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Impeachment going public: Hearings next week for all to see

Democrats announced Wednesday they will launch public impeachment hearings next week, intending to bring to life weeks of closed-door testimony and lay out a convincing narrative of presidential misconduct by Donald Trump .

First to testify will be William Taylor, the top diplomat in Ukraine, who has relayed in private his understanding that there was a blatant quid pro quo with Trump holding up military aid to a U.S. ally facing threats from its giant neighbor Russia.

That aid, at the heart of the impeachment inquiry, is alleged to have been held hostage until Ukraine agreed to investigate political foe Joe Biden and the idea, out of the mainstream of U.S. intelligence findings, that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 U.S. election.

The testimony of Taylor a career envoy and war veteran with 50 years of service to the U.S., is what Democrats want Americans to hear first.

Taylor has told investigators about an "irregular channel" that the president's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, set up for Ukraine diplomacy, and how the White House was holding up the military aid, according to a transcript of his closed-door interview released Wednesday.

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Deadly ambush shows Mexico lost control of area

When drug cartel gunmen opened fire on American women and children in northern Mexico, the Mexican Army, the National Guard and Sonora state police were not there to protect them. It took them about eight hours just to arrive.

To villagers and others, the bloodshed seemed to demonstrate once more that the government has lost control over vast areas of the country to the drug traffickers.

"The country is suffering very much from violence," said William Stubbs, a pecan and alfalfa farmer who serves on a community security committee in the American-dominated hamlet of Colonia LeBaron. "You see it all over. And it ain't getting better. It's getting worse."

The lack of law enforcement in rural areas like the northern states of Chihuahua and Sonora once led the dual U.S.-Mexican residents of places like Colonia LeBaron to form their own civilian defense patrols.

Stubbs said that after the 2009 killing of anti-crime activist Benjamin LeBaron, residents positioned themselves each night for two years with high-powered binoculars to keep watch from the large "L'' for "LeBaron" that stands on a hillside above the town.

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AP sources: Jeff Sessions to announce Alabama Senate bid

Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions will announce that he is entering the race for his old U.S. Senate seat in Alabama, two Republicans with direct knowledge of his plans said Wednesday.

Sessions, 72, will be making a return to the political stage a year after stepping down as President Donald Trump's first attorney general when their relationship soured over his recusal from the Russia investigation.

The two Republicans confirmed to The Associated Press that Sessions is expected to announce his candidacy Thursday. They were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. They said Sessions has not spoken to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell about it, nor has he informed Trump of his decision.

The longtime senator's candidacy upends the 2020 Republican primary, which has a crowded field competing to challenge Democratic Sen. Doug Jones for the once reliably red seat.

Some GOP primary rivals wasted no time going on the offensive.

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Trump works up a sweat at Louisiana campaign rally

President Donald Trump worked up a sweat in a steamy Louisiana arena Wednesday night as he attempted to boost Republican businessman Eddie Rispone's effort to unseat incumbent Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards in the nation's last governor's race of the year.

"It may be 120 degrees in this room," Trump told the crowd at the end of a rally in the northeastern Louisiana city of Monroe.

"Somebody is saving on air conditioning," Trump joked. "That's all right. You've always got to save a little money. You go home and you lose about nine pounds and you say, 'What happened?'"

The gubernatorial runoff election in Louisiana offers Trump an opportunity to pick up a win in a rare Democratic-held governor's seat in the Deep South and change the narrative after a pair of apparent setbacks this week for the Republican party in Kentucky and Virginia.

"You're going out to replace a radical, liberal Democrat as your governor," Trump said. "John Bel Edwards has not done the job."

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China sentences 3 in fentanyl trafficking case after US tip

A Chinese court sentenced three fentanyl traffickers Thursday in a case that was a culmination of a rare collaboration between Chinese and U.S. law enforcement to crack down on global networks that manufacture and distribute lethal synthetic opioids.

Liu Yong was sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve, while Jiang Juhua and Wang Fengxi were sentenced to life in prison. Six other members of the operation got lesser sentences.

Working off a 2017 tip from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Chinese police busted a drug ring based in the northern Chinese city of Xingtai that shipped synthetic drugs to the U.S. and other countries from a gritty clandestine laboratory.

Liu had been accused of manufacturing and trafficking synthetic drugs from the lab in eastern China's Jiangsu province. Death sentences are almost always commuted to life in prison after the reprieve.

U.S. officials say China's vast chemicals industry is the main source of illicit fentanyl. Chinese officials deny that, blaming greedy pharmaceutical companies, lax regulation, and out-of-control demand as the reasons America has an opioid abuse crisis.

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US: Saudis recruited Twitter workers to spy on critics

The Saudi government, frustrated by growing criticism of its leaders and policies on social media, recruited two Twitter employees to gather confidential personal information on thousands of accounts that included prominent opponents, prosecutors alleged Wednesday.

The complaint unsealed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco detailed a coordinated effort by Saudi government officials to recruit employees at the social media giant to look up the private data of Twitter accounts, including email addresses linked to the accounts and internet protocol addresses that can give up a user's location.

The accounts included those of a popular critic of the government with more than 1 million followers and a news personality. Neither was named.

The complaint also alleged that the employees — whose jobs did not require access to Twitter users' private information — were rewarded with a designer watch and tens of thousands of dollars funneled into secret bank accounts. Ahmad Abouammo, a U.S. citizen, and Ali Alzabarah, a Saudi citizen, were charged with acting as agents of Saudi Arabia without registering with the U.S. government.

The Saudi government had no immediate comment through its embassy in Washington. Its state-run media did not immediately acknowledge the charges.

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Removing King's name in Kansas City opens wounds, discussion

Kansas City leaders and residents on Wednesday began what is likely to be a challenging conversation about how to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and recover from wounds inflicted during a nearly yearlong debate over naming a street for the civil rights icon in the majority white city.

On Tuesday, Kansas City voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure to rename a 10-mile boulevard from King's name back to The Paseo, which it has been called since it was completed in 1899. The vote came less than a year after the city council approved renaming the boulevard for King, after years of advocacy from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and mostly black civic leaders.

Representatives from both sides of the issue vowed Wednesday to find another way to honor King and perhaps show other cities how to peacefully unify around the issue.

Diane Euston, a spokeswoman for the "Save the Paseo" group that led the successful petition drive, said the group has been brainstorming for months about ways to honor King if the ballot measure passed, and in a meeting last week with Mayor Quinton Lucas, who strongly supported the King name, members made it clear they intend to be part of that conversation.

"I believe we are going to take positive strides," she said. "We can in the long run be an example across the nation about what unity is going to look like, what consensus looks like. The people have spoken, and people need to continue to speak in a positive manner in order to show Kansas City is an example of the democratic process while continuing to ensure we honor Martin Luther King."

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Migrants live in fear at Mexico-US border as violence flares

A Salvadoran woman seeking asylum in the United States spends her days holed up in her cousin's cramped slum house just across the border in Mexico — too scared to leave after receiving a savage beating from two men three weeks ago while she was strolling home from a convenience store.

The assault came after she spent four months in captivity in Mexico, kidnapped into prostitution during her journey toward the U.S.

The woman, 31, is among 55,000 migrants who have been returned to Mexico by the Trump administration to wait for their cases to wind through backlogged immigration courts. Her situation offers a glimpse into some of the program's problems.

Critics have said the administration's policy denies asylum seekers like the Salvadoran woman fair and humane treatment, forcing them to wait in a country plagued by drug-fueled violence — illustrated this week by the slaughter near the U.S. border of six children and three women . All were U.S. citizens living in Mexico.

The Trump administration insists that the program is a safe alternative in collaboration with the government of Mexico, even as the president vows to wage war on drug cartels that are a dominant presence in the dangerous border cities where migrants are forced to wait.

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Trump plows ahead despite fresh signs of trouble in 2020

President Donald Trump and his supporters insisted on Wednesday that no course correction is needed despite stinging Republican defeats in battleground suburbs and a Democrat on the verge of victory in the governor's race in deep-red Kentucky.

But the blue wave that swept through the suburbs in 2018 and gave Democrats control of the U.S. House barreled through communities outside Philadelphia, Washington and Cincinnati on Tuesday, sending a clear signal that Trump faces potential trouble in areas that have generally sided with Republicans for decades. Voters — many of them Democrats — participated at levels rarely seen in years when control of Congress or the White House isn't at stake.

In Kentucky, turnout was up by nearly 50% from 2015, when the state last held a governor's race. Turnout was higher for both parties, but the increases were much more dramatic for Democratic challenger Andy Beshear. Some of the biggest increases were in the counties where Beshear fared best, particularly in Jefferson County, home to Louisville, and Fayette County, which encompasses Lexington. Meanwhile, the counties where incumbent Republican Gov. Matt Bevin did best underperformed compared with Democratic counties.

More than twice as many people in Virginia voted in state legislative races than in the last similar election four years ago.

With nearly a year until the presidential election, there is a risk of drawing firm conclusions about the meaning of Tuesday's results. But coming amid an intensifying impeachment inquiry, they raise questions about Trump's ability to help other Republicans across the finish line. At a minimum, some GOP strategists say the party needs to confront its eroding support in the suburbs.

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A CGI James Dean is cast in new film, sparking an outcry

James Dean hasn't been alive in 64 years, but the "Rebel Without a Cause" actor has been cast in a new film about the Vietnam War.

The filmmakers behind the independent film "Finding Jack" said Wednesday that a computer-generated Dean will play a co-starring role in the upcoming production. The digital Dean is to be assembled through old footage and photos and voiced by another actor.

Digitally manipulated posthumous performances have made some inroads into films. But those have been largely roles the actors already played, including Carrie Fisher and Peter Cushing, who first appeared together in "Star Wars" and were prominently featured in the 2016 spinoff "Rogue One."

But the prospect of one of the movies' most beloved former stars being digitally resurrected was met with widespread criticism after the news was first reported by The Hollywood Reporter . Chris Evans , the "Captain America" actor, was among those who called the plans disrespectful and wrongheaded.

"Maybe we can get a computer to paint us a new Picasso. Or write a couple new John Lennon tunes," said Evans on Twitter. "The complete lack of understanding here is shameful."

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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