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March 15, 2017 - 7:57 pm


UPDATE: Judge in Hawaii puts Trump's travel ban on hold

UNDATED (AP) — The federal judge in Hawaii who put President Donald Trump's revised travel ban on hold cited "questionable evidence supporting the government's national security motivation."

U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson also said Hawaii would suffer financially if the executive order goes into effect and blocks the flow of students and tourists to the state.

Watson issued his 43-page ruling less than two hours after hearing arguments on Hawaii's request to block the ban that was to have gone into effect Thursday.

The judge says Hawaii is likely to succeed on a claim that the ban violates the First Amendment right protecting people against religious discrimination.

The judge was nominated to the federal bench by President Barack Obama.

He got his nod in 2012 and is currently the only Native Hawaiian judge serving on the federal bench and the fourth in U.S. history.

He received his law degree from Harvard Law School in 1991.


NEW: Border agency anticipates years to hit Trump's hiring goal

WASHINGTON (AP) — Trump administration officials say the U.S. Border Patrol won't lower hiring standards to satisfy the president's order to add 5,000 agents and will need several years to hit its target.

A precise timeline has not been set, but one official says the goal is to hire as many agents as possible in four or five years. Another official says it won't happen overnight.

Officials at U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Border Patrol's parent agency, would speak only on condition of anonymity, despite President Donald Trump's insistence that reporters should only quote people by name.

The hiring surge is a key piece of Trump's immigration orders that has drawn less attention than his travel ban and plans to erect a wall on the border with Mexico.


Trump's first budget boosts military, cuts domestic programs

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump has finalized his first budget for the federal government, a blueprint that would make deep cuts in the Environmental Protection Agency and other domestic programs while significantly increasing spending on the military.

The budget is to be submitted to Congress on Thursday. It is widely expected to cause political pain for Republicans and Democrats, who will have the final say on spending in the arduous budget process.

Trump has promised a spending plan that fulfills his campaign promises to boost national security, from spending more on defense to building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Though he repeatedly promised that Mexico would pay for the wall, U.S. taxpayers will foot the bill.

Trump is a climate change skeptic, and EPA programs are certain to take a hit.


As expected, Fed boosts rates

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Reserve will hike its key short-term rate, the third increase since December 2015 and a show of confidence in that the economy is stable. Steady hiring has brought down the unemployment rate to 4.7 percent, while the Fed's preferred measure of inflation has been moving closer to the central bank's preferred target of 2 percent.

By a 9 to 1 vote, Fed officials raised the federal funds rate 0.25 percentage points to a range of 0.75 to 1 percent.

Federal policymakers expect to hike rates a total of three times this year, including the increase announced today. That's the same as their December forecast. But more Fed officials now support that view: Nine of 17 Fed policymakers support three hikes, up from six in December.

The Fed also forecast three hikes in 2018, the same as they projected three months earlier, and between three and four increases 2019.


Fed still expects three increases this year

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal Reserve policymakers expect to hike rates a total of three times this year, including the increase announced Wednesday. That's the same as their December forecast. But more Fed officials now support that view: Nine of 17 Fed policymakers support three hikes, up from six in December.

The Fed also forecast three hikes in 2018, the same as they projected three months earlier, and between three and four increases 2019.

Their mostly status quo outlook was also seen in their economic projections. Fed policymakers project modest growth of 2.1 percent this year and in 2018, slowing to 1.9 percent in 2019. The unemployment rate should fall to 4.5 percent at the end of this year and remain at that level through 2019, also unchanged.


Trump stands by wiretapping tweet

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is standing by his tweet that the Obama administration wiretapped him last year.

Speaking on Fox News' "Tucker Carlson Tonight," Trump says "wiretap covers a lot of different things."

Trump also says in the interview that he expects "some very interesting items coming to the forefront over the next 2 weeks."

Republican and Democratic leaders of the House Intelligence Committee say they have seen no evidence supporting Trump's claim that the Obama administration wiretapped him.

The full interview will be aired tonight.


Russian FSB officers, hackers charged in Yahoo breach

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department is bringing its first hacking charges against Russian government officials.

Two Russian intelligence agents and two hackers are charged in a breach of Yahoo that affected at least a half billion user accounts.

One of the hackers is in custody in Canada. The other is on the list of the FBI's most wanted cyber criminals. But it's not clear if he or the two others who've been charged -- identified as officers of the Russian FSB -- will ever set foot in a U.S. courtroom, since there's no extradition treaty with Russia.

Officials say the hack targeted the email accounts of Russian and U.S. officials, Russian journalists, employees of financial services and other businesses.

The charges arise from a compromise of Yahoo user accounts that began at least as early as 2014. Though the Justice Department has previously charged Russian hackers with cybercrime — as well as hackers sponsored by the Chinese and Iranian governments — this is the first criminal case brought against Russian government officials.


Senate confirms Trump's pick for national intelligence chief

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate has confirmed President Donald Trump's choice for national intelligence director.

Senators voted 85-12 Wednesday to approve the nomination of former Indiana Sen. Dan Coats, making him the fifth person to hold the post created after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Coats replaces James Clapper, who retired at the end of the Obama administration.

As the Trump administration's top intelligence official, Coats will oversee 16 other intelligence agencies that have been harshly criticized at times by Trump president for past failures and their assessment that the Kremlin interfered in the election to help him win.

Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the Republican chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Coats will be an effective director and also would restore credibility to the U.S. intelligence community.


Trump reviewing fuel efficiency rule for new cars, trucks

YPSILANTI, Mich. (AP) — President Donald Trump says his administration will restart a review of federal requirements governing the fuel efficiency of new cars and trucks.

The announcement was supposed to come in a speech Trump is giving in Michigan. But he revealed the plan a bit early during a meeting before the speech with auto company executives and workers.

Trump tells the group meeting with him in Ypsilanti that he's in Michigan to "make right" on what they were promised. Then he announced the review.

Trump is also predicting that the U.S. will make thousands and thousands of additional cars.

The review Trump is restarting was halted by his predecessor, Democrat Barack Obama, before Obama left office earlier this year.


NY, Calif. officials denounce fuel economy shift

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump's decision to re-examine Obama-era fuel economy standards is meeting with strong opposition from Democratic officials on both coasts.

California Gov. Jerry Brown is denouncing the Trump administration's move, telling EPA director Scott Pruitt in a letter Wednesday it was a "gift to polluters."

Brown warns automakers in another letter Wednesday that his state will take the "necessary steps" to preserve its current emissions standards.

Meanwhile, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman says in a statement that the president's action "represents a dramatic wrong turn in our nation's efforts to fight air pollution from passenger cars and trucks, and protect the health of our children, seniors, and all communities."

Schneiderman says he is speaking for a coalition of attorneys general from nine states, including Maryland, Massachusetts and Oregon.


Trump lays wreath at the tomb of Andrew Jackson

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is laying a wreath at the tomb of Andrew Jackson on the 250th anniversary of the former president's birth.

Trump stood at the grave, his hand raised in a salute, as taps was played.

The president also toured Jackson's home, the Hermitage, in Nashville, before holding a rally in the Tennessee city later Wednesday.

Jackson has enjoyed a moment of resurgence thanks to Trump. During the campaign, some of Trump's aides took to comparing him to the former president — a fellow populist outsider who took on a member of the Washington establishment and ran a campaign railing against corrupt elites.

The museum's president says attendance has surged since the November election.


Former LA County sheriff guilty of obstructing FBI probe

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca has been convicted of obstructing an FBI corruption investigation into his jails and lying to federal authorities.

A jury reached the verdicts Wednesday on charges that Baca conspired with underlings to hinder a probe into jail guards taking bribes and beating inmates and lied about his role in the conspiracy.

He could face 20 years in prison.

The 74-year-old, who's in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease, headed the nation's largest sheriff's department for 15 years before resigning in 2014 as the scandal grew.

Prosecutors said the corruption went from deputies all the way to the top. Baca's lawyers said he gave no instructions to obstruct the FBI.

It was Baca's second obstruction trial after another jury deadlocked 11-1 in favor of acquittal.


Alabama inmate incompetent, can't be executed, court rules

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — An appellate court has ruled that Alabama cannot execute a 66-year-old inmate, saying dementia has left him unable to understand his death sentence.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that Vernon Madison is incompetent to be executed.

Madison was convicted in the 1985 killing of Mobile Police Officer Julius Schulte, who had responded to a domestic call involving Madison. Prosecutors said Madison shot Schulte in the back of the head as he sat in his police car.

Attorneys for the Equal Justice Initiative say multiple strokes and dementia have left Madison frequently confused and disoriented, with an IQ of 72.

The appellate court in May halted the execution seven hours before Madison was scheduled to die by lethal injection. A divided U.S. Supreme Court maintained the stay.


NEW: 11 bikers sue over arrests after 2015 Texas bar shootout

WACO, Texas (AP) — Eleven bikers have filed a lawsuit in federal court, alleging their civil rights were violated when they were arrested after the 2015 shootout at a Central Texas restaurant.

In their lawsuit, the 11 contend they were arrested without cause after the shootout that killed nine people at the Twin Peaks restaurant and bar in Waco.

The Waco Tribune-Herald reports the lawsuit seeks unspecified damages from defendants McLennan County and the city of Waco, former Waco Police Chief Brent Stroman, Detective Manuel Chavez, McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna and other unidentified government employees.

This is the second lawsuit to be filed over the shootout arrests. Last week, Morgan English sued county and city officials, alleging civil rights violations and asking for $350 million in damages.


US to launch competition for projects to end modern slavery

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations says Washington will launch a competition in the coming weeks to find projects that will reduce modern slavery, which by one estimate affects nearly 46 million people around the world.

Nikki Halley announced at a U.N. Security Council meeting Wednesday that the initiative will seek to raise $1.5 billion, partly from the U.S. government but mostly from foreign governments and the private sector. It will go to help countries break trafficking rings and support survivors.

Haley says groups that receive funding "must target a 50 percent reduction" among those they seek to help escape slavery.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says armed conflicts "are especially virulent breeding grounds" for human trafficking, resulting in forced prostitution, sexual slavery, trade in human organs and forced labor.

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