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The Paris Agreement Is Officially Too Little, Too Late

The fevered arguments about how the world can reach the Paris climate goals on cutting the greenhouse gases which are driving global heating may be a waste of time. An international team of scientists has learned more about the main greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide (CO2) − and it’s not good news.

Teams in six countries, using new climate models, say the warming potential of CO2 has been underestimated for years. The new models will be used in revised UN temperature projections next year. If they are accurate, the Paris targets of keeping temperature rise below 2°C − or preferably 1.5°C − will belong to a fantasy world.

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Vastly more data and computing power has become available since the current Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projections were finalised in 2013. “We have better models now,” Olivier Boucher, head of the Institut Pierre Simon Laplace Climate Modelling Centre in Paris, told the French news agency AFP, and they “represent current climate trends more accurately”.

Projections from government-backed teams using the models in the US, UK, France and Canada suggest a much warmer future unless the world acts fast: CO2 concentrations which have till now been expected to produce a world only 3°C warmer than pre-industrial levels would more probably heat the Earth’s surface by four or five degrees Celsius.

“If you think the new models give a more realistic picture, then it will, of course, be harder to achieve the Paris targets, whether it is 1.5°C or two degrees Celsius,” Mark Zelinka told AFP. Dr Zelinka, from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, is the lead author of the first peer-reviewed assessment of the new generation of models, published earlier this month in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

“Climate sensitivity has been in the range of 1.5°C to 4.5°C for more than 30 years. If it is now moving to between 3°C and 7°C, that would be tremendously dangerous”

Scientists want to establish how much the Earth’s surface will warm over time if the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere doubles. The resulting temperature increase, known as Earth’s climate sensitivity, is a key indicator of the probable future climate. The part played in it by clouds is crucial.

“How clouds evolve in a warmer climate and whether they will exert a tempering or amplifying effect has long been a major source of uncertainty,” said Imperial College London researcher Joeri Rogelj, the lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on the global carbon budget − the amount of greenhouse gases that can be emitted without exceeding a given temperature cap. The new models reflect a better understanding of cloud dynamics that reinforce the warming impact of CO2.

For most of the last 10,000 years the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere was a nearly constant 280 parts per million (ppm). But at the start of the 19th century and of the industrial revolution, fuelled by oil, gas and coal, the number of CO2 molecules in the air rose sharply. Today the concentration stands at 412 ppm, a 45% rise − half of it in the last three decades.

Last year alone, human activity injected more than 41 billion tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere, about five million tonnes every hour.

Impacts already evident

With only one degree Celsius of warming above historic levels so far, the world is already having to cope with increasingly deadly heatwaves, droughts, floods and tropical cyclones made more destructive by rising seas.

By the late 1970s scientists had settled on a probable climate sensitivity of 3°C (plus-or-minus 1.5°C), corresponding to about 560 ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere. That assessment remained largely unchanged − until now.

“Right now, there is an enormously heated debate within the climate modelling community,” said Earth system scientist Johan Rockström, director of Germany’s Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

“You have 12 or 13 models showing sensitivity which is no longer 3°C, but rather 5°C or 6°C with a doubling of CO2,” he told AFP. “What is particularly worrying is that these are not the outliers.”

Serious science

Models from France, the US Department of Energy, Britain’s Met Office and Canada show climate sensitivity of 4.9°C, 5.3°C, 5.5°C and 5.6°C respectively, Dr Zelinka said. “You have to take these models seriously − they are highly developed, state-of-the-art.”

Among the 27 new models examined in his study, these were also among those that best matched climate change over the last 75 years, suggesting a further validation of their accuracy.

But other models that will feed into the IPCC’s next major Assessment Report found significantly smaller increases, though almost all were higher than earlier estimates. Scientists will test and challenge the new models rigorously.

“The jury is still out, but it is worrying,” said Rockstrom. “Climate sensitivity has been in the range of 1.5°C to 4.5°C for more than 30 years. If it is now moving to between 3°C and 7°C, that would be tremendously dangerous.”

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‘NewsHour’ Host and Debate Moderator Jim Lehrer Dies at 85

NEW YORK — Jim Lehrer, longtime host of the nightly PBS “NewsHour” whose serious, sober demeanor made him the choice to moderate 11 presidential debates between 1988 and 2012, has died, PBS said Thursday. He was 85.

Lehrer died “peacefully in his sleep,” according to PBS. He had suffered a heart attack in 1983 and more recently, had undergone heart valve surgery in April 2008.

For Lehrer, and for his friend and longtime partner Robert MacNeil, broadcast journalism was a service, with public understanding of events and issues its primary goal.

“We both believed the American people were not as stupid as some of the folks publishing and programming for them believed,” Lehrer wrote in his 1992 memoir, “A Bus of My Own.”

“We were convinced they cared about the significant matters of human events. … And we were certain they could and would hang in there more than 35 seconds for information about those subjects if given a chance.”

Tributes poured in from colleagues and watchers alike, including from Fox News’ Bret Baier, who called Lehrer “an inspiration to a whole generation of political journalists— including this one.” Dan Rather said “few approached their work with more equanimity and integrity than Jim Lehrer.” And Jake Tapper of CNN called Lehrer “a wonderful man and a superb journalist.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called him a “champion for truth and transparency.”

Many Americans knew him best for his role as debate moderator. For seven straight presidential elections, he was the sole journalist sitting across from the candidates for the first debate of the general election campaign. In 1996 and 2000, he moderated all of the debates — five of them — and a vice presidential contest to boot.

He told The Associated Press in 2011 that his goal was to probe the candidates’ thinking and avoid “gotcha” questions. He felt his best debate performance was in 2004, with George W. Bush and John Kerry, not because of anything he did, but because the candidates were able to state their positions clearly.

“I didn’t get in the way,” said Lehrer, whose book “Tension City: Inside the Presidential Debates” told stories of his experiences. “Nobody was talking about what I did as a moderator. I didn’t become part of the story.”

He was lured out of retirement for his last debate in 2012 and it may have been a mistake; he received criticism that year for having too light a touch on the proceedings.

The half-hour “Robert MacNeil Report” began on PBS in 1975 with Lehrer as Washington correspondent. The two had already made names for themselves at the then-fledgling network through their work with the National Public Affairs Center for Television and its coverage of the Watergate hearings in 1973.

The nightly news broadcast, later retitled the “MacNeil-Lehrer Report,” became the nation’s first one-hour TV news broadcast in 1983 and was then known as the “MacNeil-Lehrer NewsHour.” After MacNeil bowed out in 1995, it became “The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.”

“I’m heartbroken at the loss of someone who was central to my professional life, a mentor to me and someone whose friendship I’ve cherished for decades,” said Judy Woodruff, anchor and managing editor of the PBS NewsHour, in a statement.

Politics, international relations, economics, science, even developments in the arts were all given lengthy, detailed coverage in their show.

“When we expanded to the hour, it changed from being a supplement to an alternative,” Lehrer said in 1990. “Now we take the position that if you’re looking for a place to go every 24 hours and find out what’s happened and get some in-depth treatment, we’re the place.”

Lehrer moderated his first presidential debate in 1988 and was a frequent consensus choice for the task in subsequent presidential contests. He likened the job to “walking down the blade of a knife.”

“Anybody who would say it’s just another TV show is a liar or a fool,” he once said. “I know how important it is, but it’s not about me. It’s what the candidates say that matters.”

He also anchored PBS coverage of inaugurations and conventions, dismissing criticism from other TV news organizations that the latter had become too scripted to yield much in the way of real news.

“I think when the major political parties of this country gather together their people and resources in one place to nominate their candidates, that’s important,” he told The Associated Press in 2000. “To me, it’s a non-argument. I don’t see why someone would argue that it wasn’t important.”

Naturally, Lehrer came in for some knocks for being so low-key in the big televised events. After a matchup between George W. Bush and Al Gore in 2000, David Letterman cracked, “Last night was probably the first and only that time Jim Lehrer (was) the most exciting person in the room.”

But the real-life Lehrer — who had a tradition of buying a new tie for good luck before each debate — was more colorful than he might have seemed on PBS.

On the side, he was also a novelist and sometime playwright. His debut novel “Viva Max!” was made into a movie starring Peter Ustinov. He did a whole series of novels about the adventures of an Oklahoma politician known as The One-Eyed Mack.

“Hemingway said this, too: If you paid attention as a reporter, then when the time came to write fiction you’d have something to write about,” Lehrer told The Associated Press in 1991.

“And it turned out I did. And I’ve got all these stories stored up after 30 years in the news business. And they’re just flowing out of me.”

As Lehrer turned 75 in spring 2009, PBS announced that the show would be retitled as “PBS NewsHour” later in the year, with Lehrer pairing up on anchor duties with other show regulars.

He said he approved of the changes, telling The New York Times that having a pair of anchors would “shake things up a bit,” even as all sectors of the news business struggled to meet changing reader and viewer demands.

Lehrer was born in Wichita, Kansas, in 1934, the son of parents who ran a bus line. In addition to titling his memoir “A Bus of My Own,” he collected bus memorabilia — from station signs to a real 1946 Flxible Clipper bus.

After graduation from college in 1956, he served three years in the Marines, later calling the experience so valuable that he thought all young people should take part in national service.

“I had no close calls, no rendezvous with danger, no skirted destinies with death,” he wrote. “What I had was a chance to discover and test myself, physically and emotionally and spiritually, in important, lasting ways.”

He went to work from 1959 to 1970 at The Dallas Morning News and the now-defunct Dallas Times-Herald. Lehrer jumped to television for a Dallas nightly newscast.

Lehrer wrote that it was ironic that the Watergate hearings helped establish the importance of public TV, since President Richard Nixon hated public broadcasting. He also recalled that the lengthy hearings gave him the chance to practice his new craft, and MacNeil, already a veteran, gave him valuable pointers on how to speak on camera clearly and conversationally.

He is survived by his wife, Kate; three daughters: Jamie, Lucy, and Amanda; and six grandchildren.

___

Former Associated Press writer Polly Anderson contributed to this report.

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U.S. General Says Troop Surge in Middle East May Not End Soon

ABOARD THE USS BATAAN — Over the past eight months, the United States has poured more than 20,000 additional troops into the Middle East to counter the escalating threat from Iran that peaked with the recent missile attack on American forces in Iraq.

Despite President Donald Trump’s pledge to bring troops home, the top U.S. commander in the Middle East on Thursday said the most recent forces to enter the region could be there for “quite a while.”

“You’re here because I requested that you come,” Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie told sailors and Marines aboard the USS Bataan amphibious assault ship, his voice booming over the ship’s loudspeaker. “I’m not sure how long you’re going to stay in the theater. We’ll work that out as we go ahead. Could be quite a while, could be less than that, just don’t know right now.”

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The Bataan and two other U.S. warships moved into the Middle East on Jan. 11. By Thursday, they were in the north Red Sea, roughly 50 miles south of the Sinai Peninsula. They are the latest additions to America’s troop presence in the region. Since May, their numbers have grown from about 60,000 to more than 80,000.

Those increased deployments came despite two significant hurdles: Trump’s persistent pledge to end the wars and bring troops home, and U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper’s insistence that U.S. forces be shifted to the Asia-Pacific as a bulwark against threats from China.

In making its case for troops in the Middle East, the U.S. military points to Iran’s Jan. 8 launch of as many as two dozen ballistic missiles at two Iraqi bases where U.S. troops were stationed. The attack was in retaliation for a U.S. drone strike that killed Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s top general.

“Iran continues to pose a very real threat,” McKenzie told reporters traveling with him to the Bataan. “I do believe that they are deterred right now, at least from state-on-state actions by our response. And so I think that while that threat remains, I think we’re in a period where they’re certainly not seeking to escalate anything.”

He added, however, that Iranian proxy forces, who may strike with or without direction from Iranian leaders, still present a threat. He noted that Iranian attacks against Saudi Arabia last fall came as a surprise.

“Iran is very hard to read,” McKenzie said. “So I would say the fact that things are quiet for a while does not mean that necessarily things are getting better.”

To help deter additional Iranian attacks, McKenzie asked to have the USS Bataan Amphibious Ready Group, which includes two other ships and a Marine Expeditionary Unit, divert from their original mission in Europe and go through the Suez Canal into the Red Sea. There are about 2,500 Marines and 1,500 sailors on the three ships.

That decision is the latest move since May to bolster the American presence in the region, including the deployment of the 1st Brigade, 82nd Airborne division, to Kuwait and Iraq after the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad was attacked. The U.S. also moved an aircraft carrier into the region last year. It has left and was replaced the USS Harry S. Truman. The Pentagon has sent additional fighter jets, bomber aircraft, and Patriot missile batteries to Middle East to provide additional security for U.S. troops and allies and as a show of force to deter attacks by Iran.

Those moves have increased the U.S. troop strength in the region to more than 83,000, based on numbers from several U.S. officials and other government agencies that track military movements.

Asked about the increase, McKenzie said he understands the demand for troops in other parts of the world, and he has had discussions with Esper about the level of risk in the Middle East.

Esper, who has approved the moves, is looking closely at worldwide deployments in a broader effort to meet the needs of the national defense strategy that identified China and Russia as the key future threats. Even as McKenzie was traveling to the Bataan, Esper was in Florida telling reporters that Russia and China are “mission number one.”

“There’s only a finite number of dollars, a finite number of troops, so I’ve got to figure out, where is the best place to put them? I’ve articulated in the past that I want to either return forces to the States to improve their readiness, or redeploy others” to the IndoPacific, Esper said.

Trump has argued that the U.S. must get out of the “endless wars” in the Middle East. But he has also singled out Iran as a malign influence in the region, and after the Iranian missile strikes, was quick to threaten revenge.

After hundreds of Iranian-supported militiamen breached the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad in early January, Trump tweeted, “They will pay a very BIG PRICE! This is not a Warning, it is a Threat. Happy New Year!” Trump also approved the airstrike on Soleimani, which triggered the Iranian reprisal. Some U.S. troops were flown out of Iraq for evaluation of concussion-like symptom after the missile strikes.

Senior U.S. officials have noted the relative calm after the Iranian strikes, saying both the U.S. and Iran want to deescalate tensions.

But McKenzie said that while the U.S. wants to be “coolheaded,” he worries that cooler heads may not prevail in Iran.

So when he went to the microphone on the Bataan, where Marine Harrier jets intermittently roared down the ship’s deck into the air, he issued a warning.

“You need to be ready because I may need to employ you on very short notice and on some very difficult missions,” he said.

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Democrats Focus Day 2 of Trial on Trump’s ‘Dangerous’ Abuse

WASHINGTON — Pressing through a second day of impeachment arguments, House Democrats scoffed at President Donald Trump’s claims that he had good reasons for pressuring Ukraine to investigate his political foes.

It was Trump who engaged in a shocking abuse of power, not former Vice President Joe Biden or other Trump foes, said Rep. Sylvia Garcia of Texas. There is “no evidence, nothing, nada”‘ to suggest that Biden did anything improper in dealings with Ukraine, said the former judge.

The Democratic prosecutors argued in the impeachment trial before skeptical Republican senators and a watchful American public that Trump sought a political investigation of Biden from Ukraine for his own gain to sway the 2020 election in his favor.

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“There was no basis for the investigation the president was pursuing and pushing. None. He was doing it only for his own political benefit,” Garcia declared.

Trump is facing trial in the Senate after the House impeached him last month, arguing he abused his office by asking Ukraine to investigate political rival Biden while withholding crucial military aid. They also charged him with obstructing Congress by refusing to turn over documents or allow officials to testify in the House probe.

Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani has pursued investigations of Biden and his son, Hunter, who served on a Ukrainian gas company’s board, and also of debunked theories of what nation was guilty of interference in the 2016 U.S. election.

Republicans, growing tired of the long hours of proceedings, have defended Trump’s actions as appropriate and cast the process as a politically motivated effort to weaken the president in the midst of his reelection campaign.

The Democrats’ challenge is clear as they try to convince not just fidgety senators but an American public divided over the Republican president in an election year.

Democrats opened the day arguing that “no president” has ever abused power the way Trump did as they focused on the first article of impeachment, abuse of power, arguing Trump’s motives were clear.

“No president has ever used his office to compel a foreign nation to help him cheat in our elections,” Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, told the senators. He said the nation’s founders would be shocked. “The president’s conduct is wrong. It is illegal. It is dangerous,”

Republican senators, who hold a majority in the chamber and will vote on Trump’s conviction or acquittal, exhibited no shock.

Ahead of the day’s proceedings, Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri said the Democrats were putting forward “admirable presentations.” But he said, “They’ve basically got about one hour of presentation, and they gave it six times on Tuesday and eight times yesterday. There’s just not much new here.”

Rep. Adam Schiff, the Democratic chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, stood before restless senators forced to sit silently for another long day there would be “some repetition of information” from the overview heard on day one.

But he promised a stitching together of the facts to an inevitable conclusion.

“You’ve now heard hundreds of hours of depositions and live testimony from the House,” Schiff said. ’We will now show these facts and many others and how they are interwoven … to a finding of guilt and conviction.”

The top Senate Democrat, Chuck Schumer, acknowledged Thursday that many senators “really don’t want to be here.”

But Schumer said Schiff has been outlining a compelling case about Trump’s pressure on Ukraine and the scheme to cover up the charges and many Republicans are hearing it for only the first time. He contended they can’t help but be “glued” to his testimony.

Once reluctant to take on impeachment during an election year, Democrats are now marching toward a decision by the Senate that the American public also will judge. They are one-third of the way through 24 hours of opening arguments.

Trump blasted the proceedings in a Thursday morning tweet, declaring them the “Most unfair & corrupt hearing in Congressional history!”

Campaigning in Iowa, Biden said, “People ask the question, ‘Isn’t the president going to be stronger and harder to beat if he survives this?’ Yes, probably. But Congress has no choice,” He said senators must cast their votes and “live with that in history.”

Each side has up to three days to present its case. After the House prosecutors finish, likely Friday, the president’s lawyers will have as much as 24 hours. It’s unclear how much time they will actually take, but Trump’s team promises not only to defend the president but to take apart the Democrats’ case. The Senate is expected to take only Sunday off and push into next week.

“There’s a lot of things I’d like to rebut,” said Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow at the Capitol, “and we will rebut.”

After that senators will face the question of whether they do, or do not, want to call witnesses to testify.

On the first day of opening arguments, Schiff appealed to senators not to be “cynical” about politics, but to draw on the intent of the nation’s Founding Fathers in providing the remedy of impeachment and removal. He spoke directly to Republicans to join in voting to oust Trump from office to “protect our democracy.”

Holding the room proved difficult. Most senators sat at their desks throughout, as the rules stipulate, though some stretched their legs, standing behind the desks or against the back wall of the chamber. Sometimes they yawned. Republicans sometimes quietly smirked at the presentation from Schiff and the lesser-known House Democrats prosecuting the case.

Nearing nine long hours of arguments, the empty seats became glaringly apparent. Some lawmakers dashed down the hall to appear on television. Visitors thinned from the galleries, one briefly interrupting in protest and being removed by Capitol police.

The impeachment trial is set against the backdrop of the 2020 election. All four senators who are Democratic presidential candidates are off the campaign trail, seated as jurors.

new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research showed the public slightly more likely to say the Senate should convict and remove Trump from office than to say it should not, 45% to 40%. But a sizable percentage, 14%, said they didn’t know enough to have an opinion.

One issue with wide agreement: Trump should allow top aides to appear as witnesses at the trial. About 7 in 10 said so, including majorities of Republicans and Democrats, according to the poll.

The strategy of more witnesses, though, seemed all but settled. Republicans rejected Democratic efforts to get Trump aides including former national security adviser John Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, to testify in back-to-back votes earlier this week.

Senators were likely to repeat that rejection next week, shutting out any chance of new testimony.

Republicans remained eager for a swift trial. Yet Trump’s legal team passed on an opportunity to file a motion to dismiss the case on Wednesday, an acknowledgment that there were not enough Republican votes to support it.

The White House legal team, in its court filings and presentations, has not disputed Trump’s actions. But the lawyers insist the president did nothing wrong.

___

Associated Press writers Mary Clare Jalonick, Alan Fram, Andrew Taylor, Laurie Kellman, Matthew Daly and Padmananda Rama in Washington and Bill Barrow in Osage, Iowa, contributed to this report.

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China Locks Down 3 Cities With 18 Million to Stop Virus

BEIJING — Chinese authorities Thursday moved to lock down three cities with a combined population of more than 18 million in an unprecedented effort to contain the deadly new virus that has sickened hundreds of people and spread to other parts of the world during the busy Lunar New Year travel period.

The open-ended lockdowns are unmatched in size, embracing more people than New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago put together.

The train station and airport in Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, were shut down, and ferry, subway and bus service was halted. Normally bustling streets, shopping malls, restaurants and other public spaces in the city of 11 million were eerily quiet. Police checked all incoming vehicles but did not close off the roads.

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Authorities announced similar measures would take effect Friday in the nearby cities of Huanggang and Ezhou. In Huanggang, theaters, internet cafes and other entertainment centers were also ordered closed.

In the capital, Beijing, officials canceled “major events” indefinitely, including traditional temple fairs that are a staple of holiday celebrations, in order to “execute epidemic prevention and control.” The Forbidden City, the palace complex in Beijing that is now a museum, announced it will close indefinitely on Saturday.

Seventeen people have died in the outbreak, all of them in and around Wuhan. Close to 600 have been infected, the vast majority of them in Wuhan, and many countries have begun screening travelers from China for symptoms of the virus, which can cause fever, coughing, trouble breathing and pneumonia.

Chinese officials have not said how long the shutdowns will last. While sweeping measures are typical of China’s communist government, large-scale quarantines are rare around the world, even in deadly epidemics, because of concerns about infringing on people’s liberties. And the effectiveness of such measures is unclear.

“To my knowledge, trying to contain a city of 11 million people is new to science,” Gauden Galea, the World Health Organization’s representative in China, said in an interview. “It has not been tried before as a public health measure. We cannot at this stage say it will or it will not work.”

Jonathan Ball, a professor of virology at molecular virology at the University of Nottingham in Britain, said the lockdowns appear to be justified scientifically.

“Until there’s a better understanding of what the situation is, I think it’s not an unreasonable thing to do,” he said. “Anything that limits people’s travels during an outbreak would obviously work.”

But Ball cautioned that any such quarantine should be strictly time-limited. He added: “You have to make sure you communicate effectively about why this is being done. Otherwise you will lose the goodwill of the people.”

During the devastating West Africa Ebola outbreak in 2014, Sierra Leone imposed a national three-day quarantine as health teams went door-to-door searching for hidden cases. Frustrated residents complained of food shortages amid deserted streets. Burial teams collecting Ebola corpses and people transporting the sick to Ebola centers were the only ones allowed to move freely.

In China, the illnesses from the newly identified coronavirus first appeared last month in Wuhan, an industrial and transportation hub in central China’s Hubei province. Other cases have been reported in the U.S., Japan, South Korea and Thailand. Singapore, Vietnam and Hong Kong reported their first cases Thursday.

Most of the illnesses outside China involve people who were from Wuhan or had recently traveled there.

Images from Wuhan showed long lines and empty shelves at supermarkets, as residents stocked up for what could be weeks of isolation. That appeared to be an over-reaction, since no restrictions were placed on trucks carrying supplies into the city, although many Chinese have strong memories of shortages in the years before the country’s recent economic boom.

Local authorities in Wuhan demanded all residents wear masks in public places. Police, SWAT teams and paramilitary troops guarded Wuhan’s train station.

Liu Haihan left Wuhan last Friday after visiting her boyfriend there. She said everything was normal then, before human-to-human transmission of the virus was confirmed. But things had changed rapidly.

Her boyfriend “didn’t sleep much yesterday. He disinfected his house and stocked up on instant noodles,” Liu said. “He’s not really going out. If he does, he wears a mask.”

The sharp rise in illnesses comes as millions of Chinese travel for the Lunar New Year, one of the world’s largest annual migrations of people. Chinese are expected to take an estimated 3 billion trips during the 40-day spike in travel.

Analysts predicted cases will continue to multiply, although the jump in numbers is also attributable in part to increased monitoring.

“Even if (cases) are in the thousands, this would not surprise us,” the WHO’s Galea said, adding, however, that the number of those infected is not an indicator of the outbreak’s severity, so long as the mortality rate remains low.

The coronavirus family includes the common cold as well as viruses that cause more serious illnesses, such as the SARS outbreak that spread from China to more than a dozen countries in 2002-03 and killed about 800 people, and Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome, or MERS, which is thought to have originated from camels.

China is keen to avoid repeating mistakes with its handling of SARS. For months, even after the illness had spread around the world, China parked patients in hotels and drove them around in ambulances to conceal the true number of cases and avoid WHO experts.

In the current outbreak, China has been credited with sharing information rapidly, and President Xi Jinping has emphasized that as a priority.

“Party committees, governments and relevant departments at all levels must put people’s lives and health first,” Xi said Monday. “It is necessary to release epidemic information in a timely manner and deepen international cooperation.”

Health authorities were taking extraordinary measures to prevent additional person-to-person transmissions, placing those believed infected in plastic tubes and wheeled boxes, with air passed through filters.

The first cases in the Wuhan outbreak were connected to people who worked at or visited a seafood market, which has since been closed for an investigation. Experts suspect that the virus was first transmitted from wild animals but that it may also be mutating. Mutations can make it deadlier or more contagious.

WHO convened its emergency committee of independent experts on Thursday to consider whether the outbreak should be declared a global health emergency, after the group failed to come to a consensus on Wednesday.

The U.N. health agency defines a global emergency as an “extraordinary event” that constitutes a risk to other countries and requires a coordinated international response.

A declaration of a global emergency typically brings greater money and resources, but may also prompt nervous governments to restrict travel to and trade with affected countries. The announcement also imposes more disease-reporting requirements on countries.

Declaring an international emergency can also be politically fraught. Countries typically resist the notion that they have a crisis within their borders and may argue strenuously for other control measures.

___

Associated Press journalists Shanshan Wang in Shanghai, Maria Cheng in London and Krista Larson in Dakar contributed to this report.

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U.S. Imposes Visa Rules for Pregnant Women on ‘Birth Tourism’

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration on Thursday published new visa rules aimed at restricting “birth tourism,” in which women travel to the United States to give birth so their children can have U.S. citizenship.

Applicants will be denied tourist visas if they are determined by consular officers to be coming to the U.S. primarily to give birth, according to the rules in the Federal Register. It is a bigger hurdle to overcome, proving they are traveling to the U.S. because they have a medical need and not just because they want to give birth here. Those with medical needs will be treated like other foreigners coming to the U.S. for medical treatment and must prove they have the money to pay for it — including transportation and living expenses.

“Closing this glaring immigration loophole will combat these endemic abuses and ultimately protect the United States from the national security risks created by this practice,” White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement. “It will also defend American taxpayers from having their hard-earned dollars siphoned away to finance the direct and downstream costs associated with birth tourism. The integrity of American citizenship must be protected.”

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The practice of traveling to the U.S. to give birth is fundamentally legal, although there are scattered cases of authorities arresting operators of birth tourism agencies for visa fraud or tax evasion. And women are often honest about their intentions when applying for visas and even show signed contracts with doctors and hospitals.

The State Department “does not believe that visiting the United States for the primary purpose of obtaining U.S. citizenship for a child, by giving birth in the United States — an activity commonly referred to as ‘birth tourism’ — is a legitimate activity for pleasure or of a recreational nature,” according to the new rules, which take effect Friday.

While the new rules deal specifically with birth tourism, the Trump administration also has turned away pregnant women coming over the U.S.-Mexico border as part of a broader immigration crackdown. Those women were initially part of a “vulnerable” group that included others like small children who were allowed in, while tens of thousands of other asylum seekers have been returned to Mexico to wait out their cases.

President Donald Trump’s administration has been restricting all forms of immigration, but Trump has been particularly plagued by the issue of birthright citizenship — anyone born in the U.S. is considered a citizen, under the Constitution. The Republican president has railed against the practice and threatened to end it, but scholars and members of his administration have said it’s not so easy to do.

Regulating tourist visas for pregnant women is one way to get at the issue, but it raises questions about how officers would determine whether a woman is pregnant to begin with and whether a woman could get turned away by border officers who suspect she may be just by looking at her.

And critics of the new policy say it could put pregnant women at risk.

Consular officers don’t have the right to ask during visa interviews whether a woman is pregnant or intends to become so. But they would still have to determine whether a visa applicant would be coming to the U.S. primarily to give birth.

Birth tourism is a lucrative business in both the U.S. and abroad. Companies take out advertisements and charge up to $80,000 to facilitate the practice, offering hotel rooms and medical care. Many of the women travel from Russia and China to give birth in the U.S.

The U.S. has been cracking down on the practice since before Trump took office.

“An entire ‘birth tourism’ industry has evolved to assist pregnant women from other countries to come to the United States to obtain U.S. citizenship for their children by giving birth in the United States, and thereby entitle their children to the benefits of U.S. citizenship,” according to the State Department rules.

There are no figures on how many foreign women travel to the U.S. specifically to give birth. The Center for Immigration Studies, a group that advocates for stricter immigration laws, estimated that in 2012 about 36,000 foreign-born women gave birth in the U.S. and then left the country.

“This rule will help eliminate the criminal activity associated with the birth tourism industry,” according to the rules. “The recent federal indictments describe birth tourism schemes in which foreign nationals applied for visitor visas to come to the United States and lied to consular officers about the duration of their trips, where they would stay, and their purpose of travel.”

___

Associated Press Writer Ellen Knickmeyer contributed to this report.

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World Leaders Meet in Jerusalem to Denounce Anti-Semitism

JERUSALEM — Dozens of world leaders gathered Thursday in Jerusalem for the largest-ever gathering focused on commemorating the Holocaust and combating rising modern-day anti-Semitism — a politically charged event that has been clouded by rival national interpretations of the genocide.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, French President Emmanuel Macron, Britain’s Prince Charles, Vice President Mike Pence and the presidents of Germany, Italy and Austria were among the more than 40 dignitaries attending the World Holocaust Forum, which coincides with the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp.

The three-hour-long ceremony at Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial — called “Remembering the Holocaust: Fighting Antisemitism” — looks to project a united front in commemorating the genocide of European Jewry amid a global spike in anti-Jewish violence.

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But the unresolved remnants of World War II’s politics have permeated the solemn assembly over the differing historical narratives of various players. Poland’s president, who’s been criticized for his own wartime revisionism, has boycotted the gathering since he wasn’t invited to speak. Putin was granted a central role even as he leads a campaign to play down the Soviet Union’s pre-war pact with the Nazis and shift responsibility for the war’s outbreak on Poland, which was invaded in 1939 to start the fighting.

On the eve of the gathering, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin implored visiting dignitaries to “leave history for the historians.”

“The role of political leaders, of all of us, is to shape the future,” he said.

But Putin quickly ventured into the sensitive terrain shortly after his arrival Thursday, claiming that 40% of Jewish Holocaust victims were Soviet.

Of the 6 million Jews killed by the Nazis, historians say about 1 million were Soviet. Putin’s controversial figure appears to include an additional 1.5 million Jewish victims from eastern European areas occupied by the Soviets under their pact with the Nazis.

“When it comes to the tragedy of the Holocaust, 40% of tortured and killed Jews were Soviet Union Jews. So this is our common tragedy in the fullest sense of the word,” he said during a meeting with Rivlin.

Arkadi Zeltser, a Yad Vashem historian, said the accuracy of the statement depended on rival “definitions” of when the war began. Yad Vashem, along with all other reputable institutions, considers the war to have been sparked on Sept. 1, 1939 with the invasion of Poland. The Soviets generally consider their “Great Patriotic War” to have started two years later, when Germany invaded the Soviet Union.

It was the latest chapter in a bitter dispute over Soviet actions in World War II. Putin has been leading a campaign to downplay the Soviet Union’s pre-war pact with the Nazis and focus instead on its role in defeating them.

Israel has appeared eager to oblige, giving Putin a fawning welcome and hosting him for the dedication of an imposing monument honoring the nearly 900-day Nazi siege of Leningrad. The city, now known as St. Petersburg, is Putin’s hometown.

“We mustn’t for even one second blur the sacrifice and the contribution of the former Soviet Union” in defeating “the Nazi monster,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the ceremony.

The forum at Yad Vashem marks one of the largest political gatherings in Israeli history, as a cascade of delegations including European presidents, prime ministers and royals, as well as American, Canadian and Australian representatives, arrived at Ben-Gurion Airport. More than 10,000 police officers were deployed in Jerusalem and major highways leading to it. Large parts of the city were shut down ahead of the event.

For Netanyahu it offered another opportunity to solidify Israel’s diplomatic standing and boost his profile as he seeks re-election on March 2. He was hoping to use his meetings with world leaders to bolster his tough line toward Iran and rally opposition to a looming war crimes case against Israel in the International Criminal Court.

“I am concerned that we have yet to see a unified and resolute stance against the most anti-Semitic regime on the planet, a regime that openly seeks to develop nuclear weapons and annihilate the one and only Jewish state,” he said of Iran. “For the Jewish people, Auschwitz is more than the ultimate symbol of evil. It is also the ultimate symbol of Jewish powerlessness. … Today we have a voice, we have a land, and we have a shield.”

For historians, though, the main message is one of education amid growing signs of ignorance and indifference to the Holocaust. A comprehensive survey released this week by the Claims Conference, a Jewish organization responsible for negotiating compensation for victims of Nazi persecution, found that most people in France did not know that 6 million Jews were killed during World War II. Among millennials, 45% said they were unaware of French collaboration with the Nazi regime and 25% said they weren’t even sure they had heard of the Holocaust.

The World Holocaust Forum is the brainchild of Moshe Kantor, the president of the European Jewish Congress, an umbrella group representing Jewish communities across Europe. The group recently reported that 80% of European Jews feel unsafe in the continent.

Kantor established the World Holocaust Forum Foundation in 2005 and it has held forums before in Auschwitz, the killing fields of Babi Yar in Ukraine and at the former concentration camp Terezin. Thursday’s event is the first time it is convening in Israel. The official commemoration marking the 75th anniversary of Auschwitz’s liberation will be held next week at the site itself in southern Poland.

Organizers of the Jerusalem event have come under criticism for not including enough Holocaust survivors and instead focusing on the panoply of visiting dignitaries and the festival-like atmosphere surrounding it. In response, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy tweeted on Thursday that his delegation was giving up its seats to allow more survivors to attend.

Yad Vashem called the decision “odd” since about 100 survivors were expected to be among the 780 attendees and it was too late to make any adjustments in any case.

“It’s a shame he took such a step,” the memorial said in a statement.

The gathering comes amid an uptick in anti-Semitic violence. Tel Aviv University researchers reported last year that violent attacks against Jews grew significantly in 2018, with the largest reported number of Jews killed in anti-Semitic acts in decades. They recorded 400 cases, with the spike most dramatic in western Europe. In Germany, for instance, there was a 70% increase in anti-Semitic violence. In addition to the shooting attacks, assaults and vandalism, the research also noted increased anti-Semitic vitriol online and in newspapers, as extremist political parties grew in power in several countries, raising shock and concern among aging survivors.

“Anti-Semitism does not stop with the Jews,” Rivlin said in the opening speech. “Anti-Semitism and racism are a malignant disease that destroyed and takes apart societies from within and no democracy is immune.”

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Russian Lawmakers OK Putin’s Constitutional Proposals

MOSCOW — Russian lawmakers on Thursday quickly gave preliminary approval to a slew of constitutional changes widely seen as an attempt by President Vladimir Putin to remain in charge after his current term ends in 2024.

Kremlin critics have described the amendments as an attempt by Putin to secure his rule over Russia for life, but still it remains unclear how exactly the changes allow him to do that.

Putin also didn’t explain why he hastily moved to amend the constitution now, four years before the end of his term. That drew suggestions it could herald a plan to call an early parliamentary or presidential election.

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Putin’s amendments give parliament the right to appoint Cabinet members, but they are focused primarily at preserving and even strengthening the powers of the presidency.

The Kremlin-controlled lower house of parliament, the State Duma, rubber-stamped the amendments Thursday by a unanimous vote in the first of three required readings.

Putin, a 67-year-old former KGB officer, who has led Russia for more than 20 years — the longest since the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, likes to keep his plans secret until the last moment.

When the Russian leader announced his proposals last week, many observers speculated he may use them to shift into the post of prime minister — something he did previously when he stepped down after two terms in 2008 and let his protege, Dmitry Medvedev, serve as placeholder president for four years before reclaiming the job.

Putin continued to wield power during Medvedev’s presidency, but he wasn’t happy with what was dubbed“the tandem rule.” It’s clear he would not take the premier’s position again without turning it into the top executive job. The proposed amendments leave the prime minister subordinate to the president, who can fire him at his whim.

Immediately after announcing the proposed changes last week, Putin fired Medvedev, who had held prime minister job for eight years, and named tax chief Mikhail Mishustin to succeed him.

Putin’s suggestion that the constitution must enshrine the role of the State Council, an advisory body of regional governors and top federal officials, led some analysts to predict that he could aim to stay at the helm as its head. But Putin’s amendments say the president will have the power to form the Council.

The draft also revises the constitutional limit of two consecutive terms, limiting a president to two terms altogether.

Some have suggested that Putin, who served two consecutive terms in 2000-2008 and is currently serving the second of another pair of consecutive terms, may use the constitutional changes to reset the term clock.

Most observers agree, however, that such a move would be too blunt for Putin, a law faculty graduate who prefers to have a democratic veneer on his political machinations.

As wild speculation about Putin’s intentions has continued to swirl, he remains poker-faced.

Asked at Wednesday’s meeting with students if Russia could follow the example of Kazakhstan, where a longtime president stepped down last year but continued to call the shots by assuming another prominent position, Putin shrugged off the idea as unworkable.

“The emergence of a position above the presidency would mean a dual power, which is absolutely unacceptable for a country like Russia,” Putin said.

The second reading of the constitutional bill is scheduled for Feb. 11. Lawmakers and the working group created by Putin have already come up with a variety of proposals in addition to what the draft law outlines.

Putin said the constitutional changes need to be approved by the entire nation, but it remains unclear how such a vote would be organized.

Russian opposition figures have denounced the proposed changes as Putin’s attempt to stay in power indefinitely.

“What he’s doing now is actually preparing the position for himself in order to step back but to keep absolute power,” said Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a Russian tycoon who spent 10 years in prison for challenging Putin and now lives in London. “This turnover of power — from the public field into the shadows — is what we call a constitutional coup.”

Khodorkovsky said Putin may plan early elections in view of mounting public discontent over Russia’s economic woes.

“It’s highly likely that Putin will bring forward both the Duma and the presidential elections, because things are not getting better, the situation is getting worse,” Khodorkovsky told The Associated Press. “The further he delays, the harder it will be for him to do it.”

___

Susie Blann in London contributed to this report.

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Trump Administration to Gut Critical U.S. Water Protections

The Trump administration is set to continue its corporate friendly assault on U.S. environmental regulations Thursday by finalizing a rule that will allow companies, landowners, and property developers—including golf course owners like the president—to dump pesticides and other pollutants directly into many of the nation’s streams and wetlands, potentially threatening the drinking water of millions of Americans.

“This will be the biggest loss of clean water protection the country has ever seen,” Blan Holman, an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center, said in a statement.

The new measure will roll back Obama-era “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) regulations aimed at ensuring wetlands and streams are protected under the 1972 Clean Water Act, which the Trump Environmental Protection Agency has repeatedly targeted despite the president’s professed desire for the U.S. to have the “cleanest water” in the world.

“This puts drinking water for millions of Americans at risk of contamination from unregulated pollution,” said Holman. “This is not just undoing the Obama rule. This is stripping away protections that were put in place in the ’70s and ’80s that Americans have relied on for their health.”

As the New York Times reported late Wednesday, the Trump rule “will remove federal protections from more than half the nation’s wetlands, and hundreds of thousands of small waterways.” The measure, which one environmental group dubbed President Donald Trump’s “Dirty Water Rule,” is expected to be fully implemented in the coming weeks.

“His administration had completed the first step of [the WOTUS regulation’s] demise in September with the rule’s repeal,” the Times noted. “His replacement on Thursday will complete the process, not only rolling back 2015 rules that guaranteed protections under the 1972 Clean Water Act to certain wetlands and streams that run intermittently or run temporarily underground, but also relieves landowners of the need to seek permits that the Environmental Protection Agency had considered on a case-by-case basis before the Obama rule.”

Trump and EPA chief Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist, touted the rule at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual convention in Texas on Sunday. But while the White House—and the Times—framed the measure as a “victory for farmers,” critics argued the rule will largely benefit big agribusiness and fossil fuel companies, which will soon have even more leeway to pollute U.S. waterways with impunity.

The American Gas Association, a trade group representing more than 200 natural gas companies, swiftly hailed the rule as an industry victory.

Janette Brimmer, an attorney in the Northwest regional office of climate group Earthjustice, said in a statement that the rule further shows “President Trump’s administration wants to make our waters burn again.”

“This all-out assault on basic safeguards,” warned Brimmer, “will send our country back to the days when corporate polluters could dump whatever sludge or slime they wished into the streams and wetlands that often connect to the water we drink.”

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The Secret History of the 9/11 Investigation

ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Sign up to receive our biggest stories as soon as they’re published.

This article is a partnership between ProPublica and The New York Times Magazine.

On the morning of Sept. 11 last year, about two dozen family members of those killed in the terror attacks filed into the White House to visit with President Donald Trump. It was a choreographed, somewhat stiff encounter, in which each family walked to the center of the Blue Room to share a moment of conversation with Trump and the first lady, Melania Trump, before having a photograph taken with the first couple. Still, it was an opportunity the visitors were determined not to squander.

One after another, the families asked Trump to release documents from the FBI’s investigation into the 9/11 plot, documents that the Justice Department has long fought to keep secret. After so many years they needed closure, they said. They needed to know the truth. Some of the relatives reminded Trump that Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama blocked them from seeing the files, as did some of the FBI bureaucrats the president so reviled. The visitors didn’t mention that they hoped to use the documents in a current federal lawsuit that accuses the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia — an American ally that has only grown closer under Trump — of complicity in the attacks.

The president promised to help. “It’s done,” he said, reassuring several visitors. Later, the families were told that Trump ordered the attorney general, William P. Barr, to release the name of a Saudi diplomat who was linked to the 9/11 plot in an FBI report years earlier. Justice Department lawyers handed over the Saudi official’s name in a protected court filing that could be read only by lawyers for the plaintiffs. But Barr dashed the families’ hopes. In a statement to the court on Sept. 12, he insisted that other documents that might be relevant to the case had to be protected as state secrets. Their disclosure, he wrote, risked “significant harm to the national security.”

The families were stunned. They knew that the success of their lawsuit might well depend on access to the FBI’s investigation into possible Saudi involvement in the plot by al-Qaida. In a federal courthouse in Manhattan, near where the twin towers once stood, the fight over evidence had already dragged on for more than a year. Now, as the judge prepared to rule on what documents would be disclosed, the Justice Department was digging in.

Daniel Gonzalez wasn’t surprised by the hard line. A former street agent in the FBI’s San Diego field office, he was one of several retired investigators who had signed on to help the families. During the last 15 years of his FBI career, Gonzalez was a central figure in the bureau’s effort to understand Saudi connections to 9/11. But even on the inside, Gonzalez often felt as if his own government wanted no part of what he was finding.

From the day of the attacks, the trail seemed to point to Saudi Arabia. First, there was the inescapable fact that, like Osama bin Laden, 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis. The first two flew in to Los Angeles in January 2000 and quickly made their way to a Saudi mosque. When they moved to San Diego a few weeks later, they turned for help to a middle-aged Saudi student whom the FBI suspected of spying for the kingdom.

But as details of the 9/11 plot came into focus, the FBI line on possible Saudi involvement began to shift: When the evidence was assessed, FBI officials reported, there was no solid proof that the Saudi government or any of its senior officials deliberately aided the Qaida terrorists. Low-level Saudis with government ties might have helped the two hijackers in California, the bureau acknowledged, but there was no indication that they knew the men were terrorists — much less planning to murder thousands of Americans.

Gonzalez knew he hadn’t seen all the evidence; he had just a corner of an investigation that stretched around the world. American intelligence agencies surely had pieces of the Saudi puzzle that even senior FBI officials might not be aware of. But what Gonzalez uncovered was troubling, and he knew that bigger questions about the plot were still unanswered. “My head was already flat from banging it against the wall,” he recalled. “But I thought, We’re not done.”

Gonzalez, a tough, affable Texan, pressed on. With a small group of like-minded investigators in New York and California, he hunted down witnesses who had slipped away and circled back to clues that had been missed. The evidence they developed was nearly all circumstantial. But it added to the questions about the role of the Saudi government.

The FBI has disputed the idea that foreign-policy considerations significantly influenced its investigation. In interviews, current and former bureau officials and federal prosecutors insisted to us that they never would have hesitated to pursue any Saudi who could have been solidly linked to the 9/11 plot, even if that person never faced trial in the United States. (Saudi Arabia does not extradite its citizens.) “I have never been privy to discussions about not charging someone for 9/11 because we need to maintain a better relationship with the Saudis,” Jacqueline Maguire, a special agent in charge in New York who was closely involved in the case from the beginning, told us. “I have never heard charges be questioned for that reason.”

But others who worked on the matter, including some at the FBI’s highest levels, say that the United States’ complex and often-troubled relationship with the Saudi regime was an unavoidable fact throughout their investigations. Even as the Saudi authorities became more cooperative with the United States in fighting al-Qaida after 2003, they were minimally and grudgingly helpful when it came to the 9/11 inquiry. According to current and former officials, requests for assistance that might rattle the Saudi security agencies were frequently balanced against FBI and CIA needs for Saudi help against continuing terror threats.

How such considerations might also weigh against the appeals of the 9/11 families for a fuller record of what happened remains an open question. If anything, the transactional nature of America’s relationship with the Saudi kingdom has become more overt. In December, following the terrorist shooting by a Saudi Air Force officer that killed three Americans and wounded eight others on a Florida naval base, Trump tweeted what he said were assurances from King Salman that “this person in no way shape or form represents the feelings of the Saudi people.” Earlier last year, addressing the Saudi government’s murder of a Saudi columnist for The Washington Post, Jamal Khashoggi, Trump argued that such offenses should be seen in a broader context. “I’m not like a fool that says, ‘We don’t want to do business with them,’” he told NBC News.

Washington’s efforts to keep secrets about possible Saudi connections to 9/11 have also intensified. Former FBI agents who have made court statements in support of the 9/11 families have been warned by the bureau that they risk violating secrecy laws. Kenneth Williams — a retired agent who wrote a prescient memo before 9/11 about radical Arab students taking flying lessons in possible preparation for hijackings — said in a sworn declaration for the plaintiffs that an FBI lawyer told him that the Trump administration did not want him to help them because it could imperil “good relations with Saudi Arabia.” (The FBI declined to comment.)

The full story of the FBI’s investigation into Saudi links to the 9/11 attacks has remained largely untold. Even the code name of the case — Operation Encore — has never been published before. This account is based on interviews with more than 50 current and former investigators, intelligence officials and witnesses in the case. It also draws on some previously secret documents as well as on the voluminous public files of the bipartisan 9/11 Commission.

The Encore investigation exposed a bitter rift within the bureau over the Saudi connection. It illuminated a series of missed opportunities to resolve questions about links between one of Washington’s closest allies and the deadliest attack in the nation’s history. Richard Lambert, who led the FBI’s initial 9/11 investigation in San Diego, as the assistant special agent in charge there, says he believes that even if the FBI’s evidence of possible Saudi involvement in the case is not conclusive, it is significant enough that it should be fully disclosed. “The circumstantial evidence has mounted,” he says. “Given the lapse of time, I don’t know any reason why the truth should be kept from the American people.”

Images of the World Trade Center’s collapse were still looping on television sets in the FBI’s San Diego field office when a lead came in from Dulles International Airport, outside Washington. A blue 1988 Toyota Corolla had been found in a parking lot; it was registered to one of the suspected hijackers of American Airlines Flight 77, which took off for Los Angeles the previous morning before crashing into the Pentagon, killing 64 people on board and 125 inside the building. The hijacker, Nawaf al-Hazmi, listed a San Diego address.

Gonzalez caught the lead. At 42, he had been in the office for a decade, building a reputation as a shrewd, instinctive agent with a gift for getting people to talk. He had worked very effectively against Mexican drug traffickers and corrupt border-control agents, and he pivoted easily to the new target. “He was a phenomenal agent,” Lambert says, “what you would want to see if an agent knocked on your door. He just kept going and going.”

The address from Dulles led Gonzalez to a plain, white, two-story house in the working-class suburb of Lemon Grove. The listed owner was a 65-year-old Indian immigrant, Abdussattar Shaikh, who had taught English as a second language at local community colleges and helped establish the Islamic Center of San Diego, the city’s largest mosque. Gonzalez hurried back to prepare a search warrant at the FBI office, where snipers had taken up positions on the roof. “It was chaos,” recalls William D. Gore, who was then the special agent in charge in San Diego. “Nobody knew where the next attack would be.”

When Gonzalez returned to the Lemon Grove house the next day, a small army was mustering: an evidence-collection team, computer experts and a SWAT team with protective gear and a battering ram. Before they could get to the door, however, the professor politely opened it for them. It would be more than a week before anyone told Gonzalez that Dr. Shaikh, as he liked to be called, was in fact a long-time informant for the FBI field office.

Shaikh’s FBI handler would later acknowledge to Justice Department investigators that the professor had mentioned the two hijackers to him — but only by their first names, noting casually that they were the latest in a line of young Muslim men who rented his spare bedroom. Even had the agent dug further, he might not have discovered that Shaikh’s boarders, Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi, were known Qaida operatives whose names were in the databases of both the CIA and the National Security Agency. While CIA officials placed the two men under surveillance in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in early January 2000 and learned that at least one of them later flew to Los Angeles, the agency did not alert the FBI to their presence until August 2001, a few weeks before the attacks.

As the raid proceeded, Gonzalez escorted one of Shaikh’s new boarders outside. The young man got to know Hazmi a bit at a Texaco gas station where Hazmi briefly worked washing cars. But the guy whom Gonzalez should try to find, the boarder said, was another young immigrant who was especially close to the two Saudi men. His name was Mohdar Abdullah.

Gonzalez set up 24-hour surveillance on the Texaco station and began searching for Abdullah. The next day, as Abdullah drove into a student parking lot at San Diego State University, Gonzalez pulled up alongside him and identified himself as FBI. “What took you so long?” Abdullah asked. “I thought you’d be all over me sooner.”

Gonzalez and another agent invited Abdullah for breakfast at a Denny’s just east of the campus. The diner was one of the spots that Abdullah liked to go to with the two hijackers. Just up the hill, on Saranac Street, was the two-bedroom apartment they rented, where they often whiled away their days with Abdullah and a rotating crew of young Muslim men. Nearby was a small mosque where the three men worshipped under the guidance of Anwar al-­Awlaki, the Yemeni-American imam who would emerge as an important Qaida leader before being killed in Yemen by a United States drone strike in 2011.

Over the next three days, Abdullah, then 22, sketched a picture of the hijackers’ California lives — praying daily at the mosque, going for pizza at Little Caesars, playing pickup soccer. Abdullah translated for the two Saudis, drove them on errands and registered them for English classes. He also tried to arrange flying lessons for the pair. At a San Diego airfield in May 2000, they told the instructor they wanted to skip past the single-engine Cessna and learn to fly Boeing jets. He broke off their training after the second lesson and advised them to come back when they could speak better English.

Mihdhar, who was 24, left for Yemen in June 2000 to see his wife and new daughter. Hazmi, 23, talked to Abdullah about finding a wife as well. (Computer searches suggest that he was seeking a young Mexican woman who would convert to Islam.) Although the Saudis were discreet with strangers, they clearly had strong views about United States support for what they saw as corrupt puppet regimes around the Arab world and Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians. Mihdhar also admitted to Abdullah that he had been involved with a Qaida-linked group in Yemen. But they seemed to understand little about American life and didn’t have much desire to learn.

Abdullah later said he was introduced to Mihdhar and Hazmi by Omar al-Bayoumi, a well-connected Saudi whom Abdullah knew from local mosques. Bayoumi pulled him aside, Abdullah said, and asked him to help the two newcomers settle into their lives in Southern California.

After a couple of long interviews, Gonzalez was sure that Abdullah was telling the FBI less than he knew. He was a bright, garrulous guy and had made his way quickly since coming to the United States in 1998. He seemed to appreciate the opportunities he had found, but he also struck Gonzalez as a hustler. He insisted that he was horrified by what the hijackers had done and that he had no idea they could have been involved in anything so heinous. But he also seemed to have been sympathetic to the Saudis’ ideology, Gonzalez thought, perhaps even their defense of Muslims’ duty to carry out jihad.

Gonzalez could understand such conflicted feelings; he had seen that with informants before. But he was skeptical that a busy student like Abdullah would have done so much to help the visitors out of mere brotherly feeling. The agents also learned that Abdullah lied on his United States visa application, claiming to be a war refugee from Somalia when he was in fact an Italian-born Yemeni who came into the United States from Canada.

When Gonzalez told Abdullah he would need to take a polygraph, a fairly standard practice with important but unreliable witnesses, he initially agreed but later changed his mind. Gonzalez tried to hold off his bosses while he urged Abdullah to reconsider. By then, however, even the special agent in charge in San Diego was no longer calling the shots. “It was not a local decision,” Gore recalled. “Those were made in Washington and New York.”

On Sept. 21, another SWAT team descended on Abdullah outside a big-box electronics store, handcuffing him at gunpoint in the parking lot. Gonzalez thought it was overkill. “I had been building something with Mohdar, working him,” he recalled. “But headquarters says: ‘You’ve got a guy who hung out with the hijackers. What if he blows someone up?’”

Within days, Abdullah was gone, flown to New York for questioning by a federal grand jury. He was never charged in connection with the attacks, but he was indicted on a charge of immigration fraud and moved to a federal lockup. Gonzalez approached him again over the next two years but got nothing more after a public defender advised Abdullah against further cooperation with the FBI. The relationship was over.

Even before Gonzalez found Abdullah, agents began searching for Bayoumi, the hijackers’ mysterious Saudi friend. His name turned up repeatedly — on bank documents and as the co-signer on their initial San Diego lease at the Parkwood Apartments where Bayoumi also lived. Bayoumi, 43, was already known to the FBI. An employee at his previous residence had contacted the field office to report some strange goings-on: large gatherings of young Arab men; a package that came from Saudi Arabia that had wires sticking out of it and no customs papers; some suspicious wiring that a maintenance man found under Bayoumi’s bathroom sink. In September 1998, the FBI opened a preliminary counterterrorism investigation.

Little about Bayoumi added up. Although he identified himself as a graduate student in business, he rarely went to class. He drew a monthly stipend from a Saudi contracting company, but the firm was a conduit for money coming from the Saudi Defense Ministry, where Bayoumi had worked in civil aviation. At local mosques, he was known as a glad-hander who often pulled out a video camera to record gatherings. Agents learned that many worshippers suspected he was a Saudi spy.

FBI officials eventually came to share that view. “Our best assessment of him in San Diego was that he was a spy for the Saudis,” says Gore, who headed the office. But the bureau closed its preliminary inquiry in June 1999 without questioning Bayoumi. Even if he was doing intelligence work without the official cover of a diplomatic post, former FBI officials say, he would probably not have been charged with any crime because he would have been spying for an allied government. Investigators also worried that a more aggressive pursuit of Bayoumi might tip off local men he knew who were suspects in another FBI counterterrorism investigation.

By the time the FBI began searching for Bayoumi again, right after 9/11, he had decamped to Birmingham, England, with his wife and children. At the FBI’s request, he was detained by agents of New Scotland Yard on Sept. 21, 2001. Although he was ostensibly studying for a doctorate in business ethics, his main job seemed to be running a Saudi student association. The kingdom’s security services often use such groups to monitor students for dissident activity.

FBI agents flew to Britain in the hope that they would be able to interview Bayoumi. If they gathered sufficient evidence, they thought, they might even be able to bring him back to the United States. Because of British police protocols, the FBI agents were not allowed to speak with Bayoumi directly but instead had to forward their questions to the British detectives. Bayoumi was hardly a forthcoming witness. He claimed to have met the two hijackers by chance, after hearing them speaking gulf-accented Arabic in a small halal cafe in Culver City, California. When Mihdhar and Hazmi told him they didn’t like Los Angeles, Bayoumi said that he suggested San Diego. When they turned up a few days later, he claimed, he showed them the hospitality he would have accorded any Saudi brother.

Such a casual acquaintance seemed at odds with the efforts Bayoumi made to help the two strangers. And given that Bayoumi claimed to be a mere graduate student, former FBI officials told us that they were struck by what they say was pressure on British officials for his release by the Saudi Embassy in London. After a week — and before FBI officials had a chance to fully review the documents and videotapes seized in a search of Bayoumi’s home — he was freed. He was not asked whether he had a relationship with Saudi intelligence.

After returning to Saudi Arabia the next year, Bayoumi was employed by the government in civil aviation again. In late 2002, a pro-government Saudi newspaper reported that the FBI and Scotland Yard had cleared Bayoumi “of all wrongdoing.” But United States authorities had already revoked his visa on the grounds of “quasi-terrorist activities.”

In San Diego, Gonzalez continued to sift through the circle of people who had known Hazmi and Mihdhar. It became clear that Bayoumi spent a good deal of time with the two hijackers, and that he received a significant increase in his government stipend around the time that he met them. (There was never any proof, however, that he helped them financially.)

In fleshing out details of the hijackers’ lives, Gonzalez found that they seemed to have money but lived frugally, moving out of the Parkwood rental for the less-expensive room in Lemon Grove. They also seemed to have been careful in their communications, generally using pay phones, for which FBI investigators were ultimately unable to recover call records.

In the spring of 2000, Abdullah and others told the FBI that the two Saudis became interested in a couple of American Muslim converts who were stationed in San Diego with the United States Navy. Mihdhar and Hazmi reportedly quizzed the sailors about their life on a Navy destroyer, the USS John Paul Jones, and whether the ship’s guns were loaded when they docked in port. Around the same time, another Qaida operative linked to the two Saudis was helping to organize a suicide attack that would kill 17 sailors aboard the John Paul Jones’ sister ship, the USS Cole, in a Yemeni port in October 2000.

Throughout this time, Hazmi and Mihdhar were living in plain sight. They used their real names on their bank account, on their vehicle registration and on the California driver’s licenses they obtained. Hazmi was even listed in the San Diego telephone book. None of this prompted CIA officials to inform the FBI of their presence in the United States.

The FBI’s 9/11 investigation, which was given the ungainly name Penttbom (a reference to the Pentagon and the twin towers), eventually compiled a detailed chronology of all 19 hijackers’ movements, financial transactions and other activities. But the agents were frustrated by one gaping hole in the timeline: They could not account for the first two weeks after Hazmi and Mihdhar landed at Los Angeles International Airport on Jan. 15, 2000.

Their arrival was the first major step in bin Laden’s plot to attack the United States, and it was a risky one. Both young men had trained and fought as jihadists in Bosnia and Afghanistan. They were known to the NSA and the CIA, as well as to Saudi intelligence, which passed some background information about them on to the Americans. Even so, they flew to the United States under their real names, passing through immigration with the tourist visas stamped in their Saudi passports.

The mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, would later claim to CIA interrogators that he sent the two men to Los Angeles without any contacts at all — an assertion that both the 9/11 Commission and Danny Gonzalez found improbable. Neither Saudi spoke English. What little they knew about life in the West came mostly from a crash course in Pakistan, in which Mohammed tried to teach them to read airline timetables and telephone books and showed old Hollywood movies with hijacking scenes. Documents from the investigation show that even Mohammed doubted they could get the job done.

But, after gathering their duffel bags and clearing customs at LAX, Mihdhar and Hazmi managed to disappear. If closed-circuit cameras followed them through the airport’s international terminal, or if anyone came to meet them, no recording has ever surfaced publicly, and FBI agents on the case said they did not see one. When FBI agents canvassed dozens of hotels around Los Angeles, they found no evidence that the Saudis stayed at any of them during those first two weeks. In its detailed report on the plot, the 9/11 Commission wrote simply, “We do not know where they went.”

On orders from the FBI’s new director, Robert S. Mueller III, Penttbom set up its command center in a poorly lit room in the basement of the J. Edgar Hoover Building in Washington, where the FBI is headquartered. Various teams — including one for each hijacked flight — coordinated the work of agents around the country. It was an unusual arrangement, one that limited the autonomy of the field offices to run their own cases. Counterterrorism agents often complained before 9/11 that headquarters tightly managed the flow of intelligence information, sometimes to the detriment of investigations. Now, in the biggest case the FBI had ever undertaken, that kind of control became standard practice.

In the months after the attacks, the harried Penttbom teams logged more than 250,000 leads, most of them insignificant. But a number of clues suggested Saudi involvement: A Saudi engineering student was among the Arizona extremists reported by Williams before the attacks; in March 2002, the student was captured with Qaida bomb makers in Pakistan. Two other Saudis associated with the Arizona group were briefly detained in 1999, after one of them tried to enter the cockpit during a flight from Phoenix to Washington for an event at the Saudi Embassy. Airline officials eventually apologized to the men, but some investigators later came to suspect that they had carried out a dry run for the 9/11 hijacking plot. A Saudi woman in San Diego, a close friend of Bayoumi’s wife, received about $70,000 in payments from the wife of Prince Bandar, then the powerful Saudi ambassador to the United States. Although initially intrigued, Washington investigators eventually concluded that the vastly wealthy Bandars often gave money to Saudi expatriates.

But even as the flurry of Saudi-related clues continued, Gonzalez and other agents began to note some skepticism within the FBI hierarchy about the idea that the Saudis were linked to the case. In September 2002, Lambert, the counterterrorism chief in San Diego, was asked to help prepare Mueller’s testimony to a joint inquiry of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees that had been established to investigate intelligence failures leading up to the attacks. Mueller’s deputy, Bruce Gebhardt, explained how Lambert was to describe the Saudi role. “The bureau’s position is that there was no complicity” in the plot, Lambert recalls Gebhardt telling him. (Gebhardt says he does not remember the exchange.)

Lambert was struck by the decisive conclusion being drawn on a question he thought was far from settled. But he realized no one wanted his opinion. “I had my marching orders,” says Lambert, who is now consulting for the lawyers to the Sept. 11 families. “It was very apparent to me that that was a decision that was made at a very high level, and that’s what I wrote to.”

Parts of Mueller’s testimony on Sept. 26, 2002, remain secret, and there is no indication in the public record that he exonerated any Saudis suspected of involvement in the plot. Still, he played down the idea that the hijackers had any established support network in the United States or should have drawn FBI scrutiny. “While here, the hijackers effectively operated without suspicion, triggering nothing that alerted law enforcement,” he said.

After the Sept. 11 attacks, American intelligence agencies began to focus more deeply on the Saudi kingdom’s vast effort to spread its ultraconservative Wahhabist brand of Islam that helped radicalize thousands of young jihadis at schools in Pakistan and elsewhere. Generously funded by the Saudi royals to placate their restive clerical establishment, the campaign to spread Wahhabism extended to Europe, Africa and Australia, with a large outpost in the Washington suburbs and the gleaming King Fahad Mosque in Culver City.

Not long after 9/11, the FBI formed two new investigative teams that combined counterterrorism and counterintelligence agents to identify Saudi religious extremists and spies in the country’s diplomatic and cultural apparatus. The Bush administration later forced out dozens of Saudi diplomatic personnel in 2003 and 2004, officials say. The FBI teams also helped illuminate a shadowy network of Saudi “propagators” who moved around the United States, often with diplomatic status, spreading Wahhabist doctrine, networking in Muslim communities, doling out money to mosques and gathering intelligence.

In Los Angeles, one of those Saudi proselytizers came to the FBI’s attention soon after 9/11. A young Muslim convert reported driving Bayoumi from San Diego to Los Angeles on the day of his supposed chance meeting with the two hijackers. Beforehand, the convert told agents, Bayoumi stopped at the Saudi consulate to meet with a bearded man who worked there; later they stopped to pray at the King Fahad Mosque.

FBI investigators suspected that the bearded consular official might be a 32-year-old diplomat named Fahad al-Thumairy, who also served as an imam at the mosque. In August 2002, the bureau quietly sought the State Department’s approval to investigate him for extremist ties. By the time he returned to Los Angeles in May 2003 after an extended trip abroad, the State Department had withdrawn his diplomatic visa on the grounds that he might be connected to terrorist activity. Detained for two days at the airport, Thumairy was questioned only briefly before being deported to Saudi Arabia. Although agents on the Penttbom team at headquarters were apprised of the questioning, Gonzalez and other agents working the Bayoumi file locally learned about it only after Thumairy’s repatriation.

The bureau got another shot at both Bayoumi and Thumairy in Saudi Arabia, in the company of civilian investigators from the 9/11 Commission, who were preparing their report on the attacks. Those interviews, in 2003 and 2004, to which the Saudi authorities agreed only after a campaign of high-level Bush administration lobbying, were coordinated by the Saudi secret police, who also insisted on having officers at the table.

Some of the American investigators doubted Bayoumi’s testimony: He insisted that he had met Hazmi and Mihdhar only by chance, had no idea they were militants and he was just being hospitable in helping them. He denied having tasked Mohdar Abdullah to help them and generally made the case that he was a good-natured, pro-Western Muslim.

Thumairy struck his interviewers as brazenly deceitful. He insisted that he didn’t know Bayoumi even after he was told that the FBI had telephone records showing calls between them and interviews of witnesses who had seen them together. Thumairy also said that he had never met the two hijackers.

Still, both the FBI and the 9/11 Commission gave the Saudis something of a pass. To present its conclusions on the plot at a final hearing of the commission in 2004, the FBI chose its most senior counterterrorism official, John S. Pistole, along with Jacqueline Maguire, who had been selected to coordinate the Flight 77 team in 2001, little more than a year after graduating from the academy. “We have not developed any information that the hijackers had been introduced to Thumairy in that January 2000 time frame,” she testified, “nor do we have any direct connection between them and the King Fahad Mosque in that same time frame.” As for Bayoumi’s help to the hijackers, Maguire told the commissioners that it appeared to have been unwitting. The available evidence, she said, suggested their fateful meeting “was a random encounter.”

Gonzalez and other agents were stunned. If the evidence on Bayoumi and Thumairy was so clearly contradictory and incomplete, the agents wondered, why had it been distilled into a virtual exoneration? Was there secret information they didn’t have?

The agents assumed that Maguire’s testimony had been vetted by the FBI leadership. But even some senior officials doubted Bayoumi’s story of an accidental meeting. Joseph Foelsch, a former supervisor of the Penttbom team, says he suspected that Bayoumi might have been trying to gather intelligence on the two Saudis. “I think he lied,” says Foelsch, who is now retired from the bureau. “I think he was trying to monitor them as part of his routine work for his government.”

There were also sharp internal differences over what to do about Abdullah, who had been jailed for two years on immigration charges. Gonzalez and other agents were convinced there was more to learn from him and that the threat of his deportation home could be critical leverage in questioning him again. They also thought he could still face criminal charges as someone who might have had advance knowledge of the Sept. 11 attacks.

In the spring of 2004, new evidence began to emerge that reinforced that suspicion. In early May, FBI officials interviewed a Belizean who had been held with Abdullah. He said that Abdullah told him, while they were locked up together, that he knew in advance about the 9/11 attacks. The Belizean passed a polygraph examination. On May 18, FBI agents interviewed a second jailhouse informant, who offered a similar story about Abdullah.

Investigators on the staff of the 9/11 Commission, having become aware of Abdullah’s importance to the FBI case, also began pushing to interview him. But Justice Department officials refused to delay the deportation. If they failed to bring criminal charges against Abdullah, the lawyers contended, he could end up “walking the streets,” as one put it. He was deported to Yemen on May 21. Weeks later, in public testimony to the 9/11 Commission, Pistole testified that whatever Abdullah knew had been “exploited to the fullest amount it could be done here.”

Gonzalez was furious. Was there any more important witness the FBI had? The commission investigators were similarly confounded. “We were told, ‘Oh, sorry, he’s gone,’” one of them recalled. “‘It’s the normal bureaucracy at work.’”

The conclusions of the 9/11 Commission, issued publicly in late July 2004, marked a subtle turn in the FBI’s own investigation. While the panel questioned Khalid Shaikh Mohammed’s claim that al-Qaida hadn’t had any kind of support network in Southern California, it refuted the notion that Saudi officials assisted the operation. The commission noted that while Thumairy had been described as a religious extremist, its investigators had “not found evidence” that he ever helped the hijackers. The report was even more exculpatory of Bayoumi, calling him a devout and “gregarious” man and “an unlikely candidate for clandestine involvement with Islamist extremists.”

The next year, the FBI and CIA issued a joint secret report on many of the same issues. According to a declassified one-page summary, the report concluded that Qaida associates and sympathizers had “infiltrated and exploited” the Saudi government. But like the commission, the agencies exonerated Bayoumi and concluded that the kingdom did not knowingly support the attacks. To this day, the Saudi government brandishes the two reports in its defense. “Saudi Arabia is and has always been a close and critical ally of the U.S. in the fight against terrorism,” says Fahad Nazer, a spokesman for the Saudi Embassy in Washington. “Any suggestion that Saudi Arabia aided the 9/11 plot was rejected by the 9/11 Commission in 2004, by the FBI and CIA in 2005, and by a second independent commission in 2015.”

At FBI headquarters, the Penttbom team pivoted to the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, the French militant who was sentenced to life in prison in 2006 for conspiring in the 9/11 attacks. Although prosecutors laid out considerable evidence that the FBI had gathered on the larger plot, FBI agents generally found the outcome unsatisfying: Moussaoui was an erratic, possibly schizophrenic operative, who was marginalized by Qaida plotters even before his arrest in Minnesota in August 2001. He remains, however, the only person tried in federal court in connection with the attacks.

With help from one of his supervisors, Gonzalez set up a working group with agents in Los Angeles to continue pursuing their part of the inquiry. “Three thousand people were murdered,” he recalled thinking. “You’ve got to go out and work the street. Develop informants. One source leads to another.”

Among the potential sources, Abdullah still seemed one of the most important. Gonzalez hadn’t heard anything of him since his deportation to Yemen in 2004. But in 2006, Canadian officials reported to the FBI and the CIA that Abdullah had applied to immigrate to Canada. Working with a Canadian intelligence officer, Gonzalez arranged to lure Abdullah to Jordan — a safer location to meet than Yemen — with an offer of a free plane ticket and a meeting to review his visa application. Still seething about his treatment in the United States, Abdullah initially refused to speak to Gonzalez. Finally, the Canadian persuaded him to sit down with the agent — for at least two minutes. The operation that ensued has not been previously reported.

As Gonzalez flew to the Jordanian capital of Amman in October 2006, he pondered how to use his allotted time. What did Abdullah want? Where was he vulnerable? What might entice him to finally open up about Mihdhar and Hazmi?

Even before Abdullah’s deportation, Gonzalez gathered information that seemed to support the prison informants’ claims that Abdullah had some forewarning of 9/11. One of Abdullah’s roommates at the Saranac Street apartment told the FBI that he seemed distraught in the weeks before the attacks. He abruptly stopped talking on the telephone. Then, he suddenly decided to marry a 16-year-old Puerto Rican girl he barely knew — a step he told friends he thought would bring him automatic United States citizenship.

This was perhaps another node of vulnerability, Gonzalez thought. The girl, a recent convert to Islam, agreed to Abdullah’s proposal. They were married hurriedly on the night of Sept. 10, 2001, in a Muslim ceremony performed under a tree in the Denny’s parking lot. From witnesses’ descriptions, Gonzalez believed the wedding was performed by Anwar al-Awlaki, who had moved to Virginia but was back in San Diego on a visit. Abdullah told us that Awlaki, whom he knew from Yemen, did not officiate.

Gonzalez knew that Abdullah and his bride “consummated the marriage,” as he put it. The union began to disintegrate even before Abdullah’s arrest 11 days later, but it gave Gonzalez an idea. He arranged for a graphics editor to dummy up a photograph of a 5-year-old child who looked like a combination of Abdullah and his former bride.

Gonzalez finally met Abdullah again in a hotel restaurant in Amman that had been seeded with FBI and CIA personnel and Jordanian intelligence officers. Abdullah greeted him with a scowl, his arms folded over his chest. When Gonzalez handed over the doctored photograph, Abdullah’s demeanor changed instantly.

“I knew I had a kid!” he said excitedly.

Gonzalez was not troubled by the ruse, which had been approved by his supervisors to win over a crucial source. Over the next three days, he, Abdullah and the Canadian officer traveled around Jordan seeing the sights, sharing meals and talking about San Diego and the hijackers. Abdullah “started giving up nuggets,” Gonzalez said.

Abdullah spoke in much more detail about the hijackers, including a car trip they took to Los Angeles in June 2000 to drop Mihdhar at the airport before he flew back to Yemen to see his wife and daughter. They went to the King Fahad Mosque for the evening prayer and met an imam — Thumairy — who also met privately that evening with the hijackers. Hazmi and Mihdhar also talked with two other young men, at the mosque and at dinner, whom they seemed to know, Abdullah said. He didn’t recall their names but described one as a Yemeni college student, the other as an Eritrean with kinky hair.

It wasn’t much to go on, but FBI agents in Los Angeles identified the two young men Abdullah described. Officials said the Yemeni was a friend of Thumairy’s who supplied the Saudi Consulate with computers through a job he had at an electronics store. The Eritrean was a close friend of the Yemeni’s and a frequent visitor to the mosque. (The two men asked not to be identified out of concern for their safety and that of their families.)

FBI agents found the Yemeni, who had settled in California and hoped to raise a family, to be a willing and truthful witness. He had seen Thumairy with the hijackers on several occasions, he told them, starting in January 2000. Thumairy had also asked the Eritrean to help take care of the Saudis, calling them “very significant” visitors, people familiar with the Yemeni’s account said.

According to the Yemeni, his friend invited the two young Saudis to stay at the apartment of his sister, who lived in his building near the mosque. The sister and her husband were apparently out of town, and the Eritrean did not want two male guests in the home where he lived with his family. According to people briefed on his account, the Yemeni said that Mihdhar and Hazmi stayed in the apartment during part of the approximately two weeks they were in Los Angeles.

When agents went to interview the Eritrean in 2007, he seemed shocked that they found him. He was by then working at a good job for a big company, hoping to keep his former contacts with the hijackers in the distant past. His account differed significantly from that of his friend: the Eritrean said that the imam, Thumairy, did not ask him to take care of Mihdhar and Hazmi; rather, he introduced the two Saudis to the imam outside the mosque. The Eritrean admitted to having helped the newcomers get acclimated, steering them to nearby motels and driving them to buy groceries, according to people familiar with his account. He said the Saudis stayed at his sister’s apartment only briefly but were there on Feb. 1, the day they met Bayoumi. In later interviews, he changed that account, saying he put up Hazmi for only one night, later in the summer of 2000.

When we found him at his home, the Eritrean referred us to his lawyer. In written answers to questions he later provided, he again played down his encounters with Hazmi and Mihdhar. “It just so happened that I was the first one leaving the mosque that day and these guys started a conversation with me,” he wrote. “I tried to give them very basic help as young people new to this country, and that was it. Looking back I wish I’d never met them, but at the time I had no idea who they were or what they were about to do.”

FBI investigators considered the Yemeni’s account to be more credible. It explained why the FBI was not able to find any sign of the hijackers at Los Angeles hotels. When we recently met the Yemeni in a Western city where he works as a security guard, he would not discuss the hijackers or his statements to the FBI, referring us to his lawyer, who declined to comment.

In one of several statements made in support of the 9/11 families in their suit, a former assistant special agent in charge in Los Angeles, Steven K. Moore, wrote that the FBI found that “Thumairy was the primary point of contact for Hazmi and Mihdhar in Los Angeles.” Moore, who oversaw the early months of the 9/11 inquiry in the Los Angeles office, added that “Thumairy was aware in advance of their arrival and, through the King Fahad Mosque, had already provided a place for them to stay in Los Angeles.”

Other current and former agents said Moore’s assertions overstate the evidence. Investigators never developed conclusive proof that Thumairy knew about the hijackers before their arrival or that he arranged for their lodging in advance, they say. The agents also noted that Mohammed, the mastermind of the plot, told interrogators that he had advised Hazmi and Mihdhar to seek help from local Muslims in California because they were so ill prepared to fend for themselves. (Moore did not respond to requests for comment.)

While the breakthrough might have been a turning point in the investigation, it also coincided with new challenges for Gonzalez. He clashed with a senior agent in Los Angeles who insisted that only he and his agents could interview the new witnesses there. Later on, Gonzalez said, supervisors in the Los Angeles field office refused to waive standard protocols so that he might interview witnesses on their turf, even ones that he had developed, insisting that he forward his queries to them instead.

While the agents squabbled, officials said no one from the FBI interviewed one of the potentially more important sources in the case: the Eritrean’s sister and brother-in-law. The brother-in-law might have been an especially helpful witness, because he was a longtime employee of the United States Postal Service and presumably likely to be cooperative with another federal agency.

On a recent weekday morning, he was sitting in a plastic chair in the carport of his small suburban home. Dressed in a summer-weight caftan, he seemed at his leisure. When we asked whether two Saudi men who were later involved in the 9/11 attacks stayed at his former apartment, he paused for a moment. But he did not seem confused by the question.

“I was not there then,” he said. “I do not know what happened when I was not there.”

What about his wife? Was she home at the time?

“She was also gone,” he said.

Asked if he had been questioned about the episode by the FBI, he said he had not. He then became angry, refused to discuss the matter further and shooed us away.

After a few intense years as a cog in a vast FBI machine, Gonzalez found himself working almost on his own, seemingly forgotten by headquarters. Officially, he was working on what was considered a “subfile” investigation, a follow-on to Penttbom. But while the case wasn’t closed, his colleagues were increasingly busy with other cases and some of his supervisors were seemingly tired of his obsession.

In 2007, however, Gonzalez found an energetic new collaborator in Tommy Smith, a hard-charging New York police detective who had joined the NYPD contingent that worked alongside FBI agents on the city’s Joint Terrorism Task Force office. Smith began systematically reviewing some old evidence, including California telephone records that received cursory attention the first time around. Working with FBI intelligence analysts, Smith began to see new patterns. Although the analysis remains secret, current and former officials who have reviewed it say that it illuminated the relationships among some important subjects of the investigation and revealed some previously unidentified contacts among the hijackers and their associates.

The investigators knew, for example, that there had been numerous phone calls between the imam Thumairy and the suspected spy Bayoumi. But the new analysis pointed to a web of calls, meetings and travel that began in December 1999, less than a month before the hijackers’ arrival. Those communications involved Thumairy and Bayoumi, as well as a visiting Saudi government religious official who had hurriedly obtained a visa and then spent time in California with Bayoumi in the weeks before the hijackers flew to Los Angeles. Another figure in the web was the Yemeni-American cleric Awlaki, whom some agents suspected of acting as a spiritual adviser to the hijackers and helping them with logistics. The evidence was circumstantial, but the agents wondered: Did it point to a support network mobilizing for the hijackers’ arrival in California?

It was already known, for instance, that Bayoumi and Awlaki exchanged four calls around the time of the hijackers’ arrival in San Diego on Feb. 4, 2000. Some investigators speculated that Mihdhar and Hazmi might have used Bayoumi’s phone to call Awlaki. But further evidence showed that Bayoumi had probably called Awlaki just after emerging from the bank branch where he set up their account and helped them sign up for a credit card. Had he called Awlaki to let him know that their logistical needs were being taken care of?

Awlaki, polished and sober in his trademark wire-rimmed spectacles, was a go-to interview subject for mainstream outlets like PBS, a measured, moderate voice for Muslims in the aftermath of the attack. While a couple of San Diego witnesses told the FBI that Awlaki seemed to have a relationship with the two hijackers, he brushed it off, saying he barely noticed the Saudis.

Now, however, witnesses and telephone records pointed to a stronger connection. It was Bayoumi who introduced Awlaki to the hijackers, witnesses said. Awlaki also spent considerable time with the hijackers at the Saranac Street apartment and in his study at the mosque, Abdullah and others reported. It now seemed more significant that Awlaki reconnected with Hazmi in 2001 in the Washington suburb of Falls Church, Virginia, where Awlaki had taken over a larger mosque.

The joint efforts of the San Diego and New York agents grew into a more formal inquiry of the Saudi connection, which in 2007 was code-named Operation Encore, according to former senior counterterrorism officials. By comparison to Penttbom, the effort was minuscule, and the agents knew that the case was growing colder. Still, they continued to find surprises.

As the operation gathered momentum, Gonzalez got word that some crates full of Penttbom evidence in Washington were to be moved to long-term storage or destroyed. Tommy Smith, the NYPD detective, happened to be in the capital on another case, and Gonzalez implored him to go take a look. He soon got a call back. “You won’t believe what we’ve got,” Smith told him.

In a trove of seemingly disorganized evidence taken from Bayoumi’s home in Birmingham, England, in 2001, the detective found a spiral notebook that contained a hand-drawn aviation diagram of a plane descending to strike a spot on the ground. An FBI agent who had studied aeronautical engineering concluded that the diagram showed a formula for an aerial descent like the one performed by Flight 77, the jet that Hazmi and Mihdhar hijacked, before it struck the Pentagon. Apparently, the notebook and its contents went unnoticed after Bayoumi’s detention and hadn’t been looked at again.

The significance of the drawing — like much of the evidence in the case — would be debated within the FBI. To Gonzalez and the other Encore agents, it suggested that Bayoumi might have known about or even possibly been involved in operational details of the plot. Other agents thought that such a conclusion was far-fetched and that the significance of the document was unclear. But Foelsch, the former Penttbom supervisor, said he thought that the FBI’s reaction might have been more aggressive had the diagram been discovered in the fall of 2001. “That would have been harder evidence,” he told us. “If not a smoking gun, a warm gun.”

As the Encore investigation continued, officials at FBI headquarters seemed increasingly skeptical. The team reported its progress in a series of memos summarizing the evidence it had developed. But the investigators’ conclusions were challenged regularly. In early 2010, headquarters officials objected to a draft update that an Encore analyst wrote. New York members of the team were called to the capital for another briefing, this time for the bureau’s most senior counterterrorism official, Arthur M. Cummings.

An imposing former member of the Navy SEALs, Cummings had been a mainstay of the Counterterrorism Division since 9/11, rising through the ranks and outworking most of those around him. As he listened to the Encore presentation, Maguire, the former Penttbom case agent for Flight 77, sat nearby. According to current and former officials familiar with the incident, Cummings finally said he’d heard enough. He recognized that the team had worked hard on the case, but what they had found on Bayoumi and Thumairy just wasn’t enough.

Smith was fuming, the officials said. He suggested that Cummings could close down the case if he wanted — he just needed to order that in writing. (Smith did not respond to messages asking for comment.)

Cummings told us that he did not remember details of the meeting but that he did recall his views of the dispute. “Give me something that after eight years shows we really are onto a couple of co-conspirators,” he said. “I don’t want your gut; I don’t want your theories. If you don’t have that, stop wasting my time — I’ve got other terrorists to go after.

“That’s not to say they weren’t involved,” he now says of Bayoumi and Thumairy. “They were in the orbit of the hijackers for sure. But after years of investigation — and the 9/11 investigation dug into everything it could find, with very little in terms of resource constraints — I hadn’t been presented with anything that was definitive at all.”

The frustrations of the case at times seemed less daunting to the Encore investigators than the erosion of support at FBI headquarters. Inevitably, the displeasure of some influential figures in Washington also reverberated among Gonzalez’s politically attuned supervisors. In December 2009, the Obama Justice Department secured indictments in Federal District Court in Manhattan against Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, and several other Qaida detainees for their roles. Although the indictments were sealed, their scope was sufficiently known inside the bureau to cast doubt on the significance of targets like Bayoumi and Thumairy.

The Encore team needed to catch a break. Then, in the summer of 2010, current and former officials said, one of the Encore analysts came across some intriguing information in FBI files about two young Saudi religious officials from the kingdom’s Ministry of Islamic Affairs. The two men, who had diplomatic status and ostensibly worked abroad as propagators, or missionaries, for Wahhabi Islam, stayed at the San Diego home of Abdussattar Shaikh before the hijackers moved in as boarders in 2000. According to one FBI document, Bayoumi also “assisted” the two men in some way during their visit.

The propagators, Adel Mohamed al-Sadhan and Mutaeb al-Sudairy, had traveled in the United States, stopping in several places that overlapped with where Hazmi, Mihdhar and other 9/11 hijackers had been. The two officials were found to have ties to suspected militants and had left the United States.

The coincidences didn’t prove anything. But the analyst learned that the two men had recently sought new visas, supposedly to study English at the University of Oklahoma. Based on information from various sources, agents suspected that their studies might be a cover for something more nefarious. This time, FBI leaders took the matter seriously enough to authorize an elaborate operation to put the two Saudis under full-time surveillance after they landed in the United States.

The episode, which has not been previously reported, ended abruptly. In the Saudi capital of Riyadh, CIA officers objected strongly to the FBI plan, one former official said. “They didn’t want to give the Saudis a black eye by letting these guys walk into a trap,” the former official said. For reasons that remain unclear, the two Saudis canceled the visit at the last minute. FBI officials suspected that someone in the Saudi government had been warned.

In April 2011, the attorney general, Eric H. Holder Jr., announced that there would be no federal court trials for the 9/11 defendants after all. Bowing to pressure from congressional Republicans, he said the suspects would instead be tried before military commissions at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, that Obama had hoped to abandon. The following year, Encore agents began meeting with federal prosecutors in New York to discuss the possible indictment of suspects in their case.

A partly declassified summary of the Encore case, written in 2012 by New York investigators, cites “evidence” that a Saudi official whose name is redacted “tasked al-Thumairy and al-Bayoumi with assisting the hijackers.” According to several people familiar with the document, it refers to a Saudi religious official with diplomatic status who served in the United States. But the FBI recently discounted the idea that the Saudi was a central figure in a support network.

That year, the arrival on the Encore team of another veteran New York detective, Efrain Vazquez, gave Gonzalez a shot of energy. It didn’t last long. The two investigators tried again to recruit Abdullah, who had moved to Sweden, as a cooperating witness, but he refused.

Reached in Stockholm, Abdullah told us he would not discuss details of his dealings with the hijackers, but railed at his treatment by American authorities. “The hijackers associated with many people in California,” he said. “Nothing happened to any of them like what happened to me. This case keeps haunting me.”

The investigators then focused on an Algerian immigrant who had worked with Thumairy at the Saudi consulate in Los Angeles. He, too, proved elusive. The team also enlisted senior FBI officials to appeal directly to their Saudi counterparts for help with the 9/11 case, former officials said. The details of two encounters in Riyadh in 2011 and 2012 remain secret, but two officials said they came to nothing at least in part because of opposition from Saudi authorities.

Such obstacles notwithstanding, several senior FBI counterterrorism officials dispute the notion that the complexities of the United States relationship with Saudi Arabia prevented the filing of charges. Many counterterrorism experts, including some Encore investigators, doubted that Saudi Arabia’s rulers would have deliberately supported al-Qaida’s effort to attack the kingdom’s most powerful ally. It was easier to imagine that a few of the extremists who flourished in the largely autonomous clerical bureaucracy might have conspired to support the plot. But proof was lacking.

Cummings says that after Sept. 11, intelligence agencies scoured communications intercepts, known as signals intelligence, and reports from human sources around the world in search of Saudi links to the plot. “None of the high-value detainees talked about it,” he said. “There was no sigint. No humint. No family members talking about it — and somebody always talks.”

The Encore agents tended to see what was in front of them: There did appear to have been a support network, contrary to what some senior officials insisted; Bayoumi and Thumairy might not have been “unwitting” helpers; and there was still much more to excavate. They felt that the FBI bosses were just sticking to their story.

In 2014 and 2015, FBI officials aired those conflicting views in private briefings to the review panel established by Congress to follow up on the 9/11 Commission’s work. Some presentations were led by Maguire, who testified before the commission a decade earlier. She repeated her contention that in the connection between Bayoumi and the two California hijackers “everything seems accidental.”

In its 2015 report, the review panel for the first time noted publicly an “ongoing internal debate within the FBI,” between Penttbom veterans and the Encore team, on the question of possible Saudi involvement in the 9/11 plot. The panel urged the FBI leadership to “review both perspectives and continue the investigation accordingly.” It was, at best, a tepid endorsement of Encore’s work.

In San Diego, Gonzalez’s supervisors had started to reject his requests for funds to travel to interview witnesses. In an effort to keep the work going, Vazquez quietly began billing Gonzalez’s travel vouchers to the office of the terrorism task force in New York. “Danny spent more time battling his own people than he did these perps,” Vazquez told us.

But the Encore team also found a sympathetic ear in Brendan Quigley, an aggressive, young federal prosecutor in Manhattan. In December 2015, Quigley agreed to issue grand-jury subpoenas for the Eritrean, who was said to have lodged the hijackers in Los Angeles, and the Algerian former employee of the Saudi Consulate there. The investigators’ hope was that putting the Eritrean before a grand jury without a lawyer could pressure him to tell them everything he knew. They would then try to use that information with other sources. It was an approach that even some of those involved considered a long shot.

“As an investigative strategy, talking to people about something that happened 15 years ago in the hope that they will suddenly inculpate themselves in the largest terrorist attack in history — it’s not that promising,” one former New York prosecutor said. “There was very little documentary or other tangible evidence.”

In February 2016, a team of Encore investigators flew to meet with the Eritrean and his lawyer. They were joined by a senior terrorism prosecutor in the Southern District of New York, John P. Cronan. Given the Eritrean’s willingness to speak with the investigators, Cronan told the lawyer he could disregard the subpoena, which was later withdrawn. Some of the agents were in disbelief, feeling they had been undercut. But Cronan did not believe that inconsistencies in the witnesses’ statements were particularly significant, another former prosecutor said, or that there was much point in trying to lock in his account by having him testify before a grand jury. As Cronan dug deeper into the case, he concluded that the investigators did not have nearly enough hard evidence for a successful prosecution. “Prosecutors sometimes have to have tough conversations with investigators about why evidence does not support going forward with a criminal prosecution,” Cronan told us. “It’s understandable that the investigators are passionate about their cases, but we need admissible evidence of a defendant’s guilt that we can offer in a courtroom.”

Back in New York, the terrorism prosecutors debated the case among themselves and with senior officials at the FBI. They were all working full tilt, at a moment when major attacks by the Islamic State in Europe had heightened concerns about a new terror strike in the United States. Finally, the head of the New York terrorism task force, Carlos T. Fernandez, called a meeting to decide how to proceed.

In a secure conference room at the task-force headquarters in Chelsea, Fernandez said he appreciated the Encore team’s efforts, but he thought they had come to the end of the line. Vazquez, in particular, didn’t try to hide his frustration, insisting that if they could just get the witnesses “in the box,” they could finally break through. Instead, as part of a wider reorganization of the task force, the Encore case was moved to a squad responsible for historical terrorism investigations. “The case had already been identified to be reassigned by the time that meeting happened,” Fernandez told us. “The agents, to their credit, would go to the ends of the earth to follow leads. But we needed to shift resources and deal with priorities. We couldn’t continue down the path we were on.”

Gonzalez called up the agent to whom the file was assigned and asked him if he wanted to escape the New York winter and fly to San Diego for a detailed briefing. The agent declined the offer.

The New York team was quickly broken up. The agents, analysts and a supervisor were scattered to other jobs. A respected senior analyst on the team who spent years developing terrorism expertise was moved to the FBI’s criminal section, where he was assigned child-pornography cases. In a parting shot, the analyst dispatched the Encore case file to the new unit with one last, forceful summary, laying out in 16 pages everything that the team found about suspected Saudi complicity in the plot. He then uploaded the secret document into the FBI’s electronic record, ensuring that it could not be erased.

On Jan. 13, a group of 9/11 families — survivors of the attacks and relatives of those killed — filed into a courtroom in Lower Manhattan. Filling the wooden benches and packed against the paneled walls, they listened intently as their lawyers and those of the Saudi government debated dry points of legal procedure.

The Justice Department lawyers have sometimes sat alongside the kingdom’s lawyers at such hearings, infuriating the families. Although Justice Department officials did not participate in this session, their absence did little to allay the families’ resentment over what they see as a wall of secrecy that protects only Saudi Arabia. “There’s real bitterness over the lack of justice for 9/11,” said Timothy Frolich, a bank executive who escaped the south tower of the World Trade Center but suffered severe injuries. He added, “We’re fighting on two fronts: our own government and the Saudis.”

The FBI, Department of Homeland Security and other agencies have known for years that Saudi diplomats were helping Saudi fugitives. But Washington avoided even raising the problem out of concern that it might hurt Saudi cooperation in the fight against terrorism.

When the lawsuit was filed in March of 2017, the families celebrated it as a triumph. President Obama had vetoed legislation that allowed the suit to proceed, citing international law obligations, but the Republican-­led Congress overrode his veto. Since then, however, the suit has moved slowly. At this hearing, the two sides parried over how many Saudi officials and other witnesses the plaintiffs would be allowed to question during the deposition phase. One of the Saudi government’s lawyers, Gregory G. Rapawy, argued for sharply restricting the number, saying the plaintiffs had “not produced any evidence to support the allegations that Mr. al-Bayoumi and Mr. al-Thumairy acted at the direction of senior Saudi government officials in assisting the hijackers.”

On the night before the families’ White House visit last September, Gonzalez finally got a chance to meet some of them at a dinner in Washington. After retiring in 2016, he signed on as a consultant to the plaintiffs’ legal team. Two of the relatives asked him how he persevered through the frustrations of his 15-year investigation. He told them that he thought about the attacks every day. “We were all just crying,” recalls Christopher Ganci, a captain in the New York Fire Department whose father, Peter, was the highest-ranking firefighter to die in the attacks.

The day after the families’ White House visit, Justice Department lawyers filed documents in support of Attorney General Barr’s claim of state secrets. The FBI’s current counterterrorism chief, Michael C. McGarrity, made an argument that Gonzalez had heard before. “The FBI expects to continue the investigation over the long term,” he wrote. The bureau’s goal, McGarrity added, would be to bring “criminal charges against all individuals responsible for the attacks.”

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Britain’s Brexit Bill Passes Final Hurdle in Parliament

LONDON — Britain’s Brexit bill passed its final hurdle in Parliament on Wednesday after the House of Lords abandoned attempts to amend it, leaving the U.K. on course to leave the European Union next week.

The bill was approved by Parliament’s upper chamber after the House of Commons overturned changes to the government’s flagship Brexit bill made a day earlier by the unelected House of Lords.

The bill will become law when it receives royal assent from Queen Elizabeth II, a formality that could come as soon as Thursday.

Britain is scheduled to leave the European Union on Jan. 31, more than three and a half years after voters opted for Brexit in a June 2016 referendum, and after many rounds of political wrangling.

“Ät times it felt like we would never cross the Brexit finish line, but we’ve done it,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.

The Lords voted Tuesday to demand that post-Brexit Britain continues to let unaccompanied migrant children in EU countries join relatives living in the U.K. The promise was made in 2018 by former British Prime Minister Theresa May, but it was removed from the Brexit legislation after Johnson’s Conservatives won a big parliamentary majority in an election last month.

Johnson’s government says it intends to continue resettling child migrants in Britain after the country leaves the EU but argues that the issue does not belong in the EU withdrawal bill, which sets out the terms of Britain’s departure from the 28-nation bloc.

Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay said an agreement on taking in the children “is ultimately a matter which must be negotiated with the EU, and the government is committed to seeking the best possible outcome in those negotiations.”

But Labour lawmaker Yvette Cooper accused Johnson’s Conservative government of planning to “betray the commitments that have been made to the most vulnerable children of all.”

The House of Commons also stripped out changes made by the Lords to bolster the rights of EU citizens in Britain, protect the powers of U.K. courts and ensure a say for Scotland and Wales in post-Brexit legal changes.

The wrangling didn’t stop the Brexit bill from becoming law, because the House of Commons can override the unelected Lords.

Members of the Lords acknowledged Wednesday that they would have to give way.

“We are at the end of a very long road,” said Martin Callanan, a Conservative Brexit minister in the Lords.

The EU parliament also must approve the Brexit divorce deal before Jan. 31. A vote by the European Parliament is expected next week.

Despite Johnson’s repeated promise to “get Brexit done” on Jan. 31, the departure will only mark the start of the first stage of the country’s EU exit. Britain and the EU will then launch into negotiations on their future ties, racing to strike new relationships for trade, security and a host of other areas by the end of 2020.

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Follow AP’s full coverage of Brexit and British politics at https://www.apnews.com/Brexit

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The ‘Immense Disaster’ Facing Climate Refugees

If you are a climate migrant, how urgent is urgent? Slowing, or even stopping, the damage humans are doing to the physical world through profligate use of fossil fuels and casual extermination of other species is urgent. But what we are allowing fellow humans to tolerate is just as urgent, though often less remarked.

Many millions more will be forced to flee their homes in a world experiencing intensifying climate breakdown. Some will move within national borders, and many others will cross them. The UN body that monitors migration is the International Organisation for Migration, whose data portal provides recent estimates of the numbers of migrants globally.

Related Articles by by by FAIR

It says 17.2 million people were forced to flee by disasters, many climate-related, in 2018 alone. The World Bank estimates that by 2050 143 million people across three global regions could be displaced within their countries by climate breakdown.

Their plight is urgent. But there are strenuous efforts to tackle the problem; movements to welcome migrants − and refugees − and offer them hospitality are growing, from the initiative for sanctuary cities in the US to villages in southern Europe.

The initiative is needed more than ever, as President Trump issued an executive order in 2017 seeking to criminalise sanctuary jurisdictions and cut off their funds. Several cities have simply ignored his action.

“The Syrian crisis is simply a dress rehearsal for an immense climate-fuelled disaster”

The Rapid Transition Alliance (RTA), a global initiative which aims to learn from rapid change to address urgent environmental problems, thinks there is mounting urgency, which will result in rapid change for the better for many of the world’s migrants.

It acknowledges that “the real challenge is how to look after the huge numbers of lone young people struggling as migrants without family or community support. Between 2014 and 2018, around 60,000 minors arrived alone in Italy by sea, 90% of whom were between the ages of 15 and 17,” according to a recent report.

But it also instances the proposal to introduce a cross-border tax on financial speculation (the so-called Tobin Tax) as a way of helping to support migrants and refugees and to help to meet the costs associated with relocation.

The Alliance is upbeat. It says: “Despite high levels of hostility in the global North, exaggeration of the problem, and the irony that many wealthy countries are disproportionately responsible for many of the push factors driving human displacement, movement mostly happens within and between poorer countries.

Political blindness

“Where flows do occur from the global South to the North, it is often to where it is needed, and people are generally good at integrating and adapting.”

Others have been more sceptical about the world’s chances of preventing a climate-driven migrant catastrophe. As recently as 2015 the late British peer Lord Ashdown told the BBC: “The numbers we now have of refugees fleeing battle zones are going to be diminished into almost nothing when we see the mass movement of populations caused by global warming.”

Lord Ashdown, a former marine and diplomat, known popularly as Paddy, told the Climate News Network: “I raised the issue of climate refugees then because I’ve been trying for a very long time to get the international community to take some notice of them . . . I raised it to make the problem more obvious – though I do not know why politicians continue to be so blind to it.”

Paddy Ashdown died in December 2018, enough time to see himself proved right. Three years earlier he had said: “The Syrian crisis is simply a dress rehearsal for an immense climate-fuelled disaster, which I think will begin to be felt within the next decade, perhaps within five or six years from now.”

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Cases of New Viral Respiratory Illness Rise Sharply in China

BEIJING — Chinese health authorities urged people in the city of Wuhan to avoid crowds and public gatherings, after warning that a new viral illness that has infected more than 400 people and killed at least 17 could spread further.

The appeal came as the World Health Organization convened a group of independent experts to advise whether the outbreak should be declared a global emergency.

The number of new cases has risen sharply in China, the center of the outbreak. Seventeen people have died, all in Hubei province, since the outbreak emerged in its provincial capital of Wuhan late last month, officials announced Wednesday night. They said the province has confirmed 444 cases there.

“There has already been human-to-human transmission and infection of medical workers,” Li Bin, deputy director of the National Health Commission, said at a news conference with health experts. “Evidence has shown that the disease has been transmitted through the respiratory tract and there is the possibility of viral mutation.”

The illness comes from a newly identified type of coronavirus, a family of viruses that can cause the common cold as well as more serious illnesses such as the SARS outbreak that spread from China to more than a dozen countries in 2002-2003 and killed about 800 people. Some experts have drawn parallels between the new coronavirus and Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome, another coronavirus that does not spread very easily among humans and is thought to be carried by camels.

But WHO’s Asia office tweeted this week that “there may now be sustained human-to-human transmission,” which raises the possibility that the epidemic is spreading more easily and may no longer require an animal source to spark infections, as officials initially reported.

Authorities in Thailand on Wednesday confirmed four cases, a Thai national and three Chinese visitors. Japan, South Korea, the United States and Taiwan have all reported one case each. All of the illnesses were of people from Wuhan or who recently traveled there.

“The situation is under control here,” Thai Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul told reporters, saying there are no reports of the infection spreading to others. “We checked all of them: taxi drivers, people who wheeled the wheelchairs for the patients, doctors and nurses who worked around them.”

Macao, a former Portuguese colony that is a semi-autonomous Chinese city, reported one case Wednesday.

Some experts said they believe the threshold for the outbreak to be declared an international emergency had been reached.

Dr. Peter Horby, a professor of emerging infectious diseases at Oxford University, said there were three criteria for such a determination: the outbreak must be an extraordinary event, there must be a risk of international spread and a globally coordinated response is required.

“In my opinion, those three criteria have been met,” he said.

In response to the U.S. case, President Donald Trump said: “We do have a plan, and we think it’s going to be handled very well. We’ve already handled it very well. … we’re in very good shape, and I think China’s in very good shape also.”

In Wuhan, pharmacies limited sales of face masks to one package per customer as people lined up to buy them. Residents said they were not overly concerned as long as they took preventive measures.

“As an adult, I am not too worried about the disease,” Yang Bin, the father of a 7-year-old, said after buying a mask. “I think we are more worried about our kids. … It would be unacceptable to the parents if they got sick.”

Medical workers in protective suits could be seen carrying supplies and stretchers into Wuhan Medical Treatment Center, where some of the patients are being treated.

Travel agencies that organize trips to North Korea said the country has banned foreign tourists because of the outbreak. Most tourists to North Korea are either Chinese or travel to the country through neighboring China. North Korea also closed its borders in 2003 during the SARS scare.

Other countries have stepped up screening measures for travelers from China, especially those arriving from Wuhan. Worries have been heightened by the Lunar New Year holiday rush, when millions of Chinese travel at home and abroad.

Officials said it was too early to compare the new virus with SARS or MERS, or Middle East respiratory syndrome, in terms of how lethal it might be. They attributed the spike in new cases to improvements in detection and monitoring.

“We are still in the process of learning more about this disease,” Gao Fu, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and head of the Chinese Center for Disease Control, said at the news conference.

Gao said officials are working on the assumption that the outbreak resulted from human exposure to wild animals being sold illegally at a food market in Wuhan and that the virus is mutating. Mutations can make it spread faster or make people sicker.

Jiao Yahui, a health commission official, said the disease “will continue to develop. It has developed different features compared with the early stage, and the prevention and precautionary measures need to change accordingly.”

One veteran of the SARS outbreak said that while there are some similarities in the new virus — namely its origins in China and the link to animals — the current outbreak appears much milder.

Dr. David Heymann, who headed WHO’s global response to SARS in 2003, said the new virus appears dangerous for older people with other health conditions, but doesn’t seem nearly as infectious as SARS.

“It looks like it doesn’t transmit through the air very easily and probably transmits through close contact,” he said. “That was not the case with SARS.”

Health officials confirmed earlier this week that the disease can be spread between humans after finding two infected people in Guangdong province in southern China who had not been to Wuhan.

Fifteen medical workers also tested positive for the virus, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission has said. Fourteen of them — one doctor and 13 nurses — were infected by a patient who had been hospitalized for neurosurgery but also had the coronavirus.

“This is a very profound lesson, which is that there must not be any cracks in our prevention and control,” Wuhan Mayor Zhou Xianwang said about the infections of the medical workers in an interview with state broadcaster CCTV.

Experts worry in particular when health workers are sickened in outbreaks by new viruses, because it can suggest the disease is becoming more transmissible and because spread in hospitals can often amplify the epidemic.

The Lunar New Year is a time when many Chinese return to their hometowns to visit family. Li, the health commission official, said measures were being taken to monitor and detect infected people from Wuhan, and that people should avoid going to the city, and people from the city should stay put for now.

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Associated Press journalists Dake Kang and Emily Wang in Wuhan, China; Tassanee Vejpongsa in Bangkok, Thailand; Hyung-jin Kim in Seoul, South Korea; Maria Cheng in London; Yanan Wang in Beijing and Alice Fung in Hong Kong contributed to this report.

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Tulsi Gabbard Files Defamation Suit Against Hillary Clinton

NEW YORK — Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard filed a defamation lawsuit against Hillary Clinton on Wednesday over an interview in which Clinton appeared to call Gabbard “the favorite of the Russians.”

Gabbard, a Hawaii congresswoman, said in her lawsuit filed in federal court in Manhattan that Clinton’s comments in a podcast last year in which she suggested that Gabbard was being groomed by Russia to be a third-party candidate were based on either her own imagination or “extremely dubious conspiracy theories” that any reasonable person would know to be “inherently and objectively unreliable.”

During the Oct. 15 Democratic presidential debate, Gabbard criticized a TV commentator she said had called her “an asset of Russia.”

Without naming Gabbard, Clinton appeared to agree with the characterization during a podcast appearance days later on “Campaign HQ with David Plouffe.” Plouffe was campaign manager for President Barack Obama in 2008 and served as served as a senior adviser to the president.

“She’s the favorite of the Russians,” Clinton told Plouffe, who was campaign manager for future President Barack Obama in 2008, referring to a person she had earlier identified as a woman “who’s currently in the Democratic primary. … They have a bunch of sites and bots and other ways of supporting her so far.”

The lawsuit charges that Clinton “reserves a special hatred and animosity for Tulsi” because Gabbard endorsed Sen. Bernie Sanders over Clinton in the 2016 Democratic primary campaign and never endorsed Clinton.

Asked to comment on the lawsuit, Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill said, “That’s ridiculous.”

Gabbard, whose support among Democratic primary voters has averaged around 1% in polls, has said she will not run for president as a third-party candidate.

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Saudi Prince Implicated in Bezos’ Phone Hack, U.N. Experts Say

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The phone of Amazon founder and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos was hacked after receiving a file sent from an account used by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, United Nations experts said Wednesday.

The two experts called for an “immediate investigation” by the United States into information that suggests that Bezos’ phone was likely hacked after he received an MP4 video file sent from the Saudi prince’s WhatsApp account in May 2018, after the two exchanged phone numbers at a dinner in California.

The file was sent to Bezos’ phone five months before Saudi critic and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi was killed by Saudi government agents inside the Saudi consulate in Turkey in October. At the time, the crown prince was being widely hailed for ushering in major social reforms to the kingdom, but Khashoggi was writing columns in the Post that highlighted the darker side of the crown prince’s simultaneous clampdown on dissent.

The Post was harshly critical of the Saudi government after Khashoggi’s killing and demanded accountability in a highly public campaign that ran in the paper for weeks after his death.

“The information we have received suggests the possible involvement of the Crown Prince in surveillance of Mr. Bezos, in an effort to influence, if not silence, The Washington Post’s reporting on Saudi Arabia,” the independent U.N. experts said.

They said that at a time when Saudi Arabia was “supposedly investigating the killing of Mr. Khashoggi, and prosecuting those it deemed responsible, it was clandestinely waging a massive online campaign against Mr. Bezos and Amazon targeting him principally as the owner of The Washington Post.”

The U.N. experts published their statement after reviewing a full report conducted by a team of investigators hired by Bezos. The experts said they reviewed the 2019 digital forensic analysis of Bezos’ iPhone, which was made available to them as U.N. special rapporteurs. The independent experts are appointed by the U.N. Human Rights Council.

The digital forensic investigation that was commissioned by Bezos and shared with the U.N. experts assessed with “medium to high confidence” that his phone was infiltrated on May 1, 2018, via the MP4 video file sent from the crown prince’s WhatsApp account.

The experts said that records showed that within hours of receiving the video from the crown prince’s account, there was “an anomalous and extreme change in phone behavior” with enormous amounts of data being transmitted and exfiltrated from the phone, undetected, for several months.

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, called the hacking allegations “absolutely illegitimate.”

“There was no information in there that’s relevant. There was no substantiation, there was no evidence,” he told an Associated Press reporter at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “It was purely conjecture, and if there is real evidence, we look forward to seeing it.”

Saudi Arabia is already under investigation in the U.S. for another case involving Twitter. U.S. prosecutors in California allege that the Saudi government, frustrated by growing criticism of its leaders and policies on social media, recruited two Twitter employees to gather confidential personal information on thousands of accounts that included prominent opponents.

Bezos went public last February after allegedly being shaken down by the U.S. tabloid National Enquirer, which he said threatened to expose a “below-the-belt” selfie he’d taken and other private messages and pictures he’d exchanged with a woman he was dating while he was still married.

Bezos wrote in a lengthy piece for the Medium that rather than capitulate to extortion and blackmail, “I’ve decided to publish exactly what they sent me, despite the personal cost and embarrassment they threaten.” While he did not accuse Saudi Arabia’s crown prince of being behind the hacking of his phone, he noted that the owner of the National Enquirer had been investigated for various actions taken on behalf of the Saudi government.

Bezos’ chief investigator, Gavin De Becker, went further, saying in a published report last March that the investigation found the Saudis obtained the private data of Bezos. His piece for The Daily Beast outlined in detail what he said was the crown prince’s close relationship with the chairman of AMI, David Pecker, which is the parent company of the National Enquirer.

At the time of his dealings with the crown prince, Bezos had been looking for a site in the Middle East to expand Amazon’s cloud services. The billionaire technology mogul had visited Saudi Arabia in 2016 to meet with the crown prince before meeting with him again during the prince’s tour of the United States in 2018. The company ultimately selected the island nation of Bahrain off the coast of Saudi Arabia, which opened in July.

Amazon has also expanded into the Middle East with its 2017 purchase of e-commerce website Souq.com, which is a competitor of Noon.com, a platform that launched that same year and is heavily funded by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund that is overseen by the crown prince.

Another senior Saudi official in Riyadh, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly, told the AP that the kingdom finds it “distressing” that these claims are being made “devoid of evidence or fact.

“The kingdom of Saudi Arabia does not conduct illicit activities of this nature, nor does it condone them,” the official said.

The Financial Times, which has seen the forensic report that was done by FTI Consulting., said the investigation “does not claim to have conclusive evidence,” and “could not ascertain what alleged spyware was used.”

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Associated Press writers David Rising and Jon Gambrell in Dubai and Jamey Keaten in Davos, Switzerland, contributed to this report.

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Trump Impeachment Trial Now on Fast Track With Rules Set

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate plunged into President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial with Republicans abruptly abandoning plans to cram opening arguments into two days but solidly rejecting for now Democratic demands for more witnesses to expose what they deem Trump’s “trifecta” of offenses.

Trump himself said Wednesday he wants top aides to testify, but qualified that by suggesting there were “national security” concerns to allowing their testimony.

“We have a great case,” Trump said at a global economic forum in Davos, Switzerland. In a press conference before returning to Washington, Trump said his legal team was doing a “very good job.”

He appeared to break with Republicans’ efforts to block Democratic motions to immediately call witnesses and subpoena documents. Instead, Trump said he’d like to see aides, including former national security adviser John Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, testify as witnesses.

Trump said he’d leave the “national security” concerns about allowing their testimony to the Senate.

Tuesday’s daylong session started with the setback for Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell and the president’s legal team, but it ended near 2 a.m. Wednesday with Republicans easily approving the rest of the trial rules largely on their terms.

With the rules settled, the trial is now on a fast-track. At issue is whether Trump should be removed from office for abuse of power stemming from his pressure on Ukraine to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden and Biden’s son Hunter as Trump was withholding aid to the country, and for obstructing Congress’ ensuing probe.

Chief Justice John Roberts gaveled open the session, with House prosecutors on one side, Trump’s team on the other, in the well of the Senate, as senators sat silently at their desks, under oath to do “impartial justice.” No cellphones or other electronics were allowed.

As the day stretched deep into the night, lawyerly arguments gave way to more pointedly political ones. Tempers flared and senators paced the chamber. Democrats pursued what may be their only chance to force senators to vote on hearing new testimony.

After one particularly bitter post-midnight exchange, Roberts intervened, taking the rare step of admonishing both the Democratic House managers prosecuting the case and the White House counsel to “remember where they are.”

“I think it is appropriate at this point for me to admonish both the House managers and the president’s counsel in equal terms to remember that they are addressing the world’s greatest deliberative body,” the usually reserved Roberts said. He told them that the description of the Senate stemmed from a 1905 trial when a senator objected to the word “pettifogging,” because members should “avoid speaking in a manner and using language that is not conducive to civil discourse.”

Over and over, Republicans turned back Democratic amendments to subpoena documents from the White House, State Department, Defense Department and budget office. By the same 53-47 party-line, they turned away witnesses with front-row seats to Trump’s actions including acting White House chief of staff Mulvaney and Bolton, the former national security adviser critical of the Ukraine policy.

Only on one amendment, to allow more time to file motions, did a single Republican, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, join Democrats. But it, too, was rejected, 52-48.

Motions from the Trump legal team were due Wednesday morning, but the attorneys weren’t filing any, said Jay Sekulow, one of the president’s lawyers. That means there will be no motion to dismiss the case as some Republicans had discussed.

As the visitors’ gallery filled earlier with guests, actress-and-activist Alyssa Milano among them, and Trump’s most ardent House allies lining the back rows, the day that began as a debate over rules quickly took on the cadence of a trial proceeding over whether the president’s actions toward Ukraine warranted removal from office.

“It’s not our job to make it easy for you,” Rep. Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee leading the prosecution, told the Senate. “Our job is to make it hard to deprive the American people of a fair trial.”

White House counsel Pat Cipollone, the president’s lead lawyer, called the trial “a farce.” He scoffed that the House charges against Trump were “ridiculous.”

The White House legal team did not dispute Trump’s actions, when he called Ukraine and asked for a “favor,” which was to investigate Biden as he withheld military aid the ally desperately needed as it faced off with hostile Russia on its border. But the lawyers insisted the president did nothing wrong.

“Absolutely no case,” Cipollone said.

Schiff, the California Democrat, said America’s Founders added the remedy of impeachment in the Constitution with “precisely this type of conduct in mind — conduct that abuses the power of office for a personal benefit, that undermines our national security, and that invites foreign interference in the democratic process of an election.”

Said Schiff: “It is the trifecta of constitutional misconduct justifying impeachment.”

Sekulow, the other lead lawyer on Trump’s team, retorted, “I’ll give you a trifecta,” outlining complaints over the House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry process.

In Davos, Trump repeated his attacks on Democratic House managers serving as prosecutors in the trial, saying that he’d like to “sit right in the front row and stare at their corrupt faces” on the Senate floor during the trial but that his attorneys might have a problem with it.

And he said he wants to deliver the State of the Union as scheduled on Feb. 4 even if the trial is ongoing, calling the address “very important to what I am doing” in setting his administration’s agenda.

The impeachment trial is set against the backdrop of the 2020 election. All four senators who are Democratic presidential candidates were off the campaign trail, seated as jurors.

“My focus is going to be on impeachment,” Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent, told reporters.

McConnell stunned senators and delayed the start of proceedings with his decision to back off some of his proposed rules. He made the adjustment after encountering resistance from Republicans during a closed-door lunch meeting. Senators worried about the political optics of “dark of night” sessions that could come from cramming the 24 hours of opening arguments from each side into just two days.

Collins and Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who often buck party leadership, along with a substantial number of other Republicans, wanted to make the changes, according to people familiar with the situation.

It was only when the clerk started reading the dry language of the resolution that the hand-written changes to extend debate to three days became apparent. It also allowed the House impeachment record to be included in the Senate.

The turnaround was a swift lesson as White House wishes run into the reality of the Senate. The White House wanted a session kept to a shorter period to both expedite the trial and shift more of the proceedings into late night, according to a person familiar with the matter but unauthorized to discuss it in public.

Trump’s legal team, absent its TV-showcase attorneys, Alan Dershowitz and Kenneth Starr who were not in the chamber, argued that in seeking new evidence the House was bringing a half-baked case.

But Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California, one of the House managers and the first woman to argue for the prosecution in a presidential impeachment trial, said the House wasn’t asking the Senate to do the job for them. “The House is asking the Senate to do its job, to have a trial,” she said. “Have you ever heard of a trial without evidence?”

The White House had instructed officials not to testify in the House inquiry, and refused to turn over witnesses or documents, citing what it says is precedence in defiance of congressional subpoenas.

Democrat Schiff displayed video of Trump himself suggesting there should be more witnesses testifying.

One by one, the House managers made the case, drawing on their own life experiences.

Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla., a former police chief, said she never saw anyone take “such extreme steps to hide evidence.” Rep. Jason Crow, a former Army Ranger who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, seemed to capture senators’ attention when he told them near he knew the hour was late, but it was morning in Ukraine where soldiers were waking up to fight Russia, depending on U.S. aid.

It was when Rep. Jerrold Nadler, the House Judiciary Committee chairman also leading the prosecution, said the White House lawyers “lie” that Cipollone and Sekulow retorted that Nadler should be embarrassed and apologize, leading to Roberts’ admonition.

No president has ever been removed from office. With its 53-47 Republican majority, the Senate is not expected to mount the two-thirds vote needed for conviction.

___

Associated Press writers Mary Clare Jalonick, Eric Tucker, Alan Fram, Laurie Kellman, Andrew Taylor, Matthew Daly and Padmananda Rama in Washington, Jamey Keaten and Darlene Superville in Davos, Switzerland and David Pitt in Des Moines, Iowa, contributed to this report.

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The Climate Solution That Could Make Poor Countries Richer

Californian scientists have just made a case for geo-engineering as a solution to the climate crisis. One stratospheric technology – the reflection of incoming sunlight back into space – could do more than just lower global average temperatures.

It could also enhance the economic performance of some of the world’s poorest countries and reduce global income inequality by 50%.

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“We find hotter, more populous countries are more sensitive to changes in temperature – whether it is an increase or a decrease,” said Anthony Harding, of Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of California at San Diego.

“With solar geo-engineering, we find that poorer countries benefit more than richer countries from reductions in temperature, reducing inequalities. Together, the overall global economy grows.”

Uneven benefits possible

Harding and his colleagues report in the journal Nature Communications that they simply applied climate models to the consequences of a successful international collaboration to systematically reduce or reflect incoming sunlight, to compensate for the consequences of a steady increase in global average temperatures as a consequence of greenhouse gas emissions.

Geo-engineering requires technologies that are not yet proven and that many scientists think may never work in any way that helps all nations evenly.

The authors acknowledge that many climate scientists are “reluctant to pursue one global climate intervention to correct for another” – a tacit recognition that humans have already inadvertently geo-engineered the climate crisis driven by global heating simply by burning fossil fuels and destroying forests. Nor do they specify a preferred version of any technology that puts sulphate aerosols or other reflecting particles into the stratosphere to reduce incoming radiation.

They simply consider the economic impacts of global temperature reductions under four different climate scenarios: if climates stabilised naturally; if temperatures went on soaring; if they were stabilised by geo-engineering; and if geo-engineering worked too well and lowered the planet’s temperature.

“A robust system of global governance will be necessary to ensure any future decisions about solar geo-engineering are made for collective benefit”

They identified historical connections between the heat of the day and the wealth of a nation. Rainfall didn’t seem to matter so much. What was important was the temperature. And in the models, temperature seemed to make all the difference.

If tomorrow’s world, thanks to geo-engineering, cooled by 3.5°C – and right now the planetary temperature seems set to rise by about that much – average incomes in countries such as Niger, Chad and Mali would rise by more than 100% in a century.

In southern Europe and the US, gains would be a more modest 20%. Impacts from country to country might vary according to each scenario. But changes in temperature driven by solar geo-engineering consistently translated, they say, into a 50% cut in global income inequality.

“We find that if temperatures cooled, there would be gains in gross domestic product per capita,” Harding said. “For some models, these gains are up to 1000% over the course of the century and are largest for countries in the tropics, which historically tend to be poorer.”

Poorest hit hardest

Researchers have consistently found that global heating brings yet more economic hardship, and even social conflict, to the world’s least developed nations: these are the countries that have benefited least from the exploitation of oil, coal and natural gas to drive wealth, and therefore contributed least to the creation of a climate crisis.

The latest study suggests that although the best way to confront the challenge is to reduce and eventually reverse greenhouse gas emissions, concerted global action – carefully agreed and executed – might in theory cool the globe and limit the losses of everybody, but especially the poorest.

There is a catch: nobody has yet agreed on the technology that would work best. And nobody knows how to achieve the other prerequisite: international co-operation.

“Our findings underscore that a robust system of global governance will be necessary to ensure any future decisions about solar geo-engineering are made for collective benefit,” the authors write.

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Mexico Begins Flying, Busing Migrants Back to Honduras

CIUDAD HIDALGO, Mexico — Hundreds of Central American migrants who entered southern Mexico in recent days have either been pushed back into Guatemala by Mexican troops, shipped to detention centers or returned to Honduras, officials said Tuesday. An unknown number slipped past Mexican authorities and continued north.

The latest migrant caravan provided a public platform for Mexico to show the U.S. government and migrants thinking of making the trip that it has refined its strategy and produced its desired result: This caravan will not advance past its southern border.

What remained unclear was the treatment of the migrants who already find themselves on their way back to the countries they fled last week.

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The caravan of thousands had set out from Honduras in hopes Mexico would grant them passage, posing a fresh test of U.S. President Donald Trump’s effort to reduce the flow of migrants arriving at the U.S. border by pressuring other governments to stop them.

Mexican Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said 2,400 migrants entered Mexico legally over the weekend. About 1,000 of them requested Mexico’s help in returning to their countries. The rest were being held in immigration centers while they start legal processes that would allow them to seek refuge in Mexico or obtain temporary work permits that would confine them to southern Mexico.

On Tuesday afternoon, Jesus, a young father from Honduras who offered only his first name, rested in a shelter in Tecun Uman, Guatemala, with his wife and their baby, unsure of what to do next.

“No country’s policy sustains us,” he said in response to hearing Ebrard’s comments about the situation. “If we don’t work, we don’t eat. (He) doesn’t feed us, doesn’t care for our children.”

Honduran officials said more than 600 of its citizens were expected to arrive in that country Tuesday by plane and bus and more would follow in the coming days.

Of an additional 1,000 who tried to enter Mexico illegally Monday by wading across the Suchiate river, most were either forced back or detained later by immigration agents, according to Mexican officials.

Most of the hundreds stranded in the no-man’s land on the Mexican side of the river Monday night returned to Guatemala in search of water, food and a place to sleep. Mexican authorities distributed no water or food to those who entered illegally, in what appeared to be an attempt by the government to wear out the migrants.

Alejandro Rendón, head of Mexico’s social welfare department, said his colleagues were giving water to those who turned themselves in or were caught by immigration agents, but were not doing the same along the river because it was not safe for workers to do so.

“It isn’t prudent to come here because we can’t put the safety of the colleagues at risk,” he said.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said Tuesday that the government is trying to protect the migrants from harm by preventing them from traveling illegally through the country. He said they need to respect Mexican laws.

“If we don’t take care of them, if we don’t know who they are, if we don’t have a register, they pass and get to the north, and the criminal gangs grab them and assault them, because that’s how it was before,” he said. “They disappeared them.”

Mexican Interior Minister Olga Sánchez Cordero commended the National Guard for its restraint, saying: “In no way has there been an act that we could call repression and not even annoyance.”

But Honduras’ ambassador to Mexico said there had been instances of excessive force on the part of the National Guard. “We made a complaint before the Mexican government,” Alden Rivera said in an interview with HCH Noticias without offering details. He also conceded migrants had thrown rocks at Mexican authorities.

An Associated Press photograph of a Mexican National Guardsman holding a migrant in a headlock was sent via Twitter by acting U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Ken Cuccinelli with the message: “We appreciate Mexico doing more than they did last year to interdict caravans attempting to move illegally north to our southern border.”

On the Guatemala side Tuesday, migrants lined up at a shelter for a breakfast of plantains, beans and coffee. Some asked for dry clothing to replace what was soaked or lost in their dash into Mexico. Others passed the time playing soccer and cards beside the river as they tried to figure out what to do next.

Darlin René Romero and his wife were among the few who spent the night pinned between the river and Mexican authorities.

Rumors had circulated through the night that “anything could happen, that being there was very dangerous,” Romero said. But the couple from Copan, Honduras, spread a blanket on the ground and passed the night 20 yards from a line of National Guard troops forming a wall with their riot shields.

They remained confident that Mexico would allow them to pass through and were trying to make it to the northern Mexican city of Monterrey, where his sister lives.

They said a return home to impoverished and gang-plagued Honduras, where most of the migrants are from, was unthinkable.

“We are in no-man’s land,” said Alan Mejía, whose 2-year-old son was cradled in his arms clad only in a diaper as his wife, Ingrid Vanesa Portillo, and their other son, 12, gazed at the riverbank Monday night. Mejía joined in five previous migrant caravans but never made it farther than the Mexican border city of Tijuana.

“They are planning how to clear us out, and here we are without water or food,” said a desperate Portillo. “There is no more hope for going forward.”

___

Associated Press writer Maria Verza reported this story in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico, and AP writer Sonia Pérez D. reported from Tecun Uman, Guatemala. AP writer Marlon González in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, and AP videojournalist Diego Salgado in Tecun Uman contributed to this report.

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Planned Parenthood Endorses Challenger to Sen. Susan Collins

PORTLAND, Maine — Planned Parenthood on Tuesday endorsed a Democratic challenger to Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, saying Collins “turned her back” on women and citing her vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court as well as other judicial nominees who oppose abortion.

Sara Gideon, speaker of the Maine House of Representatives, welcomed the endorsement from the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. “There’s never been a more important time to stand up for reproductive rights,” she said, in the face of “systematic attacks on reproductive rights across the country.

Collins, who was honored by Planned Parenthood as recently as 2017 as “an outspoken champion for women’s health,” is facing perhaps the toughest reelection fight of her career. Critics have vowed they won’t forget her key vote for Kavanaugh, whose nomination survived an accusation that he sexually assaulted someone in high school.

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“From her decisive vote to confirm Kavanaugh to her refusal to stop Republican attacks on our health and rights, it’s clear that she has turned her back on those she should be championing,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, acting president and CEO of Planned Parenthood. She said Collins “has abandoned not only the people of Maine, but women across the country.”

The Collins campaign said Planned Parenthood has changed and become more partisan, noting that no Republicans have won its endorsement.

“Senator Collins has not changed, but leadership at Planned Parenthood certainly has,” Collins campaign spokesman Kevin Kelley said. “It’s sad that the group is now run by far left activists who would rather focus on partisan politics than bipartisan policies that provide health care to women.”

The endorsement was one of several announced Tuesday, the day before the anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling that made abortion legal. The Planned Parenthood Action Fund also is backing Democrat Jaime Harrison, who’s seeking to unseat GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and Democrat Barbara Bollier, who’s running for an open Senate seat in Kansas.

In Maine, Collins and Planned Parenthood have had a complicated relationship.

Collins has supported funding for the organization, and she received its endorsement once before, in her 2002 reelection campaign. She was honored by the group in 2017 with its Barry Goldwater Award to a public official who has acted as a leader within the Republican Party to support Planned Parenthood.

“Senator Collins has been an outspoken champion for women’s health. Thanks to Senator Collins’ steadfast commitment to her constituents, tens of thousands of women in Maine and millions of women across the country still have access to essential health care,” Cecile Richards, then-president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said at the time, about a year before the Kavanaugh vote.

The relationship with the organization has gone downhill since then.

The 67-year-old Collins said Kavanaugh, who denied the sexual assault allegation, vowed to respect precedent including the Roe v. Wade ruling. But Planned Parenthood contends 26 proposals to limit abortions have been adopted in 17 states since then.

Gideon, meanwhile, supports Medicaid expansion and expanded health care for women and has vowed to continue “the fight to protect and expand reproductive rights.”

“As a former Planned Parenthood patient, she knows what it means to be able to get the care you need from a trusted provider and how hurtful it is to see your provider attacked by extremist politicians,” Nicole Clegg, of Planned Parenthood Maine Action Fund, said in a statement.

Money is already pouring into the Senate race. Collins is considered among the most vulnerable Republican senators in the nation, a new position for her in a state where rising polarization and partisanship is clashing with a culture of independence.

Gideon is backed by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. But she faces activist Betsy Sweet, attorney Bre Kidman, former Google executive Ross LaJeunesse and travel agent Michael Bunker in the Democratic primary.

Sweet said she supports Planned Parenthood “wholeheartedly,” but feels the organization has “overlooked my work fighting for women’s reproductive rights for almost four decades to side with the Washington establishment.”

Kidman also expressed disappointment Tuesday, saying that when her team reached out she was told that Planned Parenthood Action Fund “intended to remain neutral in the primary.”

“As one of the first greeters at the Planned Parenthood health center in Portland, I physically protected patients’ rights to access reproductive healthcare in sun, rain, sleet, and snow — often bodily shielding people from encounters with protestors,” she said in a statement.

Both Collins and Gideon already have raised millions of dollars for the race. Tracking firm Advertising Analytics projects that the candidates and outside groups will spend $55 million on ads by Election Day.

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McConnell Abruptly Eases Impeachment Limits

WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell abruptly changed his proposed rules for President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, backing off the condensed two-day schedule to add a third for opening arguments after protests from senators, including Republicans.

The trial quickly burst into a partisan fight at the Capitol as the president’s lawyers opened arguments Tuesday in support of McConnell’s plan. Democrats objected loudly to McConnell’s initially proposed rules, and some Republicans made their concerns known in private.

Without comment, the Republican leader quietly submitted an amended proposal for the record, after meeting behind closed doors with senators as the trial opened. He added the extra day and allowed House evidence to be included in the record.

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“It’s time to start with this trial,” said White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, the president’s lead lawyer as the proceedings opened in public.

“It’s a fair process,” he said. “There is absolutely no case.”

Chief Justice John Roberts gaveled open the session, senators having taken an oath last week to do “impartial justice” as jurors.

Senators were stunned by McConnell’s shift, and aides offered no immediate answers.

But a spokeswoman for Republican Sen. Susan Collins said that she and others had raised concerns. The Maine senator sees the changes as significant improvements, said spokeswoman Annie Clark.

Democrats had warned that the rules package from Trump’s ally, the Senate GOP leader, could force midnight sessions that would keep most Americans in the dark and create a sham proceeding.

“This is not a process for a fair trial, this is the process for a rigged trial” Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Ca., the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee leading the prosecution, told reporters. He called it a “cover-up.”

McConnell opened the chamber promising a “fair, even handed” process — and warned that the Senate would stay in session until his proposed rules package was adopted.

“The president’s lawyers will finally receive a level playing field,” the Kentucky Republican said, contrasting it with the House impeachment inquiry.

The first test was coming as senators prepared to begin debate and vote on McConnell’s proposed rules.

The rare impeachment trial, unfolding in an election year, is testing whether Trump’s actions toward Ukraine warrant removal at the same time that voters are forming their own verdict his White House.

Trump himself, in Davos, Switzerland, for an economic conference, denounced the proceedings as “a total hoax,” as he does daily, and said, “I’m sure it’s going to work out fine.”

With Trump’s presidency on the line, and the nation deeply divided just weeks before the first Democratic primary contests, four senators who are also presidential candidates will be off the campaign trail, seated as jurors.

“My focus is going to be on impeachment,” Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent running for the Democratic nomination, told reporters. He said his supporters would keep working “to defeat the most dangerous president in American history.”

The Democrats say the prospect of middle-of-the-night proceedings, without allowing new witnesses or even the voluminous House records of the trial, would leave the public without crucial information about Trump’s political pressure campaign on Ukraine and the White House’s obstruction of the House impeachment probe.

“The McConnell rules seem to be designed by President Trump for President Trump,”said the Senate Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer. He vowed to call for a series of votes to amend the rules and demand testimony and documents, but it seemed unlikely Republicans would break from the party to join Democrats.

“This is a historic moment,” Schumer said. “The eyes of America are watching. Republican senators must rise to the occasion.”

If the senators agree to McConnell’s proposal for speedy trial and acquittal, Schiff said, “It will not prove the president innocent, it will only prove the Senate guilty of working with the president to obstruct the truth from coming out.”’

Rep. Jerry Nadler, the Judiciary Committee Chairman also leading the House team, said: “There’s no trial in this country where you wouldn’t admit relative witnesses.”

GOP Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, whose votes are being closely watched, said he was satisfied with the proposal , even as he hopes to hear from former national security adviser John Bolton who had a front-row seat to Trump’s actions.

On the night before the trial, Trump’s lawyers argued for swift rejection of the “flimsy” charges in a trial that never should have happened.

“All of this is a dangerous perversion of the Constitution that the Senate should swiftly and roundly condemn,” the president’s lawyers wrote in their first full filing Monday. “The articles should be rejected and the president should immediately be acquitted.”

Trump’s legal team doesn’t dispute Trump’s actions — that he called the Ukraine president and asked for a “favor” during a July 25 phone call. In fact, the lawyers included the rough transcript of Trump’s conversation as part of its 110-page trial brief submitted ahead of the proceedings.

Instead the lawyers for the president, led by White House Counsel Pat Cipollone and a TV-famous legal team including Alan Dershowitz, say the two charges against the president don’t amount to impeachable offenses and Trump committed no crime.

Legal scholars have long insisted the framers of the Constitution provided impeachment as a remedy for “other high crimes and misdemeanors,” a particularly broad definition that doesn’t mean simply specific criminal acts.

Democrats in prosecuting the case against the president point in particular to a General Accountability Office report that found the White House violated federal law by stalling money to Ukraine that had been approved by Congress.

House Democrats, responding Tuesday to arguments by Trump’s legal team, said the president’s legal filing confirmed that “his misconduct is indefensible.”

They wrote, “President Trump’s lengthy brief to the Senate is heavy on rhetoric and procedural grievances, but entirely lacks a legitimate defense of his misconduct.” The president would “rather discuss anything other than what he actually did,” the Democrats wrote.

The first several days of the trial are expected to be tangled in procedural motions playing out on the Senate floor and behind closed doors. Senators must refrain from speaking during the trial proceedings.

Roberts administered the oath to one remaining senator, James Inhofe, who was attending a family medical issue in Oklahoma last week when the other senators vowed the oath and signed the oath book.

Also Tuesday, the House Democratic managers overseeing the impeachment case asked Cipollone, the president’s lead lawyer at the trial, to disclose any “first-hand knowledge” he has of the charges against Trump. They said evidence gathered so far indicates that Cipollone is a “material witness” to the allegations at hand.

House Democrats impeached the Republican president last month on two charges: abuse of power by withholding U.S. military aid to Ukraine as he pressed the country to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden, and obstruction of Congress by refusing to cooperate with their investigation.

The Constitution gives the House the sole power to impeach a president and the Senate the final verdict by convening as the impeachment court for a trial.

The president late Monday named eight House Republicans, some of his fiercest defenders, to a special team tasked with rallying support beyond the Senate chamber in the court of public opinion.

No president has ever been removed from office by the Senate. With its 53-47 Republican majority, the Senate is not expected to mount the two-thirds voted needed for conviction. Even if it did, the White House team argues it would be an “‘unconstitutional conviction” because the articles of impeachment were too broad.

___

Associated Press writers Laurie Kellman, Mary Clare Jalonick, Alan Fram, Andrew Taylor and Padmananda Rama in Washington and David Pitt in Des Moines, Iowa, contributed to this report.

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