Silence from Trump as Moore-Alabama storm grows louder
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump dodged questions about the turmoil in the Alabama Senate race on Wednesday, declining to join national Republicans who've called for Roy Moore to abandon the race amid allegations of sexual impropriety with teenage girls. Far from surrendering, Moore's camp challenged the credibility of one of the accusers.
Trump, who withstood allegations of sexual assault weeks before his own election, was uncharacteristically silent when faced with questions about the scandal, which has rattled the party and left Moore's would-be colleagues threatening to expel him should he win. Republicans had looked to Trump as one of the few remaining hopes for pushing a fellow political rebel from the race.
Moore, meanwhile, offered fighting words in a tweet addressed to the top Senate Republican: "Dear Mitch McConnell, Bring. It. On."
Chris Hansen, executive director of the national GOP's Senate campaign committee, fired back, "Bring It On is a movie about cheerleaders."
In Alabama, Moore's campaign chairman and personal attorney did address reporters, trying to undercut the story of one of the women who has accused Moore of sexually accosting her when she was in high school.
What did they say? Roy Moore camp finally speaks
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — With barely an hour's notice, the Roy Moore campaign announced it would hold a news conference Wednesday afternoon.
There was intense speculation about what the embattled Republican Senate candidate would say as he faced the media for the first time since allegations of sexual conduct transformed what was supposed to be an easy win for his party on Dec. 12 into a national GOP nightmare. In the end, Moore didn't show. His attorney, Phillip L. Jauregui, did most of the talking in an appearance with Moore's campaign chairman that spanned less than eight minutes.
WHAT DID THEY SAY?
Like a courtroom attorney before a judge, Jauregui focused on two key points in an attempt to undermine the credibility of Moore's latest accuser. On Monday, a tearful Beverly Young Nelson said Moore aggressively groped her in a locked car when she was 16 years old. Jauregui seized on one detail in Nelson's account: that she hadn't had any contact with Moore since the alleged incident. It turns out, the lawyer said, that Moore was the judge assigned to her divorce case more than 20 years after the alleged assault. Jauregui handed out copies of a court filing from the divorce proceeding signed by Moore, but they do not reflect whether Moore ever saw the woman in court during the proceeding. "There was contact," Jauregui insisted.
Moore's attorney was more aggressive on his second point. The only evidence Nelson had against Moore, Jauregui noted, was a high school yearbook with the inscription, "To a sweeter more beautiful girl I could not say 'Merry Christmas,'" that appeared to be signed by Moore, who was in his 30s at the time. The campaign had a handwriting expert examine the signature, but Jauregui said it was too difficult to verify its authenticity from photos.
Trump: China agrees NKorea nuclear weapon freeze not enough
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump said Wednesday that the U.S. and China agree that North Korea cannot just freeze its nuclear weapons program in exchange for concessions and that it must eliminate its arsenal.
Trump was restating a long-standing U.S. position but suggested that China now concurred with Washington that a "freeze-for-freeze" agreement was unacceptable.
China and Russia have proposed that as a way to restart long-stalled negotiations: that the North could freeze its nuclear and missile programs in exchange for the U.S. and its close ally South Korea stopping regular military drills that Pyongyang considers as preparation for invasion.
China has not made a public disavowal of the proposal. China said Wednesday that it would send a high-level special envoy to North Korea amid an extended chill in relations between the neighbours.
Trump was speaking a day after he returned from a 12-day trip through Asia that included a state visit to China, where he was hosted by President Xi Jinping.
Police knew 'madman' had guns before killing rampage
RANCHO TEHAMA RESERVE, Calif. (AP) — Police on Wednesday called the deadly shooting rampage in California a clear case of "a madman on the loose" while defending their decision not to arrest the man for previously violating a court order prohibiting him from having guns.
At a tense news conference, police conceded that neighbours had repeatedly complained about Kevin Neal firing hundreds of rounds from his house among other erratic and violent behaviour.
Tehama County Assistant Sheriff Phil Johnston said authorities responded to neighbours' calls several times, but the 44-year-old Neal wouldn't open the door, so they left.
"He was not law enforcement friendly. He would not come to the door," Johnston said. "You have to understand we can't anticipate what people are going to do. We don't have a crystal ball."
On Tuesday, Neal shot and killed five people and wounded at least eight others at different locations around the rural community of Rancho Tehama Reserve. Police later shot and killed him.
Leonardo da Vinci's Christ painting sells for record $450M
NEW YORK (AP) — A painting of Christ by the Renaissance master Leonardo da Vinci sold for a record $450 million (380 million euros) at auction on Wednesday, smashing previous records for artworks sold at auction or privately.
The painting, "Salvator Mundi," Latin for "Savior of the World," is one of fewer than 20 paintings by Leonardo known to exist and the only one in private hands. It was sold by Christie's auction house, which didn't immediately identify the buyer.
"'Salvator Mundi' is a painting of the most iconic figure in the world by the most important artist of all time," said Loic Gouzer, co-chairman of post-war and contemporary art at Christie's. "The opportunity to bring this masterpiece to the market is an honour that comes around once in a lifetime."
The highest price paid for a work of art at auction had been $179 million (152 million euros), for Pablo Picasso's painting "Women of Algiers (Version O)" in May 2015, also at Christie's in New York. The highest known sale price for any artwork had been $300 million (253 million euros), for Willem de Kooning's painting "Interchange," sold privately in September 2015 by the David Geffen Foundation to hedge fund manager Kenneth C. Griffin.
A backer of the "Salvator Mundi" auction had guaranteed a bid of at least $100 million (85 million euros). The bidding opened at $75 million and ran for 19 minutes. The price hit $300 million about halfway through the bidding.
Australian Senate debates gays rights in marriage bill
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — A gay lawmaker on Thursday started the Australian Parliament's debate on legal recognition for same-sex marriage with an emotion speech in which he warned against winding back LGBT rights.
Dean Smith, a senator with the ruling conservative Liberal Party, has introduced a bill that would limit who could legally refuse to take part in same-sex marriage to churches, religious ministers and a new class of religious celebrants.
But many same-sex marriage opponents want amendments to broaden the range of businesses and individuals who can legally refuse to provide services such as cakes, flowers or a venue to same-sex couples and new free-speech protections for those who denounce gay marriage. Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is illegal in Australia outside religious institutions.
"Let me be clear: Amendments that seek to address other issues, or which seek to deny gay and lesbian Australians the full rights, responsibilities and privileges that they already have will be strenuously opposed," Smith told the Senate.
"Australians did not vote for equality before the law so that equality before the law that is already gained be stripped away," he added.
Hawaii acknowledges failures after dangerous patient escapes
HONOLULU (AP) — A dangerous Hawaii psychiatric patient who escaped a state hospital and flew to California before being captured Wednesday has prompted an investigation into why employees appeared to fail to do their jobs.
Dr. Virginia Pressler, director of the Hawaii Department of Health, said an internal inquiry indicated that workers inadvertently or intentionally neglected to supervise Randall Saito and notify their supervisors.
The apparent failures were spread through several shifts of workers, she said.
Seven hospital staff members were being placed on unpaid leave Wednesday for 30 days and more may be identified as the investigation continues, the department said in a statement.
Saito was gone at least eight hours before hospital staff alerted authorities.
After 37 years, rule of Zimbabwe's Mugabe appears to be over
HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — Zimbabwe's military was in control of the capital and the state broadcaster on Wednesday and was holding President Robert Mugabe and his wife under house arrest in what appeared to be a coup against the 93-year-old Mugabe, the world's oldest head of state.
The military was at pains, however, to emphasize it had not staged a military takeover, but was instead starting a process to restore Zimbabwe's democracy.
Still, the military appeared to have brought an end to Mugabe's long, 37-year reign in what the army's supporters praised as a "bloodless correction." South Africa and other neighbouring countries were sending in leaders to negotiate with Mugabe and the generals to encourage the transition.
Citizens in Zimbabwe's tidy capital, Harare, contributed to the feeling of a smooth transition by carrying on with their daily lives, walking past the army's armoured personnel carriers to go to work and to shops. Many who have never known any leader but Mugabe waited in long lines at banks to draw limited amounts of cash, a result of this once-prosperous country's plummeting economy.
Felix Tsanganyiso, who sells mobile airtime vouchers in Harare, said he was following the developments on WhatsApp.
US opposes Nazi speech, but will vote no at UN to banning it
WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States government wants you to know: It really, truly doesn't like Nazis.
At the United Nations this week, the U.S. plans to vote against a yearly resolution that condemns the glorification of Nazism, State Department officials said Wednesday. Although it may seem counterintuitive — who wouldn't want to condemn Nazis? — officials said free speech protections and other problems with the resolution make it impossible for America to support.
Introduced by Russia, the resolution calls on all U.N. nations to ban pro-Nazi speech and organizations, and to implement other restrictions on speech and assembly. That's a non-starter in the U.S., where First Amendment protections guarantee all the right to utter almost anything they want — even praise for Adolf Hitler's followers.
The United States votes against the resolution every year, along with just a handful of others, while the European Union nations and some others typically abstain. The resolution always passes overwhelmingly, usually with little fanfare.
But this year, the "no" vote from the U.S. is likely to create more of a stir, given it's the first rendition of the vote since President Donald Trump entered office. Trump adamantly denies any secret affinity for white supremacists. Yet his blame-on-both-sides response to violence in August at a white nationalist protest in Charlottesville, Virginia, gave fodder to Trump critics who say he's insufficiently critical of neo-Nazis.
Scherzer, Kluber win Cy Young Awards by wide margins
Max Scherzer heard his name and thrust his arms in the air, shouting and smiling big before turning to kiss his wife.
Corey Kluber, on the other hand, gulped once and blinked.
Two aces, two different styles — and now another Cy Young Award for each.
The animated Scherzer of the Washington Nationals coasted to his third Cy Young, winning Wednesday for the second straight year in the National League. He breezed past Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, drawing 27 of the 30 first-place votes in balloting by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.
Kluber's win was even more of a runaway. The Cleveland Indians ace took 28 first-place votes, easily outpacing Chris Sale of the Boston Red Sox for his second AL Cy Young.