World Briefing

Talking tough on trade

DANANG, Vietnam (AP) — President Donald Trump stood before a summit of Asian leaders keen on regional trade pacts and delivered a roaring “America first” message Friday, denouncing China for unfair trade practices just a day after he had heaped praise on President Xi Jinping in Beijing.

“We are not going to let the United States be taken advantage of anymore,” Trump told CEOs on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference. “I am always going to put America first, the same way that I expect all of you in this room to put your countries first.”

The president — who pulled the United States out of the Pacific Rim trade pact known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership — said the U.S. would no longer join “large agreements that tie our hands, surrender our sovereignty and make meaningful enforcement practically impossible.”

Instead, he said, the U.S. will pursue one-on-one trade deals with other nations that pledge fair and reciprocal trade.

As for China, Trump said he’d spoken “openly and directly” with Xi about the nation’s abusive trade practices and “the enormous trade deficits they have produces with the United States.”

US joins calls for PM’s return

BEIRUT (AP) — Lebanese officials insisted Friday on the return home of Prime Minister Saad Hariri from Saudi Arabia, and the leader of the militant group Hezbollah said the Saudis had “declared war” on Lebanon by holding Hariri against his will. The U.S. added its voice to those urging that Hariri be allowed to return to Lebanon. A political crisis has gripped the country and shattered the relative peace maintained by its coalition government ever since his stunning announcement Nov. 4 from the Saudi capital that he was resigning. The announcement from the Saudi-aligned Hariri jolted Lebanon and thrust it back into the regional rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The move and exceptionally strong statements by the Saudis against Iran that followed have deepened the mystery about Hariri’s fate and led to rumors that he is being held in the kingdom against his will, despite his denials.

For the past year, Hariri has headed a coalition government that included members of the Iranian-backed Hezbollah militia. He cited meddling in Lebanon and elsewhere in the region by Iran and Hezbollah in his decision to step down, adding that Iran’s arm into the region will be “cut off.”

Saudi Arabia appears to want to see Lebanon headed by someone would form a government without Hezbollah, perhaps believing Hariri has become too lenient toward the group.

GOP test: Expiring tax cuts

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Republicans have run into a problem with their proposed tax cuts: Under Senate rules, the cuts would expire after 10 years. Problem is, most economists say temporary tax cuts would swell the national debt while doing little for economic growth. And without faster growth, few individuals would stand to benefit from the pay raises and job gains being promised by President Donald Trump and Republican congressional leaders.

“We have identified this consistently as one of the fundamental principles of tax reform,” said Jared Walczak, a senior policy analyst at the conservative Tax Foundation. “Any time you build in a sunset, you’re encouraging businesses to not make the long-term investments.” Businesses that are considering making investments that might span decades, for example, would need to know that the Republicans’ proposed 20 percent corporate tax rate won’t jump back up to the current 35 percent in a few years. It is a theory rooted in the work of Milton Friedman, the Nobel Prize-winning economist who argued that individuals and businesses make economic decisions based on what they expect their net income to be over the long run. And that expectation depends, in part, on tax rates.

Tearful meeting for pair

ROCHESTER, Minn. (AP) — Standing in a stately Mayo Clinic library, Lilly Ross reached out and touched the face of a stranger, prodding the rosy cheeks and eyeing the hairless gap in a chin she once had known so well.

“That’s why he always grew it so long, so he could try to mesh it together on the chin,” she told Andy Sandness, as he shut his eyes and braced for the tickle of her touch on new nerve endings in the face that had been her husband’s.

Sixteen months after transplant surgery gave Sandness the face that had belonged to Calen “Rudy” Ross, he met the woman who had agreed to donate her high school sweetheart’s visage to a man who lived nearly a decade without one. The two came together last month in a meeting arranged by the Mayo Clinic, the same place where Sandness underwent a 56-hour surgery that was the clinic’s first such transplant. With her toddler Leonard in tow, Ross strode toward Sandness, tears welling in her eyes as they tightly embraced. Ross had fretted before the meeting, fearful of the certain reminders of her husband, who took his own life. But her stress quickly melted away — without Calen’s eyes, forehead or strong cheeks, Sandness didn’t look like him, she told herself.

Sri Lanka govt faces pressure

GENEVA (AP) — Sri Lanka’s government faced increasing pressure Friday to answer for alleged human rights violations following an Associated Press investigation that found more than 50 men who said they were raped, branded or tortured as recently as this year.

The men’s anguished descriptions of their abuses come nearly a decade after Sri Lanka’s civil war ended and days ahead of a review of the Indian Ocean nation by the U.N.’s top human rights body. Doctors, psychologists, lawmakers and rights groups have appealed to the United Nations to investigate the new allegations published by The Associated Press on Wednesday. The AP reviewed 32 medical and psychological evaluations and interviewed 20 men who said they were accused of trying to revive a rebel group on the losing side of Sri Lanka’s 26-year civil war. All the men are members of the country’s Tamil ethnic minority. Although combat ended in 2009, they say the torture and abuse occurred from early 2016 to as recently as July of this year. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the top ranking Democrat on the subcommittee that oversees U.S. foreign aid, said the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee has made aid to the government conditional on its compliance with international standards for arrest and detention, as well as accountability for war crimes.

AP Analysis: No end to war

CAIRO (AP) — As Saudi Arabia tightens the screws on its weak southern neighbor, the war it launched in Yemen over two years ago appears more intractable than ever, with nothing but further suffering in sight.

Despite crushing air power by the Saudi-led coalition seeking to reinstall the country’s exiled president, which has reduced much of the north to rubble, Yemen’s Shiite rebels, with the political backing of Iran, still hold large swaths of territory, including the capital, Sanaa. And while the U.S.-supported coalition’s recent tightening of a blockade to include aid shipments might be intended to starve the rebels into submission, they remain dug in to difficult, mountainous and urban terrain. Unlike other regional conflicts in Syria or Libya, no side is winning, and peace talks are nonexistent. With both sides deeply committed to victory, face-saving exits are elusive, especially with the Saudi-Iranian rivalry heating up. The war, which has killed more than 10,000 civilians and pushed millions of Yemenis to the brink of famine, appears unlikely to end any time soon.

Marine drill instructor

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A Marine Corps drill instructor was sentenced Friday to 10 years in prison for choking, punching or otherwise tormenting recruits, especially three Muslims — one of whom ultimately killed himself by leaping down a stairwell.

A military jury handed out the punishment to Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Felix a day after convicting him of abusing more than a dozen trainees at the Marine boot camp at Parris Island, South Carolina. Among other things, he taunted the Muslims as “terrorists” or “ISIS” and ordered two of them to climb into an industrial clothes dryer, spinning one of them around in the scorching machine until he renounced his faith, the jury decided. Felix, a 34-year-old Iraq veteran, was also ordered to forfeit all pay, demoted to private and given a dishonorable discharge. Felix was a central figure in what was found to be a group of abusive drill instructors at Parris Island. After the March 2016 suicide at the base, a hazing investigation led to charges against Felix, five other drill instructors and the training battalion’s commanding officer. Eleven others faced lesser discipline.