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

November 25, 2017 - 8:04 PM

Survivors recall attack on mosque in Egypt's Sinai, 305 dead

ISMAILIA, Egypt (AP) — They arrived in five SUVs, took positions across from the mosque's door and windows, and just as the imam was about to deliver his Friday sermon from atop the pulpit, they opened fire and tossed grenades at the estimated 500 worshippers inside. When the violence finally stopped, more than 300 people, including 27 children, had been killed and 128 injured.

As the gunfire rang out and the blasts shook the mosque, worshippers screamed and cried out in pain. A stampede broke out in the rush toward a door leading to the washrooms. Others tried desperately to force their way out of the windows.

Those who survived spoke of children screaming as they saw parents and older brothers mowed down by gunfire or shredded by the blasts. Some marveled at their narrow escape from a certain death. Some families lost all or most male members in the massacre.

So composed were the militants that they methodically checked their victims for any sign of life after the initial round of blazing gunfire. Those still moving or breathing received a bullet to the head or the chest, the witnesses said. When the ambulances arrived they shot at them, repelling them as they got back into their vehicles and fled.

Friday's assault was Egypt's deadliest attack by Islamic extremists in the country's modern history, a grim milestone in a long-running fight against an insurgency led by a local affiliate of the Islamic State group. Al-Rawdah Mosque was in a sleepy village by the same name in Egypt's troubled northern Sinai, near the small town of Bir al-Abd.

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Congress coming back to crush of business in a fraught time

WASHINGTON (AP) — The crush of unfinished business facing lawmakers when they return to the Capitol would be daunting even if Washington were functioning at peak efficiency.

It's an agenda whose core items — tax cuts, a potential government shutdown, lots of leftover spending bills — could unravel just as easily as advance in factionalism, gamesmanship and a toxic political environment.

There's only a four-week window until a Christmas deadline, barely enough time for complicated negotiations even if December stays on the rails. And that's hardly a sure bet in President Donald Trump's capital.

Trump and congressional leaders plan a meeting Tuesday to discuss how to sidestep a shutdown and work though the legislative to-do list.

For the optimistic, it's plain that Democrats and Republicans have reasons to co-operate, particularly on spending increases for the Pentagon and domestic agencies whose budgets otherwise would be frozen. An additional round of hurricane aid should be bipartisan, and efforts to reauthorize a popular health care program for children seem to be on track.

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Funeral held for US border agent whose death not explained

EL PASO, Texas (AP) — Family, friends and law enforcement officers converged on an adobe Catholic church in El Paso, Texas, Saturday to mourn a Border Patrol agent whose death last weekend in the rugged and remote Big Bend area has not been explained.

Bagpipes played as Border Patrol pallbearers in green uniforms carried the U.S. flag-draped coffin of Rogelio Martinez, 36, into Our Lady of Guadalupe Church for a private funeral Mass. He died in a hospital Sunday of head and other injuries.

"It honours him to see law enforcement agencies from across the United States" attend the service, Border Patrol spokesman Ramiro Cordero told reporters outside the church.

Martinez was found Nov. 18 in a culvert along with his seriously injured partner, whose name has not been released, in a rugged area near Van Horn, about 30 miles (50 kilometres) from the border with Mexico and 110 miles (175 kilometres) southeast of El Paso.

Attorney General Jeff Session was scheduled to attend the funeral but it was not clear if he was there. Following the funeral, a graveside ceremony was held at Restlawn Cemetery in El Paso.

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Family says boy slain in Cleveland attack was good student

CLEVELAND (AP) — Family members say the 12-year-old boy killed by a stray bullet during a shooting attack near his father's beauty supply store in Cleveland was a good student who loved sports.

Abdel Bashiti, of Parma, was shot Friday night when he and his father, who owned the store, walked outside after gunfire erupted. Five teen boys between the ages of 14 and 16 standing in front of a liquor store next door were wounded, including a 16-year-old hospitalized with a head wound.

Relatives tell Cleveland.com that Abdel was a seventh-grader who was celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday with family members from all over the country. They say he only occasionally helped his father at the store.

Activists and local residents held a march in Abdel's memory and a rally to end violence on Saturday night.

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Who's the boss come Monday at consumer agency?

Who's the boss? That's the awkward question after the departing head of a government agency charged with looking after consumer rights appointed a deputy to temporarily fill his spot. The White House then named its own interim leader.

One job, two people — and two very different views on how to do it.

The first pick is expected to continue the aggressive policing of banks and other lenders that have angered Republicans. The second, President Donald Trump's choice, has called the agency a "joke," an example of bureaucracy run amok, and is expected to dismantle much of what the agency has done.

So come Monday, who will be leading the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau?

Senior Trump administration officials said Saturday that the law was on their side and they expect no trouble when Trump's pick for temporary director of the CFPB shows up for work. Departing director Richard Cordray, an Obama appointee long criticized by congressional Republicans as overzealous, had cited a different rule in saying the law was on his side.

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Zimbabwean minister describes raid during military takeover

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — Zimbabwe's former finance minister testified Saturday that armed, masked men in uniform abducted him from his home during the military operation leading to the ouster of longtime leader Robert Mugabe and held him for a week in an unidentified location, fueling debate about the legality of the popular, mostly peaceful takeover by the armed forces.

The account by Ignatius Chombo came a day after a High Court judge, a retired general, ruled that the military's actions last week, which commanders described as a move against "criminals" around Mugabe, were legal. While some critics said it set a dangerous precedent, the decision by Judge George Chiweshe reinforced the military's assertion that it acted within the law even though it set off events, including impeachment proceedings and street demonstrations against the 93-year-old Mugabe, that ended his 37-year rule.

The joyful inauguration on Friday of President Emmerson Mnangagwa, a former top aide to Mugabe, showed that most Zimbabweans are happy to have a new leader who might take steps to revive the shattered economy and grant them more freedoms. Even so, perceptions that the abrupt political transition was constitutionally sound are important to Zimbabwe's new leadership, which must prepare for 2018 elections and seeks to attract foreign investment.

However, Chombo and two leaders of the ruling ZANU-PF party's youth league who said they were abducted by the military before being handed over days later to the police described experiences reminiscent of human rights violations that were a routine occurrence during Mugabe's rule. The three men have been linked to a party faction loyal to Mugabe's wife, Grace, whose presidential ambitions triggered the military intervention.

"I was in the custody of armed persons who were dressed in soldiers' uniforms," said Chombo, who has been charged with corruption. "I don't know where I was taken to."

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Gorsuch establishes conservative cred in 1st year on court

WASHINGTON (AP) — More than 2,000 conservatives in tuxedos and gowns recently filled Union Station's main hall for a steak dinner and the chance to cheer the man who saved the Supreme Court from liberal control.

Justice Neil Gorsuch didn't disappoint them, just as he hasn't in his first seven months on the Supreme Court.

"Tonight I can report that a person can be both a publicly committed originalist and textualist and be confirmed to the Supreme Court," Gorsuch said to sustained applause from members of the Federalist Society, using terms by which conservatives often seek to distinguish themselves from more liberal judges.

The 50-year-old justice has been almost exactly what conservatives hoped for and liberals dreaded when he joined the court in April. He has consistently, even aggressively, lined up with the court's most conservative justices. He has even split with Chief Justice John Roberts, viewed by some as insufficiently conservative because of his two opinions upholding President Barack Obama's health law.

During arguments, Gorsuch has asked repeatedly about the original understanding of parts of the Constitution and laws, and he has raised questions about some long-standing court precedents, including the civil rights landmark ruling on "one person, one vote.

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No. 6 Auburn tops No. 1 Alabama 26-14, earns SEC title shot

AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — Auburn fans blanketed the field from end zone to end zone just like the last time they got to celebrate a stirring Iron Bowl win.

This time, Jarrett Stidham, Kerryon Johnson and No. 6 Auburn didn't need a miraculous final play to unleash the celebration. It was a build up to the crescendo as the Tigers beat top-ranked Alabama in a dominating 26-14 win Saturday. Auburn earned a berth in next week's Southeastern Conference title game against No. 7 Georgia.

The Tigers, an afterthought earlier this season, now have their sights set on one of the four playoff spots. And Auburn coach Gus Malzahn made it clear his two-loss squad deserves a shot. One of his team's two defeats was to defending national champion Clemson, No. 3 at the time.

"We've got to win next week and that's going to be a handful," Malzahn said of his upcoming rematch with Georgia. "I don't know, them experts got it figured out. I don't think anybody else has played two No. 1 teams and a No. (3) team. Put up our schedule against anybody."

Auburn fans covered the field in orange and blue after the final play, creating a scene similar to 2013 when the fourth-ranked Tigers beat No. 1 Alabama on a last-play, 109-yard return of a missed field goal. The Tigers went on to the national title game but had lost the three Iron Bowls since. This was Auburn's biggest margin of victory in the Iron Bowl since winning 49-26 in 1969.

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Shoppers out seeking deals, though sales have crept earlier

Parking lots were full and shopping bags were plentiful in some places Saturday as holiday gift-seekers were out looking for bargains, even as the competition among retailers to offer earlier deals and snag customers first has pulled sales forward.

At the Woodbury Common outlets north of New York City, retail expert Craig R. Johnson was impressed by how many people were there — though crowds were still not as heavy as several years ago before online shopping was such a draw.

"Some stores like Nike had like a hundred people in the checkout line," said Johnson, president of consulting group Customer Growth Partners. "Virtually everyone there was carrying a bag — one or two or three or more."

As shoppers said stores also seemed less crowded on Black Friday than in earlier years, data from Adobe Analytics, the research arm of software maker Adobe, showed that a record $5.03 billion was spent online by the end of the day, an increase of nearly 17 per cent from a year earlier.

It said the top-selling items on Black Friday included the Nintendo Switch, Hatchimals and Colleggtibles toys, PJ Masks items, LOL Surprise dolls, Ride On Cars, as well as Chromecast and Roku streaming devices.

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France to tackle violence on women; Italy grapples with same

PARIS (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday launched an initiative to combat violence and harassment against women in France, aiming to erase a sense of shame that breeds silence among victims and changing what he said is the country's sexist culture.

In a nearly hour-long speech at the Elysee Presidential Palace, Macron noted that 123 women died in attacks against them in France last year. Holding a moment of silence for them, he declared: "It is time for shame to change camps."

In neighbouring Italy, the head of the Chamber of Deputies marked International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women by noting with dismay that the "Weinstein case" hasn't inspired women to speak out on workplace harassment or assault like it has in the United States and other parts of Europe.

Laura Boldrini was referring to the onslaught of revelations after sexual harassment and assault allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein were made public.

"The Weinstein case lifted the lid on the shame of (sexual) abuse" in the glamorous world of U.S. cinema, "setting off an avalanche in many other areas of society," Boldrini said, addressing a special gathering in which all the 630 seats, usually occupied by lawmakers in Parliament's lower house, were instead filled by guests who came to speak of their rebellion against being victims of men.

News from © The Associated Press, 2017
The Associated Press

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