Tribune News Service

News Budget for Saturday, March 23, 2019


Updated at 4 p.m. EDT (2000 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.


^Mueller ends Russia investigation in silence<

^MUELLER:LA—< The end of an investigation that rivets the nation usually calls for a news conference from the person in charge, but Robert Mueller chose a different approach.

The special counsel sent a security officer to the Justice Department Friday to deliver his long-awaited final report on the Russia case, and then joined his wife and another couple for dinner.

It was a fitting conclusion for the man whose tenure as the least talkative — yet most talked about — public figure in Washington is drawing to a close.

1200 (with trim) by Chris Megerian and David Lauter in Washington. MOVED


^'Remain in Mexico' policy may prompt more illegal border crossings<

IMMIGRATION-BORDER:SD — Three months into the Department of Homeland Security's new program that requires asylum-seeking migrants to wait in Mexico until their U.S. immigration hearings, experts said the policy may encourage illegal border crossings.

This past week, migrants rushed the border at least four times at Playas de Tijuana, many of them claiming they were motivated by not wanting to wait in Mexico.

750 by Wendy Fry in San Diego. MOVED


^Syrian Kurds celebrate victory over Islamic State<

SYRIA:DPA — U.S.-allied Syrian fighters have declared the defeat of Islamic State by seizing the extremist militant group's last stronghold in eastern Syria after months of fighting.

350 by Jan Kuhlmann and Weedah Hamzah in Damascus, Syria. MOVED



^Trump's sanctions staff dwindles even as US expands economic war<

TRUMP-SANCTIONS:BLO — The U.S. office in charge of financial sanctions, President Donald Trump's favorite weapon against American adversaries, risks being hobbled by staff departures because of management turmoil and growing private-sector demand for its expertise.

Trump has nearly doubled the number of people and companies under U.S. sanctions. But in the past two years, about 20 staff have left the office in charge of implementing and enforcing sanctions, the Office of Foreign Assets Control — about 10 percent of its workforce.

1200 (with trim) by Saleha Mohsin in Washington. MOVED



^Once an insurgent, Sanders now confronts front-runner challenges<

SANDERS-FRONTRUNNER:BLO — No longer a fringe candidate or an outsider, Bernie Sanders will be under pressure to score decisive victories in early contests for the Democratic nomination or risk seeing his 2020 candidacy deflate.

Sanders' challenge to Hillary Clinton in 2016 gives the 78-year-old independent senator from Vermont higher name recognition than other declared 2020 candidates, and that's made him one of the early front-runner in next year's primaries.

But he still has to prove he has overcome his previous shortcomings — primarily an inability to win over significant numbers of the women and minority voters that are a key part of the party's base.

1050 (with trim) by Arit John in Washington. MOVED



^Report blames lack of leadership at VA for Forever GI Bill implementation failures<

^VA-FOREVER-GI-BILL:SD—<The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs failed to modify its electronic systems and lacked an accountable official to oversee implementation of the Forever GI Bill, resulting in a bungled introduction last year that affected thousands of college students, a new report from the agency's inspector general says.

600 (with trim) by Andrew Dyer. MOVED



^Scale of destruction from Cyclone Idai remains unclear as deaths toll tops 600<

^WEA-MOZAMBIQUE-1ST-LEDE-CYCLONE:DPA—<The number of dead from Cyclone Idai in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi rose to at least 615, the United Nations said Saturday, citing official figures from the national governments.

Rain continued in Mozambique's port city of Beira, which was nearly submerged by flooding when Idai hit.

400 by Kate Bartlett and Lynsey Chutel in Beria, Mozambique. MOVED


^Cuba would need to spend $2 billion a year for oil if Venezuela stops deliveries<

^CUBA-OIL:MI—<Cuba would have to spend nearly $2 billion a year to meet its domestic oil needs if Venezuela's National Assembly and interim president Juan Guaido manage to stop deliveries to the Caribbean island.

650 by Nora Gamez Torres. MOVED


^South Korea pays for vast US Army base expansion, but Trump wants it to pay more<

^USSKOREA-ARMYBASE:LA—<A decadelong construction blitz — mostly paid for by South Korea — has turned a sleepy airfield into a gated mini-metropolis for U.S. troops, dependents and contractors who were once scattered at multiple bases in Seoul and near the Demilitarized Zone dividing the Korean Peninsula.

But there is pervasive uncertainty about the future of the U.S. military here owing to Trump's seemingly unshakable distaste for basing troops in any host country that, in his reckoning, fails to pay enough for what he calls American protection.

1350 (with trim) by David S. Cloud in Camp Humphreys, South Korea. MOVED


^Italy joins China's Belt and Road infrastructure project<

CHINA-ITALY:BLO Chinese President Xi Jinping recruited Italy's populist government to his global Belt and Road development project with the signing of an agreement that worries the U.S. and the European Union as China pushes for economic domination.

100 by John Follain and Sonia Sirletti in Rome. MOVED


These stories moved earlier in the week and remain suitable for weekend use.

^The legal way the rich get their kids into elite colleges: Huge donations for years<

CMP-ADMISSIONS-WEALTHY:LA — For the children of the well-off and well-educated, cultivating the hallmarks of an outstanding college application starts early.

Those whose parents attended a prestigious university are born far more likely to get into that institution. And the advantages pile up from there: Lessons for aristocratic sports such as sailing and fencing might begin in elementary school, while private tutoring, prep school and — if they're exceptionally wealthy — large donations to preferred colleges come later.

The "Operation Varsity Blues" FBI investigation has highlighted the outsize role that wealth and social connections play in college admissions, and the many ways the rich get a leg up in this opaque process without resorting to bribery, lying and cheating.

1350 (with trims) by Laura Newberry and Hannah Fry in Los Angeles. MOVED


^Alarms sound after 6 suicides by Chicago cops over 8 months: 'It's definitely worrying and demands attention'<

CHICAGO-POLICE-SUICIDES:TB — A dozen or so police officers gather once every month in the basement of an office building and talk — about handling holidays with families, about nightmares so bad they are reluctant to share a bed at night.

Most of the officers were involved in a shooting while on duty, and here they share stories of what that has meant. Sometimes they cry.

"This is what trauma looks like," says Carrie Steiner, a former Chicago cop turned therapist who runs the counseling center. "This is what PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) looks like."

Responding to that trauma is now a top challenge for the Chicago Police Department, where alarms are sounding after six officers killed themselves over the last eight months.

2000 by Madeline Buckley and Annie Sweeney in Chicago. MOVED


^Living on pennies with a million-dollar view: How car campers survive in beach parking lots<

HOMELESS-BEACH-PARKING:SD — A year ago, he was homeless. Today, he owns a residence that boasts a million-dollar view of the rolling Pacific.

Or at least it does for 22 hours a day. From 2 to 4 a.m., the law requires this home — a rusting Ford Econoline van — to leave its usual spot in a public parking lot beside the sand dunes of Ocean Beach. During those two pre-dawn hours, it roams the surrounding residential streets.

Before sunrise, though, the van and its owner — Noodle, he calls himself — will return to the beach.

"I always come back," said Noodle. "It's beautiful here and you are on the ocean."

There's one more advantage: Since February, Noodle's seaside slumbers have been legal. The San Diego City Council repealed an ordinance forbidding overnight stays in parked vehicles, despite the objections of local homeowners.

1950 (with trims) by Peter Rowe in San Diego. MOVED


^As United Methodist leaders tighten LGBTQ ban, churches struggle with path forward<

RELIG-METHODISTS-LGBTQ:LA — Tim Baudler was taught that God doesn't love gay people.

When he was about 10, he realized he liked other boys. So Baudler, who grew up in a conservative church in Iowa, made himself a promise: If he made it to 20 and still felt the same way, he was going to kill himself.

At 15, he was found to have a malignant brain tumor and was given days to live. He was relieved. God, he thought, was taking care of everything. He wouldn't have to commit suicide, and he wouldn't have to be gay.

But he made it to 20. Then 30. His family shunned him. He moved to California, where he found Hollywood United Methodist Church. The Rev. Kathy Cooper Ledesma told him, "We're your family now."

"I had to be rewired to learn that God does love me, and he saved my life for me to show love to other people," said Baudler, 49.

But like so many gay Methodists, Baudler now feels betrayed by the United Methodist Church, which is fighting a civil war over homosexuality so acrimonious that it could split the denomination.

1750 (with trims) by Hailey Branson-Potts in Los Angeles. MOVED


^Investigative division of ICE feels ostracized<

IMMIGRATION-ICE-DIVISION:LA — They broke up an international movie piracy ring, returned the hand of an ancient mummy to Egypt and helped arrest the world's biggest drug kingpin, Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman.

Homeland Security Investigations, a branch within Immigration and Customs Enforcement, focuses on combating cross-border criminal activity and is billed as the investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security. While many of its investigations involve immigrants, including some in the country illegally, many do not.

But its connection to ICE — at a time when the agency is under fire because of its role in deportations and enforcing President Donald Trump's aggressive immigration policy — has caused friction with some law enforcement agencies.

1300 by Brittny Mejia in Los Angeles. MOVED


^Death penalty opponents gain unlikely allies: Republicans<

DEATHPENALTY-OPPONENTS:SH — No one would ever question Dave Danielson's credentials as a Republican. As a 17-year-old in his home state of New Hampshire, he led a local group of teenage Barry Goldwater supporters in 1964 and went on to vote for every Republican presidential candidate since.

He also shared the GOP's support for the death penalty. But seven years ago, after winning election to the New Hampshire House of Representatives, Danielson re-examined that stance after a friend asked how he could reconcile state-authorized executions with his deeply ingrained belief in the sanctity of life. It was a dichotomy he'd never pondered, he recalled.

After days of soul-searching, he reversed course.

In decades past, the notion of a conservative Republican opposing the death penalty seemed largely counterintuitive. But a growing number of elected Republicans are now breaking with partisan orthodoxy to not only oppose the death penalty but also help lead efforts to repeal it in more than a half-dozen states, often in conflict with leaders and colleagues in their own party.

2100 (with trims) by David Montgomery. MOVED


^Former coal mining towns turn to tourism<

MININGTOWNS-TOURISM:SH — The same Main Street winds through the old mountain mining towns of Cumberland, Benham and Lynch, crosses a river and runs alongside a creek. The early 20th-century coal mining boom drew people to this remote corner of southeast Kentucky, until coal's dizzying decline sent them away.

Today, Main Street hints at a roaring past and the potential for change.

Poor Fork Arts & Crafts, which sells Appalachian handcrafted and vintage items, the Back Street Bar and a senior center sit alongside empty storefronts, vacant lots and boarded-up spaces. Pizza Hut and Hardee's rival locally grown Dairy Hut Too and Charlotte's Hoagie Shop. Visitors can tour an underground coal mine in what was once the largest company-owned coal town in the world.

The Tri-Cities are counting on their natural beauty, history and culture to reinvent themselves as tourist destinations.

1700 (with trims) by April Simpson in Cumberland, Ky. MOVED


^As Hong Kong grows, locals contend with a big fat hairy wildlife problem<

HONGKONG-WILDBOARS:LA — Out of the darkness appeared a snout.

"Fei zhu! Fat pig!" 8-year-old Shino Chen shouted to her younger brother as she jumped up and down and pointed at a wild boar.

The hairy black pig, which must have weighed at least 150 pounds, grunted and snuffled through a flimsy, old fence along the sidewalk. The children tiptoed toward the animal then sprinted back to their father's side.

Hong Kong's 7.4 million residents spend most of their days rushing between high-rises, metro stations, tiny apartments and offices. People occupy less than a quarter of the 426-square-mile region.

The rest of Hong Kong belongs to monkeys, snakes, porcupines, boars and other wildlife.

The city is a concrete jungle in the middle of an actual jungle.

Now, as urban areas sprawl into the surrounding hills, Hong Kong is struggling to contain a wild boar problem.

1200 (with trims) by Alice Su in Hong Kong. MOVED




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