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Preview: Seattle Post-Intelligencer: AP: Top Headlines Top Headlines From the Associated Press


Smugglers become a lifeline for the starving in South Sudan

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 08:40:07 UT

Red and yellow tassels dangle from the ceiling, while tapestry drapes much of the windshield. With both civil war and famine raging in South Sudan, "I have more business now than before." With drought, soaring inflation and severe access challenges, hundreds of communities in this corner of the country now depend on their northern neighbor to feed their families. In order to evade the Sudanese army, he drives overnight, navigating roads through thick forest and relying on a vast network of villagers to guide him. South Sudan's weakened currency has led to higher prices of imported food. Since 2014, prices in the markets have shot up. The 33-year-old teashop owner says three years ago she used to buy seven-and-a-half pounds (3.4 kilograms) of sorghum for 15 South Sudanese pounds (about 10 cents). Pantheer says she's worried that prices will soon increase with the onset of the rainy season. In an attempt to ease access challenges and provide food to South Sudan's most vulnerable people, Sudan recently opened a second corridor for humanitarian aid into Bentiu city in South Sudan's Northern Liech state.

A budget deficit challenge for Trump's tax plan

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 07:49:02 UT

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump plans to stick with his campaign pledge to slash the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 15 percent, but the dramatic cut raises a problematic question for the White House: A senior administration official confirmed the planned reduction to corporate rates, speaking on condition of anonymity in order discuss details of the plan the president is expected to unveil Wednesday. During the campaign, he backed cutting the corporate tax rate — and the personal income tax rate to 33 percent from a top marginal rate of 39.6 percent. By running the risk of higher deficits, the Trump plan could damage the credibility of Republican lawmakers who spent years railing against the rising national debt under former President Barack Obama. Tax cuts in Kansas made by Gov. Sam Brownback failed to deliver the expected boost, forcing the state into years of grueling budget battles and harsh spending cuts to make up the gap. Tax reform would likely have a modest effect on growth, almost surely not enough to match the administration's 3 percent growth target, said Mark Mazur, director of the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center and a former assistant treasury secretary for tax policy in the Obama administration.

Study: Trump's hardball tactic on health care may backfire

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 07:43:01 UT

The Kaiser Family Foundation found that taxpayers would end up paying 23 percent more than the potential savings from eliminating the health law's "cost-sharing" subsidies, which help low-income people with insurance deductibles and copayments. [...] the money is under a legal cloud after a federal judge's ruling in a lawsuit by House Republicans against the Obama administration. The judge agreed with GOP lawmakers that the health law lacked a specific congressional appropriation for the subsidies, making it unconstitutional for the government to spend the money. On top of that, Trump and GOP lawmakers still say they want to repeal Obama's health law, which provides coverage for some 20 million people through subsidized private coverage and expanded Medicaid. Insurers, doctors, hospitals, consumer groups and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have urged lawmakers to preserve the cost-sharing subsidies, warning that insurance markets could unravel without the money, jeopardizing coverage for millions. [...] the Kaiser study modeled what might happen if companies stayed in the market even without government reimbursement for their cost-sharing expenses.

Trump touts executive orders he once lambasted

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 07:38:09 UT

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump will mark the end of his first 100 days in office with a flurry of executive orders, looking to fulfill campaign promises and rack up victories ahead of that milestone by turning to a presidential tool he once derided. [...] Trump's frequent use of the executive order points to his struggles getting legislation though a Congress controlled by his own party and few of the orders themselves appear to deliver the sweeping changes the president has promised. In Trump's case, he's struggled even though both houses of Congress are in the hands of Republicans; his health care bill never even came for a vote in the House of Representatives after it drew sharp criticism from moderate and conservative Republicans alike. Among them: his late March order that directed federal agencies to rescind any existing regulations that "unduly burden the development of domestic energy resources," a move that rolls back environmental protections that was denounced by Democrats and environmentalists and cheered by Republicans who advocate energy independence. [...] during his campaign, Trump talked tough on trade, vowing to slap punitive tariffs on companies that move production offshore and on countries that undercut U.S. goods. On Thursday, he's expected to sign an order to create whistleblower protections in the Office of Veteran Affairs while making it easier to discipline or terminate employees who fail to carry out their duties to help veterans. "Unlike his predecessor who abused executive authority to expand the size and scope of the federal government in an end run around Congress, President Trump is using his legal authority to restrain Washington bureaucrats," said White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Trump is far from the first president to turn to governing by executive orders signed from the friendly confines of the Oval Office rather than by legislation that would nee

Seoul: North Korea holds drill to mark military anniversary

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 07:37:47 UT

The exercise took place as a U.S. guided-missile submarine arrived in South Korea and envoys from the United States, Japan and South Korea met in Tokyo to discuss the growing threat posed by North Korea's nuclear weapons and missiles program. Crowds in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, laid flowers and paid respects at giant statues of the country's former leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, one day after the minister of defense reiterated that the North is ready to use pre-emptive strikes or any measures it deems necessary to defend itself against the "U.S. imperialists." "The situation prevailing on the Korean Peninsula is so tense that a nuclear war may break out due to the frantic war drills of the U.S. imperialists and their vassal forces for aggression," Gen. Pak Yong Sik told a "national meeting" of thousands of senior military and civilian officials. South Korea's Yonhap news agency earlier said that the exercise involved 300 to 400 artillery pieces, but an official from Seoul's Defense Ministry couldn't confirm such details. Recent U.S. commercial satellite images indicate increased activity around North Korea's nuclear test site, and third-generation dictator Kim has said the country's preparation for an ICBM launch is in its "final stage." The USS Michigan, a nuclear-powered submarine, arrived at the South Korean port of Busan in what was described as a routine visit to rest the crew and load supplies. Asked about the threshold for U.S. action, Haley told American broadcaster NBC that "if you see him attack a military base, if you see some sort of intercontinental ballistic missile, then obviously we're going to do that."

Trump's 100-days promises: Fewer than half carried out

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 07:34:25 UT

WASHINGTON (AP) — Sure enough, the big trans-Pacific trade deal is toast, climate change action is on the ropes and various regulations from the Obama era have been scrapped. Of 38 specific promises Trump made in his 100-day "contract" with voters — "This is my pledge to you" — he's accomplished 10, mostly through executive orders that don't require legislation, such as withdrawing the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. Don't hold your breath waiting for alleged Army deserter Bowe Bergdahl to be dropped out of an airplane without a parachute, as Trump vowed he'd do at many of his campaign rallies. China's leader got a fancy dinner, complete with "beautiful" chocolate cake at Mar-a-Lago this month, not the promised "McDonald's hamburger" and humble pie. Efforts to provide affordable child care and paid maternity leave, to make college more affordable and to invest in urban areas have been all but forgotten. An AP reporter who followed Trump throughout the presidential campaign collected scores of promises he made along the way, from the consequential to the fanciful. — Lift President Barack Obama's roadblocks on the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines. — Lift restrictions on mining coal and drilling for oil and natural gas. Trump has unraveled a number of Obama-era restrictions and initiated a review of the Clean Power Plan, which aimed to restrict greenhouse gas emissions at coal-fired power plants. "Just think about what can be accomplished in the first 100 days of a Trump administration," he told his supporters again and again in the final weeks of the campaign. Trump has scrapped the tax plan he campaigned on, and his administration's new package is in its early stages, not only missing the first 100 days but likely to miss a new August deadline set by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. —Designate China a currency manipulator, setting the stage for possible trade penaltie

Tough court on immigration serves as model for Trump plans

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 07:19:57 UT

The magistrate, Collis White, warned that a guilty plea would mean jail time and they couldn't return to the United States legally for years. Trump is seeking hundreds of million dollars more for more jail cells, prosecutors and marshals to transport prisoners. Civil libertarians object to the prosecutions, saying those arrested are rushed through the legal system without having a chance to exercise their rights. Earlier this month, the Justice Department released a memo calling on prosecutors to appoint border security coordinators in every judicial district. The Del Rio prosecution strategy followed an earlier push to secure the border and curb the flow of illegal border crossers. In other areas, including El Paso, agents often work across state and judicial district lines, making it more difficult to coordinate prosecution, jail space and transportation. The often-brief court proceedings that help make the Del Rio prosecutions appealing to the Trump administration alarm civil libertarians. Celia Wang, deputy legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union, said border crossers facing prosecution are urged to plead guilty and don't fully know the implications of that.

Trailblazing Colorado abortion law marks 50th anniversary

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 07:19:44 UT

In 1967, a Democratic freshman state lawmaker introduced a bill that allowed abortions if the woman's physical or mental health was threatened, if the unborn child might have birth defects or in cases of rape or incest. Instead of ending his newfound political career, Lamm went on to serve three terms as the state's governor. [...] abortion was not one of the Colorado Republican Party's most pressing issues and there was no organized opposition in the state to abortion rights because the idea was so new, Lamm said. Key to Lamm's effort was ally Ruth Steel, an activist who had lobbied lawmakers in 1965 to allow public health officials to discuss and to provide birth control with residents. While on lobbying trips to the Capitol, Steel dressed formally, wearing a hat and gloves, but had no qualms talking to lawmakers frankly about issues related to sex, Lamm said. In the era of divisive and turbulent social and political change, he said his mail was about evenly divided between supporters and opponents.

Gov't shutdown, health bill rescue at stake in Congress

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 07:15:42 UT

WASHINGTON (AP) — Bipartisan bargainers are making progress toward a budget deal to prevent a partial federal shutdown this weekend, a major hurdle overcome when President Donald Trump signaled he would put off his demand that the measure include money to build his border wall with Mexico. In a conference call with reporters aimed at criticizing Trump's first 100 days as ineffective, party leaders said the biggest shutdown threat was from Trump's demand that the spending bill include funds for the barricade along the Mexican border. "The president's comments this evening are welcome news given the bipartisan opposition to the wall, and the obstacle it has been to the continuing bipartisan negotiations in the appropriations committees," she said in a statement late Monday. The other major budget stumbling block involved a Democratic demand for money for insurance companies that help low-income people afford health policies under President Barack Obama's health law, or that Trump abandon a threat to use the payments as a bargaining chip. Separately, the White House and congressional Republicans are gauging whether a plan to revise the GOP's stalled health care bill would garner enough converts to rekindle hopes for House passage of the legislation. GOP leaders avoided a planned House vote last month, which would have failed due to opposition from GOP moderates and conservatives alike.

Warriors get a break after drama-filled opening series

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 06:59:43 UT

(AP) — The Warriors can breathe for a bit after a first-round series filled with drama. With a sweep of the Portland Trail Blazers, Golden State now awaits the conclusion of the series between the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers — currently tied at 2. Durant, who added to the drama after injuring his calf in the opener game against the Blazers, praised Brown for stepping into a lead role with short notice. In the first of two stints with Cleveland, Brown led the Cavs to their first NBA Finals appearance in 2007. In the midst of the sobering news about Kerr, the Warriors got a boost with the return of Durant for the final game of the series after he injured his left calf in Game 1. Durant had just returned from a left knee injury to play in Golden State's final three regular-season games. The first-round series between the Jazz and the Clippers moves back to Los Angeles for Game 5 on Tuesday night.