Tribune News Service

News Budget for Thursday, February 21, 2019


Updated at 8 p.m. EST (0100 UTC).






Additional news stories appear on the MCT-NEWSFEATURES-BJT.

This budget is now available at TribuneNewsService.com, with direct links to stories and art. See details at the end of the budget.


^Judge scolds Smollett over 'vile and despicable' allegations; actor released after posting bond<

SMOLLETT-4TH-LEDE:TB — A Cook County judge scolded Jussie Smollett as he set bond Thursday at $100,000 on charges that the "Empire" actor staged an attack on himself, falsely claiming that two men called him slurs while placing a noose around his neck and beating him last month in Chicago.

"The most vile and despicable part of it, if it's true, is the noose," said Judge John Fitzgerald Lyke Jr., who is black. "That symbol conjures up such evil in this country's history."

Smollett, 36, was released from Cook County Jail about 3:45 p.m. after a friend posted the necessary $10,000 cash, court records show.

1600 (with trims) by Megan Crepeau, Jason Meisner and Jeremy Gorner in Chicago. MOVED


^NC state board votes for new election in 9th District after GOP candidate calls for new race<

NCCONGRESS-9THDISTRICT-2ND-LEDE:CH — After a stunning reversal by Republican candidate Mark Harris, North Carolina election officials Thursday unanimously ordered a new election in the 9th Congressional District, which has gained national attention as the last unresolved House race for the 2018 election.

Its vote came after four days of testimony about what election officials called "a coordinated, unlawful, and substantially resourced absentee ballot scheme" in Bladen and Robeson counties.

1450 (with trims) by Brian Murphy, Jim Morrill and Ely Portillo in Raleigh, N.C. MOVED


^Pope Francis seeks solutions, victims skeptical as historic clergy sex-abuse summit opens in Rome<

RELIG-VATICAN-SEXABUSE:PHI — Pope Francis warned top Roman Catholic leaders Thursday that they would need to emerge with more than just "predictable" statements as he opened a highly anticipated summit aimed at defining a worldwide response to clergy sex abuse.

To back up his call for "concrete" solutions, the pontiff offered 21 proposals to punish predators and keep children safe, including expanding roles for lay experts in investigations and requiring prelates to report abuse to civil authorities in their countries.

1250 (with trims) by Jeremy Roebuck in Vatican City. MOVED



Also moving as:

RELIG-VATICAN-SEXABUSE-1ST-LEDE:DPA — 700 by Alvise Armellini in Vatican City. MOVED


^Federal prosecutors broke law in Jeffrey Epstein case, judge rules<

EPSTEIN-SEXABUSE:MI — A judge ruled Thursday that federal prosecutors — among them, U.S. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta — broke federal law when they signed a plea agreement with a wealthy, politically connected sex trafficker and concealed it from more than 30 of his underage victims.

U.S. District Judge Kenneth A. Marra, in a 33-page opinion, said the evidence he reviewed showed that Jeffrey Epstein had been operating an international sex operation in which he and others recruited underage girls — not only in Florida — but from overseas, in violation of federal law.

700 by Julie K. Brown in Miami. MOVED



^Judge tightens gag order on Roger Stone after controversial Instagram post<

USRUSSIA-HACKING-STONE-2ND-LEDE:LA — A furious federal judge issued a tighter gag order on Roger Stone, the former political adviser to President Donald Trump, after he posted an image on social media showing what appeared to be the crosshairs of a gunsight next to her head.

"I want to be clear today. I gave you a second chance. But this is not baseball. There will not be a third chance," U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson told Stone, saying that further transgressions could bring jail time.

800 by Chris Megerian in Washington. MOVED


^Trump's inaugural team scrambled to defend staff and record haul<

TRUMP-INAUGURATION:BLO — The leaders of President Donald Trump's inaugural committee saw trouble coming and tried to get ahead of it.

It was January 2018, a year after the black-tie balls and candlelight dinners in Washington. Journalists were asking questions about how the Presidential Inaugural Committee had raised — and spent — a record amount of money. The committee, known as PIC, was set to release additional details about its finances in public tax filings. Complicating matters, a key committee staffer, Rick Gates, had months earlier been indicted for lobbying work he'd done with Paul Manafort in Ukraine.

To get everyone on the same page, a team reporting to inaugural chairman Thomas Barrack came up with more than 60 questions and answers to circulate among themselves.

The draft document, which was reviewed by Bloomberg News, shows how the group prepared to defend its work as questions intensified about its reported $107 million haul.

1650 by Caleb Melby in New York. MOVED


^Trump plan fails to cut immigration court backlog; caseload soars 26 percent<

TRUMP-IMMIGRATION-COURT:LA — The Trump administration's controversial plan to shrink the ballooning backlog of immigration cases by pushing judges to hear more cases has failed, according to the latest data, with the average wait for an immigration hearing now more than two years.

Since October 2017, when the Justice Department approved a plan aimed at reducing the backlog in immigration court, the pending caseload has grown by more than 26 percent, from 655,932 cases to just shy of 830,000, according to Syracuse University's Transactional Access Records Clearinghouse, which tracks data from immigration courts.

1100 (with trims) by Molly O'Toole in Washington. MOVED


^Congress to subpoena full Mueller report if Barr withholds parts, Blumenthal says<

USRUSSIA-HACKING-CONGRESS:CON — Democrats in Congress will subpoena the full report of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III if the Justice Department only discloses certain parts of it, Sen. Richard Blumenthal said Thursday.

The Connecticut Democrat is a key member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina is the committee's chairman, and has subpoena power over the Justice Department.

450 by Griffin Connolly in Washington. MOVED


^White House, North Korea still don't define 'denuclearization' the same way<

USNKOREA:CON — Just days before President Donald Trump will be face-to-face again with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the two sides remain divided on one of the biggest issues at the heart of their second summit.

Among the many unresolved issues as Trump and Kim prepare for another meeting next Wednesday and Thursday in Hanoi, Vietnam, is a common definition of what "denuclearization" would mean for the reclusive Asian country. A senior Trump administration official told reporters on a call Thursday morning that one of the top agenda items for the leaders' second meeting is trying to agree to a "shared understanding of what denuclearization is."

600 by John T. Bennett in Washington. MOVED


^Vice President Mike Pence will go to Colombia to demand Maduro step down<

USVENEZUELA:WA — Vice President Mike Pence will go to Colombia on Monday to speak with the Colombian president and regional leaders about the ongoing turmoil in Venezuela and rally the international community behind opposition leader Juan Guaido.

The White House said Pence will deliver remarks to the 14 nations that are part of the "Lima Group" in Bogota about addressing the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela and ongoing U.S. efforts to deliver aid to the country.

250 by Franco Ordonez in Washington. MOVED


^Jared Kushner is privately working on reshaping legal immigration<

IMMIGRATION-KUSHNER:WA — As debate in public rages about illegal immigration and a border wall, Jared Kushner has been holding private meetings in the West Wing on ways to overhaul the legal immigration system, according to six people familiar with the conversations and documents obtained by McClatchy.

President Donald Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law is operating on at least two tracks — the first is working with a small group studying specific ways to redistribute employment visas and the second is helping lead a series of "listening sessions" with about three dozen interest groups important to Trump to see if there is a position that Republicans can rally around before the 2020 elections.

1650 (with trims) by Franco Ordonez in Washington. MOVED


^Former top military advisers urge Congress to pass gun background checks bill<

CONGRESS-GUNS-EXMILITARY:CON — More than a dozen retired top military commanders, leaders and advisers, whose careers spanned both Republican and Democratic administrations, are throwing their weight behind a bill in the House and Senate that would require universal background checks for all U.S. gun sales.

In a letter Thursday, 13 former top military advisers and combat leaders urged congressional leaders in both parties to pass the bill, known in the House as HR 8, which targets private gun sales that don't require background checks under current federal law.

600 by Griffin Connolly in Washington. MOVED


^Trump administration confirms it has ended fuel-economy talks with California<

AUTO-EMISSIONS-CALIF-END:LA — Already-faltering negotiations between the Trump administration and California aimed at resolving a dispute over fuel-economy standards have broken down completely, the White House said Thursday.

The California Air Resources Board had been meeting sporadically with officials from the White House, EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in hopes of persuading them not to roll back the Obama-era regulations.

750 by Anna M. Phillips in Washington. (Moved as a business story.) MOVED



^Mike Pompeo says he is not running for Senate in Kansas in 2020<

POMPEO:CON — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday that he was ruling out running for Senate in Kansas in 2020 — at least as long as he is still the top diplomat.

"I love Kansas. I'm going to be the secretary of state as long as President Trump gives me the opportunity to serve as America's senior diplomat," Pompeo told NBC's "Today" show when asked about a possible race for the seat being vacated by the retirement of Sen. Pat Roberts.

250 by Niels Lesniewski in Washington. MOVED



^Syracuse basketball coach Jim Boeheim fatally strikes pedestrian in interstate accident<

^BKC-BOEHEIM-ACCIDENT:NY—<Syracuse basketball coach Jim Boeheim struck and killed a man in a freak accident while driving home Wednesday night after his Orange defeated Louisville.

The hoops Hall of Famer was headed east on Interstate 690 at 11:22 p.m. when his car fatally struck Jorge Jiminez on the side of the highway, cops said.

250 by Ella Torres. MOVED


^National Enquirer's biggest investors include California taxpayers and state workers<

CALIF-NATIONALENQUIRER:LA — The National Enquirer has been one of President Donald Trump's most controversial allies, delivering scathing coverage of his opponents to supermarket check-out lines and funneling $150,000 to one of his alleged mistresses to buy her silence.

So it will probably come as a surprise to California state employees and taxpayers to learn they were helping fund those efforts.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, California's massive public pension fund, CalPERS, was one of the biggest investors in the debt-laden owner of The National Enquirer, according to public records reviewed by the Los Angeles Times.

1150 (with trims) by Matt Pearce in Los Angeles. MOVED


^Oakland teachers strike for better pay, resources across city schools<

EDU-OAKLAND-TEACHERS-STRIKE:SJ — Teachers carrying picket signs and demanding better pay began descending on Oakland public schools Thursday morning, while students were expected to either cross picket lines to go to class, stay home or spend the day at city recreation centers, libraries or even churches.

Chants of "That's why we're on strike today public education is our right," and "Oakland is a union town get up, get down" broke the early morning chill around the city as drivers honked their horns in approval.

1150 by Ali Tadayon, Jon Kawamoto, Joseph Geha and Annie Sciacca in Oakland, Calif. MOVED





^Aurora, Ill., shooter in 1995: 'I acted out of rage and fear' in beating ex-girlfriend<

ILL-SHOOTING:TB — A day after Illinois State Police inquired about Gary Martin's criminal history in 2014, two court clerks in Mississippi discussed whether to send authorities a chilling psychiatric evaluation in which the future mass killer described himself as "an abuser."

Martin, then 22, underwent the court-ordered psychiatric examination in 1995 after he was sentenced to five years in prison for beating his then-girlfriend and then stabbing her.

Last week, Martin killed five co-workers and injured five police officers in Aurora.

1150 (with trims) by Annie Sweeney and Stacy St. Clair in Chicago. MOVED


^Trump says his venture endorsements were 'puffery' in racketeering suit<

TRUMP-RACKETEERING-LAWSUIT:BLO — Donald Trump's endorsements of a troubled multilevel marketing venture before he was elected president were "puffery" that no "reasonable investor" would have relied upon, his lawyers said in seeking dismissal of a civil racketeering lawsuit.

Trump and his three eldest children were sued by four people who claim Trump's comments on "Celebrity Apprentice" enticed entrepreneurs to invest in American Communications Network, whose flagship desktop video phone went bust after Trump said it would "literally revolutionize the way we communicate."

450 by Erik Larson in New York. MOVED


^Michael Jackson estate sues HBO over 'Leaving Neverland' documentary<

TV-JACKSON-DOCUMENTARY-SUIT:LA — The ongoing feud between Michael Jackson's estate and HBO over the documentary "Leaving Neverland" escalated on Thursday, with the estate filing a lawsuit alleging that the cable channel is violating non-disparagement agreements it had made with the pop star before his death.

Jackson's estate claims in its complaint filed in Los Angeles Superior Court that HBO and others associated with the documentary are engaging in "posthumous character assassination" of Jackson, who died in 2009. The estate is seeking non-confidential arbitration and damages that it said "could exceed $100 million."

500 by David Ng in Los Angeles. (Moving as an entertainment story) MOVED


^Judge wants Stoneman Douglas murder trial to start in January<

PARKLAND-TRIAL:FL — The judge presiding over the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School murder case told attorneys Thursday she wants the trial to start in January.

Nikolas Cruz, 20, faces the death penalty if convicted of 17 counts of first-degree murder. He is also charged with 17 counts of attempted murder.

With defense lawyers all but conceding guilt, the only legal issue to be resolved is whether Cruz will spend the rest of his life in prison or be put to death.

450 by Rafael Olmeda in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. MOVED


^Bill to buy new Georgia voting machines clears committees<

^GA-VOTINGSYSTEM:AT—<A bill to switch Georgia's voting system to computer-printed paper ballots hurtled through the state House on Thursday, clearing its first committees after state legislators listened to two days of intense public comments.

The House Governmental Affairs Committee voted 13-6 to pass the bill, which would replace Georgia's 27,000 electronic voting machines. The vote came about six hours after a subcommittee also approved the legislation, setting it up for a vote in the full state House, possibly as soon as next week.

550 by Mark Niesse in Atlanta. MOVED


^PG&E says splitting utility would improve wildfire safety, but there's a downside<

^CALIF-WILDFIRE-UTILITY:SA—<Driven into bankruptcy by runaway wildfire claims, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. says splitting the utility in two would increase customer safety but raises the possibility of higher rates.

In a lengthy filing with the California Public Utilities Commission, the troubled utility said separating its gas and electric divisions into separate companies "has the potential to reduce the total risks managed by a single entity." The separation could "improve the development of each entity's safety management system," it added.

600 by Dale Kasler in Sacramento, Calif. MOVED


^Can Trump take back California's high-speed rail money? A look at the political and legal battle ahead<

TRUMP-CALIF-RAIL-LEGAL:LA — The Trump administration's decision to cancel a $927 million grant to California's troubled high speed rail project and claw back $2.5 billion in funds already spent has thrust the federal government into uncharted legal territory and posed an existential threat to the state's largest investment ever.

Never before, experts say, has the federal government attempted to take back such a large sum of money from California, particularly after it was spent under federal supervision.

"I have never seen anything this large," said Ron Flavin, a San Francisco consultant who advises state agencies and local governments on grants. "I have never seen anything where they said we are going to cancel a grant because of issues in the administrative or bureaucratic process."

1100 (with trims) by Ralph Vartabedian in Los Angeles. MOVED


^California attorney general says police transparency law should apply to older incidents<

CALIF-POLICERECORDS:LA — A landmark police transparency law should apply to internal investigations of officer shootings and misconduct cases that occurred before this year, California Attorney General. Xavier Becerra argues in a new court document.

In a legal briefing for a pending state Supreme Court case, Becerra says state legislators intended for the public to know about all investigations of shootings or confirmed cases of sexual assault and lying while on duty by officers within a department's possession when they passed Senate Bill 1421 last year.

450 by Liam Dillon in Sacramento, Calif. MOVED


^Las Vegas gets hit with second snowstorm in a week. What are the odds?<

WEA-LASVEGAS-SNOW:LA — They started arriving at the Welcome to Las Vegas sign as the first big snowflakes began to fall Wednesday night — landing softly and slowly turning the green artificial turf around it to white.

Debbie Dixon was so excited, she laughed and clapped and tried to take selfies with her friends to capture the moment of pure, unadulterated joy of feeling the snow hit her face and collect on her jacket.

Around her, people posed in front of the sign, its bright lights illuminating the falling flakes.

The National Weather Service in Las Vegas reported Thursday morning that the official snowfall for Feb. 20 in Las Vegas was 0.5 inches — breaking a daily snowfall record for the date.

1050 (with trims) by David Montero in Las Vegas. MOVED


^LA could see snow for the first time since 1962<

WEA-LA-SNOW:LA — Southern California is having a snow day.

An unusually chilly storm system that originated in Alberta, Canada, was lingering over Nevada and had already blanketed Las Vegas with snow early Thursday. In addition to light rain, some areas in the Southland will see a fresh dusting of powder as the storm makes its way across the region, said David Sweet, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard.

500 by Hannah Fry in Los Angeles. MOVED


^Food from Atlanta-area middle school where kids got sick had THC<

GA-SCHOOL-CANDY:AT — A Georgia Bureau of Investigation lab test found THC in a food sample from Sandtown Middle School, where 28 students were sent to local hospitals last week after eating Valentine's Day treats.

200 by Vanessa McCray in Atlanta. MOVED

^You kill it, you grill it? California bill would let drivers legally eat roadkill<

CALIF-ROADKILL:TC — You're driving down the road at night when, out of nowhere, a deer jumps in front of your car. It doesn't survive. It'd be a shame to let all that meat go to waste, right?

That's the thinking behind California Senate Bill 395, sponsored by Democratic state Sen. Bob J. Archuleta of Montebello.

250 by Andrew Sheeler. MOVED


^ 'No Drama Obama' is in a legal box of his own making, but his planned Jackson Park presidential center remains alive<

OBAMA-LIBRARY-PERSPECTIVE:TB — Those who seek to build grand edifices in Chicago's lakefront parks do so at their own risk.

That's one takeaway from a federal judge's surprising Tuesday decision not to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the location of the Obama Presidential Center in historic Jackson Park. But the setback doesn't doom the promising plans for the center.

The judge set a relatively fast timetable for the next stages of the case, meaning the project could be slowed by months, not years.

900 by Blair Kamin in Chicago. MOVED


^Chicago zoo euthanizes baby antelope born with birth defect<

CHICAGO-ZOO-ANTELOPE:TB — Brookfield Zoo medical staff on Wednesday had to put down a tiny African antelope born on Valentine's Day due to a severe birth defect that meant it would not have survived, the zoo announced on its Facebook page.

150 by Steve Johnson in Chicago. MOVED



^Tortoise species believed to be extinct for over 100 years found on island in Galapagos<

^SCI-TORTOISE-GALAPAGOS:NY—<"She is old but she is alive!"

A species of tortoise thought to be extinct was found on an island in the Galapagos.

Wacho Tapia, Director of the Giant Tortoise Restoration Initiative, found the female tortoise during an expedition on Fernandina Island, the Galapagos Conservancy announced Wednesday.

550 by Kassidy Vavra. MOVED




NEWSBRIEFS:MCT — Nation and world news briefs.



^LA has great weather. So why do more homeless people freeze to death here than in New York?<

LA-HOMELESS-HYPOTHERMIA:LA — John D. Brider was found passed out near a homeless shelter and taken to Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center, where he later died.

Brider, 63, had gone into cardiac arrest and oxygen had been cut off to his brain. But another, seemingly improbable, factor contributed to his death last winter: hypothermia, or loss of body heat, from being out in the cold.

One of the abiding myths about Los Angeles is that homeless people come here from the East Coast or Midwest because at least they won't freeze to death.

But despite L.A.'s typical sunshine and mild temperatures, five homeless people died of causes that included or were complicated by hypothermia in the county last year, surpassing San Francisco and New York City, which each reported two deaths.

1200 (with trims) by Gale Holland in Los Angeles. MOVED


^3D printer helps surgeons rebuild deformed jaws in Haiti<

MED-PRINTED-JAWS:PHI — For five years, Jefferson University Hospital surgeons have been traveling to Haiti to rebuild the jaws of patients whose faces are disfigured by benign, yet massive tumors. These are delicate operations, made all the more challenging because the doctors cannot see what they are dealing with until they arrive in a sparsely equipped operating room in Port-au-Prince and meet their patients.

This year they tried a new tactic: making models of the patients' jaws in advance, with 3D printers in Philadelphia.

The idea was to use the plastic models as a guide, allowing the physicians to bend titanium surgical plates in the exact shape of each patient's jawbone — a task normally done during surgery. Shaping the plates in advance would save up to an hour in the operating room, reducing time under anesthesia, the risk of infection and other complications, and it also would help the surgeons achieve a more faithful reconstruction of each patient's original anatomy.

1250 by Tom Avril in Philadelphia. MOVED




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