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    A real estate investment firm co-founded by President Donald Trump's son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner, is betting big on the administration's Opportunity Zone tax breaks but isn't that interested in steering its investors to the poorest, most-downtrodden areas that the program seeks to revitalize. New York-based Cadre, in which Kushner still holds at least a $25 million passive stake, made it clear to potential investors in recent marketing materials that it doesn't plan to look for development deals in most of those zones because of their 'unfavorable growth prospects.' Instead, Cadre says it will target a 'small subset' of zones in such cities as Los Angeles, Seattle and Miami where both populations and incomes are already set to rise faster than the national average. Cadre is a high-profile example of how early investor interest in the program appears focused on the places that need it the least: zones that qualified for the tax breaks despite already drawing substantial investment — or undergoing obvious gentrification. Examples of such zones include a swath of the Upper East Side of Manhattan that includes the top of Fifth Avenue's Museum Mile, where three-bedroom apartments overlooking Central Park sell for $4 million. Another is Ledroit Park in the nation's capital, which falls mostly in what real estate blog Curbed has anointed Washington's 'most gentrified' ZIP code. Yet another Opportunity Zone includes part of The Willows neighborhood of Menlo Park, California, less than 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) from Stanford's campus, where the tech boom has driven home prices to $1,500 per square foot, 10 times the national average. The Opportunity Zone where Amazon put its New York City headquarters in Queens has a median household income of more than $130,000. 'It's hard to imagine why we should be subsidizing that,' said Brett Theodos, a researcher whose Urban Institute analysis found nearly one-third of the nation's more than 8,700 Opportunity Zones are showing signs of pre-existing heavy investment. 'These investors are not bad people. They are responding to the incentives.' Such is the major criticism of the Investing in Opportunity Act, which became law last December as part of the Republican-sponsored tax overhaul. Promoted by Trump in a White House event this past week, it offers developers potentially millions of dollars in capital gains tax breaks to invest in zones selected by states based on such factors as high poverty and low income. While the program highlights an average 32 percent poverty rate in the zones, it includes a wide range of areas — and allows 'contiguous' tracts that might not be low-income but are close enough to distressed areas to qualify. Cadre said in a statement to The Associated Press that the neighborhoods it is targeting for investment may be poised for growth but still exhibit low median incomes and are 'capital deprived.' 'At the end of the day, the Opportunity Zone tax benefits only kick in if we succeed for the communities in which we invest,' the statement said. There's no evidence the administration sought to include better-off Opportunity Zones in the program. A White House spokesman told the AP this past week that the choice of the zones was up to the states. The Treasury Department, which certified the final roster of zones, declined to comment on the presence of gentrified areas in the program. For some funds, the obvious gentrification of some zones was an explicit selling point, a much safer bet than putting money in seriously distressed areas. Anthony Scaramucci, the hedge fund executive who was briefly the White House's communications director for Trump, is trying to raise as much as $3 billion for Opportunity Zone projects. On a marketing call this past week, he pitched both a warehouse project in Savannah, Georgia, and a 'swanky' hotel project in Oakland, California. 'For those of you who have yet to go to that part of the Bay Area, I can tell you that it is fully gentrifying,' Scaramucci said. Fundrise, another Opportunity Zone fund that is trying to raise $500 million for investments, is targeting many of the same areas as Cadre, ranking its 'Top Ten' targets for Opportunity Zone investing based on which have the fastest-rising housing costs. One measure of how much the zones overlap with developers' pre-existing interests is how much they overlap with their current holdings. An AP review of Kushner's holdings found that he holds stakes in 13 Opportunity Zone properties, all in locations deemed by the Urban Institute to be showing indications of rapid change or full-out gentrification. An AP investigation found that Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, both helped push for the program and as a couple stand to benefit financially from it. Even though Kushner gave up any management role in Cadre, ethics watchdogs say it is a conflict that arose from their decision to become presidential advisers without divesting from their extensive investments. Marcy Hart, a Philadelphia real estate tax lawyer who has advised clients on the Opportunity Zone program, says she hasn't seen much indication that the program is redirecting investment to places that lacked it before. 'There are some projects that have probably come online because they're in Opportunity Zones,' she said. 'But my clients were already investing in these areas.' Even some of the program's strongest proponents have acknowledged that not all the Opportunity Zones are equally needy. At a Kemp Foundation gala last month honoring Sean Parker, a San Francisco venture capitalist who helped push for the Opportunity Zone's creation, Parker himself said that the zones included some 'low hanging fruit,' neighborhoods that were already clearly drawing investment. But the program's incentives are great enough, he said, that after the obvious opportunities are exhausted, investors will eventually turn their attention to needier areas. 'There will be a lot of capital sitting in opportunity funds, and it's going to have to find a place to go,' he said. ___ AP Business Writer Bernard Condon in New York contributed to this report.
  • British Prime Minister Theresa May and former Prime Minister Tony Blair have exchanged sniping attacks as Britain's divorce from the European Union keeps getting uglier. May has accused Blair of 'undermining' her efforts to deliver Brexit by calling for a second referendum on whether or not Britain should leave the bloc. May, of the Conservative party, says his comments were 'an insult to the office he once held.' Blair shot back, declaring that May had been 'irresponsible' for trying to 'steamroll' lawmakers into accepting her deal or face the prospects of no deal at all. The former Labour Party leader says Sunday he had a right to comment on 'the most important decision our country has taken since the end of World War II.' The comments come amid heated discussions on whether another Brexit vote is appropriate.
  • Nearly 200 countries at the U.N. climate talks have agreed upon universal, transparent rules on how nations can cut greenhouse gas emissions and curb global warming, putting the principles of the 2015 Paris climate accord into action. But to the frustration of environmentalists and a group of countries who were urging more ambitious climate goals, negotiators on Saturday delayed decisions on two other climate issues until next year in an effort to get a deal on them. 'Through this package, you have made a thousand little steps forward together,' said Michal Kurtyka, a senior Polish official chairing the talks. He said while each individual country would likely find some parts of the agreement it didn't like, efforts had been made to balance the interests of all parties. 'We will all have to give in order to gain,' he said. 'We will all have to be courageous to look into the future and make yet another step for the sake of humanity.' The talks in Poland took place against a backdrop of growing concern among scientists that global warming on Earth is proceeding faster than governments are responding to it. Last month, a study found that global warming will worsen disasters such as the deadly California wildfires and the powerful hurricanes that have hit the United States this year. And a recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, concluded that while it's possible to cap global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century compared to pre-industrial times, this would require a dramatic overhaul of the global economy, including a shift away from fossil fuels. Alarmed by efforts to include this in the final text of the meeting, the oil-exporting nations of the U.S., Russia, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait blocked an endorsement of the IPCC report mid-way through this month's talks in the Polish city of Katowice. That prompted uproar from vulnerable countries like small island nations and environmental groups. The final text at the U.N. talks omits a previous reference to specific reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, and merely welcomes the 'timely completion' of the IPCC report, not its conclusions. Last-minute snags forced negotiators in Katowice to go into extra time, after Friday's scheduled end of the conference had passed without a deal. One major sticking point was how to create a functioning market in carbon credits. Economists believe that an international trading system could be an effective way to drive down greenhouse gas emissions and raise large amounts of money for measures to curb global warming. But Brazil wanted to keep the piles of carbon credits it had amassed under an old system that developed countries say wasn't credible or transparent. Among those that pushed back hardest was the United States, despite President Donald Trump's decision to pull out of the Paris climate accord and his promotion of coal as a source of energy. 'Overall, the U.S. role here has been somewhat schizophrenic — pushing coal and dissing science on the one hand, but also working hard in the room for strong transparency rules,' said Elliot Diringer of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, a Washington think tank. When it came to closing potential loopholes that could allow countries to dodge their commitments to cut emissions, 'the U.S. pushed harder than nearly anyone else for transparency rules that put all countries under the same system, and it's largely succeeded.' 'Transparency is vital to U.S. interests,' added Nathaniel Keohane, a climate policy expert at the Environmental Defense Fund. He noted that breakthrough in the 2015 Paris talks happened only after the U.S. and China agreed on a common framework for transparency. 'In Katowice, the U.S. negotiators have played a central role in the talks, helping to broker an outcome that is true to the Paris vision of a common transparency framework for all countries that also provides flexibility for those that need it,' said Keohane, calling the agreement 'a vital step forward in realizing the promise of the Paris accord.' Among the key achievements in Katowice was an agreement on how countries should report their greenhouses gas emissions and the efforts they're taking to reduce them. Poor countries also secured assurances on getting greater predictability about financial support to help them cut emissions, adapt to inevitable changes such as sea level rises and pay for damages that have already happened. 'The majority of the rulebook for the Paris Agreement has been created, which is something to be thankful for,' said Mohamed Adow, a climate policy expert at Christian Aid. 'But the fact countries had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the finish line shows that some nations have not woken up to the urgent call of the IPCC report' on the dire consequences of global warming. In the end, a decision on the mechanics of an emissions trading system was postponed to next year's meeting. Countries also agreed to consider the issue of raising ambitions at a U.N. summit in New York next September. Canada's Environment Minister Catherine McKenna suggested there was no alternative to such meetings if countries want to tackle global problems, especially as multilateral diplomacy is under pressure from nationalism. 'The world has changed, the political landscape has changed,' she told The Associated Press. 'Still you're seeing here that we're able to make progress. We're able to discuss the issues. We're able to come to solutions.' ___ Read more stories on climate issues by The Associated Press at https://www.apnews.com/Climate
  • While a Huawei executive faces possible U.S. charges over trade with Iran, the Chinese tech giant's ambition to be a leader in next-generation telecoms is colliding with security worries abroad. Australia and New Zealand have barred Huawei Technologies Ltd. as a supplier for fifth-generation networks. They joined the United States and Taiwan, which limit use of technology from the biggest global supplier of network switching gear. Last week, Japan's cybersecurity agency said Huawei and other vendors deemed risky will be off-limits for government purchases. None has released evidence of wrongdoing by Huawei, which denies it is a risk and has operated a laboratory with Britain's government since 2010 to conduct security examinations of its products. But the accusations, amid rising tension over Chinese technology ambitions and spying, threaten its ability to compete in a sensitive field as carriers prepare to invest billions of dollars. 'This is something that's definitely concerning Huawei at this stage, because there is a political angle to it and a business angle,' said Nikhil Bhatra, a senior researcher for IDC. Huawei is no ordinary electronics supplier. The company founded in 1987 by a former military engineer is China's first global tech brand and a national champion at the head of an industry Beijing is promoting as part of efforts to transform this country into a technology creator. It has China's biggest corporate research-and-development budget at 89.7 billion yuan ($13 billion) in 2017 — 10 percent more than Apple Inc.'s — and foreign customers can draw on a multibillion-dollar line of credit from the official China Development Bank. That puts Huawei at the heart of strains over the ruling Communist Party's technology aspirations, competition with Western economies and ties between companies and government, including possibly spying. A European Union official, Andrus Ansip, expressed concern that Chinese rules requiring telecom equipment suppliers to cooperate with intelligence services would involve possible 'mandatory backdoors' in computer or telecom systems. 'Do we have to be worried about Huawei and other Chinese companies? Yes, I think we have to be worried,' said Ansip, the trade bloc's vice president for a digital single market. The company says it is employee-owned and operates independently. It denies it designs equipment to allow eavesdropping or that it is controlled by the Communist Party — a stance critics including some U.S. senators say is doubtful in China's state-dominated system. The company notes it uses the same global components suppliers as Western manufacturers. 'Not a single shred of evidence against the company has ever been presented,' Huawei said in a written response to questions. The company is the 'most examined telecoms equipment vendor,' the statement said. It said foreign officials visit regularly to see 'the lengths we go to assure them of the integrity of our technology.' Huawei, headquartered on a leafy campus in Shenzhen, near Hong Kong, has been working on 5G since 2009 and is one of the major suppliers of the technology, along with Sweden's LM Ericsson and Finland's Nokia Corp. The company whose technology winds up being adopted stands to reap billions of dollars from sales and license fees. 5G promises more than just faster mobile phone service. It is designed to support vastly expanded networks of devices from internet-linked cars and medical equipment to factory robots and nuclear power plants. Annual sales of 5G network gear are forecast to reach $11 billion by 2022, according to IHS Markit. That makes it more politically sensitive, raises the potential cost of security failures and requires more trust in suppliers. Even a 'really minuscule' risk could disqualify a provider, said Andrew Kitson, head of technology industry research for Fitch Solutions. But Kitson sees commercial motives behind the accusations against Huawei. He said many come from U.S. and European suppliers that are losing market share to Chinese rivals. 'There never has been any actual proof,' said Kitson. 'They've only got to make a few insinuations for other governments to sit up and think, hang on, even if there is no proof, it is too much of a risk.' Huawei took a new hit on Dec. 1 when its chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, was arrested in Vancouver on U.S. charges of lying to banks about transactions with Iran. Huawei is more politically important than ZTE Corp., a Chinese rival that was nearly driven out of business after Washington blocked it from buying U.S. technology over exports to Iran and North Korea. President Donald Trump restored access after ZTE paid a $1 billion fine, replaced its executives and hired U.S.-picked compliance officers. That won't work with Huawei, which is the 'key to Beijing's aspirations to lead globally' on 5G, said Eurasia Group in a report. It said Chinese leaders would see an attempt to impose ZTE-style controls as 'tantamount to an open technology war.' Huawei's U.S. business evaporated after a 2012 congressional report labeled the company and ZTE security threats. The same year, Australia banned it from bidding on a national high-speed broadband network. Taiwan, the self-ruled island Beijing claims as its territory and regularly threatens to attack, imposed curbs in 2013 on Huawei and other Chinese telecoms technology. Lawmakers are discussing expanding the controls. Elsewhere, Huawei supplies phone carriers in Asia, Africa and Europe. The company says it serves 45 of the 50 biggest global telecom operators. Its 2017 global sales rose 16 percent to 604 billion yuan ($92.5 billion) while profits increased 28 percent to 47.5 billion yuan ($7.3 billion). Huawei accounted for 28 percent of last year's $32 billion global sales of mobile network gear, according to IHS Markit. Ericsson was second with 27 percent and Nokia had 23 percent. ZTE, South Korea's Samsung Electronics Corp. and other vendors made up the rest. Asked about the impact of security concerns on its 5G business, Huawei said this year's total revenue — which also includes the No. 3 global smartphone brand and an enterprise unit — should exceed $100 billion. That would be an 8 percent gain over 2017. Washington is pressing allies to shun Huawei, but Germany, France and Ireland say they have no plans to ban any 5G network suppliers. Huawei 'has an important place in France' and 'its investments are welcome,' the country's economy minister, Bruno Le Maire, said Dec. 7, according to news reports. The company has agreements to field test 5G equipment with Deutsche Telekom, Bell Canada, France's Bouygues, Telecom Italia, India's Bharti Airtel and carriers in Singapore, South Korea and Ireland. China's foreign ministry complained critics were 'hyping so-called threats' to hamper Huawei's business without evidence. As for Ansip's concern about eavesdropping, 'we have no such law that authorizes' backdoors, said a spokesman, Lu Kang. IDC's Bhatra warned excluding Huawei would leave countries with only two major 5G suppliers, Ericsson and Nokia. He said that would limit competition, raise prices and might slow innovation. Already, industry analysts say telecoms equipment costs more in the United States and other markets that lack lower-priced Chinese competitors. 'There are quite widespread implications,' said Bhatra.
  • Beware, Netflix customers: Scammers are trying to get your personal information using a realistic-looking email that falsely claims to be from the streaming service. >> Scam alert: Fake Amazon email targets online shoppers Ohio's Solon Police Department took to Facebook earlier this month to warn subscribers of the phishing scam, an email that asks recipients to update their payment information. 'We're having some trouble with your current billing information,' reads the email. 'We'll try again, but in the meantime you may want to update your payment details.' >> See a screenshot here Police explained that 'criminals want you to click the links, so that you voluntarily give your personal identifying information away.' 'It is very successful,' the Police Department's Facebook post said. 'Don't put your guard down. Contact the source of the email by another method that you trust, to make sure your accounts are maintained. Don't click the links. The links could also be a way to install malware on your computer.' >> Read more trending news  Other versions of the scam email are also making the rounds. Check out some of them below: Customers should 'never enter [their] login or financial details after following a link in an email or text message,' Netflix says on its website, adding that customers should 'never click on any links or open any attachments' in an unexpected message. Read more tips here. To report a suspicious email to Netflix, click here.
  • Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador detailed plans Saturday to 'rescue' the national oil industry by boosting crude production at the state-owned oil company by 45 percent before 2025. Speaking from Ciudad del Carmen, a Gulf coast city 50 miles (85 kilometers) from an oil field that sustained Mexican public finances for decades, Lopez Obrador said the goal is for Petroleos Mexicanos to raise crude output to 2.4 million barrels per day, from the current 1.65 million barrels per day. 'We are going to invest where we know there's petroleum and where it costs us less to extract it,' he told a jubilant crowd of oil workers. Lopez Obrador previously announced plans to invest 75 billion pesos ($3.65 billion) of savings from a government austerity program into Pemex. The company has struggled to come up with funds in recent years amid mounting pension obligations, high tax rates, rampant fuel theft and inefficiencies. The president shared an anecdote about once chatting with a man on a plane to Ciudad del Carmen who was delivering a $1 million watch to a customer in the city, suggesting that the watch was a symbol of corruption and theft in the oil industry. 'This is why the country is sinking,' he said, vowing to root out pilfering of the state entity. Lopez Obrador described his plan to 'rescue' the oil industry as 'realistic' and reiterated a pledge to move Pemex's headquarters from the capital to Ciudad del Carmen.
  • The Latest on the U.N. climate talks in Poland (all times local): 10 p.m. Officials from around the world have agreed upon a set of rules to govern the 2015 Paris climate accord after two weeks of U.N. climate talks in Poland. Michal Kurtyka, a Polish official chairing the talks in Katowice, gaveled the deal Saturday after diplomats and ministers from almost 200 countries approved. The U.N. talks were meant to provide firm guidelines for countries on how to transparently report their greenhouse gas emissions and their efforts to reduce them. Scientists say emissions of gases such as carbon dioxide need to drop sharply by 2030 to prevent potentially catastrophic global warming. The meeting postponed decisions on pledging more ambitious action to fight global warming and on regulating the market for international carbon emissions trading. ___ 4:30 p.m. Attempts by developed nations at the U.N. climate talks in Poland to create watertight rules for international carbon emissions trading have prompted new, last-minute demands from Brazil. Officials say the closing meeting at the U.N. climate talks has been delayed until 6 p.m. (1700 GMT) Saturday, prompting a collective groan from delegates. Negotiators from almost 200 countries appeared close to clinching a deal Saturday on the rules that will govern the 2015 Paris climate accord, after two weeks of intense negotiations in Poland. The most recent draft agreement published by the Polish official chairing the meeting set out most of the terms under which countries must report their greenhouse gas emissions and efforts to cut them. Language on increasing efforts to curb climate change was postponed until a U.N. summit in New York in September. ___ 9 a.m. A deal on the rules that govern the Paris climate accord appeared within grasp Saturday, as officials from almost 200 countries worked to bridge remaining differences after two weeks of U.N. talks in Poland. The 2015 Paris Agreement was a landmark moment in international diplomacy, bringing together governments with vastly different views to tackle the common threat of global warming. But while the accord set a headline target of keeping average global temperatures from rising by more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) — or 1.5 C (2.7 F) if possible — much of the fine print was left unfinished. The meeting in Poland's southern city of Katowice was meant to finalize how countries report their emissions of greenhouses gases — a key factor in man-made climate change — and the efforts they're taking to reduce them. Poor countries also wanted assurances on financial support to help them cut emissions, adapt to inevitable changes such as sea level rise and pay for damage that's already happened.
  • A nuclear test reactor that can melt uranium fuel rods in seconds is running again after a nearly quarter-century shutdown as U.S. officials try to revamp a fading nuclear power industry with safer fuel designs and a new generation of power plants. The reactor at the U.S. Energy Department's Idaho National Laboratory has performed 10 tests on nuclear fuel since late last year. 'If we're going to have nuclear power in this country 20 or 30 years from now, it's going to be because of this reactor,' said J.R. Biggs, standing in front of the Transient Test Reactor he manages that in short bursts can produce enough energy to power 14 million homes. The reactor was used to run 6,604 tests from 1959 to 1994, when it was put on standby as the United States started turning away from nuclear power amid safety concerns. Restarting it is part of a strategy to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by generating carbon-free electricity with nuclear power initiated under the Obama administration and continuing under the Trump administration, despite Trump's downplaying of global warming. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, 98 nuclear reactors at 59 power plants produce about 20 percent of the nation's energy. Most of the reactors are decades old, and many are having a tough time competing economically with other forms of energy production, particularly cheaper gas-fired power plants. Some nuclear plants have closed in recent years, and Illinois, New York and New Jersey have approved subsidies in the past two years to bail out commercial nuclear plants. Officials in some areas are considering carbon taxes on coal and natural gas to boost nuclear power. U.S. officials hope to improve nuclear power's prospects. They face two main challenges: making the plants economically competitive and changing public perception among some that nuclear power is unsafe. Biggs said Japan's Fukushima nuclear disaster, caused by a 2011 earthquake and tsunami, was a primary reason U.S. officials restarted the test reactor in Idaho. The cores of three reactors at the Japan plant suffered meltdowns after cooling systems failed. But what if, researchers say, nuclear plants produced energy with accident-tolerant fuels in reactors designed to safely shut themselves down in an emergency? That's where the Idaho lab's test reactor comes in. Dan Wachs, who directs the lab's fuel safety research program, said only three other reactors with fuel testing abilities exist — in France, Japan and Kazakhstan. He said none can perform the range of experiments that can be done at the Idaho lab's Transient Test Reactor, also called TREAT. 'The world is suffering from a very acute shortage of testing that TREAT fills,' he said. At the Idaho test reactor, pencil-sized pieces of fuel rods supplied by commercial manufacturers are inserted into the reactor that can generate short, 20-gigawatt bursts of energy. Workers perform tests remotely from about half a mile (0.8 kilometers) away. The strategy is to test the fuels under accident conditions, including controlled and contained meltdowns, to eventually create safer fuels. The tiny fuel rods, including those that melt, are sent to the lab's Hot Fuel Examination Facility, where workers behind 4 feet (1.2 meters) of leaded glass examine them. Additional work is done a short walk away at the Irradiated Materials Characterization Lab, where powerful microscopes can examine the fuel at the atomic level. Wachs and his team of about 15 scientists get the results and consult with both the fuel manufacturer and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which licenses nuclear fuel. The 890-square-mile (2,300-square-kilometer) Energy Department site that holds the test reactor, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) west of Idaho Falls, also is the proposed location for an energy cooperative's small modular reactors. The small reactors are intended to be economically competitive and safer than current reactor designs. Because they're modular, additional reactors can be built as energy demands in a region increase, reducing initial construction costs. While the Idaho lab looks to the future, the sprawling Energy Department site in Idaho's high desert sagebrush also contains some of the nation's nuclear past. The core from Pennsylvania's Three Mile Island nuclear plant was buried there after it underwent a partial meltdown in 1979 in one of the nation's worst nuclear mishaps. The Three Mile Island facility still produces energy, but its owner has said it will shut it down in 2019 unless Pennsylvania comes to its financial rescue. Besides economics and safety, another problem for nuclear energy is what to do with the radioactive spent fuel rods. The U.S. has no permanent repository for about 77,000 tons (70,000 metric tons), stored mainly at the commercial nuclear power plants where they were used to produce electricity. Idaho won federal court battles in 1990s to prevent the Energy Department's Idaho site from becoming a repository for spent fuel and other nuclear waste. Other states don't want it either. 'I think the Idaho National Laboratory is more optimistic about the future of nuclear energy than is warranted,' said Beatrice Brailsford of the Snake River Alliance, an Idaho-based nuclear watchdog group. Still, nuclear energy has been identified by U.S. officials as having a key role in reducing the nation's greenhouse gas emissions. 'Nuclear is a primary way to get there,' said Wachs. 'It's really the only way to get there.
  • The Brexit debate needs a change of tone, the Church of England's bishops said Saturday, calling for national unity following a week of divisive discussions around Britain's efforts to leave the European Union. The Anglican leaders urged politicians and the public to insert civility into the debate amid intense discussions over Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit deal. Amid turmoil, the bishops offered prayer. 'We urge everyone - our political leaders and all of us - to bring magnanimity, respect and reconciliation to our national debate,' the bishops said. 'There is now an urgent need for the United Kingdom to recover a shared vision and identity to help us find a way through the immediate challenges.' The statement reflected the tensions in Britain following a week of dizzying drama in politics. Parliament was supposed to vote on the deal this week, but May postponed it after it became clear that lawmakers would decisively reject it. Anger at the postponement triggered a no-confidence vote in May's own Conservative Party. She won, but her power was eroded because a third of her party's membership revolted against her. She scurried off to Brussels in hopes that EU leaders would help her deal with some of the objections. EU leaders showed some sympathy but little desire to resolve May's Brexit impasse — saying it is up to the U.K. Parliament to decide. The Brexit deadlock has left Britain's future course unclear. There could be Brexit with no deal. Britain could make a last-minute request to the EU to give it more time. There's also the possibility of a second referendum on Britain's EU membership. But with many options and little time before Britain is set to leave the bloc on March 29, May's critics — like former minister Jo Johnson — are accusing her of 'running down the clock.' May's Downing Street office says the parliamentary vote will now be held next year; Johnson said it should be next week. 'Number 10 could try to leave that vote until the very last minute, effectively, giving the country, giving Parliament no choice at all, except between her deal ...and no deal at all,' he told the BBC. 'That's an unacceptable choice for Parliament.' Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd, meanwhile, appealed for cross-party consensus because Brexit was 'in danger of getting stuck.' Writing in the Daily Mail newspaper, she said it was time to 'abandon outrage and accusations' and 'try something different.' 'These may not be words to make the heart beat faster, or fill the soul with excitement - but they are what's needed in a country that has seen everything from families to political parties split down the middle and that now needs some Brexit certainty,' she wrote. May had sought legally binding changes to the agreement from EU ministers, but the 27 other EU leaders offered only reassurances. They said they would quickly try to construct a new trade deal and pledged that a legally binding insurance policy to keep the Irish border open would only be used temporarily. But the EU leaders rebuffed British pressure to put a fixed end date on the border guarantee, and refused to re-negotiate the 585-page legal text settling issues of the divorce. May has doggedly insisted she will secure enough changes to get Parliament's approval in a vote before Jan. 21 in hopes of avoiding a disorderly Brexit. Bank of England Gov. Mark Carney has predicted U.K. consumers could see their weekly supermarket bills go up by 10 percent in a worst-case Brexit scenario involving a 25-percent fall in the value of the pound.
  • The Latest on France protests (all times local): 10:35 p.m. The French interior minister says that an eighth person has died since the start of a nationwide protest movement that began in mid-November over fuel tax hikes but has expanded to an array of issues. Christophe Castaner said in a tweet on Saturday that the death occurred the previous night. He said that all traffic circles in France — some of which have been manned day and night by protesters — 'should be freed.' The tweet provided no details about the death, but suggested that it occurred at one of the traffic circle that dot the French countryside and where the majority of deaths have occurred. The announcement of a new death followed a day of demonstrations around France for a fifth Saturday, though numbers of protesters were dramatically down. ___ 9:25 p.m. Paris police say 115 people were taken into custody in a day of mainly calm protests in the French capital that left seven people slightly injured. In its fifth week on Saturday, the yellow vest movement saw far fewer protesters in Paris and around France. The safety vests have become the symbol of a nationwide movement that began in November against what protesters say is economic injustice reserved for rank-and-file French. Police put the number in Paris at about 3,000, compared to 10,000 a week ago, when protests degenerated into violence and looting for the second week in a row. The French press quoted authorities as saying that 33,500 protesters turned out nationwide Saturday, less than half the number of the previous week. ___ 6:25 p.m. French police have pushed protesters off the Champs-Elysees in Paris with tear gas and water cannon, and re-opened the French capital's famed avenue to traffic. Police were telling protesters to remove their yellow vests, symbols of a nationwide protest movement that began in November against economic injustice and France's high cost of living. It was the fifth Saturday of protests in the French capital but there were many fewer protesters than in previous weeks. Police said up to 3,000 protesters were in the streets of Paris in the afternoon, compared to 10,000 a week ago, when protests degenerated into violence and looting for the second week in a row. Police headquarters said 96 people were taken into custody Saturday. The French press quoted authorities as saying that 33,500 protesters turned out nationwide Saturday, less than half the number of the previous week. ___ 3:20 p.m. French police have fired tear gas across the Champs-Elysees Avenue in Paris and protesters have scuffled with police outside the city's Opera house amid the fifth straight weekend of protests by the 'yellow vests' movement. Saturday saw mostly peaceful anti-government protests in the French capital but violence broke out at its margins, as groups of yellow vests tried to break through police lines as they protested France's high cost of living. There were clashes at Opera, where some demonstrators had gathered to voice their grievances. And French police unleashed repeated discharges of tear gas along Paris' premier shopping street, the Champs-Elysees, although the back-and-forth fell short of previous violence that had scarred the avenue with broken windows and looted stores. French police have detained 85 people in Paris in Saturday's protests. ___ 3 p.m. Belgian police say a man has died after he crashed his car into a truck at a protesters' roadblock on the Franco-Belgian border. The accident brings to seven the number of protest-related deaths since a wave of anti-government yellow vest demonstrations began sweeping France more than a month ago. Jonathan Pfund, a press officer at Belgium's Federal Police, said the crash happened Saturday when a driver hit one of the trucks that had been stalled at the roadblock. Pfund did not give a precise age for the man but said he was born in 1969, making him either 48 or 49. In the French capital on Saturday, police say 85 people have been detained on the fifth straight weekend of protests by the yellow vests movement, which is protesting the high cost of living. ___ 1:35 p.m. Paris police say 85 people have been detained in Paris on the fifth straight weekend of protests by the 'yellow vests' movement, where thousands of people converged in the French capital. Police say of those detained, 46 people have been arrested. No details have been given about why they were taken into custody. Limited scuffles broke out between protesters and police on the sidelines of largely peaceful demonstrations near the city's Champs-Elysees boulevard, with riot police firing small amounts of tear gas to disperse groups of protesters heading down the side streets off the main avenue. About 8,000 police and 14 armored vehicles were deployed in Paris for the demonstration, after similar protests in recent weekends turned violent, with protesters smashing and looting stores and setting up burning barricades in the streets. ___ 12 p.m. More scuffles have broken out in central Paris among 'yellow vest' protesters and police, who fired tear gas to disperse a crowd trying to make their way through police lines. The clashes broke out in a side street near the capital's famed Champs-Elysees boulevard Saturday morning, as groups of protesters headed off the main avenue into smaller nearby roads, some of them with traffic still flowing. Riot police blocked off access to some streets, attempting to keep the protests in specific areas. Saturday marks the fifth straight weekend of demonstrations by the 'yellow vest' movement, which takes its name from the fluorescent safety vests French motorists carry in their vehicles. It emerged mid-November as a protest against fuel tax increases and morphed into an expression of rage against the government ___ 11:30 a.m. A minor scuffle has broken out between protesters and police in Paris during demonstrations by the 'yellow vest' movement, with police briefly using pepper spray to disperse a crowd. The scuffle broke out on the Champs-Elysees boulevard in the French capital late Saturday morning. Thousands of people were gathering on the wide boulevard amid a heavy police presence after previous protests turned violent. The scuffle was quickly over, and protesters began marching toward the landmark Arc de Triomphe at the end of the avenue. Saturday marks the fifth straight weekend of demonstrations by the 'yellow vest' movement, which takes its name from the fluorescent safety vests French motorists carry in their vehicles. It emerged in mid-November as a protest against fuel tax increases and morphed into an expression of rage against the government. ___ 10:15 a.m. Paris police say 21 people have been detained in the French capital before protests by the 'yellow vests' movement. Thousands of police and other members of the security forces have been deployed in Paris for the fifth straight weekend of demonstrations and the government has called for calm after previous protests turned violent. The 'yellow vest' movement, which takes its name from the fluorescent safety vests French motorists must all have in their vehicles, emerged in mid-November as a protest against fuel tax increases. Paris police said 21 people were detained by midmorning. Security forces in riot gear were positioned around central train stations and along the famed Champs-Elysees, where shops were closed and their windows boarded up in anticipation of the protests as hundreds of people began walking along the broad boulevard. ___ 9:20 a.m. A strong police presence has deployed in Paris before planned demonstrations by the 'yellow vest' protesters, with authorities repeating calls for calm after previous violent protests and rioting. Security forces in riot gear are positioned around central train stations and along the famed Champs-Elysees boulevard, where shops are closed and boarded up in anticipation of the protests. Last weekend, groups of demonstrators smashed and looted stores and set up burning barricades in the streets. There was a strong police presence outside the central Saint Lazare train station, where police in riot gear checked bags. More than 20 police vans and a water cannon truck idled nearby. President Emanuel Macron on Friday called for calm during the demonstrations.

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  • Facing investigations by the Justice Department, his own Inspector General, and Democrats in the U.S. House, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke will leave his post by the end of this year, President Donald Trump announced on Saturday, continuing the high profile staff changes since the elections in his administration. “Ryan has accomplished much during his tenure and I want to thank him for his service to our Nation,” the President tweeted, not mentioning the investigations Zinke faced, covering excessive travel costs, improper political activities, and potential conflicts of interest. Zinke – like others in the Trump Cabinet – also faced the prospect of actual aggressive oversight in the Congress, with Democrats taking over the House of Representatives in January. The lawmaker who would lead most of those questions is Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), whom Zinke said a few weeks ago was nothing but a drunk. “It’s hard for him to think straight from the bottom of the bottle,” Zinke tweeted from his official account. My thoughts on Rep. Grijalva’s opinion piece. #TuneInnForMore pic.twitter.com/VMGxdtHwvU — Secretary Ryan Zinke (@SecretaryZinke) November 30, 2018 “This is no kind of victory, but I’m hopeful that it is a genuine turning of the page,” Grijalva said on Saturday. Among the investigations into Zinke, the internal watchdog at the Interior Department found that he had taken a security detail with him for a vacation with his wife to Turkey and Greece, costing taxpayers $25,000. Zinke also spent $12,375 on a chartered flight to take him from Las Vegas back to his home of Kalispell, Montana. During some of the Inspector General investigations of Zinke, the Trump Administration tried to move an appointed from the Department of Housing and Urban Development into the IG office at Interior; after complaints and questions about the legitimacy of the move, the change did not occur. Democrats in Congress, who often compared Zinke’s ethics questions to those of former Trump EPA chief Scott Pruitt, had nothing good to say about Zinke, who arrived at the Interior Department for his first day of work in Washington, on his horse. “Glad to see that Interior Secretary Zinke is being forced out,” tweeted Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ). “Tired of Trump Administration officials who use their office for personal gain.” “Ryan Zinke kept zero of his promises and used our public lands as handouts to his fossil fuel cronies,” said Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA). “Ryan Zinke’s tenure at Interior was a never-ending stream of terrible management decisions,” said Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA). “I will not miss him.” Good riddance to Ryan Zinke and the horse he literally rode in on. pic.twitter.com/triFovIXPZ — Chellie Pingree (@chelliepingree) December 15, 2018 The President’s announcement about Zinke’s future came a day after the President announced that his budget chief, Mick Mulvaney, would be Acting White House Chief of Staff starting in 2019. Other Trump Cabinet officials also could be on their way out in coming weeks, including Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. “Thank u, next,” tweeted Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV).
  • Insuring that North Carolina’s Ninth District seat will be vacant when the 116th Congress convenes in January, the North Carolina state elections board on Friday set a hearing for January 11, 2019, where officials will receive evidence on election irregularities focused on absentee ballot fraud which seemingly benefited Republican Mark Harris. “State investigators are awaiting additional documents from parties subpoenaed in this matter and finalizing the investigation prior to the hearing,” the State Board of Elections and Ethics said in a statement. Originally, the board had planned a hearing before December 21. In an interview with WBTV on Friday, Harris denied knowing that McRae Dowless – hired to run an absentee ballot operation in Bladen County – was doing anything which was illegal. “No, absolutely not,” Harris said in his first interview since allegations of election fraud began to surface after the November elections. This means Mark Harris will not be sworn in on January 3. #NC09 #ncpol — Joe Bruno (@JoeBrunoWSOC9) December 14, 2018 “In the Marines, I learned what it means to fight for our democracy,” tweeted Democrat Dan McCready, who lost to Harris by 905 votes. “I never imagined I would watch our democracy come under attack right here at home,” McCready added. It’s not clear if the U.S. House of Representatives will also investigate the possible fraud in the Ninth District race, which possibly involved ballot fraud and discarded ballots. The North Carolina board could still order a new election, which may involve a new primary as well, as some Republicans would like to get Harris out of the race for the seat in Congress, worried that he will be too tainted by the charges of election fraud. . @NCSBE will hold public hearing into 9th CD irregularities on Jan. 11. Notice below. #ncpol #ncga pic.twitter.com/5TYZOFhJYC — NCSBE (@NCSBE) December 14, 2018 The decision to extend the investigation of any election fraud into 2019 means that the U.S. House will start the 116th Congress with Democrats holding a 235-199 edge in the House – with the one vacancy from North Carolina.
  • A federal judge in Texas ruled President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act 'invalid' Friday, the eve of the sign-up deadline for coverage next year. In a 55-page opinion, U.S. District Judge Reed O'Connor ruled that last year's tax cut bill knocked the constitutional foundation from under 'Obamacare' by eliminating a penalty for not having coverage.  Supporters of the law immediately said they would appeal.  California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who has been leading the multistate coalition to defend the law, issued a statement saying: 'The ACA has already survived more than 70 unsuccessful repeal attempts and withstood scrutiny in the Supreme Court. Today's misguided ruling will not deter us: our coalition will continue to fight in court for the health and wellbeing of all Americans.'  Becerra called Friday's ruling 'an assault on 133 million Americans with preexisting conditions, on the 20 million Americans who rely on the ACA's consumer protections for healthcare, on America's faithful progress toward affordable healthcare for all Americans.'  President Donald Trump hailed the ruling, tweeting: 'As I predicted all along, Obamacare has been struck down as an UNCONSTITUTIONAL disaster! Now Congress must pass a STRONG law that provides GREAT healthcare and protects pre-existing conditions.'  But Rep. Nancy Pelosi, who is expected to become House speaker in January, vowed to fight what she called an 'absurd ruling.' She said the House 'will move swiftly to formally intervene in the appeals process to uphold the life-saving protections for people with pre-existing conditions and reject Republicans' effort to destroy the Affordable Care Act.'  White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders issued a statement saying: 'We expect this ruling will be appealed to the Supreme Court. Pending the appeal process, the law remains in place.'  Twenty Republican-led states brought the lawsuit. After Trump ordered the Justice Department to stop defending the health law, a coalition of ACA-supporting states took up the defense.  O'Connor is a conservative Republican appointee who has previously blocked other Obama-era policies.
  • Update 5:23 p.m. EDT Dec. 14: In a tweet Friday, President Donald Trump named Mick Mulvaney, the current Director of the Office of Management and Budget, as acting White House Chief of Staff. Trump deemed Mulvaney his “acting chief of staff” but it was not immediately clear what that meant for the length of his tenure. >> Read more trending news President Donald Trump said Saturday that White House Chief of Staff John Kelly will leave his position by the end of the year. The president’s first choice was Nick Ayers, the vice president’s chief of staff, who bowed out after being unable to come to an agreement on how long he would serve in the post. Read the original report below. Trump announced last week that Kelly, who served in the post for more than a year, would soon be departing. Rumors have swirled off-and-on for months that Kelly, a retired four-star general, planned to leave his post. >> Related: Who is Gen. John Kelly, President Donald Trump’s Chief of Staff?  Sources with knowledge of the inner workings of the West Wing told CNN that President Donald Trump and Kelly have recently stopped speaking. He reportedly clashed with several members of the administration, including national security adviser John Bolton, the president's daughter, Ivanka Trump, and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, Politico reported. Tension between Bolton and Kelly spilled out into the public earlier this year when The Washington Post reported Kelly stormed out of the White House after getting into a shouting match with Bolton over immigration. The Wall Street Journal reported in June that Kelly expected to make his exit over the summer, but the newspaper later reported that he agreed to stay on through the 2020 election at the president’s request. Reports indicate that the relationship between Trump and Kelly has long been fraught with tension. Former FBI director James Comey said in his book, “A Higher Loyalty,” that Kelly was “sick about my firing” in May 2017 and that he intended to quit in protest of Trump’s decision. Comey said he urged Kelly not to quit. >> 'A Higher Loyalty:' Here’s some of what James Comey says about Trump NBC News reported in April that Kelly called Trump “an idiot” who he needed to “save from himself” during a tense meeting on immigration. Kelly later denied making such a statement and claimed he and the president had “an incredibly candid and strong relationship,” according to NBC News. Kelly faced criticism earlier this year after two of former staff secretary Rob Porter’s ex-wives went public with allegations of domestic abuse. Porter denied the allegations, but submitted his resignation Feb. 7 amid public outcry. >> White House ‘could have done better’ handling Rob Porter allegations, spokesman says In a statement released after the revelations first surfaced, Kelly stood behind Porter, who he called “a man of true integrity and honor.” He appeared to walk back his comments in a subsequent statement, amid criticism based on reports that the White House knew of the allegations long before Porter’s resignation. The allegations held up the security clearance process for Porter, who was only ever issued a temporary clearance. Amid the media furor, Kelly moved to end or downgrade temporary clearances for all staff members, including some, like Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, who had regular access to top secret U.S. documents. Kelly joined the Trump Administration as the secretary of Homeland Security in January 2017. Six months later, he was appointed as chief of staff after Trump’s first chief of staff, Reince Preibus, submitted his resignation amid tension with Trump. >> Reince Priebus out: Trump names new chief of staff Reuters reported in February that Kelly and Trump national security adviser H.R. McMaster were considering leaving their posts because of the way they were treated by Trump in public. Unidentified sources told Reuters that 'Kelly and McMaster have chafed at Trump’s treatment of them in public and in private, which both at times have considered insulting.' The Associated Press contributed to this story.
  • Two New Orleans psychiatrists have found a man who stabbed his brother 93 times before placing his body under a burning mattress in 2013 “irrestorably incompetent” to stand trial and recommended he be committed to a psychiatric hospital.  Ian Broyard, 27, is accused of murder and tampering with evidence in the Nov. 6, 2013, stabbing death of 23-year-old Michael Broyard III, NOLA.com reported. Ian Broyard was 22 at the time of the crime.  Michael Broyard, a tattoo artist, was working on a degree in social work at Southern University at New Orleans. >> Read more trending news The New Orleans Advocate reported in July 2014, when Broyard was indicted, that the brothers had been in several fights prior to the killing. Their sister arrived at the family home in the Gentilly section of New Orleans the morning of the stabbing to see smoke coming from the front door.  Firefighters found Michael Broyard dead inside but there was no sign of Ian Broyard, who had been home shortly before the fire broke out, the Advocate reported. While police officers and firefighters worked the scene, Ian Broyard showed up, with cuts on his forearms and holding his stomach in pain, the newspaper said.  A witness told police he saw a man, who was riding away from the Broyard home on a bicycle, toss something into a trash can nearby. Investigators found a bloodstained vest constructed out of book covers taped together.  The DNA from the blood on the vest matched that of Michael Broyard, the Advocate reported. Other DNA and fingerprints recovered from the vest matched Ian Broyard, NOLA.com said.  NOLA.com reported that Ian Broyard was diagnosed as bipolar and schizophrenic in June 2013, just five months before his brother’s brutal slaying. Broyard’s arrest warrant indicated that he sometimes became violent. Broyard was initially found competent to stand trial in August 2014 but was found incompetent during another hearing almost three years later, the news site said. He was sent to Eastern Louisiana Mental Health System in June 2017 and has been there since.  Two of the members of the court-appointed sanity panel who examined Broyard have found it unlikely that Broyard will ever become competent to stand trial for his brother’s slaying. NOLA.com reported that Dr. Sarah DeLand testified Thursday that Broyard, who suffers from delusions and auditory hallucinations, would be unable to assist his lawyer at trial. Broyard believes that the IRS and the FBI control him and those around him, DeLand said in court. He also believes that the federal agencies could influence his case based on his outstanding student loans.  A judge will decide next week if Broyard will be committed indefinitely, NOLA said.  Investigators said during Broyard’s March 2014 preliminary hearing that it was possible he was connected to a second slaying 10 months before that of his brother. NOLA.com reported that a homicide detective testified at the hearing that Broyard was related to Edward Richardson, an 83-year-old retiree who was found stabbed to death New Year’s Day 2013 in his apartment at a senior living community.  Like Michael Broyard, Richardson was found stabbed an excessive number of times -- more than 50 -- and his body was under a mattress that had been set on fire, NOLA.com reported in 2014. No physical evidence linked Ian Broyard to the scene.  WDSU in New Orleans reported in 2015 that cold case investigators were still seeking leads in the unsolved case.