Thousands salute Bush funeral train 4141 on final Texas ride
HOUSTON (AP) — Thousands waved and cheered along the route as funeral train No. 4141 — for the 41st president — carried George H.W. Bush's remains to their final resting place on Thursday, his last journey as a week of national remembrance took on a decidedly personal feel in an emotional home state farewell.
Some people laid coins along the tracks that wound through small town Texas so a 420,000-pound locomotive pulling the nation's first funeral train in nearly half a century could crunch them into souvenirs. Others snapped pictures or crowded for views so close that police helicopters overhead had to warn them back. Elementary students hoisted a banner simply reading "THANK YOU."
The scenes reminiscent of a bygone era followed a serious and more somber tone at an earlier funeral service at a Houston church, where Bush's former secretary of state and confidant for decades, James Baker, addressed him as "jefe," Spanish for "boss." At times choking back tears, Baker praised Bush as "a beautiful human being" who had "the courage of a warrior. But when the time came for prudence, he maintained the greater courage of a peacemaker."
Baker also provided a contrast with today's divisive political rhetoric, saying that Bush's "wish for a kinder, gentler nation was not a cynical political slogan. It came honest and unguarded from his soul."
"The world became a better place because George Bush occupied the White House for four years," said Baker.
North Carolina race shines light on 'ballot harvesting'
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — An investigation into whether political operatives in North Carolina illegally collected and possibly stole absentee ballots in a still-undecided congressional race has drawn attention to a widespread but little-known political tool called ballot harvesting.
It's a practice long used by special-interest groups and both major political parties that is viewed either as a voter service that boosts turnout or a nefarious activity that subjects voters to intimidation and makes elections vulnerable to fraud.
The groups rely on data showing which voters requested absentee ballots but have not turned them in. They then go door-to-door and offer to collect and turn in those ballots for the voters — often dozens or hundreds at a time. Some place ballot-collection boxes in high-concentration voter areas, such as college campuses, and take the ballots to election offices when the boxes are full.
In North Carolina, election officials are investigating whether Republican political operatives harvested ballots in parts of the 9th Congressional District with high numbers of Democratic voters and then did not turn them in to the local elections office. Ballot harvesting is illegal under state law, which allows only a family member or legal guardian to drop off absentee ballots for a voter.
The investigation is focusing on areas in the district where an unusually high number of absentee ballots were not returned.
Appeals to Scott Walker: Don't stain legacy, veto bills
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A bipartisan group of political figures appealed to Gov. Scott Walker on Thursday to avoid staining his legacy and behaving like a sore loser by signing legislation that would weaken the powers of the Democrat who defeated him.
Rather than notching another partisan victory in his final weeks in office, they said, Walker should think bigger. Think of your recently deceased father, they pleaded. Think of former President George H.W. Bush. Think of Christ.
"You can have a long, successful career ahead," longtime Republican and major GOP donor Sheldon Lubar wrote to Walker in a deeply personal email. "Don't stain it by this personal, poor-loser action. Ask yourself, what would my father say, what would the greatest man who ever lived, Jesus Christ, say."
Walker, never one to shy away from a fight, gave no signs Thursday of tipping his hand. A spokesman said only that he was reviewing the bills. He's been generally supportive of the measures in the past, without promising to sign or veto them.
The choice is whether to satisfy fellow Republicans, who passed the bills over objections from Democrats, or strike them down to let his successor, Tony Evers, take office under the same rules in place when Walker was in charge.
Why Huawei arrest deepens conflict between US and China
WASHINGTON (AP) — The dramatic arrest of a Chinese telecommunications executive has driven home why it will so hard for the Trump administration to resolve its deepening conflict with China.
In the short run, the arrest of Huawei's chief financial officer heightened skepticism about the trade truce that Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping reached last weekend in Buenos Aires, Argentina. On Thursday, U.S. stock markets tumbled on fears that the 90-day cease-fire won't last before regaining most of their losses by the close of trading.
But the case of an executive for a Chinese company that's been a subject of U.S. national security concerns incident carries echoes well beyond tariffs or market access. Washington and Beijing are locked in a clash over which of the world's two largest economies will command economic and political dominance for decades to come.
"It's a much broader issue than just a trade dispute," said Amanda DeBusk, chair of the international trade practice at Dechert LLP. "It pulls in: Who is going to be the world leader essentially."
Huawei, the world's biggest supplier of network gear used by phone and internet companies, has long been seen as a front for spying by the Chinese military or security services. A U.S. National Security Agency cybersecurity adviser, Rob Joyce, last month accused Beijing of violating a 2015 agreement with the U.S. to halt electronic theft of intellectual property.
Pelosi takes hard line on paying for Trump's border wall
WASHINGTON (AP) — House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi on Thursday rejected the idea of paying for President Donald Trump's border wall in exchange for helping hundreds of thousands of young immigrants avoid deportation.
Funding for the wall — a top Trump priority — and legal protections for so-called Dreamers, a key Democratic goal, should not be linked, Pelosi said.
"They're two different subjects," she said.
Her comments came as the House and Senate approved a stopgap bill Thursday to keep the government funded through Dec. 21. The measure, approved by voice votes in near-empty chambers, now goes to the White House.
Trump has promised to sign the two-week extension to allow for ceremonies this week honoring former President George H.W. Bush, who died Nov. 30. But he wants the next funding package to include at least $5 billion for his proposed wall, something Democrats have rejected. Trump is set to meet Tuesday at the White House with Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer.
2 deadly shootings send a chill through black gun owners
ODENTON, Md. (AP) — Gun-rights advocates like to say, "The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun." Some black gun owners, though, are not so sure it's a wise idea for them to try to be the good guy and pull out a weapon in public.
Twice in the span of 11 days last month, a black man who drew a gun in response to a crime in the U.S. was shot to death by a white police officer after apparently being mistaken for the bad guy.
Some African-Americans who are licensed to carry weapons say cases like those make them hesitant to step in to protect others.
"I'm not an advocate of open-carry if you're black," said the Rev. Kenn Blanchard, a Second Amendment activist and host of the YouTube program "Black Man With a Gun TV," a gun advocacy show. "We still have racism. ... We still scare people. The psychology of fear, it's bigger than the Second Amendment."
The recent shootings of Jemel Roberson and Emantic Bradford Jr. amplified long-held fears that bad things can happen when a black man is seen with a gun.
Trump EPA proposes rolling back another Obama-era coal rule
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Environmental Protection Agency proposed another rollback Thursday aimed at easing controls on emissions from coal-fired power plants, this time for new ones, even as warnings mount from the agency's scientists and others about the growing toll of climate change.
The EPA's acting administrator signed a proposal that, if approved by the Trump administration after public review, would loosen an Obama-era rule that would have required cutting-edge carbon capture techniques for new coal plants. Andrew Wheeler said the curbs on coal emissions were "excessive burdens" on the industry.
Environmentalists and scientists say this plan and other proposed administration rollbacks on pollutants from fossil fuels run counter to desperately needed efforts to slow climate change.
Thursday's announcement comes two weeks after a report by the EPA and 12 other federal agencies warned that climate change caused by burning of coal, oil and gas already was worsening natural disasters in the United States, and would cause hundreds of billions of dollars in damage each year by the end of the century.
Asked about easing the way for new coal plants in the context of the harm from coal pollution on humans and the environment, Wheeler said "having cheap electricity helps human health."
Caretaker of neglected, bone-strewn cemetery is arrested
A fuller picture of a cemetery in ghastly disarray emerged Thursday as the longtime caretaker of a graveyard in Connecticut's largest city was arrested and officials described in new detail shocking discoveries that included human bones and casket pieces scattered about.
About 130 graves were disturbed at the 57-acre cemetery and included those of Civil War veterans, Bridgeport authorities said. Gravestones and remains had been removed to make way for the newly dead, while some new graves were stacked on top of old ones, separated by a layer of dirt.
"What we found right away was a lot of disturbed dirt, garbage, headstones that were overturned and ... bone fragments that were later confirmed to be human remains, and pieces of old caskets that date back over 100 years," police Capt. Brian Fitzgerald said at a news conference.
"We were finding gravesites from some soldiers that were close to 100 years, in some cases over 100 years old, mixed in with new burial plots from 2011 on," he said.
At one point during hearings he held in recent months, Probate Judge Paul Ganim said Thursday, "There were literally bags of bones that were picked up by witnesses that were brought in."
France fears more riots; Museums, Eiffel Tower to close
PARIS (AP) — Authorities across France braced Thursday for the possibility of more riots and violence at anti-government protests this weekend, holding emergency meetings and deploying tens of thousands of police and security forces. Museums, theaters and shops in Paris announced they would close Saturday as a precaution — including the city's famed Eiffel Tower.
Police unions and city authorities met to strategize on how to handle the protests on Saturday, which are being held even though French President Emmanuel Macron surrendered Wednesday night and cancelled a fuel tax hike that had unleashed weeks of unrest.
On the other side of France's volatile social debate, disparate groups of protesters did the same thing, sharing their weekend plans on social networks and chat groups.
Prime Minister Edouard Philippe told senators Thursday that the government will deploy "exceptional" security measures for the protests in Paris and elsewhere, with additional new forces on top of
Speaking on TF1 television, Philippe said 89,000 police officers will be deployed on Saturday across France — up from 65,000 last weekend.
Dick Cheney biopic 'Vice' tops Golden Globes nominations
NEW YORK (AP) — Adam McKay's Dick Cheney biopic "Vice" staged an awards-season coup Thursday, landing a leading six nominations from the 76th annual Golden Globe Awards to narrowly edge more expected favorites like Bradley Cooper's tear-jerking revival "A Star Is Born," the interracial road-trip drama "Green Book" and the period romp "The Favourite."
"Vice" topped all contenders in the nominations that were announced at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California, including best picture, comedy and best actor nominations for Christian Bale's nearly unrecognizable performance as the former vice president. It also earned nominations for Amy Adams' Lynne Cheney, Sam Rockwell's George W. Bush and for the screenplay and direction by McKay, the veteran comedy filmmaker who once skewered politicians as a "Saturday Night Live" writer.
For even the often-quirky selections of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, a collection of 88 mostly lesser-known freelance film journalists, the strong support for "Vice" (which arrives in theaters on Dec. 25) was a surprise. Even its categorization of the film — a highly critical portrait of Cheney as a power-hungry, behind-the-scenes tyrant — as a comedy raised some eyebrows, as did Globes recent comedy selections "Get Out" and "The Martian."
"It's a movie that's a lot like the times we live in. There's part of it that's absurdist and comedic and then there's another part of it that's darkly tragic and dramatic," McKay said Thursday by phone from London. "But I do know I'm glad we're in that category because we will take 'Mary Poppins' out. I'm not competitive with the other movies but I am competitive with 'Mary Poppins.' Dick Cheney is going for her."
But it was far from a runaway win for "Vice" since the press association typically spreads its awards around. Oscar front-runners "A Star Is Born," ''Green Book" and "The Favourite" trailed close behind with five nominations each.