Shelby Says Sessions Could Win Alabama Senate Race Despite Rift With Trump

Former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is entering a crowded GOP primary field to try to win back his old Senate seat representing Alabama.

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Jay Reeves/AP

Alabama GOP Sen. Richard Shelby is stepping into the middle of political hotbed: He’s saying his longtime friend of 20 years, Republican Jeff Sessions, could win a his bid to recapture his old Senate seat, and he’s prepared to help him.

Already, a crowded Republican primary field is vying to take on incumbent Democratic Sen. Doug Jones in a deep-red state where a Republican is favored to win in 2020. And Shelby is also bullish on a Sessions bid despite a lingering, bitter relationship between President Trump and his former Attorney General.

“He ought to win that race, but he has to win it on the ground,” Shelby said.

Sessions is expected to announce today he is once again running for the seat he held for 20 years, several GOP sources have told NPR. He is scheduled to discuss his political future during an appearance on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” on Fox News Thursday evening, the network said. He is facing a Friday filing deadline to declare his candidacy.

Some of the GOP primary candidates include Rep. Bradley Byrne, former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville, Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill, state Rep. Arnold Mooney and Roy Moore, the controversial Republican accused of sexual misconduct who lost the special election to replace Sessions to Jones in 2017.

Sessions was forced out from his post at the Justice Department exactly a year ago after public criticism from the president, who was irritated he wasn’t more aggressive in defending him.

One source told NPR said Sessions was running without the coordination or support of the GOP establishment, including the White House, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., or the Senate GOP campaign operation. “He is definitely acting alone,” the source said.

Jones downplayed the possible Sessions news, saying it’s Republicans who need to address the Sessions reports.

“You need to ask his opponents in the Republican primary, they’re the ones running around with their hair on fire,” Jones told reporters on Capitol Hill. “It doesn’t affect anything that we’re doing, we’re working right here and we’re going to keep doing it.”

Shelby, who remains in close contact with Sessions, confirmed that his former colleague told him during a conversation on Wednesday that he was announcing his candidacy and appearing on a national news program on Thursday.

He also maintained Sessions would be a “formidable candidate” but he needs to win the race among grassroots Republicans. Shelby said he would endorse him, and campaign for him if needed.

“Sessions indicated to me that he’s going to run, he hadn’t announced yet. …I think he’s going to be on one of the big shows tonight,” Shelby said. “I’m going to be watching that.”

Shelby was already planning to join Trump during a visit to Tuscaloosa, Ala. this weekend for a major college football game. They are expected to watch the University of Alabama take on the another top-ranked team in college football, Louisiana State University. He didn’t rule out the topic of a Sessions Senate run from coming up during the visit with Trump.

“I’ll probably see him in Tuscaloosa this weekend, he’s coming to the ballgame, so I’m sure I’ll be with him,” Shelby said.

Shelby has tried to smooth over rough waters between Trump and Sessions, but it doesn’t seem that rift has lifted.

“I think he (Sessions) and president have probably a difficult relationship,” Shelby said. But “Sessions is a friend of mine, longtime colleague for 20 years.”

– NPR Congressional Correspondent Susan Davis contributed to this story

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Former New York Mayor Bloomberg Re-Opens Door To 2020 Presidential Run

Honoree Michael Bloomberg attends the annual Hudson River Park Gala at Cipriani South Street last month.

Evan Agostini/Associated Press

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Evan Agostini/Associated Press

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is weighing a late entrance into the Democratic presidential primary, reversing course from earlier this spring when he said publicly that he would not run.

After announcing in March he wouldn’t launch a White House campaign, Bloomberg is now “increasingly concerned that the current field of candidates is not well positioned” to defeat President Trump according to a statement from adviser Howard Wolfson provided to NPR. It adds that Bloomberg sees Trump as “an unprecedented threat to our nation.”

The New York Times first reported the development, saying that Bloomberg was preparing to file for the Alabama primary, where the deadline is tomorrow, but that he had not made a decision to formally enter the race.

“If Mike runs he would offer a new choice to Democrats built on a unique record running America’s biggest city, building a business from scratch and taking on some of America’s toughest challenges as a high-impact philanthropist,” said Wolfson. “Based on his record of accomplishment, leadership and his ability to bring people together to drive change, Mike would be able to take the fight to Trump and win.”

Bloomberg’s potential entry less than three months before the Iowa caucuses would shake up the still-crowded field, adding another self-funding billionaire to the mix who could make a play for centrist voters. That could present a major threat to former Vice President Joe Biden, who’s been falling in the polls and trailing in fundraising.

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U.S. Company Accused Of Illegally Selling Chinese-Made Security Products To Military

Authorities announced Thursday that a New York-based company and seven of its employees are being charged with fraud, money laundering and illegal importation of equipment manufactured in China.

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Patrick Semansky/AP

A New York-based security products company and seven of its employees are being charged with fraud, money laundering and illegal importation of equipment manufactured in China.

Several U.S. agencies, including the FBI and the IRS, allege that Aventura Technologies Inc. falsely claimed that its products were made in the U.S. and also misrepresented itself as a woman-owned small business in order to gain access to federal contracts set aside for those businesses.

“Aventura imports its products from other manufacturers, primarily manufacturers located in [China], at times with false ‘Made in the U.S.A.’ labels already affixed to the products or displayed on their packaging,” a Justice Department court filing said.

Officials say Aventura’s actions endangered military personnel on U.S. Navy ships and military bases by selling them Chinese products with known cybersecurity vulnerabilities.

“Greed is at the heart of this scheme, a reprehensible motive when the subjects in this case allegedly put into question the security of men and women who don uniforms each day to protect our nation,” said FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William Sweeney. “There is no mistaking the cyber vulnerabilities created when this company sold electronic surveillance products made in the People’s Republic of China, and then using those items in our government agencies and the branches of our armed forces.”

According to court documents, Aventura has held multiple contracts with the federal government, selling about $20.7 million of security equipment to the various military factions between 2006 to 2018. These contracts prohibited Aventura from providing goods from a wide array of countries, one of which is China.

Among the seven employees arrested is Jack Cabasso, Aventura’s managing director, and his wife, Frances Cabasso, the purported CEO.

The couple is being accused of lying in order to extend and obtain government contracts reserved for women-owned businesses. The DOJ says Frances has little or no role at the company, making its claim as a woman-owned small business false.

The Cabassos are also being accused of siphoning millions of company dollars through shell companies and intermediaries. In addition, Aventura allegedly paid $1 million to fund the Cabasso’s 70-foot luxury yacht.

Federal agents confiscated the yacht at the gated community where the couple live. Agents also seized $3 million dollars from several bank accounts.

The government intercepted shipments carrying Chinese manufactured goods several times, which agents later linked to Aventura’s operations, according to the Justice Department.

Founded in 1999, Aventura self-describes itself as an “innovative designer, developer and manufacturer” of security products. The DOJ says the company has been misleading customers since 2006.

Paolo Zialcita is an intern on NPR’s Newsdesk.

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German Airline Lufthansa Grounds 1,300 Flights As Flight Attendants Strike

Hundreds of Lufthansa flights have been cancelled. There are reports that flight attendants’ union has and company executives have agreed to preliminary talks this weekend to discuss issues including wages and working conditions.

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Germany’s largest airline Lufthansa has grounded 1,300 flights as the carrier attempts to weather internal turbulence caused by thousands its flight attendants on strike. The walkout, expected to last two days, is impacting travel hubs throughout Europe.

The airlines apologized to passengers for the inconvenience, while the flight attendants’ union, UFO, says the strike was unavoidable because labor negotiations with Lufthansa are at a stalemate.

As NPR’s Rob Schmitz reports, the walkout affects some 180,000 passengers.

“Thousands of Lufthansa flight attendants are striking over pay, pensions and working conditions, and they aren’t planning to return to work until Friday evening,” Schmitz told NPR’s Newscast Unit Thursday.

“Lufthansa and the union representing the flight attendants have been at odds for months over the union’s legal status, and a last-minute effort by the airline to halt the strike failed after a court in Frankfurt confirmed the walkout was legal,” Schmitz said.

According to the English language website The Local Germany, the flight attendants’ union agreed to preliminary talks this weekend, but the strike is not expected to be called off early. The publication adds:

“Lufthansa said it was forced to scrap 700 flights on Thursday and some 600 on Friday, warning that tens of thousands of people will be hit by the action.

“The UFO union said the stoppage would impact all Lufthansa departures from German airports. In the country’s busiest transport hubs at Frankfurt and Munich, a large proportion of planes remained grounded.”

Lufthansa criticized the strike but also offered passengers impacted by the work stoppage assistance rebooking their travel at no cost, according to a company statement.

“The Independent Flight Attendant Organisation (UFO) has called on its cabin crew to go on strike for two days on 7 and 8 November. Lufthansa condemns the strike call in the strongest possible terms,” the statement said. “Affected passengers were transferred to other flights free of charge.”

UPDATE: Lufthansa asks passengers affected by the strike to make use of the self-service facilities for own rebooking, refund of their tickets and issuing rail vouchers. Please find more information about rebooking and care costs here:

— Lufthansa (@lufthansa) November 7, 2019

In a statement issued before the strike went into effect, the flight attendants’ union accused Lufthansa of not working with them earlier to head off the labor impasse.

“Instead of averting the strike, plans were changed on a massive scale and additional standby services were acquired for the day of the strike,” the statement read.

Flight picketing in front of the Munich Airport Thursday, some holding signs with slogans that read “Change is in the air???” Lufthansa has cancelled a total of 1300 flights due to the announced 48-hour strike by flight attendants.

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Other airlines Lufthansa operates including Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines and Eurowings will not be affected, according to the BBC.

While cabin crews picketed outside airports around Germany, Lufthansa also announced Thursday plans for a new round of cost-cutting measures as it tries to compete with low-cost airlines.

The Reuters news agency reports the new budget cuts will focus on three of its airline carriers, including its Lufthansa Cargo business. This follows the company’s June announcement of a turnaround plan for Eurowings, one which Reuters reports “was paying off as third-quarter figures beat forecasts.”

NPR’s Dan Charles and Tom Dreisbach contributed to this story.

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Las Vegas Bans Sleeping, Camping in Public Places

The Las Vegas Strip pictured here in a 2009 photo. On Wednesday, the city’s city council passed an ordinance banning sleeping or camping in the city’s downtown and residential areas as long as there are spaces available in homeless shelters.

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Isaac Brekken/AP

City officials in Las Vegas have passed a controversial law making it illegal to sleep or camp in downtown and residential public areas as long as there are open beds available at city homeless shelters.

Before the vote, protesters swarmed the Las Vegas City Council chambers with signs that read, “Poverty is not a crime,” and chanting “Housing, not handcuffs!”

City officials said the measure is necessary to nudge those who do not have permanent housing to enter homeless shelters, in addition to dealing with blight and public health issues stemming from encampments.

Under the law, those found sleeping in public areas affected by the rules could face up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

“This is flawed, but it is a start,” said Mayor Carolyn Goodman, noting that the city has had meetings on the homelessness problem for 20 years but has not made major gains.

She said she sponsored the bill “to be given the right to take care of ourselves.”

Goodman presided over a raucous hearing Wednesday night in which members of the public were given a maximum of two minutes each to express their dissatisfaction with the law.

At the two-minute mark, the microphones were cut off, causing some to scream the remainder of their comments in the room out of frustration. City marshals had to escort several members of the public out of the hearing.

“It brings disgrace to the city on Las Vegas,” resident Donna West said. “We need to stop before we start treating our homeless citizens as criminals.”

Dozens of other critics turned out to express similar outrage.

“This is not a real solution,” said longtime Las Vegas resident and civil rights advocate Gary Peck. “It’s just one more law that cops and prosecutors can use to sweep homeless people out of sight and out of mind.”

The mayor bristled at these comments, contending that the tourism-heavy city has no other choice but to address public health and blight issues complained about by residents and visitors.

“This is not penalty-orientated,” Goodman said. “This is to get our homeless into an environment of re-entry into the best life in this community.”

A federal appeals court struck down a similar law last year in Boise, Idaho, ruling that cities cannot prosecute people for sleeping on the streets if they have nowhere else to go. The appeals judges said such a ban would amount to cruel and unusual punishment.

The Las Vegas law was designed to not run against that ruling. Under the ordinance, if the shelters in Las Vegas run out of space, the ban on camping and sleeping would not be enforced, city officials said at the Wednesday hearing.

While the law becomes effective on Sunday, the criminal provisions will not start until February 2020.

In remarks after the city council passed the ordinance 5-2, Goodman called out an audience member who was shaking his head in disapproval.

“Let me ask what you have done for anyone,” Goodman said. “This city tries.”

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