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    Hong Kong residents endured a fourth day of traffic snarls and mass transit disruptions Thursday as protesters closed some major arteries and rail networks while police skirmished with militant students at major universities. Life in this city of 7.5 million has been strained as thousands of commuters were unable to make it to work. The government appealed for employers to show flexibility. 'For staff who cannot report for duty on time on account of conditions in road traffic or public transport services, employers should give due consideration to the circumstances,” the statement said. Riot police fired tear gas during a standoff with students at Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Protesters have hurled gasoline bombs and thrown objects off bridges during clashes at campuses this week. The Chinese University of Hong Kong suspended classes for the rest of the year, and others asked students to switch to online learning. Students at Chinese University, site of some of the fiercest clashes where students hurled more than 400 Molotov cocktails at police on Tuesday, have barricaded themselves in the suburban campus. Early Thursday they used chain saws to drop trees onto streets around the campus and prepared for a possible confrontation with police, which were not intervening. Anti-government protests have riven Hong Kong, and divided its people, for more than five months. A major rail line connecting Kowloon to mainland China was closed for a second day and five major underground stations were shut along with seven light rail routes, the Transport Department announced. “Road-based transport services have been seriously affected this morning due to continued road blockages and damage to road facilities. In view of safety concerns and uncertain road conditions, buses can only provide limited services,” the department said. Traffic was also disrupted because protesters have destroyed at least 240 traffic lights around the city. The movement began in June over a now-withdrawn extradition bill. Activists saw it as another sign of an erosion in Hong Kong's autonomy and freedoms, which China promised would be maintained for 50 years under a 'one nation, two systems' principle when the former British colony returned to Chinese control in 1997.
  • The latest on the new escalation between Israel and Gaza (all times local): 2:10 a.m. Palestinians say a new Israeli airstrike has killed five people from a single family in central Gaza Strip. Hamas’ al-Aqsa Radio reported early Thursday that the dead include parents and their children. Witnesses in Deir al-Balah town say they heard two explosions followed by the sound of ambulance sirens. The Palestinian Red Crescent Society says crews are still searching the area. The latest incident puts the death toll at 31 for Palestinians killed in the worst surge of violence between Israel and Gaza militants in a month. It began when Israel killed a senior Islamic Jihad commander in an airstrike at his house early Tuesday. Among the dead are 16 militants, a woman and three minors. Ages of those killed in the latest strike are yet to be announced. ___ 11 p.m. The head of the Islamic Jihad says the Palestinian militant group is willing to agree to a cease-fire if Israel accepts certain “conditions.” Ziad al-Nakhalah told Lebanese Al-Mayadeen TV Wednesday that Egypt was brokering truce talks to end the worst round of fighting between Israel and Gaza militants in months. He specified three conditions, foremost a commitment by Israel to stop targeted killing of Palestinian leaders and senior militants. Israel killed a senior Islamic Jihad commander in an airstrike on his Gaza City home on Tuesday, sparking retaliatory rocket fire from Gaza and Israeli airstrikes have killed 26 Palestinians, including 16 militants. Al-Nakhalah also demanded Israel stop shooting Palestinians at weekly protests along Gaza’s frontier, and honor the indirect understandings with Gaza’s Hamas rulers to ease the territory’s economic hardships. ___ 4:35 p.m. The U.N. Mideast envoy says negotiators are “working to urgently de-escalate” fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip. Nickolay Mladenov said in a statement Wednesday during a trip to Cairo that he was “very concerned about the ongoing and serious escalation” of hostilities. Mladenov was to meet with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi as part of efforts to broker a ceasefire. The heaviest round of fighting in months was triggered early Tuesday by Israel’s targeted killing of a senior Islamic Jihad commander in Gaza. Israel’s military says Islamic Jihad has since fired 250 rockets from Gaza into Israel. The death toll from Israeli airstrikes in Gaza has risen to 23 Palestinians, including a 7-year-old boy and two other minors. The U.N. diplomat condemned the Islamic militant group’s attacks as “absolutely unacceptable.” ___ 12:35 p.m. Egyptian officials say U.N. Mideast envoy has arrived in Cairo in efforts to deescalate the worst escalation between Israel and Gaza militants in recent months. The officials say that Nickolay Mladenov landed on Wednesday from Tel Aviv and is scheduled to meet President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media. Egypt has stepped up communication with Israel and the militants in Gaza, and has “opened channels” with the U.S. and the European Union. Cairo often acts as a mediator between Israel and Gaza militants, and brokered a cease-fire deal in May. The latest bout of violence started after a pre-dawn Israeli airstrike in Gaza killed a senior Islamic Jihad commander on Tuesday. The militants in Gaza responded with barrages of rockets fired into Israel. —Samy Magdy in Cairo; ___ 11:55 a.m. Gaza’s Health Ministry says two more Palestinians have been killed by ongoing Israeli airstrikes, bringing the death toll in the escalation over the past two days to 18. Among the dead are 11 confirmed Islamic Jihad militants, including Bahaa Abu el-Atta, a senior Islamic Jihad commander whose killing in a pre-dawn airstrike at his Gaza City home on Tuesday sparked the new round violence. Among the latest casualties were a father and two sons whose identities remain unclear. Mobile video shows they were hit while travelling on a motorbike. The Israeli military says more than 250 rockets have been fired since Tuesday in the heaviest round of fighting in months. Gaza’s Hamas leaders have stayed out of the fray. ___ 11:25 a.m. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel is prepared to keep pounding Islamic Jihad militants in Gaza as long as rocket fire continues. Netanyahu said on Wednesday at the start of a special Cabinet meeting that the Iranian-backed militant groups better internalize Israel’s determination before it is too late for them. Netanyahu says militants have a choice: “Either stop these attacks or absorb more and more blows.” Israeli airstrikes have killed 16 Palestinians since Tuesday, nearly all Islamic Jihad militants. The Israeli military says more than 250 rockets have been fired at Israeli communities since the violence erupted following an Israeli airstrike that killed a senior Islamic Jihad commander accused of being the mastermind of attacks. It marks the heaviest round of fighting in months. ___ 10:20 a.m. Israel’s new defense minister says the country will not hesitate to target more Gaza militants. Naftali Bennett’s comments on Wednesday were his first as Israel’s new defense minister. He says Israel is sending a clear message to its enemies: “Whoever plans to hard us during the day, will never be safe to make it through the night.” The message comes a day after a pre-dawn strike killed a senior Islamic Jihad commander in Gaza and triggered hundreds of rockets fired toward Israel, the heaviest fighting in months between Israel and the Iranian-backed militant group that's even more hard-line than Gaza's Hamas rulers. Bennett took office on Tuesday to fortify Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s political base. Bennett has long advocated tougher action against Palestinian militants. ___ 10:15 a.m. Gaza’s Health Ministry says four more Palestinians have been killed in Israeli airstrikes across the coastal enclave. The latest killings raised on Wednesday the overall death toll to 16, most of them militants. Ten Palestinians were killed in Gaza when the latest round of violence erupted early on Tuesday after an Israeli airstrike hut the home of a senior Islamic Jihad commander, killing him alongside his wife. The ministry also says 50 Palestinians have been wounded since Tuesday. ___ 9:05 a.m. Gaza officials say new Israel airstrikes have killed two militants, raising the death toll to 12 since the latest escalation erupted. The Islamic Jihad says two of its fighters were targeted Wednesday, as rocket fire into Israel resumed along with Israeli retaliation after a brief overnight lull. Nearly all the casualties were Islamic Jihad members. The military says some 220 rockets have been fired since Tuesday, following an Israel strike that killed a senior Islamic Jihad commander. It's the heaviest fighting in months between Israel and the Iranian-backed militant group that's even more hard-line than Gaza's Hamas rulers. But Hamas has yet to join the fray, a possible sign the fighting could be brief. With Gaza's economy in tatters, Hamas appears to have little desire for another round of fighting.
  • An ancient Greek cup awarded as a prize to the marathon winner in the first modern Olympics of 1896 has been returned to Athens from a German university. Greece’s Culture Ministry said Wednesday that the 6th century B.C. pottery vessel was considered lost for decades until research in 2014 by archaeologist Giorgos Kavvadias identified it in the University of Muenster’s collections. A ministry statement said it was proved “beyond any doubt” that the double-handled wine cup that is painted with ancient runners was the one given to Spiros Louis, the Greek marathon victor in the 1896 race. Following correspondence with Greek officials, the university agreed to return the cup, which was part of a private German collection it had bought in 1986. The statement said the collection had been put together by Werner Peek, a scholar of Greek and historian who lived in Athens during the 1930s. But it was unclear how the cup ended up in Peek’s hands. The vessel was presented at a ceremony at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, where it will be exhibited for the next three months before being put on permanent display at a museum in Ancient Olympia, birthplace and venue of the ancient Games. Louis, a humble water carrier with no training in running, won enduring fame in Greece for his unexpected victory on home turf in the marathon, seen as the most Greek of Olympic disciplines. He was presented with a silver cup and a silver medal — both of which are in Greece — as well as the drinking cup.
  • Germany’s foreign minister has offered backing for North Macedonia’s efforts to start membership talks with the European Union, after a minority of EU members blocked the process. Heiko Maas said Wednesday that the EU “has to open the doors” to the Balkan country and said the people of North Macedonia should not be disappointed with the setback. In an embarrassing climb-down last month, the EU failed to agree on starting membership talks with North Macedonia and Albania after countries led by France disagreed. Maas said Germany stays “at the disposal” of North Macedonia and offered additional support to the country in its ongoing efforts to reform the judiciary and the rule of law, and to fight corruption. He spoke after talks in Skopje with North Macedonia’s Foreign Minister, Nikola Dimitrov.
  • At least 3.9 million unauthorized migrants — and possibly as many as 4.8 million — lived in Europe in 2017 with half of them in Germany and the United Kingdom, according to a study published Wednesday. The Pew Research Center said the number grew from 2014, when about 3-3.7 million resided in Europe, and peaked in 2015-16 during the refugee crisis when some 1.3 million people arrived, mostly from war-torn countries such as Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2016, an estimated 4.1-5.3 million unauthorized migrants lived in Europe. That’s the year central European countries closed the Balkans route that many migrants used to get to northern Europe. Also, the European Union and Turkey signed a deal designed to keep millions of migrants in Turkey from coming to Europe, and many asylum seekers, especially Syrians, received asylum or residency rights in Germany and other European countries. All this led to a decrease in the number of unauthorized migrants by 2017. The findings are based on the latest available data from all 28 EU member states as well as Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein. Even with the growth of migration to Europe, unauthorized migrants accounted for less than 1% of the continent’s total population of more than 500 million in 2017. That’s less than half the percentage for the United States, which in 2017 had an estimated 10.3-10.7 million unauthorized immigrants — or 3% of a population of 325 million. The Washington D.C.-based Pew Research Center defines unauthorized migrants as people living in a country without citizenship and without residency permits. The center also includes asylum seekers with a pending decision on their asylum request as unauthorized because asylum rejection rates are high. Also, children born to unauthorized migrants in Europe are considered unauthorized themselves because most European countries do not have birthright citizenship. In the U.S. everybody born in the country is an American citizen, regardless of their parents’ immigration status. “The surge of asylum seekers contributed to a higher number of unauthorized immigrants in many European countries,” said senior researcher Phillip Connor. “But unauthorized immigrants also include those who overstayed a visa or entered Europe illegally, many of whom migrated years ago.” While in the United States most unauthorized immigrants come from the Americas with about half from Mexico alone, their background is more diverse in Europe: Three in 10 were from the Asia-Pacific region including Afghanistan and Pakistan, about 23% were from European countries outside those studied in the poll as well as Russia and Turkey, 21% from the Middle East and North Africa, 17% from sub-Saharan Africa and 8% from the Americas. Beyond Germany and the U.K., where about half of Europe’s unauthorized migrants lived, substantial numbers also resided in Italy and France. Together, these four countries were home to 70% of all unauthorized migrants in Europe. Between 1-1.2 million unauthorized migrants were estimated to live in Germany in 2017. A large number of them were asylum seekers who arrived between 2015-16 and were waiting for a ruling on their asylum request. Roughly the same number — 800,000 to 1.2 million — lived in the UK; 500,000-700,000 were in Italy and 300,000-400,000 in France.
  • Auditors on Wednesday urged the European Union to improve its approach to easing migrant pressure on Greece and Italy as people languish in camps on the Greek Islands, and to draw lessons from its shortcomings before a new crisis hits. Well over 1 million people arrived in Europe in 2015, most of them fleeing conflict in Syria. Greece and Italy were overwhelmed, and the arrivals sparked a political crisis as nations bickered over who should take charge and whether to help. As pressure from member countries built for a quick response, the EU came up with a series of stop-gap emergency measures and funds. Greece has received around 2.2 billion euros ($2.4 billion) since then; Italy around 1 billion ($1.1 billion). Unveiling a report Wednesday on the EU’s migrant response, European Court of Auditors member Leo Brincat said now is the time “for stock-taking, putting the house in order, and even taking the necessary remedial action.” “It’s better to take action at a time when there is no peaking of the migration crisis,” Brincat said, because poor timing “is bound to lead to knee-jerk reactions, and knee-jerk reactions don’t always lead to the most judicious actions.” Among the EU measures was a quota plan initially meant to share 160,000 refugees in Greece and Italy with their European partners. But member countries only agreed to relocate 98,256 of them, and in the end, just 34,705 people found new homes. The auditors said the plans “underperformed” chiefly because the Italian and Greek authorities were unable to quickly identify candidates or encourage them to apply to be moved. Fast-track asylum processing meant to identify eligible people in the Greek islands for return to Turkey was taking on average 215 days last year, instead of just a few days, the report said. The auditors said some people in the Samos camp had been there waiting for two years, and that others who arrived in 2018 were given interview dates as late as 2023. In Italy, asylum applications lodged in 2015 took on average over four years to reach the final appeal stage. Among their recommendations, the auditors highlighted the need to improve accommodation on the Greek islands, speed up the asylum claims process, and enforce return procedures, even though they acknowledge that migrants have a right to due process. They said that not enough migrants deemed ineligible to stay are actually being sent back. Under the EU’s agreement with Turkey, only 1,806 people were returned from the Greek islands. Returns in 2018 stood at 322; less than half the number in 2017. The shortage of migration experts, the auditors said, could be due in part to the fact that people sent from member countries to work with the EU’s asylum office and border guard agency are deployed for less than two months, on average. The EU’s executive arm, the European Commission, stood by its actions and insisted that Europe is now better equipped than ever to provide support to countries under pressure. “The swift and determined action of the commission, and the collective work we have undertaken at EU level, has really brought a step change when it comes to this area,” commission spokeswoman Tove Ernst said. Asked why conditions remain so bad in the Greek islands despite the billions of euros provided, Ernst said we “continue to call on the Greek government to deliver more efficient asylum procedures. This is ultimately the responsibility of the Greek authorities. We cannot replace them.”
  • The Latest on the House impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump (all times local): 4:10 p.m. A motion to issue a congressional subpoena to compel the whistleblower whose complaint led to the House impeachment inquiry to appear behind closed doors has been put off. House intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff had said earlier Wednesday that the panel would take up the motion after two diplomats completed their public testimony. As Schiff proposed tabling the motion, Republican Rep. Mike Conaway of Texas, who had raised the motion earlier in the day, said, “I know you’re afraid of hearing from the whistleblower.” The committee voted along party lines to table the motion. The impeachment inquiry was sparked after the whistleblower’s complaint about President Donald Trump’s July 25 telephone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. The complaint alleged Trump pressured the Ukrainian leader to investigate Joe Biden's family. __ 3:37 p.m. Testimony in the House’s first public impeachment hearing has ended, with more hearings to come. State Department officials William Taylor and George Kent testified for more than five hours Wednesday about their concerns with President Donald Trump’s requests that Ukraine investigate Democrats as the U.S. withheld military aid to the country. Democrats are investigating those requests, and whether they were linked, as they move toward an impeachment vote. Republicans said the witnesses didn’t have firsthand knowledge and noted the aid was eventually released. The U.S. government released the money after pressure from senators in early September. Next up will be former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, who was ousted in May on Trump’s orders. She will testify Friday. Next week, the House Intelligence Committee will hear from eight more witnesses in the impeachment probe. ___ 3:30 p.m. A Republican lawmaker in the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump says the whistleblower is the “one witness” who should be brought in front of the American people. Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio says the whistleblower, whose complaint touched off the inquiry, should come before the committee. He says he wants to know the identity of the whistleblower, a CIA officer assigned to the White House. Jordan earlier complained that the witnesses Wednesday testifying publicly for the first time didn’t have firsthand knowledge of the accusations and never spoke directly to President Donald Trump. The whistleblower has not been asked to testify. Democratic Rep. Peter Welch of Ohio said he’d be glad to have the person who started it all testify: “President Trump is welcome to sit right there.” ___ 3 p.m. The two veteran diplomats testifying in the House impeachment hearing are denying President Donald Trump’s accusation that they adamantly oppose him. Shortly before Wednesday’s House Intelligence Committee hearing began, Trump tweeted, “NEVER TRUMPERS!” He mentioned no evidence. California Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell asked both men if Trump’s claim was true. State Department official George Kent said he’s served under three Republican and two Democratic presidents during his 27 years of service. He said he serves “whatever president is duly elected” and carries out their foreign policies. He oversees U.S. policy in Ukraine and other countries in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus. William Taylor answered, “No sir.” Taylor is the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine and was recruited by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to serve there. ___ 2:40 p.m. Republicans say two State Department witnesses testifying in Democrats’ first impeachment hearing can’t know if President Donald Trump did anything wrong because they haven’t met him. Ohio Rep. Mike Turner asked diplomats William Taylor and George Kent if either had ever met Trump. Both said they had not. Democrats are investigating Trump’s requests that Ukraine investigate Democrats as military aid was withheld. Taylor and Kent have said they had concerns about the requests and understood one was conditioned on the other. Republicans say there’s no case because they are basing their knowledge on secondhand information and because the aid was eventually released. The aid was released following a congressional outcry. White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham tweeted about Turner’s exchange and said “This country deserves so much better.” ___ 2:15 p.m. Republican Rep. Jim Jordan has told the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine that he is “wrong” to have said there was a clear understanding that President Donald Trump was withholding military aid to Ukraine in exchange for investigations of Democrats. Jordan was questioning William Taylor during the first public hearing in the House impeachment inquiry. Taylor has said his understanding was based on conversations with other diplomats. But Jordan said the president of Ukraine never announced an investigation and the aid was eventually released. The aid was released in September following an outcry in the U.S. Congress. Jordan mockingly called Taylor the Democrats’ “star witness” and said he’s “seen church prayer chains that are easier to understand than this.” Taylor responded that he didn’t consider himself a star witness. ___ 1:50 p.m. A lawyer handling the questioning for Republican lawmakers during the impeachment proceedings is suggesting that the Trump administration’s interactions with Ukraine could have been more “outlandish” than they actually were. Steve Castor asked William Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, if the “irregular channel” the administration used for outreach to Ukraine was “not as outlandish as it could be.” Taylor laughed, but then conceded that it was not. Taylor has described an “irregular channel” in which Ukraine policy was delegated to President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, for the purpose of advancing the president’s personal and political interests. ___ 1:30 p.m. Ukraine is playing a starring role in historic U.S. impeachment hearings — but Ukrainians themselves seem more worried about a divisive government plan for land reform. Ukraine’s day was wrapping up by the time Wednesday’s public hearing started in Washington, and local newscasts focused on a bill that would allow Ukrainians to sell their land for the first time in nearly 20 years. Kyiv residents had strong opinions about that measure, but appeared perplexed by the details of what’s happening in the U.S. Congress. Ukrainian officials have sought to distance themselves from the impeachment inquiry. Former legislator Serhiy Leshchenko is among the few following the proceedings closely. He fears that Ukraine may have to wait for next year’s U.S. election to renew normal relations with Washington. --- 1:15 p.m. The top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee says President Donald Trump “would have a perfectly good reason for wanting to find out what happened” if there were indications that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 presidential election. California Rep. Devin Nunes is questioning State Department witnesses in the first public hearing in the Democrats’ impeachment probe. National security officials have told Congress they don’t believe Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election. Democrats opened the investigation after a whistleblower complaint revealed that Trump had requested that Ukraine investigate political rival Joe Biden and his family and Ukraine’s role in the 2016 election. Democrats say the requests for politically motivated investigations are impeachable, but Republicans disagree. ___ 12:45 p.m. President Donald Trump says he’s been “too busy” to watch the first public impeachment hearing. But he told reporters as he meets with his Turkish counterpart in the Oval Office that he’s “sure” he’ll “get a report” from staff on the hearing, which he dismisses as a” witch hunt” and a “hoax.” Trump is also criticizing the use of staff lawyers to question witnesses. He’s dismissing Daniel Goldman, the investigations chief for Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, and Steve Castor, the chief investigative counsel for Republicans, as “television lawyers.” William Taylor and George Kent are testifying Wednesday in the first public hearing of the House impeachment inquiry. Investigators are examining whether Trump abused the power of his presidency by pressing Ukraine's leader to investigate his political rivals. ___ 12:15 p.m. President Donald Trump is calling the public impeachment hearings that kicked off Wednesday the “single greatest scam in the history of American politics.” Trump is responding to the hearings with a new video directed at his supporters and released by the White House. Trump says in the video filmed in the White House Rose Garden that Democrats want to take away his viewers’ guns, health care, freedom and votes. He adds that, “They're trying to stop me because I'm fighting for you. And I'll never let that happen.' Trump has spent the morning responding to the hearing on Twitter. He will be holding a press conference alongside his Turkish counterpart later in the day. __ 12:10 p.m. The top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine is telling impeachment investigators that detailed notes he took about what he saw as irregular policy in Ukraine may be provided to Congress “sooner or later.” William Taylor says the notes “may be coming” even though the State Department has so far defied a subpoena to provide documents related to President Donald Trump’s dealings with Ukraine. Dan Goldman, chief of investigations for the House intelligence panel, responded that they would “welcome” those notes. Taylor has said that he based his testimony about concerns over the policy on detailed notes, including notepads he kept at his desk and in his pocket. But Trump has directed federal agencies not to cooperate with the impeachment investigation, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said he won’t provide the documents. Taylor is testifying Wednesday in the first public hearings in the House impeachment inquiry. ___ 12:05 p.m. As the House opens public hearings in its impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump, it also is continuing the closed-door sessions. Two more witnesses are expected this week. David Holmes a State Department official, was invited to appear Friday. And Mark Sandy, the associate director for national security programs at the White House Office of Management and Budget, was invited for Saturday. That’s according to an official working on the impeachment inquiry who was not authorized to divulge details of the closed-door hearings. It’s not clear they will appear. Some witnesses have, others have not. House members have heard from several witnesses on whether Trump withheld security aid to Ukraine in exchange for investigations into Joe Biden’s son’s role on the board of a Ukrainian gas company and possible interference in the 2016 U.S. elections. — By Mary Clare Jalonick ___ 11:55 a.m. William Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, says that a cellphone conversation his aide overheard between another diplomat and President Donald Trump in July shows that the president cares more about investigations into Democrat Joe Biden than he does about Ukraine. In Democrats’ first public impeachment hearing, Taylor said “yes, sir” when House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff asked him if the importance of that overheard conversation was that Trump cared more about the politically motivated probes he was requesting from Ukraine than he did about the East European ally itself. Taylor told lawmakers that the unnamed aide had told him about the cellphone conversation he overheard between European Union Ambassador Gordan Sondland and Trump on July 26. He said he didn’t know about that call when he first testified behind closed doors Oct. 22. ___ 11:45 a.m. The top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine says he thought it was “crazy” and “illogical” for the Trump administration to make military aid contingent on Ukraine announcing investigations into political rival Joe Biden. William Taylor made the statements in response to questioning from Daniel Goldman, the investigations chief for Rep. Adam Schiff, the Democratic chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Taylor said the security assistance was important not only to Ukraine but to America’s own military interests. He said “it made no sense” to withhold that money and was “counterproductive to all of what we had been trying to do.” Goldman showed Taylor text messages he sent to other diplomats explaining his belief that it was “crazy” to withhold the military aid for political gain. ___ 11:40 a.m. President Donald Trump isn’t watching the public House impeachment hearings against him. That’s according to Stephanie Grisham, the president’s chief spokeswoman. Grisham tells reporters by email that Trump is participating in meetings in the Oval Office. She writes: “Not watching. He’s working.” Trump is scheduled around noon to receive Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (REH'-jehp TY'-ihp UR'-doh-wahn) for meetings, including a separate gathering with senators invited by the White House. Trump and Erdogan are also slated to hold a joint news conference at the White House. Trump opened Wednesday by lashing out on Twitter at the inquiry and the two career U.S. diplomats who are testifying. The inquiry focuses on a July telephone call in which Trump sought to get the leader of Ukraine to investigate Trump’s political rivals. Trump denies wrongdoing and has described the conversation as “perfect.” ___ 11:30 a.m. The top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine says two other envoys invoked President Donald Trump’s history as a businessman in trying to explain the U.S. relationship with Ukraine. William Taylor described for lawmakers a September phone call in which Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, told him that Trump is a businessman and that businessmen ask people who owe something to pay up before they write out a check. He says Kurt Volker used the same language several days later while they were together at the Yalta European Strategy Conference in Ukraine. Taylor says he told both that the explanation made no sense and that the Ukrainians did not owe Trump anything and that holding up security assistance for domestic political gain was “crazy.” Taylor is testifying Wednesday in the first public hearings in the House impeachment inquiry. 11:15 a.m. The top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine says he was told that military aid to Ukraine and a White House visit for the new leader were contingent on a public announcement of investigations. William Taylor told a House committee investigating impeachment against President Donald Trump that another diplomat, Ambassador Gordon Sondland, said “everything” was dependent on whether Ukraine’s president publicly announced investigations into Joe Biden’s son and potential interference in the 2016 presidential election. Taylor says he was told Trump wanted the Ukrainian leader “in a public box” by making the statement. But no statement was ever released. ___ 11:12 a.m. The top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine says his staff recently told him they overheard President Donald Trump speaking on the phone to another diplomat about investigations. William Taylor made the statement Wednesday in the first public hearing in the House impeachment inquiry. Taylor says some of his staff were at a restaurant with Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland on the day after the July 25 call between Trump and new leader of Ukraine. Taylor told the committee that Sondland called Trump from the restaurant and the staff could hear Trump on the phone asking about “the investigations.” Sondland told the president that the Ukrainians were ready to move forward. The House is looking into allegations that Trump asked Ukraine to dig up dirt on the son of his Democratic rival Joe Biden and potential interference in the 2016 presidential elections. Trump has said he did nothing wrong. ___ 11: 03 a.m. The top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine tells House lawmakers investigating impeachment that he noticed there were two policy channels operating with Ukraine, a “regular” and an “irregular” one. William Taylor says the president’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani was guiding requests through the irregular channel, which was unaccountable to Congress. Taylor says it slowly became clear to him that conditions were placed on Ukraine’s new president. He had to order investigations into possible Ukrainian interference in the 2016 U.S. election, and also look into Joe Biden’s son Hunter, who sat on the board of a Ukrainian gas company. Taylor is testifying Wednesday in the first public hearings in the House impeachment inquiry. ___ 10:55 a.m. President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign is trying to turn public impeachment hearings into a fundraising boon. The campaign has emailed and texted supporters urging them to give. And they’re setting a fundraising goal of $3 million over the next 24 hours. Trump and his campaign have been trying to turn the inquiry into a rallying cry for supporters by making the case that it is an attempt by Democrats to invalidate the results of the 2016 election and harm Trump’s chances in 2020. They’re calling the hearings “fake” and a “TOTAL SCAM.” One email reads that, “It’s time to make a statement” and “do something so EPIC that even the FAKE NEWS media won’t be able to ignore us while these baseless Witch Hunt Trials go on.” ___ 10:50 a.m. A top State Department official says he never saw any effort by U.S. officials to shield from scrutiny a Ukrainian natural gas company where Hunter Biden sat on the board. George Kent is testifying Wednesday in the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. Investigators are looking into allegations that Trump asked the new Ukrainian president to dig up dirt on the son of Joe Biden, a Democratic political rival. Hunter Biden sat on the board of the Ukrainian gas company called Burisma. Kent said he raised concerns in 2015 that his status could create the perception of a conflict of interest. But Kent said he never saw any attempt to shield Burisma from scrutiny because of Biden’s connection to the company. ___ 10:45 a.m. There was an early clash at the first public impeachment hearing over the identity of the whistleblower whose complaint sparked the inquiry. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said he would do everything necessary to protect the whistleblower’s identity. Schiff said he would “not permit the outing of the whistleblower.” Republican Rep. Mike Conaway asked Schiff to subpoena the whistleblower to appear behind closed doors. Schiff said he would consider the request after two diplomats appearing before the committee on Wednesday conclude their public testimony. The impeachment inquiry was sparked after the whistleblower’s complaint about President Donald Trump’s July 25 telephone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy alleged that Trump pressured the Ukrainian leader to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden's family. Schiff said he does not know the whistleblower’s identity. ___ 10:42 a.m. A top State Department official tells a House committee investigating whether President Donald Trump should be impeached that he does not believe the U.S. should ask other countries to engage in “selective, politically associated investigations.” George Kent, a deputy assistant secretary of state, is testifying Wednesday in the first public hearing. He has already testified in a closed session. Kent says such “selective actions” undermine the rule of law regardless of the country. House investigators are looking into allegations that Trump withheld military aid to Ukraine unless the new leadership agreed to investigate the son of Democratic political rival Joe Biden. Biden’s son sat on the board of a Ukrainian gas company. ___ 10:35 a.m. The top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee says Democrats’ impeachment inquiry is “a carefully orchestrated media smear campaign.” In his opening statement in the first public House impeachment hearing, California Rep. Devin Nunes says Democrats “turned on a dime” after the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and then focused on Ukraine. He told the hearing’s two witnesses that he would like to welcome them, but said that Americans’ trust in government has been damaged as “elements of the civil service have decided that they, not the president, are really in charge.” State Department officials George Kent and William Taylor have told lawmakers they had concerns about Trump’s Ukraine policy. Nunes said the hearings are “an impeachment process in search of a crime.” ___ 10:30 a.m. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff says “there are still missing pieces” in the impeachment investigation of President Donald Trump. He notes that the Trump administration has withheld many documents and several witnesses did not appear at Trump’s direction. Schiff says that will force Congress to consider “whether Trump’s obstruction of the constitutional duties of Congress constitute additional grounds for impeachment.” He says “this is not what our founders intended.” ___ 10:22 a.m. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff says the impeachment inquiry is a test of “what kind of conduct or misconduct” Americans will expect of their president. As the first public hearings begin, Schiff is seeking to frame the impeachment inquiry as a choice of what sort of presidential behavior will be tolerated. Schiff asks if the House finds that Trump abused his power, invited foreign election interference or tried to coerce an ally to investigate a political rival, “must we simply get over it?” That had been the message of White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney in a press conference last month, when he said it was normal for the U.S. to place conditions on foreign aid. Schiff adds: “Is that what Americans should now expect from their president?” ___ 10:18 a.m. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff says the questions at the heart of the impeachment inquiry are simple but also “terrible” to consider. He says the matter boils down to whether President Donald Trump sought to condition a White House visit or military aid on Ukraine’s willingness to open an investigation into Democratic rival Joe Biden. And if he did, is that “abuse of power” incompatible with the office of the presidency. Schiff says the answers to those questions will affect not only the future of the Trump administration but also of the presidency itself, and what kind of behavior the American public can expect from the commander in chief. Schiff spoke Wednesday in opening the first public hearing in the impeachment inquiry. __ 9:25 a.m. President Donald Trump is lashing out at a pair of witnesses who are set to testify as the House impeachment inquiry goes public. Trump tweeted “NEVER TRUMPERS!” before Wednesday’s hearing opened on Capitol Hill with testimony from William Taylor, the charge d’affaires in Ukraine, and George Kent, a career diplomat. Trump sought to undermine Kent and Taylor with the tweet suggesting they are among members of the foreign policy establishment that never supported him. Taylor and Kent worked for Republican and Democratic administrations. There’s no evidence they engaged in partisan activity opposing Trump. The impeachment inquiry centers around a July 25 telephone call Trump had with Ukraine’s leader and Trump’s attempt to pressure the government to investigate his political rivals. Trump maintains that the telephone conversation was “perfect” and that he did nothing wrong in his relations with Ukraine. The Republican president also tweeted Wednesday: “READ THE TRANSCRIPT!” ___ 8:40 a.m. The Kremlin has drawn a parallel between the impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump and accusations of Russia’s interference in his election. Asked about the hearings opening Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov responded that “there are a lot of things far-fetched.” Peskov compared the proceedings to the U.S. claims of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, which he described as having “little relation to reality.” The Kremlin has shrugged off special counsel Robert Mueller's exposure of Russian interference in the vote. Mueller found there wasn't enough evidence to establish a conspiracy between Trump's campaign and Russia. But Mueller charged 12 Russian military intelligence officers with breaking into Democratic Party computers and the email accounts of officials with Hillary Clinton's campaign. Democrats are looking into Trump's pressure on Ukraine to investigate his rival Joe Biden's family. Trump calls the impeachment proceedings a “scam.”
  • Turkey's state-run news agency says the body of a former British officer who helped found the White Helmets volunteer group in Syria, has been transferred to Istanbul's main airport to be flown to London, following an autopsy. Anadolu Agency said James Le Mesurier's body would be flown aboard a Turkish Airlines flight later on Wednesday. Le Mesurier was found dead outside his home in Istanbul on Nov. 11. Police believe he fell to his death and are investigating the circumstances. Turkey's Forensic Medicine Institute said toxicology and other examinations were continuing, adding that a report into his death would be sent to prosecutors 'as soon as possible.' Last week a top Russian official had alleged Le Mesurier was a spy — a claim Britain strongly denies.
  • Saudi Arabia and Yemen’s Iran-backed rebels are holding indirect, behind-the-scenes talks to end the devastating five-year war in Yemen, officials from both sides have told The Associated Press. The negotiations are taking place with Oman, a Gulf Arab country that borders both Yemen and Saudi Arabia, as mediator. Oman has positioned itself as a quiet mediator in the past and in a possible sign the back-channel talks could be stepping up, Saudi Deputy Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman arrived in Muscat on Monday. The two sides have communicated via video conference over the past two months, according to Gamal Amer, a negotiator for the Yemeni rebels known as Houthis. They have also talked through European intermediaries, according to three Houthi officials. Yemen remains a divided country. The Iran-backed Houthis have controlled the capital, Sanaa, and much of the north since 2014. The Saudi-led military coalition, which entered the war in 2015, is fighting on behalf of Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and his internationally recognized government. The Oman-mediated talks began in September, after a Houthi-claimed drone struck a key crude processing plant in Saudi Arabia — the world’s largest — and dramatically cut into global oil supplies. The United States blamed Iran, which denied involvement. The attack laid bare the vulnerability of Saudi Arabia’s oil installations and appears to have propelled Riyadh toward negotiating an end to the increasingly costly war. The kingdom has also faced a growing backlash against its role in the Yemen war, including from the U.S. Congress. The current talks focus on interim goals, such as re-opening Yemen’s main international airport in Sanaa, shut down by the Saudi-led coalition in 2016. Also under discussion is a buffer zone along the Yemen-Saudi border in areas under Houthi control. Abu Bakr al-Qirbi, a former Yemeni foreign minister, told the AP from Oman that the Saudis’ main concerns include dismantling the Houthis ballistic and drone capabilities and the kingdom’s border security. The Saudis are looking for assurances the Houthis will distance themselves from Shiite power Iran, the Sunni kingdom’s archrival. Riyadh has long feared the Houthis could establish an Iranian presence along the Saudi-Yemen border. These talks could pave the way for more high-profile negotiations early next year, said one of the Houthi officials. All officials, with the exception of Amer and al-Qirbi, spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to reporters on backchannel negotiations. The recent rapprochement — if materialized — could put an end to a war that has killed over 100,000 people, destroyed Yemen’s infrastructure, displaced millions, and pushed the country’s 30 million people into one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. However, it remains to be seen how future peace talks could shape a post-war Yemen, deeply fragmented along many fault lines during the conflict. Last week, a senior Saudi official told a group of reporters in Washington that, “there is a sense that we need to move to resolution of this conflict.” He said the ongoing talks are also focusing on prisoner exchanges between the warring sides. There are signs all involved in the fighting are seeking a way out. The United Arab Emirates, a member of the Saudi-led coalition, has tried to extricate itself from the conflict and last month said it was pulling out of Yemen, after spending years financing and training militias and separatist political factions in southern Yemen. Talks between the Yemeni rebels and the Saudis are not new. The two sides struck a cease-fire in 2016 after a meeting in the southern Saudi region of Asir but the truce later fell apart. Amer, the Houthi negotiator, says an exchange of messages between the two sides never stopped and that they “kept a window open” for dialogue. The Houthis and Hadi’s government have also sat at a negotiating table several times, most notably at the U.N.-brokered talks in Sweden last December, when they reached a tentative peace plan that involved a cease-fire in the flashpoint port of Hodeida, the main passageway for Yemen imports and a lifeline to Houthi-controlled areas. However, the Oman-mediated talks are not inclusive for all parties to the conflict, according to a Yemeni government official. President Hadi’s adviser Abdel-Aziz Jabari, who is also deputy speaker of parliament, says the government has been kept in the dark about what its Saudi patrons are negotiating. He said he fears that Saudi Arabia could strike a deal to leave Sanaa, the Yemeni capital, and key other Houthi-held areas, exclusively under rebel control — cementing the country’s divide. “That would be a grave mistake and the Saudis would deeply regret it,” Jabari said. Salman al-Ansari, a Saudi commentator who heads the pro-Saudi lobbying organization known as the Saudi American Public Relations Affairs Committee, says the Saudis were emboldened by their success in brokering a deal earlier this month between Hadi’s government forces and the UAE-backed southern separatists to halt their months-long infighting in southern Yemen. “The kingdom never concedes anything,” al-Ansari said. “Especially when (it is about) securing its own borders and deterring Iranian influence.” ___ Michael reported from Cairo. Associated Press writer Ben Fox contributed to this report from Washington.
  • North Korea’s supreme decision-making body lashed out Wednesday at planned U.S.-South Korean military drills and warned that the United States will face a greater threat and harsh suffering if it ignores North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s end-of-year deadline to salvage nuclear talks. In a statement carried by state media, an unidentified spokesman for the North’s State Affairs Commission said the drills would violate agreements between Kim and President Donald Trump on improving bilateral relations and compel North Korea to raise its war readiness. Kim is chairman of the commission, which he established in 2016 following years of efforts to consolidate his power and centralize governance. The statement is North Korea’s latest expression of displeasure over the military drills and slow pace of nuclear negotiations with Washington. The talks have stalled over disagreements on disarmament steps and the removal of sanctions imposed on the North. North Korea has also ramped up its missile tests in recent months and experts say it is likely to continue weapons displays to pressure Washington as Kim’s deadline nears for the Trump administration to offer mutually acceptable terms for a deal. Cheong Seong-chang, a North Korea expert at South Korea's private Sejong Institute, said the North’s decision to release a statement through its highest government institution indicates that it could be preparing more provocative military demonstrations, such as ballistic tests from a new launch-capable submarine it has been developing. The North Korean spokesman said annual U.S.-South Korea military drills are continuing to cause a “vicious cycle” in relations between the U.S. and North Korea. “The U.S. had better behave itself with prudence at a sensitive time when the situation on the Korean Peninsula could go back to the starting point due to the joint military drills,” the statement said. The United States “will face greater threat and be forced to admit its failure, being put into trouble before long if it doesn't do anything to change the trend of the present situation,” it said. The spokesman said North Korea has treated the United States sincerely as a dialogue partner and “halted different actions that the U.S. was concerned about,” apparently referring its suspension of nuclear and long-range missile tests, which allowed Trump to claim a foreign policy win. The spokesman said North Korea feels betrayed by what it sees as a lack of corresponding measures by the United States. “We, without being given anything, gave things the U.S. president can brag about but the U.S. side has not yet taken any corresponding step,” the statement said. “Now, betrayal is only what we feel from the U.S. side.” Last week, senior North Korean diplomat Kwon Jong Gun said a joint aerial exercise planned by the U.S. and South Korea in coming weeks amounted to 'throwing a wet blanket over the spark' of nuclear negotiations that are 'on the verge of extinction.' Kwon said North Korea’s patience was nearing its limit and that it will “never remain an onlooker' to 'reckless military moves.' Since the start of the nuclear talks last year, the United States and South Korea have canceled or scaled back their regular military drills to create space for diplomacy. But North Korea says the smaller drills are still a rehearsal for an invasion and has reacted strongly to the exercises during stalemates in the negotiations. The talks have faltered since the collapse of a February summit between Trump and Kim in Vietnam, where the Americans rejected North Korea’s demands for broad sanctions relief in exchange for the partial surrendering of its nuclear capabilities. North Korea responded with intensified testing activity and Kim said he would 'wait with patience until the end of the year for the United States to come up with a courageous decision.' Kim has also said that North Korea would seek a “new way” if the United States persists with sanctions and pressure.

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  • In a move to make the job safer for bus operators, the Jacksonville Transportation Authority plans to install a protective shield in the last of its buses tomorrow. The JTA Board of Directors approved allocating about $600,000 to purchase the protective shields back in March, says JTA spokesman David Cawton. He says they’ve been working since summer to retrofit older buses so they could install the added protection on every bus in the fleet. “These shields protect about 75 percent of the bus operator while they are sitting in their chair, driving the bus,” says Cawton. He says there have been a few instances where bus operators in Jacksonville were attacked and it’s starting to be a national trend, so the Board decided to be proactive with the safety of the employees. The clear shields are retractable, which means the operators can choose to move them out of the way if they want interact with customers. But Cawton says they can quickly move them back in place if they have to.
  • Jimmy Carter’s pastor said the former president is “in good spirits” just one day after undergoing brain surgery. >> Read more trending news The Rev. Tony Lowden, pastor of Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, Georgia, was in Atlanta on Wednesday visiting Carter at Emory University Hospital. “His spirits are good, and he is up and walking,” Lowden said. Carter was admitted to the hospital on Monday to deal with bleeding near his brain, caused by a series of falls over the past few weeks. Carter was diagnosed with a subdural hematoma and was operated on early Tuesday morning to relieve pressure on his brain. A spokeswoman for Carter said there were no complications from the procedure, but wouldn’t give a timetable on his release. He “will remain in the hospital as long as advisable for observation,” said Deanna Congileo on Tuesday. Lowden drove to Atlanta on Wednesday with dozens of well wishes from the president’s boyhood home of Plains and his home church, Maranatha. “Everyone is praying and concerned about him and making sure that he is OK,” Lowden said. Young visited their church on Sunday to teach Sunday School with Carter. Lowden said he expects to field at least one question from Carter: When can he return to teaching Sunday School? Carter has been teaching Sunday School regularly at Maranatha for 40 years. After he broke his hip in May and fractured his pelvis in October, Carter missed both of his immediately scheduled classes, but quickly made them up the following Sundays. “I am going to tell him that we have everything in order at the church, and he doesn’t have to worry about anything,” Lowden said. “There is no need to rush.”
  • Some Capital One customers might see a delay in their paychecks Friday as the bank investigates a technical issue impacting direct deposits, company officials said. >> Read more trending news  Capital One representatives said in a tweet Friday morning that the bank was 'experiencing a technical issue impacting customer money movement, including direct deposits, and the ability for some customers to access accounts.' 'We are actively working to resolve the issue and restore all services,' company officials said. 'We greatly apologize for the inconvenience.' The issue was resolved around 3:10 p.m. EDT Friday. The technical issue is at least the second this week to affect Capital One customers. On Monday, bank customers reported issues with the Capital One mobile app and the bank's website. It was not immediately clear how long it would take to resolve the technical issue discovered Friday.
  • Sara Krauseneck was 3 years old the day her mother was found dead with an ax blade embedded in her skull. Now 41, Sara Krauseneck stood by her father’s side Friday as he walked into an upstate New York courtroom to face charges that he killed Cathleen Schlosser Krauseneck and left their then-toddler daughter to spend the day alone with her mother’s dead body. James Krauseneck Jr., 67, of Peoria, Arizona, is charged with second-degree murder in Cathleen Krauseneck’s Feb. 19, 1982, slaying. The 29-year-old wife and mother was found slain in the bedroom of the couple’s Brighton, New York, home. Cathleen Krauseneck’s sister, Annet Schlosser, told MSN via phone on Friday that the charges against her former brother-in-law were long-awaited by her family. “My family will see justice for Cathy, we hope,” Schlosser said. “We still have a way to go yet with the trial, but this is a huge step forward.” James Krauseneck pleaded not guilty during his arraignment Friday. He was released on $100,000 bail and was ordered to surrender his passport. “This is one of the worst outcomes of domestic violence that this agency has investigated,” Brighton Police Chief David Catholdi said at a news conference Tuesday morning. “And this was domestic violence.” >> Read more trending news Catholdi was surrounded by local, state and federal law enforcement officers, both active and retired, who worked on the 37-year-old homicide case. “Hundreds, if not thousands, of investigative hours went into this case over the last few decades,” Catholdi said. Ultimately, it was the assistance of renowned forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Baden that led to the murder charge against James Krauseneck, who claimed he was at work when his wife was killed. Baden conducted a thorough review of the timeline of Cathleen Krauseneck’s death, the police chief said. “We believe in examining the timeline of events, speaking with witnesses and James’ timeline -- that he provided -- along with all other evidence, we will establish that James Krauseneck Jr. was home at the time of the murder,” Catholdi said. Baden, who briefly served as chief medical examiner for the City of New York in the late 1970s, chaired the forensic pathology panel of the House Select Committee on Assassinations, which probed both the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy and the 1968 assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In the decades since then, he has testified in numerous high-profile cases -- often for the defense -- including the murder trials of former football great O.J. Simpson and record producer Phil Spector. Now a private forensic pathologist, Baden most recently spurred controversy for disputing the official claim that disgraced financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein hanged himself in his jail cell Aug. 10. Baden said multiple broken bones in Epstein’s neck pointed instead to manual strangulation. Jeremy Bell, a special agent with the FBI, said he hopes Friday’s charge against James Krauseneck brings some closure to the victim’s family, but also that it puts other suspected criminals on edge. “I hope it puts criminals everywhere on notice: Just because the years go by doesn’t mean you can stop looking over your shoulder,” Bell said. “We’re coming.” Monroe County District Attorney Sandra Doorley thanked the Brighton officers in a Facebook statement for never giving up on solving the Krauseneck case.  “I want to thank the Brighton Police Department, who has worked with the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office since 1982, for never giving up on finding justice for Cathleen Krauseneck,” Doorley wrote. “We look forward to bringing this case through the criminal justice system and finally bringing justice to Cathleen, her friends and family.” A shocking crime  Catholdi said police officers responded to the Krauseneck home at 33 Del Rio Drive in Brighton around 5 p.m. Feb. 19, 1982, after a neighbor called 911. The officers were ultimately led into the master bedroom of the family’s home, where they found a grisly scene. Cathleen Krauseneck was dead, the victim of a single blow to the head with an ax. The blade of the wood-cutting tool, which was taken from the couple’s unlocked garage, was still embedded in her forehead. The handle of the ax had been wiped clean, testing would later show. “What followed was an extensive investigation that led Brighton police officers, Brighton investigators and Brighton chiefs of police across the United States to Mount Clemens, Michigan; Fort Collins, Colorado; Lynchburg, Virginia; Gig Harbor, Washington; and Houston, Texas,” Catholdi said. The Democrat & Chronicle in Rochester reported that James Krauseneck told police he found his wife dead when he came home from his job as an economist at Eastman Kodak Co. At the time, Cathleen Krauseneck’s estimated time of death could not be pinpointed to before or after 6:30 a.m., when James Krauseneck said he left for work. Krauseneck said his wife was asleep, but alive, when he left their home that morning, the Democrat & Chronicle reported. Investigators, who found a window broken from the outside, initially theorized that Cathleen Krauseneck was killed during a botched burglary, but nothing was reported stolen from the home. Along with the ax, a maul used for splitting wood was taken from the garage and, investigators theorized, was used to smash the window. Their investigation shifted, however, to the possibility of a domestic situation that turned deadly. The couple had been married since 1974, Catholdi said Tuesday. The News Tribune in Tacoma, Washington, reported that the couple attended high school together but began dating as students at Western Michigan University. According to Cathleen Krauseneck’s family, the couple lived in Colorado and Virginia before settling in their home in Brighton, the News Tribune reported. The victim’s family told the newspaper the couple began having problems in Brighton after James Krauseneck, then 30 years old, was accused at work of lying about having earned a doctorate. He also reportedly told administrators at Lynchburg College, where he was an assistant professor of economics, that he had a doctorate, the Democrat & Chronicle reported in 2016. Cathleen Krauseneck had confronted her husband about the alleged lies, her family told authorities. Neighbors and friends also indicated there may have been domestic abuse in the couple’s relationship, according to police officials. The Democrat & Chronicle reported in 2017, when the former Krauseneck home went on the market, that Cathleen Krauseneck was not the first resident of the house to die there. In 1977, five years before the killing, homeowners Dr. Anthony Schifino and his wife, Estelle, died of carbon monoxide poisoning. The newspaper reported that the couple accidentally left their car running in the garage.  Authorities said James Krauseneck participated in a police interview the night his wife was found dead but failed to show up for a follow-up interview the next day. Investigators learned he had taken his daughter and moved to his Michigan hometown of Mount Clemens. Investigators went to Michigan to speak to James Krauseneck. The News Tribune reported that, although he agreed to have a child psychologist talk to his young daughter about what she may have witnessed, that appointment never took place. According to the Press & Sun-Bulletin in Binghamton, New York, Sara Krauseneck initially told police she saw a “bad man” in the room with her mother and said the man had a hammer. She was not allowed to speak to authorities again, however.  James Krauseneck also stopped cooperating with police, as did his family, authorities said. “They’re all reluctant to offer information,” a Brighton detective told The Macomb Daily in a 1985 article, according to the News Tribune. “It’s like Cathleen was murdered, taken off the face of the Earth, and no one wants to help.” James Krauseneck later moved to Gig Harbor, just outside of Tacoma. Investigators from Brighton spoke to him there in April 2016, the News Tribune reported. He retained attorneys in both Washington and New York at that time. Two days after detectives left Washington, James Krauseneck and his wife -- his fourth at that point -- put their home up for sale, the newspaper reported. The couple moved to Arizona after he retired as vice-president from what his attorneys described in a statement as a Fortune 500 company. James Krauseneck’s wife, Sharon Krauseneck, was also in court with him Friday. Watch the entire Brighton Police Department news conference below.  ‘Not a proverbial smoking gun’  Retired Brighton Police Chief Mark Henderson began taking a fresh look at the Krauseneck homicide case in 2015, Catholdi said Tuesday. Agents with the FBI’s Cold Case Working Group digitized the boxes of handwritten case notes and other evidence. “In 1982, there were not computers,” Henderson said Tuesday. “Our files, our paperwork was not digitized. One of the first things that the FBI did was to convert everything from handwritten paper to digital, searchable files.” Investigators had a theory, an “idea which way to go,” Henderson said. They met with Doorley, the district attorney, whose own investigators began looking into the case. “This path was over a number of years,” Henderson said. “When I heard that there was an arrest made, an indictment that was going to be unsealed on Friday, I knew that it would lead to the husband of the individual.” No one piece of evidence has led investigators to charge James Krauseneck, Catholdi said. “I understand people want a singular piece of evidence that can directly point to James Krauseneck Jr.,” Catholdi said. “This is not one of those cases.” The chief said the “totality of the circumstances,” along with the evidence and the timeline of events led to James Krauseneck’s arrest. FBI testing showed no DNA from anyone but James Krauseneck on any of the evidence gathered 37 years ago. “DNA, fingerprints, or the lack thereof, can speak volumes,” Catholdi said. “James lived at 33 Del Rio Drive, and one would suspect his DNA would be in his house. “It is telling no other physical evidence at the scene, to include DNA, points to anyone other than James Krauseneck Jr.” Catholdi said Baden’s timeline will be crucial to the case when it comes up for trial. “There’s not a proverbial smoking gun,” he said. “What really cinched the case was the fresh look at it.” James Krauseneck’s attorneys, Michael Wolford and William Easton, dispute there is any evidence linking their client to Cathleen Krauseneck’s murder. “Jim’s innocence was clear 37 years ago. It’s clear today,” the attorneys said in a written statement. “At the end of the case, I have no doubt Jim will be vindicated.” Wolford and Easton said James Krauseneck was cooperative with the investigation, “repeatedly giving statements to the police, consenting to the search of his home and his car.” Wolford, who represented Krauseneck at the time of the killing, said he placed “reasonable conditions” on further questioning once he realized his client was the target of the investigation. William Gargan, who heads the domestic violence unit for the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office, countered the attorneys’ claims that their client cooperated with police. “I think the word ‘cooperation’ may have a different meaning for Mr. Wolford than it does for me and the Brighton Police Department,” Gargan said Tuesday. Gargan also disputed Wolford and Easton’s description of the prosecution, which they called “misguided” in their written statement. “I can tell you that there has been only one thing that DA Doorley, the Brighton Police Department and the town of Brighton have sought to do. And that is to seek the truth, wherever the facts, wherever the evidence may lead them,” Gargan said. ‘To have her die like that is so unfair’  Catholdi said Tuesday that following James Krauseneck’s arraignment, he, Henderson and other members of the investigative team called the victim’s family to tell them of the arrest. “They were grateful for our efforts and plan to attend the upcoming trial next year,” Catholdi said. Catholdi closed his comments with a statement that now-deceased Brighton Police Chief Eugene Shaw made to a newspaper in February 1983, days before the first anniversary of Cathleen Krauseneck’s death. “I’m not known to be a pessimist, so I’d say optimistically, hopefully, yes,” Shaw said when asked if the case would end in a successful prosecution. Catholdi expressed his own optimism about the outcome of a trial, which is tentatively slated for next summer. “Please know that the police across this region will never forget our victims,” Catholdi said. “These cases stay with us forever. “We know we are the only ones able to speak for victims. We will investigate cases like this as long as it takes, and we will use all of our investigative abilities to bring justice for victims and their families.” Henderson said Tuesday that the crime had a significant impact on the community, the Police Department and Shaw, who was never able to forget the unsolved case. “I know that the inability to bring this case forward really weighed heavily on Chief Shaw,” Henderson said. Henderson said he did not “reopen” the case in 2015 because it was never closed. Tips and prospective leads came in through the years and each was investigated, he said. In 2015, an FBI agent approached investigators about the FBI’s Cold Case Working Group, offering its services on any unsolved cases the department might have, Henderson said. Henderson said the department decided to start from “ground zero” on the case, working in conjunction with the FBI group. The retired chief said he met with the Schlosser family in 2015 at their home in Michigan. “I talked about the commitment that the town of Brighton was going to make to a fresh look at this case,” Henderson said. He and Brighton police Detective Mark Liberatore, the lead investigator on the case, sat across the dining room table from Cathleen Krauseneck’s parents, Robert and Theresa Schlosser. Theresa Schlosser has since died but Robert Schlosser, now 92, has lived to see an arrest made in his daughter’s killing.  “I assured them that we would be looking at this case, that we would commit every resource that we had in 2015 and 2016 … and that justice would be served for their daughter Cathleen,” Henderson said. Annet Schlosser watched the news conference Tuesday from her home in Warren, Michigan. She told the Press & Sun-Bulletin that her family initially thought James Krauseneck incapable of killing her older sister. His lack of cooperation with investigators made them think twice. “Why would a man ... not try to seek justice for his wife?” Schlosser said. “That never made sense to us. “It’s been 37 years. I would say that it was at least 20 years ago that we started to think he did it.” Schlosser told the newspaper James Krauseneck turned her niece against the Schlosser family, whose members have gone years without seeing Sara Krauseneck -- or her two children.  “They’re no longer part of our life, and that’s devastating to us,” she said. In 2016, Schlosser described her sister for the Democrat & Chronicle as her best friend, despite a 10-year age difference. “She was the most genuine, intelligent, loving person,” Schlosser said. “There isn’t a bad word that you can think about when describing my sister, and to have her die like that is so unfair.”
  • A 6-year-old suffered serious injuries Tuesday afternoon after being struck by a car shortly after getting off a school bus in Montana, according to multiple reports. >> Read more trending news  Montana Highway Patrol Capt. Chad Dever told MTN New the child was struck after a driver failed to stop for a school bus. The bus had its lights flashing and a stop sign up when the collision happened around 4:45 p.m. on U.S. Highway 93, MTN News reported. Trooper John Raymond told KECI-TV the car was traveling around 25 mph when it struck the child. The driver stayed on the scene after the collision, though Raymond told KECI-TV he or she was not arrested. Dever told MTN News charges against the driver were pending Wednesday. The child was taken to a hospital 'suffering from a traumatic brain injury,' Raymond told KECI-TV. 'Drivers need to be cautious of school buses,' he added. Authorities continue to investigate.

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