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

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

November 26, 2017 - 8:04 PM

Iran TV videos target 2 detainees accused of espionage

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Iranian state television aired videos Sunday targeting a Briton and an American serving time on espionage charges, likely trying to pressure the U.S. and Britain as London considers making a $530 million payment to Tehran.

The case of Iranian-British national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has gained momentum in recent weeks as British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson faces tremendous criticism at home over his handling of it.

Meanwhile, state television aired footage of an emotional Chinese-American national Xiyue Wang as U.S. President Donald Trump continues his hard line against Tehran and its nuclear deal with world powers.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe, already serving a five-year prison sentence for allegedly planning the "soft toppling" of Iran's government while travelling there with her toddler daughter, faces new charges that could add 16 years to her prison term.

On Thursday, Iranian state television aired a seven-minute special report on Zaghari-Ratcliffe. It included close-ups of an April 2010 pay stub from her previous employer, the BBC World Service Trust.

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Suit challenges Trump's pick for consumer financial bureau

President Donald Trump's appointment of his budget director as interim director of a consumer financial protection agency championed by Democrats was challenged in a lawsuit filed in federal court Sunday night.

Leandra English, the federal official elevated to the position of interim director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau by its outgoing director, filed the suit against Trump and his choice, White House budget director Mick Mulvaney.

The suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia asked for a declaratory judgment and a temporary restraining order to block Mulvaney from taking over the bureau.

English cited the Dodd-Frank Act, which created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. She said that as deputy director, she became the acting director under the law and argued that the federal law the White House contends supports Trump's appointment of Mulvaney doesn't apply when another statute designates a successor.

English was chief of staff to bureau director Richard Cordray when he named her deputy director as he prepared to resign last Friday. Cordray was appointed to the position by President Barack Obama and has been long criticized by congressional Republicans as overzealous.

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FBI gave heads-up to fraction of Russian hackers' US targets

WASHINGTON (AP) — The FBI failed to notify scores of U.S. officials that Russian hackers were trying to break into their personal Gmail accounts despite having evidence for at least a year that the targets were in the Kremlin's crosshairs, The Associated Press has found.

Nearly 80 interviews with Americans targeted by Fancy Bear, a Russian government-aligned cyberespionage group, turned up only two cases in which the FBI had provided a heads-up. Even senior policymakers discovered they were targets only when the AP told them, a situation some described as bizarre and dispiriting.

"It's utterly confounding," said Philip Reiner, a former senior director at the National Security Council, who was notified by the AP that he was targeted in 2015. "You've got to tell your people. You've got to protect your people."

The FBI declined to discuss its investigation into Fancy Bear's spying campaign, but did provide a statement that said in part: "The FBI routinely notifies individuals and organizations of potential threat information."

Three people familiar with the matter — including a current and a former government official — said the FBI has known for more than a year the details of Fancy Bear's attempts to break into Gmail inboxes. A senior FBI official, who was not authorized to publicly discuss the hacking operation because of its sensitivity, declined to comment on when it received the target list, but said that the bureau was overwhelmed by the sheer number of attempted hacks.

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Contestant from South Africa wins Miss Universe crown

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters, who represented South Africa, won the Miss Universe crown Sunday.

The 22-year-old, who recently earned a business management degree, was crowned at The AXIS theatre at Planet Hollywood casino-resort on the Las Vegas Strip. The runner-up was Miss Colombia Laura Gonzalez, while the second runner-up was Miss Jamaica Davina Bennett.

Ninety-two women from around the world participated in the decades-old competition. This year's edition had the most contestants ever, including the first representatives in its history of Cambodia, Laos and Nepal.

Along with the title, Nel-Peters earned a yearlong salary, a luxury apartment in New York City for the duration of her reign and more prizes. She is the second woman from her home country to earn the crown.

Fans of the pageant submitted the questions that the final five contestants were asked during the competition.

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Conyers steps aside from Judiciary post amid sex allegations

WASHINGTON (AP) — Michigan Rep. John Conyers, under investigation over allegations he sexually harassed female staff members, said Sunday he will step aside as the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee while fiercely denying he acted inappropriately during his long tenure in Congress.

In a statement, the 88-year-old lawmaker made clear he would prefer to keep his leadership role on the committee, which has wide jurisdiction over U.S. law enforcement, from civil rights and impeachment of federal officials to sexual harassment protections.

But Conyers acknowledged maintaining the post would be a distraction "in light of the attention drawn by recent allegations made against me."

"I have come to believe that my presence as ranking member on the committee would not serve these efforts while the Ethics Committee investigation is pending," he said. "I cannot in good conscience allow these charges to undermine my colleagues in the Democratic Caucus, and my friends on both sides of the aisle in the Judiciary Committee and the House of Representatives."

Denying the allegations, Conyers, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus who was first elected to the House in 1964, urged lawmakers to allow him "due process."

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Advocates say Texas exploiting day labourers after Harvey

HOUSTON (AP) — Guillermo Miranda Vazquez starts his day in a parking lot near the Home Depot where he easily finds work alongside other day labourers who are cleaning up Houston after Hurricane Harvey.

Some days, he clears rotted drywall and hauls out furniture and carpet destroyed by Harvey's floodwaters. Other days, he chops fallen trees or helps to lay the foundations for new homes. He ventures daily into homes wearing a T-shirt, work pants and tennis shoes, often while surrounded by the pungent stench and raw sewage that flowed into homes during the flooding.

"I always wash and scrub myself, and I use alcohol or something similar so that I don't get infected," said Miranda, a native of Guatemala. "I haven't gotten sick yet."

Hundreds of day labourers like Miranda have quietly become an integral part of the recovery from Harvey, toiling in dangerous conditions amid the fear of being picked up by immigration authorities.

Harvey damaged or destroyed 200,000 homes and flooded much of Houston and smaller coastal communities with record amounts of rain and high winds. In a construction industry that already had labour shortages before the storm, it created a massive demand for the kind of work that day labourers have long performed after hurricanes and tropical storms.

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Tens of thousands stranded as Bali volcano closes airport

KARANGASEM, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesian authorities raised the alert for a rumbling volcano on Bali to the highest level on Monday, stranding tens of thousands of travellers as ash clouds forced the closure of the tourist island's international airport.

Mount Agung has been hurling clouds of white and dark grey ash about 3,000 metres (9,800 feet) into the atmosphere since the weekend. Video released by the national disaster agency showed a mudflow of volcanic debris and water known as a lahar moving down the volcano's slopes. It said lahars could increase as it's rainy season and warned people to stay away from rivers.

Bali's airport was closed early Monday after tests indicated ash had reached its airspace and authorities raised the volcano's alert to the highest danger level.

Flight information boards showed rows of cancellations as tourists arrived at the busy airport expecting to catch flights home.

Airport spokesman Air Ahsanurrohim said 445 flights were cancelled, stranding about 59,000 travellers. The closure is in effect until Tuesday morning though officials said the situation will be reviewed every six hours.

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Egyptian village where mosque was attacked had been warned

CAIRO (AP) — Elders of a village in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula where militants killed 305 people in a mosque had been warned by Islamic State operatives to stop collaborating with security forces and to suspend rituals associated with Islam's mystical Sufi movement, security officials and residents said Sunday.

The latest warning came as recently as a week ago, telling villagers in Al-Rawdah not to hold Sufi rituals on Nov. 29-30 to commemorate the birth of the Prophet Muhammad, according to residents and the officials who work for security and military intelligence agencies operating in Sinai.

Local operatives of the Islamic State affiliate in Sinai consider Sufis to be heretics who should be killed. Ahmed Saqr, an expert on the Sinai insurgency, said militants had publicly identified the mosque, which also serves as a Sufi centre, as a target months ago.

He wrote Saturday in a Facebook post that the selection of the Al-Rawdah mosque as a target "raises questions about those who read, analyze and prepare in our security agencies," and whether anything could have been done to prevent the "untold horrors."

Mohammed Ibrahim, a university student from the village, said militants had warned residents a few days before Friday's attack not to collaborate with security forces. The warning, he told The Associated Press by telephone Sunday from the nearby town of Bir al-Abd, followed the detention three weeks ago by villagers of three suspected militants who were handed over to security forces.

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Carson Wentz, Eagles can become NFL's 1st to win 10 games

The Philadelphia Eagles have a chance to become the first NFL team this season to reach double-digit wins in a game pitting the league's past No. 2 overall draft picks.

Carson Wentz has the Eagles atop the NFC East in his second season and will face off against Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky.

The roof is open when the Tennessee Titans try to beat Indianapolis for the first time in Lucas Oil Stadium.

Cam Newton has tight end Greg Olsen back when the Panthers visit the Jets, and Jameis Winston will be watching again when Tampa Bay visits Atlanta.

Miami is visiting New England. Kansas City will try to bounce back from an ugly loss as it hosts Buffalo.

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Meredith buying Time Inc. for about $1.8 billion

NEW YORK (AP) — Meredith Corp. announced Sunday that it is buying Time Inc. for about $1.8 billion, a deal CEO Stephen Lacy called "a transformative and financially compelling growth opportunity" that joins two giant magazine companies.

Meredith brings with it a magazine portfolio that includes Better Homes & Gardens, Family Circle, allrecipes and Shape, while Time Inc. owns properties including Time, Sports Illustrated, People, Fortune and Entertainment Weekly.

The companies said the deal was unanimously approved by their boards of directors and will close early next year.

Meredith will pay $18.50 per share in cash for Time's nearly 100 million outstanding shares. It said it is using $3.55 billion in financing commitments from a variety of lenders and a $650 million preferred equity from Koch Equity Development, an investment arm of Koch Industries, to finance the deal and pay down existing debt. Prior to the announcement, Meredith had just $28 million in cash on hand, according to its latest quarterly report.

Combined, the companies posted $4.8 billion in revenue last year. Meredith expects it will save up to $500 million in costs in the first two years of operation and plans to "aggressively pay down" debt by 2020. Koch Equity Development will not have a seat on the board nor influence editorial operations, the company said.

News from © The Associated Press, 2017
The Associated Press

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