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U.S. drops some claims against Texas voter ID law

U.S. drops some claims against Texas voter ID law By Julia Harte WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Justice Department, in a shift from its stance under former President Barack Obama, is dropping a discrimination claim against a Texas law that required voters to present identification at the polls, according to a draft court filing the agency sent the law's opponents on Monday. The Campaign Legal Center, one of several private groups alleging that the 2011 voter ID law was meant to discriminate against black and Hispanic people, said it received a notification from the Justice Department on Monday that the department would withdraw its discriminatory intent claim. The Justice Department is doing so because the Texas legislature is considering changing the law in ways that might "cure the deficiencies" in it, according to a draft copy of the motion that the department sent to the Campaign Legal Center.


U.S. justices weigh immigrant's bid to avoid deportation over sex conviction

U.S. justices weigh immigrant's bid to avoid deportation over sex conviction Members of the U.S. Supreme Court indicated sympathy on Monday for a Mexican immigrant's claim he should not be deported for consensual sex with his under-age girlfriend in a case heard by the justices at a time when President Donald Trump is moving to ramp up deportations. Taking the same stance in the case as the Obama administration previously had, the Trump administration's lawyer argued that Juan Esquivel-Quintana, a lawful permanent U.S. resident who came to the country at age 12, should be subject to deportation.


Kansas man curt as he faces charges over Indian engineer's murder

Kansas man curt as he faces charges over Indian engineer's murder A white U.S. Navy veteran charged with murdering an Indian software engineer at a Kansas bar gazed at a camera from jail and gave curt answers to a judge by video during his initial court appearance on Monday over the shooting, which federal authorities are probing as a possible hate crime. Adam Purinton, 51, is accused of killing Srinivas Kuchibhotla, 32, and wounding Alok Madasani, also 32, as well as an American who tried to intervene during Wednesday evening's incident at Austins Bar and Grill in Olathe, a Kansas City suburb.


Kuwait could pay up to $60,000 for party at Trump Hotel in Washington

Kuwait could pay up to $60,000 for party at Trump Hotel in Washington Corrects second paragraph to past tense from present tense, corrects paragraph 5 to clarify ambassador spoke before event.) By Julia Harte WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Kuwaiti government could pay up to $60,000 to President Donald Trump's hotel in Washington for a party it held on Wednesday in an early test of Trump's promise to turn over profits from such events to the U.S. Treasury. Similar National Day celebrations at the Trump International Hotel for a crowd of several hundred can run from $40,000 to $60,000, according to cost estimates from the hotel seen by Reuters. One of Trump's lawyers, Sheri Dillon, pledged at a Jan. 11 press conference to donate any Trump Hotel profits from foreign governments to the U.S. Treasury.


Trump seeks 'historic' increase of 9 percent in U.S. military's budget

Trump seeks 'historic' increase of 9 percent in U.S. military's budget President Donald Trump is seeking what he called a "historic" 9 percent increase in military spending, even as the United States has wound down major wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and remains the world's strongest military power. Trump will ask Congress to boost Pentagon spending in the next fiscal year by $54 billion in his first budget proposal and slash the same amount from non-defense spending, including a large reduction in foreign aid, a White House budget official said on Monday. The president does not have the final say on federal spending.


George W. Bush carefully weighs in on Trump's administration. Is he breaking tradition?

George W. Bush carefully weighs in on Trump's administration. Is he breaking tradition? After staying silent during the eight-year term of his own immediate successor, former President George W. Bush carefully responded to President Trump's first month in office on Monday, voicing his support for a free press and an investigation of the administation's ties with Russia. "I think we all need answers," Mr. Bush said on NBC's "Today" show Monday, where he was discussing his new book of portraits and stories of US veterans. Former presidents rarely make public comments about those who follow them, part of a tradition that marks the peaceful transfer of power from one administration to the next.


U.S. Jewish centers report another wave of hoax bomb threats

U.S. Jewish centers report another wave of hoax bomb threats Jewish community centers and schools in at least 11 U.S. states reported getting bomb threats on Monday, the JCC Association of North America said, the fifth wave of such threats this year that have stoked fears of a resurgence of anti-Semitism. The threats, all of which appeared to be hoaxes, were received in Alabama, Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Virginia. "Members of our community must see swift and concerted action from federal officials to identify and capture the perpetrator or perpetrators who are trying to instill anxiety and fear in our communities," David Posner, a director at the JCC Association, said in a statement.


Man who scaled New York's Trump Tower pleads guilty to charges

Man who scaled New York's Trump Tower pleads guilty to charges A 19-year-old Donald Trump supporter who climbed 21 floors of Trump Tower in New York last August using suction cups and a harness, pleaded guilty on Monday to reckless endangerment and disorderly conduct, a prosecutor's spokesman said. Stephen Rogata of Great Falls, Virginia, had a three-hour televised standoff with police at the 58-story tower on Fifth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan, which was the Republican's election campaign headquarters for the Nov. 8 vote that put him in the White House.


With ISIS besieged in western Mosul, civilians decide now's the time to flee

With ISIS besieged in western Mosul, civilians decide now's the time to flee Every time the Islamic State knocked on the door of the west Mosul home, two things would happen. Ahmed, a former Iraqi police officer, would race to an underground hiding place. “I am alone, a woman,” Waha, a mother of four, recalls telling the IS militants each time, appealing to their professed respect for Muslim women.


U.S. justices skeptical of sex offender social media ban

U.S. justices skeptical of sex offender social media ban By Lawrence Hurley WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday appeared poised to strike down a North Carolina law barring convicted sex offenders from Facebook and other social media services, with justices noting the expansive role such online tools play in today's society. Lester Packingham, a registered sex offender due to a statutory rape conviction, challenged the North Carolina law as a violation of his free speech rights under the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment.


U.S. appeals court will not put Trump travel ban case on hold

U.S. appeals court will not put Trump travel ban case on hold By Dan Levine SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A federal appeals court on Monday rejected a U.S. Department of Justice request to place on hold an appeal over President Donald Trump's travel ban on people from seven majority-Muslim countries. The order from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals could increase pressure on the Trump administration to clarify its intentions regarding the controversial executive order. The 9th Circuit suspended Trump's travel ban earlier this month while litigation over the measure proceeds.


Judge certifies NY class action over big debt collector's high rates

Judge certifies NY class action over big debt collector's high rates Monday's decision by U.S. District Judge Cathy Seibel in White Plains, New York came eight months after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal by Midland Funding and Midland Credit Management Inc, which are units of Encore Capital Group Inc, seeking to halt Saliha Madden's lawsuit. Madden had objected to the 27 percent rate that Midland charged on a roughly $5,000 debt it bought from a credit card account she had opened with Bank of America.


Supreme Court snubs challenge to death penalty constitutionality

Supreme Court snubs challenge to death penalty constitutionality Liberal Justice Stephen Breyer objected to the court's decision not to hear the appeal by Marcus Reed, a drug dealer convicted in the 2010 shooting deaths of the three brothers, including a 13-year-old, over the theft of marijuana and an Xbox videogame console from his home. The court's action came at a time of deep divisions among the eight justices over the death penalty, with Breyer and other liberals expressing doubt about whether capital punishment remains acceptable under the U.S. Constitution four decades after the court reinstated it. Breyer, renewing his concerns over how the death penalty is administered in America, noted that Reed was sentenced to death in Louisiana's Caddo Parish, a county that he said has apparently sentenced more people to death per capita than any other county in the United States in recent history.


Key lawmaker calls Trump defense budget request low

Key lawmaker calls Trump defense budget request low The Republican chairman of the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee called President Donald Trump's reported $603 billion defense budget request low on Monday, a sign of the fight ahead between Trump's party and Democrats, who oppose slashing non-military spending to boost Pentagon funding. "Over the course of the Obama Administration, our military funding was cut 20 percent while the world grew more dangerous. While we cannot repair all of the damage done by those cuts in a single year, we can and should do more than this level of funding will allow," Representative Mac Thornberry said in a statement. It was not immediately clear why Thornberry alluded to a $603 billion figure.


The problem with the claim that Trump is on a 'dictatorial path'

The problem with the claim that Trump is on a 'dictatorial path' Back when he was a Republican senator, Attorney General Jeff Sessions once called President Obama an “emperor.” Republican Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey once called him a “dictator.” Four years ago Donald Trump, too, was part of the chorus. “Why is @BarackObama constantly issuing executive orders that are major power grabs of authority?” Mr. Trump tweeted in 2012, pointing to a defense-related order. Now that Trump is president, and has unleashed his own wave of executive actions, Republicans have responded with applause, Democrats with alarm.


For Syrian refugees in Lebanon, a drive to build community amid pressing challenges

For Syrian refugees in Lebanon, a drive to build community amid pressing challenges Syrian refugees were pouring into Lebanon in 2014, fleeing the civil war. The United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) and nongovernmental organizations were scrambling to register and provide services for these families, most of whom hoped to return to Syria when the war was over. Because Lebanon has a history dating back to the Palestinian diaspora of not providing camps for refugees, the displaced were finding shelter wherever they could.


Why did Philip Bilden, Trump's pick for Navy secretary, withdraw?

Why did Philip Bilden, Trump's pick for Navy secretary, withdraw? The announcement came roughly a week after the Pentagon issued a statement on Feb. 19 saying Bilden had assured Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis that he remained committed to serving as Navy secretary and that Mr. Mattis had confidence that Bilden was "the right leader" for the position. In bowing out, Bilden became the second Trump nominee to lead one of the armed forces to withdraw due to conflict-of-interest rules.


Pentagon delivers draft plan to defeat Islamic State to White House

Pentagon delivers draft plan to defeat Islamic State to White House A Pentagon-led preliminary plan to defeat Islamic State has been delivered to the White House and U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will brief senior administration officials later on Monday, a Defense Department spokesman told reporters. Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis told reporters that it was the framework for a broader plan and looked at Islamic State around the world, not just Iraq and Syria. Davis said the plan would define what defeating Islamic State meant and was one that would rapidly defeat the militant group.


US regulator set to tamp down on privacy rules

US regulator set to tamp down on privacy rules The Trump administration appears set to begin scaling back Federal Communications Commission regulations approved last year to further protect Americans' digital privacy and security. 


Could South Korea see second impeachment?

Could South Korea see second impeachment? South Korea's corruption scandal took another twist Monday, as Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn – acting as president since President Park Geun-hye's impeachment in December – refused special prosecutors permission to extend their investigation by 30 days. The investigation team made the request to allow time for questioning of the impeached president, who has been temporarily stripped of her powers until the Constitutional Court decides whether or not to uphold her impeachment – a decision expected next month.


Minnesota officer pleads not guilty in shooting death of black motorist

Minnesota officer pleads not guilty in shooting death of black motorist St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez, who according to media reports is Latino, entered a not guilty plea during a hearing at the Ramsey County District Court in St. Paul, Minnesota, for the shooting death of Philando Castile, said Beau Berentson, spokesman for the state court administration office. Castile, 32, was killed on July 6 in the St. Paul suburb of Falcon Heights during a traffic stop. The shooting, along with that of a black man by police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the day before, fueled public debate in the United States over the use of excessive force by law enforcement.


Will Jeff Sessions recuse himself from Russia probe?

Will Jeff Sessions recuse himself from Russia probe? Recommended: Sochi, Soviets, and czars: How much do you know about Russia? Critics argue that Sessions, a top adviser to President Trump during his 2016 campaign, should remove himself from any investigations into Russia's role in the election.


Ex-President Bush backs 'welcoming' U.S. immigration policy, free media

Ex-President Bush backs 'welcoming' U.S. immigration policy, free media Former Republican U.S. president George W. Bush diverged sharply from Donald Trump's new administration on Monday, saying he supported a welcoming immigration policy and praising the media as "indispensable to democracy." In a wide-ranging interview with NBC's "Today" show, Bush also said he did not know if a special prosecutors was needed to investigate contacts between Trump associates and Russia but added, "We all need answers." Bush, in some of his first televised comments since Trump took office, was asked if he had seen signs that Trump was trying to close the rift in the U.S. electorate after his divisive campaign against Democrat Hillary Clinton. "One of our great strengths is for people to be able to worship the way they want to or not worship at all," he said.


Money being raised to repair vandalized Jewish cemetery, this time in Philadelphia

Money being raised to repair vandalized Jewish cemetery, this time in Philadelphia Police on Sunday morning reported that about 100 headstones had been knocked over at the Mount Carmel Cemetery, with the vandalism thought to have taken place the previous night. The incident comes just one week after roughly 170 headstones were damaged at a Jewish cemetery in University City, Mo., a suburb of St. Louis. The wave of anti-Semitic acts prompted President Trump to speak out for the first time last week, as he condemned the threats as "horrible," "painful," and "a very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil." The statement followed repeated calls for the White House to address the recent uptick in anti-Semitic hate crimes and widespread backlash after the White House omitted any mention of Jews in its statement marking Holocaust Memorial Day last month.


Bernie Sanders calls for 'total transformation' of Democratic Party

Bernie Sanders calls for 'total transformation' of Democratic Party Sen. Bernie Sanders (I) urged Democrats on Sunday to undertake an overhaul of the party’s message as they move forward in the uncertain era under President Trump and seek to regain lost seats in midterm and local elections. "We need to open up the party to working people, to young people and make it crystal clear that the Democratic Party is going to take on Wall Street, it's going to take on the greed of the pharmaceutical industry, it's going to take on corporate America that is shutting down plants in this country and moving our jobs abroad," he added. Senator Sanders’s remarks came just a day after Democrats voted to select former Labor Secretary Tom Perez to head the Democratic National Committee over Rep. Keith Ellison (D) of Minnesota.


Trump and the rise of the extreme right

Trump and the rise of the extreme right Church Militant makes no apologies. Church Militant’s criticism of Judaism and Islam is such that it is “on the spectrum” of hate groups, according to the Taskforce on Hate and Terrorism in Washington.


American who intervened in shooting that killed Indian says was happy to risk life

American who intervened in shooting that killed Indian says was happy to risk life Ian Grillot, 24, was struck in the hand and chest at the bar in Olathe, Kansas, when suspect Adam Purinton opened fire on Wednesday evening. At least one bystander told the Kansas City Star he shouted "get out of my country" before shooting the Indian victims. Purinton, a 51-year-old white Navy veteran, will make an initial appearance in Johnson County District Court on Monday.


Trump's pick for Navy secretary withdraws

Trump's pick for Navy secretary withdraws U.S. President Donald Trump's pick for secretary of the Navy withdrew from consideration on Sunday, the second time a Trump nominee to lead one of the armed services bowed out because of government conflict-of-interest rules. Trump last month nominated Philip Bilden, a private equity executive and former military intelligence officer, to lead the Navy, which the president has pledged he will expand. The development leaves Trump and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis without nominees to head both the Navy and Army.


Philadelphia Jewish cemetery desecrated by vandals

Philadelphia Jewish cemetery desecrated by vandals A Mount Carmel Cemetery visitor called police on Sunday morning to say the gravestones of three of his relatives had been toppled, police said in a statement. Officers found about 100 others knocked down.


How a Delaware state Senate campaign attracted more than 1,000 volunteers

How a Delaware state Senate campaign attracted more than 1,000 volunteers Stephanie Hansen scored a 58-42 percent special election victory in Delaware on Saturday, ensuring that Democrats will maintain control of the state Senate. Ms. Hansen was aided by more than 1,000 volunteers from around the country, many of whom identified as first-time activists. The unusually high turnout, some volunteers say, is a reflection of a larger surge in civic engagement among Americans frustrated with the presidential election outcome in the weeks and months following Mr. Trump's victory and inauguration.


Alt-Oscars: Trump backers tuning out Academy Awards, because Meryl Streep

Alt-Oscars: Trump backers tuning out Academy Awards, because Meryl Streep Supporters of President Trump are calling for a boycott of Sunday’s Oscars, a celebration that brings together the two things conservatives hate most: the “liberal” media and the Hollywood elite.


Tests show driver in Mardi Gras crash was legally drunk, police say

Tests show driver in Mardi Gras crash was legally drunk, police say (Reuters) - A driver accused of injuring 28 people in New Orleans after plowing a pickup truck into a crowd watching a Mardi Gras parade had a blood alcohol level nearly three times the legal limit soon after the crash, police said on Sunday. The suspect, identified as Neilson Rizzuto, 25, has been charged with two felony counts in the Saturday evening incident that brought chaos to one of the main events of the city's signature pre-Lent celebration. Rizzuto's blood alcohol level was measured at 0.232, well above the 0.08 limit, about two hours after he was taken into custody on Saturday, New Orleans police spokesman Michael Tidwell said in an email.


Bergdahl lawyers ask U.S. Army court to dismiss case due to Trump comments

Bergdahl lawyers ask U.S. Army court to dismiss case due to Trump comments Lawyers for U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl said on Sunday they will ask an Army appeals court to dismiss charges against him in the belief that President Donald Trump's repeatedly calling him a "traitor" during the election campaign make it impossible for him to get a fair trial. Bergdahl's defense team plans to make the request on Monday at the U.S. Army Court of Criminal Appeals in Virginia, Attorney Eugene Fidell said in a telephone interview. In a lower court, military Judge Jeffrey Nance of U.S. Army Trial Judiciary Second Judicial Court in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, rejected their argument.


Trump administration re-evaluating self-driving car guidance

Trump administration re-evaluating self-driving car guidance By David Shepardson WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said on Sunday she was reviewing self-driving vehicle guidance issued by the Obama administration and urged companies to explain the benefits of automated vehicles to a skeptical public. The guidelines, which were issued in September, call on automakers to voluntarily submit details of self-driving vehicle systems to regulators in a 15-point “safety assessment” and urge states to defer to the federal government on most vehicle regulations. Automakers have raised numerous concerns about the guidance, including that it requires them to turn over significant data, could delay testing by months and lead to states making the voluntary guidelines mandatory.


How vital is Facebook for free expression?

How vital is Facebook for free expression? Is your politically-charged Facebook post, an Instagram photo of your last vacation, or Snapchat account a vital, Constitutionally protected right, or a privilege that can be taken away? While the state argues that the law blocks sexual predators from gathering information on potential victims, the plaintiff counters that the sweeping ban constitutes an infringement of the First Amendment and puts those on the registry outside of political conversation. Interpreting the First Amendment has proven a daunting task for courts throughout US history.


Why did a Fox News program host a Swedish national security commentator who is unknown in Sweden?

Why did a Fox News program host a Swedish national security commentator who is unknown in Sweden? On a Thursday segment of Fox News' "The O'Reilly Factor," host Bill O'Reilly directed a debate over crime and immigration in Sweden. On one side of the issue was a Swedish newspaper reporter Anne-Sofie Naslund, who argued against the notion that immigration was making her country dangerous. On the other side was a man named Nils Bildt, who was identified onscreen and verbally as a "Swedish defense and national security advisor."


Colorado governor, once opposed, is softening his stance on legal pot

Colorado governor, once opposed, is softening his stance on legal pot In the four years since Colorado voters legalized recreational marijuana, Gov. John Hickenlooper — who originally opposed the referendum — hasn’t seen the negative effects he feared. “You know, at first, I opposed it,” Hickenlooper said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday. Since then, Hickenlooper, the former Denver mayor and brewery owner, has softened his stance on weed.


Transgender wrestler wins Texas championship for girls

Transgender wrestler wins Texas championship for girls (Reuters) - Mack Beggs, a 17-year-old high school wrestler who is transitioning from female to male, took home gold in the 110-weight class of the Texas girls state championship after the state refused to allow the student to compete against boys. The University Interscholastic League, which governs school sports in Texas, said the state's education code allows the use of a banned drug such as steroids if it "is prescribed by a medical practitioner for a valid medical purpose." Beggs' win came days after the Trump administration revoked landmark guidance to public schools letting transgender students use the bathrooms of their choice, reversing a signature initiative of former Democratic President Barack Obama. Beggs, a junior at Trinity High School in the Dallas suburb of Euless, had a 52-0 record ahead of the weekend tournament and was favored to win the high school championship in his weight class.


Trump says he'll skip the White House Correspondents' Dinner: Is that a bad thing?

Trump says he'll skip the White House Correspondents' Dinner: Is that a bad thing? The announcement, which came one day after the White House blocked a number of news organizations from attending a briefing with the press secretary, marks the latest development in the tumultuous relationship between the new administration and the press. "A few days ago, I called the fake news ‘the enemy of the people,’ and they are.


Trump might support probe into Yemen raid, White House says

Trump might support probe into Yemen raid, White House says President Donald Trump might support an investigation into last month's U.S. raid in Yemen that killed several al Qaeda militants but also left a Navy SEAL and several civilians dead, the White House said on Sunday. "I haven't had the chance to speak with him directly about that, but I would imagine that he would be supportive of that," White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on ABC's "This Week" television program.


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