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Toronto Wolfpack forward Darcy Lussick set to make boxing debut in December

Mon, 11/18/2019 - 14:49
Toronto Wolfpack forward Darcy Lussick is stepping into the boxing ring next month to face former rugby league star Justin Hodges. The two Australians are slated to meet Dec. 6 in Sydney. The main event of the boxing card pits Tim Tszyu against Jack Brubaker for the WBO Global and IBF Australasian super-welterweight titles. The 30-year-old Lussick, who stands six foot four and weighs 251 pounds, is making his boxing debut. Hodges, 37, has fought twice already with stoppage wins over Rob Baron and Troy McMahon. Hodges retired from rugby league at the end of the 2015 season following a distinguished 15-year career with the Brisbane Broncos and Sydney Roosters. He also played 13 times for Australia, 24 times for Queensland and made three appearances for the Indigenous All-Stars. Lussick spent seven seasons in Australia’s NRL from 2011 to 2017 with the Manly Sea Eagles and Parramatta Eels. The Wolfpack are no strangers to the sweet science. Coach Brian McDermott started boxing in the Royal Marines, representing the Royal Navy. McDermott won his lone pro fight in 1995 before focusing on a rugby league career that saw him play for England and Great Britain. He returned to the ring in March 2016 to spar with former Commonwealth super-middleweight champion Henry Wharton for charity. And new signing Sonny Bill Williams, who is leaving rugby union and the All Blacks to join the transatlantic Wolfpack, went 7-0-0 as a boxer between 2009 and ’15, claiming the New Zealand and WBA international titles. Williams told his introductory news conference last week in London that he has always included in his contracts a clause allowing him to box. And he still keeps an eye on the sport. Former NRL star Paul Gallen (9-0-1) and ex-Aussie Rules Footballer Barry Hall (0-0-1) fought to a draw last week in Melbourne. “I’m pretty interested in that fight,” Williams said in advance of the bout. Williams has said he took up boxing initially because he needed money after buying out his NRL contract with the Bulldogs in 2008 to play rugby union in France. Williams said he was one million Australian dollars ($900,000) in debt at the time.   This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 19, 2019. — Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press

Denis Shapovalov leads Canada to Davis Cup win over favoured Italy

Mon, 11/18/2019 - 14:48
MADRID - Denis Shapovalov scored a straight singles upset and clinched a win for Canada in its opening tie with Italy at the inaugural Davis Cup Finals on Monday. Shapovalov, ranked 15th in the world, beat world No. 8 Matteo Berrettini 7-6 (5), 6-7 (3), 7-6 (5) in a match that lasted 2 hours 51 minutes. Shapovalov, from Richmond Hill, Ont., gave Canada an insurmountable 2-0 lead in the best-of-three tie. Earlier, Vancouver’s Vasek Pospisil recorded an even bigger upset. Pospisil, a late replacement for Felix Auger-Aliassime (recovering from an ankle injury), beat Italy’s Fabio Fognini 7-6 (5), 7-5. Ranked 150th in the world after missing half the season while recovering from back surgery, Pospisil was a big underdog against world No. 12 Fognini. Later, Pospisil and Shapovalov were scheduled to team up in doubles to meet Simone Bolelli and Lorenzo Sonego. Canada, the United States and Italy are in Group F. Canada faces the U.S., on Tuesday. The winners of each of the six groups and the next two best teams advance to quarterfinals. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 18, 2019. The Canadian Press

US softening position on Israeli settlements in West Bank

Mon, 11/18/2019 - 14:48
WASHINGTON - Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Monday that the U.S. is softening its position on Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, the latest in a series of Trump administration moves that weaken Palestinian claims to statehood. Pompeo repudiated a 1978 State Department legal opinion that held that civilian settlements in the occupied territories are "inconsistent with international law." The move angered Palestinians and immediately put the U.S. at odds with other nations working to end the conflict. The Trump administration views the opinion, the basis for long-standing U.S. opposition to expanding the settlements, as a distraction and believes any legal questions about the issue should be addressed by Israeli courts, Pompeo said. "Calling the establishment of civilian settlements inconsistent with international law has not advanced the cause of peace," Pompeo said. "The hard truth is that there will never be a judicial resolution to the conflict, and arguments about who is right and who is wrong as a matter of international law will not bring peace." U.S. moves that have weakened Palestinian efforts to achieve statehood have included President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, the movement of the U.S. Embassy to that city and the closure of the Palestinian diplomatic office in Washington. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' spokesman, Nabil Abu Rdeneh, condemned Pompeo's announcement and said settlements are illegal under International law. "The U.S. administration has lost its credibility to play any future role in the peace process," he said. Even though the decision is largely symbolic, it could give a boost to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is fighting for his political survival after he was unable to form a coalition government following recent elections. In addition, it could spell further trouble for the administration's oft-promised peace plan, which is unlikely to gather much international support by endorsing a position contrary to the global consensus. The Netanyahu government was dealt a blow on settlements just last week when the European Court of Justice ruled products made in Israeli settlements must be labeled as such. The 1978 legal opinion on settlements is known as the Hansell Memorandum. It had been the basis for more than 40 years of carefully worded U.S. opposition to settlement construction that had varied in its tone and strength depending on the president's position. The international community overwhelmingly considers the settlements illegal. This is based in part on the Fourth Geneva Convention, which bars an occupying power from transferring parts of its own civilian population to occupied territory. In the final days of the Obama administration, the U.S. allowed the U.N. Security Council to pass a resolution declaring the settlements a "flagrant violation" of international law. Pompeo said that the U.S. would not take a position on the legality of specific settlements, that the new policy would not extend beyond the West Bank and that it would not create a precedent for other territorial disputes, he said. He also said the decision did not mean the administration was prejudging the status of the West Bank in any eventual Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. The shift is a victory for Netanyahu, a longtime booster of the settlements, and had been strongly supported by U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and major Trump donor Sheldon Adelson. Friedman was a major fundraiser for the settlements before becoming ambassador. It may be taken by Netanyahu and the settlement movement as a green light for additional construction, or even annexation, of lands claimed by the Palestinians for a future state. The anti-settlement monitoring group Peace Now, along with reporting by The Associated Press, has found a sharp increase in settlement planning and construction since Trump took office. For Netanyahu, the welcome boost comes at a time when he has been weakened domestically by mounting legal woes and two inconclusive elections this year. Unable to secure a parliamentary majority, Netanyahu is now anxiously waiting to see if his chief rival, Benny Gantz, can put together a coalition. If Gantz fails, the country could be forced into a third election with Netanyahu facing the distraction of a trial. Netanyahu’s office released a statement saying the policy shift “rights a historical wrong” concerning settlements. “This policy reflects an historical truth – that the Jewish people are not foreign colonialists in Judea and Samaria,” it said, using the Israeli terms for the West Bank. Gantz, meanwhile, applauded Pompeo’s “important statement, once again demonstrating its firm stance with Israel and its commitment to the security and future of the entire Middle East.” Pompeo dismissed suggestions that the decision would further isolate the U.S. or Israel in the international community, though Jordan's Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi wrote on Twitter that the settlements hurt peace prospects. "We warn of the seriousness of the change in the U.S. position towards the settlements and its repercussions on all efforts to achieve peace,” he said. Shortly after Pompeo’s announcement, the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem issued an advisory warning for Americans planning to travel in the West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza, saying, “Individuals and groups opposed to (Pompeo's) announcement may target U.S. government facilities, U.S. private interests, and U.S. citizens.” It called on them "to maintain a high level of vigilance and take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness in light of the current environment.” Israel captured the West Bank and east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war and quickly began settling the newly conquered territory. Today, some 700,000 Israeli settlers live in the two areas, which are both claimed by the Palestinians for their state. After the war, it immediately annexed east Jerusalem, home to the holy city's most important religious sites, in a move that is not internationally recognized. But Israel has never annexed the West Bank, even as it has dotted the territory with scores of settlements and tiny settlement outposts. While claiming the fate of the settlements is a subject for negotiations, it has steadily expanded them. Some major settlements have over 30,000 residents, resembling small cities and serving as suburbs of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. The Palestinians and most of the world say the settlements undermine hopes for a two-state solution by gobbling up land sought by the Palestinians. Israel's settlement activities have also drawn attention to its treatment of Palestinians. While Jewish settlers can freely enter Israel and vote in Israeli elections, West Bank Palestinians are subject to Israeli military law, require permits to enter Israel and do not have the right to vote in Israeli elections. ___ Associated Press writers Josef Federman and Ilan Bar Zion in Jerusalem contributed to this report. Matthew Lee, The Associated Press

Crucial impeachment hearings break into open for all to see

Mon, 11/18/2019 - 14:45
WASHINGTON - Eight witnesses. Five hearings. Three days. The Trump impeachment inquiry is charging into a crucial week as Americans hear from some of the most important witnesses closest to the White House in back-to-back-to-back live sessions. Among them, Ambassador Gordon Sondland, the wealthy donor whose routine boasting about his proximity to Donald Trump is now bringing the investigation to the president's doorstep. The witnesses all are testifying under penalty of perjury, and Sondland already has had to amend his earlier account amid contradicting testimony from other current and former U.S. officials. White House insiders, including an Army officer and a former National Security Council aide, will launch the week's hearings Tuesday. It's a pivotal time as the House's historic inquiry accelerates and deepens. Democrats say Trump demanded that Ukraine investigate his Democratic rivals in return for U.S. military aid it needed to resist Russian aggression and that may be grounds for removing the 45th president. Trump says he did no such thing and the Democrats are just out to get him any way they can. On Monday, Trump said he was considering an invitation from Speaker Nancy Pelosi to provide his own account to the House, possibly by submitting written testimony. That would be an unprecedented moment in this constitutional showdown between the two branches of U.S. government. Trump tweeted: "Even though I did nothing wrong, and don't like giving credibility to this No Due Process Hoax, I like the idea & will, in order to get Congress focused again, strongly consider it!" Tuesday's sessions at the House Intelligence Committee will start with Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, an Army officer at the National Security Council, and Jennifer Williams, his counterpart at Vice-President Mike Pence's office. Both are foreign policy experts who listened with concern as Trump spoke on July 25 with the newly elected Ukraine president. A government whistleblower's complaint about that call led the House to launch the impeachment investigation. Vindman and Williams say they were uneasy as Trump talked to President Volodymyr Zelenskiy about investigations of potential 2020 political rival Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden. Vindman reported the call to NSC lawyers. Williams found it "unusual" and inserted the White House's readout of it in Pence's briefing book. "I did not think it was proper to demand that a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen," said Vindman, a wounded Iraq War veteran. He said there was "no doubt" what Trump wanted. Pence's role remains unclear. "I just don't know if he read it," Williams testified in a closed-door House interview. Vindman also lodged concerns about Sondland. He relayed details from an explosive July 10 meeting at the White House when the ambassador pushed visiting Ukraine officials for the investigations Trump wanted. "He was talking about the 2016 elections and an investigation into the Bidens and Burisma," Vindman testified, referring to the gas company in Ukraine where Hunter Biden served on the board. Burisma is what Tim Morrison, a former official at the National Security Council, who will testify later Tuesday referred to as a "bucket of issues" — the Bidens, Democrats, investigations — he had tried to "stay away" from. Along with former special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker, their accounts further complicate Sondland's testimony and characterize Trump as more central to the action. Sondland met with a Zelenskiy aide on the sidelines of a Sept. 1 gathering in Warsaw, and Morrison, who was watching the encounter from across the room, testified that the ambassador told him moments later he pushed the Ukrainian for the Burisma investigation as a way for Ukraine to gain access to the military funds. Volker provided investigators with a package of text messages with Sondland and another diplomat, William Taylor, the charge d'affaires in Ukraine, who grew alarmed at the linkage of the investigations to the aid. Taylor, who testified publicly last week, called that "crazy." Republicans are certain to mount a more aggressive attack on all the witnesses as the inquiry reaches closer into the White House and they try to protect Trump. The president wants to see a robust defence by his GOP allies on Capitol Hill, but so far they have offered a changing strategy as the fast-moving probe spills into public view. Republicans first complained the witnesses were offering only hearsay, without first-hand knowledge of Trump's actions. But as more witnesses come forward bringing testimony closer to Trump, they now say the president is innocent because the military money was eventually released. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, during an appearance Monday in Louisville, Kentucky, acknowledged the House will likely vote to impeach the president. But the GOP leader said he "can't imagine" a scenario where there is enough support in the Senate — a supermajority 67 votes — to remove Trump from office. McConnell said House Democrats "are seized with 'Trump derangement syndrome,'" a catch-phrase used by the president's supporters. He said the inquiry seems "particularly ridiculous since we're going into the presidential election and the American people will have an opportunity in the very near future to decide who they want the next president to be." Pelosi, though, said the president could speak for himself. "If he has information that is exculpatory, that means ex, taking away, culpable, blame, then we look forward to seeing it," she said in an interview that aired Sunday on CBS. Trump "could come right before the committee and talk, speak all the truth that he wants if he wants," she said. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said Trump "should come to the committee and testify under oath. And he should allow all those around him to come to the committee and testify under oath." He said the White House's insistence on blocking witnesses from co-operating raises the question: "What is he hiding?" The White House has instructed officials not to appear, and most have received congressional subpoenas to compel their testimony. Those appearing in public have already giving closed-door interviews to investigators, and transcripts from those depositions have largely been released. Sondland, Trump's ambassador to the European Union, is to appear Wednesday. The wealthy hotelier, who donated $1 million to Trump's inauguration, is the only person interviewed to date who had direct conversations with the president about the Ukraine situation. Morrison said Sondland and Trump had spoken about five times between July 15 and Sept. 11 - the weeks that $391 million in U.S. assistance was withheld from Ukraine before it was released. Trump has said he barely knew Sondland. Besides Sondland, the committee will hear on Wednesday from Laura Cooper, a deputy assistant secretary of defence, and David Hale, a State Department official. On Thursday, Fiona Hill, a former top NSC staff member for Europe and Russia, will appear. ___ Associated Press writers Jill Colvin and Hope Yen in Washington and Bruce Schreiner in Louisville, Kentucky, contributed. Lisa Mascaro And Mary Clare Jalonick, The Associated Press

Some military personnel linked to hate warned, disciplined but allowed to stay

Mon, 11/18/2019 - 14:43
OTTAWA - The Department of National Defence has revealed that more than a dozen members of the Canadian Armed Forces linked to hateful actions or groups have been warned, disciplined or ordered to take counselling, but allowed to remain in uniform. The revelation follows months of questions about the fate of 30 active service members identified in a military-intelligence report last year as belonging to a hate group or having otherwise made discriminatory or racist statements. Six more have since been added to the list. While the Defence Department previously reported that seven of those members were no longer in the military, it had been unable or unwilling to provide information on the others, sparking concerns from anti-hate advocates that officials were not taking the issue seriously.  On Monday, department spokesman Daniel Le Bouthillier said while officials could not comment on individual cases, 16 members have been subject to a range of measures that include “counselling, warnings and disciplinary measures.” “Some of the other cases are ongoing,” he said, adding: “Simply put, in any instance where information indicates discriminatory behaviour by a Canadian Armed Forces member, action is taken.” The Defence Department’s response did not sit well with Bernie Farber, chair of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, who has demanded military officials provide more information and ultimately do more to curb right-wing extremism and hate in the ranks. “Some of the hate groups to which these soldiers were affiliated were violent,” Farber said. “I feel little comfort that a few warnings and some counselling seems to be the only response. I wonder if these servicemen were found to be (Islamic State group) terrorists if they would have been given what amounts to a slap on the wrist?” While the military maintains incidents of Forces members associating with right-wing extremism or white supremacy are isolated, concerns about their presence has been heightened in recent years thanks to the military-intelligence report and several high-profile incidents. Those incidents include several sailors associated with the far-right Proud Boys group disrupting a Mi’kmaq ceremony in Halifax in 2017 and media reports of other members associating with neo-Nazi groups such as the Atomwaffen Division. One Manitoba army reservist accused of being a neo-Nazi, Master Cpl. Patrik Mathews, remains unaccounted for nearly three months after he was first reported missing. When he disappeared, Mathews was reportedly being investigated by military-intelligence officers and the RCMP. The Canadian Anti-Hate Network also says leaked emails from a now-defunct online forum for fascists and neo-Nazis suggest another Canadian Armed Forces’ member associated with such extremist movements tried selling guns to an individual in Bosnia in 2017. Meanwhile, new documents obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act show military officials initially wanted to charge and kick out an officer cadet who belonged to the Proud Boys group in 2018 before reversing course. While not part of the group that disrupted the Mi’kmaq ceremony, the cadet wore the Proud Boys’ black-and-gold polo shirt in a military mess around the same time and told fellow service members, among other things, that a woman’s role was to be subservient to her husband. Military leaders found those comments and his association with a group that promotes hatred, misogyny, discrimination and harassment violated the Forces’ values and ethics and demonstrated a lack of judgment and leadership qualities. The cadet was charged with conduct to the prejudice of good order and discipline, but military prosecutors eventually opted not to pursue the case, saying there was no reasonable chance of conviction because of his charter right to freedom of thought, belief and expression. And while officials initially moved to remove him from the Forces, with one calling his actions unacceptable and a discredit to the military “in the eyes of the Canadian public,” he was allowed to stay after admitting a “failure in judgment” and disassociating himself from the group. “Although it is his right to be part of this group, he should avoid wearing the Proud Boys-style polo shirt in a military complex and his opinions regarding this subject should be kept to himself,” Col. Paul Fuller of the director of military careers’ administration wrote on July 13, 2018. “I have considered … that he is no longer a member of the Proud Boys (and) as such, I am willing to support in part his (commanding officer’s) recommendation and to give the member one chance to demonstrate that he possesses the qualities that are essential to all CAF members.” This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 18, 2019. Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press

Trudeau pressed to ensure less restrictive assisted-dying law a priority

Mon, 11/18/2019 - 14:03
OTTAWA - Even before he swears in his new cabinet, Justin Trudeau is being urged to ask his new justice minister to move swiftly to make Canada’s assisted-dying law less restrictive. The prime minister has said he’ll comply with a September court ruling that struck down as unconstitutional the requirement that only those near death can qualify for medical help to end their suffering. In her ruling, Quebec Superior Court Judge Christine Baudouin gave the government six months - until early April 2020 - to amend the law. Dying with Dignity Canada is urging Trudeau to have his next justice minister give priority to amending the law and go further than the ruling demands. The group wants the government to get rid of the requirement that a person’s natural death must be reasonably foreseeable in order to qualify for a doctor-assisted death. It also wants the government to drop the requirement that someone must be able to give consent for an assisted death immediately prior to receiving the procedure - a provision that has stripped the right from some people who lose the capacity to consent as their condition deteriorates. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 18, 2019. The Canadian Press

Camel, cow, donkey found roaming together along Kansas road

Mon, 11/18/2019 - 14:00
GODDARD, Kan. - Authorities discovered a camel, a cow and a donkey roaming together along a Kansas road in a grouping reminiscent of a Midwestern Christmas Nativity scene. The Goddard Police Department asked for help Sunday in locating the owners of the "three friends travelling together (towards a Northern star)." Police said in a Facebook post that if they couldn't find the owners, they would be "halfway toward a live Nativity this Christmas season." Sedgwick County Sheriff's Lt. Tim Meyers says the animals belong to an employee of the nearby Tanganyika Wildlife Park. One person who replied to the Facebook post inquired, "Are there 3 wise looking men near?" Another speculated that they "may lead you to the Second Coming." Goddard is about 15 miles (24 kilometres) west of Wichita. The Associated Press

Charges dropped against 20 climate protesters who blocked Toronto bridge

Mon, 11/18/2019 - 13:58
TORONTO - Prosecutors have dropped charges against 20 protesters who blocked a key Toronto bridge as part of international climate demonstrations last month. Crown attorneys told a Toronto court today it would not be in the public interest to pursue criminal charges against the protesters, who blocked the Bloor Viaduct for several hours on Oct. 7 as part of an international movement to spur urgent government action on climate change. Some of the accused had expressed frustration at being charged for engaging in what they and police have described as a peaceful protest. The Toronto chapter of the environmental group Extinction Rebellion said at the time of the demonstration that impeding traffic was a necessary, if disruptive, tactic. Similar protests also took place in Halifax, Edmonton, Vancouver and other Canadian cities, while some European cities saw hundreds of people turn up for protests. One of the Toronto protesters wore a cow jumpsuit to today’s court appearance, while others removed plush cow and bull hats before the proceedings began as non-religious headwear is prohibited inside courtrooms. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 18, 2019. The Canadian Press

Montreal honours ‘hero’ driver who used SUV to shield pedestrians

Mon, 11/18/2019 - 13:54
MONTREAL - The City of Montreal is honouring a man hailed as a hero after he used his SUV to shield pedestrians from a speeding car. Mayor Valerie Plante praised Erick Marciano’s act of courage today as she presented him with a certificate of honour and invited him to sign the city’s Golden Book. Plante said Marciano showed “remarkable heroism” when he pulled his vehicle in front of a driver fleeing police at a busy intersection last Tuesday. But the 48-year-old father of three said he was only doing his duty when he made the split-second decision to act. He said his mind flashed to stories of drivers mowing down pedestrians in Europe, and he didn’t want that to happen in Montreal. Marciano managed to get out of his car just before the collision and wasn’t hurt, but his SUV suffered serious damage in the crash with the suspect’s vehicle. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 18, 2019. The Canadian Press

Omar Khadr appeal American military court remains in limbo: lawyer

Mon, 11/18/2019 - 13:42
A military court is refusing to lift a stay of Omar Khadr’s appeal of his convictions in Guantanamo Bay. His Edmonton lawyer, Nate Whitling, says the new order by the United States Court of Military Commission Review could mean years of additional delay for his client. The Canadian-born Khadr was captured as a wounded 15-year old in Afghanistan in 2002 and later pleaded guilty to five war crimes - including the murder of an American special forces soldier - before a widely disparaged commission in Guantanamo Bay. Khadr filed an appeal with the commission review in 2013, arguing that the offences were not war crimes when he allegedly committed them. His case has been in limbo ever since, so his American lawyer asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in April to order the military court to hear the appeal. That decision is still pending, but the order by the military court says that it has no reason to vacate the stay. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 18, 2019. The Canadian Press

Trump summons Powell to discuss rates amid WH attacks on Fed

Mon, 11/18/2019 - 13:42
WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump summoned Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell to the White House on Monday to discuss the economy and interest rates - issues on which Trump has repeatedly attacked the Fed. The Fed said in a statement that Powell's message to Trump during their meeting was similar to the one he expressed in congressional testimony last week, when he said that the economy is in good shape and that the Fed would likely suspend its rate cuts for now. The central bank has cut its benchmark short-term rate three times this year to try to support the economy. Monday's meeting could fuel concerns that the White House is intensifying public pressure on Powell, who was Trump's own choice to lead the Fed, to cut rates more aggressively. The independence of the Fed has long been considered vital to its ability to properly manage interest rate policy. Though other presidents occasionally sought to push the central bank toward rate cuts, they typically did so privately. Most economists say they think Powell will continue to resist Trump's pressure. Some regard the chairman as more politically agile than some of his predecessors, such as Ben Bernanke. "I don't see evidence of political pressure having any impact on Powell," said Kathy Bostjancic, an economist at Oxford Economics. Powell regularly meets with members of Congress from both parties. During two hearings last week, lawmakers sounded largely supportive and respectful of the Fed's independence. For months, Trump has regularly assailed Powell's leadership and for not cutting rates as much as the president would like. Trump has called Fed officials "boneheads" and has asserted that the economy and stock market would be performing better if rates were lower or even negative as in Europe and Japan. Trump tweeted Monday that his meeting with Powell was "very good and cordial." He added that they discussed "interest rates, negative interest, low inflation, easing, Dollar strength and its effect on manufacturing, trade with China, E.U. and others, etc." Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin also attended the meeting, the Fed said. Presidents often meet with Fed chairs to discuss the economy. But the stakes are much higher when the backdrop is Trump's frequent attacks on the Fed and its chairman. Monday's meeting was at least the second since Powell became chairman in 2018. In February this year, the two had dinner at the White House, where they discussed the state of the economy as well as the Super Bowl and Tiger Woods' golf game, Mnuchin said then. Trump and Powell spoke briefly by phone on three occasions after that meeting, according to Fed calendars. The most recent of those calls was in May. Powell also regularly meets with Mnuchin and Larry Kudlow, Trump's top economic adviser. Trump has complained that negative rates, which have been put in place by the European Central Bank and the Bank of Japan, have left the United States, with its higher rates, at a competitive disadvantage. The Fed's benchmark rate is in a range of 1.5% to 1.75%, an extremely low level by historic standards, particularly given that the unemployment rate is near a 50-year low of 3.6%. In a speech last week, Trump said, referring to negative interest, "Give me some of that…. I want some of that money. Our Federal Reserve doesn't let us do it." The Fed's relatively high benchmark rate, compared with the negative rates overseas, probably does keep the dollar at a higher value compared with the euro and yen. That, in turn, can make U.S. exports more expensive overseas. Still, the vast majority of mainstream economists oppose the notion of deploying negative rates for the U.S. economy, which is healthier and is growing faster than its European and Japanese counterparts. Negative rates are typically a sign that an economy is struggling. Many U.S. economists have expressed skepticism that negative rates help accelerate growth and argue that they would cause problems unique to the U.S. financial markets. Far more Americans, for example, stash savings in money-market funds than savers overseas. Those funds seek to keep their shares equal to $1. Negative rates could cause more of those funds to fall below $1, or "break the buck," which last occurred during the financial crisis a decade ago and fueled panic among investors. ___ AP Economics Writer Martin Crutsinger contributed to this report. Christopher Rugaber, The Associated Press

Police chief: 3 people killed in Oklahoma Walmart shooting

Mon, 11/18/2019 - 13:40
DUNCAN, Okla. - Two men and a woman were fatally shot Monday morning outside a Walmart store in southwestern Oklahoma, and the shooter is among the dead, authorities said. Two victims were shot inside a car and the third was in the parking lot outside the store in Duncan, Police Chief Danny Ford said. Two bodies covered with sheets were visible in the parking lot Monday afternoon. One body was in the driver's seat of a red, two-door car. The other body was lying on the ground next to the vehicle. Bullet holes were visible in the car's windshield. Police said in a Facebook post that a handgun was found at the scene. Authorities have not identified those killed, but Stephens County District Attorney Jason Hicks has confirmed that the shooter was among the dead. Authorities from multiple agencies including the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, the state highway patrol and the Stephens County sheriff's office were investigating the scene. Police are also looking for witnesses to the shooting, Ford said. Aaron Helton, of Duncan, said he was parking outside the Walmart where he planned to buy groceries when he heard about nine gunshots. "I arrived and there were three bodies," Helton said. No staff members were involved in the shooting and the store was not evacuated, Walmart spokeswoman LeMia Jenkins said in an email. "This was an isolated incident in the parking lot and was not an active shooter situation," Jenkins said. Duncan is about 80 miles (130 kilometres) south of Oklahoma City. The Walmart is in a commercial centre that includes a sporting goods store and a dollar store along U.S. Highway 81, the main road that passes through Duncan heading south toward Texas. ___ Associated Press reporter Cedar Attanasio in El Paso, Texas, contributed to this report. Sean Murphy, The Associated Press

Habs forwards Drouin, Byron to undergo surgery, will be out indefinitely

Mon, 11/18/2019 - 13:36
Montreal Canadiens coach Claude Julien says forwards Jonathan Drouin and Paul Byron are scheduled to undergo surgery and will be out indefinitely. Drouin suffered a wrist injury and Byron hurt his knee in the Canadiens’ 5-2 win at Washington on Friday. Drouin was levelled by a thunderous check by Capitals star Alex Ovechkin in the second period, though the Canadiens say his injury came from an unrelated play in the third period. “Obviously, he’s one of our best players,” Canadiens forward Max Domi said. “To be missing him now, it’s a tough pill to swallow. Other guys are going to have to step up. … We all know we have the character in here for guys to step up. “When someone goes down, it gives the opportunity for someone else. When you have the depth we have, it’s a good opportunity for guys to prove some stuff here.” Canadiens coach Claude Julien said the team hopes to have more specific timelines within a few days. He acknowledged it’s a tough blow for Drouin, who was off to a strong start with seven goals and eight assists in 19 games. “We’re in a sport where injuries unfortunately happen,” Julien said. “We’re just going to hope it’s shorter than longer and we’re going to hope he comes back the way he left us.” Byron limped to the locker room late in the game at Washington. He has one goal and three assists. The Canadiens recalled forward Charles Hudon from AHL Laval to help bolster the ranks. “Injuries are going to happen along the way,” Canadiens defenceman Jeff Petry said. “It’s our responsibility in here for each guy to step up a little bit and pick up a little bit more to take care of that.” Montreal, riding a six-game point streak, is in Columbus on Tuesday to face the Blue Jackets before returning home to meet the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 18, 2019. The Canadian Press

Police chief: 3 people killed in Oklahoma Walmart shooting

Mon, 11/18/2019 - 13:26
DUNCAN, Okla. - Two men and a woman were fatally shot Monday morning outside a Walmart store in southwestern Oklahoma, police said. Two victims were shot inside a car and the third was in the parking lot outside the store in Duncan, Police Chief Danny Ford said. It was unclear if the shooter was among the dead. Two bodies covered with sheets were visible in the parking lot Monday afternoon. One body was in the driver's seat of a red, two-door car. The other body was lying on the ground next to the vehicle. Bullet holes were visible in the car's windshield. Police said in a Facebook post that a handgun was found at the scene. Authorities from multiple agencies including the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, the state highway patrol and the Stephens County sheriff's office were investigating the scene. Police are also looking for witnesses to the shooting, Ford said. Aaron Helton, of Duncan, said he was parking outside the Walmart where he planned to buy groceries when he heard about nine gunshots. "I arrived and there were three bodies," Helton said. No staff members were involved in the shooting and the store was not evacuated, Walmart spokeswoman LeMia Jenkins said in an email. "This was an isolated incident in the parking lot and was not an active shooter situation," Jenkins said. Duncan is about 80 miles (130 kilometres) south of Oklahoma City. The Walmart is in a commercial centre that includes a sporting goods store and a dollar store along U.S. Highway 81, the main road that passes through Duncan heading south toward Texas. ___ Associated Press reporter Cedar Attanasio in El Paso, Texas, contributed to this report. Sean Murphy, The Associated Press

AP Exclusive: US softens position on Israeli settlements

Mon, 11/18/2019 - 13:11
WASHINGTON - Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is expected to announce on Monday that the U.S. is softening its position on Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, the latest in a series of Trump administration moves that weaken Palestinian claims to statehood. Pompeo plans to repudiate a 1978 State Department legal opinion that held that civilian settlements in the occupied territories are "inconsistent with international law." The move will likely anger Palestinians and put the U.S. at odds with other nations working to end the conflict. The Trump administration views the opinion, the basis for long-standing U.S. opposition to expanding the settlements, as a distraction and believes any legal questions about the issue should be addressed by Israeli courts, according to a draft of Pompeo's remarks on the policy obtained by The Associated Press. "Calling the establishment of civilian settlements inconsistent with international law has not advanced the cause of peace," Pompeo says in the draft. "The hard truth is that there will never be a judicial resolution to the conflict, and arguments about who is right and who is wrong as a matter of international law will not bring peace." U.S. administration moves that have weakened Palestinian efforts to achieve statehood have included President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, the movement of the U.S. Embassy to that city and the closure of the Palestinian diplomatic office in Washington. Ayman Odeh, leader of the Joint List of Arab parties in Israel’s Knesset, wrote on Twitter that the change in policy won't "change the fact that the settlements were built on occupied land upon which an independent Palestinian state will be founded alongside Israel.” Even though the decision is largely symbolic, it could also give a boost to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is fighting for his political survival after he was unable to form a coalition government following recent elections. In addition, it could spell further trouble for the administration's oft-promised peace plan, which is unlikely to gather much international support by endorsing a position contrary to the global consensus. The Netanyahu government was dealt a blow on settlements just last week when the European Court of Justice ruled products made in Israeli settlements must be labeled as such. Israeli Transportation Minister Betzalel Smotrich, a West Bank settler and head of a pro-settler party, wrote on Twitter that the anticipated announcement is “an appropriate response to the hypocritical decision by the European court last week.” The 1978 legal opinion on settlements is known as the Hansell Memorandum. It had been the basis for more than 40 years of carefully worded U.S. opposition to settlement construction that had varied in its tone and strength depending on the president's position. The international community overwhelmingly considers the settlements illegal. This is based in part on the Fourth Geneva Convention, which bars an occupying power from transferring parts of its own civilian population to occupied territory. In the final days of the Obama administration, the U.S. allowed the U.N. Security Council to pass a resolution declaring the settlements a "flagrant violation" of international law. Pompeo was expected to say that the U.S. would not take a position on the legality of specific settlements and that that the new policy would not extend beyond the West Bank and create a precedent for other territorial disputes. He also planned to say that the decision did not mean the administration was prejudging the status of the West Bank in any eventual Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. The shift is a victory for Netanyahu, a longtime booster of the settlements, and had been strongly supported by U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and big Trump donor Sheldon Adelson. Friedman was a major fundraiser for the settlements before becoming ambassador. It may be taken by Netanyahu and the settlement movement as a green light for additional construction, or even annexation, of lands claimed by the Palestinians for a future state. The anti-settlement monitoring group Peace Now, along with AP reporting, has found a sharp increase in settlement planning and construction since Trump took office. For Netanyahu, the welcome boost comes at a time when he has been weakened domestically by mounting legal woes and two inconclusive elections this year. Unable to secure a parliamentary majority, Netanyahu is now anxiously waiting to see if his chief rival, Benny Gantz, can put together a coalition. If Gantz fails, the country could be forced into a third election with Netanyahu facing the distraction of a trial. Israel captured the West Bank and east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war and quickly began settling the newly conquered territory. Today, some 700,000 Israeli settlers live in the two areas, which are both claimed by the Palestinians for their state. After the war, it immediately annexed east Jerusalem, home to the holy city's most important religious sites, in a move that is not internationally recognized. But Israel has never annexed the West Bank, even as it has dotted the territory with scores of settlements and tiny settlement outposts. While claiming the fate of the settlements is a subject for negotiations, it has steadily expanded them. Some major settlements have over 30,000 residents, resembling small cities and serving as suburbs of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. The Palestinians and most of the world say the settlements undermine hopes for a two-state solution by gobbling up land sought by the Palestinians. Israel's settlement activities have also drawn attention to its treatment of Palestinians. While Jewish settlers can freely enter Israel and vote in Israeli elections, West Bank Palestinians are subject to Israeli military law, require permits to enter Israel and do not have the right to vote in Israeli elections. ___ Associated Press writer Josef Federman in Jerusalem contributed to this report. Matthew Lee, The Associated Press

Prince Andrew’s efforts to put scandal behind him backfire

Mon, 11/18/2019 - 13:05
LONDON - Prince Andrew’s effort to put the Jeffrey Epstein scandal behind him may have instead done him irreparable harm. While aides are trying to put the best face on his widely criticized interview with the BBC, royal watchers are asking whether he can survive the public relations disaster and remain a working member of the royal family. The question facing Queen Elizabeth II and her advisers is how to protect the historic institution of the monarchy from the taint of a 21st-century sex-and-trafficking scandal and the repeated missteps of a prince who has been a magnet for bad publicity as he struggles to find a national role for himself. "Prince Andrew, I think, really has to stay out of the limelight for the moment because there really, I think, is no coming back from the damage that was done … at least, not in the near future," Kate Williams, a royal historian and professor at Reading University, told ITV News. Andrew, the second son of Queen Elizabeth II, tried to end years of speculation about his role in the Epstein scandal by granting a no-holds barred interview to Emily Maitlis, the respected presenter of the BBC’s Newsnight program. But the strategy backfired when the prince failed to show empathy for the young women who were exploited by Epstein even as he defended his friendship with the American financier who was a convicted sex offender. Epstein died Aug. 10 in a New York prison while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges. His death has been ruled a suicide by the city's medical examiner. Maitlis, writing Monday in the Times of London, said planning for the interview began after Epstein’s death. Andrew's management team knew they had a problem with the prince's well-documented ties to Epstein and that previous written statements by the prince denying any involvement by the prince in Epstein’s crimes "perhaps lacked the conviction of a human voice behind them,” she said. "They feel that a Newsnight interview is the only way to clear the air. To put across his side of the story," Maitlis wrote, describing discussions with the prince’s staff. But when the 55-year-old prince got that chance in an interview broadcast Saturday night, he appeared awkward and overly legalistic. While Andrew said he regretted staying at Epstein’s Manhattan home in 2010, after Epstein had served a prison sentence for a sex crimes conviction, Andrew defended his previous friendship with the billionaire investor because of the contacts it provided when he was preparing for a role as Britain’s special trade representative. The prince denied sleeping with Virginia Roberts Giuffre, who says she was trafficked by Epstein and had sex with Andrew on three occasions, including twice when she was 17. Andrew went on to say that an alleged sexual encounter in London with Giuffre couldn’t have occurred on the day that she says it did because he spent the day with his daughter Princess Beatrice, taking her to a party at Pizza Express in the London suburb of Woking and then back to the family home. He also said Giuffre’s description of him buying her drinks and sweating heavily as they danced together could not be correct because he doesn’t drink and had a medical condition at the time that meant he could not sweat. Those answers have been widely mocked on social media, with Twitter users sharing pizza jokes and photos of an apparently sweaty Prince Andrew. Nowhere during the almost one-hour interview, which took place inside Buckingham Palace, did the prince express sympathy for Epstein’s victims. One exchange in particular captured the coldness for which Andrew is being criticized. Andrew: "Do I regret the fact that he has quite obviously conducted himself in a manner unbecoming? Yes." Maitlis: "Unbecoming? He was a sex offender." Andrew: "Yeah. I’m being polite." Lisa Bloom, a Woodland Hills, California-based attorney for five of Epstein’s alleged victims, called the interview with the prince "deeply disappointing." "He is entitled to deny allegations and defend himself," she said. "But where is his apology for being so closely associated with one of history’s most prolific pedophiles?" While Andrew’s older brother, Prince Charles, is heir to the British throne, he himself is only eighth in the line of succession. He served in the Royal Navy for more than 20 years, including during the 1982 war over the Falklands Islands, before retiring in 2001. Civilian life has proved more problematic for the prince. He served as Britain's special trade representative from 2001 to 2011, but was forced to step down amid questions about his links to a son of the late Libyan dictator Col. Muammar Gaddafi. Andrew’s marriage to the former Sarah Ferguson ended in divorce in 1996, but in 2010 a British newspaper reported that it had filmed his ex-wife offering to sell access to the prince. Andrew's problem is also one of timing, according to celebrity expert Ellis Cashmore, author of "Kardashian Kulture." The Epstein case was shaping up to be the biggest American female exploitation case of the #MeToo era since the movement was kicked off in 2017 by disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. "Epstein was the personification of #MeToo’s evil," Cashmore said. "His apparent suicide robbed the movement of what looked certain to be colossal symbolic victory, so I sense there’s hunt for a prominent public figure" to be held to account. Cashmore said Britain's royal family has no realistic option now but to tell Andrew to maintain a dignified silence and hope interest in this case will dissipate. The problem, Cashmore said, is that if Andrew immediately cuts down on his public engagements, that could also backfire. "The problem is that, when a public figure who is involved in a scandal, refuses to engage with the media, then it effectively gives us - the audience - license to think what we like and speculate wildly,'' he said. "The prospect of gossip on Andrew circulating in supermarkets, at work and on social media is a horrifying prospect for the royals. But I suspect that’s exactly what’s going to happen.'’ The BBC interview is especially problematic because it comes at the end of a difficult year for the royal family, said Pauline Maclaran, author of “Royal Fever: The British Monarchy in Consumer Culture.” Andrew’s nephews, Prince William and Prince Harry, have helped reposition the royal family for the modern world, appearing more accessible as they speak about their own mental health issues to help others and their charities. But that image has been dented recently as Harry and his wife, the former U.S. television star Meghan Markle, spar with the press over privacy issues. "It’s definitely tainting the brand at the moment," Maclaran said of Andrew’s Epstein interview. "The trouble is that, if he was trying to be sincere, he did the royal thing: He didn’t show enough emotion. It doesn’t cut it in the social media age." Danica Kirka, The Associated Press

Police chief: 3 people killed in Oklahoma Walmart shooting

Mon, 11/18/2019 - 12:58
DUNCAN, Okla. - Two men and a woman were fatally shot Monday morning outside a Walmart store in southwestern Oklahoma, police said. Two victims were shot inside a car and the third was in the parking lot outside the store in Duncan, Police Chief Danny Ford said. Two bodies covered with sheets were visible in the parking lot Monday afternoon. One body was in the driver's seat of a red, two-door car. The other body was lying on the ground next to the vehicle. Bullet holes were visible in the car's windshield. Police said in a Facebook post that a handgun was found at the scene. Authorities from multiple agencies including the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, the state highway patrol and the Stephens County sheriff's office were investigating the scene. Police are also looking for witnesses to the shooting, Ford said. Aaron Helton, of Duncan, said he was parking outside the Walmart where he planned to buy groceries when he heard about nine gunshots. "I arrived and there were three bodies," Helton said. No staff members were involved in the shooting and the store was not evacuated, Walmart spokeswoman LeMia Jenkins said in an email. "This was an isolated incident in the parking lot and was not an active shooter situation," Jenkins said. Duncan is about 80 miles (130 kilometres) south of Oklahoma City. The Walmart is in a commercial centre that includes a sporting goods store and a dollar store along U.S. Highway 81, the main road that passes through Duncan heading south toward Texas. ___ Associated Press reporter Cedar Attanasio in El Paso, Texas, contributed to this report. Sean Murphy, The Associated Press

Olympic BMX rider and 2015 Pan AM Games champion Tory Nyhaug retires

Mon, 11/18/2019 - 12:57
TORONTO - Canadian BMX cyclist Tory Nyhaug, a two-time Olympian and gold-medallist at the 2015 Pan American Games, announced his retirement Monday. Nyhaug said in an Instagram post that he has struggled with a concussion sustained at the 2018 world championships in Baku, Azerbaijan. “It’s been difficult to recover as I’ve dealt with post concussion symptoms flaring up for a year and a half while training and trying my best to return to racing. I never thought it would take this long to recover, but I can now say I’m through it and happy and healthy,” Nyhaug said. “With that being said, because the post concussion symptoms persisted for so long, the severity of it, and the possible long term risk of another hit to the head, I have no choice but to retire for my own health.” The 27-year-old from Coquitlam, B.C., had a career highlight at the 2015 Toronto Pan Am Games when he finished on top of the podium despite returning to action a few weeks before competition after suffering a badly broken left foot. He finished fifth at the 2016 Rio Olympics and 18th at the 2012 London Games. “I don’t regret a thing,” Nyhaug said. “If I could do it all again I would 1,000 times over. The friendships I’ve made, the lessons I’ve learned, and the personal growth I challenged myself with I’ll have forever. “I’ve absolutely loved it.” This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 18, 2019. The Canadian Press

Kylie Jenner sells stake in beauty empire to CoverGirl owner

Mon, 11/18/2019 - 12:43
NEW YORK - Kylie Jenner is selling a stake of her beauty business to CoverGirl owner Coty, in a deal that values the reality TV star's company at about $1.2 billion. Coty said Monday that it will pay $600 million for a 51% stake in Kylie Cosmetics. It plans to launch more products under the Kylie brand and sell them in more countries around the world. The deal is expected to be completed early next year. Jenner, part of the "Keeping Up with the Kardashians" reality show family, founded her company in 2015, tapping into her hundreds of millions of social media followers to promote her popular lip liners and liquid lipsticks. The 22-year-old, who is the youngest sister of Kim Kardashian West, will still be the face of the brand and be involved in creating new products. "Kylie is a modern-day icon," said Peter Harf, Coty's chairman of the board. Coty hopes that the celebrity-backed business can help boost its sales and connect with younger shoppers under 35, a group that traditional makeup brands have struggled to reach. Coty's other brands, including Max Factor makeup and Sally Hansen nail polish, have been around for decades. Wendy Nicholson, an analyst at Citi Research, said that the deal could help Coty become a "faster growth company." But she said a brand attached to a celebrity comes with risks, like the possibility that Jenner's popularity could fade. Coty said Monday that Jenner "is not a fad," citing her brand's growing sales and social media followers. Kylie Cosmetics brought in about $177 million in revenue in the last year, up 40% from the year before, the company said. And the brand's Instagram followers grows by 7,000 a day. Jenner's products were only sold online when it was first launched, but last year the brand struck a deal to sell its goods in 1,100 Ulta Beauty stores. Jenner expanded her empire earlier this year with Kylie Skin, a line of moisturizers, under eye creams and facial scrubs. "I'm excited to partner with Coty to continue to reach even more fans of Kylie Cosmetics and Kylie Skin around the world," Jenner said in a statement. Joseph Pisani, The Associated Press

Prince Andrew’s efforts to put scandal behind him backfire

Mon, 11/18/2019 - 12:41
LONDON - Prince Andrew’s effort to put the Jeffrey Epstein scandal behind him may have instead done him irreparable harm. While aides are trying to put the best face on his widely criticized interview with the BBC, royal watchers are asking whether he can survive the public relations disaster and remain a working member of the royal family. The question facing Queen Elizabeth II and her advisers is how to protect the historic institution of the monarchy from the taint of a 21st-century sex-and-trafficking scandal and the repeated missteps of a prince who has been a magnet for bad publicity as he struggles to find a national role for himself. Danica Kirka, The Associated Press

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