Baby’s body found in cooler on side of Georgia road
Senate GOP’s 1st bill on Israel boycotts divides Democrats Senate Republicans’ first bill of the new Congress aims to insert the legislative branch into President Donald Trump’s Middle East policy — but also tries to drive a wedge between centrist and liberal Democrats over attitudes toward Israel. The bipartisan package backed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., had initially drawn widespread support ahead of Tuesday’s vote. It includes measures supporting Israel and Jordan and slapping sanctions on Syrians involved in war crimes. But Democrats are split over the addition of Republican Sen. Marco Rubio’s ‘Combatting BDS Act,’ which seeks to counter the global Boycott, Divest and Sanctions movement against Israel over its treatment of Palestinians and the settlements. For now, the package will almost certainly stall. The bill comes amid the partial government shutdown, and Democrats say they will block it until government is reopened. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer will oppose proceeding to the legislation, according to a senior aide who was unauthorized to speak publicly about the vote and spoke on condition of anonymity. Other Democratic senators who also support the bills will likely follow suit. Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., tweeted that the Senate ‘should not take up any bills unrelated to reopening the government’ until the shutdown is resolved. But Republicans see an opening to focus on newly elected House Democrats, including the country’s first Palestinian American woman in Congress, Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib, who has spoken about the rights of Americans to support the BDS issue. ‘This is the U.S. where boycotting is a right & part of our historical fight for freedom & equality,’ Tlaib said in a weekend tweet. ‘Maybe a refresher on our U.S. Constitution is in order, then get back to opening up our government instead of taking our rights away.’ Israel sees a growing threat from the BDS movement, which has led to increased boycotts of the Jewish state in support of the Palestinians. A Woodstock-style concert was canceled and some companies stopped offering services in the West Bank settlements. That has led to a ‘boycott of the boycotts’ as Israel pushes back against those aligned with BDS. In support of Israel, Rubio’s bills would affirm the legal authority of state and local governments to restrict contracts and take other actions against those ‘engaged in BDS conduct.’ Several states are facing lawsuits after taking action against workers supporting BDS boycotts of Israel. Opponents say Rubio’s measure infringes on free speech. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., tweeted, ‘It’s absurd that the first bill during the shutdown is legislation which punishes Americans who exercise their constitutional right to engage in political activity. Democrats must block consideration of any bills that don’t reopen the government. Let’s get our priorities right.’ But Rubio’s office says the bill allows the governments ‘to counter economic warfare against Israel.’ Rubio, a Florida senator, said Monday in a series of tweets, including one pointed at Sanders and Tlaib: ‘The shutdown is not the reason Senate Democrats don’t want to move to Middle East Security Bill…. A significant # of Senate Democrats now support #BDS & Dem leaders want to avoid a floor vote that reveals that.’ Both sides are squaring off ahead of Tuesday’s votes. A coalition of civil liberties and liberal Jewish groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union and J Street, is working to defeat the legislation, while the influential pro-Israel AIPAC supports it. ‘Any contention that the bill infringes upon First Amendment rights is simply wrong,’ said AIPAC’s Marshall Wittman by email. ‘It ensures Israel has the means necessary to defend itself-by itself-against growing threats and helps protect the right of states to counter boycotts against Israel.’ J Street’s President Jeremy Ben-Ami said in a statement: ‘While millions of Americans suffer from the effects of the ongoing government shutdown, it’s outrageous that Senate Republican leaders are prioritizing legislation that tramples on the First Amendment and advances the interests of the Israeli settlement movement. Not a single Democrat should vote to enable this farce.’ Republicans hold a slim majority in the Senate and would need Democratic votes to advance the measure over the 60-vote threshold. Eyeing 2020, Harris addresses prosecutorial past in memoir As she nears a decision on whether to seek the presidency, Sen. Kamala Harris is taking on what could be a hurdle in a Democratic primary: her past as a prosecutor. In her memoir published Tuesday, the California Democrat describes herself as a ‘progressive prosecutor’ and says it’s a ‘false choice’ to decide between supporting the police and advocating for greater scrutiny of law enforcement. The argument is aimed at liberal critics of her record who argue she was sometimes too quick to side with the police and too slow to adopt sentencing reforms. ‘I know that most police officers deserve to be proud of their public service and commended for the way they do their jobs,’ Harris writes in ‘The Truths We Hold.’ ”I know how difficult and dangerous the job is, day in and day out, and I know how hard it is for the officers’ families, who have to wonder if the person they love will be coming home at the end of each shift.’ But, she continues, ‘I also know this: it is a false choice to suggest you must either be for the police or for police accountability. I am for both. Most people I know are for both. Let’s speak some truth about that, too.’ After high-profile fatal shootings involving police officers and unarmed people of color, the criminal justice system’s treatment of minorities is a top issue among Democratic voters. The passage suggests Harris is aware that her seven years as the district attorney in San Francisco, followed by six years as California’s attorney general, is something she will have to explain and signals how she may frame her law enforcement career if she decides to run for the White House. ‘It’s a presidential campaign, and every aspect of a candidate’s record is going to be scrutinized and they’re going to have to answer for it,’ said Mo Elleithee, a longtime Democratic operative who leads Georgetown University’s Institute of Politics and Public Service. ‘She knows that this is something that’s heading her way and a good candidate is one who doesn’t wait for it to hit them. A good candidate is someone who addresses it proactively, and she appears to be doing that.’ Beyond the book, Harris recently supported legislation that passed the Senate late last year and overhauls the criminal justice system, especially when it comes to sentencing rules. In the book, Harris recounts an instance when she was an intern at the Alameda County district attorney’s office and an innocent bystander was one of many people arrested during a drug raid. Harris said she ‘begged’ and ‘pleaded’ on a late Friday afternoon for a judge to hear the case so the woman could avoid spending the weekend in jail. Kate Chatfield, the policy director of the California-based criminal justice reform group Re:store Justice, said that Harris did do ‘some good’ when she was in law enforcement but that it was ‘incumbent on the public to hold her accountable for the ways in which she either didn’t do enough or actually did some harm.’ ‘When the conversation shifts, one should be expected to be questioned about those choices,’ Chatfield said, noting among other issues Harris’s advocacy for tougher truancy laws. By addressing policing in the book, Harris is taking on an issue that confronted Democrats and some Republicans in 2016. Democrat Hillary Clinton was criticized for her husband’s role in passing the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, which created stricter penalties for drug offenders and funneled billions of dollars toward more police and new prisons. The issue is likely to be the subject of fierce debate in 2020 as well and could expose divisions among the wide field of candidates — presenting hurdles for some and opportunity for others. Former Vice President Joe Biden was the head of the Senate’s Judiciary Committee when the 1994 crime bill — which is now criticized as having helped create an era of mass incarceration — was passed and signed into law, which could be an obstacle for him. New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker was central to the passage of the Senate’s criminal justice overhaul package and is certain to tout it if he decides to launch a presidential campaign. Meanwhile, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who is also considering a 2020 bid, often refers to her own prosecutorial past. The memoir — and the publicity surrounding it — will shift the 2020 campaign spotlight to Harris this week after much of the focus has been on her Senate colleague, Elizabeth Warren. Last week, the Massachusetts Democrat became the most prominent person yet to take steps toward a presidential run by launching an exploratory committee. Her weekend trip to the leadoff caucus state of Iowa also generated largely flattering headlines. Some criminal justice advocates said they were happy the issue would get more attention in 2020. ‘When we had the 2016 elections, it was at the height of Ferguson and Baltimore, and we still didn’t have serious engagement with criminal justice reform,’ said Phillip Goff, the director of the Center for Policing Equity, referring to the protests that followed the deaths of black men by police officers in Missouri and Maryland. ‘My hope is that we require candidates to demonstrate that they know more than the catchphrases of the activists in their bases.’ Surveys underscore the potency of criminal justice issues among Democrats. A February 2018 poll conducted by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that majorities of Democrats — but far fewer Republicans — think there’s been little progress for African-Americans on criminal justice or policing issues over the past 50 years. The poll showed that 45 percent of Americans, including 62 percent of Democrats and 19 percent of Republicans, thought there had been little to no progress on fair treatment for black Americans by the criminal justice system. Similarly, 46 percent of Americans, including 63 percent of Democrats and 23 percent of Republicans, said there’s been little to no progress for African-Americans on fair treatment by police. While it is not yet clear how Harris’ prosecutorial background could affect her primary bid, it could help her if she faces President Donald Trump in the 2020 general election. ‘He ran as the law-and-order president,’ Elleithee said of Trump. ‘Being able to go toe-to-toe with him on law and order in a smarter way, I think, is going to be important. Should she win the nomination and does it by navigating this topic well, then I think she would be a strong voice and a force to be reckoned with when it comes to issues of law and order, criminal justice and civil rights as they collide in a general election.’ ___ Associated Press writers Hillel Italie in New York and Emily Swanson in Washington contributed to this report. Trump to take his case to build wall to prime-time audience With no breakthrough in sight, President Donald Trump will argue his case to the nation Tuesday night that a ‘crisis’ at the U.S.-Mexico border requires the long and invulnerable wall he’s demanding before ending the partial government shutdown. Hundreds of thousands of federal workers face missed paychecks Friday as the shutdown drags through a third week. Trump’s Oval Office speech — his first as president — will be followed by his visit Thursday to the southern border to highlight his demand for a barrier. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeted that he will use the visit to ‘meet with those on the front lines of the national security and humanitarian crisis.’ The administration is also at least talking about the idea of declaring a national emergency to allow Trump to move forward on the wall without Congress approving the $5.6 billion he wants. Vice President Mike Pence said the White House counsel’s office is looking at the idea. Such a move would certainly draw legal challenges, and Trump — who told lawmakers he would be willing to keep the government closed for months or even years — has said he would like to continue negotiations for now. Trump’s prime-time address will be carried live by ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox Broadcasting, Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, MSNBC and NBC. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer called on the networks to give Democrats a chance to respond. ‘Now that the television networks have decided to air the President’s address, which if his past statements are any indication will be full of malice and misinformation, Democrats must immediately be given equal airtime,’ they wrote in a joint statement released Monday night. As Trump’s speech and border visit were announced, newly empowered House Democrats — and at least a few Republican senators — stepped up pressure on GOP lawmakers to reopen the government without giving in to the president’s demands The closure, which has lasted 17 days, is already the second-longest in history and would become the longest this weekend. Leaning on Senate Republicans, some of whom are growing anxious about the impact of the shutdown, Pelosi said the House would begin passing individual bills this week that would reopen federal agencies, starting with the Treasury Department to ensure Americans receive their tax refunds. The White House moved to pre-empt the Democrats, telling reporters Monday that tax refunds would be paid despite the shutdown. That shutdown exemption would break from the practice of earlier administrations and could be challenged. ‘There is an indefinite appropriation to pay tax refunds. As a result … the refunds will go out as normal,’ said Russell Vought, acting director of the White House budget office. There were other signs that administration was working to control the damage from the shutdown, which has furloughed 380,000 federal workers and forced another 420,000 to work without pay. The National Park Service said it was dipping into entrance fees to pay for staffing at some highly visited parks to maintain restrooms, clean up trash and patrol the grounds, after reports of human waste and garbage overflowing in some spots. Over the weekend, the federal agency tasked with guaranteeing U.S. airport security acknowledged an increase in the number of its employees missing work or calling in sick. But Trump and the Transportation Security Administration pushed back on any suggestion that the call-outs at the agency represented a ‘sickout’ that was having a significant effect on U.S. air travel. TSA said it screened more than 2.2 million passengers Sunday, a historically busy day due to holiday travel. Ninety percent waited less than 15 minutes, the agency said. ‘We are grateful to the more than 51,000 agents across the country who remain focused on the mission and are respectful to the traveling public,’ said TSA spokesman Michael Bilello. The talks over ending the shutdown have been at an impasse over Trump’s demand for the wall. He has offered to build the barrier with steel rather than concrete, billing that as a concession to Democrats’ objections. They ‘don’t like concrete, so we’ll give them steel,’ he said. But Democrats have made clear that they object to the wall itself, not how it’s constructed. They see it as immoral and ineffective and prefer other types of border security funded at already agreed-upon levels. ‘Maybe he thinks he can bully us. But I’m from Brooklyn. You let a bully succeed, you’ll be bullied again worse,’ Schumer said at a breakfast with the Association for a Better New York. At the White House, spokeswoman Mercedes Schlapp complained that Democratic leaders have yet to define what they mean when they say they are for enhancing border security. ‘Democrats want to secure the border? Great. Come to the table,’ she said Monday. ‘We are willing to come to a deal to reopen the government.’ Trump has tasked Pence during the shutdown fight to negotiate with Democrats, including during talks over the weekend with Democratic staffers. But the vice president is increasingly being called upon to prevent defections in the GOP ranks. Asked whether cracks were forming between the White House and Republicans eager for the shutdown to end, Pence told reporters, ‘We’ve been in touch with those members and others.’ He said that he and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen would be at the Capitol on Tuesday and Wednesday to brief lawmakers. Among the Republicans expressing concern was Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell should take up funding bills from the Democrat-led House. ‘Let’s get those reopened while the negotiations continue,’ Collins said Sunday on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press.’ However, McConnell has said he won’t take up funding bills without Trump’s support. Adding to concerns of lawmakers, federal workers who are still on the job apparently will miss this week’s paychecks. Acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’ that if the shutdown continues into Tuesday, ‘then payroll will not go out as originally planned on Friday night.’ Trump asserted that he could relate to the plight of the federal workers who aren’t getting paid, though he acknowledged they will have to ‘make adjustments’ to deal with the shutdown shortfall. Not so easy, many of them say. Derrick Padilla, a corrections officer with the Federal Bureau of Prisons in Colorado, has worked without pay for two weeks and said he’s nearly depleted his savings. ‘It’s now becoming a game of, ‘OK, who’s going to get paid? How am I going to make this payment? What’s the most important thing I have to pay for this month?” he said. ‘The bills don’t go away,’ Padilla added. ‘We’re expected to meet our financial obligations, and we’re being put in a position to not be able to meet those obligations.’ For furloughed federal workers in Washington, some at least could enjoy the prospect of baseball in a few months. The Washington Nationals said season ticket holders who are laid off or not being paid by the federal government could postpone monthly ticket payments until the government is back up and running. ___ Associated Press writers Lisa Mascaro, Kevin Freking and Juliet Linderman in Washington, Alex Sanz in Atlanta and David R. Martin in New York contributed to this report. Clemson trounces Alabama 44-16 winning College Football Playoff championship The two best teams in college football, the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Clemson Tigers, battled it out in the College Football Playoff National Championship game Monday night in Santa Clara, California, at Levi’s Stadium before tens of thousands of cheering fans. >> Read more trending news But in the end, Alabama was just no match for Clemson. The Tigers trounced the Tide, winning the championship game 44-16. Clemson was leading 21 to 16 at the start of the second quarter and 28 to 16 near the end of the quarter. In the third quarter, Clemson pulled ahead 37-16 with just over six minutes left in the quarter. Clemson running back Travis Etienne scored three touchdowns in the first half. Etienne ran for two scores and caught a 5-yard touchdown pass from Trevor Lawrence after Tua Tagovailoa’s second interception of the game. >> Related: Lil Wayne compared to Hamburglar, SpongeBob at college football championship By the final quarter, the Tigers had pulled ahead 44-16. The game marked the third time Alabama and Clemson met at the championship game, with Alabama winning the last two contests. >> Related: Photos: Alabama vs. Clemson in College Football Playoff Championship The Associated Press contributed to this report. Father of missing Texas baby staged kidnapping to cover up foul play, police say Update 11:45 p.m. EST Jan. 7: San Antonio investigators said at a press conference late Monday they now believe the kidnapping of a baby Friday night at a gas station was staged to look like a crime to cover up foul play, according to news reports. Police have now identified the woman who authorities initially thought took 8-month-old King Jay Davila from his father’s car, according to KSAT-TV. ‘The child was not in the car,’ Police Chief William McManus told reporters. “This was not a car theft. This was not a kidnapping. This was a staged event,’ McManus said. ‘The woman in the video who took the vehicle is a cousin of Christopher Davila.’ The woman has been arrested on an unrelated charge as police continue to search for the child. Original story: The father of a missing Texas baby is behind bars as police seek a female suspect in the child’s kidnapping. According to KABB, Christopher Davila, 34, parked his car at a San Antonio gas station Friday night, leaving the door unlocked and his 8-month-old son, King Jay Davila, in the back seat. Moments later, a woman approached the car, which was still running, then got inside and drove away, surveillance video shows. >> Watch the surveillance video here Authorities found Davila’s car in a nearby park, but the baby and keys were no longer inside, KABB reported. But San Antonio police believe the case is more than just a random kidnapping. Investigators, who said they think Davila knows the woman in the video, arrested him on a child endangerment charge. They also said Davila’s family has not been cooperating with police, according to KSAT. >> Read more trending news Davila and his fiancee, Jasmine Gonzales, who is the baby’s mother, disputed those claims. ‘This is all just ridiculous because the more time they spend trying to accuse people of doing something they did not do, the more time they can be searching for my baby like they claimed they have been,’ Gonzales told KSAT. ‘It is not right,’ Davila told the station in a phone interview. Police said the woman in the video ‘is a thin-built white or Hispanic female’ in her 20s or 30s who was wearing a gray hoodie and brown pants. King Jay was dressed in a blue onesie, KABB reported. >> See a photo of King Jay Davila here Police are urging anyone with information about the case to call 911 or 201-207-7635. The FBI is also assisting with the investigation, San Antonio police tweeted Saturday. >> See the tweet here Read more here or here. Teachers elected amid wave of activism turn to governing After a campaign buoyed by a surge in teacher activism, Arizona’s new schools chief took office with a pledge to address the kind of grievances that led to school-shuttering walkouts in several states last spring. Kathy Hoffman, a 33-year-old school speech therapist, is among hundreds of educators being sworn into office following the #RedforEd protests, which were credited with raising awareness of the needs of public schools and inspiring many educators to join the political fray. To take the oath of office at her inauguration Monday, Hoffman placed her hand upon ‘Too Many Moose,’ a book she enjoyed using in her classroom to help children with speech impediments. ‘It was thrilling to see everyone come together for that cause last spring, but now we need to do everything we can to come together to pass policies and solve this together,’ said Hoffman, the state’s new superintendent of public instruction. ‘We want to do everything we can to prevent another walkout.’ Nationwide, an unprecedented 1,800 current and former educators, administrators and support staffers ran for office in 2018, and more than half of them won, according to the National Education Association, the country’s largest teachers union. As the educators shift from classrooms to statehouses, they have been attending trainings, fielding meeting requests and reading through thousands of pages of legislative proposals. For Democrats who won in the red states where the walkouts took root, there is also the dawning reality that being in the political minority may pose hurdles to passing bills. School administrator Melissa Provenzano, an Oklahoma Democrat elected to the state’s Republican-controlled House of Representatives, said she plans to keep the focus on ensuring teachers’ salaries are in line with national averages. A walkout that closed schools in many of Oklahoma’s largest districts for two weeks ended with an average raise of $6,180. ‘There was a concern there was voter fatigue or public fatigue, and ‘Well, you’ve got the teacher raise and so we’re done with you,” said Provenzano, one of four school administrators elected to the Oklahoma House of Representatives. ‘But most people can grasp that that was a Band-Aid.’ Provenzano’s school is two hours from the capital — too far for students to attend the November inauguration — but the ceremony was livestreamed in the building’s library and classrooms. ‘So that was kind of neat,’ she said. The #RedforEd protests, in which many teachers wore red shirts, converged last spring on statehouses in Arizona, West Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma and Colorado to press for better teacher pay and school funding. As some participants now learn the ropes of government, there are also signs of new life for the protest movement. Teachers in Los Angeles, the nation’s second-largest school district, appear poised to strike as early as Thursday after failed contract negotiations, and teachers have been organizing rallies for this month in Oakland and across Virginia. Elsewhere, some of the teachers who lost elections are already looking ahead to the next race. ‘I won’t be happy until I am able to sit at the table to help make decisions about the education system,’ said Democrat Aimy Steele, a former principal who came within about 2,000 votes of unseating an 18-year incumbent Republican for a House seat in North Carolina, where teachers last year shut down schools with demands for better pay and school funding. Steele plans a rematch for 2020. ‘I was definitely not happy with the results, but it did not discourage me from trying,’ said Steele, who as principal of Beverly Hills Elementary School in Concord said she became frustrated with what she saw as ill-conceived education mandates from lawmakers. Hoffman, who is taking over a job typically held by career politicians or political insiders, said she knows what students are capable of when they have the resources they need. ‘I feel proud to be part of the movement of educators who decided to run for office,’ she said. ‘I think that the other educators felt the same way I did, that we wanted our voices to be heard and to make sure that our students had a voice in government, and we were tired of waiting around and waiting for someone to speak for us.’ ____ Thompson contributed from Buffalo, N.Y.