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National Govt & Politics

    At first, Tomas Monarrez didn't notice the labels when he went shopping for pots and pans. 'Completely toxin free!' said a big green message on a line of nonstick frying pans in the cookware aisle at a store in the nation's capital. 'No PFOA!' boasted the label on a 12-piece kitchen set. 'Will never release any toxic fumes,' another label promised. 'Oh, wow,' Monarrez, an economist at a think tank, said, when asked if he had ever heard of the toxic chemicals that manufacturers were declaring their products free of. 'I didn't know anything. Should I buy these?' Monarrez asked. 'So all these are bad? Federal regulators are sorting out how to handle health risks from a group of widely used nonstick and stain-resistant compounds. But even reading labels may not be enough to guide consumers who want to limit their exposure to the manmade industrial material, known as perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. Scientists say there are many steps people can take to minimize their contact with the compounds, which federal toxicologists say show links to health problems. Some changes are simple, such as checking on the safety of your drinking water or buying different pots and pans. Others require spending and lifestyle changes — for example, passing up fast food or other takeout because the containers the food may be packaged in. For those concerned about exposure, there's one critical thing to know about PFAS compounds: 'They're everywhere,' Linda Birnbaum, head of the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences, told a recent gathering of her agency's advisory council. 'The carpets and the chairs and maybe the clothes you're wearing,' Birnbaum said. She noted she used to love the ritual of spraying Scotchgard on newly bought tablecloths. No more, she made clear. There are thousands of different versions of the compounds, including PFOA and another early version, both now phased out of production in the U.S. PFAS are used in products including nonstick cookware, but also in stain- and steam-resistant bags for microwave popcorn and many other food containers and packaging, shaving cream, dental floss, stain protection for fabrics and rugs and outdoor garb — for starters. Federal studies of people heavily exposed to the compounds have found links between high blood levels of older kinds of PFAS and a range of health problems, including liver issues, low birth weights, and testicular and kidney cancer. High levels also have been found in many drinking water systems. Military installations that use PFAS-laden firefighting foam and businesses that work with PFAS are two big sources of water contamination. It's probably impossible to avoid all exposures, says Leonardo Trasande, a children's environmental health specialist and vice chair for research at New York University's pediatrics department, and a PFAS expert. But there are 'safe and simple steps to limit exposure based on what we know,' Trasande says. Trasande himself recommends two precautions. One is shunning nonstick cookware in favor of cast iron or stainless steel, Trasande said. That's despite statements from industry and manufacturers that newer forms of PFAS in nonstick cookware are safe. The other is eschewing food packaging as much as possible. In practice, that can require changing habits — cutting your consumption of takeout and packaged food, and committing to cooking more at home, from scratch. 'Literature does suggest that diet is a major route of exposure,' Trasande noted. People also can contact their local water utility to find out if their water system is one of those testing with higher levels of PFAS, Environmental Protection Agency spokeswoman Andrea Drinkard said. Eating certified organic food can guard against PFAS exposure from fields treated with treated human sewage sludge because federal rules prohibit use of the sludge on organically raised crops and livestock, environmental groups say. Older forms of the compounds are known to build up in people's bodies for years. And the chemical bonds holding PFAS compounds together are among the toughest going, so they are expected to take thousands of years to degrade. There's no across the board consensus on whether newer versions of the thousands of kinds of PFAS are safe. Industry says they are and that there's no reason to swear off all nonstick cookware and PFAS-treated food packaging. 'Consumers should have confidence in the safety of products manufactured with today's PFAS because they have been reviewed by regulators globally and found to meet relevant standards that are protective of health and the environment,' Jessica Bowman, executive director of the FluoroCouncil industry trade group, said in an email. 'Studies show that the newer PFAS do not present significant health concerns — they're not carcinogenic and not endocrine disruptors.' Several nonindustry researchers dispute that, and the Food and Drug Administration noted last month studies showing that that newer forms of the nonstick, grease- and water-repelling compounds may also be a health concern.
  • A former Marine who deployed twice to Afghanistan. A patent law professor. A woman who's blind. Two Rhodes scholars. They're among the lawyers starting work this summer as law clerks at the Supreme Court. The group of 16 women and 23 men hired by the justices were already on paths to become leading judges, professors and Supreme Court advocates. The one-year clerkship will cement their high-profile status. 'I think clerking on this court affects everybody's career who does it. ... You put it on your resume and all of a sudden doors open, sometimes justifiably so and sometimes not,' Justice Elena Kagan has said . She should know. Kagan, who clerked for Justice Thurgood Marshall, is one of five current justices who was once a Supreme Court clerk. So was Chief Justice John Roberts. Justices Stephen Breyer, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh also clerked. Justices hire four clerks annually; retired justices hire one. The clerks review potential cases, help their justice prepare for arguments, conduct research and write draft opinions. Scholars disagree about how much influence the clerks have. But what is clear is that while the justices are the public face of the court, the clerks are their behind-the-scenes assistants who help the place run. Clerks generally decline to give interviews until after their clerkships are over. Even then, they are careful about what they will say. For their work, they're paid about $83,000. When they're done, law firms have recently been offering bonuses of $400,000 to clerks who join them. This year's clerk group is not without some controversy. One Kavanaugh clerk is Sophia Chua-Rubenfeld, whose mother, Yale law professor Amy Chua, wrote a Wall Street Journal article praising Kavanaugh as a mentor to women following his nomination. The article came out before Kavanaugh was accused of a sexual assault alleged to have happened decades ago; he denied the accusation. Chua's article was criticized as self-serving given that her daughter already was in line to clerk for Kavanaugh before President Donald Trump nominated the federal appeals court judge. Another incoming clerk is Clayton Kozinski, who clerked for Kavanaugh at the appeals court and is now working for retired Justice Anthony Kennedy. Kozinski's father, Alex Kozinski, retired abruptly in 2017 from the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals following accusations by women, including former law clerks, that he had touched them inappropriately, made lewd comments and shown them pornography. Kozinski said at the time that many of the things being said about him were not true. Justices are looking for different things in their clerks. Top academic credentials are a must. Half the group this year attended law school at Harvard or Yale. Justice Sonia Sotomayor has said she wants clerks 'committed to making a contribution to the world.' Kavanaugh, during his confirmation hearing last year, highlighted his record of hiring female and minority clerks as an appeals court judge. His first group of Supreme Court clerks was all women, a court first. 'There's all sorts of quirky reasons to explain choices,' said law professor Todd Peppers, who wrote a book about clerking and noted that Chief Justice William Rehnquist liked clerks who played tennis. Justice John Marshall Harlan II preferred golfers. While most clerks are relatively recent law school graduates, two Breyer and two Gorsuch clerks are older. One Gorsuch clerk is Notre Dame law professor Stephen Yelderman, who clerked for Gorsuch when Gorsuch was an appeals court judge. The clerks have accomplishments beyond academics. Kagan clerk Jordan Bock rowed at Harvard, where she studied physics, astrophysics and government. Roberts clerk Joseph Falvey served in the Marines. Megan Braun, another Roberts clerk, played college water polo and was a Rhodes scholar. Mark Jia, retired Justice David Souter's clerk, was also a Rhodes scholar. Like other clerks for retired justices, he'll also help a current justice. Justice Clarence Thomas has said he likes to have clerks who come from different parts of the country and from modest backgrounds. He tends to hire clerks who share his conservative legal philosophy. Among his hires this year is Notre Dame graduate Laura Wolk, who lost her eyesight to retinal cancer as a child. Wolk, only the second blind person to clerk at the court, seems to share with Thomas a passionate opposition to abortion. Thomas this year likened abortion to eugenics. Wolk has said that 'even the most severely disabled' can teach others 'about what it means to be human.' Thomas also chose for his team this year James 'Matt' Rice, a law school graduate of the University of California, Berkeley. The former college baseball player at Western Kentucky was picked 1,525th — dead last — in the 2010 major league draft. ___ Follow Jessica Gresko on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jessicagresko
  • President Donald Trump's suggestion that four activist Democratic congresswomen of color 'go back' to countries 'from which they came' has excited some in his political base. Yet in many of America's workplaces and institutions, the same language would be unacceptable and possibly illegal. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which enforces federal laws against workplace bias, explicitly cites comments like 'go back to where you came from' as examples of 'potentially unlawful conduct.' Similar phrases routinely show up in lawsuits that the EEOC files against employers alleging discrimination, harassment or retaliation based on race or national origin. Apart from its legality in workplaces, Trump's language has ignited impassioned responses across racial, ethnic and political divides. 'It wasn't Racist!' tweeted Terrence Williams, a black comedian who supports Trump. 'No matter what color you are YOU can go back home or move if you don't like America.' By contrast, Rachel Timoner, a senior rabbi at a Reform Jewish synagogue in Brooklyn, said such language would never be tolerated among members of her congregation. 'I'd want to sit down with them and ask them, where that's coming from?' she said. 'If a person persistently degraded other human beings, I would need to say to them they could no longer participate. It's really important for us to create an environment where people of color and people of all identities feel welcome.' Facing an uproar from critics accusing him of racism, Trump has insisted that he wasn't being racist when he tweeted this week that the four Democratic members of Congress — all but one of them born in the United States — 'originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe.' Trump urged them to 'go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.' Rather, his message, the president explained the next day was: 'If you hate our country, if you're not happy here, you can leave.' Yet Trump's exhortation for the four minority congresswomen to 'go back' to their countries of origin, if uttered by an employee in a workplace, could constitute a firing offense or cause for a costly lawsuit. Sam P. Israel, a New York lawyer who handles harassment cases, noted that plaintiffs usually must prove that an offensive comment wasn't made in isolation but as part of a broader hostile environment. If Trump were an employer facing a lawsuit, Israel said, there would arguably be enough examples to suggest a pattern of racially or ethnically disparaging remarks. 'All of those things are actionable if you have enough of them, and it could be illegal,' Israel said. 'The EEOC teaches that all of these things are bad and should be avoided, and the president is making a mockery of it.' In the aftermath of Trump's 'go back' tweet, a suburban Chicago gas station clerk was fired after a video posted on social media appeared to show him telling Hispanic customers to 'go back to their country.' Stephen Kalghorn, general counsel for the parent company of Bucky's Mobil gas station in Naperville, said the employee's comments couldn't be clearly heard on a surveillance video. But he was fired for engaging in a verbal confrontation with the customers. Elizabeth Tippett, a professor at the University of Oregon School of Law, suggested that Trump's comments could make things worse for anyone who tried to echo him in a workplace. Tippett explained that the president's rhetoric would make it difficult to argue that a similar comment was made innocuously or out of ignorance of its racist connotations. 'When you have these cultural environments, you might see repeated comments from multiple people,' she said. 'The more frequent the comments are, the stronger the harassment claim.' Most Republican leaders have declined to characterize Trump's comments as racist. And a few supporters have parroted his remarks, including some at a Trump rally in North Carolina this week who chanted 'send her back!' in reference to Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota. Donna Givens, an African-American neighborhood organizer who leads the Eastside Community Network in Detroit, said Trump's tweets were deeply hurtful. 'It immediately reminded me of being a child and being told to 'go back to Africa, (n-word)' — that got said to me repeatedly,' she said. 'My grandmother used to tell me to tell them to 'go back to their caves in Europe.' ' In light of the inflammatory rhetoric, 'I don't think that we can pretend like the American workplace is a safe place for immigrants, for people of color or for women,' Givens said. 'The president has a bully pulpit. And the president sets the tone. And so there are people who feel justified in their hatreds now.' Andrew Pappas, a self-described conservative Republican who holds elective office in Anderson Township, Ohio, acknowledged that Trump's language, taken in a vacuum, was 'not appropriate.' Yet he expressed some understanding of it. 'I think that when you see Donald Trump react in a human way, it upsets a lot of people that are expecting maybe your true quintessential politician,' Pappas said. 'But it also resonates exponentially with the common American who says, 'You know what? I'd react that way, too.' ' The Rev. Tom Lambrecht, general manager of the conservative United Methodist magazine Good News, cautioned against any rush to declare certain forms of political rhetoric unacceptable 'The difficulty here is, who decides what is unacceptable?' Lambrecht said by email. 'And how is that unacceptability enforced? Censorship?' 'At the same time,' he added, 'such despicable rhetoric is a teachable moment. It is incumbent upon Christians and others of good will to call out racism when we hear it in public debate or private conversation and to teach our children and grandchildren what is wrong with such attitudes.' Another pastor, E.W. Lucas of Friendship Baptist Church in Appomattox, Virginia, has firmly backed Trump, even posting sign outside the church declaring 'America: Love or Leave It,' explicitly echoing the president. 'People that feel hard about our president and want to down the president and down the country ... they ought to go over there and live in these other countries for a little while,' Lucas told ABC 13 in Lynchburg. Some advocates of free speech argued that censorship of political rhetoric should never be the solution, suggesting that there were better ways to combat it. 'Every American has the right to make up his or her own mind about what public officials say and how they say it —and if enough people disagree with a politician, they have the right make those opinions known in peaceful protest, or at the ballot box,' said Robert Shibley, executive director of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. 'Censorship of political speech only serves to rob citizens of the right to make up their own minds, which is fatal to a democratic society.' Chris Finan, executive director of the National Coalition Against Censorship, agreed that attempts to ban racist rhetoric 'will never solve the problem.' Instead, Finan said, 'It has to be challenged and refuted wherever it occurs.' Retired college football coach Bill Curry, who grew up in the segregated South, had some advice based on playing in the NFL under legends Vince Lombardi at Green Bay and Don Shula in Baltimore. 'One racist word out of your month and you were gone,' said Curry, 76. 'It didn't matter who you were. Period.' During college coaching stints at the University of Alabama and elsewhere, Curry followed the same policy. 'When you put down those rules like those great coaches did, it doesn't become a problem,' he said. 'You cannot let that racist thing get started. It will destroy unity, just like is going on in our country now.' ___ AP video journalist Angie Wang in Cincinnati and AP writers Leanne Italie in New York, Jay Reeves in Birmingham, Alabama, and Corey Williams and Mike Householder in Detroit contributed to this report.
  • Sweden's prime minister says he would be glad to speak with U.S. President Donald Trump about rapper A$AP Rocky's detention but he 'cannot and will not attempt to influence prosecutors or courts.' Trump tweeted Friday that he would call Prime Minister Stefan Lofven 'to see what we can do about helping A$AP Rocky.' Rocky has been held in Sweden for weeks as police investigate his alleged involvement in a fight. First lady Melania Trump and celebrities including Kanye West urged Trump to intervene. The Swedish leader said Saturday he was aware Trump 'has a personal interest in the case.' Lofven called Trump's desire for a conversation 'certainly positive' and said: 'I will explain that the Swedish judicial system is independent. In Sweden, everyone is equal before the law, and this includes visitors from other countries.
  • Iran's seizure of a British oil tanker was a response to Britain's role in impounding an Iranian supertanker first, senior officials said Saturday, as newly released video of the incident showed Iranian commandos in black ski masks and fatigues rappelling from a helicopter onto the vessel in the strategic Strait of Hormuz. The seizure prompted condemnation from the U.K. and its European allies as they continue to call for a de-escalation of tensions in the critical waterway. U.K. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said Britain's response to Iran's seizure of a British-flagged ship in the Strait of Hormuz 'will be considered but robust.' In comments on Twitter on Saturday, he said he spoke with Iran's foreign minister and expressed extreme disappointment that the Iranian diplomat had assured him Iran wanted to de-escalate the situation but 'they have behaved in the opposite way.' He wrote: 'This has (to) be about actions not words if we are to find a way through. British shipping must & will be protected.' The free flow of traffic through the Strait of Hormuz is of international importance because one-fifth of all global crude exports passes through the waterway from Mideast exporters to countries around the world. The narrow waterway sits between Iran and Oman. The British-flagged Stena Impero was intercepted late Friday by Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guard forces. The ship's owner, Stena Bulk, said the vessel was stopped by 'unidentified small crafts and a helicopter' during its transit through the Strait of Hormuz. The vessel was seized with a crew of 23 crew aboard, although none are British nationals. A video released by the Revolutionary Guard shows several small Guard boats surrounding the larger tanker. Several men dressed in military fatigues and black masks rappel onto the ship from a hovering helicopter. Hunt said the ship's seizure shows worrying signs Iran may be choosing a dangerous and destabilizing path. He also defended the British-assisted seizure of Iran's supertanker two weeks ago as a 'legal' move because the vessel was suspected of breaching European Union sanctions on oil shipments to Syria. The view from Iran was different. In comments on Twitter on Saturday, Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif characterized the seizure of Iran's tanker July 4 as 'piracy.' Politician and former Guard commander, Maj. Gen. Mohsen Rezai, wrote that Iran was not seeking conflict, 'but we are not going to come up short in reciprocating.' The spokesman for Iran's Guardian Council, Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei, was also quoted in the semi-official Fars news agency describing Friday's seizure as a legal 'reciprocal action.' The council rarely comments on state matters, but when it does it is seen as a reflection of the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's views. The council works closely with Khamenei, who has final say on all state matters. The tit-for-tat move by Iran drew condemnation from European signatories to Iran's nuclear accord with world powers. Germany and France both called on Iran to immediately release the ship and its crew, with Berlin saying the seizure undermines all efforts to find a way out of the current crisis. Europe has struggled to contain the tensions that stem from President Donald Trump's decision to pull the U.S. from Iran's nuclear deal, which had lifted sanctions on Iran in exchange for compliance on its nuclear program. Trump has since re-imposed sweeping sanctions on Iran, including its oil exports, and Iran recently increased uranium enrichment levels beyond limits of the deal in a bid to pressure Europe into finding a workaround the crippling economic sanctions. Britain, which remains a signatory to the nuclear accord, has figured prominently in rising U.S. tensions with Iran ever since Royal Marines took part in the seizure of the Iranian oil tanker by Gibraltar, a British overseas territory off the southern coast of Spain. Officials there initially said the July 4 seizure happened on orders from the U.S. Britain has said it would release the vessel, which was carrying more than 2 million barrels of Iranian crude, if Iran could prove it was not breaching EU sanctions. However, a court in Gibraltar just Friday extended the detention of the Panama-flagged Grace 1. Stena Bulk, the owner of the seized British tanker, said the vessel's crew members are of Indian, Filipino, Russian and Latvian nationalities. Iranian officials say the crew remain on the tanker. Britain's defense secretary Penny Mordaunt told Sky News the takeover was a 'hostile act' by Iran. She said a British Royal Navy frigate deployed to help protect shipping in the Strait of Hormuz was roughly 60 minutes from the scene when the Iranians took control of the tanker. That same frigate had previously warned off Iranian Guard vessels from impeding the passage of a British commercial vessel the navy was escorting through the Strait of Hormuz. There are concerns that with each new maneuver a misunderstanding or misstep by either side could lead to war. In June, Iran shot down an American drone in the same waterway, and Trump came close to retaliating with airstrikes. The U.S. has increased its military presence in the Persian Gulf region in recent weeks. The U.S. will also send more than 500 U.S. troops as well as aircraft and air defense missiles to Iran's rival, Saudi Arabia. It marks the first such deployment of U.S. troops to Saudi Arabia since America's withdrawal from the country in 2003. King Salman approved hosting the American forces 'to increase joint cooperation in defense and regional security and stability,' a statement in the state-run Saudi Press Agency said. ___ Batrawy reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Associated Press writer Gregory Katz in London contributed to this report.
  • As her campaign bus trundled along Interstate 80 toward the Michigan-Ohio border, Kirsten Gillibrand was offering wedding planning advice to one of her presidential campaign staffers who recently got engaged. The New York senator recommended a Christmas wedding, preferably on a Caribbean island, until a senior aide intervened — reminding Gillibrand that the staffer will be 'otherwise engaged at Christmas,' which is just six weeks before the Iowa caucuses. The good-natured exchange belied a larger doubt hanging over Gillibrand's 2020 bid: Will it really survive to the Feb. 3 caucus that kicks off the process of selecting a Democratic presidential nominee? Many of the candidates mired in the primary's lower tier have quietly begun asking similar questions. Plagued by anemic polling and underwhelming fundraising , some campaigns are falling into a spiral of perceived hurdles that are becoming increasingly self-fulfilling, making it hard to find money to build an expansive campaign organization. The anxiety is building ahead of September's presidential debate, which impose tougher qualification rules that will winnow the field from two dozen candidates. That's a humbling prospect for senators and governors who have spent their political careers building what they hoped would be strong resumes for a White House run only to face the reality that voters aren't interested or, worse, don't know who they are. Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan has run on bridging the divide between the party's liberal and working class wings, but is barely registering in the polls. Appearing recently at a Pizza Hut in Manchester, Iowa, there were five people on hand, three who came to see Ryan, and a woman and her son only there to eat. 'Who is that man?' the woman asked. Others are simply getting lost in the shuffle, especially in early voting states where White House hopefuls flock constantly. At a recent Iowa fundraiser for state Sen. Zach Wahls' birthday, even some of the most active Democrats weren't sure which White House hopefuls they'd seen. 'I think I shook (John) Hickenlooper's hand today,' noted Laura Bergus, a candidate for city council in Iowa City, referring to the former Colorado governor. Some of the most endangered candidates built their runs around signature issues that seemed sure to resonate with their party's base, but have largely fallen flat. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee's focus on climate change hasn't gained him much traction, even as some of his better-known rivals have successfully seized on the issue as the world's most urgent threat. Hickenlooper's pitch as a principled moderate has been largely overlooked and urgent calls for gun control couldn't keep California Rep. Eric Swalwell's now-defunct presidential bid afloat. Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey so far doesn't have much to show for his overarching message of unity-first optimism . Former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke and ex-Obama administration housing chief Julián Castro haven't ridden focuses on softer federal immigration policies to polling success and Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton's calls to impeach President Donald Trump haven't resonated. Gillibrand made advancing women's issues and championing the #MeToo movement the heart of her campaign, but more recently concentrated on showing she's strong enough to take on Trump with a two-day bus tour through Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan, key states for the president's re-election campaign. Gillibrand argued that the president reneged on campaign promises that won him those states in 2016 and she can accomplish what he couldn't, if elected. But her polling has continued to hover at or below 1%, far behind the likes of former Vice President Joe Biden and Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Kamala Harris of California and Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Asked in an interview during a stop in Flint if the bus tour will help her break out in a way her women's rights advocacy couldn't, Gillibrand didn't dispute the premise, but said, 'I think it's more than that.' 'I think I'm showing, by what I'm doing and saying and the ideas that I have, that I can beat President Trump,' she said at a small-plates restaurant in a city whose drinking water crisis became a national scandal. She insisted she's in the race for the long haul and rejects the notion that she's fallen into the Democratic primary's second tier. 'I'm different than other candidates,' Gillibrand said. 'I've taken on the fights that other candidates haven't.' Former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, who struggled to get noticed during his 2016 Democratic presidential primary bid, said upcoming debates that exclude lower-tier candidates will necessarily trim the field. But he also said there will still be incentives for those trailing badly to hang on and hope for Iowa caucus shockers. 'The guy who's everybody's second choice can be the surprise,' O'Malley said. 'Iowans usually have a way of making a decision that's contrary to whatever the latest fashion is.' In the meantime, many low-polling candidates are standing by their core messages. Even amid her bus tour decrying Trump, Gillibrand noted during the interview that 'both parties have been compromising on women's health for decades.' At a town hall inside the Cleveland Public Library, she went further, asking about 20 attendees, 'Do we value women? Unfortunately, the answer in our society today is no.' 'It's why we don't prosecute sexual assault. It's why we don't have equal pay. It's why we don't have national paid leave,' Gillibrand said. The crowd seemed moved. A short time later, though, Kittie Warshawsky, a 51-year-old who works for a nonprofit, asked Gillibrand how she would 'get your name out there' given that she mostly failed to get noticed so far. Gillibrand said that was what the 'Trump broken promises' bus tour was all about accomplishing. Afterward, Warshawsky called Gillibrand 'terrific' but said of her chances in the primary, 'I don't have an answer yet on how she's going to get through.' ___ Associated Press writer Alexandra Jaffe in Manchester, Iowa, contributed to this report.
  • Jim Herman took the Barbasol Championship lead — with some help from President Donald Trump. Trump's regular golf partner while working as an assistant professional at Trump National Bedminster in New Jersey, Herman changed to a conventional putting grip and clubhead at the president's suggestion. 'He gave me a good talking to and told me to use a different style if it's not working,' Herman said. 'So, that was a couple weeks ago and I finally put it into play.' It has worked well at rain-softened Keene Trace, with Herman shooting his second straight 7-under 65 on Friday to take the second-round lead in the PGA Tour event. Encouraged years ago by Trump to pursue a playing career, Herman is in position for his second PGA Tour victory. 'Some great advice, so I appreciate it,' Herman said. 'Seems like I played pretty well after I played with him. I played with him the week before I won Houston, so maybe that's a sign to come, hopefully.' Herman had a one-stroke lead over Bill Haas. 'Everything seems to be working this week,' Herman said. 'Nice change up. I haven't been playing very well or had the best results lately. Just some good play. ... Hitting a lot of greens and making some putts and that's always a good combination.' Haas followed his opening 65 with a 66. He made a 45-foot eagle putt on the par-5 eighth, his 17th hole. 'The eagle was nice,' Haas said. 'That drive I won't say is uncomfortable for me, but I just fear left a lot. I feel like I could hit it left, so I tend to miss those tee shots right. I hit a nice tee shot down the fairway and I just told myself to be aggressive with a nice drawing iron in there. Aggressive was still 30 feet right. So, 30 footer up over a slope, I just would have been happy with a two putt there. Just fortunate to make a long one.' David Toms was two strokes back at 12 under after a 64. The 52-year-old Toms made a 13-foot eagle putt on the par-5 fifth, his 14th hole of the day. D.J. Trahan, Kelly Kraft and Kramer Hickok also were 12 under, each shooting 67. 'Just really solid,' Toms said. 'Probably the key to today is I had a couple pitch-ins from off the green in tough situations on a couple of the par 3s, so to hole those kind of kept my round going. But other than that, I hit a lot of shots in the fairway, I had a lot of birdie chances.' Jose de Jesus Rodríguez (65), Austin Cook (66), Sebastian Munoz (68) and Wes Roach (69) were 11 under. Tom Lovelady played the first six holes on the back nine in 7 under, capped by a 10-foot eagle putt on the par-5 15th. He bogeyed the par-3 16th and parred the last two for a 65 to top the group at 10 under. J.T. Poston, the first-round leader after a 62, had a 73 to drop into a tie for 18th at 9 under. Canadian Nick Taylor, a stroke behind Poston after an opening 63, also was 9 under after a 72. John Daly missed the cut with rounds of 71 and 72. Fighting osteoarthritis in his right knee, the 53-year-old Daly was playing his first PGA Tour event since he was approved for a cart last fall. Denied a cart by the R&A for the British Open, he has been approved for a cart at PGA Tour events until the end of the year. The winner will receive a spot in the PGA Championship, but not in the Masters.
  • Joe Biden's son Hunter made his 2020 presidential campaign trail debut with his father Friday, two weeks after the former vice president praised him for battling through 'tough times,' including years of drug and alcohol abuse. The younger Biden's appearance at a fundraiser in Southern California on Friday was a sign the former vice president and his campaign see him as an asset to the campaign despite a series of personal problems that had kept him in the background. Hunter Biden, 49, attended the event with his new wife, Melissa Cohen, and his daughter Finnegan at the home of Pasadena City Councilmember John Kennedy. A campaign adviser confirmed it was Hunter Biden's first appearance for his father's 2020 campaign. A lengthy New Yorker profile published this month detailed Hunter Biden's yearslong fight with drug and alcohol abuse. Joe Biden said a week later in a CNN interview that 'Hunter is my heart' and that 'He's fighting. He's never given up.' Hunter Biden stood in a corner of Kennedy's home behind his father as Joe Biden began speaking to several dozen donors packed into a front room. After thanking the hosts and other notables, he began his remarks before interrupting himself to introduce his son. 'I didn't introduce my son, Hunter Biden, and my granddaughter are here,' he said. Finnegan had attended a California fundraiser a day earlier with her grandfather, as well as a campaign event in Iowa on Monday. Hunter Biden mingled briefly after largely staying in the background, though Kennedy drew more attention to him when he insisted that the younger Biden and his wife come to the front of the room. 'Yes, Joe is all the attention, but it's family. Hunter is part of the family, you're part of the Biden family,' Kennedy said, gesturing to Hunter Biden's wife, whom he married in May. 'Let's take this Biden family and take them all to the White House.' ___ Beaumont reported from Des Moines, Iowa.
  • President Donald Trump will be attending a fundraiser in Wheeling, West Virginia, on Wednesday, the day special counsel Robert Mueller testifies before the House Judiciary Committee. The president told reporters Friday he would not be watching Mueller's testimony and noted that an impeachment resolution was handily defeated in the House this week. He says the vote was a 'massive victory' and at some point, Democrats have to 'stop playing games.' The Intelligencer-Wheeling News Register says invitations to the fundraiser indicate that state leaders in both West Virginia and Ohio will be in attendance. The event is being hosted by Robert E. Murray, president and CEO of Murray Energy. A White House official confirms that Trump will be in Wheeling that day.
  • With Iranian military threats in mind, the United States is sending American forces, including fighter aircraft, air defense missiles and likely more than 500 troops, to a Saudi air base that became a hub of American air power in the Middle East in the 1990s but was abandoned by Washington after it toppled Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein in 2003. The Saudi Foreign Ministry announced the basing agreement Friday without mentioning details. Senior American defense officials said some U.S. troops and Patriot air defense missile systems have already arrived at Prince Sultan Air Base, south of Riyadh, where the troops have been preparing for the arrival of aircraft later this summer as well as additional troops. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity in order to provide details not publicly announced. The agreement has been in the works for many weeks and is not a response specifically to Friday's seizure by Iran of a British tanker in the Persian Gulf. Tensions with Iran have spiked since May when the Trump administration said it had detected increased Iranian preparations for possible attacks on U.S. forces and interests in the Gulf area. In a written statement Friday evening, U.S. Central Command said the deployments to Saudi Arabia had been approved by the Pentagon. 'This movement of forces provides an additional deterrent, and ensures our ability to defend our forces and interests in the region from emergent, credible threats,' Central Command said. 'This movement creates improvement of operational depth and logistical networks. U.S. Central Command continually assesses force posture in the region and is working with Kingdom of Saudi Arabia authorities to base U.S. assets at the appropriate locations.' Putting U.S. combat forces back in Saudi Arabia, after an absence of more than a decade, adds depth to the regional alignment of U.S. military power, which is mostly in locations on the Persian Gulf that are more vulnerable to Iranian missile attack. But it also introduces a political and diplomatic complication for the Trump administration, accused by critics of coddling the Saudis even after the murder last fall of dissident writer Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents. Many in Congress now question the decades-old U.S.-Saudi security alliance and oppose major new arms sales to the kingdom. Starting with the January 1991 air war against Iraq after its invasion of Kuwait the previous summer, the U.S. flew a wide range of aircraft from Prince Sultan air base, originally known as al-Kharj. Supported by an all-American array of creature comforts like fast-food restaurants and swimming pools, U.S. forces there flew and maintained Air Force fighters and other warplanes. The base also served as a launch pad for the December 1998 bombing of Iraq, code-named Operation Desert Fox, which targeted sites believed to be associated with Iraq's nuclear and missile programs. In 2001, the base became home to the U.S. military's main air control organization, known as the Combined Air Operations Center, which orchestrated the air war in Afghanistan until it was relocated in 2003 to al-Udeid air base in Qatar.