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

Massive fire engulfs beloved Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris

PARIS (AP) — A massive fire swept across the top of Paris’ soaring Notre Dame Cathedral as it was undergoing renovations Monday, collapsing its spire and threatening one of the world’s greatest architectural treasures as tourists and Parisians looked on aghast from the streets below.

The French president pledged to rebuild a cathedral that he called “a part of us,” and appealed for national and international help to do so. The 12th-century church is home to relics, stained glass and other incalculable works of art and is a leading global tourist attraction, immortalized by Victor Hugo’s 1831 novel “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.”

The Paris prosecutor’s office said it was treating the fire as an accident, ruling out arson and possible terror-related motives, at least for now. French media quoted the Paris fire brigade as saying the fire was “potentially linked” to a 6 million-euro ($6.8 million) renovation project on the church’s spire and its 500 tons of wood and 250 tons of lead.

Despite the dramatic image of the flaming cathedral, no one was killed. One firefighter was injured, among some 400 who struggled against the flames for hours before finally extinguishing them. Firefighters continued working through the night to cool the building and secure the monument, as residual sparks sprinkled down from the gaping hole where the spire used to be.

The blaze started at 6:50 p.m. after it had closed to the public, and spread to one of the cathedral’s landmark rectangular towers.

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Notre Dame hailed as monument to the ‘best of civilization’

NEW YORK (AP) — Notre Dame, a survivor of wars and revolutions, has stood for centuries as not merely the greatest of the Gothic cathedrals and a towering jewel of Western architecture.

It has stood, in the words of one shell-shocked art expert, as “one of the great monuments to the best of civilization.”

And so it was that across the globe Monday, a stunned and helpless art world wept alongside the people of France as a massive fire ravaged the beloved cathedral.

“Civilization is just so fragile,” said Barbara Drake Boehm, senior curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s medieval Cloisters branch in New York, her voice shaking as she tried to put into words what the cathedral meant. “This great hulking monument of stone has been there since 1163. It’s come through so many trials.”

“It’s not one relic, not one piece of glass — it’s the totality,” she said, struggling to find words expansive enough to describe the cathedral’s significance. “It’s the very soul of Paris, but it’s not just for French people. For all humanity, it’s one of the great monuments to the best of civilization.”

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Redaction nation: US history brims with partial deletions

NEW YORK (AP) — Somewhere in the shadows of federal bureaucracy, there was an issue about the drinking habits of Augusto Pinochet.

The National Security Archive, an advocate for open government, had for years tried to gain access to intelligence files about the Chilean dictator, his human rights abuses and his ties to the United States. In 2003, the Defence Intelligence Agency declassified documents that included a biographical sketch of Pinochet assembled in 1975, two years after he seized power. Parts of the sketch had been blacked out, “redacted,” for national security. The archive had no trouble discovering that the missing information included Pinochet’s liking for scotch and pisco sours.

“The sketch been published in full by the government in 1999,” notes Tom Blanton, director of the archive. But, he says, “all it takes to change that is a single objection.”

The censoring of government reports isn’t new, but since Robert Mueller turned in his report last month on alleged ties between Russian officials and Donald Trump presidential campaign, “redacted” has joined “collusion” and “obstruction” as a national buzzword. Attorney General William Barr’s announcement that he would release a “redacted” version of Mueller’s findings, expected Thursday, will likely set off a long debate over what’s behind the darkened blotches.

Barr’s stated guidelines range from protecting intelligence sources to the privacy of those not under investigation. But over the past few decades, the government has redacted everything from the most sensitive information to the most harmless trivia.

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Trump ups his attacks with Mueller report due Thursday

WASHINGTON (AP) — The president isn’t waiting. As Washington counts down the final hours until publication of the redacted special counsel report — now expected Thursday — Donald Trump stepped up his attacks Monday in an effort to undermine potential disclosures on Russia, his 2016 campaign and the aftermath.

He unleashed a series of tweets focusing on the previously released summary of special counsel Robert Mueller’s conclusions — including a crucial one on obstruction of justice that Trump again misrepresented — produced by Attorney General William Barr.

“Mueller, and the A.G. based on Mueller findings (and great intelligence), have already ruled No Collusion, No Obstruction,” Trump tweeted. “These were crimes committed by Crooked Hillary, the DNC, Dirty Cops and others! INVESTIGATE THE INVESTIGATORS!”

Press Secretary Sarah Sanders repeatedly tried to make the same case on TV talk shows on Sunday. But the political battle is far from finished over the special counsel’s investigation of Russian efforts to help Trump in 2016 and whether there was co-operation with his campaign.

Democrats are calling for Mueller himself to testify before Congress and have expressed concern that Barr will order unnecessary censoring of the report to protect the president. The House Judiciary Committee, led by Rep. Jerry Nadler of New York, is poised to try to compel Barr to turn over an unredacted copy as well as the report’s underlying investigative files.

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Trump targets legal, illegal immigration in latest push

WASHINGTON (AP) — Top administration officials have been discussing ways to increase pressure on countries with high numbers of citizens who overstay short-term visas, as part of President Donald Trump’s growing focus on immigration heading into his re-election campaign.

The administration could introduce new travel restrictions on nationals from those countries, according to two people familiar with the plans who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to disclose private conversations.

The idea, which was first reported by The Wall Street Journal, is just one of many under discussion by an administration that is increasingly desperate to satisfy a president who has been angry about the influx of migrants at the border as he tries to make good on his 2016 campaign promises and energize his base going into 2020.

The ideas have ranged from the extreme — including Trump’s threat to shut down the southern border and consideration of again separating children from parents — to more subtle tweaks to the legal immigration system, including efforts to clamp down on visa overstays, which, according to the nonpartisan Center for Migration Studies, exceed illegal border crossings. Plans are also in the works to have border patrol agents conduct initial interviews to determine whether migrants seeking asylum have a “credible fear” of returning to their homelands. Border patrol agents are the first officials who come into contact with migrants, and the thinking is that they’ll be less sympathetic than asylum officers. And officials have been considering raising asylum standards and changing the court system so that the last people in are the first to have their cases adjudicated. Some of the ideas have been proposed, rejected and then proposed again.

The administration has also been weighing targeting the remittance payments sent home by people living in the country illegally. And White House aide Stephen Miller in particular has been pushing Homeland Security officials to move forward with plans to punish immigrants in the country legally for using public benefits, such as food stamps.

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AP journalists win Pulitzer for coverage of Yemen civil war

NEW YORK (AP) — A team of three Associated Press journalists won a Pulitzer Prize in international reporting Monday for their work documenting torture, graft and starvation in Yemen’s brutal civil war.

Reporter Maggie Michael, photographer Nariman El-Mofty and video journalist Maad al-Zikry spent a year uncovering atrocities and suffering in Yemen, shining a light on a conflict largely ignored by the American public.

In a series of stories, they told of how famished people in parts of Yemen were reduced to eating leaves to stay alive while corrupt officials diverted international food aid.

Their reports documented civilian casualties of a U.S. drone campaign, drew attention to the presence of child soldiers on the front lines and showed evidence of torture by both Houthi rebels and U.S.-backed forces . For one report, Michael managed to interview seven torture victims while they were still being held prisoner.

Their images and stories, gathered at times under dangerous conditions, made a difference.

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Bernie Sanders releases 10 years of long-awaited tax returns

WASHINGTON (AP) — Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders on Monday released 10 years of his long-anticipated tax returns as he campaigns for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

The returns provide a more detailed look at Sanders’ finances than when he ran for president in 2016. The release also confirms that Sanders’ income crossed the $1 million threshold in 2016 and 2017, though he reported less earnings in his most recent return.

His 2018 return reveals that he and his wife, Jane, earned more than $550,000, including $133,000 in income from his Senate salary and $391,000 in sales of his book, “Our Revolution: A Future to Believe In.” Sanders’ campaign said in a news release that he paid 26% effective tax rate in 2018.

During his first presidential bid, Sanders released just one year of his tax returns despite primary rival Hillary Clinton pushing him to follow her lead and release multiple years of tax information. He declined to do so, disclosing only his tax return for 2014. Tax transparency has been in the spotlight as Donald Trump bucks decades of presidential tradition by declining to show voters his tax filings and House Democrats seek to force him to turn them over.

During a Fox News Channel town hall on Monday, Sanders said that he’d increased his income by publishing a book — he’s written two with campaign themes — and that he wouldn’t apologize for that. He also challenged Trump to release his tax returns.

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Loughlin, Giannulli plead not guilty in college bribery scam

BOSTON (AP) — “Full House” actress Lori Loughlin and her fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli, pleaded not guilty Monday to charges that they paid $500,000 in bribes to get their daughters into the University of Southern California.

The couple is among 50 prominent parents, athletic coaches and others charged in a sweeping college admissions bribery scam that has embroiled elite school across the country, such as Stanford, Georgetown and Yale.

Loughlin and Giannulli filed court documents Monday waiving their right to appear for an arraignment and entering not guilty pleas to the two charges against them. The judge granted their requests, meaning they will not have to show up at Boston’s federal court to be arraigned.

Thirty-three wealthy parents were charged last month in what authorities have called the biggest college admissions case ever prosecuted by the Justice Department. They are accused of paying admissions consultant Rick Singer to rig standardized test scores and bribe college coaches and other insiders to get their children into selective schools.

Loughlin and Giannulli are charged with paying bribes to have their daughters designated as crew recruits to USC, even though neither of them is a rower. Authorities say Loughlin and Giannulli helped create fake athletic profiles for the teens by sending Singer photos of their teens posing on rowing machines.

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US measles count up to 555, with most new cases in New York

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. measles cases have surged again, and are on pace to set a record for most illnesses in 25 years.

Health officials on Monday said 555 measles cases have been confirmed so far this year, up from 465 as of a week ago.

While 20 states have reported cases, New York has been the epicenter. Nearly two-thirds of all cases have been in New York, and 85% of the latest week’s cases came from the state. Most of the New York cases have been unvaccinated people in Orthodox Jewish communities.

The 2019 tally is already the most since 2014, when 667 were reported. The most before that was 963 cases in 1994.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all children get two doses of measles vaccine, which is 97% effective.

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‘Mary Tyler Moore Show’ actress Georgia Engel dies at 70

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Georgia Engel, who played the charmingly innocent, small-voiced Georgette on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and amassed a string of other TV and stage credits, has died. She was 70.

Engel died Friday in Princeton, New Jersey, said her friend and executor, John Quilty. The cause of death was unknown because she was a Christian Scientist and didn’t see doctors, Quilty said Monday.

Engel was best known for her role as Georgette on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” whose character was improbably destined to marry pompous anchorman Ted Baxter, played by Ted Knight.

Engel also had recurring roles on “Everybody Loves Raymond” and “Hot in Cleveland.” She was a five-time Emmy nominee, receiving two nods for the late Moore’s show and three for “Everybody Loves Raymond.”

Engel’s prolific career included guest appearances on a variety of shows, including “The Love Boat,” ”Fantasy Island,” ”Coach” and “Two and a Half Men.” Her “Hot in Cleveland” role reunited her with Betty White, her co-star in “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”

The Associated Press

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