Democrats demand Mnuchin hold off on easing sanctions tied to Deripaska

WASHINGTON — Seven new Democratic chairmen of House committees demanded Tuesday that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin hold off on the planned easing of sanctions against three companies tied to Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska.

“As the chairs of committees with oversight jurisdiction over the U.S. response to Russia’s attempts to interfere in our elections and other hostile actions, we have a number of concerns about the agreement that the U.S. has reached,” the Democrats wrote in a letter requesting a detailed response by Friday.

The Treasury Department announced on Dec. 19 its intention to remove sanctions on United Co. Rusal, the world’s second-largest aluminum company, as well as EN plus Group Plc and EuroSibEnergo JSC. Mnuchin said the companies “have committed to significantly diminish Deripaska’s ownership and sever his control.” The move is to take effect 30 days later from the announcement unless Congress blocks it.

Deripaska will personally remain under American sanctions imposed in April on associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin over Moscow’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

But the Democratic lawmakers asked Mnuchin to hold off on terminating the sanctions “to allow sufficient time for you to fully brief members on this matter and to resolve the pending questions.”

They wrote that the agreement “appears to keep intact significant ownership of EN plus by Mr. Deripaska, while reportedly transferring some shares and financial interests to the Kremlin-linked sanctioned Russian bank VTB.”

The chairmen also requested that Mnuchin himself “be available for a meeting with all interested, members, in an appropriate setting to allow for a full discussion of all aspects of the agreement, the sanctions termination, and the impact that these decisions would have on the U.S. effort to end Russia’s malign activities aimed at our country.”

The letter was signed by Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal of Massachusetts; Financial Services Chairman Maxine Waters of California; Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel of New York; Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff of California; Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings of Maryland; Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler of New York; and Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson of Mississippi.

— Bloomberg News

Family sues Atlanta Boy Scouts after son killed by tree while camping

ATLANTA — A Texas family is suing the group that oversees Boy Scouts programs in metro Atlanta claiming negligence led to their 14-year-old son’s June death.

The parents of Elijah Knight filed the wrongful death lawsuit Tuesday in State Court in Cobb County where the Atlanta Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America has its headquarters.

Knight was crushed by a tree that fell on his tent during a thunderstorm on June 25 at Bert Adams Scout Camp. Knight and about 100 Boy Scouts from his Texas troop were camping at the 1,300-acre Covington camp, which is run by the Council.

“This is a very difficult time for our Scouting family. We offer our deepest condolences to the victim and his family, and we will support them in any way we can,” the council said Council when asked for a statement Tuesday. “The safety of our Scouts is our number one priority. Please join us in keeping those affected by the tragic accident during last summer’s severe storms in our thoughts and prayers.”

The lawsuit claims the adults on the trip did not follow the group’s own bylaws about seeking shelter during inclement weather. According to the suit, the National Weather Service warned that the area could be in for 60-mph winds and quarter-sized hail about a half-hour before Knight died.

— Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Three syringes were found inside the inmate’s rectum. Not mine, he said

MIAMI — A Florida man picked up on a drug charge arrest warrant Friday brought some extra junk in his trunk to Pinellas County jail, authorities say.

As 40-year-old Wesley Scott’s arrest affidavit says, “while being strip searched (Scott) removed three syringes from his rectum and provided them to Deputy Andrews. (Scott) stated that he found them and that they were not his.”

Scott remains in Pinellas County Jail on charges of possession of prescription drugs with intent to sell, possession of drugs without a prescription, possession of marijuana .and introducing contraband into a county detention facility.

— Miami Herald

London Heathrow flights resume after drone sighting halts departures

LONDON — Flights at London Heathrow were “operating normally” after departures from Britain’s busiest airport were suspended for more than an hour on one of its two runways late Tuesday because of reports of a drone sighting.

The airport said on Twitter late on Tuesday that flights were operating normally adding that their “focus is always the safety of our passengers and colleagues.”

The airport also said it continued to work with London’s Metropolitan Police to investigate the reported sighting.

“We are working with Air Traffic Control and the Met Police, and have resumed departures out of Heathrow after a short suspension,” it said on Twitter.

“We will continue to monitor this and apologize to anyone that (was) affected,” it added.

The airport said earlier that it suspended departures “as a precautionary measure.”

The Metropolitan Police said it had received a report of a drone sighting near Heathrow around 5:05 p.m.

“Police officers were amongst those who saw the drone and a full criminal investigation has been launched,” Metropolitan Police Commander Stuart Cundy said in a statement late Tuesday.

“We are carrying out extensive searches around the Heathrow area to identify any people who may be responsible for the operation of the drone,” Cundy added.

The commander said that the Metropolitan Police was assisted by the military but didn’t go into detail “as this would only serve to potentially undermine (the range of tactics’) effectiveness.”

“We are deploying significant resources … to monitor the airspace around Heathrow and to quickly detect and disrupt any illegal drone activity; some of which are as a result of learning from the incidents at Gatwick,” Cundy said.

— dpa