FAA relents, says it grounded 737 Max jets based on new data
WASHINGTON (AP) — As country after country grounded Boeing's 737 Max jets after a deadly crash Sunday in Ethiopia, U.S. air safety regulators remained resolute in their refusal to do so — until Wednesday.
That's when the Federal Aviation Administration issued an emergency order keeping the planes on the tarmac. The agency said what made the difference was new, enhanced satellite tracking data and physical evidence on the ground that linked the Ethiopian jet's movements to those of an Indonesian Lion Air flight that plunged into the Java Sea in October and killed 189 people.
"That evidence aligns the Ethiopian flight closer to Lion Air, what we know happened to Lion Air," said Daniel Elwell, acting FAA administrator.
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Officials at Lion Air have said sensors on their plane produced erroneous information on its last four flights, triggering an automatic nose-down command that the pilots were unable to overcome on its final voyage.
The FAA was under intense pressure to ground the planes and resisted even after Canada on Wednesday joined more than 40 countries, including the European Union and China, in barring the Max from the air, leaving the U.S. almost alone.
'He's shady': Ringleader in college scandal irritated others
NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. (AP) — For 25 years, William "Rick" Singer was in the business of helping high school students get into some of the country's top colleges, gaining a reputation as a master salesman who got results, but also someone who came across as devious and way too slick, say some of those who knew him professionally.
High school guidance counselors in Sacramento, where Singer started his career as a college admissions consultant, used to trade "Rick stories" and warned each other, "He's shady. Be careful," according to one of them.
Now, Singer, 58, is at the center of one of biggest college admissions scandals on record, accused of conspiring with wealthy parents to pay bribes to get their children into prestigious schools such as Yale, Stanford, Georgetown and UCLA.
Some of those who encountered him professionally said they were not surprised to see Singer in the middle of the scheme. His popularity with wealthy families in the Sacramento area was not shared by school counselors and educators, who said they had no clue about any illegal practices but found him untrustworthy.
"He was a slick talker and people believed him," said Jill Newman, who has worked as a high school counselor in Sacramento schools for decades and had several well-to-do students who hired Singer. "But every high school counselor in the area knew about him. He was sneaky from the get-go."
O'Rourke tells Texas TV station he's running for president
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Democrat Beto O'Rourke has told a Texas TV station that he's running for president in 2020.
The former Texas congressman sent a text message to KTSM Wednesday afternoon confirming the news that he will seek the Democratic presidential nomination.
He wrote: "I'm really proud of what El Paso did and what El Paso represents. It's a big part of why I'm running. This city is the best example of this country at its best."
O'Rourke was little-known outside his hometown of El Paso until he challenged Republican Sen. Ted Cruz last year. He got within 3 percentage points of upsetting Cruz in the nation's largest red state and shattered national fundraising records while using grassroots organizing and social media savvy to mobilize young voters and minorities.
UK lawmakers vote against no-deal Brexit, now aim for delay
LONDON (AP) — In a tentative first step toward ending months of political deadlock, British lawmakers voted Wednesday to block the country from leaving the European Union without a divorce agreement, triggering an attempt to delay that departure, currently due to take place on March 29.
Parliament is scheduled to decide Thursday whether to put the brakes on Brexit, a vote set up after lawmakers dealt yet another defeat to Prime Minister Theresa May amid a crisis over Britain's departure from the EU.
The lawmakers' 321-278 vote has political but not legal force, and does not entirely rule out a chaotic no-deal departure for Britain. But it might ease jitters spreading across the EU after lawmakers resoundingly rejected May's divorce deal on Tuesday. Exiting the EU without a deal could mean major disruptions for businesses and people in the U.K. and the 27 remaining EU countries.
In chaotic scenes that revealed how May's authority has been eroded by Brexit battles, more than a dozen pro-EU government ministers abstained rather than vote with her against ruling out no-deal.
Speaking with a raspy voice after weeks of relentless pressure, May hinted that she plans to make a third attempt to get lawmakers to support her Brexit deal, which they have already rejected twice.
Manafort gets 7 years in prison, then faces fresh NY charges
WASHINGTON (AP) — Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was sentenced to a total of seven and a half years in prison on federal charges Wednesday, then was hit almost immediately with fresh state charges in New York that could put him outside the president's power to pardon.
In Washington, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson brushed aside Manafort's pleas for leniency and rebuked him for misleading the U.S. government about his lucrative foreign lobbying work and for encouraging witnesses to lie on his behalf.
"It is hard to overstate the number of lies and the amount of fraud and the extraordinary amount of money involved" in the crimes, Jackson told Manafort, 69, who sat stone-faced in a wheelchair he has used because of gout. She added three-and-a-half years on top of the nearly four-year sentence Manafort received last week in a separate case in Virginia, though he'll get credit for nine months already served.
The sentencing hearing was a milestone in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia in the 2016 election campaign. Manafort was among the first people charged in the investigation, and though the allegations did not relate to his work for candidate Donald Trump, his foreign entanglements and business relationship with an associate the U.S. says has ties to Russian intelligence have made him a pivotal figure in the probe.
Prosecutors are updating judges this week on the cooperation provided by other key defendants in the case . Mueller is expected to soon conclude his investigation in a confidential report to the Justice Department.
'Epic' storm brings blizzards, floods, tornado to mid-US
CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — A window-rattling late winter storm brought blizzards, floods and a tornado across more than 25 states Wednesday, stretching from the northern Rocky Mountains to Texas and beyond.
"This is a very epic cyclone," said Greg Carbin, chief of forecast operations for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Weather Prediction Center. "We're looking at something that will go down in the history books."
In Colorado, a state patrol officer was hit and killed by a car as he was helping another driver who slid off Interstate 76 near Denver.
Corporal Daniel Groves, 52, was outside his patrol car when he was struck. He died at a hospital.
Hundreds of drivers were stranded on Colorado highways, including 500 in the Colorado Springs area alone. Gov. Jared Polis activated the National Guard to help find and rescue snowbound drivers.
NY attorney says feds probing his pardon talks with Cohen
NEW YORK (AP) — Federal prosecutors have requested copies of communications Michael Cohen had with a New York attorney who broached the possibility of a pardon from President Donald Trump, the attorney said Wednesday.
The attorney, Robert J. Costello, released a statement disputing Cohen's claim that Trump "dangled" a presidential pardon in front of Cohen before he began cooperating with federal prosecutors and special counsel Robert Mueller.
"We have documents to back our position up, and are preparing to provide these to the U.S. Attorney's office, who has asked for them," Costello said in the statement. The statement referred to Cohen's account of the pardon discussions as "utter nonsense."
Federal prosecutors requested emails and documents from Costello last week amid an investigation into "possible violations of federal criminal law," The New York Times reported Wednesday, citing a copy of the request.
The U.S. Attorney's Office in Manhattan declined to comment.
School rampage in Brazil leaves 8 dead, many wounded
SUZANO, Brazil (AP) — Two masked men armed with a gun, knives, axes and crossbows descended on a school in southern Brazil on Wednesday, killing five students and two adults before one killed the other and then himself, authorities said.
The men, identified as former students at the school in a suburb of Sao Paulo, also shot and killed the owner of a used car business nearby before launching the attack on the school, authorities said.
Besides the five students, the dead included a teacher and a school administrator, said Joao Camilo Pires de Campos, the state's public secretary. Nine others were wounded in the school attack and hospitalized, he said.
"This is the saddest day of my life," de Campos said, speaking to reporters outside the school in the Sao Paulo suburb of Suzano.
Authorities identified the attackers as 17-year-old Guilherme Taucci Monteiro and 25-year-old Henrique de Castro.
Carlson comments signal brawl for advertisers
NEW YORK (AP) — This week's controversy over statements made by Fox News Channel's Tucker Carlson is as much about a high-stakes battle over the network's financial future as it is over what he said on a radio show a decade ago.
The liberal advocacy group Media Matters for America this week released two batches of recordings Carlson made as a guest on radio's "Bubba the Love Sponge Show" between 2006 and 2011, before he worked at Fox. The release was timed to coincide with Fox's meeting with advertisers on Wednesday, the first time it has ever made a sales pitch that for most television networks is a rite of spring.
In the tapes, Carlson made remarks minimizing statutory rape, used sexist slurs to refer to specific women and referred to Iraq as "a crappy place filled with a bunch of, you know, semiliterate primitive monkeys."
Fox's prime-time host has responded by attacking Media Matters and vowing that "we will never bow to the mob." In the only specific reference to his quoted remarks, Carlson said that "it's pointless to try to explain how the words were spoken in jest, or taken out of context, or in any case bear no resemblance to what you actually think."
What's behind the words is a bare-knuckles brawl over advertising revenue, the lifeblood for any network. Media Matters' goal has been to publicize controversial or offensive things said by Fox's prime-time hosts Carlson, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham to attract the attention of advertisers, who are usually loathe to see their products associated with controversy.
OMG, OBJ: Beckham's arrival makes Browns instant contenders
CLEVELAND (AP) — The Cleveland Browns returned as an expansion team in 1999. They became a real one Tuesday night.
It only took 20 mostly tortuous years — and one tremendous trade.
With a shocking, blockbuster deal for superstar wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., the Browns flipped the NFL on its helmet and instantaneously changed their national perception. They're the talk of the league, and for the first time in forever, it's for the right reasons.
No longer a punching bag, the Browns are punching back. From hopeless to hope-filled. Finally.
Shortly after the league's free-agent signing period and its new calendar year opened on Wednesday, the Browns made their acquisition of Beckham from the New York Giants official. It's a done deal, and it's starting to sink in for Cleveland's impassioned and pained fan base, which has been waiting decades for its beloved football team to return to glory.