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McConnell proposes swift impeachment trial with long days

WASHINGTON (AP) —

On the eve of President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, the Senate leader proposed a compressed calendar for opening statements, White House lawyers argued for swift rejection of the “flimsy” charges and the Capitol braced for the contentious proceedings unfolding in an election year.

Final trial preparations were underway Monday on a tense day of plodding developments with Trump’s legacy — and the judgment of both parties in Congress — at stake.

The president’s legal team, in its first full filing for the impeachment court, argued that Trump did “absolutely nothing wrong” and urged the Senate to swiftly reject the “flawed” case against him.

“All of this is a dangerous perversion of the Constitution that the Senate should swiftly and roundly condemn,” the president’s lawyers wrote. “The articles should be rejected and the president should immediately be acquitted.”

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Trump heading to Switzerland as impeachment trial reconvenes

WASHINGTON (AP) — When President Donald Trump’s historic impeachment trial is called to order in the Senate this week, he won’t be watching from inside the chamber or on television from the White House.

He’ll be thousands of miles away at the Davos economic forum in the Swiss Alps, trying to charm global CEOs over dinner.

Trump’s participation in the annual World Economic Forum will provide a conspicuous split-screen moment in a presidency familiar with them. His two-day visit to Switzerland will test his ability to balance his anger over being impeached with a desire to project leadership on the world stage.

Administration officials say Trump remains focused on serving the public.

“The president’s work doesn’t stop just because of the impeachment sham,” White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in an email.

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AP FACT CHECK: Distortions in Trump’s legal defense

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump’s defense against impeachment charges, as laid out in his legal argument released Monday, has distortions at its core.

Trump through his lawyers assails Democrats for trying to upend the results of an election, which is precisely the point of impeachment in the Constitution. The case asserts Trump committed no crime, a benchmark for impeachment that the Constitution’s authors avoided adopting in a well-documented debate.

A look at some statements by Trump and his legal team as opening arguments approach in the Senate impeachment trial:

TRUMP’s legal brief: “Anyone having the most basic respect for the sovereign will of the American people would shudder at the enormity of casting a vote to impeach a duly elected President. … House Democrats were determined from the outset to find some way — any way — to corrupt the extraordinary power of impeachment for use as a political tool to overturn the result of the 2016 election and to interfere in the 2020 election.”

THE FACTS: This is an odd reading of constitutional history. Removing a duly elected president is exactly the goal of the Constitution’s impeachment clause, not a perversion of it.

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Martin Luther King Jr. Day: Faith, politics mix on holiday

ATLANTA (AP) — Against the backdrop of a presidential election year, Monday’s Martin Luther King Jr. holiday found leaders still wrestling over how to best embody the slain civil rights leader.

In Atlanta, Republicans told a sometimes cool crowd at Ebenezer Baptist Church, King’s onetime church, that they were honoring King’s legacy of service and political empowerment. But Democrats found more favor by highlighting the ways they said the current political and social order calls for more radical action in line with King’s principles.

Monday’s speeches at Ebenezer Baptist were just one slice of the political struggle in Georgia, where Democrats believe they can make further inroads in the Republican controlled state, aided by diverse in-migration and a suburban backlash against President Donald Trump.

Up for re-election this year, Trump sought to stamp his own mark on the commemoration. He and Vice President Mike Pence made a brief visit to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington. Earlier in the day, Trump sent a tweet noting that it was the third anniversary of his inauguration: “So appropriate that today is also MLK jr DAY. African-American Unemployment is the LOWEST in the history of our Country, by far. Also, best Poverty, Youth, and Employment numbers, ever. Great!”

Black unemployment has reached a record low during the Trump administration, but many economists note economic growth since 2009 has driven hiring. The most dramatic drop in black unemployment came under President Barack Obama. Despite economic success, polls find most African American voters regard Trump with distaste.

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Pro-gun rally by thousands in Virginia ends peacefully

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Tens of thousands of gun-rights activists from around the country rallied peacefully at the Virginia Capitol on Monday to protest plans by the state’s Democratic leadership to pass gun-control legislation — a move that has become a key flash point in the national debate over gun violence.

The size of the crowd and the expected participation of white supremacists and fringe militia groups raised fears that the state could see a repeat of the violence that exploded in 2017 in Charlottesville. But the rally concluded uneventfully around noon, and the mood was largely festive, with rally-goers chanting “USA!” and waving signs denouncing Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam.

Many protesters chose not to enter the designated rally zone, where Northam had imposed a temporary weapons ban, and instead packed surrounding streets, many dressed in tactical gear and camouflage and carrying military-style rifles as they cheered on the speakers.

“I love this. This is like the Super Bowl for the Second Amendment right here,” said P.J. Hudson, a truck driver from Richmond who carried an AR-15 rifle just outside Capitol Square. He was one of the few African American rally-goers in a crowd that was overwhelmingly white and male, and was frequently stopped and asked to pose for pictures wearing his “Black Guns Matter” sweatshirt.

An estimated 22,000 people attended, according to authorities, who said one woman was arrested on felony charge of wearing a mask in public.

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Suspect in Hawaii officers’ deaths described as unhinged

HONOLULU (AP) — A Hawaii handyman with a history of run-ins with police and neighbors faced eviction when he stabbed a woman and killed two officers before the house he and two women were believed to be inside burned, authorities and neighbors said.

Police responding Sunday to a call for help at the location found a woman stabbed in the leg and resident Jaroslav “Jerry” Hanel, began shooting, killing Officers Tiffany Enriquez, a seven-year veteran, and Kaulike Kalama, a nine-year veteran, Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard said.

Police suspect Hanel, who was in his 60s, and two women who have not been identified were inside the house when it caught fire. They were presumed dead and Ballard said it could take days to recover the remains and process evidence.

The fire destroyed seven homes and left others damaged. As it raged, the sound of dozens of apparent gunshots rang out.

Ballard said no other officers were injured but authorities were investigating whether ammunition, incendiary devices or explosives contributed to the intensity of the blaze. The apparent gunfire prompted authorities to initially prevent firefighters from approaching.

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Migrants scuffle with Mexican troops along border river

CIUDAD HIDALGO, Mexico (AP) — Hundreds of Central American migrants waded across the Suchiate River into southern Mexico on Monday in a new test of U.S. President Donald Trump’s Central America strategy to keep them away from the U.S. border.

Some scuffled with national guardsmen on the riverbank while others slipped through Mexican lines and trudged off on a rural highway in small groups. Immigration authorities nabbed more there and chased others into the brush.

Most, however, remained at the river’s edge or stood in its muddy waters trying to decide what to do next, after being blocked from crossing en masse over the border bridge leading to Ciudad Hidalgo.

“Mexico’s president said he would give us work and an opportunity and look,” said Esther Madrid, a Honduran vendor who left her six children in Honduras. Sitting on a rock among dozens of people who didn’t know what to do next, she offered only one word when asked if she would consider returning to San Pedro Sula: “Never.”

Mexico’s strategy, developed after the first migrant caravan in late 2018, to break up the mass of people repeatedly and into increasingly smaller groups appeared to be working. Over the weekend, government officials convinced about 1,000 people they should enter legally over the border bridge.

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Prince Harry hopes for calmer future, but not much chance

LONDON (AP) — Prince Harry says he’s taking a “leap of faith’’ as he steps back from royal duties in an attempt to build a more peaceful life — one free of the journalists who have filmed, photographed and written about him since the day he was born.

Fat chance.

As Harry reportedly flew out of Britain on Monday to be reunited with his wife Meghan in Canada, many predicted the prince and the former TV star would struggle to escape global fame and its pressures.

“They believe that if they are not representing the monarchy any longer, the tabloid press will eventually go away because it will be so expensive for them — that there won’t be the same savage approach. They feel they will be able to control it more from Canada,” said Pauline Maclaran, a business professor at Royal Holloway University of London and author of “Royal Fever: The British Monarchy in Consumer Culture.”

”I don’t think they are being very realistic.”

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China coronavirus claims 4th victim as more screenings added

BEIJING (AP) — A fourth person has died in an outbreak of a new coronavirus in China, authorities said Tuesday, as more places stepped up medical screening of travelers from the country as it enters its busiest travel period.

The increased control measures followed a sharp rise in the number of infections to more than 200 people since last month, with epidemiologists still uncertain of its nature and mode of transmission.

Chinese health authorities confirmed late Monday that some cases had been transmitted person-to-person, a development that means the illness could spread faster and more widely, particularly at the start of the Lunar New Year travel rush.

Concerned about a global outbreak similar to SARS, which spread from China to more than a dozen countries in 2002-2003, numerous nations have adopted screening measures for travelers arriving from China, especially those from the central city of Wuhan, where the outbreak is thought to have originated and which has accounted for the vast majority of the cases.

Australia’s chief medical officer Brendan Murphy said his country will be increasing airport screening. Australia receives a significant number of travelers from China, including three direct flights a week from Wuhan into Sydney, and these flights will be met by border security and biosecurity staff for assessments, Murphy told reporters.

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James Dean revival spurs debate on raising the digital dead

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The men bringing James Dean back to life for a forthcoming film are aiming not just to give his digital likeness a role, but a whole new career.

Dean’s planned appearance in the Vietnam War movie “Finding Jack,” and the possibility of future parts, comes as digital de-aging and duplication of real actors has tipped from cinematic trick into common practice. And it’s giving new life to old arguments about the immortality and dignity of the dead.

“Our intentions are to create the virtual being of James Dean. That’s not only for one movie, but going to be used for many movies and also gaming and virtual reality,” said Travis Cloyd, CEO of Worldwide XR, who is leading the design on the Dean project. “Our focus is on building the ultimate James Dean so he can live across any medium.”

Legally, they have every right to do it, via the full agreement of the Dean estate and his surviving relatives.

“Our clients want to protect these valuable intellectual property rights and the memories that they have of their loved ones,” said Mark Roesler, CEO of CMG Worldwide, the legal and licensing company that has long owned the title to Dean’s likeness. “We have to trust them. … They want to see that their loved one’s image and memory continues to live on.”