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Nation and World briefs for January 3

Trump threatens to cut off US aid to Palestinian Authority

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is threatening to cut off U.S. aid money to the Palestinian Authority and acknowledging that the Middle East peace process appears to be stalled.

Trump says in a pair of tweets that, “we pay the Palestinians HUNDRED OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS a year and get no appreciation or respect. They don’t even want to negotiate a long overdue … peace treaty with Israel.”

He adds that, “with the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?”

Trump infuriated many when he announced late last year that the U.S. would consider Jerusalem the capital of Israel and move its embassy there.

Trump has long said he wants to broker Mideast peace, calling it “the ultimate deal.”

2 new faces and old partisan standoffs as Congress returns

WASHINGTON (AP) — There will be two fresh Senate faces and some familiar but stubborn clashes facing lawmakers Wednesday as Congress begins its 2018 session staring at the year’s first potential calamity — an election-year government shutdown unless there’s a bipartisan spending pact by Jan. 19.

Looking to prevent a closure of federal agencies, top White House officials planned to meet at the Capitol Wednesday with House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and each chamber’s top Democrat.

Their goal is to find a compromise on raising limits on defense and domestic spending that eluded lawmakers before they left Washington for the holidays. In a statement Tuesday, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said President Donald Trump wants a two-year pact “that provides realistic budget caps and provides certainty for our national security,” suggesting he was open to a bargain.

In one complication, Democrats have linked closure on the budget to protecting from deportation hundreds of thousands of immigrants who arrived in the U.S. illegally as children. Both parties have been divided over the so-called Dreamers.

Parachuting into this is a Democratic duo whose Senate arrivals are extraordinary.

Sen. Hatch to retire, opening door for possible Romney run

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah said Tuesday he will not seek re-election after serving more than 40 years in the Senate, opening the door for 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney to run for his seat.

The 83-year-old Hatch, the longest-serving Republican in the Senate, opted for retirement despite a full-court press from President Donald Trump to stay in Washington, particularly as Romney’s ambition for the seat became apparent.

Romney was a vocal critic of Trump’s during the 2016 election and could be a potential thorn in the president’s side in the Senate. He also has drawn the ire of Trump’s former White House adviser, Steve Bannon, who recently derided Romney as a draft dodger who “hid behind” his Mormon religion to avoid serving in the Vietnam War.

Hatch said he decided to retire at the end of his seventh term after “much prayer and discussion with family and friends” over the holiday break. He said he’s always been a fighter, “but every good fighter knows when to hang up the gloves.”

“Only in a nation like ours could someone like me — the scrappy son of a simple carpenter — grow up to become a United States Senator,” he added.

Japanese climber, South African guide die on Table Mountain

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — In a dramatic overnight operation, emergency responders early Tuesday descended on ropes from a cable car on South Africa’s Table Mountain to recover the bodies of two male climbers, including a Japanese citizen, who died after falling from a cliff. A female Japanese climber injured in the fall was rescued late Monday.

The iconic, rugged mountain overlooking Cape Town is a major tourist destination and the occasional scene of search and rescue operations because of hiking or climbing mishaps, but the effort to help the trio of climbers was among the more complex. Hundreds of tourists were stranded for hours on the mountain until the cable cars were again available to ferry them down in a process that ended well after midnight.

A local climbing guide and two Japanese clients were involved in the accident, said Merle Collins, a spokeswoman for South Africa’s national parks service.

The climbers were secured with ropes just below the cable car station at the top of Table Mountain when they fell, possibly after one of them lost their footing and dragged the others down, said Johan Marais, spokesman for Wilderness Search and Rescue, a volunteer group. Still attached to the ropes, two of them ended up partly supported by a ledge on the cliff face, and tourists in a cable car saw one — presumably the woman who survived — administering CPR to the other.

A rescue helicopter flew to the area, but Wilderness Search and Rescue members concluded that it would be easier to reach the climbers by lowering themselves on ropes from an opening in the floor of a cable car positioned above the accident site. After determining that two climbers were dead, they transferred the injured survivor to a harness that was raised into the cable car, said Marais, who was not at the scene.

“It was difficult to communicate with her because of the language difference,” said Marais, who described the climber’s condition as stable. She was taken to a Cape Town hospital. The bodies of her companions were recovered after the stranded tourists were taken off the mountain.

The climbers were traversing a mountain route called Arrow Final. About 30 volunteers were involved in the rescue and recovery operation.

Trump can’t claim credit for zero jet deaths

WASHINGTON (AP) — There were no commercial passenger jet deaths anywhere in the world last year. It’s a remarkable record, but is it fair for President Donald Trump to claim some of the credit?

Not exactly. Global and U.S. commercial aviation deaths have been trending downward for more than a decade due to a variety of factors.

A look at commercial aviation’s safety record globally and in the U.S., as well as the president’s role:

TRUMP: “Since taking office I have been very strict on Commercial Aviation. Good news - it was just reported that there were Zero deaths in 2017, the best and safest year on record!”

THE FACTS: The Dutch aviation consultancy To70 and the Aviation Safety Network reported Monday that there were no commercial passenger jet deaths last year, although there were two fatal regional airline crashes involving small turboprop planes in Angola and Russia. There were also fatal accidents involving cargo airliners.

Most big public colleges don’t track suicides, AP finds

BOSTON (AP) — Most of the largest U.S. public universities do not track suicides among their students, despite making investments in prevention at a time of surging demand for mental health services.

Tabulating student suicides comes with its own set of challenges and problems. But without that data, prevention advocates say, schools have no way to measure their success and can overlook trends that could offer insight to help them save lives.

“If you don’t collect the data, you’re doing half the job,” said Gordon Smith, a former U.S. senator from Oregon who became a prevention advocate after his son, Garrett, took his life in 2003 while attending college. “We need information in mental health if we’re actually going to be able to better tailor health and healing.”

The Associated Press asked the 100 largest U.S. public universities for annual suicide statistics and found that 46 currently track suicides, including 27 that have consistently done so since 2007. Of the 54 remaining schools, 43 said they don’t track suicides, nine could provide only limited data and didn’t answer questions about how consistently they tracked suicides, and two didn’t provide statistics.

Schools that don’t track suicides include some of the nation’s largest, including Arizona State University and the University of Wisconsin, which have both dealt with student suicides in the recent past, according to news reports. There were at least two suicides at Arizona State in 2017. Health officials at Wisconsin said they’re finalizing a database to track the causes of student deaths.

 

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