U.S. denies entry to 16 Saudis tied to Jamal Khashoggi’s death

WASHINGTON — The U.S. will deny entry to 16 Saudis over “their roles” in the murder of the columnist Jamal Khashoggi, as the administration seeks to sustain pressure on the kingdom to come up with a credible account of his death, the State Department announced Monday.

The 16 people, including Saud al-Qahtani, a senior adviser to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, had already been sanctioned by the U.S. over Khashoggi’s death. Monday’s action was done under the 2019 State Department appropriations bill, which requires Secretary of State Michael Pompeo to refuse entry to individuals and immediate family members if he has information that they’ve been “involved in significant corruption or gross violations of human rights.”

“Those individuals and their immediate family members are ineligible for entry into the United States,” the State Department said in a statement.

Khashoggi was killed last Oct. 2 after entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. Questions have centered on whether the crown prince knew about or ordered the killing, a possibility U.S. intelligence agencies consider likely, and whether the Trump administration will be willing to sacrifice its strategic partnership with Saudi Arabia to hold him accountable.

— Bloomberg News

Cuban baseball players strike out in new Trump administration decision

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration Monday decided to block a historic agreement that allowed Cuban baseball players to join a Major League Baseball team without having to defect.

The administration objected to the Obama-era ruling, that had yet to be tested, saying it was invalid and would only enrich the Cuban government and use the players as “pawns”

“We look forward to the day that Cuban baseball players can fully contract with Major League Baseball like players from every other country in the world and not as pawns of the Cuban dictatorship,” a senior administration official told reporters on condition of anonymity.

The administration views the Cuban Baseball Federation as an entity of the Cuban government, the administration official said. “Therefore, the interpretation that had been given to MLB previously was not accurate.”

MLB reached an agreement with the Cuban Baseball Federation in December that would allow Cuban baseball players to sign contracts directly with professional U.S. baseball clubs. Last week, the Cuban federation announced the first list of players who would be authorized to play under that agreement.

The Trump administration said Monday those players would not be allowed to complete any deals.

— McClatchy Washington Bureau

Firearms dealer sues federal government over having to destroy bump stocks

WASHINGTON — RW Arms, a Fort Worth, Texas, firearms dealer, has filed a federal lawsuit seeking damages after destroying 72,400 bump stocks to comply with a Trump administration order that took effect March 26, the company announced Monday.

The company filed the case under the Fifth Amendment taking clause, which prohibits the government from seizing property. RW Arms destroyed the bump stocks March 26, resulting in its losing millions of dollars, the company said.

Bump stocks — attachments that essentially turn semi-automatic rifles into machine guns — became the focus of a political battle following the massacre on Oct. 1, 2017, in Las Vegas where 58 people were killed by a man using rifles fitted with bump stocks. It was the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

RW Arms said the lawsuit was intended “to protect our rights and the rights of our customers from being infringed any further.”

RW Arms joins retailer The Modern Sportsman, which filed a lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington on March 28.

— Dallas Morning News

‘I really want kids’: Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz’s love letters from jail

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — In childlike scrawl with stick-figure drawings, Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz has been writing love letters from jail to a young woman overseas. In the letters, he proposes marriage, muses about having children and says he wants to name his sons after guns. But he never mentions shooting 34 people in cold blood — killing 17 of them — at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

The South Florida Sun Sentinel obtained 46 pages of Cruz’s handwritten letters from the Broward state attorney’s office. They are part of the legal case, as the state attorney seeks the death penalty against the now-20-year-old for the Feb. 14, 2018, Parkland shooting. The records did not include any letters to Cruz from the girl.

Cruz never mentions his own crime, saying in one of the letters that talking about it “would be a bad idea.” But he does tell his female pen pal to listen to “Pumped Up Kicks” by the band Foster the People, a song about a school shooting that includes the lyrics “You’d better run, better run, outrun my gun. Better run, better run, faster than my bullet.”

Inexplicably, Cruz expresses hope he’ll one day be released from jail and have a family. Yet he faces the death penalty, and his lawyers already have offered life in prison without a chance of parole.

“I really want kids. I think of it all the time, you know the joy they bring,” he writes.

He said he would name his sons Kalashnikov, Makarov and Remington — all gun references — and my wife can name the girls.”

Cruz’s letters are to a young woman in the United Kingdom named Miley, one of his cyber supporters, and her brother, Liam, and they are dated from mid-October 2018 to mid-November.

— Sun Sentinel

Libya fighting displaces thousands as battle reaches airport

BEIRUT — Thousands of people scrambled to flee the violence in and around Tripoli, the United Nations said Monday, as a warplane attacked the Libyan capital’s only functioning airport amid an escalation in fighting.

Maria Valle Ribeiro, the United Nations’ humanitarian coordinator for Libya, said in a statement that about 2,800 people had fled the clashes since late last week, when Gen. Khalifa Haftar began his onslaught to seize the capital.

The violence in some areas was so intense that civilians were unable to leave and emergency services were unable to reach them, according to another U.N. report. An additional 1,300 refugees and migrants in detention centers near the front lines were also in danger.

The U.N.-backed Government of National Accord earlier reported that at least 32 people, including civilians, had been killed in fighting around Tripoli since Thursday.

— dpa