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    SoftBank Group Corp.'s Japanese mobile subsidiary has begun trading in one of the world's biggest share offerings rivaling that of China's Alibaba Group. Wednesday's IPO on the Tokyo Stock Exchange seeks to raise more than 2 trillion yen ($18 billion). Softbank fetched the initial price of 1,463 yen ($13.03), down 2 percent from the IPO price of 1,500 yen announced earlier this month. Softbank is listing 1.6 shares, or about one third held by its parent company.
  • The House Ethics Committee has cleared Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva of wrongdoing in connection with a settlement he made with a female former staffer who accused him of being drunk and creating a hostile work environment. Grijalva, a Democrat who is set to become chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee next month, paid the ex-staffer $48,000 in 2015 when she left his office after working there for three months. The ethics panel said in a Dec. 14 letter that it was dismissing a complaint against Grijalva related to the payment. The letter, signed by Republican Rep. Susan Brooks of Indiana and Democratic Rep. Ted Deutch of Florida, said the panel considers the matter closed. Brooks chairs the ethics panel and Deutch is the top Democrat. The Associated Press obtained a copy of the letter, which has not been made public. The letter was first reported by The Hill. In an interview, Grijalva told The Hill that the investigation of the settlement has been 'a bane on my family. Politically, it's used against me, whether it's the midterms or anything else. I don't know if this necessarily makes it go away, but it does minimize the lies and for that I'm happy.' Grijalva acknowledged last year that a new employee had left his staff and that he signed a nondisclosure agreement preventing him from discussing details. The claims did not refer to sexual harassment, he said. In a scathing personal attack on Grijalva last month, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke called the payment 'hush money.' After Grijalva wrote a Nov. 30 opinion column, published in USA Today, urging Zinke to resign, Zinke responded on Twitter, 'It's hard for him to think straight from the bottom of the bottle.' Grijalva 'should resign and pay back the taxpayer for the hush money and the tens of thousands of dollars he forced my department to spend investigating unfounded allegations,' Zinke wrote. Zinke announced Saturday he is resigning amid a flurry of investigations into his travel, political activity and potential conflicts of interest. Grijalva had warned that Democrats were likely to focus on Zinke after they take control of the House in January. Grijalva spokesman Adam Sarvana said Saturday that the panel still intends to ask for Zinke's testimony.
  • Google and Facebook have agreed to pay $455,000 to settle allegations that they failed to keep proper records about who was paying for campaign ads on their sites, Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson said Tuesday. Google will pay $217,000 and Facebook will pay $238,000 in response to two lawsuits filed in June that accused the tech firms of not obeying the state law on political-ad transparency, Ferguson said. Facebook spokeswoman Beth Gautier said the company was pleased to resolve the matter. 'We're working hard to protect election integrity and prevent foreign interference. We believe all ads should be transparent on Facebook and aren't waiting for legislation to authorize political advertisers and house these ads in a public archive,' Gautier said. Google couldn't immediately be reached for comment Tuesday, but as part of the settlements it and Facebook denied liability and said they continue to deny they broke the law. Google said in June, shortly after the lawsuits were filed, that it would stop participation in political ads. 'We take transparency and disclosure of political ads very seriously which is why we have decided to pause state and local election ads in Washington, starting June 7, while we assess the amended campaign disclosure law and ensure that our systems are built to comply with the new requirements,' the company said then. The lawsuits came after the state's Public Disclosure Commission issued regulations related to a new law and passed an emergency rule that clarified that digital ad companies like Google and Facebook are subject to state law requiring them to maintain publicly available information about political ads, just like television stations and other media. 'Whether you are a small-town newspaper or a large corporation, Washington's political advertising disclosure laws apply to everyone,' Ferguson said in a statement. Commercial advertisers are expected to provide information as requested by the public but the state said Facebook and Google denied 2017 municipal election political advertising records to The Stranger newspaper when it sought them. Ferguson said the companies failed to maintain those kinds of records.
  • Cuba's government said Tuesday that language promoting the legalization of gay marriage will be removed from the draft of a new constitution after widespread popular rejection of the idea. Gay rights advocates had proposed eliminating the description of marriage as a union of a man and woman, changing it to the union of 'two people ... with absolutely equal rights and obligations.' That change drew protests from evangelical churches and ordinary citizens in months of public meetings on the new constitution. Cuba's National Assembly announced on Twitter that a powerful commission responsible for revising the constitution has proposed eliminating the language from the new charter 'as a way of respecting all opinions.' The constitution would instead be silent on the issue, leaving open the possibility of a future legalization without specifically promoting it. The constitutional commission is headed by Communist Party head and former president Raul Castro. His daughter, Mariela Castro, is a lawmaker known as Cuba's highest-profile advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual rights. Her advocacy has helped rehabilitate Cuba's international image on LGBTQ rights after the Castro-led communist government sent gay men to work camps in the 1960s. Widespread persecution continued through the 1970s. While Havana and some other Cuban cities have flourishing gay communities, anti-homosexual attitudes remain deeply rooted among much of the population. Cubans who ordinarily shy from open criticism of the government spoke out in large numbers against the proposed constitutional Article 68 promoting gay marriage during public consultations on the draft constitution throughout the year. Cuba's rapidly growing evangelical churches also staked out positions against the article, increasing pressure on a government unused to public pushback. The new charter is expected to be offered for approval at a public referendum in early 2019. The dropping of the gay marriage language is the third dramatic reversal this month for a government that for decades has issued most laws and regulations with little public debate or insight into the working of the ruling Communist Party. The government last week eliminated some of the most-disliked sections of new restrictions on entrepreneurs that were met with widespread public criticism. And tough new limits on artistic expression were delayed after protests and complaints from Cuban artists. The new laws were announced in July, three months after President Miguel Diaz-Canel took office, and generated bitter complaints from entrepreneurs and artists. The measures included limits on the number of business licenses per household and barred more than 50 seats at private restaurants. They also granted a corps of cultural 'inspectors' the power to immediately close any art exhibition or performance found to violate Cuba's socialist revolutionary values. On Dec. 4, the country's vice minister of culture said the art regulation would be delayed and the inspectors' power would be limited to making recommendations to higher-ranking cultural officials. In addition, they will not be able to inspect any studio or home that is not open to the public. The next day, the government eliminated the limits on restaurant tables and business licenses, along with new taxes and financial requirements for entrepreneurs. The elimination of gay marriage appears to be the only major change to the draft constitution. State media said that Cubans had made 192,408 comments on Article 68, with the majority asking to eliminate it. Commenters also asked the commission to eliminate presidential term and age limits and allow direct presidential elections but the draft charter maintains the two-term limit, maximum age of 65, and the selection of the president by the National Assembly. Francisco Rodriguez, a Communist Party member and gay blogger known as 'Paquito de Cuba,' said simply eliminating any reference to the participants in a marriage is an acceptable compromise that will focus gay activists on campaigning for changes in the national legal code that would allow gay marriage. 'This was a side step,' he said. 'It's a solution. Not 'between a man and a woman' or 'between two people.' Now is when it all begins.
  • Nevada became the first state in the U.S. with an overall female majority in the Legislature on Tuesday when county officials in Las Vegas appointed two women to fill vacancies in the state Assembly. The appointments of Democrats Rochelle Thuy Nguyen and Beatrice 'Bea' Angela Duran to two Las Vegas-area legislative seats give women 51 percent of the 63 seats in the Legislature. Women will hold nine of 21 seats in the state Senate, falling short of a majority in that chamber. But they will hold 24 of 42 seats in the Assembly, comprising 57 percent in that chamber and giving women enough numbers to make the two chambers an overall female majority. No state has previously had a female-majority or even a 50 percent-female Legislature, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, which tracks women's political representation. Women picked up seats in the Nevada Assembly and Senate during the 2018 November election but fell short of an overall majority. Vacancies created by lawmakers who won election to other offices in November, along with one sitting female lawmaker then allowed women to gain additional seats. Before 2018, New Hampshire was the first state to have a female majority in any legislative chamber, when women held a majority in the New Hampshire state Senate in 2009 and 2010. With the 2018 election, women cracked the 50 percent threshold in the Nevada state Assembly and Colorado State House, but no overall majority was reached until the Nevada appointments. 'It is unprecedented at this point to see a majority female legislature overall,' said Kelly Dittmar, an assistant professor of political science at Rutgers-Camden. With the two Nevada appointments, women will make up 28.6 percent of state legislators nationwide when new legislators are sworn into office in 2019, according to data from the Center for American Women and Politics. Women made up 24.3 percent of state legislators in the U.S. a decade ago, the center said. Studies of women who have served in Congress are probably comparable to female gains in state legislatures, she said, and the studies have found that 'the more women you have in the body, the more that their perspectives and life experiences are integrated into policy debates and deliberations.' Dittmar said the milestone in Nevada could help change attitudes of what a state Legislature should like. 'That might influence young people. It might influence other women to see that body as both friendlier to them as well as more responsive to their concerns,' she said. Nguyen, an attorney, and Duran, a grievance specialist with the state's casino workers union, will hold their seats until the next general election in 2020. 'It's a great victory,' Duran told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. 'Women are proving to have more knowledge and aren't afraid to show that power that they have.' Duran has been a staff member since 1999 at the powerful Culinary Workers Union Local 226, a key political organization in the state. Nguyen, a criminal defense lawyer, said called the milestone 'fantastic.' 'When women do better, I think families are stronger,' Nguyen said. The Speaker of the Assembly, Democrat Jason Frierson, said in a statement that the chamber is proud to welcome both women. 'In addition to a diversity of backgrounds and life experiences,' he said, 'both Rochelle and Beatrice bring passion, energy, and knowledge to the State Legislature that will better serve our state and our constituents.
  • The Trump administration is changing the way it reviews sponsors who want to care for migrant children in government custody — backing off a requirement that all people in the house are fingerprinted. The fingerprint requirement began in June amid the zero-tolerance policy at the border that led to the separation of some 2,400 children from their parents. The children taken from parents were placed in shelters until a sponsor, often a parent or other family member, could be found and evaluated before releasing the children to that sponsor. But the addition of fingerprinting has slowed the process and clogged the shelters. Some potential sponsors have said they couldn't get people in their homes to be fingerprinted because they were afraid. The information is shared with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and officers have arrested some 170 sponsors and others on immigration violations using the fingerprint data. More than 49,000 children crossed the border alone during the 2018 budget year. While overall number of children coming to the U.S. is down from a high in 2016, minors are staying in shelters longer and the total number of children detained at once is at an all-time high. The average length of time that children spend in shelters has increased from 40 days in fiscal year 2016 to 59 in fiscal year 2018, according to federal data. There are currently more than 14,000 children in 137 government shelters around the country. Austin, Texas-based Southwest Key Programs operates facilities to hold immigrant children in Arizona, California, and Texas, including one facility in an old Walmart. It has greatly expanded its operations this year as more children have been held for longer periods. 'We are greatly encouraged by this,' Juan Sanchez, the agency's chief executive officer, said of the change. 'This will help all care givers reduce the time these children stay in shelters and give them the foundation they need to thrive and prosper.' U.S. Health and Human Services officials say fingerprints will still be required for sponsors and will be cross-checked with the FBI databases and U.S. Department of Homeland Security arrest records. The Office of Refugee Resettlement, the agency that manages the children, will do public-records checks on all adult household members. Fingerprints for those adults will still be required in certain circumstances, including if the records check uncovers disqualifying factors, like a history of child abuse, a documented safety risk for the child or the child is especially vulnerable. The requirement change could result in the release of many more children from the centers. A series of tents that opened in June to house older children in Tornillo, Texas, was to close later this month. The space originally had 400 beds, but it expanded twice and now holds roughly 2,700 minors. A spokesman for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Mark Weber, said on Tuesday afternoon that the agency had yet to make a decision about whether Tornillo will close by year's end. Health and Human Services officials say their focus is the health and safety and best interest of the child, and they treat that responsibility with care. But Rep. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., was unmoved by the policy shift. 'Rather than prioritizing the well-being and safety of children, the Trump administration continues to use them as bait to round up and deport their family members,' he said in a statement. During the zero tolerance policy over the summer, Health and Human Services was not accustomed to managing families with children who came to the border and had no system in place to track families together. The parents were criminally charged with illegal entry. Because children can't go into criminal custody with their parents, they were separated at U.S. Border Patrol facilities. The Border Patrol must transfer children to Health and Human Services custody within 72 hours, and if parents returned before then, they were reunited with their children. If not, they became unaccompanied minors who stay in shelters are given access to education, food and health care and exercise. The summertime separations resulted in worldwide outrage, and President Donald Trump stopped the separations. A federal judge required the government to reunite the families. ___ Associated Press writers Martha Mendoza in Santa Cruz, California, and Nomaan Merchant in Houston contributed to this report.
  • The verbal jabs between Memphis coach Penny Hardaway and Tennessee's Rick Barnes continued Tuesday with Hardaway saying 'it was kind of low class' for the Vols coach to imply the Tigers were flopping during their game on Saturday. 'I don't know who Rick Barnes thinks I am, but I'm not a dude who likes to mess around about anything,' Hardaway said during his media availability Tuesday afternoon. 'I just call it how I see it, no matter how he's trying to make things seem. I think it's kind of low class, how he's trying to downgrade my guys for flopping and all that. Come on, give me a break.' Tennessee won 102-92 at Memphis on Saturday in the first meeting between these two teams since Jan. 4, 2013. With 47.8 seconds left during a timeout, officials gave double-technicals to Tennessee guard Jordan Bone and Memphis guard Alex Lomax. Hardaway said after the game that Bone said something disrespectful, setting off a sequence that included the Memphis coach not getting an answer about why the Vols didn't get a technical for leaving the bench. Also during his postgame news conference, Hardaway said Tennessee's 'entire team emptied the bench to come over' and that 'you can visibly see guys with their fists balled, talking trash to our guys or whatever it was, almost like a standoff.' Barnes said Monday night during his radio show that he didn't 'think anybody did anything that was overly aggressive.' 'I will say this, no one showed me any tape where any of our guys had their fists balled up,' Barnes said. Barnes also joked about Hardaway's allegations during the show, asking host Bob Kesling if he ever considered balling up his fist and fighting Memphis' radio broadcaster during the game. The Tennessee coach also expressed his displeasure Tuesday morning about Hardaway calling out one of his players. 'I didn't like that (Hardaway calling out Jordan Bone by name) obviously because I don't think you do that, but the fact is you guys know I kid with Bob and I'll always do that, but that game's over with, done with,' Barnes said during his media session. 'We've got to get on down the road. We've got a really tough opponent (Samford) in here (Wednesday) night and we've got to get ready for that.' Barnes didn't mention Memphis players flopping during his Saturday postgame news conference, though he did note on his Monday night radio show that college basketball doesn't have penalties for flopping and that 'it's something we'll have to look at in NCAA basketball.' Hardaway felt Barnes' comments were directed at his team. 'As far as flopping, that's not something that we teach,' Hardaway said Tuesday. 'We don't even understand that term.' There were 57 fouls called during the Tennessee-Memphis game — 35 on Memphis and 22 on Tennessee. Tennessee athletic department spokesman Tom Satkowiak said the school wouldn't be issuing a response to Hardaway's comments Tuesday. Saturday's game was the first in a three-year contract between Tennessee and Memphis. They're scheduled to play again next season in Knoxville and in 2020-21 in Nashville. ___ More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25
  • The unexpected delay in Michael Flynn's sentencing raised a new wrinkle in the Russia probe. The former national security adviser, who pleaded guilty to lying the FBI about his contacts with Russia's ambassador, had expected to face no jail time after prosecutors vouched for him, saying he had provided substantial assistance in their investigation. But when a federal judge lambasted Flynn and raised the prospect of prison, Flynn decided to postpone the hearing and keep cooperating to get as much credit as he can. What we learned at Tuesday's hearing: ___ COOPERATION COUNTS — BUT SO DOES THE CRIME There was no argument from either side about the extent and value of Flynn's cooperation. But U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan made clear that he was still hung up on the crime itself, repeating multiple times his distress over the fact that Flynn had lied to the FBI on the grounds of the White House. Though Sullivan gave Flynn an opportunity to reset the process and earn additional credit for his cooperation, it's not clear that he'll get past the underlying crime itself. ___ MUELLER WANTS TO REWARD COOPERATORS Even as it became clear the judge was going to call out Flynn for lying to the FBI, the Mueller team signaled it was still OK with seeking little to no prison time. Prosecutor Brandon Van Grack told the judge that he continued to believe Flynn accepted responsibility even though a sentencing memo filed by his lawyers last week raised the prospect that he was less than remorseful. For Mueller, a sentence of probation to reward cooperators is an important incentive for others who are contemplating admitting guilt and working with the government. Van Grack also noted that Flynn had already provided the 'vast majority' of the information he could and he has already committed to fulfilling any other cooperation needed. ___ WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR TRUMP? Flynn took the legs out of some of President Donald Trump's most recent attacks on the Russia investigation. Trump, who regularly attacks the Mueller probe as a witch hunt, has wrongly stated that the FBI said Flynn 'didn't lie.' In recent comments at the White House, Trump said Flynn's guilt was now in dispute and 'I think it's a great thing that the judge is looking into that situation.' Look into it, Sullivan did. And after repeated questioning Tuesday, Flynn never wavered: He lied, he accepted responsibility for doing it and he wasn't withdrawing his plea. Asked specifically if he was entrapped or if any FBI misconduct led to Flynn's false statements, Flynn attorney Robert Kelner said, 'No.' ___ NO ANSWER YET FOR WHY FLYNN LIED It remains the enduring question about Flynn: Why did he lie about his conversations with Russia's ambassador to the U.S.? Neither Flynn nor Mueller has said in court papers. And Tuesday, Flynn's hearing was cut short before he was asked or had an opportunity to tell the judge why he had committed the crime. So the wait continues.
  • Michael Flynn's wait was almost over. The former national security adviser, about to be sentenced for lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russians, appeared confident that he was about to walk out of court a free man Tuesday morning. He had, after all, spent the past year cooperating with prosecutors, who recommended no prison time. Sharply dressed and straight-backed, the retired Army three-star general joked with his attorneys. He waved to relatives who were in court to support him, saying 'Everybody made it!' He turned toward his son, Michael Flynn Jr., and made a V sign with his fingers. But then U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan entered the picture — and the carefully laid plans of prosecutors and Flynn fell apart. During his sentencing hearing Tuesday, Flynn went from a man on the verge of relief to a man shaken, his smile replaced by a tight-lipped grimace as the judge delayed deciding his fate for another 90 days so Flynn could cooperate some more. Looking down over his glasses, Sullivan hinted from the start that things weren't going to go as planned. He upbraided Flynn for lying to the FBI — in the West Wing no less. He invoked the American flag, and said Flynn's conduct undermined everything it stands for. And then he landed the big one. 'Arguably, you sold your country out,' he told Flynn, drawing a stunned gasp from many of Flynn's family members. With that rebuke settling over the courtroom — and Sullivan suggesting there might be prison in the general's future after all — the judge asked Flynn if he wanted to confer with his lawyers and consider a delay. Didn't Flynn still have a small amount of unfinished cooperation left? Did he want to get to the last bit of that before the judge imposed a sentence? Flynn retreated to the defense table, whispering with his attorneys. A prosecutor waffled when Sullivan asked if Flynn could have been charged with treason. The judge took a break. Stone-faced, Flynn left the courtroom with his lawyers. He returned, the relaxed smile gone. Faced with a judge who had just accused him of selling out his country, Flynn chose to withdraw, to fight another day, and to wait some more. Even after the judge took back a few of his more stinging comments, Flynn's decision was firm. The judge granted the delay. Ninety more days— at least. And with that, the judge adjourned. 'Happy Holidays,' he said. ___ Follow Chad Day on Twitter: https://twitter.com/ChadSDay
  • An elderly gibbon recently transferred to the Santa Barbara Zoo from Northern California has died unexpectedly, possibly from cancer, authorities announced Tuesday. Nikko, a 35-year-old white-handed gibbon, died Sunday. He underwent tests and received a clean bill of health at the Oakland Zoo before arriving in Santa Barbara less than a month ago and showed no signs of illness until his appetite decreased about 10 days ago, according to the Santa Barbara Zoo. Nikko was found to have acute liver and renal failure. He was being taken to veterinary specialists for more testing when he died. A mass found in his body will be tested to determine whether it was cancerous. Earlier diagnosis and treatment wouldn't have saved Nikko, Julie Barnes, the zoo's director of animal care and health, said in a press statement. 'We are so sad to have lost him so soon after his arrival, as he had already won everyone's hearts,' she said. White-handed gibbons live high in the forest canopy in Asia and are considered endangered by habitat loss. They can live 30 years in the wild and 40 or more in captivity. Gibbons live in small families and are mainly monogamous. They communicate through whooping, siren-like songs and couples will often share duets. Nikko was sent to Santa Barbara to be a companion to an elderly female, Jasmine, and a 4-year-old female, Jari. Nikko and Jasmine had both lost their mates of several decades and it was hoped the three apes would bond into a blended family, according to the zoo. Nikko's body will be returned to the Oakland Zoo for burial.