AP News in Brief at 12:04 a.m. EST
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AP News in Brief at 12:04 a.m. EST

‘Empire’ actor goes from victim to accused felon in 3 weeks

CHICAGO (AP) — The whispers about “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett started with reports that he had not fully co-operated with police after telling authorities he was attacked in Chicago by two men who hurled racist, anti-gay slurs and looped a rope around his neck.

Then detectives in a city bristling with surveillance cameras could not find video of the beating. Later, two brothers were taken into custody for questioning but were released after two days, with police saying they were no longer suspects.

Following three weeks of mounting suspicions, Smollett was charged Wednesday with making a false police report, a charge that could bring up to three years in prison and force the actor, who is black and gay, to pay for the cost of the investigation into his report of a Jan. 29 beating.

In less than a month, the 36-year-old changed from being the seemingly sympathetic victim of a hate crime to being accused of fabricating the entire thing.

Police tried Wednesday evening to get in touch with Smollett’s attorneys to negotiate his surrender. Officers did not have a time frame for how long the actor would be given.

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Democrats’ resolution against Trump emergency coming Friday

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Democrats will file a resolution Friday aimed at blocking the national emergency declaration that President Donald Trump has issued to help finance his wall along the Southwest border, teeing up a clash over billions of dollars, immigration policy and the Constitution’s separation of powers.

Though the effort seems almost certain to ultimately fall short — perhaps to a Trump veto — the votes will let Democrats take a defiant stance against Trump that is sure to please liberal voters. They will also put some Republicans from swing districts and states in a difficult spot.

Formally introducing the measure sets up a vote by the full House likely by mid-March, perhaps as soon as next week, because of a timeline spelled out by law. Initial passage by the Democratic-run House seems assured.

The measure would then move to the Republican-controlled Senate, where there may be enough GOP defections for approval. The law that spells out the rules for emergency declarations seems to require the Senate to address the issue too, but there’s never been a congressional effort to block one and some procedural uncertainties remain.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., seemed to predict approval, telling colleagues in a letter that her chamber will “move swiftly” to pass it and “the resolution will be referred to the Senate and then sent to the President’s desk.”

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Feds: Coast Guard lieutenant compiled hit list of lawmakers

WASHINGTON (AP) — A Coast Guard lieutenant who was arrested last week is a “domestic terrorist” who drafted an email discussing biological attacks and had what appeared to be a hit list that included prominent Democrats and media figures, prosecutors said in court papers.

Christopher Paul Hasson is due to appear Thursday in federal court in Maryland after his arrest on gun and drug offences, but prosecutors say those charges are the “proverbial tip of the iceberg.”

“The defendant is a domestic terrorist, bent on committing acts dangerous to human life that are intended to affect governmental conduct,” prosecutors wrote in court papers .

Hasson, who works at the Coast Guard’s headquarters in Washington, has espoused extremist views for years, according to prosecutors. Court papers detail a June 2017 draft email in which Hasson wrote that he was “dreaming of a way to kill almost every last person on the earth,” and pondering how he might be able to acquire anthrax and toxins to create botulism or a deadly influenza.

In the same email, Hasson described an “interesting idea” that included “biological attacks followed by attack on food supply” as well as a bombing and sniper attacks, according to court documents filed by prosecutors.

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US: Alabama woman who joined Islamic State is not a citizen

WASHINGTON (AP) — An Alabama woman who joined the Islamic State group in Syria won’t be allowed to return to the United States with her toddler son because she is not an American citizen, the U.S. said Wednesday. Her lawyer is challenging that claim.

In a brief statement, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave no details as to how the administration made their determination.

“Ms. Hoda Muthana is not a U.S. citizen and will not be admitted into the United States,” he said. “She does not have any legal basis, no valid U.S. passport, no right to a passport nor any visa to travel to the United States.”

But Hassan Shibly, a lawyer for the woman, insisted Muthana was born in the United States and had a valid passport before she joined the Islamic State in 2014. He says she has renounced the terrorist group and wants to come home to protect her 18-month-old son regardless of the legal consequences.

“She’s an American. Americans break the law,” said Shibly, a lawyer with the Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “When people break the law, we have a legal system to handle those kinds of situations to hold people accountable, and that’s all she’s asking for.”

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Fire in old part of Bangladesh’s capital kills at least 70

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — A devastating fire raced through densely packed buildings in an old part of Bangladesh’s capital and killed at least 70 people, officials and witnesses said Thursday.

The fire in Dhaka was mostly under control after more than nine hours of frantic efforts by firefighters. Some of the about 50 people injured were critically burned.

The Chawkbazar area is crammed with buildings separated by narrow alleys. The neighbourhood is a mix of residential and commercial, with buildings that commonly have shops, restaurants or warehouses on the ground floors.

The blaze started late Wednesday night in one building but quickly spread to others, fire department Director General Brig. Gen. Ali Ahmed said.

The death toll rose to 70, with many of the victims trapped inside the buildings, said Mahfuz Riben, a control room official of the Fire Service and Civil Defence in Dhaka.

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Climate threat doubter is leading effort to advise Trump

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration is exploring the idea of forming a special committee to look at climate change and security risks, with the effort being co-ordinated by a 79-year-old physicist who rejects mainstream climate science.

A “discussion paper” obtained by The Associated Press asks federal officials from an array of government agencies to weigh in on a proposed executive order that President Donald Trump would sign establishing the “Presidential Committee on Climate Security.”

A memo to those federal officials asks them to direct any questions to William Happer, a member of Trump’s National Security Council and a well-known critic of mainstream climate science findings.

“Happer would be a fringe figure even for climate skeptics,” said retired U.S. Navy Rear Adm. David Titley, now a professor of meteorology at Pennsylvania State University.

Several climate scientists agreed with Titley, including Georgia Tech’s Kim Cobb, who said Happer’s “false, unscientific notions about climate change represent a danger to the American people.”

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Authorities announce Houston officer case review, FBI probe

HOUSTON (AP) — Prosecutors will review more than 1,400 criminal cases that involved a Houston officer who the police chief has accused of lying in an affidavit justifying a drug raid on a home in which officers shot and killed two residents, authorities said Wednesday.

The FBI also announced that it is opening an investigation to determine whether any civil rights were violated as a result of the raid and shooting last month.

Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said at a news conference that he welcomed the FBI investigation “in the spirit of transparency.”

Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said her office’s review will look at cases spanning decades that involved Officer Gerald Goines, a 30-year department veteran. Twenty-seven of those cases are active.

“Although the criminal investigation of Officer Goines is ongoing, we have an immediate ethical obligation to notify defendants and their lawyers in Goines’ other cases to give them an opportunity to independently review any potential defences,” Ogg said in a statement.

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Lawyers for El Chapo concerned by juror misconduct claims

NEW YORK (AP) — El Chapo’s lawyers raised concerns of potential juror misconduct and were reviewing their options Wednesday after a member of the jury at the Mexican drug lord’s trial told a news website that several jurors looked at media coverage of the case.

The juror told VICE News that at least five members of the jury at Joaquin Guzman’s trial followed news reports and Twitter feeds about the case, against a judge’s orders, and were aware of potentially prejudicial material that jurors weren’t supposed to see.

Guzman, 61, was convicted Feb. 12 on drug and conspiracy charges that could put him behind bars for the rest of his life. Jurors deliberated for six days after three months of testimony. He is set to be sentenced in June.

Guzman’s lawyer, Eduardo Balarezo, said the issues of potential juror misconduct raised in the VICE article “are deeply concerning and distressing.”

“The juror’s allegations of the jury’s repeated and widespread disregard and contempt for the Court’s instructions, if true, make it clear that Joaquin did not get a fair trial,” Balarezo said in a statement. “We will review all available options before deciding on a course of action.”

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Samsung folding phone is different – but also almost $2,000

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Samsung unveiled a highly anticipated smartphone with a foldable screen in an attempt to break the innovation funk that has beset the smartphone market.

But it’s far from clear that consumers will embrace a device that retails for almost $2,000, or that it will provide the creative catalyst the smartphone market needs.

The Galaxy Fold, announced Wednesday in San Francisco, will sell for $1,980 when it is released April 26.

Consumers willing to pay that hefty price will get a device that can unfold like a wallet. It can work like a traditional smartphone with a 4.6 inch screen or morph into something more like a mini-tablet with a 7.3 inch screen.

When fully unfolded, the device will be able to simultaneously run three different apps on the screen. The Galaxy Fold will also boast six cameras: three in the back, two on the inside and one on the front.

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Khloe Kardashian bestie Malika Haqq fierce on cheating front

NEW YORK (AP) — Who’s the best wing woman on the planet? That would be Malika Haqq.

The Khloe Kardashian bestie has taken to social media amid a swirl of rumours that Tristan Thompson has cheated again, this time reportedly making out at a Los Angeles house party last weekend with Jordyn Woods.

The 21-year-old Woods is — was? — Kardashian sister Kylie Jenner’s oldest and dearest friend who may or may not still live in Jenner’s mansion after Tuesday’s bombshell reports by the celebrity sites TMZ and Hollywood Unlocked, among others.

On Instagram, Haqq commented “STRONG FACTS” after the house-party session broke. Kardashian herself, or at least Kardashian’s verified Instagram account, posted a string of eight gossipy speaking head emojis soon after on the same thread, but Khloe has yet to actually comment. Emojis and all-caps friend defences are more than the usual in the immediate aftermath of things gone wrong in K-world.

A Khloe Kardashian representative, for the record, did not immediately return an email Wednesday. Thompson too has been mum.

The Associated Press

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