AP Evening News in Brief

Associated Press

A summary of today's news for Dec. 26

Israel's embattled Netanyahu declares victory in primary

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared victory early Friday in his primary election battle for leadership of the Likud party, as TV stations predicted a landslide win for the longtime Israeli leader.

The apparent victory means that Netanyahu will lead Likud into March elections, the country's third election in less than a year. He is also likely to seize on the victory as he battles criminal corruption charges.

"A giant victory," Netanyahu tweeted, just over an hour after polls closed.

"Thanks to the members of Likud for the trust, support and love," he said. "God willing, I will lead Likud to a big victory in the coming elections."

Partial results reported by Israeli TV stations showed Netanyahu capturing between 70 percent and 80 percent of the vote, trouncing his challenger, lawmaker Gideon Saar.

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To overcome travel ban, some Americans taking cases to court

NEW YORK (AP) — Mohammed Hafar paced around the airport terminal — first to the monitor to check flight arrivals, then to the gift shop and lastly to the doors where international passengers were exiting.

At last, out came Jana Hafar, his tall, slender, dark-haired teen daughter who had been forced by President Donald Trump's travel ban to stay behind in Syria for months while her father, his wife and 10-year-old son started rebuilding their lives in Bloomfield, New Jersey, with no clear idea of when the family would be together again.

"Every time I speak to her, she ask, 'When are they going to give me the visa?'" the elder Hafar said, recalling the days of uncertainty that took up the better part of this year. There was "nothing I could tell her, because nobody knows when."

That she landed at Kennedy Airport on a recent December day was testament to her father's determination to keep his promise that they would be reunited and his willingness to go as far as suing the government in federal court. Advocates say the process for obtaining a travel ban waiver is still shrouded in unpredictability, which causes delays for thousands of American citizens waiting for loved ones.

The "system is messed up," said Curtis Morrison, the Los Angeles-based attorney who has filed several federal lawsuits, including Hafar's, against the administration on behalf of dozens of plaintiffs from countries affected by the travel ban.

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California jails use kinder approach to solitary confinement

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — An inmate in solitary confinement at a California jail was refusing to leave his cell. The jailers' usual response: Send an "extraction team" of corrections officers to burst into the cell and drag him out.

But not in Contra Costa County, one of three in the state using a kinder, gentler approach in response to inmate lawsuits, a policy change that experts say could be a national model for reducing the use of isolation cells. 

So the inmate was asked: "What if we gave you a couple extra cookies and another sandwich? Would you move?" recalled Don Specter, the nonprofit Prison Law Office director who negotiated the new policies. "He said yes. ... They were like, 'Wow.'"

More than a quarter of U.S. states and numerous smaller jurisdictions are looking for ways to reduce the use of solitary confinement, according to the Vera Institute of Justice, which encourages alternatives to a practice behavioral experts say is dehumanizing and can worsen mental illness.

The new policies in California came after Specter's firm sued seven of California's 58 counties, alleging that conditions had grown inhumane as jails absorbed inmates who previously would have served their sentences in state prisons. The state in 2011 began sending less serious offenders to local jails for years at a time to ease crowding in state penitentiaries.

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Police release teen suspect in Barnard student's killing

NEW YORK (AP) — A 14-year-old boy suspected of fatally stabbing a Barnard College freshman was released from police custody on Thursday, mere hours after New York City police said he had been located following a two-week manhunt.

Chief of Detectives Rodney Harrison tweeted that finding the suspect "was a significant development in the investigative process," but that the youth had since been released to the custody of his lawyers. Harrison didn't say why the boy was released.

A police spokesman declined to provide details, saying "the investigation remains active and ongoing."

A spokesman for Neighborhood Defender Service confirmed that the organization is providing the boy with legal representation but declined to comment further.

The 14-year-old is one of three youths police believe were involved in the stabbing of 18-year-old Tessa Majors as she walked through Manhattan's Morningside Park on Dec. 11.

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At each end of Pacific, skepticism over China farm purchases

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — President Donald Trump likes to joke that America's farmers have a nice problem on their hands: They're going to need bigger tractors to keep up with surging Chinese demand for their soybeans and other agricultural goods under a preliminary deal between the world's two largest economies.

But will they really? 

From Beijing to America's farm belt, skeptics are questioning just how much China has actually committed to buy — and whether U.S. farmers would be able anytime soon to export goods there in the outsize quantity that Trump has promised.

It amounts to $40 billion a year, according to Trump's trade representative, Robert Lighthizer. If you ask the exuberant president himself, though, the total is actually "much more than'' $50 billion. To put that in perspective, U.S. farm exports to China have never topped $26 billion in any one year. 

What's more, since Trump's trade war with Beijing erupted last year, China has increased its farm purchases from Brazil, Argentina and other countries. As a result, Beijing may now be locked into contracts it couldn't break even if it intended to quickly increase its purchases of American agricultural goods to something approximating $40 billion.

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Daycare owner arrested after 26 kids found behind false wall

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — A Colorado woman accused of hiding 26 children behind a false wall at her daycare center was arrested for investigation of misdemeanor child abuse, police said Thursday.

Carla Faith, 58, was arrested Monday in Colorado Springs on suspicion of two counts of reckless child abuse without injury and a single count of trying to influence a public servant, the El Paso County court records show.

Three employees — Katelynne Nelson, 31, Christina Swauger, 35, and Valerie Fresquez, 24 — were arrested on related charges.

Faith was arrested after a six-week investigation by the city police department's Crimes Against Children Unit, Lt. James Sokolik said in a statement. She posted $3,000 bond Wednesday. Her next court appearance was set for Jan. 2. 

Police went to the Play Mountain Place site on Nov. 13 after receiving complaints that the business was housing more children than its license allowed.

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Massive redwood tree falls, kills hiker in California park

MUIR WOODS NATIONAL MONUMENT PARK, Calif. (AP) — A huge redwood tree fell and killed a man visiting Muir Woods National Monument Park in California on Christmas Eve, authorities said Thursday.

Subhradeep Dutta, 28, of Edina, Minnesota, died while walking on a marked dirt trail with two other people in the park north of San Francisco famous for its towering trees, according to the Marin County coroner's office and a spokesman for the park.

Dutta was pinned by the trunk of the 200-foot-tall (61-meter-tall) tree and died at the scene. The trunk measured more than 4 feet (1 meter) in diameter. 

A woman injured by falling debris was taken to the hospital. A man hiking with the group escaped injury.

The tree fell following a series of winter storms over the past two weeks. 

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Los Angeles prosecutors reviewing 8 cases against Weinstein

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Prosecutors in Los Angeles are reviewing eight cases accusing disgraced film mogul Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault, an official said Thursday.

The Los Angeles and Beverly Hills police departments each brought four investigations to prosecutors, according to Ricardo Santiago, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office. 

The office will decide whether to move forward with prosecution. No charges have been filed, Santiago said. He did not know details about the allegations or when the cases were presented to prosecutors. 

Juda Engelmayer, Weinstein's publicist, said he had "nothing to add right now" in an email to The Associated Press.

District Attorney Jackie Lacey created a task force more than two years ago to handle the surge in sexual misconduct allegations against entertainment figures after the accusations against Weinstein launched the #MeToo movement. He has denied allegations of nonconsensual sex.

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Slave cemetery poses questions for Florida country club

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — The rumors swirled for decades: A dark history long lay buried under the grassy knolls and manicured lawns of a country club in Florida's capital city.

Over the years, neat rows of rectangular depressions along the 7th fairway deepened in the grass, outlining what would be confirmed this month as sunken graves of the slaves who lived and died on a plantation that once sprawled with cotton near the Florida Capitol.

The discovery of 40 graves — with perhaps dozens more yet to be found — has spawned discussion about how to honor those who lie in rest at the golf course. And it has brought renewed attention to the many thousands of unmarked and forgotten slave cemeteries across the Deep South that forever could be lost to development or indifference.

"When I stand here on a cemetery for slaves, it makes me thoughtful and pensive," said Delaitre Hollinger, the immediate past president of the Tallahassee branch of the NAACP. His ancestors worked the fields of Leon County as slaves.

"They deserve much better than this," said Hollinger, 26, who is leading a push to memorialize the rediscovered burial ground. "And they deserved much better than what occurred in that era."

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Markets in 2019: record stocks, lower rates, so-so IPOs

NEW YORK (AP) — On January 3, the S&P 500 sank 2.5 percent when Apple warned of sagging demand for the iPhone, an inauspicious start to 2019 following a 14 percent drubbing in last year's fourth quarter.

On January 4, Federal Reserve Chairman Jay Powell said the central bank would be "patient" with its interest rate policy following four increases in 2018. The S&P 500 soared 3.4 percent and by the end of the month was up nearly 8 percent.

January's swing helped set the tone for a year in which the market responded to every downturn with a more sustained upswing. Along the way, stocks kept setting records — 32 of them for the S&P 500 by Dec. 20, and 19 for the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

By its final policy meeting in December, the Fed had completely reversed course and cut rates three times in what Powell called a pre-emptive move against any impact a sluggish global economy and the U.S.-China trade war might have on U.S. economic growth. The stock market, and most Fed observers not named Trump, approved of the Fed's actions.

Investors' uncertainty over trade policy eased by December as Washington and Beijing reached a modest, interim agreement that averted a new round of tariffs on $160 billion worth of Chinese imports and reduced existing import taxes on about $112 billion in other Chinese goods.

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