AP News in Brief at 9:04 p.m. EDT




Trump shakes up staff, intent on finishing race on own terms

NEW YORK (AP) — Frustrated with his troubled candidacy, Donald Trump is hinging his presidential hopes on a risky bet: that the fiery populism and freewheeling style that won him the Republican nomination give him a better shot at the White House than uniting his party and rallying moderate voters.

Trump underscored that conviction Wednesday with a staff overhaul at his campaign's highest levels, the second shake-up in the past two months. The Republican nominee tapped Stephen Bannon — a combative conservative media executive with no presidential campaign experience — to serve as CEO of his White House bid.

Pollster Kellyanne Conway, who has known Trump for years and gained his trust during her brief tenure working for the businessman, will serve as campaign manager.

The moves are aimed in part at marginalizing campaign chairman Paul Manafort, a longtime Republican operative who pushed Trump to moderate his tone and improve relations with skeptical Republican officials. In breaking with that approach, Trump appears set on finishing the race on his own terms— win or lose.

Manafort's past work for a pro-Russian Ukrainian political party has also become a potential liability for Trump. The Associated Press reported Wednesday that Manafort helped the party secretly route at least $2.2 million in payments to a pair of prominent Washington lobbying firms.

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AP Sources: Manafort tied to undisclosed foreign lobbying

WASHINGTON (AP) — Donald Trump's campaign chairman helped a pro-Russian governing party in Ukraine secretly route at least $2.2 million in payments to two prominent Washington lobbying firms in 2012, and did so in a way that effectively obscured the foreign political party's efforts to influence U.S. policy.

The revelation, provided to The Associated Press by people directly knowledgeable about the effort, comes at a time when Trump has faced criticism for his friendly overtures to Russian President Vladimir Putin. It also casts new light on the business practices of campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

Under federal law, U.S. lobbyists must declare publicly if they represent foreign leaders or their political parties and provide detailed reports about their actions to the Justice Department. A violation is a felony and can result in up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

Trump shook up his campaign organization Wednesday, putting two new longtime Republican conservative strategists as chief executive officer and campaign manager. It was unclear what impact the shakeup would have on Manafort, but he retains his title as campaign chairman.

Manafort and business associate Rick Gates, another top strategist in Trump's campaign, were working in 2012 on behalf of the political party of Ukraine's then-president, Viktor Yanukovych.

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Driven out: Housing crisis looms in flood-stricken Louisiana

DENHAM SPRINGS, La. (AP) — With an estimated 40,000 homes damaged by deadly flooding, Louisiana could be looking at its biggest housing crunch since the miserable, bumbling aftermath of Hurricane Katrina a decade ago.

People whose homes were swamped by some of the heaviest rains Louisiana has ever seen are staying in shelters, bunking with friends or relatives, or sleeping in trailers on their front lawns. Others unable or unwilling to leave their homes are living amid mud and the ever-present risk of mold in the steamy August heat.

Many victims will need an extended place to stay while they rebuild. Countless others didn't have flood insurance and may not have the means to repair their homes. They may have to find new places altogether.

"I got nowhere else to go," said Thomas Lee, 56, who ekes out a living as a drywall hanger — a skill that will come in handy. His sodden furniture is piled at the curb and the drywall in his rented house is puckering, but Thomas still plans to keep living there, sleeping on an air mattress.

Exactly how many will need temporary housing is unclear, but state officials are urging landlords to allow short-term leases and encouraging people to rent out any empty space.

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'Auction' of NSA tools sends security companies scrambling

PARIS (AP) — The leak of what purports to be a National Security Agency hacking tool kit has set the information security world atwitter — and sent major companies rushing to update their defenses.

Experts across the world are still examining what amount to electronic lock picks. Here's what they've found so far.

WHAT'S IN THE RELEASE?

The tool kit consists of a suite of malicious software intended to tamper with firewalls, the electronic defenses protecting computer networks. The rogue programs appear to date back to 2013 and have whimsical names like EXTRABACON or POLARSNEEZE. Three of them — JETPLOW, FEEDTROUGH and BANANAGLEE — have previously appeared in an NSA compendium of top secret cyber surveillance tools .

The auctioneers claim the tools were stolen from the Equation Group, the name given to a powerful collective of hackers exposed by antivirus firm Kaspersky Lab in 2015. Others have linked the Equation Group to the NSA's hacking arm, although such claims are extraordinarily hard to settle with any certainty.

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Wildfire burns with ferocity never seen by fire crews

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (AP) — A wildfire with a ferocity never seen before by veteran California firefighters raced up and down canyons, instantly engulfing homes and forcing thousands of people to flee, some running for their lives just ahead of the flames.

By Wednesday, a day after it ignited in brush left bone dry by years of drought, the blaze had spread across nearly 47 square miles and was raging out of control. The flames advanced despite the efforts of 1,300 firefighters.

Authorities could not immediately say how many homes had been destroyed, but they warned that the number will be large.

"There will be a lot of families that come home to nothing," San Bernardino County Fire Chief Mark Hartwig said after flying over a fire scene he described as "devastating."

"It hit hard. It hit fast. It hit with an intensity that we hadn't seen before," he said.

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Rights group: More than 17,000 killed in Syrian state jails

BEIRUT (AP) — The young Syrian activist was beaten, prevented from going to the toilet and saw her cellmates taken for rounds of whipping when she was held for more than a month in several government detention facilities.

Still, Lama is considered lucky, as more than 17,000 detainees have died in the government's custody over the past five years as a result of torture, diseases and other causes, according to a report released Thursday by the London-based Amnesty International.

The report, titled "'It breaks the human," includes interviews with 65 torture survivors who described abuse and inhuman conditions in security branches operated by Syrian intelligence agencies and in Saidnaya Military Prison, near Damascus.

It said common methods of torture included forcibly contorting the victim's body into a tire and flogging on the soles of the feet. The authorities also used electric shocks, rape and sexual violence, the pulling out of fingernails or toenails, scalding with hot water and cigarette burns.

"The catalogue of horror stories featured in this report depicts in gruesome detail the dreadful abuse detainees routinely suffer from the moment of their arrest, through their interrogation and detention behind the closed doors," said Philip Luther, director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa program.

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Column: Losing gracefully still an Olympic sport

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — In a world in turmoil, one thing never changes: the Olympic sport of losing gracefully.

With a crisp, assured landing of his final somersault off the parallel bars, Oleg Verniaiev bumped Danell Leyva out of the gold-medal spot. Did the American curse? Turn his back? Roll his eyes in disgust? No. He firmly shook the Ukrainian's chalk-covered hand, flashed a broad smile and embraced him.

"He didn't take anything away from me," Leyva said. "He deserved that medal more than anything."

With a hand on her shoulder and the words "Get up, get up, we have to finish this," Abbey D'Agostino persuaded Nikki Hamblin not to quit when they tripped over each other and hit the deck hard in qualifying of the women's 5,000-meters. An American and a New Zealander, perfect strangers, turning personal disaster into a triumph of Olympic goodwill.

"Isn't that just so amazing?" Hamblin said. "I'm never going to forget that moment. When someone asks me what happened in Rio in 20 years' time, that's my story."

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Father: Lochte back in US; Rio judge orders passports held

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — The father of American swimmer Ryan Lochte said Wednesday his gold medal-winning son arrived back in the United States before a Brazilian judge ordered that Lochte and U.S. teammate Jimmy Feigen stay in Brazil as authorities investigate their claim they were robbed during the Olympics.

Steve Lochte told The Associated Press by phone from his Florida home that his son called him Tuesday after arriving in the United States. The 32-year-old swimmer was going to pick up his car and buy a new wallet to replace the one that he said was stolen in the robbery.

"I'm just happy he's safe," the elder Lochte said. "It was an unfortunate experience for him and the other three. I don't know what all the controversy is. They were basically taken out of the taxi and robbed. The main thing is he's very lucky that he's safe and that all they got was his cash and wallet."

The elder Lochte said his son's Olympic credential and cell phone weren't taken during the incident early Sunday morning. He said he was sure Ryan had his passport or he would not have been allowed to board a plane.

Feigen's whereabouts could not immediately be confirmed, though he told the San Antonio Express-News he was still in Brazil.

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Massive dam project at center of China-Myanmar talks

BEIJING (AP) — Efforts by Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi this week to bolster ties with her country's dominant northern neighbor China may hinge on whether she can resolve the fate of a massive, Chinese-funded dam project stalled due to overwhelming local opposition.

Suu Kyi on Thursday begins a formal five-day visit that includes meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang.

Now leading Myanmar with the title of state counselor, Suu Kyi is a Nobel Peace Prize winner who spent 15 years in house arrest under Myanmar's former military junta, which was supported for years by Beijing. But analysts say Suu Kyi has shown pragmatism and a desire to reorder Myanmar's relationship with China while also reaching out to the United States, Europe and Japan.

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What to watch at the Rio Games on Thursday

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Day 13 of the Rio Games features medal action in track and field, beach volleyball, platform diving, wrestling and more. Here are some things to watch (all times local):

TRACK AND FIELD

Usain Bolt should be lining up for gold medal No. 8 at 10:30 p.m. and the biggest drama may not be whether he wins, but whether he cracks the once-thought-untouchable 19-second barrier. He already owns both the world record at 19.19, and Olympic record at 19.30.

Among those who will challenge him include American Justin Gatlin — who was booed earlier in the games — and Canadian Andre De Grasse, who finished 2-3 to Bolt in the 100, along with LaShawn Merritt of the U.S. The 200 semis were being run Thursday night.

Men's decathalon medals will be awarded after the 1500m finals, which start at 9:56 p.m. The athletes' day starts with 110m hurdles (9:30 a.m.), discus (10:25 a.m.), pole vault (1:25 p.m.), javelin (6:45 p.m.) American Ashton Eaton is leading in points after the first day of events. Damian Warner of Canada, beat Eaton in a 100-meter heat and set an Olympic decathlon best 10.30 seconds in the process.
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