Trump joins NATO leaders as inquiry resumes

WATFORD, England — President Donald Trump is huddling with NATO leaders as House Democrats prepare to resume their impeachment inquiry probing whether he abused his presidential authority by urging a foreign leader to open an investigation of his political rival.

Trump is set to meet Wednesday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen on the sidelines of the NATO leaders’ meeting.

More significantly, Trump will face a striking split-screen moment toward the end of the NATO conference, when he addresses the news media soon after Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., gavels to order the House Judiciary Committee’s first hearing in the impeachment inquiry.

The hearing will be on the constitutional grounds for presidential impeachment.

“The impeachment is going nowhere,” Trump insisted Tuesday as he sat down with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. “It is a waste of time. They’re wasting their time. And it’s a disgrace. It’s a disgrace to our country.”

NATO leaders appear to gossip about Trump

LONDON — While NATO leaders are professing unity as they gather for a summit near London, several seem to have been caught in an unguarded exchange on camera apparently gossiping about U.S. President Donald Trump’s behavior.

In footage recorded during a reception at Buckingham Palace Tuesday evening, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was seen standing in a huddle with French President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Britain’s Princess Anne, daughter of Queen Elizabeth II.

After Johnson asked Macron, “is that why you were late?” Trudeau could be heard saying “he was late because he takes a 40-minute press conference off the top.” That appeared to be a reference to Trump’s long and unscheduled question-and-answer session with journalists earlier Tuesday.

China and US clash over Xinjiang, Hong Kong bills

BEIJING — Already strained relations between China and the United States were further muddied after U.S. Congress overwhelmingly approved a bill targeting Beijing’s mass crackdown on ethnic Muslim minorities Wednesday, less than one week after President Donald Trump signed separate human rights legislation on Hong Kong.

China’s ruling Communist Party has long regarded Hong Kong and the far west Xinjiang region as crucial areas for asserting territorial sovereignty, and it has responded with fury to what it considers foreign meddling.

“Xinjiang is China’s Xinjiang,” said a statement from China’s National Ethnic Affairs Commission, echoing another government mantra: “Hong Kong is China’s Hong Kong.”

Tensions over the recently passed U.S. bills have cast doubt over the potential for a trade deal between the two countries, which have been embroiled in a 16-month tariff war. Trump said Tuesday that he has “no deadline” for striking an agreement and that he may wait until after next year’s presidential election.

The Uighur Human Rights Policy Act denounces the detention of an estimated 1 million Uighurs, Kazakhs and others in Xinjiang, home to the predominantly Muslim minority groups. It would require the State Department to evaluate whether Chinese officials would meet the criteria for sanctions for their roles in enacting oppressive policies.

AP Exclusive: 629 Pakistani girls sold as brides to China

LAHORE, Pakistan — Page after page, the names stack up: 629 girls and women from across Pakistan who were sold as brides to Chinese men and taken to China. The list, obtained by The Associated Press, was compiled by Pakistani investigators determined to break up trafficking networks exploiting the country’s poor and vulnerable.

The list gives the most concrete figure yet for the number of women caught up in the trafficking schemes since 2018.

But since the time it was put together in June, investigators’ aggressive drive against the networks has largely ground to a halt. Officials with knowledge of the investigations say that is because of pressure from government officials fearful of hurting Pakistan’s lucrative ties to Beijing.

The biggest case against traffickers has fallen apart. In October, a court in Faisalabad acquitted 31 Chinese nationals charged in connection with trafficking. Several of the women who had initially been interviewed by police refused to testify because they were either threatened or bribed into silence, according to a court official and a police investigator familiar with the case. The two spoke on condition of anonymity because they feared retribution for speaking out.

At the same time, the government has sought to curtail investigations, putting “immense pressure” on officials from the Federal Investigation Agency pursuing trafficking networks, said Saleem Iqbal, a Christian activist who has helped parents rescue several young girls from China and prevented others from being sent there.

Kim rides horse up sacred peak as nuke deadline nears

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un rode a white horse up a sacred mountain on his second symbolic visit in less than two months, state media reported Wednesday, as his country is threatening provocation if the United States refuses to make concessions in nuclear diplomacy by year’s end.

The Korean Central News Agency released many photos showing Kim taking a horse riding to snow-covered Mount Paektu along with his wife and other top lieutenants, all on white horses. Kim also climbed the mountain, the highest peak on the Korean Peninsula, on horseback in mid-October.

Mount Paektu and white horses are symbols associated with the Kim family’s dynastic rule. Kim has made previous visits there before making major decisions.

Kim said that “we should always live and work in the offensive spirit of Paektu,” according to KCNA. “The imperialists and class enemies make a more frantic attempt to undermine the ideological, revolutionary and class positions of our party.”

On Monday, Kim visited Samjiyon county at the foot of Mount Paektu to attend a ceremony marking the completion of work that has transformed the town to “an epitome of modern civilization,” KCNA said. It said the town has a museum on the Kim family, a ski slope, cultural centers, a school, a hospital and factories.

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Home-state skepticism of Kamala Harris foretold trouble

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — When Sen. Kamala Harris entered the presidential race in January, her California roots were supposed to give her special access to the cash and delegates required to win the Democratic nomination. Instead, she faced headwinds in her home state that would become a microcosm for the trouble that ultimately forced her sudden departure from the contest.

One by one, politically active celebrities lined up behind Harris’ rivals, such as Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana. Many of the state’s energized progressive activists lent their passion and small-dollar donations to Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont or Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. And those who weren’t yet paying close attention to the 2020 race — and there were many in a state of nearly 40 million people — gravitated to the name they knew best: former Vice President Joe Biden.

A quiet but significant turning point came in late March, when prominent California donor Susie Tompkins Buell, who had backed Harris, began supporting Buttigieg as well.

“When she started lending her name to other candidates, I think that was the first sign of trouble that things were not well,” said veteran California Democratic strategist Rose Kapolczynski.

Harris told staff and supporters on Tuesday that she simply didn’t have the money to stay in the race. She ended her first White House bid before more than a dozen of her rivals despite being a political superstar in a state with the most convention delegates and with premier access to a donor class that is widely considered the political world’s piggy bank.

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Google co-founders step aside as antitrust scrutiny heats up

SAN FRANCISCO — Google’s co-founders are relinquishing their executive positions just as state and federal regulators, not to mention the Department of Justice and Congress, are taking a keen interest in possible abuse of its privacy practices and market power.

But their long foreshadowed successor, Sundar Pichai, has been well prepped to serve as the public face of the company in addition to his current role as chief executive.

Larry Page and Sergey Brin are stepping down as CEO and president, respectively, of Google parent company Alphabet. The move caps more than two decades during which the pair have shepherded the one-time startup they founded in a Silicon Valley garage.

Pichai, who has been Google’s CEO since 2015, will now also head up Alphabet. The company isn’t filling Brin’s position as president.

Google is facing increasing criticism and investigations from authorities in the U.S. and Europe about its privacy policies and nature of its many-legged business. That will now fall to Pichai to wrangle and push through — though Brin and Page, both 46, have noticeably backed out of the spotlight already.

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Townshend regrets not staying to mourn after Who stampede

NEW YORK — Forty years after a stampede left 11 people dead and 23 injured at a Who concert in Cincinnati, Pete Townshend says he’s always regretted not sticking around to deal with the aftermath.

Instead, the band left the Riverfront Coliseum on December 3, 1979, and moved on to Buffalo, New York, the next stop on their tour.

“I’m not forgiving us. We should have stayed,” Townshend told The Associated Press during a recent interview where he was promoting his debut novel, “The Age of Anxiety.”

The tragedy occurred as fans surrounded the arena hoping to claim a seat near the stage. Thousands had waited hours to get inside, ready to charge in for first-come seating.

The band didn’t find out about the calamity until the end of the show. Townshend recalls the band’s manager, Bill Curbishley, telling him: “I’ve got something terrible to tell you.”

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