AP News in Brief at 12:04 a.m. EDT


Trump: US generals ‘reduced to rubble,’ he’d replace some

NEW YORK (AP) — Leveling unusually harsh criticism against the military, Republican Donald Trump said Wednesday night that America’s generals have been “reduced to rubble” under President Barack Obama and suggested he would fire some of them if he wins the presidency in November.

Trump’s comments came during a televised national security forum where he and Democratic rival Hillary Clinton each fielded 30 minutes of questions about their experience and judgment to be commander in chief. While the candidates never appeared on stage together, their back-to-back sessions served as a preview of sorts for their upcoming debates.

By virtue of a coin flip, Clinton took the stage first and quickly found herself responding at length to questions about her years in government. She reiterated that she had made mistakes in relying on a personal email account and private server as secretary of state and in voting for the 2003 invasion of Iraq as a senator. But she defended her support for U.S. military intervention to help oust a dictator in Libya, despite the chaotic aftermath.

“I’m asking to be judged on the totality of my record,” said Clinton, who grew visibly irritated at times with the repeated focus on her past actions.

Clinton, who has cast Trump as dangerously ill-prepared to be commander in chief, tried to center the discussion on her foreign policy proposals should she win in November. She vowed to not send American ground troops into Iraq or Syria to fight the Islamic State group. And she pledged to hold weekly Oval Office meetings with representatives from the Pentagon and Department of Veterans Affairs to stay abreast of health care for veterans.

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Trump promises huge boost in military spending

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Republican Donald Trump vowed Wednesday to boost defense spending and deploy more active troops, fighter planes, Navy ships and submarines as he works to convince skeptics in both parties that he’s ready to lead the world’s most powerful military.

The New York businessman, who has struggled at times to demonstrate a command of foreign policy, also seemed to acknowledge he does not currently have a plan to address cyber security or the Islamic State group.

If elected, Trump said he would give military leaders 30 days to formulate a plan to defeat the group, commonly known as ISIS. He also said he would ask the joint chiefs of staff to conduct a review of the nation’s cyber defenses to determine all vulnerabilities.

Trump’s address came hours before his national security acumen is tested at a “commander in chief” forum on NBC.

“We want to deter, avoid and prevent conflict through our unquestioned military strength,” Trump declared of his Democratic opponent in his Wednesday speech, delivered inside the exclusive Union League of Philadelphia, which first allowed women in 1986.

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10 Things to Know for Thursday

Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Thursday:

1. TRUMP PROMISES HUGE BOOST IN MILITARY SPENDING

The GOP candidate’s plan calls for major increases in the number of active troops, fighter planes, Navy ships and submarines.

2. KERRY, LAVROV AGREE TO TALKS ON SYRIA

The U.S. secretary of state and Russian foreign minister will meet for extended discussions on ending the 5-year-old civil war.

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Obama, Duterte meet despite Filipino leader’s crude language

VIENTIANE, Laos (AP) — President Barack Obama and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte met informally on Wednesday in a holding room before attending a gala dinner at a regional summit, Philippine officials said.

The brief meeting took a little sting out of the soured relations caused by Duterte’s intemperate language in referring to Obama earlier this week. That had caused Obama to cancel a formal meeting scheduled for Tuesday.

Philippine Foreign Secretary Pefecto Yasay told The Associated Press that the leaders had met.

“They met at the holding room and they were the last persons to leave the holding room. I can’t say how long they met. It all springs from the fact the relationship between the Philippines and the United States is firm, very strong. The basis for this relationship is historical and both leaders realize this. And I’m very happy that it happened.”

Obama and Duterte are in the Laotian capital along with other regional leaders for the summit. All of them made their way through the holding room before heading to the banquet hall.

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Heated referendum a big obstacle to peace in Colombia

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — It’s been heralded as a historic peace deal to end Latin America’s longest-running conflict. But there is a major hurdle the deal still needs to clear: a national referendum on Oct. 2 in which Colombians will get the chance to make their voices heard.

It’s bound to be a bitter fight.

Supporters and opponents of the peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia are even haggling over what is on the ballot. Opponents say the question being posed to Colombians is purposefully misleading since it doesn’t even mention the FARC and asks voters whether they support a “lasting and stable peace.” They’ve appealed to the constitutional court to block the vote.

Polls taken before the accord was reached last month in Cuba showed anywhere between an 11- and 35-point advantage in support of the agreement. But the government isn’t taking victory for granted. In an unusual move criticized as unfair and undemocratic by the opposition, President Juan Manuel Santos has asked his entire Cabinet to fan out across the country to carry out what he calls a “pedagogy for peace,” explaining the 297-page accord to Colombians.

It’s a tough sell. Most Colombians loathe the FARC and have deep reservations about the accord. Particularly irksome are a provision sparing rebel leaders accused of major human rights abuses jail time and one guaranteeing them 10 seats in congress.

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Say goodbye to the iPhone’s headphone jack

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Apple’s latest iPhone may be more notable for what’s missing than what’s been added, as the consumer tech giant tries to revive demand for its top-selling product and nudge consumers closer to its vision of a wireless world.

That’s a world where, in Apple’s view, consumers will use the same wireless ear buds to shift seamlessly from listening to music on their iPhone to talking with their Apple Watch and other gadgets made by the California tech giant.

The iPhone 7 and 7 Plus unveiled Wednesday come with a faster processor, longer battery life and better cameras — including a new dual lens system in the pricier 7 Plus model that provides higher quality zooming. But the new phones won’t have the analog headphone jack that’s been a staple for decades in just about every consumer electronics device that can play audio.

Apple is betting its legions of loyal fans will embrace the shift to digital headsets that use wireless connections. Or — if they insist on sticking with their old ways — that they won’t mind using a new style of earbuds that plug into the iPhone’s “Lightning” charging port.

CUTTING THE CORD

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Aleppo bombed as US and Russia plan Syria talks

BEIRUT (AP) — An airstrike near the site of a suspected gas attack in Syria killed at least 10 civilians Wednesday, as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov agreed to meet this week for extended discussions on ending the 5-year-old civil war.

Russia, a key ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad, has been conducting airstrikes to bolster his forces for nearly a year. The United States supports rebels fighting to overthrow Assad and has called on him to step down.

U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin failed to negotiate a settlement on the sidelines of the G-20 conference in China on Monday. Obama acknowledged “gaps of trust” between the rival powers following months of negotiations between their top diplomats.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said Lavrov and Kerry would meet Thursday and Friday in Geneva to work out the remaining details of a possible deal, following a phone call between the two. But U.S. officials indicated the earliest the talks could happen is Friday.

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said in London that Kerry would not be making another attempt with Lavrov if there were no prospects for success, but he added: “We’re a long way from getting there.”

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Mexico’s finance secretary resigns after Trump visit

MEXICO CITY (AP) — One of President Enrique Pena Nieto’s closest advisers and confidants, Finance Secretary Luis Videgaray, resigned Wednesday in a move seen as linked to the unpopular decision to invite Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump to visit Mexico.

Pena Nieto has taken responsibility for inviting Trump, but a former government official familiar with the workings of the administration said Videgaray would have played a preponderant role in the decision. Newspaper columnists in Mexico have reported Videgaray was behind last week’s visit, after which Pena Nieto was criticized for not being forceful enough in rejecting Trump’s proposals and comments about Mexico.

Videgaray “was the architect” of Trump’s visit, because he was the adviser that Pena Nieto had “the most reliance on, and was closest to,” said columnist and political analyst Raymundo Riva Palacio.

Even Trump himself said Videgaray’s resignation was related to his visit. Trump told a televised U.S. national security forum Wednesday night that “the people that arranged the trip in Mexico have been forced out of government. That’s how well we did.”

Videgaray acted as Pena Nieto’s campaign manager during his 2012 election campaign and has been seen as the architect of many administration policies. He led Mexico’s Treasury Department and is sometimes referred to as treasury secretary or minister, but because he oversaw budgets and fiscal policies, his role was closer to that of a finance secretary.

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Southeast Asia issues a non-rebuke to China

VIENTIANE, Laos (AP) — A summit of Southeast Asian countries issued a mild rebuke of China on Wednesday over its expansionist activities in the disputed South China Sea, and indirectly urged it to show restraint and not raise tensions.

In a victory for Beijing’s diplomatic, economic and military clout, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations couldn’t even get all of its 10 members to agree that China was responsible for building islands in the disputed and resource-rich sea.

A statement issued at the end of the ASEAN summit said in regard to the South China Sea, “We remain seriously concerned over recent and ongoing developments,” without elaborating. It did not mention China by name.

The statement said the summit “took note of the concerns expressed by some leaders on the land reclamations and escalation of activities in the area, which have eroded trust and confidence, increased tensions and may undermine peace, security and stability in the region.”

China has recently developed shoals and coral reefs into seven islands with massive land reclamation work. Some of the islands have airstrips capable of handling military aircraft.

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Report sets research priorities for Biden’s cancer moonshot

WASHINGTON (AP) — A new report outlines a scientific roadmap for the White House’s cancer “moonshot” initiative — urging research to harness the power of immune-based therapy, and to better tailor treatment by helping more patients get their tumors genetically profiled.

Those are among a list of recommendations issued Wednesday by a panel of cancer experts and patient advocates advising the moonshot project on ways to speed progress against the nation’s No. 2 killer.

Also on the list: Learning what drives childhood cancer, finding ways to minimize the side effects of treatment, and making better use of some proven anti-cancer strategies. For example, about 3 percent of colorectal cancers are fueled by certain inherited genetic mutations — and the report proposes a pilot project to test all newly diagnosed patients so the relatives of those who harbor the defects could learn if they, too, are at risk.

The recommendations mark “a bold but feasible scientific proposal,” said Dr. Doug Lowy, acting director of the National Cancer Institute, who will send the panel’s report to Vice President Joe Biden’s cancer moonshot task force.

Biden proposed the moonshot idea after his son, Beau, died of brain cancer in 2015. President Barack Obama has requested about $1 billion over two years for the project, money that would be in addition to ongoing cancer research. Whether Congress provides funding will determine how Wednesday’s recommendations move forward.

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