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


Trump speaks with Taiwan’s president, risking China tensions

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — President-elect Donald Trump spoke Friday with the president of Taiwan, a move that will be sure to anger China.

It is highly unusual, probably unprecedented, for a U.S. president or president-elect to speak directly with a leader of Taiwan, a self-governing island the U.S. broke diplomatic ties with in 1979.

Washington has pursued a so-called “one China” policy since 1979, when it shifted diplomatic recognition of China from the government in Taiwan to the communist government on the mainland. Under that policy, the U.S. recognizes Beijing as representing China but retains unofficial ties with Taiwan.

A statement from Trump’s transition team said he spoke with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, who offered her congratulations.

“During the discussion, they noted the close economic, political, and security ties … between Taiwan and the United States. President-elect Trump also congratulated President Tsai on becoming President of Taiwan earlier this year,” the statement said.

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The “Two Trumps” surface in president-elect’s transition

NEW YORK (AP) — Donald Trump’s skeptics hope the presidency will reveal a serious side of the brash businessman. His supporters want him to keep the freewheeling style that rattled Washington.

In true Trump fashion, so far he’s doing both.

Trump has soothed some Republican establishment anxieties with many of his early Cabinet picks, including the respected retired Gen. James Mattis to lead the Pentagon and Georgia Rep. Tom Price, an orthopedic surgeon tapped to head the Department of Health and Human Services. He’s hinted that he’s open to shifting some of his most controversial policies, including his rejection of climate change and support for torture. He’s been full of praise for President Barack Obama and largely respectful of Hillary Clinton, his vanquished campaign rival.

But Trump is also refusing to abandon the raucous, stream-of-consciousness rallies and Twitter tirades that defined his presidential campaign. He’s continued to level false statements, claiming without evidence that millions of people voted illegally in the election. And he’s infused the normally staid Cabinet selection process with reality television drama, inviting cameras into his dinner with Mitt Romney, a leading candidate for secretary of state, and announcing the secretary of defense pick in an arena, seemingly off the cuff.

“He was a very unconventional candidate,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said. “He’s going to be an unconventional president.”

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A Cabinet of generals? Trump’s choices get mixed reviews

WASHINGTON (AP) — Donald Trump’s move to pack his administration with military brass is getting mixed reviews, as Congress and others struggle to balance their personal regard for the individuals he’s choosing with a broader worry about an increased militarization of American policy.

No fewer than three combat-experienced retired Army and Marine leaders, with multiple deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, are on tap for high-level government jobs normally reserved for civilians. Others are entrenched in Trump’s organization as close advisers.

Retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn will serve as the president’s national security adviser, and Trump announced retired Marine four-star Gen. James Mattis Thursday night as his secretary of defense. In addition, retired Marine Gen. John Kelly is a likely pick to head the Department of Homeland Security.

All three had high-profile military careers leading top commands, and they are known for their willingness to offer blunt policy assessments publicly and privately. But their strategic advice could be colored by their years on the battlefront watching soldiers and Marines fight and die battling insurgents in the mountains of Afghanistan and the deserts of Iraq.

Those experiences can have markedly varied effects, making some officers a bit cautious when considering plans to send troops into battle but making others more likely to urge aggressive military responses to national security crises and less patient with the slow pace of diplomacy.

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During first look at wildfire rubble, residents in a daze

GATLINBURG, Tenn. (AP) — Residents and business owners in Gatlinburg got their first look at the wildfire destruction on Friday, and many walked around the once-bustling tourist city in a daze, sobbing.

They hugged each other and promised that they would stay in touch.

“We love it up here so much,” said Gary Moore, his voice trembling. “We lost everything. But we’re alive, thank goodness. Our neighbors are alive, most of them. And we’re just so thankful for that.”

A county mayor raised the death toll to 13 and said the number of damaged buildings now approached 1,000.

After days of waiting to see their homes, some of the shock began to give way to anger, and local authorities bristled when asked why they waited so long to order the evacuation.

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Colombia repatriates dead as airline’s licensing questioned

RIO NEGRO, Colombia (AP) — Victims of this week’s tragic air crash in the Andes were flown home Friday as Bolivia’s president called for “drastic measures” against aviation officials who signed off on a flight plan that experts and even one of the charter airline’s executives said should never have been attempted because of a possible fuel shortage.

The move by President Evo Morales came after evidence emerged that the pilot reported the plane was out of fuel minutes before it slammed into a muddy mountainside, killing all but six of the 77 people on board. Among the dead were players and coaches from a small-town Brazilian soccer team that was headed to the finals of one of South America’s most prestigious tournaments after a fairy-tale season that had captivated their soccer-crazed nation.

As an honor guard played taps early Friday, members of Colombia’s military loaded five Bolivian crew members who died in the crash onto a cargo plane for the trip back home.

Later in the day, caskets containing the remains of 50 Brazilian victims, many draped with sheets printed with their team’s green and white logo, began the journey to the Chapecoense club’s hometown in southern Brazil. Fourteen Brazilian journalists traveling with the team and two passengers from other South American nations were being sent home on separate flights.

Bolivian flight crew member Erwin Tumiri became the first of the survivors to be released from the hospital. Before leaving, he recorded a cellphone message thanking his rescuers and the medical staff who treated him.

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Bodies of Brazil soccer team killed in plane crash head home

CHAPECO, Brazil (AP) — This Brazilian hometown of the soccer team whose dream season ended in tragedy this week prepared Friday for the sad return of so many whose lives were cut short on an Andes mountainside, hanging origami figures of peace in the team’s green and white colors from the fence of the local soccer stadium.

As the bodies of the victims killed in the plane crash began the journey home Friday, gravediggers finished preparing the ground at cemeteries in the small city of Chapeco.

A memorial service was planned for Saturday in the southern Brazilian city that was home to the Chapecoense soccer club, which was on its way to the finals of one of South America’s most prestigious tournaments when the plane went down in Colombia on Monday, killing all but six of the 77 people on board.

Three flights carrying the bodies of 50 players, coaches, officials and journalists covering the team were to depart from Colombia late Friday. Another plane carrying other Brazilian victims is headed to Sao Paulo. Brazilian President Michel Temer is scheduled to greet the arriving cargo planes at the airport in Chapeco on Saturday, but is not expected at the memorial.

In preparation for the service, residents hung more than 3,000 green and white origami pieces fashioned into the figure of a crane — birds that are considered a symbol of peace — onto the metal fence at the team’s Arena Conda stadium.

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Chains and branded skin: California kidnap case baffles cops

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Three weeks after Sherri Papini disappeared, the question of whether she was dead or alive was answered when the young mother and wife was spotted waving frantically for help along a California freeway early on Thanksgiving morning. But the mystery over what happened to her during those 22 days just seemed to grow stranger.

She was battered and bruised, her hands were chained, her long blond hair had been chopped off, and her flesh had been branded with a threatening message. The 34-year-old Papini told authorities that she had been kidnapped at gunpoint by two women Nov. 2 while she was out for a run near her home.

The bizarre turn of events — with many of the most sensational details released not by authorities but by her husband in an exclusive interview with ABC — has baffled police and set social media aflutter, with armchair detectives scouring the internet’s darkest corners for clues and others arguing that the case is some kind of twisted hoax, like something out of the movie “Gone Girl.”

Her husband, Keith Papini, has condemned the rumors as “exhausting and disgusting,” and police have said they have no reason to doubt his wife’s harrowing account. But they have a multitude of questions, among them: Who are these women? Where did they keep her? Was she selected at random or targeted?

And, most of all, why?

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Adulation of Fidel Castro runs deepest in rural eastern Cuba

EL GUAYABO, Cuba (AP) — The single dirt street in El Guayabo runs past a few dozen cinderblock homes, the medical clinic and the primary school to a grove of 76 trees planted to honor Fidel Castro on his 76th birthday.

On Friday, residents of El Guayabo walked a mile down that street to Cuba’s central highway to bid a final farewell to the man they credit for bringing medical care, education and basic comforts to this hamlet in the farming and ranching country of arid, sun-scorched eastern Cuba.

“We owe him everything,” said Rafael Toledo, a 71-year-old rancher. “There’ll never be another one like him.”

Mourning for Castro has reached near-religious peaks of public adulation across Cuba since his death at age 90 on Nov. 25. Huge crowds have been shouting his name and lining the roads to salute the funeral procession carrying his ashes from Havana to the eastern city of Santiago.

By midday on Friday, the cortege had reached the city of Las Tunas, some 1,450 miles (600 kilometers) east of Havana.

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Apparent tax arrangements of top soccer players released

MADRID (AP) — A group of European media outlets on Friday published what it claims are details of tax arrangements made by several top soccer players and coaches, including Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo, Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho and Arsenal midfielder Mesut Ozil.

The news outlets, which include German weekly Der Spiegel and Spanish daily El Mundo, cited documents provided by the website Football Leaks, which has in the past claimed that some players and coaches made transactions that could suggest financial impropriety.

The group, which goes by the name European Investigative Collaborations, said it plans to release further reports in the coming days and weeks.

The company of Ronaldo’s and Mourinho’s agent, Jorge Mendes, released a statement denying any wrongdoing by his clients.

“Both Cristiano Ronaldo and Jose Mourinho are in compliance with their fiscal obligations in Spain and in the United Kingdom,” said the statement by Mendes’ company Gestifute, which was released Thursday after a report in Spain accusing Ronaldo of wrongdoing. “Cristiano Ronaldo and Jose Mourinho have never been involved in any legal process related to any fiscal crime.”

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Famously cold N. Dakota winter menaces pipeline protest camp

CANNON BALL, N.D. (AP) — So far, the hundreds of protesters fighting the Dakota Access pipeline have shrugged off the heavy snow, icy winds and frigid temperatures that have swirled around their large encampment on the North Dakota grasslands.

But if they defy next week’s government deadline to abandon the camp, demonstrators know the real deep freeze lies ahead, when the full weight of the Great Plains winter descends on their community of nylon tents and teepees. Life-threatening wind chills and towering snow drifts could mean the greatest challenge is simple survival.

“I’m scared. I’m a California girl, you know?” said Loretta Reddog of Placerville, California, a protester who said she arrived several months ago with her two dogs and has yet to adjust to the harsher climate.

The government has ordered protesters to leave federal land by Monday, although it’s not clear what, if anything, authorities will do to enforce that mandate. Demonstrators insist they will stay for as long as it takes to divert the $3.8 billion pipeline, which the Standing Rock Sioux tribe believes threatens sacred sites and a river that provides drinking water for millions of people.

The pipeline is largely complete except for a short segment that is planned to pass beneath a Missouri River reservoir. The company doing the building says it is unwilling to reroute the project.

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