As budget deficit balloons, few in Washington seem to care
WASHINGTON (AP) — The federal budget deficit is ballooning on President Donald Trump's watch and few in Washington seem to care.
And even if they did, the political dynamics that enabled bipartisan deficit-cutting deals decades ago has disappeared, replaced by bitter partisanship and chronic dysfunction.
That's the reality that will greet Trump's latest budget , which will promptly be shelved after landing with a thud on Monday. Like previous spending blueprints, Trump's plan for the 2020 budget year will propose cuts to many domestic programs favored by lawmakers in both parties but leave alone politically popular retirement programs such as Medicare and Social Security.
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Washington probably will devote months to wrestling over erasing the last remnants of a failed 2011 budget deal that would otherwise cut core Pentagon operations by $71 billion and domestic agencies and foreign aid by $55 billion. Top lawmakers are pushing for a reprise of three prior deals to use spending cuts or new revenues and prop up additional spending rather than defray deficits that are again approaching $1 trillion.
It's put deficit hawks in a gloomy mood.
For Jussie Smollett, 1 story equals 16 felony counts
CHICAGO (AP) — News that a grand jury had indicted "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett for allegedly lying to Chicago police about being attacked by two masked men may not have made much of a splash except for one thing: The lone felony count that Smollett had been arrested on last month had turned into 16.
The reasons Smollett is facing 16 counts rather than just one count of disorderly conduct — the felony in Illinois that people are charged with when accused of lying to police — are not fully explained in the indictment that a grand jury returned Thursday. But legal experts say indictments like that aren't uncommon in Chicago, and there are some explanations as to how the grand jury could have arrived at the 16 counts, eight of them for Smollett's comments to a police officer and eight others for what he told a detective.
The first starts with something that has been apparent since Chicago police Superintendent Eddie Johnson briefed reporters last month on the investigation: Authorities are angry at Smollett.
"What you have is a police department and prosecutors that are obviously mad at him for embarrassing the city so they took every one of his lies and made it into another count," said Terry Sullivan, a prominent local attorney who as a young prosecutor helped convict serial killer John Wayne Gacy in 1980 of killing 33 young men.
Smollett's attorney, Mark Geragos, called the 16-count indictment "prosecutorial overkill." But prominent Chicago defense attorney Joseph Lopez, who is not involved in the Smollett case, said it's the way prosecutors in Chicago do business.
R. Kelly: 'We're going to straighten all this stuff out'
CHICAGO (AP) — R. Kelly walked out of a Chicago jail on Saturday after someone who officials say did not want to be publicly identified paid $161,633 that the R&B singer owed in back child support.
Kelly, who was ordered taken into custody on Wednesday by a judge after Kelly said he didn't have the entire amount he owed, briefly spoke with reporters, telling them: "I promise you, we're going to straighten all this stuff out." He said that was all he could say, a stark contrast to a nationally televised broadcast that aired earlier in the week in which he cried and ranted about being "assassinated" by allegations of sexual abuse that led to criminal charges last month.
Cara Smith, the chief policy officer for the Cook County sheriff's office, which runs the jail, said a person who wished to remain anonymous handed a check on Saturday morning to the county clerk's office for the full amount of Kelly's back child support. A bond slip where people putting up money to secure an inmate's release write their names and relationship to the inmate was left blank, Smith said.
Kelly's attorney, Steve Greenberg, said he could not discuss the child support payment because of a judge's gag order in that case.
As is done with other high-profile inmates, Kelly, 52, was held in a solo cell under round-the-clock observation.
Pot-litics: 2020 Democrats line up behind legalization
LOS ANGELES (AP) — A growing list of Democratic presidential contenders want the U.S. government to legalize marijuana, reflecting a nationwide shift as more Americans look favorably on cannabis.
Making marijuana legal at the federal level is the "smart thing to do," says California Sen. Kamala Harris, a former prosecutor whose home state is the nation's largest legal pot shop. New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, a prominent legalization advocate on Capitol Hill, says the war on drugs has been a "war on people."
Former Texas Congressman Beto O'Rourke, who appears poised to join the 2020 Democratic field, has written a book arguing marijuana legalization would hobble drug cartels. In an email to supporters this week, he called again to end the federal prohibition on marijuana.
"Who is going to be the last man — more likely than not a black man — to languish behind bars for possessing or using marijuana when it is legal in some form in more than half of the states in this country?" O'Rourke wrote.
It's a far different approach from the not-so-distant past, when it was seen as politically damaging to acknowledge smoking pot and no major presidential candidate backed legalization.
Turbulence injures 30 on flight from Istanbul to New York
NEW YORK (AP) — Severe turbulence over the Atlantic Ocean tossed terrified passengers and crew around a Turkish Airlines plane cabin on Saturday, with 30 people suffering bumps, bruises, cuts and a broken leg before the flight landed safely at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, officials said.
Dozens of ambulances lined up in front of a terminal to quickly treat the injured coming off the flight that left Istanbul for the 10-hour trip.
Spokesman Steve Coleman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey told The Associated Press that 28 people were taken to Jamaica Hospital Medical Center in Queens after the plane touched down at 5:35 p.m. Two went to Queens Hospital Medical Center. A flight attendant suffered a broken leg, Coleman said.
Turkish Airlines Flight 1 hit the turbulence about 45 minutes before landing at JFK, Coleman said. The crew declared an emergency while the Boeing 777 was still in the air, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.
The Port Authority spokesman said other airport operations were not affected.
Trump signed Bibles. Heresy? Many religious leaders say no
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — President Donald Trump was just doing what he could to raise spirits when he signed Bibles at an Alabama church for survivors of a tornado outbreak, many religious leaders say, though some are offended and others say he could have handled it differently.
Hershael York, dean of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary School of Theology in Louisville, Kentucky, said he didn't have a problem with Trump signing Bibles, like former presidents have, because he was asked and because it was important to the people who were asking.
"Though we don't have a national faith, there is faith in our nation, and so it's not at all surprising that people would have politicians sign their Bibles," he said. "Those Bibles are meaningful to them and apparently these politicians are, too."
But the Rev. Donnie Anderson, executive minister of the Rhode Island State Council of Churches, said she was offended by the way Trump scrawled his signature Friday as he autographed Bibles and other things, including hats, and posed for photos. She viewed it, she said, as a "calculated political move" by the Republican president to court his evangelical voting base.
Presidents have a long history of signing Bibles, though earlier presidents typically signed them as gifts to send with a spiritual message. President Ronald Reagan signed a Bible that was sent secretly to Iranian officials in 1986. President Franklin Roosevelt signed the family Bible his attorney general used to take the oath of office in 1939.
Wanted: More pastures for West's overpopulated wild horses
CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — If you ever wished to gaze at a stomping, snorting, neighing panorama of Western heritage from your living-room window, now could be your chance.
A classic image of the American West — wild horses stampeding across the landscape — not only has endured through the years but has multiplied past the point of range damage. Through May 3, the U.S. government is seeking more private pastures for an overpopulation of wild horses.
Many consider rounding up wild horses to live out their lives on private pastures a reasonable approach to a tricky problem. Wild horses, after all, not only have romantic value, they are protected by federal law.
Just keep in mind a few of the dozens of requirements for getting paid by the government to provide wild horses a home.
"It's not like you can do this in your backyard, or even a 5 acre (2 hectare) plot," said Debbie Collins, outreach specialist for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management's Wild Horse and Burro Program in Norman, Oklahoma.
More blackouts hit Venezuela as opposition, government rally
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — The Venezuelan opposition and government loyalists held rival demonstrations in Caracas on Saturday, as both sides prepared for what some fear could be a protracted power struggle.
The rallies unfolded as power and communications outages continued to hit Venezuela, intensifying the hardship of a country paralyzed by economic and political crisis. The blackouts heightened tension between the bitterly divided factions, which accused each other of being responsible for the collapse of the power grid.
"Hard times are ahead," said opposition leader Juan Guaido, who addressed crowds with a loudspeaker after security forces earlier dismantled a speakers' stage that the opposition had erected. He said he planned to tour Venezuela to seek support and lay the groundwork for a massive rally in Caracas.
The 35-year-old leader of the National Assembly said he anticipated more government efforts to sideline and intimidate the opposition. However, President Nicolas Maduro's government has not moved directly against Guaido since he returned to Venezuela from a Latin American tour Monday.
Guaido earlier speculated that Maduro was effectively ignoring him in an attempt to sap the energy of the opposition, whose hopes of ousting the government have so far been stymied.
AP Explains: What Facebook's 'privacy vision' really means
NEW YORK (AP) — Mark Zuckerberg's abrupt Wednesday declaration of a new "privacy vision " for social networking was for many people a sort of Rorschach test.
Looked at one way, the manifesto read as an apology of sorts for Facebook's history of privacy transgressions, and suggested that the social network would de-emphasize its huge public social network in favor of private messaging between individuals and among small groups.
Looked at another, it turned Facebook into a kind of privacy champion by embracing encrypted messaging that's shielded from prying eyes — including those of Facebook itself.
Yet another reading suggested the whole thing was a public-relations exercise designed to lull its users while Facebook entrenches its competitive position in messaging and uses it to develop new sources of user data to feed its voracious advertising machine.
As with many things Facebook, the truth lies somewhere in between. Facebook so far isn't elaborating much on Zuckerberg's manifesto. Here's a guide to what we know at the moment about its plans.
Time isn't on your side with coming shift to daylight saving
WASHINGTON (AP) — Time isn't on your side this weekend.
One less hour (of sleep) isn't the end of the world, but you may be a bit sleepier Sunday morning.
Time to abide by the adage to spring forward (though it's not yet spring). The shift from standard to daylight saving time comes at 2 a.m. local time Sunday across most of the United States. Consider setting clocks an hour ahead before bed Saturday night.
Daylight will begin to last longer into the evening but the sun will take an hour longer to emerge in the morning.
No time change is observed in Hawaii, most of Arizona, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam and the Northern Marianas.