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

Turkey begins offensive against Kurdish fighters in Syria

AKCAKALE, Turkey (AP) — Turkey launched airstrikes, fired artillery and began a ground offensive against Kurdish fighters in northern Syria on Wednesday after U.S. troops pulled back from the area, paving the way for an assault on forces that have long been allied with the United States.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced the start of the campaign, which followed the abrupt decision Sunday by U.S. President Donald Trump to essentially abandon the Syrian Kurdish fighters, leaving them vulnerable to a Turkish offensive that was widely condemned around the world.

The decision was a major shift in U.S. policy and drew opposition from all sides at home. It also marked a stark change in rhetoric by Trump, who during a press conference in New York last year vowed to stand by the Kurds, who have been America’s only allies in Syria fighting the Islamic State group . Trump said at the time that the Kurds “fought with us” and “died with us,” and insisted that America would never forget.

After Erdogan announced the offensive, Trump called the operation “a bad idea.” Later Wednesday, he said he didn’t want to be involved in “endless, senseless wars.”

In northern Syria, residents of the border areas were in a panic and got out on foot, in cars and with rickshaws piled with mattresses and a few belongings. It was a wrenchingly familiar scenario for the many who, only a few years ago, had fled the advances on their towns and villages by the Islamic State group.

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Trump’s Syria announcement blindsided many GOP supporters

WASHINGTON (AP) — For once, Republicans and Democrats in Congress were in the same place: out of the loop.

When it came to President Donald Trump’s abrupt announcement that U.S. forces would no longer protect Syrian Kurds from a Turkish invasion, his supporters knew as little as his critics.

All the effort by Republicans to assuage and court the mercurial president meant little in terms of their ability to dissuade him from a decision that most of them vehemently opposed. They found out about it like Democrats, late at night and on Twitter.

For Republicans, it was a reminder that having the president’s back can be a one-way proposition, especially with a commander in chief who likes to make decisions from his “gut.”

Even as Turkish bombs fell Wednesday on northern Syria, Sen. Lindsey Graham, a frequent Trump golf club buddy and a presidential educator on foreign policy, talked to the president through television appearances and Twitter. He warned on “Fox & Friends,” a program that Trump is known to make part of his morning routine, that he’s making the “biggest mistake of his presidency.”

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2 dead in attack targeting German synagogue on Yom Kippur

HALLE, Germany (AP) — A heavily armed assailant ranting about Jews tried to force his way into a synagogue in Germany on Yom Kippur, Judaism’s holiest day, then shot two people to death nearby in an attack Wednesday that was livestreamed on a popular gaming site.

The attacker shot at the door of the synagogue in the eastern city of Halle but did not get in as 70 to 80 people inside were observing the holy day.

The gunman shouted that Jews were “the root” of “problems” such as feminism and “mass immigration,” according to a group that tracks online extremism. It said a roughly 36-minute video posted online featured the assailant, who spoke a combination of English and German, denying the Holocaust before he shot a woman in the street after failing to enter the synagogue. He then entered a nearby kebab shop and killed another person before fleeing.

Germany’s top security official, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, said authorities must assume that it was an anti-Semitic attack, and said prosecutors believe there may be a right-wing extremist motive. He said several people were hurt.

The attack “strikes the Jewish community, Jewish people not just in Germany but particularly in Germany, to the core,” said the country’s main Jewish leader, Josef Schuster. “It was, I think, only lucky circumstances that prevented a bigger massacre.”

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Lights out: Power cut in California to prevent deadly fires

SONOMA, Calif. (AP) — More than a million people in California were without electricity Wednesday as the state’s largest utility pulled the plug to prevent a repeat of the past two years when windblown power lines sparked deadly wildfires that destroyed thousands of homes.

The unpopular move that disrupted daily life — prompted by forecasts calling for dry, gusty weather — came after catastrophic fires sent Pacific Gas & Electric Co. into bankruptcy and forced it to take more aggressive steps to prevent blazes.

The drastic measure caused long lines at supermarkets and hardware stores as people rushed to buy ice, coolers, flashlights and batteries across a swath of Northern California. Cars backed up at traffic lights that had gone dark. Schools and universities cancelled classes. And many businesses closed.

Most of downtown Sonoma was pitch black when Joseph Pokorski, a retiree, showed up for his morning ritual of drinking coffee, followed by beer and cocktails.

The Town Square bar was open and lit by lanterns but coffee was out of the question and only cash was accepted. Pokorski decided to forgo a 30-minute wait for a cup of joe from the bakery next door and move on to beers and a couple greyhound cocktails of vodka and grapefruit juice.

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Defying impeachment inquiry, Trump makes charge more certain

WASHINGTON (AP) — The combative White House letter vowing to defy the “illegitimate” impeachment inquiry has actually put President Donald Trump on a more certain path to charges. His refusal to honour subpoenas or allow testimony would likely play into a formal accusation against him.

The letter sent to House leaders by White House Counsel Pat Cipollone Tuesday evening declared the president would not co-operate with the investigation — a clear reason, Democrats say, to write an article of impeachment charging him with obstruction.

The White House insists that a formal House vote is necessary just to start the impeachment process. But Democrats are moving ahead without one, confident for now that they are backed by the Constitution and Trump’s own acknowledgements of trying to persuade a foreign government to investigate a political foe.

“The White House should be warned that continued efforts to hide the truth of the president’s abuse of power from the American people will be regarded as further evidence of obstruction,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in response to the letter. “Mr. President, you are not above the law. You will be held accountable.”

Trump again defended his decision not to co-operate, calling a whistleblower’s complaint about his call with Ukraine’s leader “a fraud being perpetrated on the American public” and saying Republicans are being treated unfairly. He repeated he was being vilified for “a perfect phone call.”

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Woman accuses Matt Lauer of rape; former anchor denies claim

NEW YORK (AP) — A woman who worked at NBC News claimed that Matt Lauer raped her at a hotel while on assignment for the Sochi Olympics, an encounter the former “Today” show host claimed was consensual.

The claim outlined by Brooke Nevils in Ronan Farrow’s book, “Catch and Kill,” puts a name and details behind the event that led to Lauer’s firing by NBC in 2017. It also provoked the first public response from Lauer, who said in a defiant and graphic letter made public by his lawyer that “my silence was a mistake.”

Variety first reported Nevils’ charges after obtaining a copy of Farrow’s book. The Associated Press typically does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault, unless they step forward publicly as Nevils has done.

Nevils, who was working for Meredith Vieira in Sochi, met her for drinks one night and Lauer joined them. Nevils said she had six shots of vodka and wound up going to Lauer’s room.

She said that Lauer pushed her onto a bed and asked if she liked anal sex. Nevils said she declined several times, but then Lauer “just did it.” She described the encounter as “excruciatingly painful.”

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US moves 2 British IS members known as ‘Beatles’ from Syria

WASHINGTON (AP) — Two British militants believed to be part of an Islamic State group that beheaded hostages and was known as “The Beatles” have been moved out of a detention centre in Syria and are in American custody, U.S. officials said Wednesday.

President Donald Trump said earlier Wednesday that the U.S. has moved some of the Islamic State prisoners amid fears some could escape custody as Turkey invades northeast Syria.

The two men, El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Amon Kotey, along with other British jihadis, allegedly made up the IS cell nicknamed “The Beatles” by surviving captives because of their English accents. In 2014 and 2015, the militants held more than 20 Western hostages in Syria and tortured many of them. It beheaded seven American, British and Japanese journalists and aid workers and a group of Syrian soldiers, boasting of the butchery in videos released to the world.

U.S. officials said the two were taken out of Syria by U.S. military and law enforcement personnel to ensure they did not escape if security broke down as a result of the Turkish incursion. So far they are the only two IS militants removed from Syria by the U.S., but officials say a number of others could also be moved if needed.

Another official said the two men were taken to Iraq out of an abundance of caution, adding that the United States is still fully committed to seeing them brought to justice.

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Kenyan man’s search for his father runs into church coverup

SAMBURU, Kenya (AP) — When Sabina Losirkale went into labour, her sister Scolastica recalls, priests and religious sisters filled the delivery ward waiting to see the colour of the baby’s skin — and if their worst fears had come to pass.

Scolastica and dozens of villagers peered in from behind the clinic fence, as well.

A nun screamed. The boy was white — “a mzungu child,” Scolastica said, using Kiswahili slang.

“How will we cover up this shame?” the sisters fretted, she recalled.

The shame that brought this baby into the world: An Italian missionary priest, her family alleges, impregnated this Kenyan girl when she was just 16. But the nuns need not have worried about the scandal spreading.

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‘We’re not alone’ – ‘Sesame Street’ tackles addiction crisis

NEW YORK (AP) — “Sesame Street” is taking a new step to try to help kids navigate life in America — it’s tackling the opioid crisis.

Sesame Workshop is exploring the backstory of Karli, a bright green, yellow-haired friend of Elmo’s whose mother is battling addiction. The initiative is part of the Sesame Street in Communities resources available online.

“Sesame Street” creators said they turned to the issue of addiction since data shows 5.7 million children under age 11 live in households with a parent with substance use disorder.

“There’s nothing else out there that addresses substance abuse for young, young kids from their perspective,” said Kama Einhorn, a senior content manager with Sesame Workshop. It’s also a chance to model to adults a way to explain what they’re going through to kids and to offer simple strategies to cope.

“Even a parent at their most vulnerable — at the worst of their struggle — can take one thing away when they watch it with their kids, then that serves the purpose,” Einhorn said.

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10-spot: Cards oust Braves from NLDS with record 1st inning

ATLANTA (AP) — The St. Louis Cardinals turned the diamond into a giant pinball machine, dinging hits all over SunTrust Park.

By the time the Atlanta Braves finally got the third out, it was the most productive first inning in post-season history.

The Cardinals scored 10 runs their first time up and dealt Atlanta another playoff heartbreak, routing the Braves 13-1 in decisive Game 5 of the NL Division Series on Wednesday.

“That was crazy,” said Marcell Ozuna, one of five players who batted twice in the stunning outburst. “We got a good opportunity — and we took it.”

Before many fans had reached their seats, the Cardinals were already booking their plans for the NL Championship Series, where they will face either the Los Angeles Dodgers or the Washington Nationals in a best-of-seven set beginning Friday. Those teams were meeting in their own Game 5 at Dodger Stadium.

The Associated Press

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