With recounts looming, Trump adds new administration picks
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — President-elect Donald Trump pressed forward Friday with two more administration picks, as failed Green Party candidate Jill Stein took new steps to force recounts across key Midwestern battlegrounds that could complicate Trump’s push for national unity.
Stein, who earned little more than 1 percent of the national vote, formally requested a Wisconsin recount Friday afternoon, vowing to do the same in the coming days in Michigan and Pennsylvania. Wisconsin officials confirmed Friday evening they would move forward with the first presidential recount in state history. There is no evidence of election tampering in the states where Trump scored razor-thin victories, but Green Party spokesman George Martin insisted “the American public needs to have it investigated to make sure our votes count.”
“We’re doing this to ensure the integrity of our system,” he said.
Trump’s team ignored questions about the looming recounts. Set to assume the presidency in 55 days, he was focused instead on the daunting task of building an administration from scratch.
Gathered with family at his Mar-a-Lago Palm Beach estate for the holiday weekend, the incoming president made two senior-level staff appointments and scheduled meetings with several more prospective administration officials.
Standing Rock chairman says Army Corps to close camp access
BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — The chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe said Friday that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to close the area where people have been camping for months to protest the Dakota Access oil pipeline.
Dave Archambault said in a statement that he received a letter from the Corps, dated Friday, which says all lands north of the Cannonball River will be closed Dec. 5.
“The letter states that the lands will be closed to public access for safety concerns,” Archambault said.
Representatives from the Army Corps of Engineers didn’t immediately return messages seeking comment and verification of the letter.
Archambault said the land to be closed includes the Oceti Sakowin camp, a sprawling encampment on Army Corps land about 50 miles south of Bismarck. For months, opponents of the four-state, $3.8 billion pipeline have been camping in the area to protest the pipeline.
Students complained about erratic driving before bus wreck
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Students and administrators raised concerns about a Tennessee school bus driver’s behavior behind the wheel in the weeks before a crash that killed six children.
Police have charged driver Johnthony Walker with vehicular homicide after the Chattanooga crash. Federal authorities said Walker was driving off the designated bus route when he wrecked on a curvy road while carrying 37 children on their way home from Woodmore Elementary School.
Records released by the school district Friday include two written statements by students complaining about Walker’s driving.
“The bus driver drives fast,” one student wrote earlier this month. “It feels like the bus is going to flip over… When someone is in the aisle he stops the bus and he makes people hit their heads.”
Another student wrote: “The bus driver was doing sharp turns and he made me fly over to the next seat. We need seat belts.”
Stores try to cater to savvier customers on Black Friday
NEW YORK (AP) — Even people who said they’d already done their shopping online came out for Black Friday to spend time with family members or just for the fun of looking.
But it’s those very shoppers retailers are trying to keep as loyal customers, working to improve their own online sites and letting people pick up purchases in the store as the retailers try to fend off the Amazon juggernaut. Even as retailers kick off the shopping season earlier each year, the day after Thanksgiving is still one of the busiest sales days of the year. It’s also becoming an American export to other countries.
Shoppers were on the hunt for deals and were at the stores for entertainment Friday. Store executives say they see customers doing more research online before they go shop. That can mean more browsers turn into buyers, but also that they are visiting fewer stores in person.
“If I’ve seen it on the internet and I find a better deal than I saw on the internet, I’ll buy it,” said Dianna Ramirez, who was looking for a television at the Crossgates Mall in suburban Albany, New York.
Shamika Malloy of Albany was also there shopping for her four teenage children. Her must-have item a laptop for a daughter in college. Malloy said she hadn’t yet shopped online but usually does so.
Judge: Roof competent to stand trial in church shooting
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The white man charged in the shooting deaths of nine black parishioners at a South Carolina church last year is competent to stand trial, a federal judge ruled Friday.
U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel’s decision clears the way for jury selection to restart Monday in the hate-crimes trial of 22-year-old Dylann Roof.
The judge had delayed the process of narrowing the final jury pool on Nov. 7 when Roof’s lawyers suggested their client either didn’t understand the charges against him or couldn’t properly help them with his defense. The lawyers did not say what led them to question Roof’s fitness for trial.
Roof is charged in federal court with hate crimes, obstruction of religion and other counts in connection with the June 17, 2015 attack at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston. He could face the death penalty if convicted.
The decision came after Gergel wrapped up a hastily called two-day hearing to determine if Roof is mentally fit to stand trial.
Florence Henderson recalled as ‘everybody’s mom’; dies at 82
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The best TV mothers become everyone’s mother, with each generation claiming its own. For viewers who came of age during “The Brady Bunch” years, it was Florence Henderson who more than earned the honor.
She was partly old-school TV mom, as perfectly groomed and poised as Harriet Nelson in “The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet” or Barbara Billingsley’s June Cleaver in “Leave it to Beaver,” both of 1950s-’60s vintage. But Henderson’s own sass, warmth and strength made Carol Brady the right surrogate mom for the changing 1970s.
Fans of the show who watched her preside with screen husband Robert Reed over one of television’s first blended families realized it. So did Maureen McCormick, who played eldest daughter Marcia Brady.
“I wish everyone could have really, really known her. But I feel like so many people, even though they didn’t, they do. She was everybody’s mom, everybody’s friend. Everybody loved her,” McCormick said of Henderson. She died Thursday of heart failure in Los Angeles at age 82, with family and friends at her side.
The sitcom “tapped into Florence’s heart,” McCormick said, describing her as a woman who overcame life’s obstacles to endure as a stage and TV star, always seeing the glass half-full and relishing fun.
Wave of Mexico violence reveals hidden graves, severed heads
ACAPULCO, Mexico (AP) — Soldiers and police fanned out Friday across the southern Mexican state of Guerrero, chasing a wounded gang leader and trying to quell a wave of violence that included the discovery of hidden graves holding dozens of bodies and a camp where gunmen stored the severed heads of nine rivals in a cooler.
The clashes between drug gangs were complicated by the fact that townspeople fed up with the violence had formed “community police” vigilante squads in many places. The squads often prevent police and soldiers from moving freely and sometimes act on behalf of the gangs.
Gov. Hector Astudillo announced that federal authorities would return to patrol areas where dozens of often-dismembered bodies have been dumped on roadsides in recent weeks.
The state has been riven, not just by the killings, but by the kidnapping of about a dozen people in the town of Ajuchitlan. Residents there announced they would create a vigilante force to look for the kidnap victims, an idea that threatened to create yet another armed group.
The Ajuchitlan residents were apparently kidnapped last week by a fugitive gang leader known as “El Tequilero,” who was believed to be wounded and hiding out with his kidnap victims in the mountains.
Oil pipeline: Trump’s stock in company raises concern
WASHINGTON (AP) — President-elect Donald Trump holds stock in the company building the disputed Dakota Access oil pipeline, and pipeline opponents warn that Trump’s investments could affect any decision he makes on the $3.8 billion project as president.
Concern about Trump’s possible conflicts comes amid protests that unfold daily along the proposed pipeline route. The dispute over the route has intensified in recent weeks, with total arrests since August rising to 528. A recent clash near the main protest camp in North Dakota left a police officer and several protesters injured.
Trump’s most recent federal disclosure forms, filed in May, show he owned between $15,000 and $50,000 in stock in Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners. That’s down from between $500,000 and $1 million a year earlier.
Trump also owns between $100,000 and $250,000 in Phillips 66, which has a one-quarter share of Dakota Access.
While Trump’s stake in the pipeline company is modest compared with his other assets, ethics experts say it’s among dozens of potential conflicts that could be resolved by placing his investments in a blind trust, a step Trump has resisted.
For some in middle class, Trump plan would mean tax increase
WASHINGTON (AP) — President-elect Donald Trump’s proposals would modestly cut income taxes for most middle-class Americans. But for nearly 8 million families — including a majority of single-parent households — the opposite would occur: They’d pay more.
Most married couples with three or more children would also pay higher taxes, an analysis by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center found. And while middle-class families as a whole would receive tax cuts of about 2 percent, they’d be dwarfed by the windfalls averaging 13.5 percent for America’s richest 1 percent.
Trump’s campaign rhetoric had promoted the benefits of his proposals for middle-income Americans.
“The largest tax reductions are for the middle class,” said Trump’s “Contract With the American Voter,” released last month.
The tax hikes that would hit single parents and large families would result from Trump’s plan to eliminate the personal exemption and the head-of-household filing status. These features of the tax code have enabled many Americans to reduce their taxable income.
Death toll in Iraq bombing claimed by IS rises to 73
MOSUL, Iraq (AP) — The death toll from a car bombing south of Baghdad claimed by the Islamic State group rose to 73 on Friday, including about 40 Iranian pilgrims, as Iraqi forces fought house to house to dislodge the extremist group from the northern city of Mosul in a five-week-old campaign slowed down by stiff IS resistance and fears of massive civilian casualties.
Iraqi police and hospital officials said 65 other people were wounded in the Thursday night attack at a gas station on a major highway near the city of Hilla, about 95 kilometers (60 miles) south of the Iraqi capital.
It was the deadliest IS attack in Iraq since July, when a car bomb killed about 300 in a commercial district in Baghdad.
IS claimed the attack in a brief statement on its Aamaq media arm, saying it was a suicide truck bomb. Earlier, Iraqi officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media, had put the death toll at 56.
In Mosul, where an Iraqi government campaign to retake the city began last month, fighting continued in the eastern sector on Friday, with Iraqi special forces seizing another neighborhood, Masaref, and advancing in the densely populated Zohour district, according to Brig. Gen. Haider Fadhil. The offensive to capture Zohour began earlier this week, but troops are facing spirited IS resistance, he added.