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Trump, Pelosi feud heats up again

WASHINGTON (AP) — She imperiled his State of the Union address. He denied her a plane to visit troops abroad.

The shutdown battle between President Donald Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is playing out as a surreal game of constitutional brinkmanship, with both flexing political powers from opposite ends of Pennsylvania Avenue as the negotiations to end the monthlong partial government shutdown remain stalled.

In dramatic fashion, Trump issued a letter to Pelosi on Thursday, just before she and other lawmakers were set to depart on the previously undisclosed trip to Afghanistan and Brussels. Trump belittled the trip as a “public relations event” — even though he had just made a similar warzone stop — and said it would be best if Pelosi remained in Washington to negotiate to reopen the government.

“Obviously, if you would like to make your journey by flying commercial, that would certainly be your prerogative,” wrote Trump, who had been smarting since Pelosi, the day before, called on him to postpone his Jan. 29 State of the Union address due to the shutdown.

Denying military aircraft to a senior lawmaker — let alone the speaker, who is second in line to the White House, traveling to a combat region — is very rare. Lawmakers were caught off guard. A bus to ferry the legislators to their departure idled outside the Capitol on Thursday afternoon.

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McConnell’s maneuvers take backseat to Trump in shutdown

WASHINGTON (AP) — One of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s guiding principles is: “There’s no education in the second kick of a mule.”

Now, deep into a government shutdown he cautioned President Donald Trump against, McConnell is not about to let himself be kicked again.

The Republican leader has been conspicuously deferential to Trump since the shutdown began. He’s waiting on the president and Democrats to make a deal to end it. The result is an unusually inactive profile for the GOP leader who’s often the behind-the-scenes architect of intricate legislative maneuvers to resolve bitter partisan stalemates.

Democrats complain publicly — and some Republicans grumble privately — that the Senate is not fulfilling its role as a co-equal branch of government, a legislative check on the executive. They worry about ordinary Americans facing hardship waiting for a resolution to the standoff over Trump’s demand for money to build the border wall with Mexico.

But the Kentucky Republican, who is up for re-election in 2020 in a state where Trump tends to be more popular than he is, sees no other choice than to stand back and let the president who took the country into the shutdown decide how he wants to get out of it.

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May’s foes gather as Britain’s Brexit stalemate drags on

LONDON (AP) — Talks to end Britain’s Brexit stalemate appeared deadlocked Friday, with neither Prime Minister Theresa May nor the main opposition leader shifting from their entrenched positions.

May has been meeting with politicians from several parties in a bid to find a way forward after her European Union divorce deal was rejected by Parliament this week.

But she is unwilling to move her “red lines,” which include taking Britain out of the bloc’s customs union. And Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn refuses to meet with May unless she rules out the possibility of Britain leaving the EU with no deal.

May, who narrowly defeated a no-confidence vote triggered by Corbyn this week, said Thursday it was “not within the government’s power to rule out no-deal” because by law Britain will leave the EU on March 29 “unless Parliament either agrees a deal with the EU or the U.K. … chooses to stay in the EU permanently.”

Britain’s political chaos has spurred EU nations to step up preparations for a disorderly British exit. France and other countries are spending millions, hiring thousands of workers and issuing emergency decrees to cope with the possibility that Britain will crash out of the bloc, sparking major disruptions to travel and trade.

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Deadly car bombing in Colombia underscores lingering threats

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — Colombian authorities were scrambling to identify who was behind a brazen car bombing at a police academy in Bogota that has rattled residents and raised tough questions about lingering security threats in the wake of a peace deal with the nation’s largest rebel group.

The Thursday morning bombing, which left 10 dead and dozens injured, was the deadliest in Bogota in years and proved especially unsettling because the target, the General Santander school in southern Bogota, is one of the most protected installations in the capital.

President Ivan Duque, visiting the academy in the aftermath, was careful not to attribute blame to any armed group even while condemning what he called a “miserable” terrorist act that recalled some of bloodiest chapters of Colombia’s recent past.

“The terrorists are looking to intimidate us as a society and attack the state,” Duque said in a televised address. “Colombia will demonstrate that it is a strong state, united and won’t break in the face of the dementia of these aggressions.”

Among those killed was a top-of-class female cadet from Ecuador, while two visiting students from Panama were among those injured

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Tesla plans 7 pct staff cut, says road ahead very difficult

Electric car and solar panel maker Tesla said Friday it plans to cut its staff by about 7 percent.

“The road ahead is very difficult,” the company’s founder and CEO Elon Musk said in an email to employees posted on the company’s website.

He said Tesla Inc. hopes to post a “tiny profit” in the current quarter but that after expanding its workforce by 30 percent last year, it cannot support that size of staff.

Musk said in a tweet in October that Tesla had 45,000 employees. A 7 percent cut would involve laying off about 3,150 people.

Tesla’s shares tumbled earlier this month after it cut vehicle prices by $2,000 and announced fourth-quarter sales figures that fell short of Wall Street estimates.

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Zimbabwe in ‘total internet shutdown’ amid violent crackdown

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — Zimbabwe on Friday faced a “total internet shutdown,” a media group said, after a days-long violent crackdown on people protesting a dramatic fuel price increase. Badly injured people streamed into a hospital in the capital after alleged assaults by security forces.

“Our country is going through one of the most trying periods in its history,” the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference said in a sweeping statement lamenting the government’s “intolerant handling of dissent” and its failure to halt economic collapse.

Media group MISA-Zimbabwe shared a text message from the country’s largest telecom company, Econet, calling the government’s internet order “beyond our reasonable control.” The High Court will hear a challenge to the shutdown on Monday, the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said.

A prominent pastor and activist who faces a possible 20 years in prison on a subversion charge arrived at court, one of more than 600 people arrested this week. Evan Mawarire has called it “heartbreaking” to see the new government of President Emmerson Mnangagwa acting like that of former leader Robert Mugabe.

Mawarire is accused of inciting civil disobedience online. “It’s a shame what’s happening,” the handcuffed pastor said.

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Palestinian forces soldier on amid Israeli raids, US neglect

RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) — On a cold winter’s night earlier this month, a convoy of 10 Israeli armored jeeps drove into the heart of the West Bank city of Ramallah and parked in front of the Palestinian police headquarters.

Soldiers fanned out, searching nearby shops for security cameras after a pair of recent shooting attacks against Israelis in the occupied territory. The raid attracted dozens of stone-throwing Palestinians, and the Israelis responded with tear gas and rubber bullets.

It was the latest in a series of Israeli raids into urban areas that the Palestinians say undermine their own U.S.-trained security forces. Those forces have been coordinating operations with Israel in the West Bank for years but ties have frayed as the peace process ground to a halt.

“This humiliates the Palestinian Authority,” said Zakariya Musleh, head of Palestinian military intelligence. “It’s a clear message from the occupying power that we are not a partner for peace.”

The Palestinian Authority has faced mounting protests over the security coordination as the Trump administration pursues policies seen by critics as obliterating whatever chance remains for a two-state solution, from recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital to cutting off economic aid to the Palestinians.

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China slump squeezes workers, hammers consumer spending

BEIJING (AP) — Yu Mingang had a good job helping Chinese manufacturers prepare to sell shares to the public until the cooling economy derailed those plans.

As demand for auditing services sank, the 25-year-old accountant in the eastern city of Hangzhou was laid off in December. Yu tightened his belt: No more movies or eating out. He put off buying a computer.

“I pay rent out of my savings,” Yu said.

The downturn is squeezing urban workers and entrepreneurs the ruling Communist Party is counting on to help transform China from a low-wage factory into a prosperous consumer market.

Headline economic numbers still look healthy. Growth in 2019 is forecast at more than 6 percent, down only slightly from about 6.5 percent last year. But it is propped up by higher government spending, which masks sharp declines in other areas. Those are spooking the public and discouraging spending, which could make the downturn worse.

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MLK holiday represents big moment for 2020 Democrats

Monday’s observance of what would have been Martin Luther King Jr.’s 90th birthday is emerging as an important moment for Democrats eyeing the White House to talk about one of the most divisive issues in American politics: race.

At least a half dozen declared or potential presidential candidates will attend events and talk about what King’s legacy means to Americans in 2019.

Among them is former Vice President Joe Biden, who, amid intense speculation over whether he’ll seek the presidency, will make his first public appearance of the year at the National Action Network’s annual King breakfast in Washington with its founder, the Rev. Al Sharpton, and Martin Luther King III. Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, still considering a bid, is also on the schedule. And New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who jumped in the 2020 race this week, will appear with Sharpton later in the day in Harlem.

Meanwhile, Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Bernie Sanders of Vermont will attend events in South Carolina, where black voters make up 60 percent of the Democratic primary. And Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren is expected to speak in Boston, where King attended seminary.

The King holiday marks the first time in the early days of the Democratic primary that so many White House hopefuls are holding public events on the same day. That reflects the wide-open nature of the 2020 field, which is likely to include several candidates of color for the first time. Some Democrats say the party’s presidential nomination could ultimately go to the person who best navigates racial issues.

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Police: Arizona officer kills teen boy with replica gun

PHOENIX (AP) — Police in a Phoenix suburb say a burglary suspect shot to death by an officer was a 14-year-old boy carrying a replica gun.

Authorities say officers in the city of Tempe reported a suspect burglarizing a car Tuesday and that he ran away holding what appeared to be a handgun.

During the chase, police say he turned toward the officers. One officer perceived that as a threat and shot the suspect, who died at a hospital.

Police said Wednesday that the teen had a replica 1911 airsoft gun in his possession, which they determined he had taken from vehicle along with some other items.

They say the shooting was captured on the officer’s body camera. The police department did not immediately respond to a request by The Associated Press for access to the video.