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Nation and World briefs for October 11

US increases pressure on Saudis over writer’s disappearance

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump demanded answers Wednesday from Saudi Arabia about the fate of a missing Saudi writer as lawmakers pushed for sanctions and a top Republican said the man was likely killed after entering a Saudi consulate in Turkey.

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Trump said he didn’t know what happened to Jamal Khashoggi and expressed hope that the 59-year-old writer, who went missing a week ago, was still alive. But senior members of Congress with access to U.S. intelligence reporting feared the worst.

More than 20 Republican and Democratic senators instructed Trump to order an investigation into Khashoggi’s disappearance under legislation that authorizes imposition of sanctions for perpetrators of extrajudicial killings, torture or other gross human rights violations.

While no suspects were named, and the lawmakers’ letter to the president is only a preliminary step toward taking punitive action, it marked a departure from decades of close U.S.-Saudi relations that have only intensified under Trump. Riyadh has supported the administration’s tough stance toward Iran, a key rival of Saudi Arabia in the volatile Middle East.

Republican Sen. Bob Corker, who as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has reviewed the U.S. intelligence into what happened to Khashoggi, said “the likelihood is he was killed on the day he walked into the consulate.” He said that “there was Saudi involvement” in whatever happened with the journalist, who wrote columns for The Washington Post.

Russian suspect in UK poisoning is hero to his home village

LOYGA, Russia — As the recipient of Russia’s highest award, Alexander Mishkin is the pride of his home village, his photo even decorating a local school.

Several residents of this remote hamlet located amid marshlands and deep forests in Russia’s northwestern Arkhangelsk region easily recognized him in photos Wednesday as one of two men accused by British officials of poisoning a former Russian spy.

But to them he is just a warm-hearted local boy, a “Hero of Russia” who has made a successful career as a military doctor thanks to his hard work and courage.

“He studied at school here,” said Yuri Poroshin, an amateur painter who lives in Loyga. “His picture even hangs on the wall there because he’s a Hero of Russia.”

Poroshin said he heard that Mishkin received Russia’s highest medal for saving the life of his commanding officer during fighting with Islamist rebels in Chechnya.

Senate Dems lose health care vote, hope it’s campaign fodder

WASHINGTON — Days after ending a turbulent Supreme Court confirmation fight, the Senate turned back to health care — with a battle squarely aimed at coloring next month’s crucial elections for control of Congress.

In a return to its characteristically more unruffled mode of work, the Senate on Wednesday rejected a Democratic attempt to stop President Donald Trump from expanding access to short-term health care plans, which offer lower costs but skimpier coverage. It was clear Democrats would lose, and a real victory was never feasible since the measure would have died anyway in the Republican-run House.

But by pushing ahead, Democrats made Republicans cast a health care vote that Democrats could wield in campaign ads for next month’s midterm elections, in which they hope to topple the GOP’s 51-49 Senate majority. The vote was also aimed at refocusing people away from the Senate’s nasty battle over confirming Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, which both sides say has transformed indifferent conservative voters into motivated ones — for now.

Wednesday’s vote was about showing whether Congress will “allow insurance companies to scam Americans with cut-rate health insurance,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. “I wouldn’t want to be on the wrong side of that vote.”

Republican Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado insisted it was actually the Democrats who had done themselves no favors with the vote.

Tennessee Senate candidates exchange barbs in final debate

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Republican U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn repeatedly attempted to tie her Democratic opponent Phil Bredesen to national Democrats in their second and final debate. Meanwhile, the former Tennessee governor deflected the attacks by once again promising to improve bipartisanship in Congress.

The two candidates exchanged barbs and went on the aggressive during Wednesday’s hour-long event. The debate took place at the University of Tennessee’s Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy.

Blackburn used former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton as her example of Democrats Bredesen supports in almost all of her responses to various questions.

Bredesen countered he would not let party tribalism get in the way of getting things done in Washington D.C.

The two are competing in a race to replace retiring Republican Sen. Bob Corker.

Limousine service operator charged in crash that killed 20

COBLESKILL, N.Y. — A limousine service operator was charged Wednesday with criminally negligent homicide in a crash that killed 20 people, while police continued investigating what caused the wreck and whether anyone else will face charges.

Nauman Hussain, 28, showed little emotion as he was arraigned Wednesday evening in an Albany-area court, and he ignored shouted questions from reporters as he left after posting $150,000 bond. A judge had entered a not guilty plea for him.

Earlier, his lawyer said that Hussain wasn’t guilty and that police were rushing to judgment in investigating Saturday’s stretch limo wreck .

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But State Police Superintendent George Beach said Hussain hired a driver who shouldn’t have been behind the wheel of such a car, and the vehicle shouldn’t have been driven after state inspectors deemed it “unserviceable” last month.

“The sole responsibility for that motor vehicle being on the road on Saturday rests with Nauman Hussain,” Beach said, though he noted that investigators continue looking into whether anyone else should be held accountable in the crash.

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