Esper ordered to stop SEAL review
WASHINGTON (AP) — Defense Secretary Mark Esper declared on Monday that President Donald Trump ordered him to stop a disciplinary review of a Navy SEAL accused of battlefield misconduct, an intervention that raised questions about America's commitment to international standards for battlefield ethics.
Esper, who initially favored allowing the Navy to proceed with a peer-review board for Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher, which could have resulted in him losing his SEAL status, said he was obliged to follow Trump's order. But he also directed the Pentagon's legal office to review how service members are educated in the laws of armed conflict and trained to wartime behavioral standards.
"I can control what I can control," Esper told reporters when asked whether Trump sent the right message to U.S. troops by intervening to stop the Gallagher review. "The president is the commander in chief. He has every right, authority and privilege to do what he wants to do."
Gallagher was acquitted of murder in the stabbing death of an Islamic State militant captive but convicted by a military jury of posing with the corpse while in Iraq in 2017.
In yet another twist to the Gallagher saga, Esper also made an extraordinary accusation against Richard V. Spencer, whom he fired on Sunday as the civilian leader of the Navy.
With testimony over, work begins
WASHINGTON (AP) — The witnesses have spoken, the politics are largely settled. Now impeachment investigators will make the case for public opinion.
On Monday, hundreds of pages from Democratic Chairman Adam Schiff's intelligence committee were being compiled into an exhaustive report that will begin to outline whether President Donald Trump engaged in "treason, bribery or high crimes and misdemeanors" by withholding $400 million in aid as he pushed Ukraine to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden. The report may come as soon as next week.
There are rising political stakes for all sides. Americans remain deeply split over the impeachment question, despite hours of sometimes riveting testimony, and the country's polarization now seems to foreshadow an outcome: Democrats are poised to vote to impeach the president while Republicans stand firmly with Trump.
Sending the case on to the Judiciary Committee, which is ready to start its own round of hearings in December, provides yet another chance to sway public opinion before a House vote expected by Christmas and a Senate trial in 2020.
"The evidence of wrongdoing and misconduct by the President that we have gathered to date is clear and hardly in dispute," Schiff told colleagues in a letter Monday. "What is left to us now is to decide whether this behavior is compatible with the office of the Presidency, and whether the Constitutional process of impeachment is warranted."
Iran's Guard threatens US, allies
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The head of Iran's Revolutionary Guard threatened the U.S. and its allies Monday as he addressed a pro-government demonstration attended by tens of thousands of people denouncing last week's violent protests over a fuel price hike.
Gen. Hossein Salami, echoing other Iranian officials, accused the U.S., Britain, Israel and Saudi Arabia of stoking the unrest. He said the rise in gasoline prices was a "mere pretext" for an attack on the nation.
"If you cross our red line, we will destroy you," he said. "We will not leave any move unanswered." He said if Iran decides to respond, "the enemy will not have security anywhere," adding that "our patience has a limit."
Amnesty International said late Monday that at least 143 people have been killed in the protests since Nov. 15, updating an earlier toll. The London-based rights group said it had "clear evidence" that Iranian security forces used firearms against unarmed protesters.
"The rising death toll is an alarming indication of just how ruthless the treatment of unarmed protesters has been by the Iranian authorities and reveals their appalling assault on human life," said Philip Luther, Amnesty's research and advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa.
Students seek mental health help
More college students are turning to their schools for help with anxiety, depression and other mental health problems, and many must wait weeks for treatment or find help elsewhere as campus clinics struggle to meet demand, an Associated Press review of more than three dozen public universities found.
On some campuses, the number of students seeking treatment has nearly doubled over the last five years while overall enrollment has remained relatively flat. The increase has been tied to reduced stigma around mental health, along with rising rates of depression and other disorders. Universities have expanded their mental health clinics, but the growth is often slow, and demand keeps surging.
Long waits have provoked protests at schools from Maryland to California, in some cases following student suicides. Meanwhile, campus counseling centers grapple with low morale and high burnout as staff members face increasingly heavy workloads.
"It's an incredible struggle, to be honest," said Jamie Davidson, associate vice president for student wellness at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, which has 11 licensed counselors for 30,000 students. "It's stressful on our staff and our resources. We've increased it, but you're never going to talk to anyone in the mental health field who tells you we have sufficient resources."
The Associated Press requested five years of data from the largest public university in each state. A total of 39 provided annual statistics from their counseling clinics or health centers. The remaining 11 said they did not have complete records or had not provided records five months after they were requested.
McGahn must comply with subpoena
WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal judge has ordered former White House counsel Donald McGahn to appear before Congress in a setback to President Donald Trump's effort to keep his top aides from testifying.
The outcome could lead to renewed efforts by House Democrats to compel testimony from other high-ranking officials, including former national security adviser John Bolton.
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson ruled Monday in a lawsuit filed by the House Judiciary Committee.
McGahn was a star witness in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation and Democrats wanted to question McGahn about possible obstruction of justice by Trump. That was months before the House started an impeachment inquiry into Trump's effort to get Ukraine to announce an investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden.
An appeal is likely.
Inspiring tale of a neighborhood
CHICAGO (AP) — With the echo of African drums, Fairfield Avenue comes alive.
Men, women and children, drawn to their front porches by the pulsing beat, witness an impromptu parade led by 60-year-old Hasan Smith. A long line of well-wishers follows him to the home that he helped rebuild — the first home he has ever owned.
"Hello, neighbors!" his wife, Mary, shouts.
They all wave, and celebrate another chapter in the rebirth of a neighborhood.
Today, the area known as Chicago Lawn is a place where kids ride bikes, where revelers gather for block parties and street dances, where shoppers frequent a farmers' market and a resale shop in a once-vacant storefront and where neighborhood teens find work at a screen-printing business.
Rabbis urge teaching empathy
NEW YORK (AP) — At a time when anti-Semitic incidents are on the rise worldwide, schools should take steps to teach empathy as an antidote to racism and religious hatred, several rabbis attending an international conference said.
The religious leaders praised a pilot project in El Paso, Texas, that requires students to pause each day to consider others. Children are given a small box shaped like Noah's Ark. They collect money in it daily and give it to charities chosen by their classes.
"If you want to change the trajectory of the way things are going, you have to nip hatred in the bud," Rabbi Levi Greenberg said at the International Conference of Chabad-Lubavitch Emissaries, a branch of Hasidism. The annual event ended Monday.
"Every child is a potential hater but is also is a potential lover. You have to make sure you cultivate that potential love that they have within them," Greenberg said.
Greenberg, who lives in El Paso, approached the El Paso Community Foundation in 2018 with an idea after seeing a similar program initiated by colleagues in South Africa. The theory is that daily giving connects the students emotionally to others outside their normal environment. They become more compassionate and empathetic to other cultures and circumstances, Greenberg said.
Remains believed fighters' stepdaughter
AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — An Alabama district attorney said Monday that authorities have "good reason" to believe human remains found in a wooded area belong to the missing stepdaughter of a UFC heavyweight fighter.
The remains were found on a county road in neighboring Macon County, Lee County District Attorney Brandon Hughes told The Associated Press.
"I can confirm that human remains have been found in Macon County on County Road 2 and we have good reason to believe they are that of Aniah Blanchard," Hughes said.
Police arrested a third person Monday in connection with the disappearance of Blanchard, 19. She was last seen Oct. 23 in Auburn. Her stepfather is UFC fighter Walt Harris.
After she disappeared, Blanchard's black Honda CRV was found abandoned more than 50 miles (90 kilometers) away at an apartment complex in Montgomery, Alabama. Auburn police detective Josh Mixon testified at a hearing last week that Blanchard's blood was found in the car and it appeared she had suffered a life-threatening injury.
Pete Buttigieg aimed high early
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — It was a running joke in his AP U.S. history class at Saint Joseph High School: Would Peter Buttigieg — the smartest kid in class, language whiz and devotee of John F. Kennedy — use his unusual last name in his eventual run for president of the United States? Or would he have a better shot of winning the voters of the future if he went by Montgomery, his middle name?
It was the late 1990s, Bill Clinton was in the White House, and a round-faced teenager in South Bend, Indiana, was viewed by many around him as an eventual successor. As early as grade school, Buttigieg exhibited an attention-grabbing combination of brains and curiosity, the sort of kid with a reputation — among kids and teachers. He would be named high school valedictorian, voted senior class president and chosen Most Likely to be U.S. President. He sat at the adults table.
Now, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg — not Montgomery — is indeed running for the highest office in the land.
It's an audacious leap. No mayor has ever gone straight to the White House (let alone from a city of just over 100,000). No president has ever been so young (he'll be 39 on Inauguration Day). And no commander in chief has ever been openly gay (or had a husband).
But people who have known Buttigieg since his Indiana boyhood say it all feels predictable.
Conan the dog gets hero's welcome
WASHINGTON (AP) — A U.S. military dog that played a starring role in the raid that killed Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi seemed oblivious to the praise that President Donald Trump heaped on it Monday at the White House.
Conan, a Belgian Malinois, seemed much more interested in the head scratches it was getting from Mike Pence, repeatedly looking up at the vice president in search of more attention.
Trump used a slew of adjectives to describe Conan, which was injured when it was exposed to electric wires in the late October raid while chasing al-Baghdadi at the terrorist's compound in northwest Syria. "Incredible." "Brilliant." "Smart." "Ultimate fighter." "Very special." "Tough cookie."
"So this is Conan," Trump said. "Right now, probably the world's most famous dog."
Trump said he bestowed a medal on Conan and presented the dog with a plaque. First lady Melania Trump stood a few feet away.