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

100s of protesters surround Hong Kong HQ before bill debate

HONG KONG (AP) — Hundreds of protesters surrounded government headquarters in Hong Kong on Wednesday as the administration prepared to open debate on a highly controversial extradition law that would allow accused people to be sent to China for trial.

The overwhelmingly young crowd of demonstrators overturned barriers and tussled with police as they sought to enter government headquarters and offices of the Legislative Council.

Under its “one country, two systems” framework, Hong Kong was guaranteed the right to retain its own social, legal and political systems for 50 years following its handover from British rule in 1997. However, China’s ruling Communist Party has been seen as increasingly reneging on that agreement by forcing through unpopular legal changes.

The government pushed ahead with plans to present the amendments to the legislature on Wednesday despite a weekend protest by hundreds of thousands of people that was the territory’s largest political demonstration in more than a decade. A crowd began gathering outside the Legislative Council on Tuesday night, and U.S. Consulate is warning people to avoid the area, exercise caution and keep a low profile. Some businesses decided to close for the day, and while labour strikes and class boycotts have also been called, it wasn’t immediately clear if those were widely heeded.

The legislation has become a lightning rod for concerns about Beijing’s increasing control over the semi-autonomous territory.

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Trump, Biden trade barbs amid dueling Iowa campaign visits

MOUNT PLEASANT, Iowa (AP) — President Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden spent Tuesday trading insults — sometimes almost simultaneously— as they stumped across Iowa in split-screen moments that could preview a ferocious fight ahead if the two face off for the presidency next year.

The back and forth laid bare the rising political stakes for each man, even with the election about 17 months away. Trump has zeroed in on Biden as a potential threat to his reelection chances and is testing themes to beat him back. Biden, meanwhile, is campaigning as a front-runner, relishing the one-on-one fight with Trump while making sure he doesn’t ignore the demands of the Democratic primary.

“People don’t respect him,” Trump said after touring a renewable energy facility in Council Bluffs. “Even the people that he’s running against, they’re saying: ‘Where is he? What happened?'”

With a dose of exaggeration and name-dropping his 2016 rival, Hillary Clinton, the president added: “He makes his stance in Iowa once every two weeks and then he mentions my name 74 times in one speech. I don’t know. That reminds me of Crooked Hillary. She did the same thing.”

At almost the same moment in Mount Pleasant, Biden noted the attention he has been getting from Trump. Biden’s appearances from earlier in the day were playing on TV screens when Air Force One landed in Iowa.

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Ex-slugger David Ortiz had counted on fans to protect him

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (AP) — Beloved in his hometown, David Ortíz travelled the dangerous streets of Santo Domingo with little or no security, trusting in his fans to protect him.

Big Papi’s guard was down even at hotspots like the Dial Bar and Lounge, where the Dominican business and entertainment elite can cross paths with shadier figures in a country where fortunes are often made in drug smuggling and money laundering.

As the former Red Sox slugger lies in intensive care in Boston, recovering from the bullet fired into his back at the Dial on Sunday night, police are investigating what aspect of the national hero’s life made him the target of what appeared to be an assassination attempt.

Ortíz was so relaxed at the open-air hotspot Sunday that he had his back to the sidewalk as a gunman — a passenger on a motorcycle — got off the bike just before 9 p.m., approached the 43-year-old retired athlete and fired a single shot at close range before escaping.

Enraged fans captured the 25-year-old motorcyclist and beat him bloody before handing him over to police, but the gunman was still at large Tuesday. Dominican authorities reported a second arrest in the case Tuesday night, but there was no public indication the man was suspected of being the shooter.

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Jon Stewart lashes out at Congress over 9-11 victims fund

WASHINGTON (AP) — Comedian Jon Stewart scolded Congress Tuesday for failing to ensure that a victims’ compensation fund set up after the 9-11 attacks never runs out of money.

Stewart, a longtime advocate for 9-11 responders, angrily called out lawmakers for failing to attend a hearing on a bill to ensure the fund can pay benefits for the next 70 years. Pointing to rows of empty seats at a House Judiciary Committee hearing room, Stewart said “sick and dying” first responders and their families came to Washington for the hearing, only to face a nearly deserted dais.

The sparse attendance by lawmakers was “an embarrassment to the country and a stain on this institution,” Stewart said, adding that the “disrespect” shown to first responders now suffering from respiratory ailments and other illnesses “is utterly unacceptable.”

Lawmakers from both parties said they support the bill and were monitoring the hearing amid other congressional business.

Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., predicted the bill will pass with overwhelming support and said lawmakers meant no disrespect as they moved in and out of the subcommittee hearing, a common occurrence on Capitol Hill.

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Virginia primary has lots of surprise, no clear message

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia’s closely watched off-year primary contest produced plenty of surprises Tuesday, but little in the way of a coherent message.

The top Democrat in the state Senate narrowly won his primary despite heavily outspending a progressive challenger, and another incumbent lost her seat to a former Virginia lawmaker who used to spend his days at the state capitol and his nights in jail after being accused of having sex with his teenage secretary. Conservative challengers upset with Republican incumbents who backed Medicaid expansion had mixed results. One delegate in a key swing district lost to a more conservative challenger, while a moderate senator easily cruised to victory.

Once a key swing state that’s been tilting increasingly toward Democrats, Virginia’s 2017 elections were an early warning signal that a blue wave of opposition to President Donald Trump would wash over the 2018 U.S. midterms. Now political analysts are looking for clues about what message voters may send for the 2020 presidential race.

The main takeway won’t come until November, when all 140 seats in the Legislature are up for grabs. Democrats will try to wrest control from Republicans, who have narrow majorities in the House and Senate.

Normally sleepy affairs, this year’s primaries had drama, as moderates in both parties took fire from their more extreme flanks.

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Pelosi says Dems ‘not even close’ to starting impeachment

WASHINGTON (AP) — Brushing back calls for impeachment, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday “it’s not even close” to having enough support in the House, while Democrats pushed forward on other fronts to investigate President Donald Trump.

The House voted 229-191 to approve a resolution that will allow Democrats to accelerate their legal battles with the Trump administration over access to information from the Russia investigation.

At the same time, they’re convening hearings this week on special counsel Robert Mueller’s report in an effort to boost public interest in the findings of the Trump-Russia probe while digging into a legal strategy aimed at forcing Attorney General William Barr, former White House counsel Don McGahn and others into compliance with congressional oversight.

“We need answers to the questions left unanswered by the Mueller report,” Pelosi said on the House floor ahead of voting.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy countered that the Democratic manoeuvrs are all “just a desperate attempt to relitigate the Mueller investigation.” He called it “an impeachment effort in everything but name.”

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Jury can’t decide on charges against Arizona border activist

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — A U.S. jury could not reach a verdict Tuesday against a border activist charged with conspiracy to transport and harbour migrants in a trial that humanitarian aid groups said would have wide implications on their work.

Defence attorneys argued that Scott Daniel Warren, a 36-year-old college geography instructor, was simply being kind by providing two migrants with water, food and lodging when he was arrested in early 2018. He faced up to 20 years in prison.

But prosecutors maintained the men were not in distress and Warren conspired to transport and harbour them at a property used for providing aid to migrants in an Arizona town near the U.S.-Mexico border.

The case played out as humanitarian groups say they are coming under increasing scrutiny under President Donald Trump’s hardline immigration policies.

Outside the courthouse, Warren thanked his supporters and criticized the government’s efforts to crack down on the number of immigrants coming to the U.S.

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US submits extradition request for WikiLeaks founder Assange

WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States government has formally submitted an extradition request to the United Kingdom for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange , a Justice Department official said Tuesday.

Assange faces an 18-count indictment that accuses him of soliciting and publishing classified information and of conspiring with former Army private Chelsea Manning to crack a Defence Department computer password. That indictment, which includes Espionage Act charges, was issued by the Justice Department last month and is pending in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia.

The extradition request had been expected ever since U.S. authorities first announced a criminal case against Assange. Justice Department spokesman Marc Raimondi said it was submitted to the United Kingdom.

The 47-year-old Assange was evicted on April 11 from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he had been holed up since 2012 after Ecuador granted him political asylum. He was arrested by British police and is currently serving a 50-week sentence for jumping bail. Sweden also seeks him for questioning about an alleged rape, which Assange has denied.

Assange was initially charged with a single computer crime violation on allegations that he worked with Manning to crack a government password. Some legal experts have said the additional Espionage Act charges might slow or complicate the extradition process to the extent the United Kingdom views them as political offences and therefore exempt from extradition.

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Alex Morgan has 5 goals as US routs Thailand 13-0

REIMS, France (AP) — Thailand was never a real threat to the U.S. national team. Even so, the three-time Women’s World Cup champions had no desire to go easy on a lesser opponent in their opening game.

Goals matter in the group stage.

And statements matter in soccer’s biggest tournament.

“Obviously we have the utmost respect for everyone we play, but it’s the World Cup,” said captain Megan Rapinoe.

Alex Morgan tied the tournament record with five goals and the United States opened with a historic 13-0 rout of Thailand on Tuesday night. Samantha Mewis and Rose Lavelle each added a pair of goals for the United States, which broke the record for goals and margin of victory in a World Cup game.

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Southern Baptists meet; endorse steps against sex abuse

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama (AP) — Confronting an unprecedented sex-abuse crisis, delegates at the Southern Baptist Convention’s national meeting voted Tuesday to make it easier to expel churches that mishandle abuse cases.

The Rev. J.D. Greear, president of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, said the SBC faced a “defining moment” that would shape the church for generations to come.

“This is not a distraction from the mission,” Greear said of the fight against sex abuse. “Protecting God’s children is the mission of the church.”

The SBC’s meeting comes as U.S. Catholic bishops convene in Baltimore to address a widening sex-abuse crisis in the Catholic Church. The Southern Baptist Convention says it had 14.8 million members in 2018, down about 192,000 from the previous year. The Catholic Church is the largest denomination in the U.S., with 76.3 million members as of last year — down from 81.2 million in 2005.

Sex abuse already was a high-profile issue at the SBC’s 2018 national meeting in Dallas, after which Greear formed an advisory group to draft recommendations on how to confront the problem. Greear was unanimously re-elected to a second term on Tuesday.

The Associated Press

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