investors looked for safe havens for their money after North Korea’s top diplomat said a weekend tweet by President Donald Trump was a “declaration of war” and North Korea has the right to shoot down U.S. bombers. Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho said by tweeting that North Korea’s leadership led by Kim Jong Un “won’t be around much longer,” Trump “declared the war on our country.” The White House pushed back on Ri’s claim, saying, “We have not declared war on North Korea.”

ANALYST’S TAKE: “If this goes the way of all other such spells of risk off, we will have a couple of days of this safe-haven seeking, and then all will go quiet, and markets will quickly return to normal,” Rob Carnell of ING said in a report.

FED WATCH: Investors looked ahead to a speech by Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen on inflation and monetary policy. Investors are also waiting to hear more details about Trump’s plans to cut taxes. In speeches this week, Vice Chairman William C. Dudley said the Fed still had a case for another interest rate hike, while board members Neel Kashkari and Charles Evans said it needed to give inflation more time.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude lost 22 cents to $52.00 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract soared $1.56 on Monday to close at $52.22. Brent crude, used to price international oils, declined 33 cents to $58.10 in London. It jumped $2.01 the previous session to $58.43.

CURRENCY: The dollar edged up to 111.70 yen from Monday’s 111.69. The euro declined to $1.1811 from $1.1847.

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