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Administration blocks ‘urgent’ whistleblower disclosure

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration plunged into an extraordinary showdown with Congress Thursday over access to a whistleblower’s complaint about reported incidents including a private conversation between President Donald Trump and a foreign leader. The blocked complaint is both “serious” and “urgent,” the government’s intelligence watchdog said.

The administration is keeping Congress from even learning what exactly the whistleblower is alleging, but the intelligence community’s inspector general said the matter involves the “most significant” responsibilities of intelligence leadership. A lawmaker said the complaint was “based on a series of events.”

The Washington Post and The New York Times reported Thursday evening that at least part of the complaint involves Ukraine. The newspapers cited anonymous sources familiar with the matter. The Associated Press has not confirmed the reports.

The inspector general appeared before the House intelligence committee behind closed doors Thursday but declined, under administration orders, to reveal to members the substance of the complaint.

The standoff raises fresh questions about the extent to which Trump’s allies are protecting the president from oversight and, specifically, if his new acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, is working with the Justice Department to shield the president from the reach of Congress.

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Iran envoy: ‘All-out war’ to result if hit for Saudi attack

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Any attack on Iran by the U.S. or Saudi Arabia will spark an “all-out war,” Tehran’s top diplomat warned Thursday, raising the stakes as Washington and Riyadh weigh a response to a drone-and-missile strike on the kingdom’s oil industry that shook global energy markets.

The comments by Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif represented the starkest warning yet by Iran in a long summer of mysterious attacks and incidents following the collapse of Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, more than a year after President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the U.S. from the accord.

They appeared to be aimed directly at U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who while on a trip to the region earlier referred to Saturday’s attack in Saudi Arabia as an “act of war.”

Along with the sharp language, however, there also were signals from both sides of wanting to avoid a confrontation.

On Thursday evening, a spokesman at Iran’s mission to the United Nations said Zarif and President Hassan Rouhani had received U.S. visas to attend next week’s annual U.N. General Assembly meeting in New York.

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Canada’s Trudeau comes under fire over brownface photo

TORONTO (AP) — At a time when bigotry seems on the rise around the world and doors are being shut, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has become known as a champion of diversity. Now, amid his bid for re-election, that reputation is under attack in a furor triggered by a photo of him in brownface at a costume party two decades ago.

On Thursday, the 47-year-old Trudeau struggled to contain the uproar, begging forgiveness and confessing he failed to grasp how offensive his actions were.

“I have always acknowledged I came from a place of privilege, but I now need to acknowledge that comes with a massive blind spot,” the son of the late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau said to applause from a large crowd at a park in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

With Election Day just a month away, his chief opponent in the neck-and-neck race, Conservative leader Andrew Scheer, reacted by declaring Trudeau “not fit to govern this country.”

Others wondered whether the incident would reinforce the belief among Trudeau’s opponents that the boyish-looking sex-symbol politician is a lightweight, lacking in substance and maturity.

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AP Explains: Brownface part of racist face makeup history

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The scandal surrounding Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau after a yearbook photo showing him in brownface at a 2001 costume party was published is bringing attention to a practice that scholars say white people have been using for years to demean minorities.

In the picture, the then-29-year-old Trudeau is at an “Arabian Nights” party wearing a turban and robe, with dark brown makeup on his hands, face and neck. Like U.S. governors in Virginia and Mississippi who have apologized for wearing blackface years before entering politics, Trudeau, who also has said he’s sorry, is facing the political crisis of his career.

The practice of members of a dominant population darkening their skin with makeup reinforces racial stereotypes and reduces Native Americans, Latinos, African Americans and other people of color based on skin tones and exaggerated physical features, social scientists say.

A look at how white people have used makeup to darken their complexion throughout history and in recent times to portray or mock members of racial minority groups:

IN ART

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Global climate protests start in Australia before UN summit

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Thousands of protesters gathered Friday at rallies around Australia as a day of worldwide demonstrations calling for action to guard against climate change began ahead a U.N. summit in New York.

Some of the first rallies in what is being billed as a “global climate strike” kicked off in Australia’s largest city, Sydney, and the national capital, Canberra. Australian demonstrators called for their nation, which is the world’s largest exporter of coal and liquid natural gas, to take more drastic action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The Global Strike 4 Climate said protests will be staged in 110 towns and cities across Australia on Friday, with organizers demanding government and business commit to a target of net zero carbon emissions by 2030.

Similar rallies were planned Friday in cities around the globe. In the United States more than 800 events were planned Friday, while in Germany more than 400 rallies were expected.

A similar coordinated protest in March that drew crowds around the world.

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2 dead as Imelda strands drivers, floods homes in Texas

CHINA, Texas (AP) — The slow-churning remnants of Tropical Storm Imelda flooded parts of Texas on Thursday, leaving at least two people dead and rescue crews with boats scrambling to reach stranded drivers and families trapped in their homes during a relentless downpour that drew comparisons to Hurricane Harvey two years ago.

By Thursday night, floodwaters had started receding in most of the Houston area, said the city’s mayor, Sylvester Turner. Law enforcement officers planned to work well into the night to clear freeways of vehicles stalled and abandoned because of flooding, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said.

Officials in Harris County, which includes Houston, said there had been a combination of at least 1,700 high-water rescues and evacuations to get people to shelter as the longevity and intensity of the rain quickly came to surprise even those who had been bracing for floods. The storm also flooded parts of southwestern Louisiana.

More than 900 flights were canceled or delayed in Houston. Further along the Texas Gulf Coast, authorities at one point warned that a levee could break near Beaumont in Jefferson County. During Harvey, Beaumont’s only pump station was swamped by floodwaters, leaving residents without water service for more than a week.

Imelda’s remnants Thursday led to the deaths of two men. A 19-year-old man drowned and was electrocuted while trying to move his horse to safety, according to a message from his family shared by the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office. Crystal Holmes, a spokeswoman for the department, said the death occurred during a lightning storm.

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Trump scores a victory in bicoastal battle over tax returns

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — President Donald Trump’s efforts to keep his tax returns private played out on both coasts Thursday, with a California judge handing him an initial victory and his lawyers in New York City arguing that federal prosecutors there are trying “to harass” him by seeking the documents.    

On the West Coast, a federal judge in Sacramento granted the Trump campaign’s request to block a new California law that requires presidential candidates to release five years of tax returns to run in the state’s March 2020 primaries. State officials are deciding whether to appeal.

The ruling came hours after the president sued to block New York prosecutors from their push to obtain his returns as part of a criminal investigation into payments made to two women who claimed to have affairs with Trump.

The two Democratic-led states have emerged as Trump’s most ardent foes, fighting not just for his tax returns but repeatedly suing his administration over his environmental, immigration and other policies.

In California, Democrats have argued that the president’s tax returns provide critical information about his financial history and business dealings. While the New York battle is part of a criminal investigation, lawmakers there also have pushed for the disclosure of his state returns, drawing another Trump lawsuit.

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Key Senate panel approves $250 million for election security

WASHINGTON (AP) — A key Senate panel on Thursday approved $250 million to help states beef up their election systems, freeing up the money after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell came under criticism from Democrats for impeding separate election security legislation.

The Kentucky Republican announced in a floor speech in advance of the Appropriations Committee vote that he would support the funding, which had bipartisan support on the funding panel. McConnell still isn’t yielding in his opposition to more ambitious Democratic steps such as requiring backup paper ballots as a backstop against potential hacks of election systems.

He said the Trump administration has “made enormous strides” in protecting the nation’s voting infrastructure.

The committee approved the money on a bipartisan voice vote. The panel’s top Democrat, Patrick Leahy, said “funding election security grants is a matter of national security.” The House approved $600 million earlier this year, though there is considerable money left in the pipeline from earlier appropriations.

Democrat Chris Coons said the funding would help states invest in updated voting systems and combat cyberattacks from foreign actors such as Russia, whose widespread efforts on behalf of President Donald Trump’s campaign were documented by special counsel Robert Mueller.

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North Carolina university shooting suspect pleads guilty

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The man charged with killing two North Carolina university students and wounding four others in April pleaded guilty Thursday to two counts of first-degree murder and other charges, then apologized for his crimes.

Trystan Andrew Terrell also pleaded guilty Thursday to four counts of attempted murder and discharge of a firearm on educational property – charges filed in connection with the April 30 shooting of students gathered in a lecture hall at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

State prosecutors accepted Terrell’s plea during a hearing that was previously scheduled to decide whether the gunman could face the death penalty for the killings.

Security was increased for the Terrell hearing. After three cases were heard by the judge, three Mecklenburg County sheriff’s deputies stood in the courtroom aisle. Another deputy stood behind Terrell, and eight more deputies stood in the vestibule just beyond the courtroom doors.

During the hearing, victims and their families were given the opportunity to speak.

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Minshew, defense shine as Jaguars thump Titans 20-7

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Gardner Minshew threw two touchdown passes and should have had a third, Calais Campbell spearheaded another defensive gem and the Jacksonville Jaguars beat the Tennessee Titans 20-7 in sloppy conditions Thursday night.

Jacksonville (1-2) ended a four-game losing streak in the AFC South series and avoided the franchise’s second 0-3 start in four years.

Minshew Mania, meanwhile, picked up momentum.

With all eyes on star cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who may have played his final game for Jacksonville, Minshew and a second straight stellar defensive outing captured the spotlight.

A sixth-round draft pick starting his second consecutive game in place of injured Nick Foles (broken collarbone), Minshew completed 20 of 30 passes for 204 yards. He found James O’Shaughnessy wide open for a 7-yard score, which came one play after Adoree’ Jackson’s muffed punt. Minshew was more precise with a 22-yard touchdown pass to DJ Chark, who was blanketed by Malcolm Butler.