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National Govt & Politics

    Melania Trump was perfectly cool Sunday at an air-conditioned interactive digital museum in Tokyo where she drew a purple fish and had it projected on a digital aquarium on the wall, as she and her host, Japanese first lady Akie Abe, joined dozens of schoolchildren while their husbands played golf under the scorching sun. Mrs. Trump drew the fish for a girl named Julia, and wrote underneath it: 'Julia, Best Wishes, Melania Tump.' Her autograph became popular, prompting children to line up. The first lady signed on the back of each student's artwork, along with a message 'Be Best!' — her children's initiative. The 30 children, third to sixth graders at a Tokyo elementary school, were a bit shy when the first lady in a stylish navy-color jumpsuit walked in, escorted by Akie Abe, but one by one they came over to her, and then in groups. 'Nice to meet you. Can you show me what you drew?' Melania Trump asked a boy with a name sticker on his chest saying 'Aoi.' He showed her a green turtle with yellow feet, which then they projected on the wall and watched it move around. Akie Abe colored her turtle in pink, with three little red hearts on the back, and signed 'Peace' as well as the new imperial era name 'Reiwa' that started this month. The two first ladies also toured other exhibits that included the crystal room and the lamp room where they stopped for photo sprays. Mrs. Trump arrived Saturday in Tokyo with President Donald Trump for a four-day state visit that is largely ceremonial and aimed for deepening personal ties between the two leaders. Trump and Abe played 16 holes at the Mobara golf course outside Tokyo, where temperature rose as high as 32 degrees Celsius (90 degrees Fahrenheit), in a 'cozy atmosphere,' Japan's Foreign Ministry said. Later Sunday, the first ladies will join their husbands to watch Japan's traditional sport of sumo and venture out into downtown Tokyo for a dinner double date. ___ Follow Mari Yamaguchi on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/mariyamaguchi
  • In an apparent contradiction of his national security adviser, President Donald Trump on Sunday downplayed recent North Korean missile tests, tweeting from Tokyo that they're not a concern for him in comments sure to unnerve Japanese leaders. Trump also said North Korea's Kim Jong Un's criticism of one of his Democratic rivals, former Vice President Joe Biden, had made him smile. The remarks were the latest example of Trump's willingness to publicly undermine senior advisers, flout democratic norms and side with totalitarian leaders, even on the world stage. He did so this time during a four-day state visit to Japan where he'll become the first leader to meet with the country's new emperor. 'North Korea fired off some small weapons, which disturbed some of my people, and others, but not me,' Trump tweeted in one of a flurry of early morning messages that suggested he'd spent little time sleeping after the lengthy flight to Asia. 'Some' of his 'people' appear to include national security adviser John Bolton, who told reporters at a briefing Saturday ahead of Trump's arrival that a series of short-range missile tests by North Korea earlier this month were a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions. 'In terms of violating U.N. Security Council resolutions, there is no doubt about that,' said Bolton, responding to the May 4 and 9 tests that ended a pause in launches that began in late 2017. Trump ignored a shouted question Sunday about whether he agreed with Bolton's assessment. Trump and other administration officials have sought to downplay the significance of the tests, insisting they do not violate an agreement Trump reached with Kim for a moratorium on launches. 'The moratorium was focused, very focused, on intercontinental missile systems, the ones that threaten the United States,' Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a recent television interview. That raised alarm bells in Japan, where short-range missiles pose a serious threat because of the country's proximity to North Korea. Unlike several other leaders in the region, Abe has yet to meet with Kim, leaving Japan to rely on the U.S. as an intermediary and advocate with North Korea. Abe recently offered to meet Kim without preconditions in an effort to restore diplomatic ties. Trump in his tweet said he had 'confidence that Chairman Kim will keep his promise to me,' while at the same time embracing Kim's recent attacks on Biden, whose name he misspelled Trump said he 'smiled' when Kim 'called Swampman Joe Bidan a low IQ individual, & worse.' 'Perhaps that's sending me a signal?' Trump asked. Trump later offered a new tweet with the correct 'Biden' spelling. North Korea this week labeled Biden a 'fool of low IQ' and an 'imbecile bereft of elementary quality as a human being' after the U.S. presidential hopeful accused Trump of cozying up to 'dictators and tyrants' like Kim and Russian President Vladimir Putin during his campaign launch speech. Biden's campaign would not comment on the record Sunday, but a spokesman for his campaign, Andrew Bates said Wednesday that, 'Given Vice President Biden's record of standing up for American values and interests, it's no surprise that North Korea would prefer that Donald Trump remain in the White House.' The tweet came early Sunday before Trump left his hotel for a round of golf with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. He'll also be attending a sumo wrestling match and handing out a 'President's Cup' to the winner as part of a visit meant to showcase the close ties between the nations. ___ Associated Press writers Darlene Superville and Mari Yamaguchi contributed to this report.
  • The Latest on President Donald Trump's trip to Japan (all times local): 3:30 p.m. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says golfing with President Donald Trump provided them time to privately share their views, ostensibly on matters beyond the sport. Abe is trying to entertain the president and stay on his good side as the two face challenging trade talks. Appealing to Trump's palate, Abe served him a double cheeseburger made of U.S. beef for lunch. 'We were able to exchange views in a cozy atmosphere,' Abe told reporters after playing 16 holes Sunday on a golf course south of Tokyo. 'It was wonderful.' It was their fifth golf outing. Later, the two are headed to a sumo wrestling match and dinner with their wives. 2:12 p.m. For President Donald Trump, politics never stops — even when he's on foreign soil. Trump is tweeting after a golf game with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that, 'Numerous Japanese officials' told him Sunday that 'the Democrats would rather see the United States fail than see me or the Republican Party succeed - Death Wish!' It's an unusually political statement coming from a president in the middle of an international trip on the other side of the globe. Trump is also tweeting that 'Great progress' is 'being made in our Trade Negotiations with Japan,' though he has said that he doesn't expect a deal to be reached until after July's Japanese upper house election. Trump says: 'Much will wait until after their July elections where I anticipate big numbers!' 1:30 p.m. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's effort to court favor with President Donald Trump included a double cheeseburger — made with U.S. beef, of course — that was served for lunch after golf. Sunday's golf outing, their fifth, is part of Abe's ongoing campaign to stay on Trump's good side amid trade tensions between their countries. The Foreign Ministry noted the lunch was 'Double Cheeseburger with U.S. beef.' Abe and Trump played 16 holes and had breakfast together before teeing off. The ministry said in a statement that 'They deepened their friendship amid a cozy atmosphere.' Later Sunday, Abe will take Trump to watch Japan's traditional sport of sumo and venture out into downtown Tokyo for a dinner double date with their wives. 1:10 p.m. The trophy President Donald Trump is set to present to the winner of a premier sumo wrestling championship is on display at a ritzy Tokyo hotel. 'The President's Cup,' which the White House says weighs between 60 and 70 pounds, is drawing photographers and media to the Tokyo Prince Hotel. The hefty silver trophy with gold detail work stands on a wooden base and features an eagle with its wings spread perched on top. It's displayed with blue flowers on a small table in the hotel's lobby in front of a gold screen backdrop. The inscription includes a pair of presidential seals and reads: 'Presented by Donald J. Trump, President of the United States of America, to the Sumo Grand Champion, Tokyo Grand Sumo Tournament, May 26, 2019.' 9:45 a.m. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe drove President Donald Trump around the Mobara Country Club in a golf cart as they met to play another round. Trump arrived at the course, which is located south of Tokyo, via the Marine One presidential helicopter. Abe had arrived before and emerged from a motorcade of golf carts after Trump arrived. The leaders shared a warm handshake and patted each other's forearms before they posed for a throng of journalists. Abe wore white pants and a dark blue sport coat. Trump wore a red half-zip pullover with a white shirt and dark pants. It's the fifth time the leaders have played golf, part of a continuing charm offense by Abe to stay on Trump's good side amid trade tensions between their countries. ___ 9:05 a.m. Golf never seems to be far behind whenever President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe get together. Trump has arrived at Mobara Country Club, south of Tokyo, for a round with the Japanese leader. It's the fifth time they've played together. The latest outing is part of a continuing charm offense by Abe to stay on Trump's good side amid trade tensions between their countries. Later Sunday, Abe will introduce Trump to the ancient sport of sumo wrestling by taking Trump to sit ringside at a championship match. Trump will present his 'President's Cup' trophy to the winner. Trump and Abe also plan to venture into Tokyo for a dinner double date with their wives. Trump arrived Saturday evening for a four-day state visit to Japan. ___ 8:15 a.m. President Donald Trump is tamping down expectations that he'll make significant headway on trade talks during his trip to Japan. Fox News White House Correspondent John Roberts tweets that Trump called him Sunday morning in Tokyo and told him that, while he and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will be discussing trade during meetings Sunday and Monday, Trump intends to wait until after Japan's July elections to push for a deal. Trump had told business leaders after arriving in Tokyo Saturday evening that the U.S. and Japan are 'hard at work' negotiating a new bilateral trade agreement that he said would benefit both countries. Trump said that he hopes the new deal will address a trade imbalance, remove barriers to U.S. exports, and ensure fairness and reciprocity in the relationship. ___ 8:08 a.m. President Donald Trump is downplaying recent North Korean missile tests, tweeting from Tokyo that they're not a concern for him — even though they are for Japan. Trump says, 'North Korea fired off some small weapons, which disturbed some of my people, and others, but not me.' That message appears to contradict Trump's national security adviser, John Bolton, who told reporters Saturday the short-range missile tests are a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions. Trump says 'he has confidence' North Korean leader Kim Jong Un 'will keep his promise to me.' He's also embracing Kim's attack on a Democratic rival, former Vice President Joe Biden. Trump tweeted early Sunday before joining Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for a game of golf and attending a sumo wrestling match.
  • Golf never seems to be far behind whenever President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe get together. So on Sunday, during a four-day state visit to Japan, the president jumped aboard the Marine One helicopter in Tokyo and flew south to the Mobara Country Club for a steamy morning round with the Japanese leader. Abe is Trump's closest friend among world leaders and it's the fifth time they played golf together since Trump took office. Abe's strategy is to keep his country out of Trump's crosshairs amid U.S.-Japan trade tensions and the continued threat North Korea poses to both nations. Later in the day, Abe will introduce Trump to Japan's ancient sport of sumo wrestling. The president will sit ringside at a championship match in Tokyo featuring the oversized athletes. He'll also present the winner with his own 'President's Cup' trophy. The leaders will also venture into Tokyo for a dinner double date with their wives. A motorcade of golf carts ferried Abe to meet Trump when he arrived at the club. They exchanged a warm handshake, patted each other on the forearms and posed for a throng of journalists. Abe wore white pants and a dark blue sport coat. Trump wore a red half-zip pullover with a white shirt and dark pants. Japanese television later broadcast aerial footage of Trump swinging his club on the course. They were joined by Japanese professional golfer Isao Aoki, who is famous for his putting technique. Aoki was expected to present Trump with a putter he designed. Japanese officials said Trump and Abe played 16 holes and had breakfast and lunch together. On the menu for lunch: double cheeseburgers made with U.S. beef. Trump tweeted that he was 'Going to play golf right now with @AbeShinzo. Japan loves the game.' By the time he had finished, however, Trump was wading back into politics, claiming that, 'Numerous Japanese officials told me that the Democrats would rather see the United States fail than see me or the Republican Party succeed - Death Wish!' Abe told reporters as he left for Mobara that Sunday's weather was great for golf and 'it seems we are in a good mood for sumo.' Abe later tweeted a selfie photo of him and Trump, smiling widely on the greens. Neither leader spoke to reporters at the club before they climbed into a golf cart with Abe at the wheel. Trump ignored a shouted question from a U.S. reporter about whether he believed North Korea had violated U.N. Security Council resolutions. Earlier Trump downplayed North Korea's recent series of short-range missile tests. He tweeted that the tests weren't a concern for him — even though they most certainly are for Japan, due to the country's proximity to the North. 'North Korea fired off some small weapons, which disturbed some of my people, and others, but not me,' Trump wrote in a message that appeared to undermine his national security adviser, John Bolton, who told reporters Saturday the tests violated U.N. Security Council resolutions. Trump said he 'has confidence' that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un 'will keep his promise to me.' The president's attendance at the annual summer sumo tournament in Tokyo may bring back memories of the time he spent promoting the World Wrestling Federation. Trump is expected to sit ringside as the oversized men in loincloths grapple to win by pushing their opponents out of bounds or getting them to touch the floor with their body, except for the soles of their feet. Trump has said he finds the sport 'fascinating.' Trump will also be presenting a hefty trophy to the winner. The trophy, which the White House dubbed 'The Presidents Cup,' weighs between 60 and 70 pounds (27 and 32 kilograms). The White House put the cup on display in the lobby of a ritzy Tokyo hotel Sunday afternoon ahead of the tournament. The president also sought to manage expectations that he and Abe will make significant headway on trade issues when they hold more formal talks on Monday. Trump has been seeking a bilateral trade agreement with Tokyo since he pulled the U.S. out of the multinational Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement two years ago, though analysts expect no breakthroughs during Trump's visit. 'Great progress being made in our Trade Negotiations with Japan. Agriculture and beef heavily in play. Much will wait until after their July elections where I anticipate big numbers!' he wrote, referring to Japan's upcoming parliamentary elections. Trump had told business leaders after arriving in Tokyo on Saturday evening that the U.S. and Japan were 'hard at work' negotiating a new bilateral trade agreement that he said would benefit both countries. 'With this deal we hope to address the trade imbalance, remove barriers to United States exports, and ensure fairness and reciprocity in our relationship. And we're getting closer,' he said. The Trump administration has been threatening Japan with new tariffs on imports of autos and auto parts on national security grounds. Trump has suggested he will impose tariffs if the U.S. can't wrest concessions from Japan and the European Union. In April, Japan's trade surplus surged almost 18% to 723 billion yen ($6.6 billion). The president arrived in Japan on Saturday with his wife, first lady Melania Trump, to open the four-day visit. On Monday, Trump will become the first head of state to meet with Japan's new emperor, Naruhito, since he ascended to the throne on May 1. Trump and Abe will also meet in a more formal setting and participate in a joint news conference. In the evening, Trump will be guest of honor at a banquet hosted by the emperor at Japan's Imperial Palace. Trump is slated to head for Washington on Tuesday after he addresses U.S. sailors aboard the USS Wasp, stationed at Yokosuka. ___ Follow Superville and Colvin on Twitter at https://twitter.com/dsupervilleap and https://twitter.com/colvinj
  • A federal judge on Friday blocked President Donald Trump from building key sections of his border wall with money secured under his declaration of a national emergency, delivering what may prove a temporary setback on one of his highest priorities. U.S. District Judge Haywood Gilliam Jr.'s order prevents work from beginning on two of the highest-priority, Pentagon-funded wall projects — one spanning 46 miles (74 kilometers) in New Mexico and another covering 5 miles (8 kilometers) in Yuma, Arizona. While the order applied only to those first-in-line projects, the judge made clear that he felt the challengers were likely to prevail at trial on their argument that the president was wrongly ignoring Congress' wishes by diverting Defense Department money. 'Congress's 'absolute' control over federal expenditures_even when that control may frustrate the desires of the Executive Branch regarding initiatives it views as important_is not a bug in our constitutional system. It is a feature of that system, and an essential one,' he wrote in his 56-page opinion. It wasn't a total defeat for the administration. Gilliam, an Oakland-based appointee of President Barack Obama, rejected a request by California and 19 other states to prevent the diversion of hundreds of millions of dollars in Treasury asset forfeiture funds to wall construction, in part because he felt they were unlikely to prevail on arguments that the administration skirted environmental impact reviews. The delay may be temporary. The question for Gilliam was whether to allow construction with Defense and Treasury funds while the lawsuits brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and the state attorneys general were being considered. The cases still must be heard on their merits. 'This order is a win for our system of checks and balances, the rule of law, and border communities,' said Dror Ladin, an attorney for the ACLU, which represented the Sierra Club and the Southern Border Communities Coalition. The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment late Friday. The administration faces several lawsuits over the emergency declaration but only one other seeks to block construction during the legal challenge. A judge in Washington, D.C., on Thursday heard arguments on a challenge brought by the U.S. House of Representatives that says the money shifting violates the constitution. The judge was weighing whether the lawmakers even had the ability to sue the president instead of working through political routes to resolve the bitter dispute. At stake is billions of dollars that would allow Trump to make progress in a signature campaign promise heading into his campaign for a second term. Trump declared a national emergency in February after losing a fight with the Democratic-led House that led to a 35-day government shutdown. As a compromise on border and immigration enforcement, Congress set aside $1.375 billion to extend or replace existing barriers in Texas' Rio Grande Valley, the busiest corridor for illegal crossings. Trump grudgingly accepted the money, but then declared the national emergency to siphon money from other government accounts, identifying up to $8.1 billion for wall construction. The funds include $3.6 billion from military construction funds, $2.5 billion from Defense Department counterdrug activities and $600 million from the Treasury Department's asset forfeiture fund. The Defense Department has already transferred the counterdrug money. Patrick Shanahan, the acting defense secretary, is expected to decide any day whether to transfer the military construction funds. The president's adversaries say the emergency declaration was an illegal attempt to ignore Congress, which authorized far less wall spending than Trump wanted. The administration said Trump was protecting national security as unprecedented numbers of Central American asylum-seeking families arrive at the U.S. border. The administration has awarded 11 wall contracts for a combined $2.76 billion — including three in the last two months that draw on Defense Department counterdrug money — and is preparing for a flurry of construction that the president is already celebrating at campaign-style rallies. The Army Corps of Engineers recently announced several large contacts with Pentagon funding. Last month, SLSCO Ltd. of Galveston, Texas, won a $789 million award to replace 46 miles (74 kilometers) of barrier in New Mexico — the one that Gilliam blocked on Friday. Last week, Southwest Valley Constructors of Albuquerque, New Mexico, won a $646 million award to replace 63 miles (101 kilometers) in the Border Patrol's Tucson, Arizona, sector, which Gilliam did not stop. Barnard Construction Co. of Bozeman, Montana, won a $141.8 million contract to replace 5 miles (8 kilometers) in Yuma that Gilliam blocked and 15 miles (24 kilometers) in El Centro, California, which he did not address. Gilliam's ruling gives a green light — at least for now — for the administration to tap the Treasury funds, which it has said it plans to use to extend barriers in Rio Grande Valley. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, a Democrat and frequent Trump adversary, didn't comment directly on his defeat but congratulated the ACLU and its clients 'in securing this critical victory for our states and communities.' Trump inherited barriers covering 654 miles (1,046 kilometers), or about one-third of the border with Mexico. Of the 244 miles (390 kilometers) in awarded contracts, more than half is with Pentagon money. All but 14 miles (22 kilometers) awarded so far are to replace existing barriers, not extend coverage. ___ Spagat reported from San Diego.
  • A flood of laws banning abortions in Republican-run states has handed Democrats a political weapon heading into next year's elections, helping them paint the GOP as extreme and court centrist voters who could decide congressional races in swing states, members of both parties say. The Alabama law outlawing virtually all abortions, even in cases of rape or incest, is the strictest so far. Besides animating Democrats, the law has prompted President Donald Trump, other Republican leaders and lawmakers seeking reelection next year to distance themselves from the measure. Their reaction underscores that Republicans have risked overplaying their hand with severe state laws that they hope will prod the Supreme Court, with its ascendant conservative majority, to strike down Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion. It also illustrates the way that those statutes are forcing the GOP to struggle over how to satisfy its core anti-abortion supporters without alienating the vast majority of voters averse to strictly curbing abortion. The Alabama law is 'a loser for Republican candidates in Colorado, without question, and in many other swing parts of the country, because it's extreme,' David Flaherty, a Colorado-based Republican consultant who's worked on congressional races around the country. 'It's only going to widen the gender gap.' Brian Fitzpatrick, a Vanderbilt Law School professor and former aide to Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said there are many 'women, moderate women who are going to be scared that this right that they thought they had for the last 40-some years is going to be shelved' and they will be motivated to vote. GOP Sens. Joni Ernst of Iowa and Susan Collins of Maine, both seeking reelection next year, said the Alabama ban goes too far by eliminating exceptions for pregnancies involving rape or incest. A 2005 survey by the Guttmacher Institute, which backs abortion rights, found about 1% of women said they had abortions because of rape or incest. Democrats see the statutes as a way to weave a broader message about Republicans. 'You use it as an example of what they do when they're unchecked,' said Rep. A. Donald McEachin, D-Va., a leader of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, House Democrats' campaign organization. 'I think it drives moderate Republicans away from their party.' Democratic presidential contenders are competing to lambast the Alabama law, which allows exceptions when the mother's health is endangered. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., called it an 'existential threat to the human rights of women,' while former Vice President Joe Biden said GOP hopes of striking down Roe v. Wade are 'pernicious and we have to stop it.' Campaign Facebook and Twitter accounts of Democrats seeking reelection next year, such as Sens. Doug Jones of Alabama and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, are littered with posts attacking the harsh restrictions. 'The people of Alabama deserve to be on the #rightsideofhistory — not the side of extremists,' Jones tweeted. Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi and Ohio have enacted or neared approval of measures barring abortion once there's a detectable fetal heartbeat, which can occur in the sixth week of pregnancy, before a woman may know she is pregnant. Missouri lawmakers approved an eight-week ban. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that of the 638,000 abortions it tallied in 2015, almost two-thirds were performed within the first eight weeks of pregnancy. About 1% were performed during or after the 21st week. Spotlighting the perilous political territory Republicans are navigating, an April poll by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation found that Americans support Roe v. Wade by 2-1. A Gallup poll last year found that 57% of adults who described themselves 'pro-life' nonetheless said abortion should be legal if the pregnancy results from rape or incest. The focus on the state measures has also stolen GOP momentum on abortion. Until now, congressional Republicans had spent much of this year forcing Democrats onto the defensive, goading them into blocking bills aimed at curbing the rare abortions performed late in pregnancies and misleadingly accusing them of supporting infanticide. 'Obviously, the attention has shifted,' said Sarah Chamberlain, president of the Republican Main Street Partnership, which represents dozens of moderate GOP lawmakers. She said while her group doesn't think Democrats' focus on the harsh laws has gained traction, 'We are talking about that and how it's going to play in our districts.' Some Republicans say the Democratic drive will have minimal impact because the abortion issue drives relatively few voters from each party. Others say GOP candidates should accuse Democrats of extremism by opposing bills restricting abortions late in pregnancy and, if they wish, cite their support for exempting rape and incest victims. Democrats have 'never seen an abortion they don't like,' said David O'Steen, executive director of the National Right to Life Committee. Added Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., who heads the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the Senate GOP campaign arm: 'We're not Alabama state representatives, we're United States senators. And each of us has to make our positions known.' Yet the laws have generated energy among abortion-rights groups, which held more than 500 demonstrations and other events this past week. 'We will power this movement into 2020. There will be political consequences,' said Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America. Trump and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., distanced themselves early last week from the Alabama statute. They were joined Wednesday by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who told The Associated Press, 'My position remains unchanged for 25 years. I'm opposed to abortion except in cases of rape, incest and the life of the mother' being in jeopardy. ___ Associated Press writers Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Elana Schor contributed to this report.
  • Democratic presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar (KLOH'-buh-shar) has come out with a plan to help farmers that includes raising the debt limit on farm bankruptcies and increasing access to government loan programs. The Minnesota senator is promoting the proposals during a weekend visit to Iowa. Low commodity prices, flooding and President Donald Trump's trade dispute with China have hit family farms hard. Bankruptcy filings for farm operations in the upper Midwest have doubled since June 2014, when commodity prices began to drop. For bankruptcy filings, Klobuchar wants to raise the liability cap from $4.2 million to $10 million, allowing more farmers to seek relief. She'd also increase the Agriculture Department's direct operating loan limit from $400,000 to $600,000 and the farm ownership loan limit from $600,000 to $650,000.
  • The Latest on President Donald Trump's state visit to Japan. (all times local): 12:30 a.m. Sunday President Donald Trump has begun a state visit to Japan by needling the American ally over its trade imbalance with the United States. He jokingly tells business leaders at a reception in Tokyo: 'Maybe that's why you like me so much.' Trump also is promoting the U.S. under his leadership. He says 'there's never been a better time' to invest or do business in America, and he urges corporate leaders to come. ___ 7 p.m. What stands nearly 5 feet (1.5 meters) tall and weighs between 60 and 70 pounds (27 and 32 kilograms)? It's the much-ballyhooed trophy that President Donald Trump plans to present to the winner of a championship sumo wrestling match in Tokyo on Sunday. The White House says the 'President's Cup' is about 54 inches (137 centimeters) tall and weighs 60-70 pounds (27-32 kilograms). Trump arrived in Japan on Saturday on a state visit as the guest of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is taking Trump to the sumo match on Sunday. The president has said that he finds sumo to be 'fascinating' and that the trophy will be U.S.-made. Trump will also meet Japan's new emperor on Monday, becoming the first head of state to do so. ___ 6:35 p.m. President Donald Trump is needling Japan over the U.S.-Japan trade imbalance as he kicks off a state visit to the country. Trump is speaking at a reception with Japanese and American business leaders at the U.S. ambassador's residence in Tokyo after arriving in the country. He says the U.S. and Japan 'are hard at work' negotiating a bilateral trade agreement, but is pointing to the gap. He says: 'I would say that Japan has had a substantial edge for many, many years, but that's OK ... maybe that's why you like us so much.' Trump is also making a pitch to the business leaders to invest more in the U.S. And he says the relationship between the two countries has never been better. ___ 5:55 p.m. President Donald Trump is heading to a dinner with business leaders at the U.S. ambassador's residence in Tokyo after a brief airport welcome. Trump and first lady Melania Trump were greeted by Japan's minister of foreign affairs, the U.S. ambassador to Japan and other officials Saturday at Tokyo's Haneda Airport. Trump was busy tweeting as Air Force One neared Japan for the four-day visit. He declared the dawn of a new 'Age of Enlightenment' as he talked up his escalating trade dispute with China. He said that: 'The real trade war began 30 years ago, and we lost. This is a bright new Age, the Age of Enlightenment. We don't lose anymore!' ___ 5 p.m. President Donald Trump has arrived in Japan for a state visit that will make him the first world leader to meet the country's new emperor. Trump and first lady Melania Trump arrived aboard Air Force One after a 14-hour journey. The visit is part of a continuing charm offensive by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that analysts say has spared Japan from far more debilitating retaliatory action by Trump. The president has refused to lift the threat of slapping potentially devastating U.S. tariffs on imports of Japanese autos and auto parts on national security grounds. U.S. tariffs against Japanese aluminum and steel remain. ___ 4:45 p.m. A relatively strong earthquake rattled Tokyo just before President Donald Trump's arrival Saturday but there was no danger of a tsunami. Japan's Meteorological Agency said the quake, registering magnitude 5.1, struck in Chiba, just south of Tokyo, at 3:20 p.m., about 40 kilometers (24 miles) underground. Trump was to arrive two hours later. The agency said there was no danger of a tsunami from the inland quake. The earthquake rattled dozens of cities, including Tokyo, where many reporters who arrived before the president's visit felt the movement. ___ 1:30 p.m. Japan is ready to roll out the newest phase of its charm offensive targeting President Donald Trump as it welcomes him on a state visit tailor-made to his whims and ego. This comes as Japan remains under the threat of potentially devastating U.S. tariffs on autos Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is offering high honors, golf and the chance to present a 'Trump Cup' at a sumo wrestling championship. Abe, arguably Trump's closest friend on the world stage, will continue a yearslong campaign that so far appears to have spared Japan from far more debilitating U.S. actions. The stakes are high. U.S. tariffs could cripple Japan's auto industry, while North Korea remains a destabilizing threat in the region.
  • President Donald Trump opened a state visit to Japan on Saturday by needling the American ally over its trade imbalance with the United States. 'Maybe that's why you like me so much,' he joshed. Trump also promoted the U.S. under his leadership, saying 'there's never been a better time' to invest or do business in America, and he urged corporate leaders to come. The president's first event after arriving in Tokyo was a reception with several dozen Japanese and American business leaders at the U.S. ambassador's residence. He said the two countries 'are hard at work' negotiating a trade agreement . 'I would say that Japan has had a substantial edge for many, many years, but that's OK,' Trump said, joking that 'maybe that's why you like me so much.' His comments underscored the competing dynamics of a state visit designed to show off the long U.S.-Japan alliance and the close friendship between Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe even as trade tensions run high. Trump landed from his overnight flight shortly after a magnitude 5.1 earthquake struck just south of Tokyo and rattled the city. Abe has planned a largely ceremonial, four-day visit to suit Trump's whims and ego. It's part of Abe's charm strategy that some analysts say has spared Japan from the full weight of Trump's trade wrath. Abe and Trump planned to play golf Sunday before Abe gives Trump the chance to present his 'President's Cup' trophy to the winner of a sumo wrestling championship match. The White House said the trophy is nearly 5 feet (1.5 meters) tall and weighs between 60 pounds and 70 pounds (27 kilograms and 32 kilograms). On Monday, Trump will become the first head of state to meet Emperor Naruhito since he ascended to the throne this month. 'With all the countries of the world, I'm the guest of honor at the biggest event that they've had in over 200 years,' Trump said before the trip. The president is threatening Japan with potentially devastating U.S. tariffs on foreign autos and auto parts. He has suggested he will go ahead with the trade penalties if U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer fails to win concessions from Japan and the European Union. Trump had predicted that a U.S.-Japan trade deal could be finalized during his trip. But that's unlikely given that the two sides are still figuring out the parameters of what they will negotiate. He nonetheless portrayed the negotiations in a positive light in his remarks to the business group. 'With this deal we hope to address the trade imbalance, remove barriers to United States exports and ensure fairness and reciprocity in our relationship. And we're getting closer,' Trump said. He also urged the business leaders to invest more in the U.S. He praised the 'very special' U.S.-Japan alliance that he said 'has never been stronger, it's never been more powerful, never been closer.' Abe made a strategic decision before Trump was elected in November 2016 to focus on Japan's relationship with the U.S. Abe rushed to New York two weeks after that election to meet the president-elect at Trump Tower. Last month, Abe and his wife, Akie, celebrated first lady Melania Trump's birthday during a White House dinner. Abe and Trump are likely to meet for the third time in three months when Trump returns to Japan in late June for a summit of leading rich and developing nations. Behind the smiles and personal friendship, however, there is deep uneasiness over Trump's threat to impose tariffs on Japanese autos and auto parts on national security grounds. Such a move would be more devastating to the Japanese economy than earlier tariffs on steel and aluminum. Trump recently agreed to a six-month delay, enough time to carry Abe past July's Japanese parliamentary elections. Also at issue is the lingering threat of North Korea, which has resumed missile testing and recently fired a series of short-range missiles that U.S. officials, including Trump, have tried to play down despite an agreement by the North to hold off on further testing. Trump's national security adviser, John Bolton , told reporters Saturday before Trump arrived that the short-range missile tests were a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions and that sanctions must stay in place. Bolton said Trump and Abe would 'talk about making sure the integrity of the Security Council resolutions are maintained.' It marked a change in tone from the view expressed by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a recent television interview. He said 'the moratorium was focused, very focused, on intercontinental missile systems, the ones that threaten the United States.' That raised alarm bells in Japan, where short-range missiles pose a serious threat. Bolton commented a day after North Korea's official media said nuclear negotiations with Washington would not resume unless the U.S. abandoned what the North described as demands for unilateral disarmament. ___ Associated Press writer Mari Yamaguchi contributed to this report. ___ Follow Superville and Colvin on Twitter at https://twitter.com/dsupervilleap and https://twitter.com/colvinj
  • How to pronounce Beto O'Rourke's first name — 'Is it BET-oh or BAY-toe?' — is debated nearly everywhere the 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful goes in Iowa. But Rich Salas doesn't hesitate. 'BET-oh,' the chief diversity officer at Des Moines University says correctly while introducing O'Rourke at a recent gathering of an Asian and Latino political action committee. 'What a really great name.' Salas notes that O'Rourke 'speaks really good Spanish, better than I do,' before leading chants of 'Viva Beto!' It's a rallying cry that may not resonate in Iowa, home to the nation's first presidential nominating contest, but could pay dividends faster than in previous years thanks to a primary calendar that will see the two states with the largest Hispanic populations go to the polls earlier than usual. Hispanics make up just 6% of the population in Iowa, which holds caucuses Feb. 3, and barely half that percentage in New Hampshire, which goes next. But then comes Nevada, where almost 30% of people are Hispanic. And, just 10 days later this cycle, California and Texas — home to 13-plus million eligible Hispanic voters, nearly half of all such voters nationwide, according to the Pew Research Center — vote on 'Super Tuesday.' That means candidates who can win consistent Hispanic support could potentially secure a viable — if narrow — path of survival through the primary's frantic opening weeks, as the 23-candidate field winnows. A total of 4,051 Democratic delegates are up for grabs. Nearly 500 of those will be in California and 260-plus in Texas. Both allocate delegates proportionately, though, meaning even the winners likely have to share their hauls — and potentially providing more lifelines for any candidate who can mobilize Hispanics even if they don't finish first. 'I think it's smart for the candidates to be thinking about how they can become a household name in the Latino community,' said Matt Barreto, co-founder of the Hispanic polling firm Latino Decisions. 'It will keep them alive, and it will make them a national contender, even if they don't do well in Iowa or New Hampshire.' It's a risky strategy since that means betting on an electorate that's disproportionately young and plagued by low voter turnout — and may still mostly be going to the polls late enough that campaigns working hard to woo it may not last that long. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who was the lone Hispanic in the 2008 presidential race, made a strong showing in Nevada essential to his bid, only to drop out before he got there — following fourth-place finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire. U.S. Census survey data shows that general election Hispanic turnout in 2018 climbed 13-plus percentage points from the last midterms in 2014, to 40.4%, but still trailed whites, who reported voting at 55% rates, and blacks, who reported voting at 51.1%. Still, Barreto noted that the overall number of Hispanics who reported voting has risen in recent cycles and that the turnout percentage has been hurt because so many Hispanics are turning 18 and young people of all backgrounds are less likely to vote. Hispanics, meanwhile, will outpace African Americans to become the electorate's largest nationwide racial minority group for the first time on Election Day 2020 — accounting for more than 13% of eligible voters, according to Pew projections. Not all Hispanics are Democrats, but about two-thirds reported voting for the party during last fall's midterms, according to AP VoteCast, a survey of the 2018 national electorate. 'Over the years, there haven't been that many Latino presidential candidates,' Julian Castro, former San Antonio mayor and Obama administration housing chief and 2020's only Hispanic presidential candidate, said in a phone interview. 'So, there's still this sense of barriers being broken.' Castro has been to Nevada more than any Democratic presidential rival and has announced sweeping plans on issues he says Hispanics most care about, including calls for decriminalizing crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally and universal prekindergarten. O'Rourke, a former congressman, is of Irish decent but speaks fluent Spanish and hails from El Paso, Texas, where more than a quarter of the population are immigrants, most from just across the border in Mexico. Sen. Kamala Harris has a home-state advantage in California and, during a recent town hall in neighboring Nevada, handed out headsets to attendees who wanted to listen to a Spanish translation — along with signs reading 'Kamala Harris for the People' in English and Spanish. She's also named Emmy Ruiz, Hillary Clinton's 2016 state director in Nevada, as a senior adviser, and Julie Chávez Rodriguez, granddaughter of legendary activist Cesar Chávez, is her campaign's co-national political director. Cristóbal Alex, who headed the Latino Victory PAC, is an adviser to former Vice President Joe Biden, while Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders' campaign points to polling showing his rising popularity with Hispanics. It's also enlisted Carmen Yulin Cruz, mayor of the Puerto Rican capital of San Juan — known for sparring verbally with President Donald Trump in the wake of Hurricane Maria's 2017 devastation of the island. Then there's New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who invited Yulin Cruz to Trump's State of the Union speech. Castro went to Puerto Rico immediately after launching his presidential campaign, and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren also visited, while O'Rourke and Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, have talked about going. The island's 64-delegate Democratic primary is March 8, the Sunday after Super Tuesday. Cristina Tzintzún, executive director of Jolt, a Texas-based group that organizes Hispanics, said candidates won't be able to rely solely on their backgrounds or advisers, saying 'I don't believe in honorary Latinos.' 'People want diversity,' said Tzintzún, a Sanders supporter in the 2016 Democratic primary. 'What matters more is who's offering the bold solutions.' Castro has traveled to Nevada six times since December. He has gone to citizenship classes and attended house parties in historically Hispanic communities like east Las Vegas — including one hosted by an immigrant rights activist who is in the country illegally. 'It's likely that my story, the way I grew up, is going to resonate a lot with a lot of Latinos,' said Castro, whose grandmother was born in Mexico and whose mother was a noted Latino rights activist. 'Because they can see their own story in mine.' O'Rourke is hopeful his background can help him with Hispanics, too. 'I've got to think that, the fact that I live on the U.S.-Mexico border, that a quarter of those with whom I live and represented in Congress were born in another country, that I can tell a pretty powerful, positive story,' O'Rourke told reporters after the event in Des Moines. Of his Spanish, he added, 'I'm going to try and reach people in every place and in every language that I possibly can.' Castro speaks some Spanish while campaigning but admits he isn't fluent — and says that's not the key factor. 'There's often this sense that, the only way to measure whether you're connecting with Latinos is if you're fluent in Spanish or not, which is just completely wrong,' he said. 'It becomes very one-dimensional. And what we've done is we're going after that vote in a much more holistic way.