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Monthly Archives: December 2017

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How the Russia Inquiry Began: A Campaign Aide, Drinks and Talk of Political Dirt

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(PhatzRadio Sports / NYT)    —    WASHINGTON — During a night of heavy drinking at an upscale London bar in May 2016, George Papadopoulos, a young foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, made a startling revelation to Australia’s top diplomat in Britain: Russia had political dirt on Hillary Clinton.

About three weeks earlier, Mr. Papadopoulos had been told that Moscow had thousands of emails that would embarrass Mrs. Clinton, apparently stolen in an effort to try to damage her campaign.

Exactly how much Mr. Papadopoulos said that night at the Kensington Wine Rooms with the Australian, Alexander Downer, is unclear. But two months later, when leaked Democratic emails began appearing online, Australian officials passed the information about Mr. Papadopoulos to their American counterparts, according to four current and former American and foreign officials with direct knowledge of the Australians’ role.

The hacking and the revelation that a member of the Trump campaign may have had inside information about it were driving factors that led the F.B.I. to open an investigation in July 2016 into Russia’s attempts to disrupt the election and whether any of President Trump’s associates conspired.

If Mr. Papadopoulos, who pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I. and is now a cooperating witness, was the improbable match that set off a blaze that has consumed the first year of the Trump administration, his saga is also a tale of the Trump campaign in miniature. He was brash, boastful and underqualified, yet he exceeded expectations. And, like the campaign itself, he proved to be a tantalizing target for a Russian influence operation.

While some of Mr. Trump’s advisers have derided him as an insignificant campaign volunteer or a “coffee boy,” interviews and new documents show that he stayed influential throughout the campaign. Two months before the election, for instance, he helped arrange a New York meeting between Mr. Trump and President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt.

The information that Mr. Papadopoulos gave to the Australians answers one of the lingering mysteries of the past year: What so alarmed American officials to provoke the F.B.I. to open a counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign months before the presidential election?

It was not, as Mr. Trump and other politicians have alleged, a dossier compiled by a former British spy hired by a rival campaign. Instead, it was firsthand information from one of America’s closest intelligence allies.

Interviews and previously undisclosed documents show that Mr. Papadopoulos played a critical role in this drama and reveal a Russian operation that was more aggressive and widespread than previously known. They add to an emerging portrait, gradually filled in over the past year in revelations by federal investigators, journalists and lawmakers, of Russians with government contacts trying to establish secret channels at various levels of the Trump campaign.

The F.B.I. investigation, which was taken over seven months ago by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, has cast a shadow over Mr. Trump’s first year in office — even as he and his aides repeatedly played down the Russian efforts and falsely denied campaign contacts with Russians.

They have also insisted that Mr. Papadopoulos was a low-level figure. But spies frequently target peripheral players as a way to gain insight and leverage.

F.B.I. officials disagreed in 2016 about how aggressively and publicly to pursue the Russia inquiry before the election. But there was little debate about what seemed to be afoot. John O. Brennan, who retired this year after four years as C.I.A. director, told Congress in May that he had been concerned about multiple contacts between Russian officials and Trump advisers.

Russia, he said, had tried to “suborn” members of the Trump campaign.

‘The Signal to Meet’

Mr. Papadopoulos, then an ambitious 28-year-old from Chicago, was working as an energy consultant in London when the Trump campaign, desperate to create a foreign policy team, named him as an adviser in early March 2016. His political experience was limited to two months on Ben Carson’s presidential campaign before it collapsed.

Mr. Papadopoulos had no experience on Russia issues. But during his job interview with Sam Clovis, a top early campaign aide, he saw an opening. He was told that improving relations with Russia was one of Mr. Trump’s top foreign policy goals, according to court papers, an account Mr. Clovis has denied.

Traveling in Italy that March, Mr. Papadopoulos met Joseph Mifsud, a Maltese professor at a now-defunct London academy who had valuable contacts with the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Mr. Mifsud showed little interest in Mr. Papadopoulos at first.

But when he found out he was a Trump campaign adviser, he latched onto him, according to court records and emails obtained by The New York Times. Their joint goal was to arrange a meeting between Mr. Trump and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia in Moscow, or between their respective aides.

In response to questions, Mr. Papadopoulos’s lawyers declined to provide a statement.

Before the end of the month, Mr. Mifsud had arranged a meeting at a London cafe between Mr. Papadopoulos and Olga Polonskaya, a young woman from St. Petersburg whom he falsely described as Mr. Putin’s niece. Although Ms. Polonskaya told The Times in a text message that her English skills are poor, her emails to Mr. Papadopoulos were largely fluent. “We are all very excited by the possibility of a good relationship with Mr. Trump,” Ms. Polonskaya wrote in one message.

More important, Mr. Mifsud connected Mr. Papadopoulos to Ivan Timofeev, a program director for the prestigious Valdai Discussion Club, a gathering of academics that meets annually with Mr. Putin. The two men corresponded for months about how to connect the Russian government and the campaign. Records suggest that Mr. Timofeev, who has been described by Mr. Mueller’s team as an intermediary for the Russian Foreign Ministry, discussed the matter with the ministry’s former leader, Igor S. Ivanov, who is widely viewed in the United States as one of Russia’s elder statesmen.

When Mr. Trump’s foreign policy team gathered for the first time at the end of March in Washington, Mr. Papadopoulos said he had the contacts to set up a meeting between Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin. Mr. Trump listened intently but apparently deferred to Jeff Sessions, then a senator from Alabama and head of the campaign’s foreign policy team, according to participants in the meeting.

Mr. Sessions, now the attorney general, initially did not reveal that discussion to Congress, because, he has said, he did not recall it. More recently, he said he pushed back against Mr. Papadopoulos’s proposal, at least partly because he did not want someone so unqualified to represent the campaign on such a sensitive matter.

If the campaign wanted Mr. Papadopoulos to stand down, previously undisclosed emails obtained by The Times show that he either did not get the message or failed to heed it. He continued for months to try to arrange some kind of meeting with Russian representatives, keeping senior campaign advisers abreast of his efforts. Mr. Clovis ultimately encouraged him and another foreign policy adviser to travel to Moscow, but neither went because the campaign would not cover the cost.

Mr. Papadopoulos was trusted enough to edit the outline of Mr. Trump’s first major foreign policy speech on April 27, an address in which the candidate said it was possible to improve relations with Russia. Mr. Papadopoulos flagged the speech to his newfound Russia contacts, telling Mr. Timofeev that it should be taken as “the signal to meet.”

“That is a statesman speech,” Mr. Mifsud agreed. Ms. Polonskaya wrote that she was pleased that Mr. Trump’s “position toward Russia is much softer” than that of other candidates.

Stephen Miller, then a senior policy adviser to the campaign and now a top White House aide, was eager for Mr. Papadopoulos to serve as a surrogate, someone who could publicize Mr. Trump’s foreign policy views without officially speaking for the campaign. But Mr. Papadopoulos’s first public attempt to do so was a disaster.

In a May 4, 2016, interview with The Times of London, Mr. Papadopoulos called on Prime Minister David Cameron to apologize to Mr. Trump for criticizing his remarks on Muslims as “stupid” and divisive. “Say sorry to Trump or risk special relationship, Cameron told,” the headline read. Mr. Clovis, the national campaign co-chairman, severely reprimanded Mr. Papadopoulos for failing to clear his explosive comments with the campaign in advance.

From then on, Mr. Papadopoulos was more careful with the press — though he never regained the full trust of Mr. Clovis or several other campaign officials.

Mr. Mifsud proposed to Mr. Papadopoulos that he, too, serve as a campaign surrogate. He could write op-eds under the guise of a “neutral” observer, he wrote in a previously undisclosed email, and follow Mr. Trump to his rallies as an accredited journalist while receiving briefings from the inside the campaign.

In late April, at a London hotel, Mr. Mifsud told Mr. Papadopoulos that he had just learned from high-level Russian officials in Moscow that the Russians had “dirt” on Mrs. Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails,” according to court documents. Although Russian hackers had been mining data from the Democratic National Committee’s computers for months, that information was not yet public. Even the committee itself did not know.

Whether Mr. Papadopoulos shared that information with anyone else in the campaign is one of many unanswered questions. He was mostly in contact with the campaign over emails. The day after Mr. Mifsud’s revelation about the hacked emails, he told Mr. Miller in an email only that he had “interesting messages coming in from Moscow” about a possible trip. The emails obtained by The Times show no evidence that Mr. Papadopoulos discussed the stolen messages with the campaign.

Not long after, however, he opened up to Mr. Downer, the Australian diplomat, about his contacts with the Russians. It is unclear whether Mr. Downer was fishing for that information that night in May 2016. The meeting at the bar came about because of a series of connections, beginning with an Israeli Embassy official who introduced Mr. Papadopoulos to another Australian diplomat in London.

It is also not clear why, after getting the information in May, the Australian government waited two months to pass it to the F.B.I. In a statement, the Australian Embassy in Washington declined to provide details about the meeting or confirm that it occurred.

“As a matter of principle and practice, the Australian government does not comment on matters relevant to active investigations,” the statement said. The F.B.I. declined to comment.

A Secretive Investigation

Once the information Mr. Papadopoulos had disclosed to the Australian diplomat reached the F.B.I., the bureau opened an investigation that became one of its most closely guarded secrets. Senior agents did not discuss it at the daily morning briefing, a classified setting where officials normally speak freely about highly sensitive operations.

Besides the information from the Australians, the investigation was also propelled by intelligence from other friendly governments, including the British and Dutch. A trip to Moscow by another adviser, Carter Page, also raised concerns at the F.B.I.

With so many strands coming in — about Mr. Papadopoulos, Mr. Page, the hackers and more — F.B.I. agents debated how aggressively to investigate the campaign’s Russia ties, according to current and former officials familiar with the debate. Issuing subpoenas or questioning people, for example, could cause the investigation to burst into public view in the final months of a presidential campaign.

It could also tip off the Russian government, which might try to cover its tracks. Some officials argued against taking such disruptive steps, especially since the F.B.I. would not be able to unravel the case before the election.

Others believed that the possibility of a compromised presidential campaign was so serious that it warranted the most thorough, aggressive tactics. Even if the odds against a Trump presidency were long, these agents argued, it was prudent to take every precaution.

That included questioning Christopher Steele, the former British spy who was compiling the dossier alleging a far-ranging Russian conspiracy to elect Mr. Trump. A team of F.B.I. agents traveled to Europe to interview Mr. Steele in early October 2016. Mr. Steele had shown some of his findings to an F.B.I. agent in Rome three months earlier, but that information was not part of the justification to start an counterintelligence inquiry, American officials said.

Ultimately, the F.B.I. and Justice Department decided to keep the investigation quiet, a decision that Democrats in particular have criticized. And agents did not interview Mr. Papadopoulos until late January.

Opening Doors, to the Top

He was hardly central to the daily running of the Trump campaign, yet Mr. Papadopoulos continuously found ways to make himself useful to senior Trump advisers. In September 2016, with the United Nations General Assembly approaching and stories circulating that Mrs. Clinton was going to meet with Mr. Sisi, the Egyptian president, Mr. Papadopoulos sent a message to Stephen K. Bannon, the campaign’s chief executive, offering to broker a similar meeting for Mr. Trump.

After days of scheduling discussions, the meeting was set and Mr. Papadopoulos sent a list of talking points to Mr. Bannon, according to people familiar with those interactions. Asked about his contacts with Mr. Papadopoulos, Mr. Bannon declined to comment.

Mr. Trump’s improbable victory raised Mr. Papadopoulos’s hopes that he might ascend to a top White House job. The election win also prompted a business proposal from Sergei Millian, a naturalized American citizen born in Belarus. After he had contacted Mr. Papadopoulos out of the blue over LinkedIn during the summer of 2016, the two met repeatedly in Manhattan.

Mr. Millian has bragged of his ties to Mr. Trump — boasts that the president’s advisers have said are overstated. He headed an obscure organization called the Russian-American Chamber of Commerce, some of whose board members and clients are difficult to confirm. Congress is investigating where he fits into the swirl of contacts with the Trump campaign, although he has said he is unfairly being scrutinized only because of his support for Mr. Trump.

Mr. Millian proposed that he and Mr. Papadopoulos form an energy-related business that would be financed by Russian billionaires “who are not under sanctions” and would “open all doors for us” at “any level all the way to the top.”

One billionaire, he said, wanted to explore the idea of opening a Trump-branded hotel in Moscow. “I know the president will distance himself from business, but his children might be interested,” he wrote.

Nothing came of his proposals, partly because Mr. Papadopoulos was hoping that Michael T. Flynn, then Mr. Trump’s pick to be national security adviser, might give him the energy portfolio at the National Security Council.

The pair exchanged New Year’s greetings in the final hours of 2016. “Happy New Year, sir,” Mr. Papadopoulos wrote.

“Thank you and same to you, George. Happy New Year!” Mr. Flynn responded, ahead of a year that seemed to hold great promise.

But 2017 did not unfold that way. Within months, Mr. Flynn was fired, and both men were charged with lying to the F.B.I. And both became important witnesses in the investigation Mr. Papadopoulos had played a critical role in starting.

Trump Says Russia Inquiry Makes U.S. ‘Look Very Bad’

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — President Trump said Thursday that he believes Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel in the Russia investigation, will treat him fairly, contradicting some members of his party who have waged a weekslong campaign to try to discredit Mr. Mueller and the continuing inquiry.

During an impromptu 30-minute interview with The New York Times at his golf club in West Palm Beach, the president did not demand an end to the Russia investigations swirling around his administration, but insisted 16 times that there has been “no collusion” discovered by the inquiry.

“It makes the country look very bad, and it puts the country in a very bad position,” Mr. Trump said of the investigation. “So the sooner it’s worked out, the better it is for the country.”

Asked whether he would order the Justice Department to reopen the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails, Mr. Trump appeared to remain focused on the Russia investigation.

“I have absolute right to do what I want to do with the Justice Department,” he said, echoing claims by his supporters that as president he has the power to open or end an investigation. “But for purposes of hopefully thinking I’m going to be treated fairly, I’ve stayed uninvolved with this particular matter.”

Hours after he accused the Chinese of secretly shipping oil to North Korea, Mr. Trump explicitly said for the first time that he has “been soft” on China on trade in the hopes that its leaders will pressure North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program.

He hinted that his patience may soon end, however, signaling his frustration with the reported oil shipments.

“Oil is going into North Korea. That wasn’t my deal!” he exclaimed, raising the possibility of aggressive trade actions against China. “If they don’t help us with North Korea, then I do what I’ve always said I want to do.”

Despite saying that when he visited China in November, President Xi Jinping “treated me better than anybody’s ever been treated in the history of China,” Mr. Trump said that “they have to help us much more.”

“We have a nuclear menace out there, which is no good for China,” he said.

Mr. Trump gave the interview in the Grill Room at Trump International Golf Club after he ate lunch with his playing partners, including his son Eric and the pro golfer Jim Herman. No aides were present for the interview, and the president sat alone with a New York Times reporter at a large round table as club members chatted and ate lunch nearby. A few times, members and friends — including a longtime supporter, Christopher Ruddy, the president and chief executive of the conservative website and TV company Newsmax — came by to speak with Mr. Trump.

Noting that he had given Mr. Herman $50,000 years ago when he worked at the president’s New Jersey golf club and was trying to make the PGA Tour, Mr. Trump asked him how much he made playing on the professional circuit.

“It’s like $3 million,” Mr. Herman said.

“Which to him is like making a billion because he doesn’t spend anything,” Mr. Trump joked. “Ain’t that a great story?”

In the interview, the president touted the strength of his campaign victories and his accomplishments in office, including passage of a tax overhaul this month. But he also expressed frustration and anger at Democrats, who he said refused to negotiate on legislation.

“Like Joe Manchin,” Mr. Trump said, referring to the Democratic senator from West Virginia. He said Mr. Manchin and other Democrats claimed to be centrists but refused to negotiate on health care or taxes.

“He talks. But he doesn’t do anything. He doesn’t do,” Mr. Trump said. “‘Hey, let’s get together, let’s do bipartisan.’ I say, ‘Good, let’s go.’ Then you don’t hear from him again.”

Nonetheless, Mr. Trump said he still hoped Democrats will work with him on bipartisan legislation in the coming year to overhaul health care, improve the country’s crumbling infrastructure and help young immigrants brought to the country as children.

Mr. Trump disputed reports that suggested he does not have a detailed understanding of legislation, saying, “I know the details of taxes better than anybody. Better than the greatest C.P.A. I know the details of health care better than most, better than most.”

Later, he added that he knows more about “the big bills” debated in the Congress “than any president that’s ever been in office.”

The president also spoke at length about the special election this month in Alabama, where Roy S. Moore, the Republican candidate, lost to a Democrat after being accused of sexual misconduct with young girls, including a minor, when he was in his 30s.

Mr. Trump said that he supported Mr. Moore’s opponent in the Republican primary race because he knew Mr. Moore would lose in the general election. And he insisted that he endorsed Mr. Moore later only because “I feel that I have to endorse Republicans as the head of the party.”

Mr. Mueller’s investigation appears to be moving ahead despite predictions by Mr. Trump’s lawyers this year that it would be over by Thanksgiving. Mr. Trump said that he was not bothered by the fact that he does not know when it will be completed because he has nothing to hide.

Mr. Trump repeated his assertion that Democrats invented the Russia allegations “as a hoax, as a ruse, as an excuse for losing an election.” He said that “everybody knows” his associates did not collude with the Russians, even as he insisted that the “real stories” are about Democrats who worked with Russians during the 2016 campaign.

“There’s been no collusion. But I think he’s going to be fair,” Mr. Trump said of Mr. Mueller.

In recent weeks, Republican lawmakers have seized on anti-Trump texts sent by an F.B.I. investigator who was removed from Mr. Mueller’s team as evidence of political bias. At a hearing this month, Representative Jim Jordan, Republican of Ohio, said that “the public trust in this whole thing is gone.”

Although Mr. Trump said he believes Mr. Mueller will treat him fairly, Mr. Trump raised questions about how the special counsel had dealt with the lobbyist Tony Podesta. Mr. Podesta is the brother of Mrs. Clinton’s campaign chairman, John D. Podesta, and Tony Podesta is under investigation for work his firm, the Podesta Group, did on behalf of a client referred to it in 2012 by Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman.

“Whatever happened to Podesta?” Mr. Trump said. “They closed their firm, they left in disgrace, the whole thing, and now you never heard of anything.”

Mr. Trump tried to put distance between himself and Mr. Manafort, who was indicted in October. The president said that Mr. Manafort — whom he called “very nice man” and “an honorable person” — had spent more time working for other candidates and presidents than for him.

“Paul only worked for me for a few months,” Mr. Trump said. “Paul worked for Ronald Reagan. His firm worked for John McCain, worked for Bob Dole, worked for many Republicans for far longer than he worked for me. And you’re talking about what Paul was many years ago before I ever heard of him. He worked for me for — what was it, three and a half months?”

Mr. Trump said it was “too bad” that Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, recused himself from overseeing the Russia investigation. Mr. Trump did not directly answer a question about whether he thought that Eric H. Holder Jr., President Barack Obama’s first attorney general, was more loyal than Mr. Sessions had been.

“I don’t want to get into loyalty, but I will tell you that, I will say this: Holder protected President Obama. Totally protected him,” Mr. Trump said. He added: “When you look at the things that they did, and Holder protected the president. And I have great respect for that, I’ll be honest.”

Mr. Trump said he believes members of the news media will eventually cover him more favorably because they are profiting from the interest in his presidency and thus will want him re-elected.

“Another reason that I’m going to win another four years is because newspapers, television, all forms of media will tank if I’m not there because without me, their ratings are going down the tubes,” Mr. Trump said, then invoked one of his preferred insults. “Without me, The New York Times will indeed be not the failing New York Times, but the failed New York Times.”

He added: “So they basically have to let me win. And eventually, probably six months before the election, they’ll be loving me because they’re saying, ‘Please, please, don’t lose Donald Trump.’ O.K.”

After the interview, Mr. Trump walked out of the Grill Room, stopping briefly to speak to guests. He then showed off a plaque that listed the club’s golf champions, including several years in which Mr. Trump had won its annual tournament. Asked how far he was hitting balls off the tee these days, Mr. Trump, who will turn 72 next year, was modest. “Gets shorter every year,” he said.

As deep freeze sets in, people urged to help most vulnerable

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PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Dangerously cold temperatures and significant snowfall are setting in across half the country and officials are urging people to assist the homeless and elderly.

Forecasters warned people to be wary of hypothermia and frostbite from the arctic blast that’s gripping a large swath from the Midwest to the Northeast, where the temperature, without the wind chill factored in, dipped to minus 32 (minus 35 Celsius) Thursday morning in Watertown, New York. Temperatures rose to minus 7 (minus 22 Celsius) early Friday morning.

The prolonged, dangerous cold weather has sent advocates for the homeless scrambling to get people off the streets and to bring in extra beds for them. Warming centers also were set up in some locations including recreation centers across Cincinnati.

Boston’s Pine Street Inn is sending a van with outreach workers around to persuade people to spend the night inside, but some said they prefer the streets.

Segundo Rivera and Sean Stuart told the Boston Herald that they’re not comfortable spending the night in a shelter.

“We’ve lived out here so long it’s like honestly, this is comfortable for us,” Rivera said.

A shelter spokeswoman said that if people don’t want to go to a shelter, they’re given blankets, warm clothing and a hot beverage, and informed of the dangers of extreme cold.

Weather observers atop the Northeast’s highest peak say the temperature has hit a record negative 34 degrees. Adam Gill of the Mount Washington Observatory in New Hampshire says the previous record of negative 31 degrees was set in 1933. (Dec. 28)

The Ohio Department of Aging said older people are at increased risk from such severe cold, from medication side effects to falling risks. The department encouraged people to check on family members, friends and neighbors to make sure they’re warm enough and have their needed medications and sufficient food and water.

Animal advocates also urged people to remember their pets.

In Toledo, the humane society was looking into the death of a dog found “frozen solid” on a porch, cruelty investigator Megan Brown told The Blade.

“I don’t know how long she was out there,” Brown said.

A second dog was recovered shivering inside the home. The dogs’ owner told The Blade utilities that had been shut off but he had been providing for the dogs while living elsewhere. He said he didn’t know how one dog, an American bully, got outside.

On Thursday, cold weather records were set from Arkansas to Maine, and the freezing air will linger through the weekend, reaching as far south as Texas and the Florida Panhandle.

In New Hampshire, the cold set a record for the day of minus 34 (minus 37 Celsius) atop the Northeast’s highest peak, Mount Washington.

In the Midwest, temperatures in Minneapolis aren’t expected to top zero (minus 18 Celsius) this weekend, and it likely will be in the teens (minus 11 Celsius to minus 7 Celsius) when the ball drops on New Year’s Eve in New York City.

A winter storm warning was in effect for much of Montana, calling for significant snowfall followed by dangerously cold temperatures as 2017 comes to an end.

“People like to think of themselves as being prepared for the weather and things like that,” Billings forecaster Dan Borsum said, “but this one will get your attention.”

New York City fire kills 12, sends residents scrambling

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NEW YORK (AP) — New York City’s deadliest residential fire in decades spread through every floor of a Bronx apartment building within a matter of minutes, city officials said, killing 12 people and sending other residents scrambling outside into the cold and down fire escapes to safety.

The dead included a child around a year old, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said during a briefing late Thursday, adding that four more people were fighting for their lives.

Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro called the fire, “historic in its magnitude,” because of the number of lives lost. Excluding the Sept. 11 attacks, it was the worst fire in the city since 87 people were killed at a social club fire in the Bronx in 1990.

“Our hearts go out to every person who lost a loved one here and everyone who is fighting for their lives,” Nigro said.

The blaze broke out on the first floor of a five-story building just before 7 p.m. and quickly tore through the roughly century-old structure near the Bronx Zoo.

Some tenants of the building, a mix of native New Yorkers and Latino and African immigrants, climbed down fire escapes. But the flames moved so fast that many never made it out of their apartments.

The cause of the fire remained under investigation.

New York City’s mayor says 12 people have been killed in a Bronx apartment building fire including a child around one year old. (Dec. 28)

About 170 firefighters worked in bone-chilling cold, just 15 degrees, to rescue about a dozen people from the building.

Thierno Diallo, 59, a security guard originally from Conakry, Guinea, who lives in a ground floor apartment said he was asleep when he heard banging on the door. It took him a moment to realize what was happening.

“Only when I heard people screaming, ‘There’s a fire in the building!’” he said. “I heard somebody, ‘Oh! Fire! Fire! Fire!’”

He ran outside in his bathrobe, jacket and sandals.

Kenneth Kodua, 37, said he left his apartment to get food, leaving his roommate behind, and came back to find people fleeing in a panic.

Hours later, he was still trying to find out whether his roommate had escaped.

“I tried calling her. I tried calling. No answer,” he said, still clutching his bag of uneaten food. His phone was dead.

Many questions remained in the immediate aftermath of the blaze, including how the fire spread so quickly in a brick building built after catastrophic fires at the turn of the 20th century ushered in an era of tougher enforcement of fire codes.

The building had more than 20 units. It was not new enough that it was required to have modern-day fireproofing, like sprinkler systems and interior steel construction.

Witnesses described seeing burned bodies being carried away on stretchers and young girls who had escaped standing barefoot outside with no coats.

Twum Bredu, 61, arrived in the neighborhood looking for his brother, who had been staying with a family in the building. The family, a husband and wife and four children, got out. But there was no word about his brother.

“I’ve been calling his phone, it’s ringing, but nobody picks up,” Bredu said. “He was in his room, and we don’t know what happened.”

The death toll surpassed the 10 who died, including nine children, in a four-story home in another part of the Bronx in 2007. That blaze had been sparked by a space heater.

Court rules against Oregon bakers in wedding-cake case

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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — An appellate court Thursday upheld a penalty against Oregon bakery owners who refused to make a cake for a same-sex wedding almost five years ago.

The owners of the since-closed Gresham bakery — Aaron and Melissa Klein — argued that state Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian violated state and federal laws by forcing them to pay emotional-distress damages of $135,000 to the lesbian couple.

Their lawyers said Avakian and the state Bureau of Labor and Industries violated the Kleins’ rights as artists to free speech, their rights to religious freedom and their rights as defendants to a due process.

But the Oregon Court of Appeals sided with the state Thursday, saying the Kleins failed to show the state targeted them for their religious beliefs. The judges also found public statements made by Avakian before deciding the case did not establish a lack of impartiality.

“Today’s ruling sends a strong signal that Oregon remains open to all,” Avakian said after the 62-page opinion was released Thursday.

The decision comes weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in the high-profile case of a Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.

That baker, Jack Phillips, claims his First Amendment claims of artistic freedom were being violated — a similar issue raised by the Kleins.

The Oregon court said the Kleins’ argument that their cakes entail an artistic expression is “entitled to be taken seriously,” but it’s not enough for the couple to assert their cakes are pieces of art — they must show others perceive their creations like a sculpture or painting.

“Although we accept that the Kleins imbue each wedding cake with their own aesthetic choices, they have made no showing that other people will necessarily experience any wedding cake that the Kleins create predominantly as ‘expression’ rather than as food,” the opinion says.

First Liberty Institute, the legal organization that represents the Kleins, disagreed with the ruling.

“The Oregon Court of Appeals decided that Aaron and Melissa Klein are not entitled to the Constitution’s promises of religious liberty and free speech,” said Kelly Shackelford, the firm’s president. “In a diverse and pluralistic society, people of good will should be able to peacefully coexist with different beliefs.”

The state fined the bakers after determining they violated a 2007 Oregon law that protects the rights of gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender people in employment, housing and public accommodations. The law provides an exemption for religious organizations but does not allow private businesses to discriminate based on sexual orientation.

The case began when Rachel Bowman-Cryer went to the suburban Portland bakery with her mother in January 2013. They met with Aaron Klein, who asked for the date of the ceremony and the names of the bride and groom.

When told there was no groom, Klein said he was sorry but the bakery did not make cakes for same-sex weddings. According to documents from the case, Rachel and her mother left the shop, but returned a short time later. As Rachel remained in the car, in tears, her mother went in to speak with Klein.

The mother told Klein she had once thought like him, but her “truth had changed” when she had two gay children. Klein responded by quoting Leviticus: “You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.”

Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer praised the ruling in a statement released through their attorney: “It does not matter how you were born or who you love. All of us are equal under the law and should be treated equally. Oregon will not allow a ‘Straight Couples Only’ sign to be hung in bakeries or other stores.”

Tightest security ever for New Year’s after deadly attacks

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NEW YORK (AP) — Police are promising a bigger security detail than ever before in Times Square for this year’s New Year’s Eve celebration, which will cap off a year that saw a number of deadly attacks on innocent crowds, including a vehicle rampage at the very spot where revelers will ring in 2018.

In addition to its usual army of snipers, bag-inspecting officers and metal detectors, the department this year is relying on help from a growing corps of “vapor wake” dogs, which are trained to sniff out trace amounts of explosive particles that trail behind someone carrying a bomb.

All 125 parking garages in the vicinity of Times Square will be emptied in advance of the celebration and sealed off, so no one has a chance to sneak in a car bomb, police said.

Detectives already have been assigned to all of the dozens of high-rise hotels in the area, with the aim of preventing the type of attack that happened in Las Vegas in October, when a gunman firing from a casino hotel killed dozens of people at an outdoor concert below. Police wouldn’t discuss whether guests at area hotels would be screened in advance of the celebration, but Police Commissioner James O’Neill said officers already are working with hotel security.

“This is going to be one of the most well-policed, best-protected events at one of the safest venues in the entire world,” O’Neill said.

The extra precautions follow two recent terrorist attacks in the city. A man detonated a bomb in the city’s subway system on Dec. 11, injuring only himself. On Halloween, an Islamic State-inspired attacker drove down a bicycle path, killing eight people before he wrecked his truck and was shot by police.

Times Square itself was targeted in May by a man, said by police to be high on drugs, who drove through crowds of pedestrians for more than three blocks, killing an 18-year-old tourist from Michigan. The speeding vehicle was eventually stopped by one of the squat metal barriers that have been installed around the square’s pedestrian plazas.

Those attacks were reminders that New York City’s massive security apparatus can only do so much, but city officials insisted they will be able to keep people safe on New Year’s Eve.

“The fact is, they will absolutely be safe,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat.

The police department doesn’t reveal the strength of its security force for the event, but it gave some details about the operation at a news conference Thursday.

Officers will have help from roughly 1,000 security cameras installed in and around Times Square.

An area roughly 22 city blocks long and three long blocks wide will be sealed off from both vehicle and pedestrian traffic with cement blocks, sand-filled garbage trucks and other vehicles blocking the streets leading into the area.

Partygoers entering that secure zone will be screened at a dozen access points where they will encounter metal detectors, the vapor wake dogs and officers with portable radiation detectors. Large backpacks are not allowed. All small bags will be searched.

From there, people go through a second round of security screening when they enter spectator pens where they are essentially confined for the night. People who leave the pens aren’t allowed to re-enter — so no bathroom breaks.

Those who make it through will get to see live performances from Andy Grammer, Nick Jonas and Mariah Carey. A cascade of confetti and fireworks will ring in the new year when the Waterford Crystal ball drops.

In addition to the officers at the scene, dozens of analysts will be combing Islamic State propaganda and deciphering data.

Police also will be out in force at Coney Island, where live music and fireworks were expected to draw large crowds, and at a midnight event for runners in Central Park.

“The takeaway from our preparations is this: People will be safe, and they should feel safe, too,” O’Neill said. “Because the NYPD and our partners are well-prepared.”

Business: Global stocks little changed on final trading day of 2017

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Global stocks were little changed on the final trading day of 2017 Friday but most stock markets are set to finish this year with gains.

KEEPING SCORE: Britain’s FTSE 100 inched up 0.1 percent to 7,633.85. France’s CAC 40 dipped 0.1 percent to 5,332.85 and Germany’s DAX lost 0.2 percent to 12,955.07. Futures augured a lukewarm start on Wall Street. Dow futures added 0.1 percent while S&P futures also rose 0.1 percent.

ASIA’S DAY: Most Asian markets finished with modest gains. Japan’s Nikkei 225 finished 0.1 percent lower at 22,764.94. The Tokyo benchmark index rose 19 percent in 2017. China’s Shanghai Composite Index added 0.3 percent to 3,307.17. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index gained 0.2 percent to 29,919.15. But Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 went south. It fell 0.4 percent to 6,065.10. South Korean stock markets closed on Thursday.

ANALYST’S TAKE: Looking back the year of 2017, “markets have been disturbingly sanguine about risks,” such as North Korean nuclear threats and the U.S. government’s new foreign policy to put American interest first, said Mizuho Bank Ltd. in a daily commentary.

OIL: Benchmark U.S. crude rose 24 cents to $60.07 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It rose 20 cents to settle at $59.84 per barrel on Thursday. Brent crude, which is used to price international oils, gained 23 cents to $66.39 per barrel in London.

CURRENCIES: The dollar declined to 112.56 yen from 112.88 yen while the euro strengthened to $1.1985 from $1.1945.

BITCOIN: The price of bitcoin dipped 0.6 percent to $14,341.78 as of 0939 GMT, according to the tracking site CoinDesk.

Democrats Are Headed for a Major Clash over Impeachment

(PhatzNewsRoom / Vanity Fair)   — After bruising defeats in Virginia, New Jersey, and Alabama, Republicans are bracing for the possibility that Democrats take back the House in 2018—and Democrats, after a year in the wilderness, are beginning to seriously debate the political ramifications of impeaching Donald Trump if they do. For months, the Democratic base has been agitating for leadership to take more aggressive steps to censure the president. Until now, the idea of impeaching Trump has taken a backseat to more prosaic concerns. But if Democrats take back the House, that conversation will quickly enter the mainstream—as will the attendant political risks.

Democratic leadership has been wary of having that conversation too early. As soon as Democratic lawmakers began floating the possibility of Trump’s ouster, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi moved to shut down the discussion. “What are the facts?” the California lawmaker said during an interview with CNN last May. “If you don’t have that case, you’re just participating in more hearsay.” Despite leadership’s best efforts to stymie impeachment rumblings, they have endured on Capitol Hill. As Robert Mueller’s probe has drawn closer to the president, public support for removing the president from office has reached an all-time high, according to recent Democratic polling.

The fervor on the left has been fueled in part by Democratic activists and donors who have put the impeachment issue front and center, to Pelosi’s consternation. At the forefront has been Democratic mega-donor Tom Steyer, who has spurred support for Trump’s impeachment with the launch of his digital petition campaign, NeedToImpeach.org. Politico reports] that through a combination of traditional television spots and grassroots campaigning, Steyer has collected nearly 4 million digital signatures and incited a fresh wave of support for Trump’s ouster among the Democratic base. “We have tapped into something much larger than we thought,” Steyer said in a recent C-SPAN interview. The success of the campaign has even prompted speculation that Steyer, who has drawn the ire of President Trump, might run in 2020.

On Capitol Hill, there is growing support for Trump’s impeachment. Earlier this month, 58 House Democrats voted to begin debate on articles of impeachment against Trump after Representative Al Green of Texas introduced a resolution on the floor. “I think a lot of the base would push strongly for impeachment. I think many of us feel like the lines have been crossed,” California Representative Jared Huffman told Politico.

Others, however, urge caution, highlighting the backlash the Republican Party faced after the G.O.P.-led House voted to impeach Bill Clinton in 1998. “Impeachment, it’s not something you ought to welcome. It’s not something you ought to be ready to—it’s not something you want,” New York Representative Jerry Nadler, who was elected as the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee—where any impeachment proceedings would begin—said in an interview with Politico. “If we were in the majority and if we decide that the evidence isn’t there for impeachment—or even if the evidence is there [and] we decide it would tear the country apart too much, there’s no buy-in, there’s no bipartisanship and we shouldn’t do it for whatever reason—if we decide that, then it’s our duty to educate the country why we decided it.”

There is a fear among Democrats that any partisan move against Trump would backfire. “Winning the House shouldn’t be seen as a referendum one way or the other on the question of impeachment. To insist otherwise calls into question the credibility of the entire effort,” Virginia Representative Gerry Connolly told Politico. “I think that is a huge mistake and a pitfall at all costs to be avoided.” He continued that an effort to impeach Trump should be driven by facts. “I take an oath to the Constitution of the United States, and this is a constitutional process,” he added.

The concern that any effort to impeach Trump would be seen as partisan and interpreted as an example of Democrats being obstructionists is particularly strong among Democrats representing districts Trump beat Hillary Clinton in last year. “People in a swing district—I’m literally a 50-50 district—they just want us to get something done,” Representative Cheri Bustos of Illinois said. “If we win back the majority and we don’t stay focused on what people want us to stay focused on, that majority will be short lived.”

Federal prosecutors in New York requested Kushner Cos. records on Deutsche Bank loan

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(PhatzNewsRoom / WAPO)    —    Federal prosecutors have requested records related to a $285 million loan that Deutsche Bank gave Jared Kushner’s family real estate company one month before Election Day, the company confirmed this week.

The records were sought by prosecutors in Brooklyn and do not appear related to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.

A Kushner Cos. spokeswoman said that the firm is cooperating in the review of what it called a “routine” transaction.

The Washington Post reported details of the loan in June. Under the deal, Kushner Cos., whichin 2015 had purchased four mostly empty retail floors of the former New York Times headquarters in Manhattan, entered into an October 2016 refinancing agreement with Deutsche Bank. The loan was part of a refinancing deal that gave Kushner’s firm $74 million more than it had paid for the property.

The loan was secured while Kushner was both the head of the company and playing a leading role in running the presidential campaign of his father-in-law, Donald Trump.

The refinancing was personally guaranteed under certain circumstances by Kushner and his brother, Joshua. The loan was not listed on Kushner’s financial disclosure report because he did not have “a present obligation to repay the loan,” his lawyers have said.

Christine Taylor, a Kushner Cos. spokeswoman, said in a statement that the request from the U.S. attorney’s office in the Eastern District of New York appears to have been made in response to news coverage.

“Kushner Companies, in its long history, has participated in hundreds of loan transactions with an outstanding track record of success,” Taylor said. “We have always taken pride in the principled way we conduct our business and our trusted relationships with all our lending partners, including Deutsche Bank. We do not understand why anyone would look at this fairly routine transaction other than as a reaction to what appears to be politically motivated media coverage. Nonetheless, we have cooperated with inquiries.”

Taylor did not specify the news stories to which she referred.

An attorney for Kushner and a spokesman for Deutsche Bank declined to comment.

The Wall Street Journal first reported that prosecutors requested contracts and other information about the loan by issuing a document request in mid-November. Separately, the New York Times reported that the U.S. attorney in Brooklyn had subpoenaed Deutsche Bank records associated with Kushner Cos.

Kushner Cos. said it had no knowledge of a subpoena delivered to Deutsche Bank.

A spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn said he could neither confirm or deny any subpoena or records request.

Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn have been probing Deutsche Bank, issuing a news release in September about charges brought against the financial institution in an unrelated case.

The bank has been repeatedly fined in recent years by a variety of enforcement agencies, including a $7.2 billion U.S. penalty in December 2016 for mortgage fraud and a $425 million New York state fine in January 2017 related to a money laundering case.

It is not clear what prosecutors are seeking to find out about the Kushner Cos. loan. Deutsche Bank is one of the biggest lenders to both Kushner Cos. and the Trump Organization, which had about $364 million in debt to the bank as of last year.

Kushner Cos. previously has confirmed that federal prosecutors in the Eastern District of New York subpoenaed records related to its use of a visa program called EB-5, in which foreign investors who put $500,000 in a real estate project can be put on a track for U.S. citizenship.

Kushner has not been accused of wrongdoing in any of the cases.

The investigation by the U.S. attorney in Brooklyn is separate from the work of Mueller’s team, which is scrutinizing contacts between Russia and the Trump campaign. The Post has reported that Mueller’s investigation has included an examination of Kushner’s business dealings.

Among the interactions that Mueller’s investigators have sought to learn more about was a December 2016 meeting that Kushner held with Sergey Gorkov, the head of a state-owned Russian development bank.

The White House has said the meeting was a typical diplomatic session, while a bank official has said it was related to Kushner’s business.

Much of the focus on Kushner’s real estate company has been on its 2007 purchase of the 666 Fifth Avenue office building in Manhattan for $1.8 billion, which at the time was the most ever paid for such a building in the United States.

The value of the property plummeted in the wake of the Great Recession, and the company has been searching for financing to redevelop it. Kushner Cos. faces a $1.2 billion debt that comes due in early 2019, and it is not clear whether it can maintain ownership of the property, which it co-owns with another company.

By contrast, Kushner’s purchase of the former New York Times headquarters was quickly profitable. His company bought the retail portion of the building in 2015 for $296 million from a company called Africa-Israel Investments, whose chairman is Lev Leviev, one of the world’s wealthiest men.

Leviev told the New York Times shortly buying the property that he was a “true friend” of Russian President Vladimir Putin and he kept a photo of Putin in his office. A Leviev spokesman told the Post earlier this year that Leviev does not have a “personal relationship” with Putin and has met him only a few times.

Kushner’s company increased retail leasing in the space from 25 percent to nearly 100 percent and obtained higher rents. A year after its purchase, the property was reappraised for $470 million, a 59 percent increase.

That enabled Kushner Cos. to refinance the property for $370 million, including $285 million from Deutsche Bank, giving the company $74 million more than it had paid.

While Kushner gave up control of his company and divested some properties when he became Trump’s senior White House adviser, he retained an interest in 90 percent of his real estate properties, including the former New York Times building, according to his financial disclosure report.

Separately, Kushner and his mother have a personal line of credit with Deutsche Bank worth up to $25 million, according to his financial disclosure report.

Trump, GOP congressional leaders to meet at Camp David

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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Eager for more legislative achievements before Washington’s focus shifts to the midterm elections, President Donald Trump plans to open the new year by meeting with Republican congressional leaders to map out the 2018 legislative agenda, the White House said.

After returning to Washington from Florida, where he is spending the holidays, Trump will quickly host Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin at the rustic Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland’s Catoctin Mountains during the weekend of Jan. 6-7, the White House said.

Spokesmen for Ryan and McConnell have confirmed they will attend.

The pow-wow will follow the recent enactment of legislation to cut taxes, beginning next year, for corporations and individuals at an estimated cost of $1.5 trillion added to the national debt over 10 years.

The bill marked the first major legislative achievement of 2017 for Trump and congressional Republicans, aside from confirmation of Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch. Trump and the GOP had made cutting taxes a must-do item this year after the Senate failed to close the deal on the party’s promise to repeal and replace the Obama health care law.

The tax bill ends the requirement that all Americans buy health insurance or pay a fine, which is a key component of the Affordable Care Act, but leaves intact other features of the health care law. No Democrats voted for the tax bill, which Trump signed at the White House before he flew to Florida on Friday.

The agenda for next year is already lengthy, and 2018 is still a few days away.

Trump predicted in a tweet earlier this week that Democrats and Republicans will “eventually come together” to develop a new health care plan. The president is also forecasting unity between the parties on spending to upgrade aging roads, bridges and other transportation. The White House has said Trump will unveil his long-awaited infrastructure plan in January.

Ryan, meanwhile, has talked about overhauling Medicaid and Medicare and other safety-net programs, but McConnell has signaled an unwillingness to go that route unless there’s Democratic support for any changes. Trump has also said he wants to pursue “welfare reform” next year because “people are taking advantage of the system.”

Congress, meanwhile, will open the year needing to clear a backlog from 2017.

The list includes agreeing on a spending bill by Jan. 19 to avert a partial government shutdown and efforts to boost Pentagon spending. Lawmakers also need to agree on billions in additional aid to help hurricane victims, lifting the debt ceiling, extending a children’s health insurance program and extending protections for immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children. Trump tweeted earlier in the year that he was ending the program for the immigrants. He gave lawmakers until Jan. 5 to come up with a legislative solution.

Much of the work will need to be done before Republicans shift their focus to the midterm elections that take place November 2018. The GOP wants to hang onto its House and Senate majorities.

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Follow Darlene Superville on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/dsupervilleap

Bundle up: Bitter cold weather takes hold of northern US

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ERIE, Pa. (AP) — Bitter cold weather has taken hold of much of the northern United States and is expected to stay put for days to come as two Minnesota cities already have set record low temperatures and a city in Pennsylvania continues to dig out from a record snowfall.

Forecasters warned of hypothermia and frostbite from arctic air settling in over the central U.S. and spreading east.

The National Weather Service reported International Falls, Minnesota, the self-proclaimed Icebox of the Nation, plunged to 37 degrees below zero, breaking the old record of 32 below set in 1924. Hibbing, Minnesota, bottomed out at 28 below, breaking the old record of 27 below set in 1964.

Wind chill advisories or warnings were in effect for much of New England, northern Pennsylvania and New York. Those places and states in the northern Plains and Great Lakes were projected to see highs in the teens or single digits and lows below zero for the rest of the week and into the new year.

The National Weather Service said wind chills in many areas Thursday could make temperatures feel below zero.

People in Erie, Pennsylvania, continued to dig out from a storm that brought 34 inches of snow on Christmas Day, smashing the daily snowfall record for the Great Lakes city of 8 inches, and 26.5 more inches on Tuesday. More than 65 inches total fell on the city in just a few days.

More snow is expected in Erie, Pennsylvania, where more than four feet have fallen in the past few days. Wind chill advisories and warnings stretch across much of the northern U.S. (Dec. 27)

Strong westerly winds over Lake Erie picked up moisture, developed into snow and converged with opposing winds, dumping snow in a band along the shore from Ohio to New York, said Zach Sefcovic, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Cleveland.

Sabrina Ram drove into Erie on Christmas Eve to visit her parents just as the snow began to fall. Ram, who lives in suburban Washington, D.C., and her father spent five hours on Christmas and two hours on Tuesday clearing the driveway.

“In D.C., we’d be out of commission for weeks,” Ram said. “Things here are pretty much back to normal now.”

In New York, communities near Lake Ontario’s eastern end, including Redfield and Boylston, also saw around 5 feet of snow this week.

Officials said the storm’s timing was good, since people were off the streets and staying home for Christmas, giving plows more space to clear streets.

By Wednesday, Erie’s roads were relatively clear, emergency calls were relatively slow and the big task was digging out, County Executive Kathy Dahlkemper said.

“We’re used to a lot of snow here in Erie, but this is unprecedented, the amount we got,” Dahlkemper said.

Roy Moore files lawsuit to block Alabama Senate result

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Republican Roy Moore filed a lawsuit to try to stop Alabama from certifying Democrat Doug Jones as the winner of the U.S. Senate race.

The court filing occurred about 14 hours ahead of Thursday’s meeting of a state canvassing board to officially declare Jones the winner of the Dec. 12 special election. Jones defeated Moore by about 20,000 votes.

Moore’s attorney wrote in the complaint filed late Wednesday that he believed there were irregularities during the election and said there should be a fraud investigation and eventually a new election.

“This is not a Republican or Democrat issue as election integrity should matter to everyone,” Moore said in a statement released Wednesday announcing the complaint.

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill told The Associated Press Wednesday evening that he has no intention of delaying the canvassing board meeting.

“It is not going to delay certification and Doug Jones will be certified (Thursday) at 1 p.m. and he will be sworn in by Vice President Pence on the third of January,” Merrill said.

In the complaint, Moore’s attorneys noted the higher than expected turnout in the race, particularly in Jefferson County, and said that Moore’s numbers were suspiciously low in about 20 Jefferson County precincts.

Merrill said he has so far not found evidence of voter fraud, but that his office will investigate any complaint that Moore submits.

Moore has not conceded the race to Jones and has sent several fundraising emails to supporters asking for donations to investigate claims of voter fraud.

Jones and Moore were competing to fill the U.S. Senate seat that previously belonged to Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Moore’s campaign was wounded by accusations against Moore of sexual misconduct involving teenage girls decades ago.

Islamic State claims attack on Shiite center, 41 dead

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KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A brutal attack claimed by the Islamic State group devastated a two-story Shiite Muslim cultural center in the Afghan capital on Thursday, killing at least 41 people and wounding another 84, many suffering severe burns from the intensity of the explosions.

The IS-linked Aamaq news agency said three bombs were used in the ferocious assault as well as a single suicide bomber who blew himself up inside the center, where scores of people had gathered to mark the 1979 invasion of Afghanistan by the former Soviet Union.

The claim reflects eyewitness reports that said one bomber sneaked into the center and exploded his device. Other explosions occurred outside the building, which also houses the pro-Iranian Afghan Voice news agency, which may also have been a target in the attack.

Earlier, Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danish said an unknown number of suicide attackers set off an explosion outside the center before carrying out an attack inside.

In its statement to Aamaq news agency, the IS said the center was being funded by Iran and used to propagate Shiite beliefs.

Ali Reza Ahmadi, a journalist with the Afghan Voice, told The Associated Press he had been in his office when the explosion shattered the building. He leapt from his second-story office to the roof of the building where he saw flames from the basement.

Attackers stormed a Shiite Muslim cultural center in Kabul, Afghanistan Thursday, setting off multiple bombs and killing at least 35 people and wounding at least 56, authorities said. (Dec. 28)

“I jumped from the roof toward the basement yelling at people to get water to put out the fire,” he said.

Shiite leader Abdul Hussain Ramazandada said witnesses reported at least one suicide bomber sneaked into the event and was sitting among the participants. He exploded his device and as people fled more explosions occurred, he said.

At nearby Istiqlal Hospital, director Mohammed Sabir Nasib said the emergency room was overwhelmed with the dead and wounded. Additional doctors and nurses were called in to help and at the height of the tragedy more than 50 doctors and nurses were working to save the wounded, most of whom suffered severe burns.

The death toll rose as the day progressed. By late afternoon Wahid Mujro, spokesman for the public health ministry, said 41 were dead and 84 others were wounded.

The two-story cultural center is located in a poor area of the Shiite-dominated Dasht-e-Barchi neighborhood in the west of the capital. The center is a simple structure surrounded by sun-dried mud homes where some of Kabul’s poorest live.

In an interview with The Associated Press, a senior member of the Shiite cleric council, Mohammad Asif Mesbah, said the center may have been targeted because it houses the deeply pro-Iranian Afghan Voice news agency. Its owner Sayed Eissa Hussaini Mazari is a strong proponent of Iran and his publication is dominated by Iranian news. Iran is a majority Shiite Muslim nation.

The local Islamic State affiliate has carried out several attacks targeting Shiites in Afghanistan. The IS issued a warning earlier this year following an attack on the Iraqi Embassy in Kabul vowing to target Afghanistan’s Shiites. Since then, the IS has taken credit for at least two attacks on Shiite mosques in Kabul and one in the western city of Herat, killing scores of worshippers.

In a telephone interview with The AP, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid denied involvement in Thursday’s attack on the cultural center.

The IS affiliate, made up of Sunni extremists, view Shiites as apostates. The IS in Afghanistan is a toxic mix of Uzbek militants belonging to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan who broke with the Taliban, as well as disenchanted insurgents who left the much larger and more well-established Taliban.

As attacks targeting Shiites have increased in Kabul, residents of this area have grown increasingly afraid. Most schools have additional armed guards from among the local population. Still, Ramazandada said security at the cultural center was light.

Afghan president Ashraf Ghani called the attack a “crime against humanity.”

In a statement released by the presidential palace, Ghani said: “The terrorist have killed our people. The terrorists have attacked our mosques, our holy places and now our cultural center.” He called them attacks against Islam and “all human values.”

In a statement, the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, John R. Bass, called the attack “horrific” and said “we remain confident the Afghan government and people, supported by their friends and partners, will defeat those behind these terrible acts.”

Separately, Dawlat Abad District Gov. Mohammad Karim said a powerful mine killed six shepherd children ranging in age from 8 to 10 on Wednesday.

Afghanistan has the highest number of mine victims in the world, which along with other roadside bombs, kill or wound an estimated 140 people every month.

Elsewhere, a Taliban attack on a security police post in central Ghazni province Wednesday night left three police dead and one other wounded, said Mohammad Zaman, provincial chief of police.

Business: European stocks flat, Asian shares up as year-end nears

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — European stocks were flat after Asian markets finished mostly higher on Thursday in quiet post-Christmas holiday trading. Strong economic data from the region and in the U.S. boosted investor confidence in some markets.

KEEPING SCORE: Britain’s FTSE 100 added 0.1 percent to 7,626.12 but France’s CAC 40 dipped 0.1 percent to 5,361.43. Germany’s DAX also edged down 0.1 percent to 13,052.04. Futures augured a tepid start on Wall Street with S&P futures up 0.1 percent and Dow futures gaining 0.2 percent.

ASIA’S DAY: Asian stock market except Japan finished higher. Japan’s Nikkei 225 erased earlier gains to finish 0.6 percent lower at 22,783.98. South Korea’s Kospi surged 1.3 percent to 2,467.49 on its final trading day this year. The benchmark index in Seoul gained 22 percent in 2017. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index rose 0.9 percent to 29,863.71. China’s Shanghai Composite Index advanced 0.6 percent to 3,296.38. In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 added 0.3 percent to 6,088.10.

ANALYST’S TAKE: “Recent strength in the U.S. economy was on display in the December Consumer Confidence Index released last night. Although it fell below the stellar readings of November and December, the trend remains strong,” Ric Spooner, chief market analyst at CMC Markets, said in a daily commentary. “This bodes well for a solid base to consumer spending in 2018.”

US CONSUMERS: The Conference Board, a business research group, said Wednesday that its consumer confidence index dipped to 122.1 in December from a revised 128.6 in November. The reading shows consumers’ expectations still remain at historically strong levels that hinted continued economic growth into 2018.

SOUTH KOREA: Government data showed that retail sales jumped 5.6 percent in November from the previous month, the highest jump in several years, while industrial output at Asia’s fourth-largest economy rebounded last month.

BITCOIN: The price of bitcoin sank 7.6 percent to $14,209.06 as of 9:18 a.m. GMT, according to the tracking site CoinDesk. South Korea’s government announced Thursday additional measures to curb speculative trading of crypto currency in the country, including a ban on opening anonymous accounts.

OIL: Benchmark U.S. crude added 17 cents to $59.82 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract dropped 33 cents to settle at $59.64 a barrel on Wednesday. Brent crude, which is used to price international oils, gained 23 cents to $66.22 per barrel in London.

CURRENCIES: The dollar weakened to 112.77 yen from 113.23 yen. The euro strengthened to $1.1935 from $1.1897.

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Taken a look at your stock portfolio lately? It’s a good bet it’s racked up solid gains this year.

Wall Street has taken stock investors on a mostly smooth, record-shattering ride in 2017. The major stock indexes are closing in on double-digit gains for the year, led by Apple, Facebook and other technology stocks.

The gains have the Standard & Poor’s 500 index, the broadest measure of the stock market, headed for its best year since 2013.

“This would go in the category of stellar year, with very little volatility in the market and pullbacks that were essentially minor,” said Quincy Krosby, chief market strategist at Prudential Financial.

Several factors have kept the market on an upward grind for most of the year and repeatedly driven stock indexes to all-time highs. The global economy rebounded, while the U.S. economy and job market continued to strengthen, which helped drive strong corporate earnings growth.

Investors also drew encouragement from the Trump administration’s and Republican-led Congress’ push to slash corporate taxes, roll back regulations and enact other pro-business policies. Congress passed the $1.5 trillion tax overhaul bill, which reduces corporate taxes from 35 percent to 21 percent, last week.

The S&P 500 index is on track to finish the year with a gain of about 19.7 percent, more than double its increase in 2016. The index has notched 62 record highs so far this year.

Including dividends, the S&P 500′s total return is on pace to be 22.1 percent. That means if you invested $1,000 in an S&P 500 index fund at the beginning of the year you’d wind up with about $1,221 at the end of the year.

Other major market indexes also were on course to deliver solid gains. The Dow Jones industrial average is on pace for a gain of 25.2 percent. The 30-company average set 70 all-time highs as it sped from just under 20,000 points to past the 24,000 mark.

The Nasdaq composite is headed for a 28.9 percent gain. The tech-heavy index blew past the 6,000-point mark for the first time in April.

Small-company stocks, which trounced the rest of the market in 2016, got a boost this year as investors bet that the companies would be big beneficiaries of a corporate tax cut bill. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks is on course for a 13.8 percent gain.

The market’s gains have been broad, with seven of the 11 sectors in the S&P 500 closing in on double-digit gains, led by technology, which is up nearly 39 percent. Only energy stocks and phone companies are lagging.

For the most part, markets overseas also fared better this year than in 2016.

In Europe, Britain’s market is on track to close the year with a gain of 6.7 percent. Indexes in Germany and France are headed for gains of 13.8 percent and 10.4 percent, respectively. Japan’s Nikkei and Hong Kong’s benchmark index are on pace for gains of 19.9 percent and 34.5 percent, respectively.

The gains in overseas markets reflect how economies in Japan, Europe, China and many developing nations began growing in tandem with the U.S. for the first time in a decade.

The U.S. lagged the rest of those economies early in the year, but caught up by summer and delivered GDP growth of 3.1 percent in the second quarter and a 3.3 percent gain in the third, its fastest rate in three years.

“We hadn’t seen that kind of growth all together in a long time,” said Paul Christopher, head of global market strategy for Wells Fargo Investment Institute. “We had a pretty strong third quarter and we’re going to have a pretty strong fourth quarter, too.”

In 2016, S&P 500 companies increased earnings by 0.4 percent. Through the first three quarters of 2017, earnings are up about 11 percent from a year ago, said Lindsey Bell, investment strategist at CFRA Research.

Those stronger earnings are a key reason why the S&P kept climbing, as stock prices tend to track corporate profits over the long term.

The market rode out many negative headlines in 2017.

North Korea tested a ballistic missile for the first time in July. Then, reportedly, a hydrogen bomb in August. Major hurricanes slammed into Texas, Louisiana and Florida. And Congressional Republicans’ failed attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act fueled worries on Wall Street that the Trump administration’s plans for a sweeping corporate tax cut and other pro-business policies would be delayed or derailed entirely.

Still, investors seemed determined to keep the market moving higher. On days when the market pulled back, stocks typically rebounded the next day.

“You had geopolitical risk with regard to North Korea and the saber-rattling on both sides caught the market’s attention, but it became a buying opportunity,” Krosby said.

The last time the S&P 500 had a correction, or a decline of 10 percent or more, was in February 2016. In 2017, the biggest single-day drop was less than 2 percent.

And the VIX, a measure of how much volatility investors expect in stocks, is on track to end the year down about 30 percent, at historic lows.

Traders repeatedly bought back in on bad news in 2017 because they, and corporations, have a lot of cash and don’t see better places to get a return as long as the economy and company earnings continue to improve, Christopher said.

“People have just been waiting for pullbacks to buy the dips,” he said. “There’s still a lot of cash on the balance sheets of businesses and households.”

By some measures, the market is looking expensive. The S&P 500 is now trading around 18 times forward earnings. That’s above the historical average of 16, which suggests stocks are expensive heading into 2018.

Even so, eight years into the bull market, many analysts expect stocks to keep climbing next year.

“We expect the bull market to continue in 2018, but at a more moderate pace,” said Terry Sandven, chief equity strategist at U.S. Bank Wealth Management.

2017 in review: ‘Disruption, despair and dumpster fires’

NEW YORK (AP) — The news alerts gushed in: An attack on a concert, a church, an ice cream parlor ; an assailant wielding a gun or hammer or acid . There’s an earthquake in Mexico, a monsoon in India, a volcanic eruption in Bali, hurricane after hurricane after hurricane. Keep up as your phone vibrates with word of your favorite actor accused of misconduct. Make that anchorman. Or politician. Or radio star.

The volatile year 2017 shook us so much and so often it felt like whiplash or worse, and that’s without even considering Donald Trump, at the center of so much of the turmoil.

“It’s almost like one of those horror rides at the amusement park where every time it heads into the next segment it gets worse,” said noted trendspotter Marian Salzman. “Every time I turn off a device, I feel like I have anxiety because I’m not tracking the news.”

The year, she said, boiled down to “disruption, despair and dumpster fires.”

In retrospect, 2017′s destiny seemed sealed in its opening moments.

Just after the new year dawned in Istanbul, a gunman killed 39 people at a nightclub and wounded scores more. The joy of the holiday dissolved into a scene of heartbreak outside the city morgue, where some cried and fell to the ground as they learned of a loved one’s fate.

Around the world this year, vehicles were made into weapons, with trucks, cars and vans plowing down people on the Westminster and London bridges in Britain; in Times Square and on a Manhattan bike path; on a major shopping street in the Swedish capital of Stockholm; on the historic La Rambla in Barcelona.

Terrorism and other violence struck so regularly that many accepted it as a fact of life.

“It can happen anywhere as long as there is one man willing to die,” said Luis Antonio Bone, 66, of Barcelona, who is retired from a cement factory job. Bone is at once realistic and defiant, saying crowded places may make him think about his safety but won’t deter him from outings.

“We have to live with it,” he said, “but keep living as we always have.”

That kind of resilience was mustered again and again, even by some of those marked by some of the year’s biggest tragedies.

In Texas, Pastor Frank Pomeroy vowed that good would persevere over evil. Pomeroy leads the rural church where a gunman killed 25 parishioners, his own 14-year-old daughter among them. “Rather than choose darkness as that young man did that day, we choose life,” he said in an emotional service only a week after the rampage.

In Las Vegas, too, where 58 people were fatally shot at a music festival, some searched for optimism in the face of savagery. Jay Pleggenkuhle, a 52-year-old landscaper, helped create a memorial garden with a tree for each of the victims. Some 1,000 people volunteered to help with his project, putting aside personal or political differences to work hand in hand.

“People have really been bound together following this tragedy,” he said.

A deadly chemical attack in Syria stirred people around the globe. Missile launches by North Korea brought angst that nuclear war was nearing. Rallies by white supremacists, wearing white hoods and clasping torches, roused uncomfortable memories of the United States’ past. All of it broke with such ferocity, it seemed impossible to focus on any one incident too long.

“Even something like a mass shooting that killed 50 people, the story moves on in just a couple weeks,” said Lauren Wright, a lecturer on politics and public affairs at Princeton University.

In Egypt, twin Palm Sunday attacks ambushed Coptic Christians and a November assault on a crowded mosque killed more than 300. In Britain, 22 people died when a suicide bomber detonated a backpack full of explosives after an Ariana Grande show.

Three major storms — Harvey, Irma and Maria — battered Puerto Rico and much of the Caribbean, as well as Texas and Florida, as 2017 went down as one of the most active hurricane seasons in recorded history. Fires tore through California and Portugal; earthquakes rocked Mexico, Iran and Iraq; flooding and an avalanche covered parts of Italy; mudslides leveled homes in Sierra Leone; and a deadly monsoon pummeled India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.

George Cochrum and Caroline Wheeler walk down a flooded section of Interstate 610 in floodwaters from Tropical Storm Harvey on Aug. 27, 2017, in Houston, Texas.

George Cochrum and Caroline Wheeler walk down a flooded section of Interstate 610 in floodwaters from Tropical Storm Harvey on Aug. 27, 2017, in Houston, Texas.

In hotspots around the world, people sought escape. Amnesty International estimated 73,000 refugees took to the Mediterranean in the first half of the year alone, with about 2,000 dying along the way. In Myanmar, the military has been conducting a brutal ethnic cleansing of Rohingya people, killing untold numbers and forcing more than 626,000 to flee into neighboring Bangladesh.

Amid the barrage, other big stories struggled for a spotlight. A grinding civil war in Yemen pushed millions in the impoverished country to famine. A political crisis in Venezuela brought intensifying clashes. In Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe was ousted from control after a 37-year reign. In Spain, a push for Catalonian independence degenerated at times into ugly scenes of mayhem.

In the U.S., Trump opened his presidency with a dark inaugural address beseeching an end to “American carnage” but saw much of his agenda rejected, with members of his own party providing key votes against him. Divides deepened, with agreement elusive even on core national values. Americans were sadder, a “happiness” report found. Sales of the dystopic novel “1984” surged and a chilling stage adaptation came to Broadway.

Mass protests formed around the country, including droves of women who proudly deemed themselves “nasty,” a label placed on Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential race. When U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren was silenced through arcane legislative rules, the words of her colleague, Mitch McConnell, became an unlikely rallying cry of feminists: “Nevertheless, she persisted.”

That phrase echoed as a dizzying number of sexual harassment or assault allegations emerged against high-profile men and as thousands of victims of lesser-known men chimed in with two words that made clear the scope of the problem: “Me too.”

There were, in this arguably awful year, moments to hail, too, stories of heroism and bravery that restore faith and give the heart a little hope. More than 80 schoolgirls, abducted by Boko Haram extremists more than three years ago in Nigeria, were released. In South Sudan, a boy abducted and forced into the army — mourned in a funeral two years ago after word of his gunshot death reached his mother — was alive after all, and returned home.

The Islamic State lost power as it was driven from Mosul, Iraq, and Raqqa, Syria. In the U.S., a total solar eclipse gave a break from the unending cacophony, with droves of sky-gazers standing shoulder to shoulder across a swath of the country.

A new calendar page brings with it the chance to start fresh. Jordi Casares, a 71-year-old retired bank employee in Barcelona, lamented the terrorism and radicalism that marred 2017 but said he, for one, is optimistic for a better 2018.

“It can’t be any worse than this year,” he said.

___

Associated Press writers Anita Snow in Phoenix, Joseph Wilson in Barcelona and Esther Htusan in Bangkok contributed to this report.

___

Sedensky can be reached at msedensky@ap.org or https://twitter.com/sedensky

Final goodbye: Roll call of some who died in 2017

(PhatzNewsRoom / AP)    —-    They made music that inspired legions of fans.

Rock ‘n’ roll founding fathers Chuck Berry and Fats Domino, rockers Tom Petty and Greg Allman, grunge icon Chris Cornell, country superstar Glen Campbell and jazz great Al Jarreau were among the notable figures who died in 2017, leaving a void in virtually every genre of music.

Comedians Jerry Lewis, Don Rickles and Dick Gregory left their own indelible mark with their iconic routines. And the story of the 1960s could not be told without Hugh Hefner and Charles Manson, who were synonymous with the decade in vastly different ways.

Hefner founded Playboy magazine and was credited with helping rev up the sexual revolution in the 1960s. The decade ended with Manson becoming the face of evil across America by orchestrating seven murders that marked the end of the era of peace and love.

Among the political figures who died this year was Helmut Kohl, the German chancellor who reunited a nation divided by the Cold War and helped put Germany at the heart of a unified Europe. Others from the political arena who died in 2017 included former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega.

Entertainers who died in 2017 also included actors Roger Moore of James Bond fame, Bollywood star Reema Lagoo, “Batman” actor Adam West and Mary Tyler Moore. Prominent figures from the sporting world who died included Pittsburgh Steelers chairman Dan Rooney, former Notre Dame coach Ara Parseghian and boxer Jake LaMotta.

Here is a roll call of some of the people who died in 2017. (Cause of death cited for younger people, if available.)

JANUARY:

Sister Frances Carr, 89. One of the last remaining members of a nearly extinct religious society called the Shakers. Jan. 2.

Bud Lilly, 91. Fly fishing legend, conservationist and catch-and-release pioneer. Jan. 4.

Jill Saward, 51. A survivor of rape who became a powerful British campaigner against sexual violence. Jan. 5.

Mario Soares, 92. A former prime minister and president of Portugal who helped steer his country toward democracy after a 1974 military coup and grew into a global statesman through his work with the Socialist International movement. Jan. 7.

Parker Beam, 75. He carried on his family’s historic bourbon-making tradition as longtime master distiller for Kentucky-based Heaven Hill Distilleries. Jan. 9.

Clare Hollingworth, 105. A British war correspondent who was the first to report the Nazi invasion of Poland that marked the beginning of World War II. Jan. 10.

Michael Chamberlain, 72. He waged a decades-long battle to prove his baby daughter was killed by a dingo in Australia’s most notorious case of injustice. Jan. 9.

Steven McDonald, 59. A New York police detective who was paralyzed by a teenage gunman’s bullet in 1986 but publicly forgave the shooter and became an international voice for peace. Jan. 10.

Tommy Allsup, 85. A guitarist best known for losing a coin toss that kept him off a plane that later crashed and killed rock ‘n’ roll stars Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. “Big Bopper” Richardson. Jan. 11. Complications from a hernia operation.

William Peter Blatty, 89. A former Jesuit school valedictorian who conjured a tale of demonic possession and gave millions the fright of their lives with the best-selling novel and Oscar-winning movie “The Exorcist.” Jan. 12.

Dick Gautier, 85. The actor who gained fame playing an Elvis-like singer in the Broadway musical “Bye Bye Birdie” and went on to play Hymie the Robot on TV’s “Get Smart.” Jan. 13.

Zhou Youguang, 111. A linguist considered the father of modern China’s Pinyin Romanization system. Jan. 14.

Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka, 73. A former pro wrestler who had recently been found not competent to stand trial in the 1983 death of his girlfriend. Jan. 15.

Vlado Trifunovic, 78. A former Yugoslav army general whose treason conviction by Serbia’s wartime nationalist leadership became a symbol of the senselessness of the 1990s’ Balkan conflict. Jan. 15.

Gene Cernan, 82. A former astronaut who was the last person to walk on the moon. Jan. 16.

Charlie Liteky, 85. An Army chaplain in Vietnam who was awarded the Medal of Honor for rescuing more than 20 wounded men but later gave it back in protest and became a peace activist. Jan. 20.

Masaya Nakamura, 91. The “Father of Pac-Man” who founded the Japanese video game company behind the hit creature-gobbling game. Jan. 22.

Butch Trucks, 69. A drummer who was one of the founding members of the Southern rock legend The Allman Brothers Band. Jan. 24. Suicide.

Mary Tyler Moore, 80. The star of TV’s beloved “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” whose comic realism helped revolutionize the depiction of women on the small screen. Jan. 25.

Mike Connors, 91. He starred as a hard-hitting private eye on the long-running television series “Mannix.” Jan. 26.

Barbara Hale, 94. A movie actress who found her most famous role on television as steadfast secretary Della Street in the long-running “Perry Mason” series. Jan. 26.

John Hurt, 77. An actor who had a half-century career highlighted with memorable performances, two Oscar nominations, a Golden Globe and four British BAFTA awards. Jan. 27.

FEBRUARY:

Edward Tipper, 95. A World War II paratrooper who was portrayed in the HBO series “Band of Brothers.” Feb. 1.

Etienne Tshisekedi, 84. Congo’s opposition icon who pushed for democratic reforms for decades in the vast Central African nation throughout dictatorship and civil war. Feb 1.

Don McNelly, 96. He was known worldwide for powering through marathon runs and running up record totals into his 70s and 80s. Feb. 5.

Irwin Corey, 102. The wild-haired comedian and actor known for his improvisational riffs and nonsensical style who billed himself as “The World’s Foremost Authority.” Feb. 6.

Alec McCowen, 91. A West End and Broadway star who had global success with a one-man show about the life of Jesus. Feb. 6.

Ljubisa Beara, 77. A former senior Bosnian Serb security officer convicted of genocide by a U.N. war crimes tribunal for the 1995 Srebrenica massacre. Feb. 8.

Peter Mansfield, 83. A physicist who won the Nobel Prize for helping to invent MRI scanners. Feb. 8.

Mike Ilitch, 87. The billionaire businessman who founded the Little Caesars pizza empire before buying the Detroit Red Wings and the Detroit Tigers. Feb. 10.

Harold G. “Hal” Moore, 94. The American hero known for saving most of his men in the first major battle between the U.S. and North Vietnamese armies. Feb. 10.

Al Jarreau, 76. A Grammy-winning jazz singer who transcended genres over a 50-year career. Feb. 12.

Norma McCorvey, 69. Her legal challenge under the pseudonym “Jane Roe” led to the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision that legalized abortion but who later became an outspoken opponent of the procedure. Feb. 18.

Omar Abdel-Rahman, 78. The so-called Blind Sheik convicted of plotting terror attacks in New York City in the decade before 9/11 and spiritual guide to a generation of Islamic militants. Feb. 18. Died in federal prison.

Sofia Imber, 92. She turned a garage into the Caracas Museum of Contemporary Art and became one of Venezuela’s most influential women journalists. Feb. 20.

Kenneth J. Arrow, 95. The youngest-ever winner of a Nobel prize for economics, whose theories on risk, innovation and the basic mathematics of markets have influenced thinking on everything from voting to health insurance to high finance. Feb. 21.

Alan Colmes, 66. The radio and television host and commentator best known as the amiable liberal foil to the hard-right Sean Hannity on the Fox News Channel. Feb. 23.

William “Bud” Liebenow, 97. The WWII Navy officer who guided his warship into Japanese territory to rescue future President John F. Kennedy and his crew. Feb. 24.

Bill Paxton, 61. A prolific and charismatic actor who had memorable roles in such blockbusters as “Apollo 13” and “Titanic” while also cherishing his work in “One False Move” and other low-budget movies and in the HBO series “Big Love.” Feb. 25. Complications due to surgery.

Joseph Wapner, 97. The retired Los Angeles judge who presided over “The People’s Court” with steady force during the heyday of the reality courtroom show. Feb. 26.

MARCH:

Paula Fox, 93. A prize-winning author who created high art out of imagined chaos in such novels as “Poor George” and “Desperate Characters” and out of the real-life upheavals in her memoir “Borrowed Finery.” March 1.

Rene Preval, 74. A low-key technocrat who led Haiti as president during the devastating January 2010 earthquake and a messy and prolonged recovery. March 3.

Miriam Colon, 80. A pioneering actress in U.S. Latino New York theater who starred in films alongside Marlon Brando and Al Pacino. March 3.

Mother Divine, believed to be 92. The widow of Father Divine and leader for decades of a religious movement he founded that advocated racial equality and provided free food to thousands of people. March 4.

Robert Osborne, 84. The genial face of Turner Classic Movies and a walking encyclopedia of classic Hollywood. March 6.

Lynne F. Stewart, 77. A rebellious civil rights lawyer who was sentenced to a decade behind bars for helping a notorious Egyptian terrorist communicate with followers from his U.S. jail cell. March 7. Cancer.

George A. Olah, 89. His work won a Nobel Prize in chemistry and paved the way for more effective oil refining and ways of producing less polluting forms of gasoline. March 8.

Joseph Nicolosi, 70. A psychologist and major figure in the “ex-gay” movement that promotes a therapy designed to “cure” people of their homosexuality. March 8.

Robert James Waller, 77. His best-selling, bittersweet 1992 romance novel “The Bridges of Madison County” was turned into a movie starring Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood and later into a soaring Broadway musical. March 10.

Joni Sledge, 60. With her sisters, she recorded the enduring dance anthem “We Are Family.” March 10.

Amy Krouse Rosenthal, 51. A popular author, filmmaker and speaker who brightened lives with her wide-eyed and generous spirit — and broke hearts when she wrote of being terminally ill and leaving behind her husband. March 13.

Royal Robbins, 82. A rock climbing icon who founded the outdoor clothing company bearing his name. March 14.

Carl Clark, 100. A California man who was recognized six decades after his bravery during World War II with a medal of honor that had been denied because he was black. March 16.

Chuck Berry, 90. He was rock ‘n’ roll’s founding guitar hero and storyteller who defined the music’s joy and rebellion in such classics as “Johnny B. Goode,” ″Sweet Little Sixteen” and “Roll Over Beethoven.” March 18.

Cardinal Miloslav Vlk, 84. He ministered clandestinely to Catholics for years while officially working as a window-washer during communist rule in Czechoslovakia. March 18.

David Rockefeller, 101. The billionaire businessman and philanthropist who was the last in his generation of one of the country’s most famously philanthropic families. March 20.

Martin McGuinness, 66. The Irish Republican Army commander who led his underground paramilitary movement toward reconciliation with Britain. March 21.

Chuck Barris, 87. His game show empire included “The Dating Game,” ″The Newlywed Game” and that infamous factory of cheese, “The Gong Show.” March 21.

Colin Dexter, 86. The unassuming British writer who created curmudgeonly, music-loving Oxford detective Inspector Morse. March 21.

Jerry Krause, 77. The general manager of the Bulls during a 1990s dynasty that included six NBA championships with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen.

Francine Wilson, 69. Her trial for killing her abusive husband became a landmark spousal abuse case and the subject of the 1984 TV movie “The Burning Bed.” March 22. Complications from pneumonia.

Ahmed Kathrada, 87. An anti-apartheid leader who spent 26 years in prison for opposing South Africa’s white minority government — much of that time alongside the country’s first black president, Nelson Mandela. March 28.

Gilbert Baker, 65. The creator of the rainbow flag that has become a widely recognized symbol of gay rights. March 31.

APRIL:

Yevgeny A. Yevtushenko, 84. An acclaimed Russian poet whose work focused on war atrocities and denounced anti-Semitism and tyrannical dictators. April 1.

Lonnie Brooks, 83. A Chicago blues musician whose relationship with his adopted hometown was cemented by his hit recording of Robert Johnson’s “Sweet Home Chicago.” April 1.

Ikutaro Kakehashi, 87. The Japanese engineer who pioneered digital music and founded synthesizer giant Roland Corp. April 1.

Paul O’Neill, 61. He founded the progressive metal band Trans-Siberian Orchestra that was known for its spectacular holiday concerts filled with theatrics, lasers and pyrotechnics. April 5.

Don Rickles, 90. The big-mouthed, bald-headed comedian whose verbal assaults endeared him to audiences and peers and made him the acknowledged grandmaster of insult comedy. April 6.

J. Geils, 71. He was founder of The J. Geils Band known for such peppy early 80s pop hits as “Love Stinks,” ″Freeze Frame” and “Centerfold.” April 11.

Dorothy Mengering, 95. The mother of host David Letterman, she became an unlikely celebrity in her 70s as she baked mystery pies and covered the Olympics for her son’s late-night show. April 11.

Dan Rooney, 84. The powerful and popular Pittsburgh Steelers chairman whose name is attached to the NFL’s landmark initiative in minority hiring. April 13.

Robert W. Taylor, 85. He was instrumental in creating the internet and the modern personal computer. April 13.

Aaron Hernandez, 27. The former New England Patriots tight end was sentenced to life behind bars for a 2013 murder and committed suicide in prison. April 19.

Jay Dickey, 77. A four-term Arkansas congressman who sponsored a bill to prevent certain research on gun violence and its effect on public health — and who later said he regretted the law. April 20.

Erin Moran, 56. The former child star who played Joanie Cunningham in the sitcoms “Happy Days” and “Joanie Loves Chachi.” April 22. Cancer.

Robert M. Pirsig, 88. His philosophical novel “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” became a million-selling classic and cultural touchstone after more than 100 publishers turned it down. April 24.

Jonathan Demme, 73. The eclectic, ever-enthusiastic filmmaker behind the Oscar winners “The Silence of the Lambs” and “Philadelphia,” and the director of one of the most seminal concert films ever made, the Talking Heads’ “Stop Making Sense.” April 26.

Richard “Racehorse” Haynes, 90. A Houston lawyer famed for his flamboyant but successful trial defenses of millionaire and billionaire clients in some of Texas’ most notorious murder cases. April 28.

MAY:

Tony Alamo, 82. A one-time street preacher whose apocalyptic ministry grew into a multimillion-dollar network of businesses and property before he was convicted in Arkansas of sexually abusing young girls he considered his wives. May 2. Died in prison.

Heinz Kessler, 97. A former East German defense minister who was later convicted of incitement to manslaughter for upholding the shoot-to-kill policy at the communist country’s border. May 2.

Leo K. Thorsness, 85. The retired Air Force colonel was a highly decorated Vietnam War pilot who was shot down and held for six years at the notorious “Hanoi Hilton” prisoner camp, where he shared a cell with U.S. Sen. John McCain. May 4.

Allan H. Meltzer, 89. A distinguished economist and one of the country’s leading experts on the Federal Reserve. May 8.

Mauno Koivisto, 93. Finland’s last president during the Cold War who led the Nordic nation out of the shadow of its huge eastern neighbor, the Soviet Union, and into the European Union. May 12.

Powers Boothe, 68. The character actor known for his villain roles in TV’s “Deadwood,” and in the movies “Tombstone,” ″Sin City” and “The Avengers.” May 14.

Ian Brady, 79. A killer of five children whose role in the 1960s “Moors Murders” made him one of Britain’s most reviled criminals. May 15.

Oleg Vidov, 73. A matinee idol in the Soviet Union who defected to the United States at the height of the Cold War and then enjoyed a long film and TV career in Hollywood. May 15.

Chris Cornell, 52. A rocker who gained fame as the lead singer of the bands Soundgarden and Audioslave and was one of the leading voices of the 1990s grunge movement. May 17. Suspected suicide.

Roger Ailes, 77. He transformed TV news by creating Fox News Channel, only to be ousted at the height of his reign for alleged sexual harassment. May 18.

Reema Lagoo, 59. The Bollywood actress was the ever-smiling screen mother to some of India’s top actors. May 18. Cardiac arrest.

Stanislav Petrov, 77. A former Soviet military officer known in the West as “the man who saved the world” for his role in averting a nuclear war over a false missile warning at the height of the Cold War. May 19.

Dina Merrill, 93. The rebellious heiress who defied her super-rich parents to become a movie star, often portraying stylish wives or “the other woman.” May 22.

Roger Moore, 89. The suavely insouciant star of seven James Bond films. May 23.

Patti Upton, 79. She founded the multimillion-dollar home fragrance company Aromatique thanks to a popular homemade mix of pine cones, oils and spices she concocted to help a friend’s shop “smell like Christmas.” May 23.

Cortez Kennedy, 48. The Hall of Fame defensive tackle was a dominating force for the Seattle Seahawks in the 1990s. May 23.

Laura Biagiotti, 73. An Italian fashion designer who conquered global markets with her soft, loose women’s clothes and luxurious knits that won her the nickname “Queen of Cashmere.” May 26.

Jim Bunning, 85. A Hall of Fame pitcher who went on to serve in Congress. May 26.

Gregg Allman, 69. A music legend whose bluesy vocals and soulful touch on the Hammond B-3 organ helped propel The Allman Brothers Band to superstardom and spawn Southern rock. May 27. Cancer.

Manuel Noriega, 83. A former Panamanian dictator and onetime U.S. ally who was ousted as Panama’s dictator by an American invasion in 1989. May 29.

Constantine Mitsotakis, 98. A former conservative prime minister remembered for fierce confrontations with Greece’s liberal and socialist parties as well as early free-market reforms during a 60-year political career. May 29.

Reinhold Hanning, 95. A former SS sergeant whose 2016 conviction on 170,000 counts of accessory to murder for serving as an Auschwitz guard was hailed as a long-overdue victory for Holocaust victims. May 30.

JUNE:

Jim Piersall, 87. A former major leaguer who bared his soul about his struggles with mental illness in his book “Fear Strikes Out.” June 3.

Peter Sallis, 96. A British actor who played irrepressible, cheese-loving inventor Wallace in the “Wallace and Gromit” cartoons. June 2.

Donald Vidrine, 69. One of two BP supervisors on the Deepwater Horizon when the drilling rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. June 3.

Roger Smith, 84. He brought glamour to the TV detective genre as a hip private eye on “77 Sunset Strip.” June 4.

Adnan Khashoggi, 81. A Saudi arms dealer who was once one of the world’s richest men and was implicated in the Iran-Contra affair. June 6.

Glenne Headly, 62. An early member of the acclaimed Steppenwolf Theatre Company who went on to star in films and on TV. June 8.

Adam West, 88. His straight-faced portrayal of Batman in a campy 1960s TV series lifted the tight-clad Caped Crusader into the national consciousness. June 9.

Jerry Nelson, 73. An astronomer who designed advanced telescopes that help scientists glimpse far reaches of the universe. June 10.

Bill Dana, 92. A comedy writer and performer who won stardom in the 1950s and ’60s with his character Jose Jimenez. June 15.

Helmut Kohl, 87. The physically imposing German chancellor whose reunification of a nation divided by the Cold War put Germany at the heart of a united Europe. June 16.

Venus Ramey, 92. A former Miss America who helped rally the nation during World War II and found renewed fame later in life by shooting out the tires of intruders at her Kentucky farm. June 17.

Otto Warmbier, 22. An American college student who was released by North Korea in a coma after almost a year and a half in captivity. June 19.

Carla Fendi, 79. One of the five sisters who transformed the family leather goods business into a global luxury fashion house long known for its furs. June 19.

Yuri Drozdov, 91. The Soviet spymaster who oversaw a sprawling network of KGB agents abroad. June 21.

Michael Bond, 91. He was creator of marmalade-loving children’s favorite Paddington bear. June 27.

Simone Veil, 89. A French survivor of Nazi death camps and European Parliament president who spearheaded abortion rights as one of France’s most prominent woman politicians. June 30.

JULY:

Joaquin Navarro-Valls, 80. A suave, silver-haired Spaniard who was a close confidant of Pope John Paul II, serving for more than two decades as chief Vatican spokesman. July 5.

Betty Dukes, 67. The Walmart greeter who took the retail giant all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in the largest gender bias class-action lawsuit in U.S. history. July 10.

Chuck Blazer, 72. The disgraced American soccer executive whose admissions of corruption set off a global scandal that ultimately toppled FIFA President Sepp Blatter. July 12.

Christopher Wong Won, 53. Known as Fresh Kid Ice, he was a founding member of the Miami hip-hop group 2 Live Crew whose sexually explicit lyrics triggered a national debate over the legal limits of artistic freedom. July 13.

Hootie Johnson, 86. The South Carolina banker and Augusta National chairman who stubbornly stood his ground amid pressure for the club to invite female members. July 14.

Martin Landau, 89. The chameleon-like actor who gained fame as the crafty master of disguise in the 1960s TV show “Mission: Impossible,” then capped a long and versatile career with an Oscar for his poignant portrayal of aging horror movie star Bela Lugosi in 1994′s “Ed Wood.” July 15.

George Romero, 77. His classic “Night of the Living Dead” and other horror films turned zombie movies into social commentaries and he saw his flesh-devouring undead spawn countless imitators, remakes and homages. July 16.

Chester Bennington, 41. The Linkin Park lead singer whose screeching vocals helped the rock-rap band become one of the most commercially successful acts in the 2000s. July 20. Apparent suicide.

John Heard, 71. An actor whose many roles included the father in the “Home Alone” series and a corrupt detective in “The Sopranos.” July 21.

Barbara Sinatra, 90. The fourth wife of legendary singer Frank Sinatra and a prominent children’s advocate and philanthropist who raised millions of dollars to help abused youngsters. July 25.

Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, 46. A blind Aboriginal musician renowned for singing in his native Yolngu language with a heart-rending voice and a unique guitar-playing style. July 25.

Marian Cleeves Diamond, 90. She was a neuroscientist who studied Albert Einstein’s brain and was one of the first to show that the brain can improve with enrichment. July 25.

June Foray, 99. An actress who gave voice to Rocky the Flying Squirrel and hundreds of other cartoon characters. July 26.

Jeanne Moreau, 89. She was the smoky-voiced femme fatale of the French New Wave who starred in Francois Truffaut’s love triangle film “Jules and Jim” and worked with many other acclaimed directors during a decades-long career. July 31.

AUGUST:

Ara Parseghian, 94. He took over a foundering Notre Dame football program and restored it to glory with two national championships in 11 seasons. Aug. 2.

Ty Hardin, 87. A popular film and television actor who starred as the gunman Bronco Layne in the TV Western series “Bronco” and worked with Henry Fonda and Kirk Douglas among others. Aug. 3.

Haruo Nakajima, 88. He portrayed Godzilla in the original 1954 classic. Aug. 7. Pneumonia.

Glen Campbell, 81. The affable superstar singer of “Rhinestone Cowboy” and “Wichita Lineman” whose appeal spanned country, pop, television and movies. Aug. 8.

Barbara Cook, 89. Her shimmering soprano made her one of Broadway’s leading ingenues and later a major cabaret and concert interpreter of popular American song. Aug. 8.

Fadwa Suleiman, 46. An outspoken Syrian actress who took center stage at anti-government protests in the early days of the uprising against President Bashar Assad. Aug. 17.

Bruce Forsyth, 89. A legendary entertainer, host and quizmaster on English television whose career spanned the history of TV. Aug. 18.

Dick Gregory, 84. The comedian and activist and who broke racial barriers in the 1960s and used his humor to spread messages of social justice and nutritional health. Aug. 19.

Brian Aldiss, 92. One of the most prolific and influential science fiction writers of the 20th century. Aug. 19.

Jerry Lewis, 91. The manic, rubber-faced showman who rose to fame in a lucrative partnership with Dean Martin, settled down to become a self-conscious screen auteur and found an even greater following as the host of the annual muscular dystrophy telethons. Aug. 20.

Rafael “Felo” Ramirez, 94. A Hall of Fame baseball radio broadcaster who was the signature voice for millions of Spanish-speaking sports fans over three decades. Aug. 21.

Thomas Meehan, 88. A three-time Tony Award-winning book writer best known for transforming the Little Orphan Annie cartoon strip into the smash Broadway musical “Annie.” Aug. 21.

Tony de Brum, 72. He saw the effects of rising seas from his home in the Marshall Islands and became a leading advocate for the landmark Paris Agreement and an internationally recognized voice in the fight against climate change. Aug. 22.

Charlie Robertson, 83. A former Pennsylvania mayor who was acquitted of murder in the killing of a black woman during racial unrest in 1969. Aug. 24.

Cecil D. Andrus, 85. A former interior secretary who engineered the conservation of millions of acres of Alaska land during the Carter administration. Aug. 24. Complications from lung cancer.

Tobe Hooper, 74. The horror-movie pioneer whose low-budget sensation “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” took a buzz saw to audiences with its brutally frightful vision. Aug. 26.

David Tang, 63. A flamboyant and outspoken socialite and entrepreneur who founded the Shanghai Tang fashion brand. Aug. 29.

Sumiteru Taniguchi, 88. He devoted his life to seeking to abolish nuclear weapons after he was burned severely in the 1945 atomic bomb attack on his hometown of Nagasaki, Japan. Aug. 30.

Rollie Massimino, 82. The college basketball coach led Villanova’s storied run to the 1985 NCAA championship and won more than 800 games in his coaching career. Aug. 30. Cancer.

Richard Anderson, 91. The tall, handsome actor best known for costarring simultaneously in the popular 1970s television shows “The Six Million Dollar Man” and “The Bionic Woman.” Aug. 31.

SEPTEMBER:

Shelley Berman, 92. A comedian who won gold records and appeared on top television shows in the 1950s and 1960s delivering wry monologues about the annoyances of everyday life. Sept. 1.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, 85. The former Roman Catholic archbishop of Westminster in England. Sept. 1.

Walter Becker, 67. The guitarist, bassist and co-founder of the 1970s rock group Steely Dan, which sold more than 40 million albums and produced such hit singles as “Reelin’ In the Years,” ″Rikki Don’t Lose that Number” and “Deacon Blues.” Sept. 3.

John Ashbery, 90. An enigmatic giant of modern poetry whose energy, daring and boundless command of language raised American verse to brilliant and baffling heights. Sept. 3.

Sugar Ramos, 75. The Cuban featherweight champion whose fists led to two ring deaths — one inspiring a Bob Dylan song. Sept. 3. Complications from cancer.

Simeon Wright, 74. He was with his cousin Emmett Till when the Chicago boy was kidnapped in 1955 after whistling at a white woman in Mississippi. Sept. 4. Cancer.

Kate Millett, 82. The activist, artist and educator whose best-selling “Sexual Politics” was a landmark of cultural criticism and a manifesto for the modern feminist movement. Sept. 6.

Pierre Berge, 86. An influential French businessman, philanthropist and gay rights activist who helped build the fashion empire of his longtime lover Yves Saint Laurent. Sept. 8.

Troy Gentry, 50. As one half of Montgomery Gentry, he helped the country music duo become a successful act in the genre, launching countless hits, winning multiple awards and reaching platinum status throughout the 2000s. Sept. 8.

Don Williams, 78. An award-winning country singer with love ballads like “I Believe in You.” Sept. 8.

Peter Hall, 86. A visionary theater director and impresario who founded the Royal Shakespeare Company and helped build Britain’s National Theatre into a producing powerhouse. Sept. 11.

J.P. Donleavy, 91. An incorrigible Irish-American author and playwright whose ribald debut novel “The Ginger Man” met scorn, censorship and eventually celebration as a groundbreaking classic. Sept. 11.

Frank Vincent, 80. A veteran character actor known for playing gangster roles, including in “The Sopranos,” ″Goodfellas” and “Casino.”

Edith Windsor, 88. A gay rights pioneer whose landmark Supreme Court case struck down parts of a federal anti-gay-marriage law and paved a path toward legalizing same-sex nuptials nationwide. Sept. 12.

Grant Hart, 56. The drummer and vocalist for pioneering indie rock band Husker Du, which was seen as a major influence for Nirvana, the Pixies and other bands. Sept. 13. Cancer.

Jake LaMotta, 95. An iron-fisted battler who brawled his way to a middleweight title and was later memorialized by Robert De Niro in the film “Raging Bull.” Sept. 19.

Liliane Bettencourt, 94. The L’Oreal cosmetics heiress and the world’s richest woman. Sept. 20.

Liz Dawn, 77. The actress who played tart-tongued Vera Duckworth in the British soap opera “Coronation Street” for more than 30 years. Sept. 25.

Hugh M. Hefner, 91. The Playboy magazine founder who revved up the sexual revolution in the 1950s and built a multimedia empire of clubs, mansions, movies and television. Sept. 27.

Anne Jeffreys, 94. The actress and opera singer who likely had her greatest impact on TV audiences as Marion Kerby “the ghostess with the mostess” in the 1950s TV series “Topper.” Sept. 27.

Tom Alter, 67. A well-known Indian theater, television and Bollywood actor of American descent. Sept. 29. Cancer.

Monty Hall, 96. The genial TV game show host whose long-running “Let’s Make a Deal” traded on love of money and merchandise and the mystery of which door had the car behind it. Sept. 30.

Donald Malarkey, 96. A World War II paratrooper who was awarded the Bronze Star after parachuting behind enemy lines at Normandy to destroy German artillery on D-Day. Sept. 30.

OCTOBER:

S.I. Newhouse Jr., 89. The low-profile billionaire media mogul who ran the parent company of some of the nation’s most prestigious magazines. Oct. 1.

Robert D. Hales, 85. A top-ranking Mormon leader who left a successful career as a businessman to help guide the church. Oct. 1.

Dave Strader, 62. The hockey broadcaster known affectionately as “The Voice.” Oct. 1.

Arthur Janov, 93. A psychotherapist whose “primal therapy” had celebrities screaming to release their childhood traumas and spawned a best-selling book in the 1970s. Oct. 1.

Tom Petty, 66. An old-fashioned rock superstar and everyman who drew upon the Byrds, the Beatles and other bands he worshipped as a boy and produced new classics such as “Free Fallin,′ “Refugee” and “American Girl.” Oct. 2.

Jalal Talabani, 83. The Kurdish guerrilla leader who became Iraq’s president after the U.S. toppled Saddam Hussein and who embodied hopes for a unified, peaceful future. Oct. 3.

Connie Hawkins, 75. Basketball’s dazzling New York playground great who soared and swooped his way to the Hall of Fame. Oct. 6.

Jimmy Beaumont, 76. The lead singer of the doo-wop group the Skyliners and a co-writer of the iconic ballad “Since I Don’t Have You.” Oct. 7.

David Patterson Sr., 94. A Navajo Code Talker who used his native language to outsmart the Japanese in World War II. Oct. 8.

Jean Rochefort, 87. A French actor who starred in more than 100 movies over a half-century and was much loved by the French public. Oct. 9.

Y.A. Tittle, 90. The Hall of Fame quarterback played 17 years in pro football, including a memorable run for the New York Giants at the end of his career. Oct. 8.

Gord Downie, 53. He made himself part of Canada’s national identity with songs about hockey and small towns as lead singer and songwriter of iconic rock band The Tragically Hip. Oct. 17.

Paul Weitz, 85. A retired NASA astronaut who commanded the first flight of the space shuttle Challenger and also piloted the Skylab in the early 1970s. Oct. 23.

Fats Domino, 89. The amiable rock ‘n’ roll pioneer whose steady, pounding piano and easy baritone helped change popular music while honoring the traditions of New Orleans. Oct. 24.

Robert Guillaume, 89. He rose from squalid beginnings in St. Louis slums to become a star in stage musicals and win Emmy Awards for his portrayal of the sharp-tongued butler in the TV sitcoms “Soap” and “Benson.” Oct. 24.

Jane Juska, 84. Her chronicle of searching for sex as a woman in her 60s became a best-selling memoir and later a stage show. Oct. 24.

Dennis Banks, 80. He helped found the American Indian Movement and engaged in sometimes-violent uprisings against the U.S. government, including the armed occupation of Wounded Knee in 1973. Oct. 29.

NOVEMBER:

Richard “Dick” F. Gordon Jr., 88. The Apollo 12 astronaut was one of a dozen men who flew around the moon but didn’t land there. Nov. 6.

Roy Halladay, 40. A two-time Cy Young Award winner who pitched a perfect game and a playoff no-hitter for the Philadelphia Phillies. Nov. 7. Plane crash.

John Hillerman, 84. He played stuffed-shirt Higgins to Tom Selleck’s freewheeling detective Thomas Magnum in the 1980s TV series “Magnum, P.I.” Nov. 9.

Liz Smith, 94. A syndicated gossip columnist whose mixture of banter, barbs, and bon mots about the glitterati helped her climb the A-list as high as many of the celebrities she covered. Nov. 12.

Jeremy Hutchinson, 102. A towering legal figure who helped liberalize British laws around sex and freedom of expression. Nov. 13.

Lil Peep, 21. The rapper was a budding star whose emotional, downtrodden lyrics gained a cult following online. Nov. 15. Suspected drug overdose.

Ann Wedgeworth, 83. An actress who gained fame on film and Broadway before taking on the role of a flirty divorcee on “Three’s Company.” Nov. 16.

Salvatore ‘Toto’ Riina, 87. The Mafia “boss of bosses” who was serving 26 life sentences as the mastermind of a bloody strategy to assassinate both rivals and Italian prosecutors and law enforcement trying to bring down Cosa Nostra. Nov. 17.

Naim Suleymanoglu, 50. The Turkish weightlifter who won three Olympic gold medals and was known as “Pocket Hercules.” Nov. 18.

Malcolm Young, 64. The rhythm guitarist and guiding force behind the bawdy hard rock band AC/DC who helped create such head-banging anthems as “Highway to Hell,” ″Hells Bells” and “Back in Black.” Nov. 18.

Charles Manson, 83. The hippie cult leader who became the hypnotic-eyed face of evil across America after orchestrating the gruesome murders of pregnant actress Sharon Tate and six others in Los Angeles during the summer of 1969. Nov. 19.

Mel Tillis, 85. The affable longtime country music star who wrote hits for Kenny Rogers, Ricky Skaggs and many others, and overcame a stutter to sing on dozens of his own singles. Nov. 19.

Della Reese, 86. The actress and gospel-influenced singer who in middle age found her greatest fame as Tess, the wise angel in the long-running television drama “Touched by an Angel.” Nov. 19.

David Cassidy, 67. The teen and pre-teen idol who starred in the 1970s sitcom “The Partridge Family” and sold millions of records as the musical group’s lead singer. Nov. 21.

Joseph L. White, 84. A psychologist, social activist and teacher who helped pioneer the field of black psychology to counter what he saw as rampant ignorance and prejudice in the profession. Nov. 21. Heart attack.

Terry Glenn, 43. Standout wide receiver for the New England Patriots and Dallas Cowboys who caught Tom Brady’s first career touchdown pass. Nov. 21.

Dmitri Hvorostovsky, 55. The Russian baritone known for his velvety voice, dashing looks and shock of flowing white hair. Nov. 22.

Jon Hendricks, 96. The pioneering jazz singer and lyricist who with the trio Lambert, Hendricks & Ross popularized the “vocalese” singing style in which words were added to instrumental songs. Nov. 22.

Shadia, 86. An Egyptian actress and singer who captivated millions for decades with memorable singles and iconic film roles. Nov. 28.

Jim Nabors, 87. The Alabama-born comic actor who starred as TV’s dim but good-hearted Southern rube Gomer Pyle and constantly surprised audiences with his twang-free operatic singing voice. Nov. 30.

DECEMBER:

Perry Wallace, 69. He broke down a racial barrier in the Deep South by becoming the first black varsity basketball player in the Southeastern Conference. Dec. 1.

Ali Abdullah Saleh, age uncertain. A strongman and master of shifting alliances, he was Yemen’s president for 33 years until he stepped down in 2012 amid an Arab Spring uprising. Dec. 4. Killed by rebels.

Christine Keeler, 75. The central figure in the sex-and-espionage Profumo scandal that rocked Cold War Britain. Dec. 4.

Jean d’Ormesson, 92. A very public face among the usually discreet “immortals” of the prestigious Academie Francaise, whom French President Emmanuel Macron called a “prince of letters.” Dec. 5.

King Michael I, 96. Romania’s former monarch, who was forced to abdicate by the communists in the aftermath of World War II. Dec. 5.

Johnny Hallyday, 74. France’s biggest rock star for more than half a century and an icon who packed sports stadiums and all but lit up the Eiffel Tower with his pumping pelvis and high-voltage tunes. Dec. 6.

Bruce Brown, 80. He molded the modern image of surfer as seeker and transformed the sport with his 1966 surfing documentary “The Endless Summer.” Dec. 10.

Charles Jenkins, 77. A U.S. Army deserter to North Korea who married a Japanese abductee and lived in Japan after their release. Dec. 11.

Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman, 104. The spiritual leader of Israel’s non-Hasidic ultra-Orthodox Jews of European descent and one of its most influential and powerful rabbis. Dec. 12.

Years of Attack Leave Obamacare a More Government-Focused Health Law

(PhatzNewsRoom / NYT)   —   WASHINGTON — The Affordable Care Act was conceived as a mix of publicly funded health care and privately purchased insurance, but Republican attacks, culminating this month in the death of a mandate that most Americans have insurance, are shifting the balance, giving the government a larger role than Democrats ever anticipated.

And while President Trump insisted again on Tuesday that the health law was “essentially” being repealed, what remains of it appears relatively stable and increasingly government-funded.

In short, President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement is becoming more like what conservatives despise — government-run health care — thanks in part to Republican efforts that are raising premiums for people without government assistance and allowing them to skirt coverage.

By ending the tax penalty for people who do not have coverage, beginning in 2019, Republicans may hasten the flight of customers who now pay the full cost of their insurance. Among those left behind under the umbrella of the Affordable Care Act would be people of modest means who qualify for Medicaid or receive sizable subsidies for private insurance.

“Republicans have inadvertently strengthened the hand of Democrats like me who prefer richer subsidies to a mandate and welcome the expanded federal role that will come with those subsidies,” said Joel S. Ario, a former insurance commissioner from Pennsylvania who worked in the Obama administration.

In days, the Trump administration is expected to carry out an executive order with proposed rules that would allow people to buy less expensive — and less comprehensive — coverage, through either business and professional associations or short-term private policies.

The Affordable Care Act’s success in reducing the number of uninsured owes more to Medicaid than to private health insurance. About 75 million people are now enrolled in Medicaid, a number that has increased by about one-third since the adoption of the Affordable Care Act. A smaller number, about 10 million, buy coverage from private insurers through the health law’s marketplace.

Among people ages 18 to 64, the proportion with private health insurance coverage is about the same today as in 2005, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. But the proportion with public insurance coverage has increased to more than 19 percent, from 11.5 percent in 2005, and the share of people in that age range who are uninsured has fallen to 12.5 percent, from about 19 percent.

In total, more than one-third of the population is covered with federal assistance, through Medicare, Medicaid, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the military and Affordable Care Act subsidies. (And that does not include the larger group of people who benefit from tax subsidies for health insurance provided by employers.)

Mr. Trump and Republicans in Congress failed this year in their efforts to cut Medicaid and could try again in 2018. Speaker Paul D. Ryan said this month that Republicans would try next year to slow the growth of federal health spending because “it’s the health care entitlements that are the big drivers of our debt.”

But Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, has been leery of another run at health care in an election year, and it is possible that Medicaid could, in the near future, actually grow further under the Affordable Care Act. Maine voters approved a referendum last month to expand Medicaid in that state, though Maine’s Republican governor, Paul R. LePage, is dragging his feet. Mr. LePage will not be on the ballot in November, when the state could elect a governor more willing to accept the referendum’s results.

The governor-elect of Virginia, Ralph S. Northam, has vowed to expand Medicaid and could have an evenly split House of Delegates, depending on the outcome of a drawing of lots this week that will decide the winner of a tied race in southeastern Virginia.

A Democratic wave election in November could also shift the balance of power in a few other state capitals.

While the marketplaces, or exchanges, have struggled with a series of problems since they opened in 2014, Medicaid, administered by an experienced corps of state officials, has gone from strength to strength. Public appreciation for the program has steadily increased as people come to understand its importance in the health care system, including its central role in combating the opioid epidemic.

And though Congress has effectively repealed the requirement for people to have health insurance, federal subsidies are still available to low- and moderate-income people who want insurance. The federal government pays, on average, about three-fourths of the premium for more than three-fourths of the people who buy insurance through the Affordable Care Act marketplace.

Insurers are still required to provide coverage to anyone who applies. They cannot deny coverage or charge higher premiums because of a person’s pre-existing conditions. And people receiving premium subsidies are generally insulated against insurance price increases.

By contrast, the sharp increases in premiums in many markets this year have made insurance less attractive and less affordable for middle-income people who do not receive subsidies. The brunt of premium increases falls on people who must pay the entire cost themselves — an individual with annual income over $48,240 or a family of four with income over $98,400.

Mr. McConnell says he remains committed to bringing to a vote early next year two bills to stabilize insurance markets. One would restore government subsidies to insurance companies to help cover out-of-pocket expenses for low-income customers. Another would offer money to states to lower premiums, perhaps by setting up “reinsurance” programs to cover the highest-cost customers with serious illnesses.

Mr. Trump appeared to embrace some kind of bipartisan health care legislation on Tuesday with a Twitter post from his resort in Palm Beach, Fla.: “Based on the fact that the very unfair and unpopular Individual Mandate has been terminated as part of our Tax Cut Bill, which essentially Repeals (over time) ObamaCare, the Democrats & Republicans will eventually come together and develop a great new HealthCare plan!’’

But even with those measures, health policy experts say they expect the Affordable Care Act’s marketplaces to be populated increasingly by consumers who qualify for financial assistance or have clear medical needs.

“It seems to me that the exchanges will evolve into an extended form of government coverage very much akin to Medicaid,” said J. B. Silvers, a professor of health care finance at Case Western Reserve University, in Cleveland. Increasingly, he said, “those who are not subsidized will drop out because of the high prices, and those getting the subsidy will still see great bargains,” after taking account of the subsidies.

When the Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010, the Congressional Budget Office expected that the insurance exchanges would be more important than Medicaid in expanding coverage. The reverse has been true.

“Enrollment in the exchanges is nothing like what anyone expected,” said Daniel N. Mendelson, the president of Avalere Health, a research and consulting company. “Repeal of the mandate will probably serve to take out some relatively healthy people who think they can coast by without insurance. What we will have left is a heavily subsidized high-risk pool for low-income people who are not eligible for Medicaid.”

Medicaid covers substantially more people than Medicare, the insurance program for older Americans. Even though only 31 states have expanded Medicaid, total enrollment is about the same as what the Congressional Budget Office was predicting in 2010, when it assumed that all states would expand eligibility under the Affordable Care Act. The Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that the expansion of Medicaid was an option for states, not a requirement.

Congress’s decision to eliminate the individual mandate means that healthier people with less need for insurance are less likely to buy it. The remaining pool of insurance buyers will have higher costs, on average, so insurers will increase premiums even more. And when premiums rise, consumers are entitled to larger subsidies from the federal government to help defray the higher costs.

In some ways, Medicaid is more generous than commercial insurers. The benefits are more comprehensive, and coverage is nearly free, with beneficiaries required to pay only nominal amounts. While Medicaid is a government program, most states contract with private insurers to deliver and manage care.

Among the few companies that have been successful on the Affordable Care Act exchanges are insurers like Centene that have experience in Medicaid.

“The reason so many people are on Medicaid,” said Sara Rosenbaum, a professor of health law and policy at George Washington University, “is that so many people have low incomes.”

Robert Mueller May Indict Paul Manafort Again

(PhatzNewsRoom / WAPO)    —-   From its inception, two things about special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation were clear: first, the White House’s biggest concern was that Mueller would follow the money; and second, Mueller is following the money.

It’s been seven months since Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein ordered Bob Mueller to take over the FBI’s counterintelligence probe into possible links between the Kremlin and people associated with the Trump campaign. Trump’s lawyers have long said they expected the probe to stay focused and end quickly. Instead, Mueller has assembled a team of prosecutors with expertise in handling financial investigations and white-collar crime, and obtained guilty pleas for crimes that weren’t committed during the election year.

And, most importantly, he’s sent a thinly veiled warning to the White House: No one’s finances are off limits. If 2017 had the president’s inner circle sweating, 2018 could feel like a sauna.

And no one may feel more heat than Paul Manafort. In Washington legal circles, there’s a broad expectation that Mueller will file what’s called a superseding indictment of Manafort and Rick Gates, his erstwhile business partner—and alleged partner in crime. Gates and Manafort both pleaded not guilty when Mueller’s team filed their indictment on Oct. 30. Legal experts say there may be more charges to come.

“I would expect a superseding indictment to come down relatively soon,” said Jonathan Turley, a professor at George Washington University’s law school.

“There was much in the narrative of the indictment that referenced crimes not charged,” he added. “Prosecutors will often issue a superseding indictment as the grand jury continues its work. There’s also a tactical reason for this, that superseding indictments tend to grind defendants a bit more over time.”

A superseding indictment would essentially replace the current indictment of Manafort. And in that current indictment, Mueller’s team hinted there was more to come. In particular, they hinted at potential tax charges for Manafort’s foreign financial transactions. Federal prosecutors can bring charges against any American who has money in a foreign bank account and doesn’t check a box on their tax forms disclosing it. The Manafort/Gates indictment describes financial behavior that may be liable for that kind of prosecution. And that’s an indicator that Mueller’s team may be preparing to formally charge both men with violating tax laws.

A former prosecutor from the Justice Department’s tax division said Mueller handed down what’s known as a “speaking indictment”—in other words, an indictment that contains more information than necessary.

“It’s a way of dirtying up a defendant without having to actually prove the conduct,” he said. “I think, in fairness to them, they probably rushed it because they didn’t want to wait for the tax division approval on those tax counts. That, I assume, would be working its way through the system.”

Anytime federal prosecutors want to charge someone with breaking tax law, they must get approval from the Justice Department’s Tax Division. That approval process can be time-consuming, and the would-be defendant’s attorneys often can petition Tax Division lawyers against authorizing the charges. Following the money, it turns out, can be circuitous.

“Superseding indictments are frequently brought in financial investigations due to defendant recalcitrance to cooperate and also because they take so long to be put together,” said Martin Sheil, a retired supervisory special agent for the IRS’ criminal investigations unit.

Mueller has been working with IRS criminal investigators, as The Daily Beast first reported in August. Those agents specialize solely in financial crimes with a tax nexus; their cooperation was an early indicator that money mattered to Mueller.

And Manafort and Gates may not be the only Trump campaign alums with headache-generating finances. On Dec. 1, retired Gen. Michael Flynn—the president’s former national security adviser—pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his communications with Russian government officials. Court documents indicate that Flynn has agreed to help Mueller’s team with their investigation in exchange for leniency.

Sheil noted that if Flynn isn’t as cooperative as Mueller expects, then his financial dealings could be easy fodder for Mueller.

“Flynn did not disclose payments received from Russia in 2015 nor Turkey in 2016 on his Security Disclosure forms,” Sheil said. “What is the likelihood he reported these sums on his tax returns?”

Additional trouble for Team Trump could arise out of the blizzard of subpoenas that reportedly went out to Deutsche Bank in the last few weeks.

The German mega-bank is likely accustomed to hot water. In January of 2017, they agreed to pay $425 million to the New York Department of Financial Services to settle allegations that they let Russian traders engage in what those regulators called “a money-laundering scheme.” In that particular scheme, Russians moved $10 billion to the United States.

It’s an eye-popping concession, but one that largely got lost in the noise of Trump’s inauguration and the political implications of Russian efforts to intervene in the 2016 elections. But it points to close ties between the bank and Kremlin elites. The bank’s lawyers signed court documents admitting they were “on clear notice” about their insufficient safeguards against unlawful activity (PDF)—while the multibillion-dollar scheme was unfolding. In fact, those lawyers admitted their traders in Moscow went “to significant lengths” to make the scheme work. They even admitted that one of their Moscow supervisors appeared to have taken bribes related to the scheme that were worth up to $2.3 million. It was underway from 2011 to early 2015.

Jared Kushner and Trump himself have had significant dealings with the bank, which also helped the hedge fund of billionaire Trump patron Robert Mercer trim billions from its tax bill. The bank has long interested congressional investigators looking into potential connections between Trump World and the Kremlin. And if reports about Mueller’s subpoena of the bank are correct—and the White House says emphatically that they are not—then Mueller’s money trail may be making a pit stop in Germany.

Besides that, Mueller’s probe is causing bipartisan anxiety in Washington. The indictment of Manafort and Gates mentioned two lobbying firms—referring to them only as “Company A” and “Company B”—which are widely assumed to be the Podesta Group and Mercury LLC. Within hours of the indictment’s release, Tony Podesta resigned from his firm. He’d previously drawn criticism for helping Manafort push Kremlin-friendly talking points to Capitol Hill offices.

“The Manafort and Gates indictment left a number of torpedoes in the water,” said Turley. “We’re just waiting to see who they hit. One of the most likely targets is Tony Podesta.”

The only person in a position to constrain Mueller and his deputies is Rosenstein, who has been overseeing all Trump/Russia matters since Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recusal. A former Justice Department official who worked under now-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told The Daily Beast that he’s unlikely to rein in Mueller at all.

“As long as Rod is supervising, he is never going to put Mueller under any kind of pinch,” he said. “That’s just the way Rod operates.”

It means that as long as Rosenstein stays in place, Mueller will likely be able to follow that money trail wherever it leads.

Obama to Prince Harry: Leaders must use care on social media

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LONDON (AP) — Former President Barack Obama told Prince Harry in an interview broadcast Wednesday that people in leadership roles must be careful in their use of social media and warned against spending too much time immersed in the internet at the expense of the world outside.

Obama did not, however, directly mention his successor, President Donald Trump, who has made the use of Twitter a centerpiece of his presidency.

“All of us in leadership have to find ways to recreate a common space on the internet,” he said. “One of the dangers of the internet is people can have entirely different realities. They can be just cocooned in information that reinforces their current biases.”

He spoke with Harry in the prince’s capacity as guest editor of the BBC Radio 4 news program. Both men said the interview, recorded in Canada in September, was Obama’s first since leaving the presidency in January.

Obama said he felt serene the day he left the White House at the end of his second four-year term despite the vast amount of work that remained unfinished. He said it was “hugely liberating” to be able to set his own agenda in the morning to have the time to talk with his wife, Michelle, now that he is no longer president.

“I miss the work itself because it was fascinating,” Obama said of his eight years in the Oval Office, citing his health care reforms as one of his proudest achievements.

In a brief live segment at the end of the show, Harry said he did not know if Obama would be on the guest list for his wedding in May to American actress Meghan Markle.

“I don’t know about that, we haven’t even put the invite or the guest list together, who knows if he’s going to be invited or not,” Harry said. “I wouldn’t want to ruin that surprise.”

The Sun newspaper, a popular tabloid, has suggested that the British government is concerned that Harry and Markle may invite the Obamas but not Trump, possibly straining ties between the two governments.

Harry did say his fiancee enjoyed her first Christmas with the royal family.

“The family loved having her there,” Harry said.

The prince used his position to ask Obama a “lightning round” of questions of the type normally asked of entertainers, not politicians.

The former president declined to say whether he wears boxers or briefs, preserving a bit of post-presidential dignity, but was willing to say he prefers Aretha Franklin to Tina Turner — “Aretha is the best,” he said of the Queen of Soul — and favors retired basketball star Michael Jordan over current phenom LeBron James.

Obama rejected gloomy prognostications about the state of the world, saying that in many ways the world is healthier and wealthier than it has ever been, making it perhaps the best time in human history to be born.

He cited improved treatment of African-Americans and greatly expanded opportunities for young women as achievements of the past few generations that give him hope for the future.

Harry also interviewed his father, Prince Charles, who offered a more downbeat assessment. He said the root causes of climate change are not being addressed even as it caused “untold horrors” in different parts of the world.

Days of bitter cold ahead for Midwest, Northeast

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CHICAGO (AP) — A white Christmas for much of the Northeast and Midwest has given way to bitter cold until the New Year.

Residents should expect colder-than-normal temperatures for the rest of the week, according to Chicago-area National Weather Service meteorologist Amy Seeley. Temperatures hovered around zero degrees in Chicago on Tuesday.

A Christmas storm also dumped a record amount of snow on the Erie, Pennsylvania, area. And the National Weather Service said at least an additional 5 to 10 inches were expected through Wednesday. The storm brought 34 inches of snow on Christmas Day, an all-time daily snowfall record for Erie. Another 24.5 inches fell by Tuesday night, bringing the total since Dec. 23 to more than 62.9 inches.

The city issued a snow emergency, citing “dangerous and impassable” roads.

Forecasters warn of sub-zero frigid arctic air and dangerously cold wind chills in much of the US.

Wind chill advisories or warnings are in effect for all of North Dakota and Wisconsin, as well as swaths of South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Michigan and Indiana.

Wind chill advisories were also in effect for parts of Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire and New York. Meteorologists warn frostbite is possible with as little as 30 minutes of exposure.

Business: Global stocks mostly higher in quiet holiday trading

TOKYO (AP) — Global stock indexes were mostly higher Wednesday in quiet holiday trading after oil prices erased some recent gains. Investors generally shrugged off a dip in technology stocks on Wall Street.

KEEPING SCORE: France’s CAC 40 rose 0.1 percent to 5,369 points, while Germany’s DAX gained nearly 0.1 percent to 13,083. Britain’s FTSE 100 was up 0.2 percent at 7,607. U.S. shares were also set to climb slightly, with Dow and S&P 500 futures both gaining almost 0.1 percent.

ASIA’S DAY: Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 edged up nearly 0.1 percent to finish at 22,911.21, while Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 was virtually unchanged at 6,069.90. South Korea’s Kospi added 0.4 percent to 2,436.67. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng inched 0.1 percent higher to 29,597.66. The Shanghai Composite index lost 0.9 percent to 3,275.78.

APPLE FACTOR: Apple slid 2.5 percent on Wall Street overnight amid speculation the consumer electronics giant might cut its targets for sales of its latest iPhone. A Taiwanese newspaper reported iPhone X sales targets may get cut amid weak sales, but that already had been largely figured in for Asian trading.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude dropped 40 cents to $59.57 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It gained $1.50 to $59.97 overnight. Brent crude, which is used to price international oils, slipped 75 cents to $66.27 per barrel.

CURRENCIES: The dollar fell slightly to 113.22 yen from 113.30 yen late Tuesday. The euro strengthened to $1.1891 from $1.1859.

BITCOIN VOLATILITY: The price of the virtual currency bitcoin stabilized somewhat after a few days of heightened volatility. It was down 0.3 percent on the day, at around $15,700. Last week it tumbled from $17,000 to about $12,000 in a single day, before picking up and trading around the $15,000 mark.

___

Follow Yuri Kageyama on Twitter at https://twitter.com/yurikageyama

Her work can be found at https://www.apnews.com/search/yuri%20kageyama

British navy escorts Russian warship near UK waters

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LONDON (AP) — Britain’s Royal Navy has escorted one of Russia’s warships through the North Sea near U.K. waters, officials said Tuesday, amid increasing tensions between the two countries.

The HMS St. Albans with 190 sailors on board was used to escort the Russian Admiral Gorshkov frigate on Monday through what British officials called “areas of national interest” on Christmas Day.

In addition, a Royal Navy helicopter was used to track other Russian vessels in the area.

The navy said there has been a recent surge in Russian vessels traveling near U.K. waters. Officials said that on Christmas Eve, a navy vessel was used to escort a Russian intelligence-gathering ship through the North Sea and English Channel.

Defense Secretary Gavin William said Britain wouldn’t tolerate aggression.

“Britain will never be intimidated when it comes to protecting our country, our people and our national interests,” he said Tuesday.

There has also been an increase in recent years of Russian fighter planes testing NATO and British air defenses, leading to jets being scrambled to keep Russian fighters away.

The incidents at sea follow a difficult visit to Moscow by Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson just before Christmas. Johnson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov disagreed on a number of policy points, reflecting increasing tensions between Britain and Russia.

Johnson accused Russia of meddling in Britain’s internal affairs but said there were still areas in which the two countries could work together.

British officials warned this month that Russian ships may cut undersea internet cables in a bid to disrupt communications and commerce.

Christmas brings Northeast blizzard, bitter cold in Midwest

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CHICAGO (AP) — The good news for many in the Northeast and Midwest was that it has been a white Christmas. The bad news was that a blizzard swept into parts of New England and bitter cold enveloped much of the Midwest.

Even the usually rainy Pacific Northwest got the white stuff. The National Weather Service says it’s only the sixth time since 1884 that downtown Portland had measurable snow — only an inch or two — on a Dec. 25.

A blizzard warning was issued Monday for portions of Maine and New Hampshire, with forecasters saying snow of up to 10 inches (25 centimeters) and wind gusts up to 50 mph (80 kph) could make travel “dangerous to impossible.”

Most businesses were already shuttered on Christmas Day in New England. One of the few open was The Tobacconist cigar shop in Tewksbury, Massachusetts, where area-resident Dwayne Doherty said he welcomed the fresh blanket of snow.

“I’m actually happy,” he said, chuckling as he made his way to his pick-up. “We haven’t had snow on Christmas at all in the last few years. It’s actually perfect.”

States from Montana and the Dakotas to Wisconsin expected wind chill temperatures in places at 40 below zero (40 below Celsius), the National Weather Service said. The upper half of Iowa and northern Illinois also braced for subzero temperatures.

Minnesota was experiencing its most frigid Christmas Day since 1996, with wind chills as cold as 35 degrees below zero, KSTP-TV reported. The National Weather Service warned that those whose skin was exposed in such conditions could get frostbite in as little as 15 minutes.

Snow amounts in the Midwest were not large for this time of year. A storm system that swept from Nebraska through Iowa dropped around 2 inches of snow on Chicago, the weather service said.

That was just enough to provide a picturesque backdrop for those gathering for Christmas dinners in the Chicago area. But it wasn’t enough to cause havoc either on roadway or airport runaways.

Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport was reporting just six cancelations and average delays of only 15 minutes around noon Monday. There were no cancellations at the city’s other major airport, Midway, and delays were less than 15 minutes on average.

The nation’s third largest city had comparatively little snow for the season until the weekend — just over 2 inches (5 centimeters) in all, the National Weather Service said.

The city of Milwaukee had 103 salt trucks treating slick spots Monday, according to WITI-TV. The trucks were using treated salt that’s deployed when temperatures drop below 15 degrees.

In addition to slowing travel in New England, the storm was responsible for some power outages. Eversource reported more than 20,000 customers in eastern Massachusetts without electricity, the bulk on Cape Cod which was feeling the brunt of strong winds.

Most of Indiana had been under winter weather advisory with officials urging motorists to stay put unless they absolutely had to travel. Northern Indiana had been expecting up to 5 inches (13 centimeters) with slightly less in the southern part of the state.

New England was expected to get up to 8 inches (20 centimeters) of snow. Strong winds were predicted for Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island with gusts up to 65 mph (105 kph).

Mountain areas in parts of Colorado, Montana and Wyoming received more than 1 foot (30 centimeters) of snow, which started Saturday. It was good news for holiday skiers and resorts which have struggled with a slow start this season.

But it meant a heightened warning of avalanches in higher elevations outside of ski areas.

Taking Credit for U.N. Budget Cut, Trump’s Envoy Hints at More to Come

(PhatzNewsRoom / NYT)   —   At least four times in the past week, the Trump administration has linked financial support for the United Nations to compliance with American demands.

First President Trump and his ambassador, Nikki R. Haley, fumed that all countries with seats on the Security Council except the United States had opposed American recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and his decision to put the United States Embassy there.

Then Mr. Trump dared the General Assembly to follow the Security Council’s example. “Let them vote against us,” he said. “We will save a lot.”

When the General Assembly voted 128 to 9 against the Americans, Ms. Haley said she would take names and remember them the next time the United States was asked for financial help from members who disagreed with its stance on Jerusalem.

The vote against the United States, she said, would make a difference “on how we look at countries who disrespect us at the U.N.”

Then on Sunday, when United Nations members reached agreement on a 2018-2019 budget of $5.4 billion, Ms. Haley issued a statement emphasizing the American role in achieving more than $285 million in cuts, along with hints of more reductions to come.

“We will no longer let the generosity of the American people be taken advantage of or remain unchecked,” Ms. Haley said. In future negotiations, she said, “you can be sure we’ll continue to look at ways to increase the U.N.’s efficiency while protecting our interests.”

It was certainly not the first time Ms. Haley had hinted at using America’s financial leverage to get its way at the United Nations. When she first took the job last January, she warned that “you’re going to see a change in the way we do business.”

And Secretary General António Guterres has said that some parts of the organization must become more efficient.

But the link between American largess and political sympathies at the United Nations has been a recurring theme for Mr. Trump, who once described the 72-year-old organization created after World War II as a sad social club that had squandered its potential.

Many among Mr. Trump’s base of supporters regard the organization as suspiciously anti-American. When the $285 million budget cut was reported on Monday in Breitbart News, a media group that supports Mr. Trump, reader responses were ebullient, with some arguing that America’s entire contribution should be rescinded.

Critics of Mr. Trump’s approach to the United Nations argue that American coercion can work against the United States, by subverting respect for the agreed-upon protocol for financial contributions. They say Mr. Trump should not expect others to follow his lead just because the United States wields the biggest monetary cudgel.

“The hallmark of this administration is not paying attention to the benefits that the United States actually gets in a rule-bound system with international institutions,” Stewart Patrick, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said after the Jerusalem vote last Thursday. “This is not something we can treat in a purely transactional way.”

Under a formula tied to economic size and other measurements established under an article of the United Nations Charter, the United States is responsible for 22 percent of the United Nations operating budget, the largest contribution. It paid about $1.2 billion of the 2016-2017 budget of $5.4 billion.

The United States also is the largest single financial contributor, at 28.5 percent, to a separate budget for United Nations peacekeeping operations, which totals $6.8 billion in the 2017-2018 budget finalized in June.

Then, as now, Ms. Haley took credit for cuts to that budget, which she said had exceeded $500 million. “We’re only getting started,” she said at the time.

According to the United States Mission, the reductions in the budget reached on Sunday included across-the-board cuts in expenses for travel, consultants and other operating expenses. It also included tightened rules on compensation and new ways to maximize the use of United Nations headquarters in New York to reduce the need for expensive leased space.

Human rights groups reached on Monday reserved judgment on the new budget, saying they needed to see more details on how it might affect the United Nations’ ability to monitor abuses or respond to emergencies — major parts of its work.

They also did not necessarily disagree with Ms. Haley’s appraisal of the cuts. But some worried about the potential impact of future reductions.

“There’s nothing wrong with increasing efficiency and eliminating waste at the U.N.,” said Louis Charbonneau, the United Nations director at Human Rights Watch. “But it’s crucial that we don’t curtail the U.N.’s ability to monitor, investigate and expose human rights abuses or its ability to save the lives of men, women and children worldwide.”

Democrats Are Actually Praising Team Trump for Taking on Russia

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(PhatzNewsRoom / The Daily Beast)    —    When Democrats talk about President Donald Trump and Russia, they usually unload on the White House with both barrels.

But that changed last week, when lawmakers—some of whom have been the most critical of Trump and his Kremlin-friendly actions—offered effusive praise for his administration after it issued new Russia-related sanctions in close consultation with Congress.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), a possible 2020 presidential contender, told The Daily Beast that the new designations were “a good sign and a good step in the right direction.”

The overall effort caught many lawmakers by surprise, after months of accusing the administration of stonewalling them over similar sanctions that the White House opposed from the start.

That’s because, despite its stated goal to rebuild U.S.-Russia relations, the administration last week sanctioned five Russian and Chechen individuals under the Magnitsky Act, a 2012 law that punishes alleged human rights abusers by freezing their assets and banning them from seeking visas. The sanctions targeted Ramzan Kadyrov, the head of the Chechen Republic and an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, over allegations of corruption and extrajudicial killings. The move drew a rebuke from the Kremlin, which called the U.S.’s actions “illegal” and “unfriendly” and said it further degrades the strained U.S.-Russia relationship.

Putin has condemned the Magnitsky Act and the resulting sanctions since it was passed, and he retaliated for the effort by banning Americans from adopting Russian children. The issue gained an international spotlight recently when it was revealed that Donald Trump Jr., the president’s son, met last year at Trump Tower with Russians alleged to have Kremlin ties. The younger Trump initially said the meeting centered around the Russian adoption issue, but it was later revealed that he took the meeting after he was promised damaging information on Hillary Clinton.

Throughout Trump’s first year in office, lawmakers have noticed a determination on the part of some administration officials to get tougher on Russia in light of its destabilizing actions in eastern Europe and its efforts to meddle in the 2016 U.S. election. But Trump himself, they have argued, is preventing a whole-of-government approach to counter Russian aggression. From his tiptoeing around the issue of Russia’s election meddling to his slow-walking of a sweeping new Russia sanctions law he was forced to sign in August, his posturing has often conflicted with that of his top officials, who have confronted Russia more directly.

In many ways, the Trump administration is on autopilot on Russia policy despite the commander-in-chief. In addition to the Magnitsky sanctions, the administration has taken steps in recent days aimed at countering Russian aggression. Last week, top officials approved a lethal defensive weapons sale to Ukraine, where the military is fighting Russian-backed separatists. The White House also unveiled its National Security Strategy, in which it names Russia as a “revisionist power” and suggests the country is an “adversary” that aims to “shape a world antithetical to U.S. values and interests.”

These developments run counter to the views expressed by Trump himself throughout his nascent political career. Trump has praised Putin and suggested that he took the Russian leader at his word when he told Trump that Russia had not meddled in the 2016 U.S. election—only to walk it back later, affirming that he trusts the U.S. intelligence community’s January assessment on the matter.

Yuri Chaika, Russia’s prosecutor general, has worked for years to undermine the Magnitsky Act and is believed to have spearheaded some of Russia’s meddling efforts in the American election as a way to fight back against the 2012 law. But U.S. sanctions have now hit Chaika personally.

On Friday, the U.S. took further actions under the Global Magnitsky Act, which former President Barack Obama signed into law last December as an extension of the original Magnitsky Act to include human rights abusers worldwide—not just in Russia. But the Trump administration, acting under the Global Magnitsky law for the first time since it was signed, levied sanctions at least against one Russian: Chaika’s son, Artem. The State Department alleges that he “has leveraged his father’s position and ability to award his subordinates to unfairly win state-owned assets and contracts and put pressure on business competitors.”

Last week’s swift and decisive actions left Trump’s critics on Capitol Hill stunned. The same administration that was slow-walking new Russia sanctions enacted in August did an about-face by working closely with Congress on the Magnitsky sanctions. The praise heaped upon Trump and his administration has come from unlikely sources: Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“I want to give the administration credit. The process on both Russia-specific and Global Magnitsky—we, throughout the process, were engaged with,” Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), the ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee, told The Daily Beast. “I knew how the reviews were being conducted. We had very close relationships. It was treated with the highest degree of priority among the administration. And they acted correctly.”

That was not the case for the August sanctions, known as the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA). Cardin and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, were left in the dark for weeks when they tried to inquire about why the State Department blew past an Oct. 1 deadline to issue guidance on the sanctions. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) feared it was another example of the administration showing its “blind spot” when it comes to Russia. But as Congress prepared to leave town for the holidays, Trump’s critics had nothing but kind words for the administration on its latest Russia-related actions.

“I think it’s important to recognize positive progress whenever it happens,” Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) told The Daily Beast. “Even though I disagree with the administration broadly on what I view as their failure to make human rights a higher priority and to take more decisive action on the sanctions powers that Congress—on a very strong bipartisan basis—gave them, I do think it’s an important step forward that the Trump administration has designated under the Magnitsky Act. I hope that will be followed by stronger steps.”

The CAATSA sanctions—which Trump reluctantly signed into law after his administration tried to weaken the sanctions in the face of overwhelming congressional opposition in both chambers—were enacted in retaliation for Russia’s incursions into eastern Europe and its meddling in the 2016 election, something that Trump often dismisses as an excuse for Hillary Clinton’s election loss.

“I’m trying to be as positive as I can about what steps there are by the administration that I think do push back on Russia’s illegal and unconscionable invasion of and occupation in Crimea and continued meddling in the affairs of Ukraine in the east, and the designation that have happened under the Magnitsky Act,” Coons added.

But Coons and his colleagues were unable to explain the differences in how the administration approached the Magnitsky sanctions and the CAATSA sanctions. While there was a slight delay on the Magnitsky actions, the Foreign Relations Committee did not make a fuss over it because administration officials were in constant contact over what they said were technical delays due to legal issues. The committee’s requests for information about the CAATSA delay were “mostly unexplained,” according to Sean Bartlett, a spokesman for Cardin, while the administration “was more forthcoming about the [Magnitsky] delays, keeping us apprised of progress or issues that came up.”

Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) was willing to look past the belated CAATSA measures due to the law’s complexity. Corker told The Daily Beast last week that unlike CAATSA—under which the State Department and Treasury Department must take into consideration U.S. companies that might be caught up in the sanctions—the Magnitsky “format is laid out—all you’ve got to do is name [the individuals] and it’s done.”

The State Department has chalked up its delay on the CAATSA sanctions to much of what Corker explained. But the department has signalled that it also wants to avoid the side effects that result when lawmakers such as Cardin and McCain—who co-authored the Global Magnitsky Act—go public with concerns that they’re being stonewalled by top administration officials.

“We are committed to engaging with Congress on their priorities. We welcome and appreciate the information provided by Congress and will continue to consider credible, specific information provided by these key partners,” a State Department spokesperson told The Daily Beast. “We encourage recommendations to be submitted privately to avoid unintended negative consequences.”

That was likely a reference to both McCain’s and Cardin’s public threats against the administration after the Oct. 1 delay. McCain, from his powerful perch atop the Armed Services Committee, told The Daily Beast he would continue to block Trump’s nominees to key positions, while Cardin suggested holding up defense appropriations bills until the executive branch complies with the law. The House Foreign Affairs Committee also joined the fray, with Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), the panel’s top Democrat, writing to Trump over the “baffling and unacceptable” delay which “sends a terrible message about American leadership on the global stage.”

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