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Biden’s $2T bill faces Senate gauntlet

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Biden’s $2T bill faces Senate gauntlet

It took half a year but Democrats have driven President Biden’s $2 trillion package of social and climate initiatives through the House. It gets no easier in the Senate, where painful Republican amendments, restrictive rules and Joe Manchin lurk.

Facing unbroken GOP opposition, Democrats finally reached agreement among themselves and eased the compromise through the House on Nov. 19. One Democrat voted no in a chamber they control by just three votes.

They’re negotiating further changes for a final version they hope will win approval by Christmas in the 50-50 Senate, where they’ll need every Democratic vote. House passage of the altered bill would still be needed.

Yes, just weeks ago the bill’s price tag was $3.5 trillion over 10 years. It passed the House at around $2 trillion and will likely fall further in the Senate.

And yes, Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., have already forced their party to constrain the measure’s size and ambition. Manchin, at least, wants to cut still further.

But while they’ve enraged progressives wanting a more robust measure, neither moderate senator has signaled a desire to blow up the party’s top legislative priority. Both have held months of talks with party leaders, suggesting each wants an agreement, though one reflecting their views.

Things can still implode in the Senate, where debate will begin no earlier than the week of Dec. 6. But Democrats retain a strong chance of enacting their plans for spending increases and tax cuts making child care, health coverage, education and housing more affordable and slowing global warming, largely financed with higher levies on the rich and big companies.

GOP amendments are one place where Republicans could cause real problems for Democrats.

After debating the legislation for up to 20 hours, senators can introduce limitless numbers of amendments and force votes with little debate. The so-called vote-a-rama can drag through the night.

GOP goals will be twofold. They can force changes weakening the bill by winning over just one Democrat. And they can offer amendments that lose but gain ammunition for next year’s midterm elections by putting Democrats on record against popular-sounding ideas.

The 2,100-page bill offers plenty of targets.

Want to accuse Democrats of driving up gasoline and home-heating prices? Dare them to oppose an amendment blocking new fees on petroleum and natural gas facilities with excessive emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas contributor.

A GOP move to erase the measure’s higher tax deductions for state and local taxes could let them accuse Democrats of protecting the rich, the chief beneficiaries of those deductions. Past Republican tax cuts have prominently helped high-end earners.

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Honda recalls SUVs and pickups because hoods can fly open

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Honda recalls SUVs and pickups because hoods can fly open

DETROIT (AP) — Honda is recalling nearly 725,000 SUVs and pickup trucks because the hoods can open while the vehicles are moving.

The recall covers certain 2019 Passports, 2016 through 2019 Pilots and 2017 through 2020 Ridgeline pickups.

Honda says in documents posted Friday by U.S. safety regulators that the hood latch striker can become damaged and separate from the hood.

Dealers will either repair the striker or replace the hood if necessary at no cost to owners. Honda will notify owners by letter starting Jan. 17.

The worldwide total is 788,931, with just under 725,000 in the U.S.

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Trump faces flurry of investigations beyond Jan. 6 probe

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Trump faces flurry of investigations beyond Jan. 6 probe

NEW YORK — As Donald Trump’s lawyers try to block the White House from releasing records to the congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, the former president faces a flurry of other investigations that could come to a head in the coming weeks and the new year.

That includes two major state criminal investigations — one in New York and one in Georgia — and lawsuits concerning sexual assault allegations, a fight over an inheritance and questions of whether he should be held personally liable for inciting the insurrection.

Trump has long dismissed the investigations as nothing more than a politically motivated “witch hunt” that began with the probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. But while Trump has spent most of his life dodging legal consequences, he is no longer shielded by the protections against indictment enjoyed by sitting presidents. And any charges — which would be the first against a former president in the nation’s history — could affect both his businesses and his future political prospects as he mulls running for a second term.

Here’s the latest on where the cases stand:

NEW YORK

New York prosecutors are investigating the former president’s business dealings and recently convened a new grand jury to hear evidence after the previous panel’s term ran out.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office is weighing whether to seek more indictments in the case, which resulted in tax fraud charges in July against Trump’s company, the Trump Organization, and its longtime chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg. They are accused of cheating tax authorities through lucrative, untaxed fringe benefits.

Weisselberg is due back in court in July 2022.

Trump himself remains under investigation after District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., who is leaving office at the end of the year, spent years fighting to access the former president’s tax records. Prosecutors have also been considering whether to seek charges against the company’s chief operating officer, Matthew Calamari Sr.

Investigators working for Vance and New York Attorney General Letitia James have spent more than two years looking at whether the Trump Organization misled banks or tax officials about the value of the company’s assets, inflating them to gain favorable loan terms or minimizing them to reap tax savings.

“I think it’s pretty clear that our investigation is active and ongoing,” Vance said Tuesday.

James’ office is involved in Vance’s criminal probe and is conducting its own civil investigation.

Separately, Trump is facing scrutiny over properties he owns in the New York City suburbs. Westchester County District Attorney Mimi E. Rocah subpoenaed records from the town of Ossining as it investigates whether Trump’s company misled officials to cut taxes for a golf course there, two people familiar with the probe told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

GEORGIA

In Atlanta, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis opened an investigation in January into possible attempts to interfere with the administration of the state’s 2020 election, which Trump narrowly lost.

In letters sent in February to top elected officials in the state — including Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger — Willis instructed them to preserve all records related to the election, particularly those that may contain evidence of attempts to influence election officials.

The investigation includes a Jan. 2 phone call between Trump and Raffensperger in which Trump repeatedly and falsely asserts that the Republican secretary of state could change the certified results of the presidential election. A recording of the call was obtained the next day by multiple news organizations, including The Associated Press.

“I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have,” Trump said. “Because we won the state.”

Willis has been relatively tight-lipped about the investigation, but her office has confirmed it is ongoing.

“All available evidence is being analyzed, whether gathered by this office, another investigative body or made public by the witnesses themselves. A decision on whether criminal charges are appropriate against any individual will be made when that process is complete,” spokesperson Jeff DiSantis said in an email.

Among the sources sure to be examined by Willis’ team is a book written by Raffensperger and published Nov. 2. It includes a transcript of the Jan. 2 call with Trump annotated with the secretary of state’s observations, including his belief that the president was threatening him at multiple points.

Willis earlier this year said she was also interested in the circumstances surrounding the sudden resignation on Jan. 4 of Bjay Pak, the U.S. attorney in Atlanta. Pak told the Senate Judiciary Committee that he had originally planned to stay in the position until Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, but resigned weeks earlier because of pressure from Trump.

WASHINGTON

The attorney general for the District of Columbia, Karl Racine, said early this year that district prosecutors were investigating Trump’s role in the Jan. 6 insurrection and considering whether to charge him under a local law that criminalizes statements that motivate people to act violently.

There has been no indication, however, that that is likely. If Trump were to be charged, it would be a low-level misdemeanor, with a maximum sentence of six months in jail.

LAWSUITS

In addition to the criminal probes underway, Trump also faces a number of civil suits, from scorned business investors, to his estranged niece, to Democratic lawmakers and Capitol Police officers who blame him for inciting the violence on Jan. 6.

That includes a lawsuit brought by the House Homeland Security chair, Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson, under a Reconstruction-era law called the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871, which prohibits violence or intimidation meant to prevent members of Congress or other federal officials from carrying out their constitutional duties.

In October, Trump was questioned behind closed doors under oath in a deposition for a lawsuit brought by protesters who say his security team assaulted them outside Trump Tower in the early days of his presidential campaign in 2015.

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Fuel in tap water alarms Pearl Harbor military families

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Fuel in tap water alarms Pearl Harbor military families

HONOLULU — Cheri Burness’ dog was the first to signal something was wrong with their tap water. He stopped drinking it two weeks ago. Then Burness started feeling stomach cramps. Her 12-year-old daughter was nauseous.

“It was just getting worse every day,” said Burness, whose husband is in the Navy.

Cheri Burness via AP

This 2021 photo provided by Cheri Burness shows Burness and her family, including dog Lilikoi, in car in Honolulu. Hundreds of military families living near Pearl Harbor have complained of stomach pain, nausea and other health ailments amid concerns the Navy’s water system may have been contaminated by a fuel leak.(Cheri Burness via AP)

Their family is among hundreds of military families living near Pearl Harbor with similar complaints after the Navy’s water system somehow became contaminated by petroleum.

The problems have afflicted one of the most important Navy bases in the world, home to submarines, ships and the commander of U.S. forces in the Indo-Pacific region. The issues may even threaten one of Honolulu’s most important aquifers and water sources.

The Navy said Thursday that tests had identified petroleum in its Red Hill well which taps into an aquifer near the base. Rear Adm. Blake Converse, Pacific Fleet deputy commander, told a town hall meeting the Navy took this well offline on Sunday because it was the closest well to affected housing areas.

Converse said the Navy will flush clean water through its distribution system to clear residual petroleum products from the water. The process, followed by testing to make sure it the water meets Environmental Protection Agency drinking standards, could take four to ten days, he said.

The Navy will also investigate how contaminants got into the well and fix it, he said.

The crisis came after the Navy on Nov. 22 said a water and fuel mixture had leaked into a fire suppression system drain line in a tunnel at a massive fuel storage facility 3 miles (4.8 kilometers) inland of Pearl Harbor. The Navy said it removed about 14,000 gallons (53,000 liters) of the mixture, and said the liquid hadn’t leaked into the environment.

The Navy said so far it’s received calls about a fuel odor or physical ailments from 680 homes in Navy housing and 270 in Army housing on the Navy’s water system. The Navy water system serves 93,000 people.

In the days after Thanksgiving, Burness’s daughter felt so sick she didn’t want to eat any leftovers, including potatoes, turnips and carrots that had been boiled in water.

“‘I don’t want you to have to throw out food because I know it’s expensive, but I can’t eat this Mom,’” Burness said her daughter told her.

On Sunday, Burness started seeing comments on social media from military families saying their tap water smelled like fuel. She didn’t smell it, but people told her to turn on her hot water and check. She did and smelled it too.

She told her family not to drink the water and not to wash their hair and face with it. She ordered private water delivery for $120 a month. They family has mostly been eating off of plastic and paper plates and eating out.

On Monday, when she gave her dog some bottled water, he immediately drank a full liter’s worth and then drank two more liters over the next 12 hours.

The Navy has since starting distributing bottled water and said said Marines would set up showers and laundry facilities connected to clean water.

The Army said it would help affected families move into hotels or new homes and the Navy is working on a similar program. The Navy is also setting up dedicated medical clinics.

Burness said her stomach cramps are about 85% better, but not over. Her daughter’s nausea has improved. But they are both now complaining of breathing issues.

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