AP News in Brief at 6:04 p.m. EDT
Trump sees 'miracle' Puerto Rico survival, ignores critics
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Touring a small slice of Hurricane Maria's devastation, President Donald Trump congratulated Puerto Rico on Tuesday for escaping the higher death toll of "a real catastrophe like Katrina" and heaped praise on the relief efforts of his administration without mentioning the sharp criticism the federal response has drawn.
"Really nothing short of a miracle," he said of the recovery, an assessment at odds with the despair of many still struggling to find water and food outside the capital city in wide swaths of an island where only 5 percent of electricity customers have power back. The death count of 16 is expected to rise.
In the heart of San Juan, in fact, a few miles from the air base where Trump gave his thumbs-up report on progress, people stacked sewage-fouled clothes and mattresses outside houses and businesses lacking electricity nearly two weeks after the storm. "Nobody's come," said Ray Negron, 38, collecting debris in the Playita neighborhood.
Trump pledged an all-out effort to help the island while adding, somewhat lightly, "Now I hate to tell you, Puerto Rico, but you've thrown our budget a little out of whack because we've spent a lot of money on Puerto Rico. And that's fine. We've saved a lot of lives."
Known deaths from Maria in the U.S. territory stand at 16. But local officials caution that any accounting of death and destruction is far from complete as people suffer secondary effects from thirst, hunger and extreme heat without air conditioning. As for Katrina, as many as 1,800 people died in 2005 when levees protecting New Orleans broke, a toll in lives and property that took years to understand.
Investigators want to talk to Vegas gunman's girlfriend
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Investigators trying to figure out why Stephen Paddock gunned down 59 people from his high-rise hotel suite are analyzing his computer and cellphone, looking at casino surveillance footage and seeking to interview his girlfriend.
Nearly two days after the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, what set off the 64-year-old high-rolling gambler and retired accountant remained a big question mark Tuesday, though the Las Vegas sheriff said he is confident investigators will find a motive.
Paddock's girlfriend, Marilou Danley, is considered a "person of interest" and has been speaking with police from the Philippines, where she is traveling, Sheriff Joseph Lombardo said.
"We anticipate some information from her shortly," he said.
While the probe into Paddock's background included searches of two houses he owned in Nevada, some investigators turned their focus from the shooter's perch to the festival grounds outside the Mandalay Bay hotel casino where his victims fell.
Acts of heroism emerge in chaos of Las Vegas shooting
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Rob Ledbetter's battlefield instincts kicked in quickly as bullets rained overhead.
The 42-year-old U.S. Army veteran who served as a sniper in Iraq immediately began tending to the wounded, one of several heroes to emerge from the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. Amid the massacre in Las Vegas, which left 59 people dead and more than 500 injured, there were acts of compassion and countless heroics that officials say saved many lives.
There was a man one survivor knows only as Zach who herded people to a safe place. There was a registered nurse from Tennessee who died shielding his wife.
Like many people in the crowd of some 22,000 country music fans Sunday night, Ledbetter heard the pop-pop-popping noise and figured it was fireworks. Then he saw people dropping to the ground. When more booms echoed in the night air, he recognized the sound of automatic weapons fire.
The gunman, identified as Stephen Craig Paddock, a 64-year-old retired accountant from Mesquite, Nevada, created his own sniper's perch inside the 32nd floor room at the Mandalay Bay casino hotel, across from the concert grounds. He appeared to fire unhindered for more than 10 minutes, according to radio traffic, and then killed himself before officers stormed in and found 23 firearms.
Once an obscure device, 'bump stocks' are in the spotlight
ATLANTA (AP) — The "bump stocks" used by the Las Vegas gunman were not widely known about or sold — until now.
Originally created with the idea of making it easier for people with disabilities to shoot a gun, the attachments allow a semi-automatic rifle to mimic a fully automatic weapon by unleashing an entire large magazine in seconds. Now the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history has drawn attention to the devices, which critics say flout federal restrictions on automatic guns.
The stocks have been around for less than a decade. The federal government gave its seal of approval to selling them in 2010 after concluding that they did not violate federal law.
It's unclear how many have been sold. The industry leader, Slide Force, did not return messages seeking comment. But the Abilene, Texas, company's Facebook page is filled with videos extolling its features, including a woman who gushed, "It's so easy because once you slid it forward and leaned into it, it just fires, one time simple press." In another video, a man fires off 58 rounds to celebrate his 58th birthday in just 12 seconds.
Sales for firearms or specific accessories seem to jump after every high-profile shooting. That will likely happen again with bump stocks, said Dr. Garen Wintemute, director of the Violence Prevention Research Program at the University of California, Davis.
Las Vegas victims: Man died protecting wife on anniversary
Through tearful stories of last moments together and in heart-wrenching tributes, relatives and friends are remembering the dozens of people killed in the shooting massacre on the Las Vegas strip.
A woman recalled how her husband shielded her from gunfire only to die himself on their anniversary. Siblings absorbed the news that their beloved big brother was gone. Co-workers gazed silently into flickering candles at a vigil for one victim, a former cheerleader who loved country music.
Relatives of another victim waited for hours before getting the worst news imaginable — that a mother of two who was initially listed as missing had died. A man who loved the outdoors was recalled for his smile — wide and freely given.
Here's a glimpse at some of the people who died after a gunman opened fire from the 32nd floor of a hotel onto a crowd of more than 22,000 at a country music festival in Las Vegas.
HUSBAND PROTECTED WIFE ON ANNIVERSARY
Einstein proof: Nobel winners find ripples in the universe
WASHINGTON (AP) — For decades astronomers tried to prove Albert Einstein right by doing what Einstein thought was impossible: detecting the faint ripples in the universe called gravitational waves. They failed repeatedly until two years ago when they finally spotted one. Then another. And another. And another.
Three American scientists — including one who initially flunked out of MIT — won the Nobel Prize in physics Tuesday that launched a whole new way to observe the cosmos. Sweden's Royal Academy of Sciences cited the combination of highly advanced theory and ingenious equipment design in awarding Rainer Weiss of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Barry Barish and Kip Thorne of the California Institute of Technology.
"It's a win for the human race as a whole. These gravitational waves will be powerful ways for the human race to explore the universe," Thorne told The Associated Press in a phone interview.
The trio were part of a team of more than 1,000 astronomers who first observed gravitational waves in September 2015. When the discovery was announced several months later, it was a sensation not only among scientists but the general public. These are waves that go through everything — including us — but carry information on them that astronomers could not get otherwise.
"The best comparison is when Galileo discovered the telescope, which allowed us to see that Jupiter had moons. And all of a sudden, we discovered that the universe was much vaster than we used to think about," Ariel Goobar of the Swedish academy said.
Ties threatened: US orders 15 Cuban diplomats to leave
WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States expelled 15 of Cuba's diplomats Tuesday to protest its failure to protect Americans from unexplained attacks in Havana, plunging diplomatic ties between the countries to levels unseen in years.
Only days ago, the U.S. and Cuba maintained dozens of diplomats in newly re-opened embassies in Havana and Washington, powerful symbols of a warming relationship between longtime foes. Now both countries are poised to cut their embassies by more than half, as invisible, unexplained attacks threaten delicate relations between the Cold War rivals.
The State Department gave Cuba's ambassador a list Tuesday of 15 names and ordered them out within one week, officials said, in a move that aims to "ensure equity" between each nation's embassy staffing. Last week, the U.S. announced it was withdrawing 60 percent of its own diplomats from Havana because they might be attacked and harmed if they stay.
The dual moves marked a sharp escalation in the U.S. response to attacks that began nearly a year ago and yet remain unexplained despite harming at least 22 Americans — including a new victim identified this week.
Still, U.S. officials emphasized they were not accusing Cuba of either culpability or complicity, merely a failure to stop whatever is happening to Americans working out of the U.S. Embassy in Havana.
AP sources: White House to seek $29B disaster aid package
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration is finalizing a $29 billion disaster aid request that combines $16 billion to shore up the government-backed flood insurance program and almost $13 billion in new relief for hurricane victims.
That's the word from a senior administration official and top Capitol Hill aides.
The government-guaranteed flood insurance program is maxing out on a $30 billion line of credit from Treasury. The upcoming proposal would erase $16 billion of that debt to permit the program to pay claims from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.
Another $13 billion is being requested for Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster relief operations.
The request is expected on Capitol Hill as early as Wednesday.
Kennedy is key to Supreme Court outcome on partisan maps
WASHINGTON (AP) — In a case that could reshape American politics, the Supreme Court appeared split Tuesday on whether Wisconsin Republicans gave themselves an unfair advantage when they drew political maps to last a decade.
If Justice Anthony Kennedy, whose vote almost certainly controls the outcome, is prepared to join his liberal colleagues, the court could rule for the first time that districting plans that entrench one party's control of a legislature or congressional delegation can violate the constitutional rights of the other party's voters. That could lead to changes in political maps across the country.
While both parties seek maximum partisan advantage when they can, Republicans controlled more state governments after the 2010 census and aggressively used redistricting to lock in electoral advantages to last for the next 10 years.
Kennedy suggested, as he did in another redistricting case 13 years ago, that courts perhaps could be involved in placing limits on extremely partisan electoral maps.
But he did not tip his hand about whether the Wisconsin map that favors Republicans crossed a constitutional line.
New Marlins owner Jeter mum on future of Stanton, Mattingly
MIAMI (AP) — Back in the ballgame, Derek Jeter says he'll learn on the job as he tries to lead the Miami Marlins out of the wilderness.
How Jeter expects to get there remains a secret, even after his first public comments about the Marlins since beginning his pursuit of the team nearly a year ago. The rookie owner declined to discuss his plans, and whether they include Giancarlo Stanton, Don Mattingly or even the home run sculpture at Marlins Park.
"You're trying to get me to tell you what I'm going to do?" Jeter said. "Some things you keep private. But yeah, we do have to rebuild."
Jeter and new principal owner Bruce Sherman held a 30-minute news conference Tuesday to discuss their investment group's $1.2 billion purchase of the Marlins. Jeter shed no light on an anticipated roster shake-up following the team's eighth consecutive losing season, the longest streak in the majors, but said he'll rely heavily this offseason on president of baseball operations Michael Hill.
"I'm not coming in here thinking I know everything about team ownership. I do not," Jeter said. "One thing I'm good at is knowing what I do not know. I surround myself with people who are much smarter than I am.