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AP News in Brief at 11:04 p.m. EST

December 14, 2018

Senate rebukes Saudi Arabia over Khashoggi, Yemen war

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senators voted Thursday to recommend that the U.S. end its assistance to Saudi Arabia for the war in Yemen and put the blame for the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi squarely on Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in a direct challenge to both the longtime Middle East ally and President Donald Trump’s handling of the relationship.

The succession of bipartisan votes came two months after the Saudi journalist’s slaying at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and after Trump persistently equivocated over who was responsible. U.S. intelligence officials concluded that bin Salman must have at least known of the plot, but Trump has repeatedly praised the kingdom.

Senators made clear where they put the blame. The resolution, passed by unanimous agreement, says the Senate believes the crown prince is “responsible for the murder” and calls for the Saudi Arabian government to “ensure appropriate accountability.”

Senators voted 56-41 to recommend that the U.S. stop supporting the war in Yemen, a direct affront to the administration’s war powers abilities.

The floor action brought an unusual show of bipartisan resolve in the Senate over U.S foreign policy, even amid an uncertain outcome as the measures move to the House.

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EU leaders wary of May’s plea for help selling Brexit deal

BRUSSELS (AP) — British Prime Minister Theresa May implored European Union leaders Thursday to help her sell the Brexit divorce deal at home, only to be told that her proposals are not clear enough for the bloc to offer a helping hand now.

Instead, the EU said it would plow ahead with plans for a cliff-edge “no-deal” Brexit on March 29, with a raft of contingency measures to be presented next week.

May came to an EU summit in Brussels seeking support after a week that saw her Brexit deal pilloried in Parliament and her job threatened by lawmakers from her own party. She pleaded with the 27 other EU leaders to “hold nothing in reserve” in helping her sell the Brexit deal to hostile British lawmakers.

“There is a majority in my Parliament who want to leave with a deal, so with the right assurances this deal can be passed,” May said, warning her EU counterparts that failure could mean Britain crashing out of the bloc without a deal, “with all the disruption that would bring.”

EU officials, however, seemed exasperated at the lack of concrete new ideas from Britain. A proposal for encouraging wording offering to give the U.K. further assurances was left out of the leaders’ final summit conclusions on Brexit.

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Strasbourg market attack suspect killed in police shootout

STRASBOURG, France (AP) — The man authorities believe killed three people during a rampage near a Christmas market in Strasbourg died Thursday in a shootout with police at the end of a two-day manhunt, French authorities said.

The Paris prosecutor’s office, which handles terror cases in France, formally identified the man killed in the eastern French city as 29-year-old Cherif Chekatt, a Strasbourg-born man with a long history of convictions for various crimes, including robberies. Chekatt also had been on a watch list of potential extremists.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner, speaking earlier from Strasbourg, said police had spotted a man matching the suspect’s description in the city’s Neudorf neighborhood.

“The moment they tried to arrest him, he turned around and opened fire. They replied,” killing the man, Castaner said.

Chekatt was suspected of killing three people and wounding 13 near Strasbourg’s Christmas market on Tuesday night. Castaner said earlier Thursday that three of the injured had been released from hospital and three others were still fighting for their lives.

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Canada caught between 2 powers, feeling alone in the world

TORONTO (AP) — First U.S. President Donald Trump attacked Canada on trade. Then Saudi Arabia punished it for speaking up for human rights. Now China has the country in its cross-hairs, detaining two Canadians in apparent retaliation for the arrest of a top Chinese tech executive on behalf of the United States.

Canada is caught between two super powers and taking the punishment — and its ally to the south has been conspicuously absent in coming to its aid.

“We’ve never been this alone,” historian Robert Bothwell said. “We don’t have any serious allies. And I think that’s another factor in what the Chinese are doing. ... Our means of retaliation are very few. China is a hostile power.”

The two Canadians, Michael Kovrig, a former diplomat in China, and Michael Spavor, an entrepreneur who lived in northeastern China near the North Korean border, were taken into custody Monday on suspicion of “engaging in activities that endanger the national security” of China, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said. Canadian consular officials have had no access to them.

Their detentions ratchet up pressure on Canada, which arrested Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of telecommunications giant Huawei, on Dec. 1 at the request of the United States. The U.S. wants her extradited to face charges that she and her company misled banks about the company’s business dealings in Iran. A Canadian judge released Meng on bail Tuesday.

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7-year-old immigrant girl dies after Border Patrol arrest

LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) — A 7-year-old girl who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border with her father last week died after being taken into the custody of the U.S. Border Patrol, federal immigration authorities confirmed Thursday.

The Washington Post reports the girl died of dehydration and shock more than eight hours after she was arrested by agents near Lordsburg, New Mexico. The girl was from Guatemala and was traveling with a group of 163 people who approached agents to turn themselves in on Dec. 6.

It’s unknown what happened to the girl during the eight hours before she started having seizures and was flown to an El Paso hospital.

In a statement, Customs and Border Protection said the girl had not eaten or consumed water in several days.

The agency did not provide The Associated Press with the statement it gave to the Post, despite repeated requests.

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Pelosi’s triumph: House speaker-to-be, this time with memes

WASHINGTON (AP) — It has been quite a week for Nancy Pelosi.

The televised meeting with President Donald Trump. The deal with restless Democrats to secure their votes to become House speaker. The fashion statement of her burnt-orange winter coat, swooshing out the doors of the White House, going viral in social media memes.

It all showed the staying power of the Democratic leader, who is relentless in her drive to reclaim the gavel and wield it with a strength that is nothing like Washington has seen — at least since the last time she did it.

“We’ve seen some strong speakers like Pelosi and some weaker speakers,” said Matthew Green, a professor of political science at Catholic University who has written a book about House speakers.

“What we’ve seen this week is another demonstration of how effective Pelosi is, in both her negotiation skills and in her ability to stand up publicly to a president of the opposite party,” he said. “The most dangerous place to be in Washington is between Pelosi and an undecided vote. It’s like a beeline; she goes right for that person. That’s her thing.”

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In plea deal, Russian woman admits to being a secret agent

WASHINGTON (AP) — A Russian gun-rights activist admitted Thursday that she was a secret agent for the Kremlin who tried to infiltrate conservative U.S. political groups as Donald Trump rose to power.

Maria Butina, 30, agreed to plead guilty to a conspiracy charge as part of a deal with federal prosecutors.

“Guilty,” Butina said in a slight accent when asked how she wanted to plead. Dressed in a green jail uniform with her red hair pulled into a long ponytail, Butina spoke softly and mostly kept her eyes on the judge.

The Butina case has provided a vivid glimpse into Russia’s influence operations in the United States at a time when the U.S. intelligence community has determined that Russia was trying to help elect Trump by releasing emails stolen from Democrats and conducting a social media campaign in an attempt to sow political discord.

The case also lays bare how Russia tried to exploit one of the most sensitive social issues in the U.S. — gun control — to gain access to the political sphere.

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Authorities: Wave of hoax bomb threats made across US

NEW YORK (AP) — A wave of bomb threats emailed Thursday to hundreds of schools, businesses and government buildings across the U.S. triggered searches, evacuations and fear — but there were no signs of explosives, and authorities said the scare appeared to be a crude extortion attempt.

Law enforcement agencies across the country dismissed the threats, saying they were meant to cause disruption and compel recipients into sending money and were not considered credible.

Some of the emails had the subject line: “Think Twice.” They were sent from a spoofed email address. The sender claimed to have had an associate plant a small bomb in the recipient’s building and that the only way to stop him from setting it off was by making an online payment of $20,000 in Bitcoin.

“We are currently monitoring multiple bomb threats that have been sent electronically to various locations throughout the city,” the New York City Police Department’s counterterrorism unit tweeted. “These threats are also being reported to other locations nationwide & are NOT considered credible at this time.”

Other law enforcement agencies also dismissed the threats, which were written in a choppy style reminiscent of the Nigerian prince email scam.

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Virgin Galactic tourism rocket ship reaches space in test

MOJAVE, Calif. (AP) — Virgin Galactic’s tourism spaceship climbed more than 50 miles high above California’s Mojave Desert on Thursday, reaching for the first time what the company considers the boundary of space.

The rocket ship hit an altitude of 51 miles (82 kilometers) before beginning its gliding descent, said mission official Enrico Palermo. It landed on a runway minutes later.

“We made it to space!” Palermo exclaimed.

The supersonic flight takes Virgin Galactic closer to turning the long-delayed dream of commercial space tourism into reality. The company aims to take paying customers on the six-passenger rocket, which is about the size of an executive jet.

Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson said there will be more test flights and if all goes well he will take a ride before the public gets its chance.

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Janet Jackson, Def Leppard, Nicks join Rock Hall of Fame

NEW YORK (AP) — Janet Jackson joins her brother Michael and the Jackson 5 as members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, earning induction on Thursday along with Stevie Nicks and the top fan vote-getter, Def Leppard.

Radiohead, the Cure, Roxy Music and the Zombies will also be ushered in next spring at the 34th induction ceremony. It will be held March 29 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

Jackson’s induction comes after her third time as nominee and many saw it as overdue, given her prowess as a hitmaker with “All For You,” ″That’s the Way Love Goes,” ″Nasty,” ″Together Again” and “What Have You Done For Me Lately.”

Her career suffered from the fallout after the infamous 2004 Super Bowl appearance where her bare breast was briefly exposed by Justin Timberlake; both said it was a mistake.

But she’s had a resurgence of late including an acclaimed tour, headlining festival stints, multiple lifetime achievement honors and a No. 1 album on the main Billboard chart.

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