Elephant trophy imports allowed despite Trump condemnation

WASHINGTON — The U.S. is opening the door to allowing elephant hunters to bring tusks and other animal parts into the country as trophies, despite President Donald Trump’s condemnation of the practice as a “horror show.”

The Interior Department says it is revising the way it reviews applications to import hunted animal parts in response to a federal court opinion and withdrawing broad conclusions that applied to African elephants killed in Zimbabwe. The policy move, outlined in a March 1 memo, means that some African elephants taken in Zimbabwe could be imported.

Under the change, import applications will be individually assessed for whether the action enhances the survival of the species in the wild, a standard laid out in law. Previously, the agency applied countrywide determinations on that enhancement question when vetting applications.

The Interior Department’s Fish and Wildlife Service had decided last November to allow some elephant carcasses from Zimbabwe to be brought to the U.S. as hunting trophies, a practice previously halted by the Obama administration. The service determined the killing of African elephant trophy animals in Zimbabwe “will enhance the survival of the African elephant.”

After an outcry from both Democrats and Republicans, Trump then put the new import policy on hold and used Twitter to proclaim he was skeptical that “this horror show in any way helps conservation of elephants or any other animal.”

— Bloomberg News

Donna Shalala is running for Congress in bid to replace Ros-Lehtinen

MIAMI — Donna Shalala, the former University of Miami president and Health and Human Services secretary, is officially running as a Democrat to replace retiring Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, according to Federal Election Commission paperwork filed Monday.

Shalala, 77, has never run for elected office, but her presence shakes up a crowded Democratic primary in a district that includes most of Miami Beach, downtown Miami and coastal Miami-Dade County. The district favors Democrats, as Hillary Clinton defeated Donald Trump by 19.7 percentage points there in 2016.

Shalala did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday night.

Fernand Amandi, a pollster and political consultant who has been advising Shalala as she contemplated her candidacy, said she planned to speak later in the week.

— Miami Herald

Bill Cosby’s lawyers fear #MeToo backlash, fight to keep 19 other accusers out of court

NORRISTOWN, Pa. — Bill Cosby’s attorneys took aim Tuesday at prosecutors’ plans to call 19 other accusers at the entertainer’s April retrial, condemning it as a bid to paper over their weak case and score a victory amid a wider cultural reckoning with Hollywood’s casting couch culture.

The women’s decades-old, unproven and ultimately irrelevant allegations, said defense lawyer Becky S. James, would unfairly stack the deck against the 80-year-old comedian and make it impossible for him to receive a fair trial.

“With the current atmosphere, it’s going to be hard enough to get the jury to focus on the trial at hand,” James said, referencing her concerns on how the #MeToo movement might affect the trial’s outcome. “But bringing in additional accusers — especially 19 of them — in that environment would be highly prejudicial.”

Her arguments came as Cosby returned to a Norristown courtroom Tuesday for a rematch on an issue that dominated debate in the run-up to the 80-year-old comedian’s first sexual assault trial last year and promises again to be the defining question that could reshape his second:

How many additional accusers — if any — will Montgomery County Judge Steven T. O’Neill allow prosecutors to put before the jury?

— The Philadelphia Inquirer

British agents take over probe of Russian ex-spy’s mysterious collapse

LONDON — As clues emerged Tuesday in the case of the Russian ex-spy who was struck down in a British provincial city by a sudden life-threatening ailment, one name cropped up again and again: Alexander Litvinenko.

Litvinenko was the former Russian intelligence officer and outspoken Kremlin critic who died an agonizing death in London in 2006 from poisoning with radioactive polonium-210. A decade later, a British inquiry blamed Russian intelligence for targeting him, with President Vladimir Putin’s likely blessing.

British officials strenuously cautioned against any premature casting of blame in the collapse Sunday of a man identified as Sergei Skripal, 66, who was given refuge in the United Kingdom after a spy-centric 2010 prisoner swap with Russia.

But, reflecting the extraordinary circumstances, British authorities also said the investigation was being led by counterintelligence personnel, and the government of Prime Minister Theresa May warned of serious consequences for any parties found responsible.

Moscow denied any knowledge of what befell Skripal, who — together with a 33-year-old woman named Tuesday in news reports as his daughter Yulia — was found semi-paralyzed and vomiting on a bench outside a shopping center in the British cathedral city of Salisbury.

— Los Angeles Times