WASHINGTON — Congress gave final passage Tuesday to $36.5 billion in disaster aid for Puerto Rico and several states impacted by a particularly destructive hurricane season.

The package includes $576.5 million to address the devastating wildfires in California and the West.

It is the second — but not likely final — allotment of emergency funds after a succession of deadly hurricanes battered Texas, Florida and other Southern states. It is the first allotment for Puerto Rico.

Approval arrives amid criticism of President Donald Trump’s uneven response to the island, which remains largely without electricity, and where food and potable water remain scarce more than a month after Hurricane Maria. Congress had approved $15 billion in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

The vote follows earlier passage in the House. Trump is expected to swiftly sign it into law.

—Tribune Washington Bureau


Appeals court clears the way for 17-year-old immigrant to end her pregnancy

WASHINGTON — In the first major legal battle over abortion under President Donald Trump, the federal appeals court in Washington on Tuesday set aside an anti-abortion rule adopted by the administration and cleared the way for a 17-year-old immigrant to end her pregnancy.

By a 6-3 vote, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit revived an earlier order that the government must “promptly and without delay” allow the teenager, referred to in court as Jane Doe, to obtain the abortion she has sought for five weeks. Doe has been held in a detention center for unaccompanied minors in south Texas since crossing the border in September.

Trump administration officials have adopted a policy of not allowing pregnant minors who are in federal custody to get abortions. They did not dispute that the Constitution gave Doe a right to choose an abortion, but said they would not “facilitate” the procedure by allowing her to travel to an abortion clinic.

Although the ruling directly affects only the one pregnant teenager who brought the case, it strongly indicates that the appeals court, which has jurisdiction over federal agencies nationwide, would strike down efforts by administration officials to block abortions in similar cases.

—Tribune Washington Bureau


US will intensify vetting of refugees

The Trump administration said it would resume admitting refugees to the U.S. after the expiration Tuesday of a four-month ban on all resettlement but increase vetting, and announced a new partial ban on refugees from 11 countries.

The new vetting rules, which would apply to all new refugees admitted under a 45,000 per year cap that became effective Oct. 1, could slow the refugee approval process and halt admission for certain groups, according to resettlement groups and government officials.

Department of Homeland Security and State Department officials would not give details about exact changes in vetting — which currently takes years for many refugees — or name the 11 “higher-risk nationalities” whose refugees would be subject to “case-by-case” approval.

But refugee groups that were briefed by government officials called the rules unnecessary and said they would probably affect some of the largest refugee populations in the world.

—Los Angeles Times


FBI releases documents on Sandy Hook school shooting

HARTFORD, Conn. — A newly released FBI profile of Adam Lanza concludes that he didn’t just “snap” and decide to walk into the Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012, but instead had engaged in careful, methodical planning that started 21 months earlier.

When FBI profiler Andre Simon met with victims families in July 2014 at a hotel in Southbury to go over his final report he gave everyone a one-page synopsis of his findings that included a reference to the shooter “contemplating the attack as early as March of 2011.” The report doesn’t reveal how investigators determined that information.

Simon’s report is among more than 1,500 pages of FBI documents related to the shooting at the Newtown school that left 26 dead, including 20 first-graders. The documents include FBI interviews with neighbors of Adam Lanza, friends of his family, and an hourlong interview with a woman who communicated online with Lanza for more than two years.

The unidentified woman recounted for two FBI special agents how Lanza wrote about his meticulous spreadsheet of mass killers, professed his love of Harry Potter books and told her about a nightmare of being in a mall during a mass shooting.

—The Hartford Courant


Judge: Protesters who burned US flag at 2016 GOP convention were wrongly charged

A judge has dismissed disorderly conduct charges against leftist protesters who burned an American flag outside the Republican National Convention in Cleveland last year, ruling Tuesday that they were arrested for practicing First Amendment-protected free speech.

The misdemeanor case against 12 of the protesters had lingered in Cleveland Municipal Court for more than a year before Judge Charles L. Patton granted the protesters’ motion to dismiss the case on free-speech grounds. Patton cited a 1989 U.S. Supreme Court decision that flag-burning was protected by the First Amendment.

“The government may not prohibit the verbal or nonverbal expression of an idea merely because society finds the idea offensive or disagreeable, even where our flag is involved,” Patton wrote in his ruling.

In a telephone interview, Patton said: “The guy was doing what he did, and the Supreme Court said he could do it.” When Patton reviewed video of the incident, “It looked like they were doing a peaceful protest.”

The July 20, 2016, arrests were one of the most turbulent moments outside the convention where Donald Trump accepted the GOP nomination for the presidency.

—Los Angeles Times


Venezuela opposition threatens to split over dissident governors

CARACAS, Venezuela — Divisions deepened within the Venezuelan opposition Tuesday after four newly elected opposition governors accepted to be sworn in by the controversial Constituent Assembly and one of the opposition leaders announced his departure from the opposition alliance MUD.

President Nicolas Maduro’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela, or PSUV, took 18 out of 23 governorships in this month’s regional elections, which the opposition regards as fraudulent.

The five opposition governors initially refused to be sworn in by the Constituent Assembly, created by Maduro earlier this year in what his critics see as an attempt to consolidate his power over the opposition-controlled National Assembly.

But four out of the five finally accepted to be sworn in on Monday. Maduro — who had warned he would remove governors who did not recognize the Constituent Assembly — said he had talked to them over the phone and advised them to “turn the page.”

The four lost the support of their party, Democratic Action, whose leader Henry Ramos Allup, said they had “excluded themselves” from it.



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