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Iran’s supreme leader: No talks with the US at any level

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran’s supreme leader announced on Tuesday that “there will be no talks with the U.S. at any level” — remarks apparently meant to end all speculation about a possible U.S.-Iran meeting between the two countries’ presidents at the U.N. later this month.

Iranian state TV quoted Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as saying this is the position of the entire leadership of the country and that “all officials in the Islamic Republic unanimously believe” this.

“There will be no talks with the U.S. at any level,” he said.

Khamenei said the U.S. wants to prove its “maximum pressure policy” against Iran is successful.

“In return, we have to prove that the policy is not worth a penny for the Iranian nation,” Khamenei said. “That’s why all Iranian officials, from the president and the foreign minister to all others have announced that we do not negotiate (with the U.S.) either bilaterally or multilaterally.”

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Israelis vote in repeat election centered on PM Netanyahu

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israelis began voting Tuesday in an unprecedented repeat election that will decide whether longtime Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stays in power despite a looming indictment on corruption charges.

Netanyahu, the longest serving leader in Israeli history, is seeking a fourth consecutive term in office, and fifth overall. But he faces a stiff challenge from retired military chief Benny Gantz, whose centrist Blue and White party is running even with Netanyahu’s Likud. Both parties could struggle to form a majority coalition with smaller allies, though, forcing them into a potential unity government.

Netanyahu has tried to portray himself as a statesman who is uniquely qualified to lead the country through challenging times. Gantz has tried to paint Netanyahu as divisive and scandal-plagued, offering himself as a calming influence and an honest alternative.

Tuesday’s vote marks their second showdown of the year after drawing even in the previous election in April.

Netanyahu appeared poised to remain in office at the time, with his traditional allies of nationalist and ultra-religious Jewish parties controlling a parliamentary majority.

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Surprise rescue of Jamaica coral reefs shows nature can heal

OCHO RIOS, Jamaica (AP) — Everton Simpson squints at the Caribbean from his motorboat, scanning the dazzling bands of color for hints of what lies beneath. Emerald green indicates sandy bottoms. Sapphire blue lies above seagrass meadows. And deep indigo marks coral reefs. That’s where he’s headed.

He steers the boat to an unmarked spot that he knows as the “coral nursery.” ”It’s like a forest under the sea,” he says, strapping on blue flippers and fastening his oxygen tank before tipping backward into the azure waters. He swims down 25 feet (7.6 meters) carrying a pair of metal shears, fishing line and a plastic crate.

On the ocean floor, small coral fragments dangle from suspended ropes, like socks hung on a laundry line. Simpson and other divers tend to this underwater nursery as gardeners mind a flower bed — slowly and painstakingly plucking off snails and fireworms that feast on immature coral.

When each stub grows to about the size of a human hand, Simpson collects them in his crate to individually “transplant” onto a reef, a process akin to planting each blade of grass in a lawn separately.

Even fast-growing coral species add just a few inches a year. And it’s not possible to simply scatter seeds.

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House Judiciary Committee to hold 1st impeachment hearing

WASHINGTON (AP) — As they investigate President Donald Trump, Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee will hold their first official hearing in what they are calling an impeachment investigation.

Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s outspoken former campaign manager, is scheduled to appear Tuesday to discuss the report by former special counsel Robert Mueller.

But it’s unlikely that Democrats will get much new information. A devoted friend and supporter of the Republican president, Lewandowski isn’t expected to elaborate much beyond what he told Mueller’s investigators last year. Mueller himself testified this summer, with no bombshells. Two other witnesses who were subpoenaed alongside Lewandowski — former White House aides Rick Dearborn and Rob Porter — won’t show up at all, on orders from the White House.

The hearing underscores what has been a central dilemma for House Democrats all year — they have promised to investigate Trump, aggressively, and many of their base supporters want them to move quickly to try to remove him from office. But the White House has blocked their oversight requests at most every turn, declining to provide new documents or allow former aides to testify. The Republican Senate is certain to rebuff any House efforts to bring charges against the president. And moderate Democrats in their own caucus have expressed nervousness that the impeachment push could crowd out their other accomplishments.

Still, the Judiciary panel is moving ahead, approving rules for impeachment hearings last week. Among those guidelines is allowing staff to question witnesses, as will happen for the first time with Lewandowski.

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Bombing kills 24 at Afghan president’s rally; Ghani unhurt

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A suicide bomber on a motorcycle targeted a campaign rally by President Ashraf Ghani in northern Afghanistan on Tuesday, killing at least 24 people and wounding 31, officials said. Ghani was present at the venue but was unharmed, according to his campaign chief.

Just hours later, an explosion struck near the U.S. Embassy in Kabul but details on that blast were not immediately known.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks. The violence comes as Afghanistan faces presidential elections on Sept. 28. The Taliban have warned that polling stations and election campaigns would be targeted.

In Tuesday’s suicide attack, the bomber rammed his motorcycle packed with explosives into the entrance of the venue where Ghani was campaigning on the outskirts of the city of Charakar in northern Parwan province.

There were many women and children among the casualties, said Dr. Qasim Sangin, a local official.

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Purdue Pharma begins Chapter 11 bankruptcy journey

NEW YORK (AP) — Purdue Pharma gets its day in court Tuesday after the OxyContin maker filed for bankruptcy and negotiated a potential multi-billion dollar settlement to resolve thousands of lawsuits.

An initial hearing will be held in federal court in White Plains, New York, for the Chapter 11 bankruptcy case. Purdue filed for bankruptcy protection late Sunday, the first step in a plan it says would provide $10 billion to $12 billion to help reimburse state and local governments and clean up the damage done by powerful prescription painkillers and illegal opioids, including heroin.

These drugs have been blamed for more than 400,000 deaths in the U.S. in the past two decades.

Two dozen states have signed on to the settlement plan along with key lawyers who represent many of the 2,000-plus local governments suing Stamford, Connecticut-based Purdue Pharma. But other states have come out strongly against it.

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As illnesses spread, fake vape gear sells on LA streets

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A short walk from police headquarters in the heart of downtown Los Angeles, a cluster of bustling shops are openly selling packaging and hardware that can be used to produce counterfeit marijuana vapes that have infected California’s cannabis market.

Bootleggers eager to profit off unsuspecting consumers are mimicking popular, legal vape brands, pairing replica packaging churned out in Chinese factories with untested, possibly dangerous cannabis oil produced in the state’s vast underground market.

The result: Authentic-looking vape cartridges sold by unlicensed dispensaries and delivery services, along with rogue websites.

The deceptive rip-offs on the street could be linked to an emerging public health crisis. Hundreds of people across the U.S. have been sickened, mainly by vaping cannabis oil, and six deaths have been reported. Public health officials aren’t sure what’s causing the lung issues, vomiting and other symptoms, but in California they say most patients reported purchasing vapes from pop-up shops or other illegal sellers that are a pipeline for counterfeit products.

The problem has gotten so pervasive that a major legal brand, Kingpen, is investing millions of dollars to redesign its packaging and product security, The Associated Press has learned.

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Top UK court hearing challenge to Johnson’s Parliament break

LONDON (AP) — Britain’s Supreme Court opened proceedings Tuesday to decide whether Prime Minister Boris Johnson broke the law when he suspended Parliament just weeks before the U.K. is due to leave the European Union, in a case that pits the powers of elected lawmakers against those of the executive.

Johnson sent lawmakers home from Sept. 9 until Oct. 14, which is barely two weeks before the scheduled Brexit day of Oct. 31.

The decision outraged many lawmakers, who say it’s designed to prevent them from challenging his plan to take Britain out of the EU next month, with or without a divorce deal.

The suspension sparked legal challenges, to which lower courts have given contradictory rulings. England’s High Court said the suspension was a political rather than legal matter, but Scottish court judges ruled last week that Johnson acted illegally to avoid democratic scrutiny.

The U.K.’s top court is being asked to decide who was right, in a case scheduled to last up to three days.

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The New York Times faces questions over Kavanaugh story

NEW YORK (AP) — Between an offensive tweet and a significant revision, The New York Times’ handling of a new sexual misconduct allegation against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh attracted almost as much attention as the accusation itself.

The story also gave President Donald Trump and his allies fresh ammunition in his campaign against the media, where the Times was already a favorite target.

The revelation that led several Democratic presidential contenders to call for Kavanaugh’s impeachment came in the 11th paragraph of a story labeled “news analysis” that ran in the Sunday opinion section. The story is based on an upcoming book by Times reporters Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly, “The Education of Brett Kavanaugh: An Investigation,” about the junior justice’s brutal confirmation battle last year.

Headlined “Brett Kavanaugh Fit In With the Privileged Kids. She Did Not,” the story was primarily about Deborah Ramirez, a Connecticut woman who alleged that Kavanaugh, as a freshman at Yale in 1983, had pulled down his pants and thrust his penis at her. Kavanaugh has denied those claims.

Yet the authors said they’d uncovered a similar story involving Kavanaugh at another freshman-year party, where he allegedly exposed himself and friends pushed his penis into the hands of a female student. The story said former classmate Max Stier reported the incident to the FBI and senators as Kavanaugh’s nomination was being discussed, but the story said Stier would not discuss it with the authors. Kavanaugh would not comment on the story, a court spokeswoman said Monday.

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Talks carry on but no deal yet in UAW strike against GM

DETROIT (AP) — Talks continued into the night but there was no end to the strike against General Motors.

The walkout by upward of 49,000 United Auto Workers members has brought to a standstill more than 50 factories and parts warehouses in the union’s first strike against the No. 1 U.S. automaker in over a decade.

Workers left factories and formed picket lines shortly after midnight Monday in the dispute over a new four-year contract. The union’s top negotiator said in a letter to the company that the strike could have been averted had the company made its latest offer sooner.

The letter dated Sunday suggests that the company and union are not as far apart as the rhetoric leading up to the strike had indicated. Negotiations continued Monday in Detroit after breaking off during the weekend.

But union spokesman Brian Rothenberg said the two sides have come to terms on only 2% of the contract.