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House to hold hearing on Mueller report, presidential obstruction and other crimes

153 0 03 Jun 2019

House Democrats announced Monday they’ll hold a hearing next week focused on the Mueller report and “presidential obstruction.”

The Judiciary Committee hearing will include testimony from former White House counsel John Dean, a key figure in the Watergate hearings that helped lead to Richard Nixon’s resignation as president. Dean cooperated with the Watergate special prosecutor after pleading guilty to obstruction of justice.

The hearing — which comes as more House Democrats clamor to launch impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump — will also include testimony from legal experts and former federal prosecutors.

“No one is above the law. While the White House continues to cover up and stonewall, and to prevent the American people from knowing the truth, we will continue to move forward with our investigation,” committee chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., said in a statement announcing the session, entitled “Lessons From the Mueller Report: Presidential Obstruction and Other Crimes.”

“These hearings will allow us to examine the findings laid out in Mueller’s report so that we can work to protect the rule of law and protect future elections through consideration of legislative and other remedies,” he added. “Given the threat posed by the president’s alleged misconduct, our first hearing will focus on President Trump’s most overt acts of obstruction. In the coming weeks, other hearings will focus on other important aspects of the Mueller report.”

The committee said in a press release it will also “consider targeted legislative, oversight and constitutional remedies” to tackle those issues.

Nadler has been in talks to get former special counsel Robert Mueller to testify before his committee, but Mueller, in his first public comments about his two-year investigation last week, said his 448-page report “speaks for itself.”

“I would not provide information beyond what is already public in any appearance before Congress,” he said.

While Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 campaign and team Trump did not find sufficient evidence to bring conspiracy charges, it did outline numerous examples of Trump and his allies interfering with his investigation. Mueller noted Department of Justice rules prohibit prosecutors from bringing charges against a sitting president.

“If we had had confidence that he clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so,” Mueller said then. “We did not, however, make a determination to whether the president did commit a crime.”

Since Mueller did not make that determination, his supervisors, Attorney General William Barr and now-former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, did, and found the alleged obstruction was not criminal.

Over 1,000 former federal prosecutors disagreed with that conclusion in an open letter published on Medium last month.

Mueller and his report both noted there is a mechanism in place to discipline sitting presidents — Congress.

Nadler has accused the Trump administration of continuing the obstruction, including by refusing to hand over an unredacted version of the Mueller report and telling former White House counsel Don McGahn not to appear before his committee.

Still, Nadler said, “we have learned so much even from the redacted version” of the Mueller report.

“Russia attacked our elections to help President Trump win, Trump and his campaign welcomed this help and the president then tried to obstruct the investigation into the attack,” Nadler said. “Mueller confirmed these revelations and has now left Congress to pick up where he left off.”

Parents in college cheating scandal say money was for charity, not a bribe

153 0 03 Jun 2019

BOSTON — Lawyers for parents indicted in the college admissions scandal, including actress Lori Loughlin, revealed a core part of their defense strategy Monday by suggesting that their money was in fact intended as charity, not a bribe.

“If the money went to a school, it’s not a bribe,” said Martin Weinberg, who represents Canadian businessman David Sidoo, who is accused of paying $200,000 for someone else to take his sons’ college entrance exams. After court, Weinberg added, “Many of the clients would contend that if payments were made to a charity or sports organization, that it is not a bribe.”

The statement came during a status conference in a crowded, small courtroom in Boston Federal Court where the remaining parents who have not pleaded guilty to fraud conspiracy and money-laundering conspiracy gathered. Each charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

In March, prosecutors charged 50 people in connection with the alleged scam to help rich parents get their children admitted to prominent universities by cheating on standardized tests and bribing coaches to designate the kids fraudulently as athletic recruits. Of the 33 parents charged, 13 have pleaded guilty, including actress Felicity Huffman, and will be sentenced in the coming months.

Huffman, and others, allegedly paid the money to a fund controlled by William Rick Singer, who ran a lucrative business getting the children of his clients into prestigious universities.

“It’s a question of whether Singer told the parents that the money was going to athletic programs rather than the pockets of the coaches. If other parents were told that, then it is part of our argument that the parents did not know that it was a bribe,” said Aaron Katz, who represents Elizabeth Henriquez, accused of paying more than $400,000 to have her daughter fraudulently admitted as a tennis recruit at Georgetown University. Katz said that he spoke for “many, if not all the defendants.”

The court hearing was an initial status conference and was an opportunity for both sides to discuss procedural issues in front of a judge. It is one of many steps as the remaining defendants make their way to trial. Several lawyers told NBC News that a trial was “inevitable” at this point, suggesting that plea deals are no longer being considered for many of the defendants.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Rosen pushed back against the defense’s argument. “It doesn’t matter if the money went to the coach’s program or the coach directly. A bribe is simply a quid pro quo, it doesn’t matter where the money went,” he said as he stood in front of Judge Paige Kelly.

In the indictment filed by Rosen, the defendants are accused of making payments that were funneled through a nonprofit foundation run by Singer, but that ultimately were paid to coaches and others allegedly involved in the admissions cheating scheme. Sometimes the payments were made to accounts that were part of a university, but prosecutors allege that those accounts were controlled exclusively by the coach involved in the scheme.

In special Pride message, NBC anchor announces her engagement to a woman

132 0 03 Jun 2019

Fitzgerald had posted pictures with Heath on her Instagram in the past, but this was the first time she discussed their relationship on-air. When asked why she decided to announce her news publicly, Fitzgerald responded that her engagement was an opportunity to show people the happiness that can accompany embracing their true selves.

“I just felt like it was natural. People tune in to watch every morning; they’re our family and we’re theirs,” Fitzgerald said. “And because it’s Pride month, I didn’t want to just make it about me. I want to help other people know that being different is OK.”

Fitzgerald, 33, and Heath, 30, met approximately two years ago. Heath played basketball for the College of William & Mary before playing the sport professionally overseas. She is currently in medical device sales. Fitzgerald is a Howard University alumna and has worked at NBC in Washington for the last four years.

“She likes to joke that we met the ‘old-fashioned way’ on Tinder,” Fitzgerald said of her fiancée.

“Meeting her was surreal. I knew she was different from the beginning and — even though it sounds cliché — that she was the one … She’s a beautiful person inside and out.”

To celebrate their engagement, the couple went to Barcelona Wine Bar, a tapas restaurant in D.C. for dinner.

Although Fitzgerald was unsure how people would react to her news, she said she’s been receiving overwhelmingly positive feedback since the announcement.

“What’s been especially encouraging to me is hearing people say they sent the video to their cousin or that it gave them strength because they are scared to come out,” Fitzgerald said. “For people looking for reassurance, I want to use my platform to reinforce that message that they deserve to be happy.”

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Supreme Court rejects Trump administration request to fast track DACA appeal

162 0 03 Jun 2019

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court Monday rejected a request from the Trump administration to speed up its consideration of the future of DACA, the federal program that has allowed 700,000 young people, known as Dreamers, to avoid deportation.

Short for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the Obama-era initiative allows children of illegal immigrants to remain here if they were under 16 when their parents brought them to the U.S. and if they arrived by 2007.

The Trump administration, considering the program to be illegal, has tried for nearly two years to shut it down, but lower courts have blocked that effort. The administration’s appeals of those rulings have been pending since last November, but the Supreme Court has so far taken no action on them.

In late May, the Justice Department urged the justices to speed up the process and decide before the court’s summer recesses whether to take up the appeals.

“The government has been required to sanction indefinitely an ongoing violation of federal law,” Solicitor General Noel Francisco wrote in urging the court to expedite its review. “And the very existence of this pending litigation continues to impede efforts to enact legislation addressing these issues.”

But in a brief one-sentence order, the court denied the request Monday. As is its normal practice, it gave no reason.

Federal courts in California, New York, Maryland and Washington, D.C., have ruled that the government cannot shut the program down and must continue to accept renewal applications from DACA participants, which have to be filed every two years.

Immigrant rights groups involved in the Maryland case urged the Supreme Court not to expedite the case. “No court to consider the issue has held that DACA is unlawful. Because there is no violation of federal law, there is and can be no harm” to the government in allowing the program to continue, they said.

For the first several months of the Trump administration, the Department of Homeland Security indicated it would not disturb DACA. But it later acted in support of a lawsuit filed by Texas and seven other states, which said the program illegally gives those it covers the right to seek work permits.

Bombshell information from girlfriend of Chris Watts helped investigators

147 0 03 Jun 2019

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June 3, 2019, 2:53 PM UTC

By Elisha Fieldstadt

The girlfriend of Chris Watts, the Colorado man serving multiple life sentences for murdering his pregnant wife and two daughters, played a main role in solidifying investigators’ suspicions that he was involved with their disappearance.

“Nichol Kessinger turned out to have information that I can best describe as being a bombshell,” said Weld County District Attorney Michael Rourke in an interview that aired on Investigation Discovery Sunday night.

Watts pleaded guilty in November to murdering his wife Shanann Watts, who was pregnant, and his daughters, Bella, 4, and Celeste, 3, and is serving three consecutive life sentences.

When Shanann, Bella and Celeste went missing last August, local media descended, and Watts begged on camera for the safe return of his family.

Shanann Watts, and her two daughters in Colorado.

For Kessinger, something didn’t seem right. She had been romantically involved with Watts for a couple of months, and thought police should know.

“We started hanging out pretty frequently in the last week of June,” Kessinger told police, according to recordings that aired Sunday night.

“He informed me that he did have two kids, that he was currently in the process of a separation from his wife. As far as I knew, that was becoming pretty finalized.”

“I wonder if there’s more to this story than I know because I think he’s a really good guy, and you know, I’m worried about his wife and kids,” she said. “And it’s just freaking me out because those little girls are just so little, and she’s pregnant, you know? And it’s like where’s their mom?”

Police found cards Watts had sent Kessinger, photos of the pair together and emails sent between the two, and started to focus on Watts, prosecutors told Investigation Discovery.

“It appeared to us as if he had every intention of starting a brand new life, clean of Shanann and Bella and Celeste and Niko with the love of his life — is how he described Nichol Kessinger,” Rourke said. Shanann and Watts had planned to name their third child Niko.

Watts first admitted to killing only Shanann. He said he found her strangling their daughters, and then strangled her.

Christopher Watts is escorted into the courtroom before his bond hearing at the Weld County Courthouse on Aug. 16, 2018, in Greeley, Colorado. Joshua Polson/The Greeley Tribune / Pool via AP file

But then, in November, he pleaded guilty to killing all three, in a bid to avoid the death penalty.

Watts had previously pointed investigators to the property of Anadarko Petroleum, where he worked and had disposed of the bodies. Shanann was found in a shallow grave on the site, and each of the girls’ bodies were found submerged in separate oil tanks.

Recovery of the bodies was gruesome, investigators said. “A lot of different folks had to be involved in that, and I don’t know if any of them will ever be the same,” said Weld County Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Wrenn.

“We have to have crime scene personnel basically climbing into these tanks to recover these two little girls’ bodies,” Rourke said. “From a basic human reaction, how in the world can you do that to your own kids?”

After his sentencing, Watts admitted to investigators in an extensive jailhouse interview that he had killed his whole family. He said he first strangled his wife after telling her he didn’t love her anymore.

He said, “I had no control over it. Why couldn’t I just let go?”

Watts said he then loaded his daughters and Shanann’s body into his truck and drove them to Anadarko where he smothered his daughters and got rid of all three bodies.

Chinese defense minister says Tiananmen crackdown was justified in rare comments

143 0 03 Jun 2019

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June 2, 2019, 9:02 AM UTC

By Reuters and Yuliya Talmazan

China’s defense minister on Sunday defended the bloody crackdown on protesters around Beijing’s Tiananmen Square 30 years ago.

Responding to a question at the Shangri La Dialogue in Singapore, Wei Fenghe said the crackdown was the “correct” decision, citing the country’s “stability” since then.

It is rare for Chinese government officials to acknowledge the events of June 4, 1989; references to it are heavily censored in China.

“Everybody is concerned about Tiananmen after 30 years,” Wei said.

“Throughout the 30 years, China under the Communist Party has undergone many changes — do you think the government was wrong with the handling of June 4? There was a conclusion to that incident. The government was decisive in stopping the turbulence.”

He added that China’s development since 1989 showed that the government’s actions were justified.

The Tiananmen protests were “political turmoil that the central government needed to quell, which was the correct policy,” he said.

“Due to this, China has enjoyed stability, and if you visit China you can understand that part of history.”

From the archives: NBC News coverage of Tiananmen Square

Tuesday marks the 30th anniversary of the protests, in which Chinese troops opened fire to end the student-led unrest.

Rights groups and witnesses say hundreds or even thousands may have been killed.

China has never provided a final death toll.

Wei’s comments echoed those of Defense Ministry spokesman Wu Qian, who last week decried the use of the word “suppression” to describe the military’s response to the 1989 protests.

China at the time blamed the protests on counter-revolutionaries seeking to overthrow the ruling Communist Party.

The event will not be officially commemorated by the party or government next week.

This file photo taken on May 21, 1989 shows students sleeping on the ground at Tiananmen Square in Beijing as student sit-ins entered their ninth day during the Beijing Spring movement.NAOCHIRO KIMURA / AFP – Getty Images

Wei also said Sunday that a war with the United States would be a disaster for the world while issuing a warning to Washington not to meddle in security disputes over Taiwan and the South China Sea.

“China will not attack unless we are attacked,” Wei said, cautioning that there would be dire consequences to any clash between China and the United States.

China-U.S. ties have become increasingly strained due to a bitter trade war, U.S. support for Taiwan and China’s muscular military posture in the South China Sea, where the United States also conducts freedom-of-navigation patrols.

In May, the Trump administration raised import taxes on $200 billion of Chinese imports from 10 percent to 25 percent. China retaliated by raising tariffs on $60 billion in U.S. goods.

China has also been incensed by recent moves by U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration to increase support for self-ruled and democratic Taiwan that mainland China claims as its own territory.

Wei said China would “fight to the end” if anyone tried to interfere in its relationship with Taiwan.

The United States, like most countries, has no formal ties with Taiwan, but is its strongest backer and main source of weapons.

On Saturday, acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan blasted China in a speech to national security leaders in Singapore, saying that the U.S. is not going to ignore Chinese behavior.

“I think in the past people have kind of tiptoed around that,” Shanahan said.

Trump denies he called Meghan Markle nasty despite audio of remark

153 0 02 Jun 2019

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June 2, 2019, 3:11 PM UTC

By Allan Smith

President Donald Trump is insisting he did not call British royal Meghan Markle “nasty” during an interview with a British publication.

“I never called Meghan Markle ‘nasty,'” Trump tweeted Sunday morning. “Made up by the Fake News Media, and they got caught cold! Will @CNN, @nytimes and others apologize? Doubt it!”

But an audio recording of Trump’s interview with The Sun — which was tweeted out by a Trump campaign account — tells a different story.

The president is first questioned about the America former actress’ past comments calling Trump “misogynistic” and “divisive” during the 2016 campaign and saying she might move to Canada if Trump was elected.

“She said she would move to Canada if you got elected. It turned out she moved to Britain,” the interviewer says to Trump, who is visiting the United Kingdom this week.

“Well, that’d be good,” Trump responded. “There are a lot of people moving here. So, what can I say? No, I didn’t know that she was nasty.”

The president went on to say he thought it was “nice” that an American had married into the British royal family.

“I think it’s nice, and I’m sure she’ll do excellently,” he said. “She’ll be very good. She’ll be very good. I hope she does.”

Many were quick to point out that Trump had, in fact, said Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, was “nasty” about him.

Trump’s use of “nasty” harkens back to a moment during a 2016 presidential debate when he called his opponent, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, a “nasty woman.”

Gaming the system — Uber and Lyft face a driver reckoning in California

143 0 02 Jun 2019

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June 2, 2019, 9:35 AM UTC

By Cyrus Farivar

SAN FRANCISCO — California’s lawmakers on Wednesday took their first major step toward settling the debate about whether Uber and Lyft drivers are employees or contractors.

The state Assembly passed Assembly Bill 5, which would enshrine a 2018 California Supreme Court ruling that laid out a three-part “ABC” test to determine when a worker can be considered a contractor, factoring in the kind of work being done and the business of the hiring company.

The 2018 case, first brought more than a decade ago by a driver for a parcel and document delivery company, was initially celebrated by labor activists, who believed it would establish the precedent necessary for drivers and many other contract workers to receive the benefits and protections legally afforded to employees in California.

But in the more than a year since the ruling, known as Dynamex, few major gig-economy companies have converted their workforce from contractors to employees.

“They’re just gaming the system,” said Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez, a Democrat who wrote the bill, which will now need to pass the state Senate and gain approval from the governor to become law.

For Uber and Lyft drivers, among others, the law would mean a bevy of legal rights and protections, including better pay, benefits and the ability to unionize. As employees, drivers would have some stability and predictability after seeing their earnings decline in what had once been a reasonably lucrative gig.

The law would be a blow to Uber and Lyft at a crucial time for the ride-hailing companies, both of which remain unprofitable. The stocks of both companies are now publicly traded, and investors have shown skepticism about whether they will ever make money. In their mandatory Securities and Exchange filings, each company listed the prospect of being forced to consider drivers as employees as risks to their businesses.

Rideshare drivers for Uber and Lyft stage a strike and protest at the LAX International Airport, over what they say are unfair wages in Los Angeles on May 8, 2019.Mark Ralston / AFP – Getty Images file

Uber on Thursday announced that it lost more than $1 billion in the first three months of 2019.

Uber referred a request for comment to the Internet Association, a trade group that represents a wide range of major technology companies. Kevin McKinley, director of California government affairs for the group, said the bill threatens the future of “internet-enabled freelance work” in the state.

Lyft did not respond to requests for comment.

The law would also add muscle to California’s recent willingness to push back against some of the major tech companies that call the state home.The state is preparing to enforce a wide-ranging data privacy bill that will go into effect on Jan. 1.

Prior to the bill, gig-economy companies had little to fear. While the 2018 Dynamex ruling assumed workers were employees unless proven otherwise, the “ABC” test has yet to be enforced on Uber and Lyft, according to academics and labor activists who spoke with NBC News.

“The answer is pretty simple,” said Steve Smith, a spokesman for the California Labor Federation, a coalition of unions that has pushed for the new bill. “Employers are not complying with the decision.”

In the year since the Dynamexruling, little action has been taken by government entities to apply the “ABC” test. In May 2018, San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera subpoenaed Uber and Lyft for records to determine whether they were in compliance with Dynamex. However, the office has yet to announce the results of that investigation.

“We’ve received some information pursuant to these subpoenas,” John Coté, a spokesman for Herrera, emailed. “We are considering our options going forward.”

NBC News sent requests for comment to the city attorneys for Oakland, Los Angeles, Sacramento and Fresno, and none responded. The California Attorney General’s Office referred inquiries to the Labor Commissioner’s Office, which said in a statement that misclassification was a “very serious” and ongoing issue, but would not say whether the agency was targeting Uber or any other gig economy company.

Uber and Lyft face growing unrest from drivers, who claim that their take-home pay has declined in recent years. Lawsuits filed by Uber drivers in recent years have alleged pay as low as $80 per week, after expenses. Earlier this month, hundreds of people turned up in front of Uber’s downtown headquarters to protest what they say are unfair labor practices. Drivers went on strike in cities nationwide.

“For the average driver, [Dynamex] might as well have not happened,” said Christian Perea, a Berkeley-based Uber driver and founder of Hustle by Design, a web publication about ride-sharing. Perea added that neither Uber nor Lyft had communicated any information about the Dynamex ruling to drivers.

Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, addressed the case directly in his first State of the State address in February, calling for a “new modern compact for California’s changing workforce.”

“This is much bigger than Dynamex,” he added.

Newsom has not taken a public position on the Assembly bill, with his office saying he will evaluate the bill “on its own merits.”

Veena Dubal, a labor law professor at the University of California at Hastings, said that the bill’s passage is not guaranteed.

“The truth is that it upends this tech model that venture capitalists have poured so much money into,” she said. “And there is a reticence on behalf of the governor’s office and legislators to allow these models to be upended because they see it as good for California’s economy.”

Gonzalez said she did not have much sympathy for Uber or Lyft.

“People who relied on child labor didn’t want child labor to go away,” she said. “People always think that they’re special. All employers are the same and you learn how to work within the laws that are set out.”

“We don’t allow people to skirt environmental laws because they’re hard to comply with.”

Paul Golz, former German soldier, fears for Europe on 75th anniversary of D-Day

151 0 02 Jun 2019

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June 2, 2019, 8:40 AM UTC

By Andy Eckardt and Corky Siemaszko

Seventy-five years after D-Day, the world is once again a troubling place to a former German soldier who was on the losing side of the cataclysmic clash that hastened the end of World War II.

Paul Golz, 95, has a clear memory of being on guard duty in the early morning hours of June 6, 1944 — and realizing the invasion was underway when the skies over the Normandy coast were illuminated by flares, known as “Christmas Trees,” dropped by Allied planes to mark paratroop landing areas.

“It looked very nice,” Golz, sitting in his tidy cottage in the German town of Koenigswinter, told NBC News several months before the anniversary of D-Day. “And then I knew, aha, now it is starting.”

Golz was at the time a drafted member of the German army, then under control of the Nazis, and he has recounted that day several times before to historians, to curious reporters, and to several generations of school children.

But as the leaders of the Free World prepare to mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day, Golz said he fears a fraying of the alliances that were created in the wake of the war, alliances that brought peace and stability to Europe. And he has deep misgivings about the leadership of President Donald Trump.

“With Trump it is not easy,” Golz said. “Many Germans are not happy with what he does. He cannot just say ‘America First.’ Today you cannot succeed alone.”

It’s not just Trump. Britain’s decision to leave the European Union also worries Golz.

“Take Brexit, that monkey business. How should England succeed in a world where everything is globalized?”

Paul Golz

“Take Brexit, that monkey business,” he said. “How should England succeed in a world where everything is globalized?”

Like many Germans, Golz also takes a dim view of the thousands of Syrian refugees who have recently found shelter in his country.

“Nobody wants them, we also do not want them to stay,” Golz said. “We rebuilt our country, the Syrians also have to go back and rebuild their own country. There is no other way.”

Never mind that Golz himself became a refugee after the war when Pomerania, a region on the southern Baltic coast where his family ran a farm, was returned to Poland and the Germans were expelled.

What remains undimmed by the passage of time, however, is Golz’s belief that the invasion that spelled the end of the Third Reich saved Europe — and his life.

Paul Golz in his Wehrmacht uniform.Andy Eckardt / NBC News

“It changed my life, the life of a poor farmer’s son,” Golz said in German. “I am thankful to the Americans, too. I was never treated badly. We always had enough to eat. And we had these great windbreaker jackets.”

Were it not for a case of diphtheria, Golz might have wound up on the Russian Front. He came down with the infection not long after he was drafted at age 18 and wound up in a hospital in the German-occupied Polish city of Torun.

“Approximately 10 people from my company were ill at the time, and most of the others were quickly deployed to Russia,” he said. “They died like flies. Hitler sent the youth to the slaughter.”

Once he was better, Golz was assigned to 91st Air Infantry Division and dispatched to Normandy where the troops were literally dug in near the Cherbourg heights.

“We did not live in houses at the time, but dug holes where we lived,” he said. “About one meter deep into the ground and a tent above it. We were about eight people in one tent.”

And all around them was a forest of “Rommel’s asparagus,” millions of 13-to-16-feet logs planted in fields, the tops connected by tripwires that would set off a mine should a parachutist or a glider hit one. They were named after Field Marshal Erwin Rommel.

On the day of invasion, Golz said he was more concerned about being hungry than the invading Allies. He said at that point he had not eaten in three days, but when he went into a nearby village to get some milk he was rebuffed by the French.

Golz said he returned to his unit, which had been ordered to march toward the town of Sainte-Mère-Église, some three hours away. But en route, Golz said, they were ordered to head to another town.

“I saw how the bombs were dropping,” he said.

Starved and thirsty, Golz said at one point he wandered off into a field in search of sustenance when he saw something moving.

“I took my weapon down and moved toward it,” he said.

It was a downed parachutist. His face was covered with camouflage paint, but he was unlike any man Golz had ever encountered before.

“I had never before seen a black man,” Golz said.

Golz said the soldier was trembling. He said he spoke no English, so he tried to reassure him in German that he was not going to hurt him.

“He spoke back to me calmly in English and in the end took his water bottle and said ‘Good water,’ which I understood,” he said.

Golz said he insisted the soldier take a sip before he too drank from the bottle. Then he took the American prisoner.

The next day, Golz said he saw his first dead American. He said the German soldier he was with, a Saxon named Schneider, began searching the pockets of the corpse and found a wallet with a picture of a pretty blonde woman inside.

“And then we saw that he had a golden ring with a stone on his right hand,” Golz said. “Schneider tried to pull it off, but could not get it off. So, he said he would cut off his fingers. I said, ‘If you cut off his fingers, I will blow you away.’”

“It was good that we did not do it,” he added. “Because we heard from others that if the Americans found a ring on you, they would shoot you.”

By June 10 of that year, the war was over for Golz. He said after strafing a column of American trucks with machine gun fire, they retreated to a pasture where the pursuing GI’s found them.

“Come on boys, hands up,” Golz recalls the Americans telling them.

Paul Golz, a former Wehrmacht soldier in Normandy during allied invasion, at his home in Koenigswinter, Germany on Feb. 6, 2019Andy Eckardt / NBC News

Golz said they had no choice but to surrender. He said they were forced to march for two hours to a market hall where about 100 other German prisoners of war were being held. He recalled that the black GI guarding them rebuffed a furious French man who wanted to shoot all the Germans.

“The American had a duty to guard us, and that is what he did,” Golz said.

From there, the POWs were marched to Utah Beach and loaded on a British ship. To this day he remembers in detail what they were fed.

“Sausages, mashed potatoes, a cup of coffee and white bread,” he said. “After we ate, we were still hungry, so we went down the stairs and stood in line again to eat a second time.”

They were taken first to a prisoner of war camp in Scotland. Then, after a time, they were shipped across the ocean to New York City on a ship called the Queen Mary 1. From there, Golz said they were taken by train to West Virginia and a POW camp where they were treated more like guests than prisoners.

“On every bed there were cigarettes and chocolate, and they had prepared food in the kitchen for us,” he recalled, smiling broadly. “That is where I drank by first Coca-Cola. Wow, that tasted delicious. Ice cold.”

Just how well they were being treated sank in for Golz when they were made to watch news footage from the newly liberated Nazi concentration camps.

“It was the first time we were confronted with the atrocities,” he said. “We saw the starving people in the concentration camps.”

Golz said that, when he was asked at age 16 which branch of the service he should sign up for, his older brother, who had already fought in Ukraine, had advised him not to join the Gestapo.

“They did not fool around, I was told,” he said.

But Golz said he was not aware of what his fellow Germans had done to the Jews and Poles and countless others until he saw the footage. He said his captors were surprised when he told them he did not know what happened in places like Auschwitz, Dachau or Sachsenhausen.

“I told them I did not know about this because in Germany we did not get to see or hear this,” he said. “Those who had taken part, had been a guard there, did not say anything.”

Golz said he was released in 1946 and when he returned to what was left of Germany he began to realize how lucky he was to have been captured by the Americans. In addition to losing his home, he learned that his sister had been raped by Russian soldiers and became pregnant.

“The worst I did not get to see because I was in the United States at the time,” he said.

In the years that followed, Golz said he became a student of the war he had taken part in. He began returning to Normandy on the significant anniversaries and meeting with American soldiers who were once his enemies. He recalls being deeply moved the first time he went to the American cemetery.

“They were all shot in the water on June 6,” he said. “That was on my mind when I saw the many graves. The Germans sat in a big bunker with big machine guns and just aimed at them.”

Golz said he was also asked several times to speak to French schoolchildren about the war and his small part in it. He showed a reporter the words he used to read to the classes when he made his presentation.

“These many, many young men, most of them between 18 and 25, have given their lives for our peace, for today’s Europe,” part of it reads. “Remember that and preserve this peace.”

In the twilight of his life, Golz said he is aware that he is part of a dwindling fraternity and that time has done what the bullets didn’t do in 1944, namely cull the numbers of men he could call comrades-in-arms.

These days, when he can, Golz said he tends to his little garden and the old apple tree that “still brings him joy and a few apples each year.” And he remembers.

“I have no hate, no hate,” he said.

Eckardt reported from Koenigswinter, Germany, and Siemaszko from New York City.

Breast cancer treatment shows hope for younger women with advanced disease

167 0 02 Jun 2019

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June 1, 2019, 11:36 AM UTC

By Erika Edwards

Women with an aggressive and deadly form of breast cancer may live longer if they’re treated with a drug that targets breast cancer cells specifically, according to the results of a new clinical trial.

The drug, called ribociclib, was given alongside another type of cancer treatment: hormone therapy. In the study, women who received both treatments were more likely to be alive three and a half years after their diagnosis than women who only received hormone therapy. (Novartis, who makes ribociclib, funded the trial.)

The treatment is aimed at women with an advanced form of the most common type of breast cancer: hormone-receptor positive/HER2 negative cancer.

What made the trial unique is that it was focused on younger women who haven’t gone through menopause, lead study author Dr. Sara Hurvitz, an oncologist at UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, said in a statement.

“This is an important group to study, since advanced breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in women 20 to 59, and the vast majority of breast cancer is hormone-receptor positive.”

In the study, researchers at MD Anderson Cancer Center and UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center compared the survival of 672 patients with this type of breast cancer. The women were premenopausal when the study began, and had cancer that had metastasized, or spread to other parts of the body.

All of the women were given hormone therapy, which works to reduce the amount of estrogen in the body that fuels cancer cells. But some women were also given ribociclib in a daily pill, which works by targeting specific cancer cells. Ribociclib has been previously shown to increase the odds of progression-free survival by 10 months post-diagnosis. (Progression-free means that the cancer was not growing or spreading.)

The new study — which will be published in the New England Journal of Medicine and will also be presented this weekend at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago — is significant because it found that the combination of ribociclib and hormone therapy increased the chances of a patient living post-diagnosis for three and a half years.

Indeed, at that time point, 70 percent of the patients who received the combination therapy were alive, compared with 46 percent of patients who received hormone therapy alone.

“It was very exciting that women could live longer with their disease controlled,” Hurvitz told NBC News. “But what we’re presenting this weekend is a key secondary endpoint which is: They are living longer, period.”

Dr. Kevin Kalinsky, an assistant professor of medicine at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Irving Medical Center who was not involved in the new study, agreed that the new findings are important. “These drugs have been a game-changer,” he said.

“Achieving an overall survival advantage is quite a high bar for patients with hormone-receptor positive/HER2 negative breast cancer, so the fact that this was achieved with patients who were newly diagnosed [at later stages of disease] and premenopausal, is really quite impressive,” Kalinsky told NBC News.

Increasing survival for younger women

Although breast cancer risk rises with age, women in the study were all relatively young, under age 59. Many had young children, like Bernadette Martinho-Brewer, 53, of Tulare, CA.

Martinho-Brewer was 45 when she was diagnosed with aggressive, invasive breast cancer. Her daughter was only eight years old at the time. “I knew I had to stay strong for my daughter,” she said. “I knew I had to be around for her.”

She went through surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, but her cancer spread to her liver. It was then she enrolled in the clinical trial testing hormone therapy plus ribociclib. Two and a half years later, Martinho-Brewer said the lesion on her liver has disappeared, and her tumor has shrunk.

Patients in the trial who received ribociclib did not experience the kind of severe side effects associated with chemotherapy or radiation. The drug does have side effects, however; the primary one is that it can lower white blood cell count. But doctors say that this does not translate into an increased risk for infections or other problems that would be noticeable to patients.

Bernadette Martinho-Brewer, pictured here with her daughter, was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer at age 45.Courtesy Bernadette Martinho-Brewer

Patients stay on the regimen for as long as it’s working well, according to Kalisnky.

Ribociclib is part of a class of drugs called CDK4/6 inhibitors. There are three such drugs that are FDA-approved: ribociclib, palbociclib and abemaciclib.

“This really confirms the value of this new class of drugs, which have transformed the way we treat hormone-receptor positive metastatic breast cancer,” Dr. Harold Burstein, a breast oncologist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute who not involved in the new study, told NBC News.

The combination therapy is not right for all breast cancer patients, but a growing number of oncologists are turning to this kind of treatment as their first line of attack for certain kinds of breast cancer.

Bernadette Martinho-Brewer spends time with her family at her home in Tulare, California.UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center

“There had been a time and place where we used to give chemotherapy up front to these patients,” said Kalinsky. “But we’re trying to move away from doing that. We’re trying to delay when we need to initiate chemotherapy.”

Breast cancer is the second deadliest cancer among women in the U.S., according to the American Cancer Society. An estimated 268,600 cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in 2019, and more than 40,000 women are expected to die from the disease this year.

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