Obama passes baton to Clinton, imploring nation to elect her
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Hillary Clinton has the stage.
Stepping out of the shadows of presidents past, the former first lady, senator and vanquished-candidate-turned-secretary-of-state appeared unannounced on the platform at her nominating convention, pointed a finger at President Barack Obama and gave him a hug.
Clinton had just been anointed the inheritor of Obama’s legacy with his vigorous endorsement speech, the candidate who could realize the “promise of this great nation.”
“She’s been there for us, even if we haven’t always noticed,” Obama said Wednesday, imploring the country to elect the woman he defeated eight years ago.
Summoning his most famous line from that campaign, Obama said: “If you’re serious about our democracy, you can’t afford to stay home just because she might not align with you on every issue. You’ve got to get in the arena with her, because democracy isn’t a spectator sport. America isn’t about ‘Yes he will.’ It’s about ‘Yes we can.'”
Democratic donors, allies offer reward for Trump tax returns
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The wealthy Democratic donors, many of them executives who run complex businesses, know firsthand how revealing tax returns can be. Perhaps that’s why they can’t stop talking about Republican nominee Donald Trump’s refusal to release his.
In their suites at the Ritz Carlton hotel, where many are staying during this week’s Democratic convention, and at its auxiliary swanky parties, the supporters of Hillary Clinton are sounding the alarm about Trump’s break with decades of presidential campaign tradition.
Clinton put out eight years of recent tax filings last summer, and they lament that voters don’t seem to understand why Trump’s refusal to do the same matters.
Democratic talk of the taxes spilled onto the convention stage Wednesday night. Vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine, mocking Trump, said, “Believe me, there’s nothing suspicious in my tax returns. Believe me!” The crowd laughed.
There’s even a literally a bounty for the Trump documents.
AP FACT CHECK: Many claims, some warped
WASHINGTON (AP) — It’s hot out there, politically speaking, with Hillary Clinton’s convention going full steam and Donald Trump refusing to stay quiet while Democrats put on their big show. Reality is sometimes getting warped in the process.
A look at some claims Wednesday and how they compare with the facts, on a day packed with a lengthy news conference by Trump and evening convention speeches by high-powered Democrats, capped by President Barack Obama:
OBAMA: “After a century of trying, we declared that health care in America is not a privilege for a few, but a right for everybody.”
THE FACTS: Obama’s health care overhaul does guarantee that people with pre-existing medical conditions can no longer be denied health insurance, but it also made coverage an obligation for everybody. People must have coverage or face fines from the IRS. That mandate remains highly unpopular.
The law provides subsidies to help low- to middle-income people purchase a private plan. But even so, some find their premiums too high. And nearly 29 million remain uninsured, according to government estimates. Health care as a “right for everybody” may better describe Bernie Sanders’ idea of a government-run system for all. That system also entails obligations: the higher taxes that would be collected to pay for it.
N. Korea: US has crossed red line, relations on war footing
PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — North Korea’s top diplomat for U.S. affairs told The Associated Press on Thursday that Washington “crossed the red line” and effectively declared war by putting leader Kim Jong Un on its list of sanctioned individuals, and said a vicious showdown could erupt if the U.S. and South Korea hold annual war games as planned next month.
Han Song Ryol, director-general of the U.S. affairs department at the North’s Foreign Ministry, said in an interview that recent U.S. actions have put the situation on the Korean Peninsula on a war footing.
The United States and South Korea regularly conduct joint military exercises south of the Demilitarized Zone, and Pyongyang typically responds to them with tough talk and threats of retaliation.
Han said North Korea believes the nature of the maneuvers has become openly aggressive because they reportedly now include training designed to prepare troops for the invasion of the North’s capital and “decapitation strikes” aimed at killing its top leadership.
Han says designating Kim himself for sanctions was the final straw.
French ID second church attacker, warning 4 days earlier
PARIS (AP) — The second man who attacked a Normandy church during a morning Mass this week, slitting the throat of the elderly priest, is a 19-year-old Frenchman from eastern France, the prosecutor’s office said Thursday.
An official in the prosecutor’s office said it was “very probable” that the man, identified as Abdel-Malik Nabil Petit Jean, was the same man pictured in a photo distributed to police services four days before the attack and obtained by The Associated Press. The information accompanying the photo of an unidentified man said the person pictured “could be ready to participate in an attack on national territory.”
UCLAT, an agency that coordinates the anti-terrorist fight, said it obtained the photo from a trusted source.
Petit Jean and another 19-year-old, Adel Kermiche, were killed by police as they left the church Tuesday in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray. An elderly man among the five people in the congregation was seriously wounded by knife slashes. One of three nuns present escaped and alerted police.
Petit Jean was born in eastern France, in Saint Die des Vosges, in eastern France, the prosecutor’s office said. He was identified via his DNA. Kermiche was from Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray.
Reagan shooter Hinckley will soon leave hospital for good
WILLIAMSBURG, Va. (AP) — In little more than a week, the only living man to have shot an American president could pack his bags and leave a Washington psychiatric hospital for the last time.
John Hinckley Jr. has already been living with his 90-year-old mother at her home overlooking a golf course in Williamsburg, Virginia, for 17 days each month. Thanks to a judge’s order Wednesday, he’ll be able to live there full time, starting as early as Aug. 5.
Hinckley was 25 and had suffered from psychosis and depression for several years when he shot President Ronald Reagan and three others outside a Washington hotel on March 30, 1981. He was found not guilty by reason of insanity and committed to St. Elizabeths hospital.
Now 61, Hinckley has graying hair and suffers from arthritis and high blood pressure. He enjoys painting and photography and cares for feral cats. During his time in Williamsburg, he drives himself around town in a Toyota Avalon, going to movies and eating at fast-food restaurants.
The community has been reluctant to embrace him — he’s been turned away from volunteer opportunities because of his notoriety and from restaurants where he’s applied for part-time jobs. Some neighbors are wary of his presence, although the police chief said there’s no need for his officers to pay special attention to Hinckley.
Russia announces humanitarian operation in Aleppo
MOSCOW (AP) — Russia and the Syrian government will open humanitarian corridors in Syria’s embattled city of Aleppo and offer a way out for opposition fighters wanting to lay down their arms, Russia’s defense minister Sergei Shoigu announced on Thursday as Syrian forces took another district from rebels in the city.
The Russian announcement came as Syria’s President Bashar Assad offered a general amnesty for rebels who give up their weapons and surrender to authorities over the next three months.
For days now, Syrian government forces and allied troops have encircled the main rebel enclave in the city of Aleppo, urging fighters there to surrender. The encirclement set the stage for a prolonged siege that the government hopes will eventually stare out and force the rebels to surrender, a tactic Assad’s forces have used elsewhere, including in the central city of Homs.
But humanitarian groups have warned of a major catastrophe if the siege on the rebel-held parts of Aleppo continues. Some 300,000 residents are trapped in the eastern part of the city that is controlled by rebels, according to the United Nations.
Shoigu said in televised comments that President Vladimir Putin has ordered a “large-scale humanitarian operation” that will be launched outside Aleppo to help civilians as well as allow fighters who wanted to lay down the arms to surrender.
Individuals, agencies dodge blame as Freddie Gray case ends
BALTIMORE (AP) — Fourteen months after the death of a black man whose neck was broken in a police van prompted massive protests, spawned rioting and toppled the careers of Baltimore’s police commissioner and a Democratic mayor poised for re-election, no one will go to jail for the death.
The city’s top prosecutor was righteous in her rage Wednesday as she stood behind a lectern perched at the intersection where Freddie Gray was arrested in April 2015.
Earlier in the day, Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby had dropped the cases against the rest of the six police officers charged in Gray’s death after prosecutors had suffered blow after crippling blow as a judge acquitted three others in rapid succession. Instead of conceding defeat, she blasted the police department for a biased investigation she blamed for failing to secure a single conviction.
“The prosecution of on-duty police officers in this country is surprisingly rare and blatantly wrought with systemic and inherent complications,” the Democratic prosecutor said. “Unlike other cases where prosecutors work closely with the police to investigate what actually occurred, what we realized very early on in this case was that, police investigating police — whether they’re friends or colleagues — was problematic. There was a reluctance and bias that was consistently exemplified.”
Gray died a week after he suffered a spinal injury in the back of the detainee wagon while he was handcuffed and shackled, but not buckled in with a seat belt. Prosecutors alleged the officers involved in his arrest and transport were criminally negligent when they failed to use the seat belt, instead placing Gray face-down and head-first on the floor of a prisoner compartment. The state also said the officers erred when they chose not to call a medic after Gray indicated he wanted to go to a hospital.
Regulators propose huge overhaul of debt collection industry
NEW YORK (AP) — The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau proposed a massive overhaul of the multibillion dollar debt-collection industry on Thursday, which would restrict collectors from calling numerous times a day, require them to have more documentation on what’s owed, and give people more ability to dispute their bills.
It would be the biggest overhaul of the debt collection industry since Congress passed the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act nearly 40 years ago. Regulators estimate roughly 70 million Americans are contacted by debt collectors each year, and more Americans submit complaints to state and federal agencies about unfair or deceptive practices than any other part of the consumer financial system.
“This is about bringing better accuracy and accountability to a market that desperately needs it,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray.
Like payday loans and so-called binding arbitration agreements — two parts of the U.S. financial system that the CFPB has proposed regulating more tightly — the new proposals from are likely to be resisted strongly by the industry and its allies in Washington.
Under the proposed rules, debt collectors would first have to more substantially prove a debt is valid before starting collection. Collectors typically find business by buying large databases of past-due loans and credit cards for pennies on the dollar, but those databases can include loans discharged in bankruptcy or some too old to legally collect.
With Auschwitz visit, pope faces complex Polish-Jewish story
WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Two Holocaust survivors took to a stage at the site of the former Warsaw Ghetto this week to perform lively prewar tunes — the 91-year-old played drums and the 88-year-old was on accordion, keyboard and vocals. In the audience several elderly Christian Poles who saved Jews during the Holocaust swayed and tapped their feet to songs in Yiddish, Hebrew and Polish.
Poland, a deeply Catholic nation, has a complex relationship with the Jews who flourished for centuries in the Eastern European land before perishing in the Holocaust. It is a deeply emotional story of both betrayal and salvation that Pope Francis will encounter during a somber visit Friday to the former Nazi German death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau, where some 1.1 million people were murdered, most of them Jews.
There he will meet with both Christian and Jewish survivors of the camp, as well as a group of Christian Poles who risked their lives during the war to give aid to Jews, a group recognized by Israel’s Yad Vashem as “Righteous Among the Nations.” Church officials and several of the Righteous say it’s the first time a pope will ever meet with them, a belated gesture to a group whose acts embody Francis’ own determination to help people of other faiths threatened by war and violence today.
Several of the Christians who will meet the pope attended the open-air concert in the former ghetto Tuesday evening, an unusual performance by two Polish-born Jews who live in Florida and whose dream was to return to their birth country with a message of peace. On Sunday they also performed a private concert in front of Auschwitz in memory of the dead.
“I was very moved by this concert,” said Stanislaw Swierczewski, an 84-year-old Pole who worked with his father during the war to help Jews escape the Plonsk ghetto and hide them in their attic. He spoke after the concert in Warsaw, which drew hundreds of enthusiastic people. “This is so beautiful and I will remember this day for the rest of my life.”