After massacre, Virginia governor demands action on guns

By ALAN SUDERMAN Associated Press
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (AP) — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced Tuesday he will summon lawmakers back to the state Capitol this summer to take up a package of gun-control legislation, saying last week’s mass shooting in Virginia Beach calls for “votes and laws, not thoughts and prayers.”
Northam, a Democrat faced with a gun-friendly, Republican-controlled General Assembly in the middle of a legislative election year, also said he wants every lawmaker to go on record for or against his proposals during the special session, rather than avoid tough votes by quietly killing the bills in subcommittee.
“The nation will be watching,” the governor said, four days after Virginia Beach employee DeWayne Craddock used two semi-automatic handguns, a silencer and extended ammunition magazines to slaughter 12 people at a municipal building. Craddock was then killed in a gunbattle with police.
Northam’s bills include a ban on silencers and high-capacity magazines, as well as a broadening of the ability of local governments to prohibit guns in city buildings. The governor said he also wants mandatory, universal background checks before gun purchases; a limit of one handgun purchase per month; and a “red flag” law that would allow authorities to seize weapons from people deemed a threat to themselves or others.
“I will be asking for votes and laws, not thoughts and prayers,” he said, mocking the usual response to gun violence by supporters of the gun lobby.
No immediate date for the special session was set, but Northam said he wants to hold it in late June.
In a statement, GOP Speaker Kirk Cox dismissed the governor’s call for a special session as “hasty and suspect when considered against the backdrop of the last few months” — a reference to the blackface photo scandal that nearly destroyed Northam’s career.
Cox said the Republicans will instead put forward legislation to toughen penalties — including new, mandatory minimum sentences — for those who use guns to commit crimes.
“We believe addressing gun violence starts with holding criminals accountable for their actions, not infringing on the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens,” he said.
Another top Republican, Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment, noted that the governor is pushing for legislation that already failed earlier this year. “This governor has opted for political posturing over solutions,” Norment said.
National Rifle Association spokeswoman Jennifer Baker accused Northam of “exploiting a tragedy to push his failed political agenda.”
Virginia is generally considered a very gun-friendly state and is home to the NRA headquarters. After the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre, in which a student with a history of mental problems shot 32 people to death, the state passed a law prohibiting people adjudicated as seriously mentally ill from buying a gun. But a push at the time for universal background checks failed.
Most of the other legislation proposed this time has also fallen short before in Virginia, where Republicans hold slim majorities in the House and Senate. All 140 legislative seats are up for grabs this year, and the Democrats are thought to have a realistic chance of taking back control of the General Assembly.
In making the announcement at a state office building, Northam got a standing ovation from gun-control advocates, state workers and elected officials as he said the massacre in Virginia Beach demands that lawmakers put saving lives ahead of party loyalty.
Noting that first responders saved lives in last week’s attack, he said: “Now, I’m calling on the elected officials of this commonwealth to become second responders. Your duty is clear: Rush to the scene and put a stop to this violence.”
“Show Virginians that it doesn’t matter what party you are in, we all are Virginians first, and we care about the safety and security of every Virginian,” he added.
The governor has long advocated stricter gun control and gets an F grade from the NRA. He made the issue a top priority of his 2017 campaign, drawing from his experience as a pediatrician and Army doctor who has treated children and soldiers wounded by gunfire.
Craddock appeared to have had no felony record and is believed to have legally purchased his two .45-caliber pistols, authorities said.
Friday’s shooting has been Northam’s first major test since a scandal over a photo in his medical school yearbook nearly drove him from office four months ago. Northam denied he was in the picture of someone in blackface and another person in a Ku Klux Klan hood and robe.
Democrats, including many who have previously called for his resignation, hailed Northam’s move on guns as strong leadership, and several lawmakers publicly thanked him.
A top gun-rights advocate, Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, denounced the special session as “political theater” and said the answer is to make it easier for people to carry weapons.
“There’s really nothing other than allowing people to protect themselves until the police get there that would have worked,” he said.

Proposed cat declawing ban passes New York Legislature

By DAVID KLEPPER undefined
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York’s Legislature passed a bill Tuesday that would make the state the first in the U.S. to make it illegal to declaw a cat .
The bill, which would subject veterinarians to $1,000 fines for performing the operation, now heads to the desk of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whose representatives said he will review the bill before deciding if he will sign it.
Declawing a cat is already illegal in much of Europe as well as in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Denver, but no other U.S. state has voted to ban the procedure, which involves amputating a cat’s toes back to the first knuckle.
Unlike human nails, a cat’s claws are attached to bone, so declawing a feline requires a veterinarian to slice through tendon and nerves to remove the last segment of bone in a cat’s toes.
Supporters of the ban include animal welfare advocates, some cat owners and some veterinarians, who argue the practice is cruel and barbaric. They have predicted that other states will follow with their own bans.
“New York prides itself on being first,” said the bill’s sponsor in the state Assembly, Manhattan Democrat Linda Rosenthal. “This will have a domino effect.”
The New York State Veterinary Medical Society had opposed the bill, arguing that declawing should be allowed as a last resort for felines that won’t stop scratching furniture or humans — or when the cat’s owner has a weakened immune system, putting them at greater risk of infection from a scratch.
“Medical decisions should be left to the sound discretion of fully trained, licensed and state supervised professionals,” the society said in a memo opposing the legislation.
Under the bill, veterinarians could still perform the procedure for medical reasons, such as infection or injury.
The bill was first introduced years ago and has slowly gained momentum as more lawmakers came out in support. Tuesday was the first time the measure has gone to a vote in either the Senate or Assembly.
Cuomo and the majority of lawmakers in both houses of the Legislature are Democrats.

Climate change lawsuit vs. US government faces court test

By ANDREW SELSKY Associated Press
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A lawsuit by a group of young people who say U.S. energy policies are causing climate change and hurting their future faces a major hurdle Tuesday as lawyers for the Trump administration argue to stop the case from moving forward.
Three judges from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals are hearing arguments from lawyers for 21 young people and the federal government in Portland but are not expected to rule right away. The Obama and Trump administrations have tried to get the lawsuit dismissed since it was filed in Oregon in 2015.
“It’s just really disappointing to see the lengths that they go to — to not only not let us get the remedy that we’re seeking, but not even let us have the chance to prove our facts or present our case at trial,” said Nathan Baring, a 19-year-old from Fairbanks, Alaska, who joined the lawsuit when he was 15.
As the case drags on, sea ice that protects coastal Alaska communities from fierce storms is forming later in the year, leaving those villages vulnerable, Baring said Tuesday.
The young people argue that government officials have known for more than 50 years that carbon pollution from fossil fuels causes climate change and that policies promoting oil and gas deprive them of their constitutional rights to life, liberty and property.
Lawyers for President Donald Trump’s administration have argued that the lawsuit is trying to direct federal environmental and energy policies through the courts instead of through the political process.
“No federal court has ever permitted an action that seeks to review decades of agency action (and alleged inaction) by a dozen federal agencies and executive offices — all in pursuit of a policy goal,” the attorneys argued in a March court brief.
Justice Department lawyers also assert that the young people had not identified any “historical basis for a fundamental right to a stable climate system or any other constitutional right related to the environment.”
The lawsuit says the young are more vulnerable to serious effects from climate change in the future. The American Academy of Pediatrics, 14 other health organizations and nearly 80 scientists and physicians agreed in a brief filed with the appeals court.
“Today’s children are expected to have poorer health as they age than today’s adults do, because of the worsening and intensifying effects of climate change,” three of the experts wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine.
They pointed out that the World Health Organization estimates that 88% of the global health burden of climate change falls on children younger than 5.
The lawsuit wants the U.S. District Court in Eugene, where the lawsuit was filed, to declare that the U.S. government is violating the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights by substantially causing or contributing to a dangerous concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
It asks the court to declare federal energy policy that contributes to global warming unconstitutional, order the government to quickly phase out carbon dioxide emissions to a certain level by 2100 and mandate a national climate recovery plan.
The case has become a focal point for many youth activists, and the courtroom in Portland was expected to be packed Tuesday. A video livestream was being set up at a nearby park, where a rally was expected to be held, said Meg Ward, spokeswoman for Our Children’s Trust, a group supporting the lawsuit.
The U.S. Supreme Court last November declined to stop the lawsuit but told the Trump administration it could still petition a lower court to dismiss the case. A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit granted the Trump administration’s motion to put the case on hold while considering its merits.
If the panel decides the lawsuit can move forward, it would go before the federal court in Eugene.
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Follow Andrew Selsky on Twitter at https://twitter.com/andrewselsky

Florida deputy charged for inaction during Parkland shooting

By CURT ANDERSON and TERRY SPENCER Associated Press
MIAMI (AP) — The former Florida deputy who failed to confront a gunman during last year’s Parkland school massacre was arrested Tuesday on 11 criminal charges related to his actions, prosecutors announced.
Broward State Attorney Mike Satz said in a statement that 56-year-old Scot Peterson faces child neglect, culpable negligence and perjury charges that carry a combined potential prison sentence of nearly 100 years.
Peterson, then a Broward deputy, was on duty as the school resource officer during the February 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School but never went inside while bullets were flying. Seventeen people died and 17 others were wounded in the attack.
Peterson’s bail was set at $102,000, Satz said. Once released, Peterson will be required to wear a GPS monitor and surrender his passport, and will be prohibited from possessing a firearm, the prosecutor said.
Peterson lawyer Joseph DiRuzzo III didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. In the past, he has defended Peterson’s conduct as justified under the circumstances.
The charges follow a 14-month investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, according to that agency.
“The FDLE investigation shows former deputy Peterson did absolutely nothing to mitigate the MSD shooting that killed 17 children, teachers and staff and injured 17 others,” FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen in an email statement said. “There can be no excuse for his complete inaction and no question that his inaction cost lives.”
Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony said Peterson has been formally terminated, although he announced his retirement shortly after the shooting.
“It’s never too late for accountability and justice,” Tony said.
Nikolas Cruz , 20, faces the death penalty if convicted of the first-degree murder charges filed in the attack. His lawyers have said Cruz would plead guilty in return for a life sentence, but prosecutors have refused that offer.
Cruz is expected to go on trial in early 2020.
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Spencer reported from Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

White House tells 2 ex-aides to defy congressional subpoena

By MARY CLARE JALONICK and LISA MASCARO Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House on Tuesday again directed former employees not to cooperate with a congressional investigation, this time instructing former aides Hope Hicks and Annie Donaldson to defy subpoenas and refuse to provide documents to the House Judiciary Committee.
The letters from the White House to the Judiciary panel are the latest effort by the White House to thwart congressional investigations into President Donald Trump . Trump has said he will fight “all of the subpoenas” as Democrats have launched multiple probes into his administration and personal financial affairs.
House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler issued subpoenas for documents and testimony from Hicks, former White House communications director, and Donaldson, a former aide in the White House counsel’s office, last month. Both are mentioned frequently in special counsel Robert Mueller’s report , along with former White House Counsel Donald McGahn. The White House has also directed McGahn to refuse to provide documents or testify before the committee.
Mueller’s investigation concluded that Russia interfered in the 2016 election in hopes of getting Trump elected, though his report said there was not enough evidence to establish a conspiracy between Russia and the Trump campaign. Last week Mueller emphasized he had not exonerated Trump on the question of whether he obstructed justice — in effect leaving it to Congress to decide what to do with his findings.
In a letter to Nadler, White House Counsel Pat Cipollone said that Hicks and Donaldson “do not have the legal right” to disclose White House documents to the panel. Cipollone said requests for the records should be directed to the White House, adding that they remain “legally protected from disclosure under longstanding constitutional principles, because they implicate significant executive branch confidentiality interests and executive privilege.”
In directing witnesses not to comply, the White House has frequently cited such executive privilege, or the power to keep information from the courts, Congress and the public to protect the confidentiality of the Oval Office decision-making process.
But that only extends so far. Nadler said in a statement that while the White House had instructed the former aides not to turn over materials, Hicks has agreed to turn over some documents related to her time on Trump’s presidential campaign. Those materials are not covered by executive privilege.
Nadler said he thanked Hicks for “that show of good faith.” But it was unclear how much material the committee would receive.
The committee is arguing that the documents would not be covered by executive privilege if they left the White House months ago.
“The president has no lawful basis for preventing these witnesses from complying with our request,” Nadler said. “We will continue to seek reasonable accommodation on these and all our discovery requests and intend to press these issues when we obtain the testimony of both Ms. Hicks and Ms. Donaldson.”
The subpoenas also demanded that Hicks appear for a public hearing on June 19 and that Donaldson appear for a deposition on June 24. They have not yet said whether they will appear.
As the White House has pushed back on the investigations, some Democrats have ramped up their calls for Nadler to open an impeachment inquiry, arguing it would improve congressional standing in the courts as they try to enforce subpoenas. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been reluctant to launch impeachment proceedings, despite a growing number in her caucus who have called for it.
On Tuesday, progressive groups expressed “deep disappointment” over Pelosi’s unwillingness and called on her to act, according to a letter obtained by The Associated Press. The groups said in the letter that voters gave Democrats control of the House “because they wanted aggressive oversight of the Trump administration.”
Pelosi says impeachment requires more public support and would detract from the legislative agenda. She has instead favored a slower, more methodical effort.
As part of that approach, the House is expected next week to hold McGahn and Attorney General William Barr , who has refused to turn over the full Mueller report, in contempt of Congress. The resolution scheduled for a June 11 vote will allow the Judiciary Committee to seek court enforcement of its subpoenas.
With that vote approaching, the Justice Department sent a letter to Nadler Tuesday with a final offer to resume negotiations over access to redacted portions of the Mueller report and underlying documents — but only if the Judiciary panel nullifies its May vote to recommend contempt for Barr and cancels the June 11 vote in the full House. Nadler did not have an immediate response, but was unlikely to agree to those terms.
Nadler has also said that his panel will launch a series of hearings on “the alleged crimes and other misconduct” in Mueller’s report as Democrats try to keep the public’s focus on his findings in the Trump-Russia investigation.
The hearings will serve as a stand-in of sorts for Mueller, who said last week he would prefer not to appear before Congress and would not elaborate on the contents of his report if he were forced to testify.
The first hearing, on June 10, looks at whether Trump committed obstruction of justice by intervening in the probe. It will feature John Dean, a White House counsel who helped bring down President Richard Nixon’s presidency.
Democrats have suggested they will compel Mueller’s appearance if necessary, but it’s unclear when or if that will happen. Negotiations over Mueller’s testimony are ongoing.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said Tuesday that his panel will also hold hearings on the Mueller report, focusing on Russian interference in the 2016 election.
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Associated Press writers Eric Tucker, Michael Balsamo and Alan Fram contributed to this report.

South of D-Day beaches, another slaughter is remembered

By JOHN LEICESTER Associated Press
CHAMBOIS, France (AP) — In the spring that followed the terrible battle, the grass grew especially thick and green, fertilized by thousands of corpses that had been plowed into mass graves.
It’s hard now — nearly 75 years later, overlooking wheat fields spotted with blood-red poppies and with skylarks singing overhead — to imagine that it was here in August 1944, on a wide, open plain that soldiers nicknamed “the Corridor of Death,” that Adolf Hitler’s armies in Normandy were all but destroyed, clearing the path for the liberation of Paris.
With the eyes of the world again turning to Normandy this week for the 75th anniversary of the June 6, 1944, D-Day landings that launched the Allied campaign to liberate Europe, a commemoration Tuesday in the small village of Chambois well south of the beaches served as a reminder that D-Day marked only a beginning.
It took many more weeks of vicious fighting to bring the Battle of Normandy to a decisive and bloody conclusion, in mid-August 1944 around the ruins of Chambois and surrounding villages where tens of thousands of German soldiers became trapped in a noose of Allied armor and fire.
Gerard and Paulette Gondouin, teenagers then, but now 90 and 88, respectively, were forever scarred by witnessing the destruction unleashed by Canadian, British, American, Polish and French forces that squeezed and bombarded the encircled Germans, cutting off their routes of escape. Allied planes and artillery rained down death.
Every August, like a ghost, the slaughter comes back to haunt them.
“In the month of August, both of us, we don’t sleep, even at night. We talk, ‘Do you remember this. Do you remember that?'” Gerard Gondouin said.
“And it’s been like that for 75 years,” Paulette Gondouin interjected.
Tens of thousands of German soldiers were killed, injured and captured. Roads became clogged with smashed tanks, other destroyed military hardware and bodies. German losses were so massive that Hitler’s forces in France never recovered. And even in their agony, some German troops sought to leave nothing of use for their enemies.
“They destroyed everything they could: their tanks, their lorries, everything. They killed their horses,” Gerard Gondouin recalled.
After the battle, villagers buried rotting corpses in mass graves — men and farm animals all interred together.
The stench of decay “stuck to us for months,” Paulette Gondouin recalled. “We were afraid of epidemics. It was a very, very, very hot August.”
In the following spring of 1945, “in the fields, the grass was thick and a very deep green,” she added.
German bodies were later dug up from around the village in the 1960s and reburied with others in a cemetery for thousands of dead.
For the Allies, trapping, killing and capturing so many Germans in one place was cause for celebration, a milestone in the Battle of Normandy that had been harder and longer than D-Day planners anticipated.
William Tymchuk, 98, fought with Canadian forces around Chambois and still speaks about the battle with pride. Back in the village for Tuesday’s ceremony and the unveiling of a monument, Tymchuk stood to attention with other World War II veterans, their chests full of medals, as a military band played.
Making a pincer movement with his hands, Tymchuk demonstrated how Allied forces closed in on all sides on the Germans. His piercing blue eyes teared up as he spoke about comrades who never came back from the fighting among Normandy’s thick hedgerows.
“We closed the gap from this side, with the Poles, and the Americans came from the other side,” he said. “It was a very decisive battle.”
“We knew the Germans were retreating … We knew they were on the run. So we tried to close as many roads as we could, to stop their tanks and their armor.”
Before the final escape routes were squeezed shut, thousands of German troops did manage to throw off the noose. Paulette Gondouin recalled how they slipped away under cover of night. Watching from a roadside bank, fighting not to slip down and be squashed, she saw tanks, halftracks, horses and carts and thousands of troops flee, “everything you need to make an army.”
“Every August, I find myself back on that bank,” she said. “It’s a recurrent nightmare. It was atrocious.”
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Follow all the AP’s coverage of D-Day at https://apnews.com/WorldWarII

Trump eases up, makes nice with May before she steps down

By JONATHAN LEMIRE, KEVIN FREKING and JILL LAWLESS Associated Press
LONDON (AP) — Making nice at the end, President Donald Trump eased up Tuesday on his frequent criticisms of outgoing British Prime Minister Theresa May over her handling of the tortured Brexit deal, declaring that history will remember her fondly if the United Kingdom can successfully leave the European Union.
The latest chapter in the allies’ storied “special relationship” played out as anti-Trump protesters — with the infamous Trump baby balloon bobbing overhead — thronged the streets of nearby central London.
The president’s unexpected compliments for May come just days before she was set to resign the leadership of her party after failing to secure a Brexit deal. She will depart as prime minister once her successor has been chosen.
“I have greatly enjoyed working with you. You are a tremendous professional and a person who loves her country very much,” Trump told May at a news conference near the prime minister’s Downing Street office. But he couldn’t resist a slight dig, evoking the two years of broadsides he had lobbed at her by recalling that he had urged her to sue the EU rather than try to negotiate a departure.
Trump said he would have “sued and settled, maybe, but you never know. She’s probably a better negotiator than I am.” And he added that the deal May came away with was a good one and “perhaps you won’t be given the credit you deserve.”
May voiced hope her successor will be able to achieve Brexit.
“I still believe —I personally believe— that it is in the best interest of the U.K. to leave the European Union with a deal. I believe there is a good deal on the table,” she said. “Obviously, it will be whoever succeeds me as prime minister to take this issue forward. What is paramount, I believe, is delivering on Brexit for the British people.”
Earlier in the day, Trump jokingly suggested that May “stick around” until a new U.S.-U.K. trade deal was brokered. May and her aides chuckled at that.
Trump said Britain and the U.S. would be able to strike a “phenomenal trade deal” once the U.K. had left the EU — music to the ears of pro-Brexit Britons. But, in words sure to alarm those in Britain concerned about Brexit, he said that “everything”— including the National Health Service — would be “on the table” in future trade negotiations.
Most Britons are protective of the state-run NHS, which delivers free health care to all, and many worry that private U.S. health care firms could try to gain access to chunks of it as a condition of a trade deal.
On a separate issue, Trump said he anticipated “no limitations” on the future sharing of intelligence with the U.K. as the U.S. continues to press its longtime ally to ban Chinese company Huawei amid espionage and trade concerns.
Traditionally, U.S. presidents avoid injecting themselves into the domestic politics of other nations. But Trump didn’t hold back — right after claiming that he would not comment on Britain’s internal matters.
He renewed his praise of Conservative lawmaker Boris Johnson, who is campaigning to replace May as Conservative leader, and of another contender, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt. He said he’d turned down a requested meeting from Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, and took new swipes at one of his most vocal critics, London Mayor Sadiq Khan.
Afterward, Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage and Trump met at the U.S. ambassador’s residence, with Farage tweeting that they’d had a “good meeting.”
Trump previously had voiced support for a “hard Brexit,” which could have a devastating impact on the U.K. economy, according to many experts. That stands in contrast to a previous White House position that the departure should be as painless as possible. Others in the U.K. are pressing for a second referendum that could keep Britain in the EU.
As the pageantry of Trump’s British state visit gave way to politics, an economic meeting between the leaders at St. James’s Palace brought together 10 leading companies — five from the U.K. and five from the United States. CEOs and senior representatives from BAE Systems, GlaxoSmithKline, National Grid, Barclays, Reckitt Benckiser, JP Morgan, Lockheed Martin, Goldman Sachs International, Bechtel and Splunk were listed as attending.
While the corporate leaders gathered, protesters began to assemble across London, some of whom had balloon of a crying baby Trump floating in the air near Parliament Square. Leaders of Britain’s main opposition party joined demonstrators at a rally in Trafalgar Square, just up the street from May’s Downing Street office. Also in Trafalgar Square: a 16-foot robotic likeness of Trump seated on a golden toilet.
Trump glossed over the protests, saying he saw “thousands of people in the streets cheering” and waving U.S. and U.K. flags, but just a “very, very small” group of protesters. “There was great love,” he said.
Trump and first lady Melania Trump later toured the Churchill War Rooms, the British government’s underground command center during World War II. Then it was time for a fancy reciprocal dinner that the Trumps hosted at the U.S. ambassador’s residence for Prince Charles, his wife, Camilla, and other dignitaries.
On the menu: Heritage tomatoes with burrata, grilled filet of beef and vanilla ice cream with summer berries.
A day earlier, Trump had lunch with Queen Elizabeth II and tea with Prince Charles before a grand state dinner at Buckingham Palace.
Following Tuesday’s focus on business and trade, Trump will use the next two days to mark the 75th anniversary of the June 6, 1944, D-Day landing, likely the last significant commemoration most veterans of the battle will see.
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Associated Press writers Gregory Katz in London and Darlene Superville and Deb Riechmann in Washington contributed to this report.
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Follow Lemire on Twitter at http://twitter.com/@JonLemire and Freking at http://twitter.com/@APkfreking

World Bank downgrades its forecast for global economy

By PAUL WISEMAN AP Economics Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) — The World Bank on Tuesday downgraded its forecast for the global economy in light of trade conflicts, financial strains and unexpectedly sharp slowdowns in wealthier countries.
The bank, an anti-poverty agency, expects the world economy to grow 2.6% this year. That would be the slowest calendar-year growth since 2016, and it is down from the 2.9% expansion the agency forecast in January.
The World Bank downgraded every major region of the world, though it kept its 2019 forecast for U.S. growth at 2.5%. In the 19 countries that use the euro currency, growth is forecast to slow to 1.2%, down from 1.8% last year and the 1.6% the World Bank expected in January.
Slowed by the Trump administration’s trade war with China, global trade is expected to expand just 2.6% this year, the weakest pace since the 2008 financial crisis.
The Trump administration and Beijing have imposed tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars of each other’s imports in a clash over China’s aggressive drive to overtake American technological dominance. Their showdown has generated uncertainty for businesses that must decide whether and where to make investments, buy supplies and establish factories.
“We are not pushing the panic button yet,” said Ayhan Kose, a World Bank economist. “But we are sending a message” of a possibly deeper slowdown if trade hostilities persist.
“This is high time for policymakers to find ways to resolve their differences,” Kose said.
China, the world’s second-largest economy after the United States, is forecast to grow 6.2%, which would be its weakest performance since 1990, when it was enduring the aftermath of a violent crackdown on pro-democracy protesters at Tiananmen Square.
The Japanese economy is predicted to eke out 0.8% growth, same as last year.
Some developing world countries are contending with financial stress. Turkey’s economy is expected to contract 1% and Argentina’s 1.2%.

Trump administration halts cruises to Cuba under new rules

By MATTHEW LEE and MICHAEL WEISSENSTEIN Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration on Tuesday ended the most popular forms of U.S. travel to Cuba, banning cruise ships and a heavily used category of educational travel in an attempt to cut off cash to the island’s communist government.
Cruise travel from the U.S. to Cuba began in May 2016 during President Barack Obama’s opening with the island. It has become the most popular form of U.S. leisure travel to the island, bringing 142,721 people in the first four months of the year, a more than 300% increase over the same period last year. For travelers confused about the thicket of federal regulations governing travel to Cuba, cruises offered a simple, one-stop, guaranteed-legal way to travel.
That now appears to be over.
“Cruise ships as well as recreational and pleasure vessels are prohibited from departing the U.S. on temporary sojourn to Cuba effective tomorrow,” the Commerce Department said in a statement to The Associated Press.
The new restrictions are part of a broader effort by the administration of President Donald Trump to roll back the Obama-era efforts to restore normal relations between the United States and Cuba, which drew sharp criticism from the more hardline elements of the Cuban-American community and their allies in Congress.
Treasury said the sanctions would take effect on Wednesday after they are published in the Federal Register.
U.S. national security adviser John Bolton, who declared Cuba part of a “troika of tyranny ” along with Nicaragua and Venezuela as he outlined plans for sanctions in November, said the new policy is intended to deny the Cuban government a vital source of revenue.
“The Administration has advanced the President’s Cuba policy by ending ‘veiled tourism’ to Cuba and imposing restrictions on vessels,” Bolton said on Twitter. “We will continue to take actions to restrict the Cuban regime’s access to U.S. dollars.”
The Cuban government imposed food rationing last month as a result of tightened U.S. sanctions and a drop in subsidized oil and other aid from Venezuela. For the Cuban government, cruise travel generated many millions of dollars a year in docking fees and payments for on-shore excursions, although those figures were never made public. Cuba also has become the most-requested destination for many South Florida-based cruise lines.
“The Trump administration deserves tremendous credit for holding accountable the Cuban regime,” Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said. “The United States must use all tools available under U.S. law to counter the Cuban regime’s deceitful activities to undermine U.S. policy.”
The new restrictions take effect Wednesday, but the government said it will allow anyone who has already paid for the trip to go ahead with it. But the process going forward for passengers isn’t clear.
Cruise lines carrying passengers booked before Tuesday have been hoping that they could request specific federal permits to complete their trips to Cuba, said Pedro Freyre, a Miami-based attorney who represents Carnival and three other major cruise lines.
“For now, it’s prohibited unless the cruise lines requests a specific license,” Freyre said. He said cruise lines had been trying to determine “if there’s any opening there to at least complete trips that have been booked and passengers that have made travel plans.”
Norwegian Cruise Line said in a statement that it was scrutinizing the new rules and consulting with lawyers and trade experts.
“We are closely monitoring these recent developments and any resulting impact to cruise travel to Cuba,” Norwegian Cruise Line said in a statement. “We will communicate to our guests and travel partners as additional information becomes available.”
Shore excursions from cruise ships tend to be organized by the cruise lines in cooperation with Cuban government tour agency Havanatur. A smaller number hire private tour guides or drivers of restored classic cars who wait outside Havana’s cruise docks.
“This affects all of us,” said William Mártinez, 58, a Cuban-born American who lived in Florida for 46 years but returned five years ago to drive a classic car for tourists. “It’s inhuman, the sanctions that they’re putting on Cuba.”
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the measures are a response to what it calls Cuba’s “destabilizing role” in the Western Hemisphere, including support for the government of President Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela.
“This administration has made a strategic decision to reverse the loosening of sanctions and other restrictions on the Cuban regime,” Mnuchin said. “These actions will help to keep U.S. dollars out of the hands of Cuban military, intelligence, and security services.”
Along with the cruise ships, the U.S. will also now ban most private planes and boats from stopping in the island.
Cruises have become more popular than flights for leisure travelers to Cuba — nearly 30,000 more came by cruise ship than flights this year. The figures exclude Cuban-born Americans visiting family on the island.
“I’ve been dying to come to Cuba forever, to see the cars, the buildings,” said Maria Garcia, a 46-year-old teacher from Puerto Rico who arrived in Havana Tuesday morning on a Norwegian cruise line. “I could do it with this cruise … Trump needs to understand that people should come to this country, to enjoy and get to know its culture, just like we would do in any other part of the world.”
Commercial airline flights appear to be unaffected by the new measures and travel for university groups, academic research, journalism and professional meetings will continue to be allowed.
Collin Laverty, head of Cuba Educational Travel, one of the largest Cuba travel companies in the U.S., called the new measures “political grandstanding aimed at Florida in the run up to the 2020 elections.”
“It’s also terrible for U.S. companies that are providing employment and paying taxes in the US and creating an economic footprint on the island,” he said.
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Weissenstein reported from Havana, Cuba. Associated Press writers Andrea Rodriguez in Havana; Adriana Gomez-Licon in Miami and Ben Fox in Washington also contributed to this report.

Trump says GOP would be ‘foolish’ to block Mexico tariffs

By LISA MASCARO, LUIS ALONSO LUGO and DARLENE SUPERVILLE Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump declared on Tuesday that fellow Republicans would be “foolish” to block the tariffs he’s threatening on Mexican imports, but GOP senators fearing a new trade war were considering action and grilling his administration lawyers behind closed doors.
Republicans are deeply concerned that Trump’s proposed 5% tariffs on all imports from Mexico would spike U.S. consumers’ costs , harm the economy and imperil a major pending US-Mexico-Canada trade deal. Mexico is concerned as well, and top officials are in Washington working to stave off the threatened trade taxes.
If Congress should vote against the tariffs it would be a stiff rebuke to Trump, much like its earlier effort to reject money to build a long, impregnable border wall. But many on Capitol Hill remain hopeful talks this week between U.S. and Mexican officials will ease Trump away from the tariffs he’s said will start next Monday.
“We’re going to see if we can do something,” Trump said during a press conference in London on the second day of his state visit to Britain.
“But I think it’s more likely that the tariffs go on,” he said. He also doubted Republicans in Congress would muster the votes against him. “If they do, it’s foolish.”
Mexico seemed much more optimistic about a resolution.
“By what we have seen so far, we will be able to reach an agreement,” Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said during a news conference at Mexico’s Embassy in Washington. “That is why I think the imposition of tariffs can be avoided.”
Ebrard arrived in Washington over the weekend as Mexico launched a diplomatic counteroffensive and fresh negotiations. On Tuesday, Mexico’s trade negotiator Jesus Seade was meeting with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, and Ebrard will meet Wednesday with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Republican senators are hopeful those talks will prevent the tariffs. But if negotiations should fail, the lawmakers warn they may have no choice but to take action in Congress to stop Trump.
GOP Sen. Rob Portman said Tuesday on CNBC that if the tariffs do go into effect next Monday as planned, “I do think Congress is likely to have a vote.”
Portman was among those on Capitol Hill who worry the tariffs will derail the long-promised United-States-Mexico-Canada trade deal— a rewrite of the North American Free Trade Agreement that Trump campaigned against. The senator warned that Trump was “endangering” passage of his favored USMCA.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, the chairman of the Finance Committee, told reporters Tuesday the tariffs make passage of USMCA “more difficult.”
Questions remain, though, and senators invited Pat Philbin from the White House counsel’s office and Steve Engel from the Department of Justice to their weekly lunch Tuesday to hear more about the administration’s legal rationale for the tariffs.
Trump has indicated he will rely on the International Emergency Economic Powers Act to slap the tariffs on Mexican goods, a national emergency executive action he can take without congressional approval.
But lawmakers say if the president invokes a national emergency, they can vote on a resolution to disapprove. That’s what happened earlier this year when lawmakers, stunned by Trump’s claim of executive power, tried to block him from taking funds for the border wall with Mexico. Congress voted to disapprove of Trump’s actions, but the president vetoed the resolution.
Yet it’s unclear if Trump will, in fact, use the national emergency declaration or if opponents of the tariffs might resort to other legislative tools to block him.
“There’s some disagreement even among Republicans,” Grassley said. “We’d better get a legal answer.”
While many Republicans who voted against Trump earlier this year actually supported his ultimate goal of building the border wall — but were uneasy with his executive reach to do it — the president doesn’t have anywhere near the same backing for the tariffs.
In this case, Trump is using the tariffs as leverage against Mexico in his long-running battle to reduce illegal immigration.
Democrats — and some Republicans — doubt the tariffs will ever take effect. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said Tuesday that “Trump has a habit of talking tough and then retreating.”
Trump claimed “millions of people” are entering the U.S. through Mexico and criticized congressional Democrats for not passing new laws. He said, “Mexico should not allow millions of people to try and enter our country.”
It is unclear what more Mexico can do — and what would be enough — to satisfy Trump because the United States has not presented concrete benchmarks to assess whether the U.S. ally is sufficiently stemming the migrant flow from Central America.
Mexico calls the potential tariffs hurtful to the economies of both countries and useless to slow the northbound flow of Central American migrants.
“We need to put our heads together and try to come up with a solution,” Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn said Monday.
The tariff threat comes just as the administration has been pushing for passage of the USMCA trade accord. Mexico and Canada already have started the process of ratifying through their own legislatures.
On Monday, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross met with Mexican Economy Minister Graciela Marquez, and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue hosted his Mexican counterpart, Victor Villalobos.
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Associated Press writer Padmananda Rama contributed.
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Luis Alonso Lugo on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/luisalonsolugo