World News in Brief:

 Kavanaugh sworn to high court after rancorous confirmation

WASHINGTON (AP)- Brett Kavanaugh was sworn in Saturday night as the 114th justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, after a wrenching debate over sexual misconduct and judicial temperament that shattered the Senate, captivated the nation and ushered in an acrimonious new level of polarization _ now encroaching on the court that the 53-year-old judge may well swing rightward for decades to come.

Even as Kavanaugh took his oath of office in a quiet private ceremony, not long after the narrowest Senate confirmation in nearly a century and a half, protesters chanted outside the court building across the street from the Capitol.

The climactic 50-48 roll call capped a fight that seized the national conversation after claims emerged that he had sexually assaulted women three decades ago _ allegations he emphatically denied. Those accusations transformed the clash from a routine struggle over judicial ideology into an angry jumble of questions about victims’ rights, the presumption of innocence and personal attacks on nominees.

His confirmation provides a defining accomplishment for President Donald Trump and the Republican Party, which found a unifying force in the cause of putting a new conservative majority on the court.

Before the sexual accusations grabbed the Senate’s and the nation’s attention, Democrats had argued that Kavanaugh’s rulings and writings as an appeals court judge had raised serious concerns about his views on abortion rights and a president’s right to bat away legal probes.

Trump, flying to Kansas for a political rally, flashed a thumbs-up gesture when the tally was announced and praised Kavanaugh for being “able to withstand this horrible, horrible attack by the Democrats.” He later telephoned his congratulations to the new justice, then at the rally returned to his own attack on the Democrats as “an angry left-wing mob.”

 

How they did it: The Republicans’ campaign to save Kavanaugh

WASHINGTON (AP)- Mitch McConnell walked onto the Senate floor for the big vote to save Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination with a secret:

He didn’t know how it would turn out.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. The Senate majority leader is often seen as a masterful tactician. But he was watching and waiting like the rest of the nation to see if his Republican senators would advance President Donald Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court. Without that vote on Friday, there would be no triumphant final roll call on Saturday.

Kavanaugh’s confirmation was always going to be difficult, but over the past few weeks it had veered terribly off course. Three women had accused the judge of sexual misconduct, bringing a #MeToo reckoning to Capitol Hill and transforming the nomination fight into a bitter dispute that pushed the polarization of the Senate to new extremes.

This account of how Republicans brought Kavanaugh back from the brink is based on roughly a dozen interviews with administration officials, senators, aides and others. Some asked for anonymity because they were not authorized to reveal details about private discussions.

The rescue campaign was as bold as the Democratic effort to stop Kavanaugh. It included long-distance arm twisting from a former president, a locker room-style pep talk that helped change the game and decisions made up to the last minute.

Chicago verdict comes 4 years after Laquan McDonald’s death

CHICAGO (AP)- Four years after he fired 16 bullets into a black teenager, three years after dashcam video of the shooting was released and three weeks after his murder trial began, Jason Van Dyke’s transformation from Chicago patrol officer to convicted felon came suddenly.

A clerk announced the jury’s decision. The judge revoked his bond. And Van Dyke, the first city officer in about a half century to be convicted of murder in an on-duty shooting, put his hands behind his back as if handcuffed and strode across a courtroom into custody.

The scene Friday was a quiet coda to the tension that erupted after the video was made public in November 2015. The shocking footage showed Laquan McDonald crumpling to the ground as the officer fired repeatedly at the teen, who was walking away from police. The video drew nationwide outrage and put the nation’s third-largest city at the centre of the debate about police misconduct and the use of force.

The magnitude of the conviction for second-degree murder was inescapable as Van Dyke walked out of sight of his family and McDonald’s relatives.

“This verdict provides validation and a sense of justice for many residents of Chicago and Cook County and beyond this area …

the African-American communities across our country,” special prosecutor Joseph McMahon said after the verdict was read.

Washington Post: Turkish officials say Saudi writer killed

ISTANBUL (AP)- Turkish investigators believe a prominent Saudi journalist who contributed to The Washington Post was killed in “a preplanned murder” at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul, the Post reported Saturday night, citing two anonymous officials.

Saudi authorities called the allegation “baseless.”

One Turkish official also told The Associated Press that detectives’ “initial assessment” was that Jamal Khashoggi was killed at the consulate, without elaborating.

Khashoggi, who has lived in self-imposed exile in the U.S. for the last year, vanished Tuesday while on a visit to the consulate.

His disappearance has threatened to upend already-fraught relations between Saudi Arabia and Turkey, and it raises new questions about the kingdom and the actions of its assertive Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whom Khashoggi wrote critically about in his columns.

“If the reports of Jamal’s murder are true, it is a monstrous and unfathomable act,” the Post’s editorial page editor Fred Hiatt said in a statement. “Jamal was, or, as we hope, is, a committed, courageous journalist. He writes out of a sense of love for his country and deep faith in human dignity and freedom.”

 

M5.9 quake shakes northern Haiti

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP)- A magnitude 5.9 earthquake shook northwestern Haiti late Saturday and there were early reports of damage and injuries, though the extent was not immediately clear.

There were no immediate confirmed reports of deaths.

The U.S. Geologic Survey said the quake hit at 8:11 p.m. (0011 GMT) and was centred 12 miles (19 kilometres) northwest of Port-de-Paix on Haiti’s north coast. It was 7.3 miles (11.7 kilometres) below the surface.

The country’s civil protection agency issued a statement saying several people were injured and some houses destroyed in Port-de-Paix, Gros Morne, Chansolme and Turtle Island. Among the structures damaged was the Saint-Michel church in Plaisance.

It said other, largely minor injuries were treated in hospitals elsewhere.

The quake was felt lightly in the capital, Port-au-Prince, as well as in the neighbouring Dominican Republic.

As joblessness falls, skilled workers might be hard to find

Are America’s employers at risk of running out of skilled people to hire?

The U.S. economy has become a seemingly perpetual job-generating machine, having steadily added workers for nearly eight years. Even with the unemployment rate now at 3.7 per cent _ its lowest point since 1969 _ hiring hasn’t stalled. So far this year, job growth has averaged a robust 208,000 a month, up from a pace of 182,000 for all of 2017.

The trend has defied the predictions of most economists. Many have long warned that as hiring surged and unemployment fell, the pool of potential hires would shrink and trigger a bidding wire that would ignite wage gains.

It hasn’t happened. Many people are still being hired each month.

And pay raises, though rising, remain modest

“Every single time that we predict job growth is going to start slowing and wage growth is going to start picking up in recent years, we haven’t gotten that right,” said Martha Gimbel, research director for the jobs listing site Indeed.

#MeToo movement sends Hollywood figures into exile, not jail

LOS ANGELES (AP)- The #MeToo movement has sent dozens of once-powerful Hollywood players into exile, but few of them have been placed in handcuffs or jail cells. And it’s increasingly apparent that the lack of criminal charges may remain the norm.

Harvey Weinstein has been charged with sexual assault in New York, and Bill Cosby was sent to prison in Pennsylvania in the year since stories on Weinstein in The New York Times and The New Yorker set off waves of revelations of sexual misconduct in Hollywood. But those two central figures are exceptions.

A task force launched last November by Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey to handle the surge in allegations against entertainment figures has taken up criminal cases involving nearly two dozen entertainment-industry figures. None has been charged.

The lack of prosecutions stems from a clash between the #MeToo ethos, which encourages victims to come forward years or even decades after abuse and harassment that they’ve kept private, and a legal system that demands fast reporting of crimes and hard evidence.

The task force has considered charges against 22 suspects, including Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, director James Toback and former CBS CEO Leslie Moonves, all of whom have denied engaging in any sex that was not consensual.

 

Chicago verdict raises hope of greater police accountability

A rare scene in the American justice system unfolded Friday in a Chicago courthouse: A white officer stood before a mostly white jury and was convicted of killing a black teenager.

It was the second such verdict nationally in two months. Jason Van Dyke’s guilty conviction for second-degree murder and multiple counts of aggravated battery for fatally shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times came two months after a Texas officer was convicted in the killing of a 15-year-old unarmed black boy.

The pair of guilty verdicts could signal a shift in momentum after years of delayed arrests, non-indictments and not guilty verdicts. Activists and advocates say that their efforts, along with the ubiquity of cellphone camera evidence, could be changing the power balance between police and black communities.

“We’re starting to see some verdicts that are in line with justice,” said Rashad Robinson, executive director of Color of Change, a civil rights group that has supported electing reform-minded district attorneys in cities such as Chicago and Philadelphia. “No verdict is going to bring Laquan back or change the way he was taken from his family, friends or community. But being able to start sending a message to law enforcement that they are not above the law is important.”

It was not an outcome some expected, despite evidence including a video of McDonald’s shooting. It is extremely rare for police officers to be tried and convicted of murder for shootings that occurred while they were on duty. Before the conviction Friday, only six non-federal police officers had been convicted of murder in such cases _ and four of those were overturned _ since 2005, according to data compiled by criminologist and Bowling Green State University professor Phil Stinson.

Melania Trump puts on happier face during Africa tour

CAIRO (AP)- It took Melania Trump’s first big solo international trip for her to show a different side of herself, a playful, less serious one.

And while she generously dished out warm smiles and happy waves, the first lady also used her four-nation tour of Africa to draw some firmer boundaries between her own views and those of her husband the president.

“I don’t always agree with what he says and I tell him that,” the first lady told reporters Saturday against the backdrop of the Great Sphinx before she headed back to Washington. “But I have my own voice and my own opinions and it’s very important for me that I express what I feel.”

The U.S. first lady hopscotched across Africa without President Donald Trump, commanding a spotlight that was hers alone. In doing her own thing, the very private first lady essentially peeled back the curtain ever so slightly as she wiped away the serious face she wears around Washington.

She demonstrated her independence from her husband in ways large and small, like talking up U.S. foreign aid that he’s tried to slash and ignoring the Fox-only edict that the president imposes on TV screens when he’s aboard Air Force One.

 

 

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