Monday news briefs

Associated Press

Kim calls for measures to protect North Korea's security

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — 

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un called for his military and diplomats to prepare unspecified "offensive measures" to protect the country's security and sovereignty, the North's state media said on Monday, before his end-of-year deadline for the Trump administration to make major concessions to salvage a fragile nuclear diplomacy.

Kim during a ruling Workers' Party meeting Sunday also "comprehensively and anatomically analyzed" problems arising in efforts to rebuild the North's moribund economy and presented tasks for "urgently correcting the grave situation of the major industrial sectors," the Korean Central News Agency said.

The plenary meeting of the party's Central Committee, which began on Saturday, is being closely watched amid concerns that Kim could suspend his deadlocked nuclear negotiations with the United States and take a more confrontational approach by lifting a self-imposed moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile tests.

The North has said the meeting, which will continue for at least another day, is intended for discussions on overcoming "manifold and harsh trials and difficulties."

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5 stabbed at Hanukkah celebration in latest attack on Jews

MONSEY, N.Y. (AP) — A knife-wielding man stormed into a rabbi's home and stabbed five people as they celebrated Hanukkah in an Orthodox Jewish community north of New York City, an ambush the governor said Sunday was an act of domestic terrorism fueled by intolerance and a "cancer" of growing hatred in America.

Police tracked a fleeing suspect to Manhattan and made an arrest within two hours of the attack Saturday night in Monsey. Grafton E. Thomas had blood all over his clothing, smelled of bleach but said "almost nothing" when officers stopped him, officials said.

An automated license plate reader alerted officers that the suspect's car had crossed over the George Washington Bridge into New York City about an hour after the attack. Thomas was stopped and taken into custody about 20-30 minutes later, NYPD commissioner Dermot Shea said.

Security camera footage the NYPD made public Sunday night showed two officers approaching Thomas' sedan with guns drawn before the suspect placed his hands on the roof of the car and he was put in handcuffs.

President Donald Trump condemned the "horrific" attack, saying in a tweet Sunday that "We must all come together to fight, confront, and eradicate the evil scourge of anti-Semitism."

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Police: Parishioners kill man who fatally shoots 2 at church

WHITE SETTLEMENT, Texas (AP) — A man pulled out a shotgun at a Texas church service and killed two people Sunday before he was fatally shot by congregants who quickly returned fire, police said.

Authorities at a Sunday evening news conference praised the two congregants who opened fire as part of a volunteer security team at West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement, near Fort Worth. It was unclear if the two people who were killed were the two who shot at the gunman.

"This team responded quickly and within six seconds, the shooting was over. Two of the parishioners who were volunteers on the security force drew their weapons and took out the killer immediately, saving untold number of lives," said Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who also hailed the state's gun laws.

Britt Farmer, senior minister of the church, said, "We lost two great men today, but it could have been a lot worse."

Authorities said there were more than 240 parishioners in the West Freeway Church at the time of the shooting.

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Congressman John Lewis says cancer is his latest battle

ATLANTA (AP) — As a civil rights activist at 25, John Lewis was beaten so badly his skull was fractured and the TV images from an Alabama bridge in the 1960s forced a nation's awakening to racial discrimination. As a congressman today at 79, Lewis is facing a foe like none before: advanced pancreatic cancer.

The veteran Democrat congressman from Georgia has fought many struggles in his lifetime. Yet, he said, "I have never faced a fight quite like the one I have now," announcing Sunday in Washington that the cancer was detected earlier this month and confirmed in a diagnosis.

Lewis has had many battles, and this he views as one more dawning. He was arrested at least 40 times in the civil rights era, several more times as a congressman since being elected in 1986 and only recently he has been rallying to help reunite immigrant families separated by the Trump administration. 

The youngest and last survivor of the Big Six civil rights activists, a group once led by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Lewis made clear that he has no plans to step aside from power while he undergoes treatment. 

He said being elected to Congress "has been the honor of a lifetime" and that he will continue working for his constituents from Capitol Hill.

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Jewish leaders urge action after another 'senseless' attack

NEW YORK (AP) — When a suspect walked into the home of a rabbi celebrating Hanukkah and stabbed five celebrants it was the latest in a week of anti-Semitic attacks in the nation's most demographically diverse area — and an incident that reverberated across the country.

 "Again, here we are: mourning another act of senseless anti-Semitic violence committed against our community and praying for those who were the victims of this hate," Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement Sunday following the attack a day earlier in Monsey, New York.

 "This is at least the 10th anti-Semitic incident to hit the New York/New Jersey area in just the last week. When will enough be enough? These heinous attacks make something abundantly clear: The Jewish community needs greater protection," Greenblatt said.

Since the Dec. 10 massacre at a kosher grocery store in New Jersey there have been 19 anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S., including 16 in New York and New Jersey, according to the ADL's Tracker of Anti-Semitic Incidents. The tracker is a compilation of recent cases of anti-Jewish vandalism, harassment and assault reported to or detected by the group.

Most concerning: Ten of those incidents have occurred in New York since Dec. 23 and involved assaults or threatened violence. The ADL defines assaults as incidents where people's bodies are targeted with violence accompanied by evidence of anti-Semitic animus or in a manner that attacks Jews for their religious affiliation. 

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Taliban council agrees to cease-fire in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The Taliban's ruling council agreed Sunday to a temporary cease-fire in Afghanistan, providing a window in which a peace agreement with the United States can be signed, officials from the insurgent group said. They didn't say when it would begin. 

A cease-fire had been demanded by Washington before any peace agreement could be signed. A peace deal would allow the U.S. to bring home its troops from Afghanistan and end its 18-year military engagement there, America's longest. 

The White House said it would have no comment.

The U.S. wants any deal to include a promise from the Taliban that Afghanistan would not be used as a base by terrorist groups. The U.S. currently has an estimated 12,000 troops in Afghanistan. 

The Taliban chief must approve the cease-fire decision but that was expected. The duration of the cease-fire was not specified but it was suggested it would last for 10 days. It was also not specified when the cease-fire would begin.

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Actress Sara Gilbert separates from wife, singer Linda Perry

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Actress Sara Gilbert has filed for legal separation from her wife of five years, singer and songwriter Linda Perry. 

Gilbert filed the separation documents in Los Angeles Superior Court on Friday. The papers cite irreconcilable differences as the reason for the split, and requests that neither woman receive spousal support. 

No details were given on custody arrangements for the couple's 4-year-old son Rhodes. 

Gilbert, 44-year-old star of "The Conners," former star of "Roseanne" and creator and former co-host of daytime talk show "The Talk," began dating Perry in 2011 and they married in 2014. 

Perry is the 54-year-old former singer of 4 Non Blondes who has written hits for Christina Aguilera, Gwen Stefani and Pink. 

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States charge more for electric cars as new laws take effect

The new year will bring new charges for some owners of electric vehicles, as an increasing number of states seek to plug in to fresh revenue sources to offset forgone gas taxes. 

In Hawaii, the charge will be $50. In Kansas, $100. In Alabama and Ohio, $200. 

New or higher registration fees go into effect Wednesday for electric vehicle owners in at least eight states. For the first time, a majority of U.S. states will impose special fees on gas-free cars, SUVs and trucks — a significant milestone as the trend toward green technology intersects with the mounting need to pay for upgrades and repairs to the nation's infrastructure.

Though electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles comprised less than 2% of new vehicle sales in 2018, their market share is projected to rise substantially in the coming decade. State officials hope the new fees will make up for at least part of the lost gas tax revenue that is essential to their road and bridge programs. 

"I think states are still trying to determine what is a fair or equitable fee on these electric vehicle owners," said Kristy Hartman, energy program director at the National Conference of State Legislatures. 

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Pats to play in wild-card game, Chiefs get AFC's No. 2 seed

NEW YORK (AP) — Tom Brady and the New England Patriots will be playing in the postseason a week earlier than usual this year.

The defending Super Bowl champs open the playoffs during wild-card weekend for the first time since 2009 after they lost 27-24 to Miami on Sunday and Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs beat the Los Angeles Chargers 31-21 to earn a first-round bye.

"We didn't play the way we're capable of playing and it ended up costing us," Brady said. "Just too many bad mistakes."

The Patriots (12-4) are the No. 3 overall seed in the AFC and will have to fix things in a hurry as they host Tennessee (9-7) next weekend. 

"We've got a game next week, we've got to get ready to go," Patriots safety Devin McCourty said. "Nobody should feel sorry for us, we shouldn't feel sorry for ourselves. Our goal is to play in the playoffs. We got a shot next week at all of that." 

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Efron: 'I bounced back' from illness in Papua New Guinea

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Zac Efron said he has has "bounced back" after an illness while filming a show in Papua New Guinea. 

On his Twitter and Instagram accounts Sunday, the 32-year-old "High School Musical" actor addressed recent media reports that he had been rushed to the hospital in a serious emergency while filming his new reality adventure series, "Killing Zac Efron." 

"Very thankful to everyone who has reached out. I did get sick in Papua New Guinea but I bounced back quick and finished an amazing 3 weeks in P.N.G," Efron said along with a picture of himself smiling and waving amid a group of local children. 

He gave no details on what the sickness had been or what treatment he underwent. 

"I'm home for the holidays with my friends and family," Efron said. "Thanks for all the love and concern, see you in 2020!"

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