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Colin Powell dies, trailblazing general stained by Iraq

WASHINGTON (AP) — Colin Powell, the trailblazing soldier and diplomat whose sterling reputation of service to Republican and Democratic presidents was stained by his faulty claims to justify the 2003 U.S. war in Iraq, died Monday of COVID-19 complications. He was 84.

A veteran of the Vietnam War, Powell spent 35 years in the Army and rose to the rank of four-star general before becoming the first Black chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. His oversight of the U.S. invasion of Kuwait to oust the Iraqi army in 1991 made him a household name, prompting speculation for nearly a decade that he might run for president, a course he ultimately decided against.

He instead joined President George W. Bush’s administration in 2001 as secretary of state, the first Black person to represent the U.S. government on the world stage. Powell’s tenure, however, was marred by his 2003 address to the United Nations Security Council in which he cited faulty information to claim that Saddam Hussein had secretly stashed weapons of mass destruction. Such weapons never materialized, and though the Iraqi leader was removed, the war devolved into years of military and humanitarian losses.

Powell was fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, his family said. But he faced several ailments, telling Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward over the summer that he had Parkinson’s disease. Powell’s longtime aide, Peggy Cifrino, said Monday that he was also treated over the past few years for multiple myeloma, a blood cancer that impairs the body’s ability to fight infection. Studies have shown that those cancer patients don’t get as much protection from the COVID-19 vaccines as healthier people.

In a Washington where partisan divisions run deep, Democrats and Republicans recalled Powell fondly. Flags were ordered lowered at government buildings, including the White House, Pentagon and State Department.

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‘He lied’: Iraqis still blame Powell for role in Iraq war

BAGHDAD (AP) — For many Iraqis, the name Colin Powell conjures up one image: the man who as U.S. secretary of state went before the U.N. Security Council in 2003 to make the case for war against their country.

Word of his death Monday at age 84 dredged up feelings of anger in Iraq toward the former general and diplomat, one of several Bush administration officials whom they hold responsible for a disastrous U.S.-led invasion that led to decades of death, chaos and violence in Iraq.

His U.N. testimony was a key part of events that they say had a heavy cost for Iraqis and others in the Middle East.

“He lied, lied and lied,” said Maryam, a 51-year-old Iraqi writer and mother of two in northern Iraq who spoke on condition her last name not be used because one of her children is studying in the United States.

“He lied, and we are the ones who got stuck with never-ending wars,” she added.

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Trump files lawsuit to keep Jan. 6 documents from Congress

WASHINGTON (AP) — Former President Donald Trump on Monday sought to block the release of documents related to the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection to a congressional committee investigating the attack, challenging President Joe Biden’s initial decision to waive executive privilege.

In a federal lawsuit, Trump said the committee’s request was “almost limitless in scope,” and sought records with no reasonable connection to that day. He called it a “vexatious, illegal fishing expedition” that was “untethered from any legitimate legislative purpose,” according to the papers filed in federal court in the District of Columbia.

Trump’s lawsuit was expected, as he had said he would challenge the investigation and at least one ally, Steve Bannon, has defied a subpoena. But the legal challenge went beyond the initial 125 pages of records that Biden recently cleared for release to the committee. The suit, which names the committee as well as the National Archives, seeks to invalidate the entirety of the congressional request, calling it overly broad, unduly burdensome and a challenge to separation of powers. It requests a court injunction to bar the archivist from producing the documents.

The Biden administration, in clearing the documents for release, said the violent siege of the Capitol was such an extraordinary circumstance that it merited waiving the privilege that usually protects White House communications.

In a letter obtained by The Associated Press, the White House worked to undercut Bannon’s argument before a scheduled committee vote on whether to recommend criminal contempt charges against him. Bannon is a onetime White House adviser who left the administration years before the insurrection.

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Why COVID boosters weren’t tweaked to better match variants

More COVID-19 booster shots may be on the way — but when it’s your turn, you’ll get an extra dose of the original vaccine, not one updated to better match the extra-contagious delta variant.

And that has some experts wondering if the booster campaign is a bit of a missed opportunity to target delta and its likely descendants.

“Don’t we want to match the new strains that are most likely to circulate as closely as possible?” Dr. Cody Meissner of Tufts Medical Center, an adviser to the Food and Drug Administration, challenged Pfizer scientists recently.

“I don’t quite understand why this is not delta because that’s what we’re facing right now,” fellow adviser Dr. Patrick Moore of the University of Pittsburgh said last week as government experts debated whether it’s time for Moderna boosters. He wondered if such a switch would be particularly useful to block mild infection.

The simple answer: The FDA last month OK’d extra doses of Pfizer’s original recipe after studies showed it still works well enough against delta — and those doses could be rolled out right away. Now the FDA is weighing evidence for boosters of the original Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

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Biden’s dilemma: Satisfying Manchin risks losing other Dems

WASHINGTON (AP) — It’s Washington’s enduring question: What does Joe Manchin want?

But increasingly the answer is crystal clear. The conservative West Virginia Democrat wants to dismantle President Joe Biden’s proposed climate change strategies and social services expansion in ways that are simply unacceptable for most in his party.

So the question becomes less about what Manchin wants and more about whether Biden can bring him, the party’s other centrist senators and its progressives to middle ground and salvage his once-sweeping $3.5 trillion proposal from collapse.

As the White House pushes its Democratic allies on Capitol Hill to wrap up slogging negotiations before end-of-the-month deadlines, pressure is mounting on the party to hold its slim majority in Congress together to deliver on Biden’s priorities. The president will meet with House lawmakers from both groups again Tuesday at the White House. And Manchin met separately Monday with two progressive leaders: Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington state.

“We are at a point where we feel an urgency to move things forward,” Biden press secretary Jen Psaki acknowledged Monday.

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Maduro ally appears in court to face corruption charges

MIAMI (AP) — A businessman who prosecutors say was a major conduit for corruption by Nicolás Maduro’s inner circle appeared for the first time in Miami federal court Monday after a weekend extradition that has further strained relations between the U.S. and Venezuela’s socialist government.

Alex Saab’s legs shook nervously while seated as he waited, handcuffed and in an orange jumpsuit, for the start of the hearing, which took place via Zoom with more than 350 journalists, gawking opponents of Maduro and members of Saab’s family in attendance.

Saab’s extradition to the U.S. from Cape Verde, where he was arrested 16 months ago, has already ricocheted far and wide.

Only hours after Saab was placed on a Department of Justice aircraft on Saturday, Maduro’s government suspended negotiations with Venezuela’s U.S.-backed opposition. It also threw back into jail six American oil executives it accuses of corruption. They had been under house arrest in another politically charged case marked by allegations of wrongful detention.

The Maduro government has labelled Saab a diplomatic envoy and has spared no effort to free the Colombian-born businessman, who was arrested on a U.S. warrant in the African archipelago while making a fuel stop en route to Iran.

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DC suspends most of its Metro trains over safety issue

WASHINGTON (AP) — Washington’s regional Metro system abruptly pulled more than half its fleet of trains from service early Monday morning over a lingering problem with the wheels and axles that caused a dramatic derailing last week. The ruling promises to complicate daily travel and commutes for thousands of riders for an unspecified length of time while the National Transportation Safety Board investigates the issue.

The Metro authority’s safety commission ordered the withdrawal of the entire 7000-series line of trains overnight. The Kawasaki-made 7000-series are the newest set of trains in service and the 748 cars comprise about 60% of the fleet.

NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy told reporters Monday that a design flaw had been identified which caused the trains’ wheels to spread too wide on the axles, allowing the carriage to slip off the tracks.

“We’re at the preliminary stage of our investigation — just trying to collect data and information,” Homendy said. “This could have resulted in a catastrophic event.”

It wasn’t immediately clear if other regional commuter systems used the same model rail car. But Homendy said the NTSB “may at some point” issue a recommendation for inspections of all similar train cars around the country.

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LA County wants Vanessa Bryant to undergo psychiatric exam

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Los Angeles County is seeking to compel psychiatric evaluations for Kobe Bryant’s widow and others to determine if they truly suffered emotional distress after first responders took and shared graphic photos from the site of the 2020 helicopter crash that killed the basketball star, his teenage daughter and seven others, court documents say.

Vanessa Bryant, whose federal lawsuit against the county alleges invasion of privacy, has claimed in court papers that she has experienced “severe emotional distress” that has compounded the trauma of losing her husband and 13-year-old daughter, Gianna.

Kobe Bryant and the others were killed Jan. 26, 2020, when the helicopter they were aboard, on their way to a girls basketball tournament, crashed in the hills west of Los Angeles amid foggy weather. Federal safety officials blamed pilot error for the wreck.

Vanessa Bryant’s lawsuit contends first responders, including firefighters and sheriff’s deputies, shared photographs of Kobe Bryant’s body with a bartender and passed around “gratuitous photos of the dead children, parents and coaches.” The Los Angeles Times first reported that a sheriff’s department internal investigation found deputies shared photos of victims’ remains.

None of the first responders were directly involved in the investigation of the crash or had any legitimate purpose in taking or passing around the grisly photos, the suit contends. Gov. Gavin Newsom last year approved legislation prompted by the helicopter crash that makes it a crime for first responders to take unauthorized photos of deceased people at the scene of an accident or crime.

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Powell’s age and cancer bout left him vulnerable to COVID

Despite getting vaccinated against COVID-19, Colin Powell remained vulnerable to the virus because of his advanced age and history of cancer, highlighting the continued risk to many Americans until more of the population is immunized.

Powell, a four-star general who became the first Black secretary of state and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, died Monday from complications of COVID-19. Powell, 84, had been treated over the past few years for multiple myeloma, a blood cancer that impairs the body’s ability to fight infections — and to respond well to vaccines.

The COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective against hospitalization and death, and the unvaccinated are about 11 times more likely to die from the coronavirus. But they are not perfect, and experts stress that widespread vaccination is critical to give an added layer of protection to the most vulnerable.

“The more people that are vaccinated, the less we have viral spreading in the community, the less chances of people like him getting infected to begin with,” said Dr. Mangala Narasimhan, chief of critical care at Northwell Health in New York.

Moreover, people with weakened immune systems because of illnesses like cancer — or cancer treatments — don’t always get the same level of protection from vaccinations as healthier people. Several studies have found as few as 45% of people with multiple myeloma may develop protective levels of coronavirus-fighting antibodies after getting the vaccine.

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GameStop mania severely tested market system, regulator says

NEW YORK (AP) — The U.S. stock market certainly shook when hundreds of thousands of regular people suddenly piled into GameStop early this year, driving its price to heights that shocked professional investors. But it didn’t break.

That’s one of the takeaways from a report by the Securities and Exchange Commission’s staff released Monday about January’s “meme-stock” mania. As GameStop’s stock shot from $39 to $347 in just a week, some of the stock market’s plumbing began creaking, but the report indicated the market’s basic systems and operations remained sound.

The surge for GameStop and other downtrodden stocks also laid bare how much power is being wielded by a new generation of smaller-pocketed and novice investors, armed with apps on their phones that make trading fun.

“The extreme volatility in meme stocks in January 2021 tested the capacity and resiliency of our securities markets in a way that few could have anticipated,” the report said. “At the same time, the trading in meme stocks during this time highlighted an important feature of United States securities markets in the 21st century: broad participation.”

Many of the points in the report were already known, such as how the extremely heavy bets made by some hedge funds against GameStop’s stock actually helped accelerate its extreme ascent, though they weren’t the main driver.