Tokyo, Nov 12 (AP/UNB) — A warplane from the aircraft career USS Ronald Reagan crashed into the sea northeast of the Philippines on Monday, but its two aviators were rescued safely.
The U.S. Navy's 7th Fleet said the F/A-18 Hornet had a mechanical problem during Monday's routine operations in the Philippine Sea.
A rescue aircraft plucked the aviators from the water immediately and brought them back to the ship, the Navy's statement said. They are both in good condition and the aircraft carrier has since returned to normal operations, the Navy said.
The cause of the crash is under investigation.
Monday's crash was the second involving aircraft belonging to the USS Ronald Reagan in less than a month.
In mid-October, a MH-60 Seahawk crashed shortly after takeoff, causing non-fatal injuries to a dozen sailors.
The aircraft carrier participated in a joint exercise known as "Keen Sword" with Japan and Canada from Oct. 29 to Nov. 8 in waters around Japan and near Guam in the Pacific.
The F/A-18 was part of a Career Air Wing 5 onboard Ronald Reagan, the Navy said.
Jerusalem, Nov 12 (AP/UNB) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was rushing back to Israel on Monday following a sudden burst of fighting the previous night that left in doubt efforts to bring to an end months of relentless violence between Israel and Hamas.
The Israeli military said an officer was killed and another was moderately wounded during an operation in the southeast Gaza Strip, involving an exchange of gunfire. It did not disclose other details surrounding the incident.
The Palestinians said seven people, among them at least five militants, were killed in the conflagration.
Netanyahu's office said he cut short a visit to Paris because of the flare-up and he was set to arrive back in Israel on Monday morning.
The unexpected spasm of violence came days after both Israel and Hamas had begun taking steps to ratchet down months of border fighting, that has seen thousands of protesters descend on the perimeter fence between Gaza and Israel, with many throwing stones, burning tires and hurling grenades at Israeli troops.
About 170 demonstrators, many unarmed, have been killed by Israeli fire in the months of confrontations, which appeared to be reaching a turning point with the steps toward an unofficial cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. Last week, Israel allowed Qatar to deliver $15 million in aid to Gaza's cash-strapped Hamas rulers. Hamas responded by lowering the intensity of the border protest last Friday.
While the fighting eased early on Monday, and the sides appeared to show restraint, the fate of the progress toward a truce remained uncertain.
It was not clear what exactly touched off Sunday's fighting.
Hamas' armed wing, the Qassam Brigades, said Israeli undercover forces in a civilian vehicle infiltrated 3 kilometers (about 2 miles), into Gaza on Sunday and fatally shot Nour el-Deen Baraka, its local commander in Khan Younis town. It said militants discovered the car and chased it down, prompting Israeli airstrikes that killed "a number of people." The Israeli military said militants launched 17 rockets from Gaza toward Israeli communities, where school was cancelled in response.
Netanyahu was in Paris, where he had joined dozens of world leaders in commemorating the end of World War I.
On Sunday, he defended his decision to allow through the Qatari cash to Gaza as a way to avert an "unnecessary war," maintain quiet for residents of southern Israel and prevent a humanitarian catastrophe in the impoverished Gaza Strip.
Hamas has been leading the protests since March 30 in a bid to ease a crippling Israeli-Egyptian blockade that was imposed in 2007 in order to weaken the militant group. The blockade has led to over 50 percent unemployment and chronic power outages, and prevents most Gazans from being able to leave the tiny territory.
Israel says it is defending its border against militant infiltrations, but its army has come under international criticism because of the large number of unarmed protesters who have been shot.
Washington, Nov 12 (AP/UNB) — Stepping up Democratic efforts to shield the Russia investigation, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said he would seek to tie a measure protecting special counsel Robert Mueller to must-pass legislation if acting attorney general Matthew Whitaker does not recuse himself from oversight of the probe.
"Democrats in the House and Senate are going to attempt to put on must-pass legislation, mainly the spending bill, legislation that would prevent Whitaker from interfering in any way with the Mueller investigation," Schumer told The Associated Press Sunday.
Schumer said keeping Whitaker in charge of the investigation would create a "constitutional crisis" and said if he doesn't recuse himself, Democrats would push to introduce legislation to protect Mueller's investigation.
Schumer sent a letter to the Justice Department on Sunday along with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and other top Democrats that calls for Lee Lofthus, an assistant attorney general and the department's chief ethics officer, to disclose whether he had advised Whitaker to recuse himself from oversight of the probe.
The Democrats cited Whitaker's past public statements, which have included an op-ed article in which he said Mueller would be straying outside his mandate if he investigated President Donald Trump's family finances. In a talk-radio interview he maintained there was no evidence of collusion between the Russia and the Trump campaign during the 2016 election.
The letter to the Justice Department asked Lofthus to explain his reasoning for any recommendation he made to Whitaker regarding recusal and to provide all ethics guidance provided to the acting attorney general.
Whitaker, a Republican Party loyalist and chief of staff to just-ousted Attorney General Jeff Sessions, was elevated Wednesday after Trump forced Sessions out.
Whitaker has faced pressure from Democrats to recuse himself from overseeing Mueller based on the comments, which were made before he joined the Justice Department last year. He has also tweeted an ex-prosecutor's opinion piece that described a "Mueller lynch mob," which he said was "worth a read."
"Let's face it, Whitaker is already biased," Schumer said. "He has already talked about ways to strangle the Mueller investigation, such as cutting off their funding."
The Mueller protection bill would give any special counsel a 10-day window to seek review of a firing and ensure that the person was fired for good cause.
It's unclear if Republicans would agree to add the bill to the spending legislation. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said there is no need for it, but other Republicans, like Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake and Maine Sen. Susan Collins, have called for the bill since Whitaker was appointed.
Schumer declined to say whether Democrats would be willing to force a government shutdown if Congress did not pass a measure protecting Mueller suggesting it wouldn't come to that because of bipartisan support. "There's no reason we shouldn't add this and avoid a constitutional crisis," he told CNN's State of the Union. "If that doesn't happen, we will see what happens down the road."
The bipartisan Mueller legislation was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee in April and was co-sponsored by Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Thom Tillis of North Carolina.
Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., the incoming chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, described Trump's appointment of Whitaker as "an attack" on the Mueller investigation and said protecting that probe will be his committee's top priority.
Nadler told ABC's "This Week" if Whitaker is still acting attorney general when Nadler becomes Judiciary chairman next year, "one of our first orders of business will be to invite him, and if necessary to subpoena him, to appear before the committee."
Charleston, Nov 12 (AP/UNB) — The resignation of a West Virginia Supreme Court justice recently convicted of federal charges prompted the governor Sunday to cancel a special legislative session that was to consider the justice's removal.
It was the latest development in an impeachment scandal miring some past and present justices in varying accusations including abuse of authority and failure to rein in excessive spending that engulfed the state's highest court for months.
Republican Gov. Jim Justice's office said late Saturday he received a letter from Justice Allen Loughry and accepted his resignation effective at the close of business Monday. Justice had no further comment and Loughry's one-sentence resignation letter didn't elaborate.
Loughry was convicted last month of federal criminal charges including wire fraud involving his personal use of state cars and fuel cards and mail fraud. He has requested a new trial.
Last week Justice had called the special session for Tuesday, saying in a proclamation that it would consider removing Loughry from his post. Another proclamation Sunday canceled the special session in light of Loughry's resignation.
Loughry couldn't be reached for comment. His attorney, John A. Carr, said in an email he would have no comment.
Loughry and three other justices were impeached by the West Virginia House in August over questions involving lavish office renovations that evolved into varying accusations of corruption, incompetence and neglect of duty. One of them, Justice Beth Walker, was cleared of an impeachment charge at a Senate trial last month.
The West Virginia Supreme Court last month effectively halted the Legislature's remaining efforts to impeach the state's justices as a violation of the separate of power doctrine. The court ruled that the Senate lacks jurisdiction to pursue its impeachment trial of Justice Margaret Workman.
The Senate had postponed Workman's trial after the presiding judge didn't show up following the court ruling. A panel of acting justices said the court's decision to stop Workman's impeachment hearing also applies to retired Justice Robin Davis and Loughry, who had petitioned the court to intervene.
Senate President Mitch Carmichael, a Republican, lauded the resignation announcement Saturday.
"We appreciate that Justice Loughry has decided to do the right thing and step down from the Court," Carmichael said in a statement.
Judicial elections in West Virginia became nonpartisan in 2016, but the court's impeachment scandal this year stirred political attacks. Some Democrats argued that the court's shakeup over spending and other issues was a power grab by the Republican-led legislature.
On Election Day, two state Supreme Court justices appointed to the court after the scandal broke won election to continue on the bench: Former House speaker Tim Armstead and ex-Congressman Evan Jenkins won those races Tuesday night, each defeating nine other candidates. They had originally been appointed by Justice to fill two of the seats on the state's highest court pending the midterm election.
Armstead will complete the term of Justice Menis Ketchum, who announced his resignation on the eve of the House's impeachment proceedings. The term runs through 2020.
Jenkins will serve until 2024, when the term of retired Justice Robin Davis ends. Davis also was impeached.
Sydney, Nov 12 (AP/UNB) — A former strawberry farm supervisor was accused in court Monday of retaliating over a workplace grievance by putting needles into the fruit, sparking recalls that devastated the Australian industry.
Magistrate Christine Roney said while prosecutors were alleging My Ut Trinh was "motivated by spite or revenge" she would not consider granting bail for the woman until the reasons for her actions became clearer.
While no injuries were reported from the needles, the crisis escalated to six states and neighboring New Zealand. Australia's multimillion-dollar strawberry industry suffered major financial losses, with fruit recalled from supermarket shelves and destroyed. Major food distributors in New Zealand removed Australian strawberries from stores.
State Crime Command Superintendent Jon Wacker told reporters before the court hearing that 230 incidents were reported nationwide, impacting 68 strawberry brands. The scare was concentrated in Queensland state, where 77 incidents were reported, with 15 of them believed to be hoaxes or false complaints.
Trinh, 50, was the first person arrested and has been charged with seven counts of contamination of goods with intent to cause economic loss, and would face up to 10 years in jail if convicted.
A Vietnamese refugee who arrived by boat two decades ago and became an Australian citizen, Trinh was working as a supervisor of fruit pickers at the Berrylicious strawberry farm near Caboolture, north of Brisbane, when she allegedly inserted needles into the fruit between Sept. 2 and 5, the court was told.
Prosecutor Cheryl Tesch said it would be alleged in court that DNA matching Trinh's was found on one of the needles discovered in a strawberry.
Trinh's lawyer Michael Cridland withdrew a bail application, but said his client was not an unacceptable flight risk. She was remanded in custody until Nov. 22.
Walker said the police investigation into the broader crisis was continuing.