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

December 03, 2017 - 8:04 PM

Trump lashes out at own FBI in a series of tweets

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump launched a fresh attack Sunday on the credibility of his own FBI, responding to revelations that an FBI agent was removed from special counsel Robert Mueller's team investigating Russian election meddling because of anti-Trump text messages.

Trump, two days after his former national security adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, again denied that he directed FBI Director James Comey to stop investigating Flynn.

The Republican president offered a running Twitter commentary Sunday amid renewed focus on Mueller's probe and Flynn's decision to co-operate with the investigation as part of his plea agreement. Democrats said the developments suggested growing evidence of co-ordination between Trump's circle and Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the panel is beginning to see "the putting together of a case of obstruction of justice" against Trump.

"I think we see this in indictments ... and some of the comments that are being made. I see this in the hyperfrenetic attitude of the White House, the comments every day, the continual tweets," Feinstein said. "And I see it most importantly in what happened with the firing of Director Comey, and it is my belief that that is directly because he did not agree to lift the cloud of the Russia investigation. That's obstruction of justice."

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CVS bids $69 billion for Aetna amid health care changes

Drugstore operator CVS is making a $69 billion offer for insurer Aetna as it tries to position itself as a one-stop shop for Americans' health care needs with prescription drugs, clinics and insurance plans to cover those goods and services.

The companies announced Sunday that CVS Health Corp. will pay about $207 in cash and stock for each share of Aetna Inc., a 29 per cent premium over Aetna's stock price before the first report about a possible deal in October.

The mammoth acquisition pairs a company that runs more than 9,700 drugstores and 1,100 walk-in clinics with an insurer covering around 22 million people. CVS Health Corp. is also one of the nation's biggest pharmacy benefit managers, processing more than a billion prescriptions a year for insurance companies, including Aetna.

The companies planned a Monday morning conference call to discuss the deal.

The deal's impact on prescription drug prices is uncertain. Aetna customers could first see some changes in how their plans are managed. Over time, a bulked-up CVS may gain more negotiating leverage over prices, but it is difficult to say how much would trickle down to customers.

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10 Things to Know for Monday

Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Monday:

1. WHO INSISTS FBI IS 'IN TATTERS'

President Trump attacks the bureau's credibility, following revelations an FBI agent who sent anti-Trump text messages was removed from the team investigating Russian election meddling.

2. WHY CVS WANTS TO GET INTO INSURANCE BUSINESS

CVS plans to buy insurance giant Aetna in a roughly $69 billion deal that could help the drugstore chain become a one-stop-shop for health care.

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Kushner: Trump still undecided on Israel's capital

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump has not yet decided whether to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital or whether to proceed immediately in moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to the holy city. That's according to his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner.

Kushner said Sunday that the president continues to weigh his options ahead of an announcement on the matter that is expected this week.

"The president is going to make his decision," Kushner said in a rare public appearance at an event hosted by the Brookings Institution, a Washington think-tank . "He is still looking at a lot of different facts."

Kushner's comments were his first public remarks on his efforts to restart peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. And, they came as he faces increasing scrutiny over actions taking during the transition period following former national security adviser Michael Flynn's guilty plea on charges of lying to the FBI.

Shortly before Kushner spoke, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas warned that American recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital would jeopardize the White House's Mideast peace efforts.

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Yemen's rebel alliance unravels amid Sanaa street clashes

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Snipers took over rooftops in residential areas, tanks deployed and militiamen set up checkpoints Sunday across the Yemeni capital, where fighting forced families to hunker down indoors in anticipation of more violence.

Five days of bombings and heavy gunfire have underscored the unraveling of the already fragile alliance between Yemen's strongman and former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, and the Shiite rebels known as Houthis. The two sides joined ranks three years ago and swept across the capital, Sanaa, forcing the country's internationally recognized president to flee the country and seek military intervention led by Saudi Arabia.

After months of political and military stalemate, the street battles between Saleh's forces and the Houthi militiamen have marked a turning point in the conflict. The two sides had been enemies before the six-year-war that began in 2004 when Saleh was a president. Their alliance, in the eyes of many Yemenis, was doomed to fail given their stark differences.

The Iran-backed rebels perceive themselves as a religious awakening movement, while Saleh is a pragmatic politician, shifting political alliances, buying tribal loyalties and exploiting Yemen's power fault lines throughout his three-decades in power before he was ousted after the country's Arab Spring uprising in 2011.

Over the past 48 hours, in a series of surprise announcements, all of Yemen's political players spoke about turning a new page and unifying against the Houthis — a new alliance that appeared to have been in the making for some time as the Shiite rebels have accused Saleh of working against them.

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Fight over Trump travel restrictions back to appeals courts

SEATTLE (AP) — For most of the time Syrian refugee Mohammad Al Zayed has been in the United States, judges have been wrestling with the Trump administration's efforts to impose travel restrictions that he says would keep him from seeing relatives who remain overseas.

It's taken an emotional toll — one that continues this week as two U.S. appeals courts take up the issue yet again.

"It's been 10 months, and we're stuck," Al Zayed, a janitor at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, said through an Arabic interpreter. "We can't go back. We can't bring our loved ones here."

Citing national security concerns, President Donald Trump announced his initial travel ban on citizens of certain Muslim-majority nations in late January, bringing havoc and protests to airports around the country. A federal judge in Seattle soon halted that ban as discriminatory, and since then, the restrictions have been up to the U.S. Supreme Court and back down to the federal district courts as the administration has rewritten them.

The third and latest version targets about 150 million potential travellers from Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria and Yemen, along with some Venezuelan government officials and their families.

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Amid the bloodshed, Baltimore group seeks to break the cycle

BALTIMORE (AP) — Akai Alston was 13 when he was shot for the first time. It was during a robbery in East Baltimore, in broad daylight.

As he lay in his hospital bed, shaken and frightened, he knew he had a choice to make.

"I put it in my head that I'd rather be a suspect than a victim," he said.

Ten years later, Alston faced another grim decision. He was dealing crack and hooked on prescription pills. He'd squeezed triggers, and seen friends and family members lose their lives to gunshots. After his last conviction, for accessory to murder, he knew was on the path to die in jail or die in the streets. This time, he rejected both.

Now Alston is a community outreach co-ordinator for U-TURNS, a project that tries to give Baltimore teenagers and young adults an alternative to the streets. They can find a safe space, food, job training, holistic health practices such as yoga and acupuncture, mental health services and — most important — mentorship.

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All-SEC title game on horizon? Alabama gets nod over Ohio St

Back in January 2012, the day after Alabama beat LSU in the BCS championship game, the commissioners of the FBS conferences gathered in New Orleans to discuss the future of the college football post-season.

There had already been movement toward tearing up the unpopular Bowl Championship Series, but the all-Southeastern Conference championship game was the final blow. The College Football Playoff was created soon after.

On Sunday, the field for the fourth College Football Playoff was set and for the first time two teams from the same conference made it. Alabama (11-1) will face Clemson (12-1) in the Sugar Bowl and fellow SEC member Georgia (12-1) will play Oklahoma (12-1) in the Rose Bowl.

Another all-SEC championship game could be on the horizon, and for the second straight year the value of a conference championship was diminished. Unlike in 2012, though, the winds of change are not picking up — even with both the Big Ten and Pac-12 sitting out this playoff altogether.

"It doesn't change my view that the present structure is best for college football," Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany said during an interview with ESPN. "I can be supportive of (the selection committee) and at the same time be disappointed and a little bit surprised."

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Giants QB Eli Manning's starting streak ends in Week 13

The most noteworthy development in Week 13 of the NFL season is not happening at a game with much significance in the standings: When the New York Giants face the Oakland Raiders, Eli Manning's starting streak with end.

The two-time Super Bowl MVP has been benched by the Giants. He had started 210 consecutive games, a run that began all the way back in 2004.

Instead, the last-place Giants announced they will start New York Jets castoff Geno Smith at Oakland.

The biggest games Sunday involve NFC South teams, especially when the New Orleans Saints host the Carolina Panthers. Both enter the day atop the division with 8-3 records.

The third-place club, the reigning conference champion Atlanta Falcons, are 7-4 going into their game against NFC North leader Minnesota.

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Skiing Santas ho-ho-hold court at ski resort's annual bash

NEWRY, Maine (AP) — Santa Claus is known for shimmying down chimneys, but for one day a year, dozens of Santas try to avoid tumbling down a mountain.

The 18th annual Santa event took place at Sunday River ski resort in western Maine on Sunday. The event is highlighted by Santas skiing and snowboarding down the slopes to raise money for the Sunday River Community Fund, which benefits groups in the area.

One of the Santas was Yelena Walsh of Boston, a 50-year-old financial analyst who was once a professional skier in Russia. Walsh said the event is the highlight of her holiday season.

"In Russia, we didn't celebrate Christmas. We celebrated New Year," she said. "This is a very good and very festive way to start the ski season. It's an opportunity to dress up and act like a child."

The skiing Santas participate in full Kringle garb, including, of course, a white beard and red hat. The Santas must all donate a minimum of $15.

News from © The Associated Press, 2017
The Associated Press

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