AP News in Brief at 9:04 p.m. EST


Trump: US must ‘greatly strengthen’ nuclear capability

WASHINGTON (AP) — President-elect Donald Trump on Thursday abruptly called for the United States to “greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability” until the rest of the world “comes to its senses” regarding nuclear weapons.

His comments on Twitter came hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin said strengthening his country’s nuclear capabilities should be a chief military objective in the coming year. The president-elect’s statement also followed his meetings a day earlier with top Pentagon officials and defense contractors.

Trump, who is spending the holidays at his palatial private club in Florida, did not expand on the actions he wants the U.S. to take or say why he raised the issue Thursday.

Spokesman Jason Miller said the president-elect was referring to the threat of nuclear proliferation “particularly to and among terrorist organizations and unstable and rogue regimes.” Miller said Trump sees modernizing the nation’s deterrent capability “as a vital way to pursue peace through strength.”

If Trump were to seek an expansion of the nuclear stockpiles, it would mark a sharp shift in U.S. national security policy. President Barack Obama has made nuclear non-proliferation a centerpiece of his agenda, calling in 2009 for the U.S. to lead efforts to rid the world of nuclear weapons — a goal he acknowledged would not be accomplished quickly or easily.

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AP: Eric Trump Foundation flouts charity standards

A charity operated by one of Donald Trump’s sons flouts philanthropic standards by financially benefiting charities connected to the Trump family and members of the charity’s board, an Associated Press investigation shows.

The AP found that Eric Trump has exaggerated the size of his foundation and the donations it receives. At the same time, the charity’s payments for services or donations to other groups repeatedly went to one of Donald Trump’s private golf clubs and to charities linked to the Trumps by corporate, family or philanthropic relationships.

The Eric Trump Foundation has raised $7.3 million mostly for children ill with cancer, according to IRS filings since 2007. The charity has long raised money from donors willing to make large contributions to hobnob with the Trumps. For example, golf at the foundation’s chief 2015 fundraiser cost up to $50,000 per foursome. Donald Trump often attends these events, which include a gala dinner, and mixes with the guests and has his photo taken.

On Wednesday, the younger Trump said he’ll cease soliciting donations for his nonprofit to avoid accusations that contributions could be perceived as a means to buy access to the Trump White House.

The announcement to stop raising money for the foundation followed cancellation of an online auction for “Coffee with Ivanka,” Eric’s sister. The auction was to be sponsored by the Eric Trump Foundation, whose proceeds generally benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.

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Officials say fingerprints tie Tunisian to Berlin attack

BERLIN (AP) — German officials presented mounting evidence Thursday that Anis Amri was behind the wheel of a truck that smashed into a Christmas market in Berlin, killing 12, as authorities across Europe pressed ahead with their feverish manhunt for the 24-year-old Tunisian, who has evaded capture since the attack.

Police raided properties in Berlin and the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia where Amri is believed to have spent time. They also swooped on a bus in the southwestern city of Heilbronn after receiving a tip that turned up nothing.

No arrests were made, said Frauke Koehler, a spokeswoman for federal prosecutors.

Even so, investigators were increasingly confident that Amri carried out the rampage after finding his fingerprints in the cab of the truck that had been hijacked shortly before Monday’s attack.

“We can tell you today that there are additional indications that this suspect is with high probability really the perpetrator,” Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said after visiting the Federal Criminal Police Office along with Chancellor Angela Merkel.

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Syrian government takes full control of Aleppo after 4 years

BEIRUT (AP) — The Syrian government took full control of Aleppo on Thursday for the first time in four years after the last opposition fighters and civilians were bused out of war-ravaged eastern districts, sealing the end of the rebellion’s most important stronghold.

The evacuations ended a brutal chapter in Syria’s nearly six-year civil war, allowing President Bashar Assad to regain full authority over the country’s largest city and former commercial powerhouse. It marked his most significant victory since an uprising against his family’s four-decade rule began in 2011.

The announcement was made via an army statement broadcast on Syrian state TV shortly after the last four buses carrying fighters left through the Ramousseh crossing.

“Thanks to the blood of our heroic martyrs, the heroic deeds and sacrifices of our armed forces and the allied forces, and the steadfastness of our people, the General Command of the Army and the Armed Forces announces the return of security and stability to Aleppo,” an army general said in the statement.

Western Aleppo erupted in heavy celebratory gunfire, with Syrian TV showing uniformed soldiers and civilians shouting “Aleppo, Aleppo!” and “God, Syria and Bashar only!”

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Australia police: Christmas Day bomb plot foiled, 5 detained

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Police in Australia have detained five men suspected of planning a series of Christmas Day bomb attacks in the heart of the country’s second-largest city, officials said Friday.

The suspects had been inspired by the Islamic State group and planned attacks on Melbourne’s Flinders Street train station, neighboring Federation Square and St. Paul’s Cathedral, Victoria state Police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton said.

The arrests came after a truck smashed into a Christmas market in Berlin on Monday, killing 12 people. A manhunt is underway for the person behind that attack, which prompted increases in security around the world.

Two of seven people initially arrested in raids Thursday night and Friday morning in Melbourne — a 26-year-old man and a 20-year-old woman — were released without being charged, police said.

Five men between the ages 21 and 26 remained in custody and would be charged later Friday with preparing a terrorist attack. They were not identified but police said four were born in Australia and the fifth was Egyptian-born with Egyptian and Australian citizenship.

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North Carolina fails to repeal LGBT law as culture wars rage

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Repealing North Carolina’s law limiting LGBT protections at the close of a bitter election year was supposed to heal blows to the economy and perhaps open a truce in the culture wars in at least one corner of the divided United States.

The failure of state lawmakers to follow through instead shows how much faith each side has lost in the other, as Americans segregate themselves into communities of us and them, defined by legislative districts that make compromise unlikely.

The deal was supposedly reached with input from top politicians and industry leaders: Charlotte agreed to eliminate its anti-discrimination ordinance on the condition that state lawmakers then repeal the legislation known as House Bill 2, which had been a response to Charlotte’s action.

But bipartisan efforts to return both the city and state to a more harmonious past fell apart amid mutual distrust, and neither side seemed to worry about retribution in the next election.

With GOP map-drawers drawing most legislative districts to be uncompetitively red or blue, politicians see little downside to avoiding a negotiated middle-ground. And since the day Republicans passed and signed it into law last March, HB2 has reflected these broad divisions in society.

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Unsafe transport leads to death: Farmworkers ‘disposable’?

Jose Rangel Chavez and 18 other Mexican guest workers were dozing as their bus hurtled down Interstate 40 in a light rain. After nine months away from home, the 22-year-old was about to complete a meandering round trip of nearly 5,000 miles — from the citrus groves of Florida to farms in Michigan, where he harvested beets, broccoli, pumpkins and cauliflower, and finally back to their homeland.

They were just north of Little Rock, Arkansas, about a half day’s hard ride from the border, when it happened: The 1997 Van Hool motor coach sideswiped a barrier and struck a concrete bridge support, peeling back the roof like a sardine can. Chavez and five others were killed; seven more workers were severely injured.

The crash in November 2015 , though an isolated tragedy, was also the result of chronic problems within an American agriculture industry dependent upon a reliable supply of low-wage, foreign-born workers. Chavez and the others were part of an annual mass migration made possible partly by a guarantee of free and safe transportation to and from the fields each day and, at season’s end, back home to their loved ones. But for many, that transportation is neither free nor safe.

It has been just over a half-century since the nation’s worst fatal vehicle accident killed nearly three dozen migrants, a horror that farmworker advocates had hoped would bring lasting reforms. Yet, due to enforcement gaps and the sometimes callous attitudes of those who contract for the workers, laborers continue to ride in overloaded, poorly maintained, uninsured vehicles — often driven by a fellow crew member without a proper license, or with no license at all.

The Associated Press found more than a dozen accidents that left at least 38 dead and nearly 200 injured just since January 2015. The casualties included a 5-year-old Mexican boy who died when the van transporting him with his mother and 14 other blueberry pickers flipped in Virginia, and a 4-year old killed when a bus carrying mostly Haitian corn harvesters crashed in Florida.

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Men removed from JetBlue flight with Ivanka Trump aboard

NEW YORK (AP) — A New York man says he and his husband were removed from a JetBlue flight after his husband “expressed displeasure” about flying with Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner.

Matthew Lasner said on Twitter that JetBlue staff kicked him and his husband off the flight from New York’s Kennedy airport to Florida on Thursday after overhearing his husband’s remarks. Lasner tweeted earlier that his husband was chasing the couple down in the terminal “to harass them.”

Lasner has since deleted his Twitter account.

JetBlue cited the possibility of “the risk of escalation during flight” in explaining the decision to remove the men. The airline says the couple was rebooked for the next available flight.

A spokeswoman for the Trump family declined comment but did not dispute the accounts.

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Fox News has kept most of its audience after the election

NEW YORK (AP) — A sharp drop in cable news ratings following a presidential election is as inevitable as snow in Buffalo. Yet in the Age of Trump, so far Fox News Channel is defying that trend.

Comparing the five weeks after the election to the white-hot campaign days of October, Fox’s prime-time audience is down 8 percent, the Nielsen company said. That’s a much smaller drop than rivals CNN and MSNBC, and smaller than all of the networks historically following elections.

“They’ve really, obviously, established themselves as the go-to place for all things Trump, Trump supporters certainly,” said Paul Sweeney, an analyst for Bloomberg Intelligence. “This is their time to shine and they’re making the most of it.”

Post-election has been a victory lap for Sean Hannity, who made no secret of his support for Trump and was rewarded with regular interviews. Fox also enticed viewers with TMZ’s Harvey Levin getting a guided tour of the president-elect’s New York apartment.

Following Barack Obama’s victories, Fox’s post-election viewership dropped by 50 percent in 2012 and 36 percent in 2008, Nielsen said. The drop was 25 percent after Republican George W. Bush’s 2004 win.

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Happy birthday to Colo: Oldest gorilla in US turns 60

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — She is a mother of three, grandmother of 16, great-grandmother of 12 and great-great-grandmother of three. She recently had surgery to remove a malignant tumor, but doctors say she’s doing well.

She’s Colo, the nation’s oldest living gorilla, and she turned 60 on Thursday at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.

Colo was the first gorilla in the world born in a zoo and has surpassed the usual life expectancy of captive gorillas by two decades. Her longevity is putting a spotlight on the medical care, nutrition and up-to-date therapeutic techniques that are helping lengthen zoo animals’ lives.

“Colo just epitomizes the advances that zoos have made, going all the way back to her birth at Columbus,” said Dr. Tom Meehan, vice president for veterinary services at Chicago’s Brookfield Zoo and veterinary adviser to a national gorilla species survival plan.

The changes also mean more animals living with the normal aches and pains of growing older. Today, zoo veterinarians regularly treat animals for heart and kidney disease, arthritis, dental problems and cancer.

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