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AP News in Brief at 11:04 p.m. EST

Last Updated Nov 23, 2017 at 11:20 pm EST

Franken’s rising political star obscured by accusations

WASHINGTON (AP) — “Many of you have jobs, many of you have families,” Sen. Al Franken told Democratic leaders gathered on the eve of a hotly contested governor’s election in Virginia. After an expectant pause, he leaned into the microphone and added, “Ignore them.”

Franken was jokingly beseeching activists to get out the vote the following day, in what ended up as a surprisingly decisive victory for Democratic candidate Ralph Northam. But the moment, barely two weeks ago, also underscored how high the one-time “Saturday Night Live” comic had risen in his party’s firmament.

After spending much of his nearly nine years as senator trying to shed his funnyman image and quietly digging into issues like internet access and consumer protection, he was now a draw at political events and mentioned by some as a 2020 presidential possibility. Months of savaging some of President Donald Trump’s appointees had turned the Harvard-educated Franken into a weapon of choice for Democrats eager to attack the administration and energize party voters.

Now, Franken’s rising trajectory has been interrupted by allegations he had physical contact with four women without their permission. He faces a Senate ethics investigation for improper conduct and hasn’t been seen publicly since the first claims of misbehaviour last week. His future is suddenly unclear.

“It’s always a great disappointment when leaders you like and admire do bad stuff,” said Mike Lux, a liberal Democratic consultant. He said it was premature to say how the allegations would affect Franken’s career. But, Lux added, “If more incidents come to light, he’s got a real problem.”

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Trump credits troops, and himself, for military advances

PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — President Donald Trump thanked U.S. troops for their service on Thursday, assuring them “we’re really winning” against America’s foes as he celebrated Thanksgiving at his private club in Florida and provided lunch for Coast Guard men and women on duty for the holiday.

Using the occasion to pat himself on the back, Trump told deployed military members via a video conference that they’ve achieved more progress in Afghanistan and against the Islamic State group under his watch than had been made in years of the previous administration.

“Everybody’s talking about the progress you’ve made in the last few months since I opened it up,” he told the 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 82nd Airborne Division, whose members are conducting operations in Kandahar, Afghanistan. “We’re being talked about again as an armed forces — we’re really winning.”

Speaking from a gilded room at his Mar-a-Lago club, Trump said: “We’re not fighting anymore to just walk around, we’re fighting to win, and you people are really, you’ve turned it around over the last three to four months like nobody’s seen, and they are talking about it, so thank you very much.”

Turning to the 74th Expeditionary Fighters Squadron based at the Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, Trump suggested the Obama administration hadn’t allowed soldiers on the ground to do their jobs.

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Barton to go mum over disclosed photo, citing probe

WASHINGTON (AP) — Suggesting he’s a victim of revenge porn from a jilted lover, Republican Rep. Joe Barton of Texas says he plans to go silent about the release of a nude photo of him online because police are investigating the disclosure as a possible crime against him. Authorities have not confirmed an investigation.

The 68-year-old Barton, who joined the House in 1985, has acknowledged sharing intimate material with a lover and accused her of threatening to make it public when he ended the relationship. The unidentified woman told The Washington Post that she did not put it online and said the congressman sought to intimidate her by threatening to go to the authorities if she exposed his conduct.

The he said-she said dispute erupted in the midst of sexual misconduct allegations drawing in several other members of Congress as well as Senate Republican candidate Roy Moore of Alabama, who is accused of disrobing a 14-year-old girl. The consequences for Barton are not immediately apparent aside from his mortification: The relationship with the woman was evidently consensual.

The Post published details of a secretly recorded conversation between Barton and his lover from 2015 in which he threatened to “take all this crap to the Capitol Hill Police and have them launch an investigation” if she did not agree to keep “inappropriate photographs and video” that he had exchanged with her from becoming public. He said she had already shared material with other women with whom he had been involved.

In a statement after that report, Barton said the “Capitol Police reached out to me and offered to launch an investigation and I have accepted. Because of the pending investigation, we will have no further comment.” He said the woman’s comments on the tape could be evidence of a “potential crime against me.”

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AP source: Flynn lawyers make a break with Trump team

WASHINGTON (AP) — Lawyers for former national security adviser Michael Flynn have told President Donald Trump’s legal team that they are no longer communicating with them about special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election interference.

The decision could be a sign that Flynn is moving to co-operate with Mueller’s investigation or negotiate a deal for himself. Flynn’s legal team communicated the decision this week, said a person familiar with the move who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation.

In large criminal investigations, defence lawyers routinely share information with each other. But it can become unethical to continue such communication if one of the potential targets is looking to negotiate a deal with prosecutors. Robert Kelner, a lawyer for Flynn, didn’t respond to a request for comment Thursday. A lawyer for Flynn’s son, Michael Flynn Jr., who has also come under investigation from Mueller’s team of prosecutors, declined to comment.

The New York Times first reported the decision.

Flynn was forced to resign as national security adviser in February after White House officials concluded that he had misled them about the nature of his contacts during the transition period with the Russian ambassador to the United States.

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Zimbabwe asks if new leader, a Mugabe ally, can bring change

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Zimbabwe’s incoming leader Emmerson Mnangagwa, widely known as the Crocodile, is seen as a smart, ruthless politician, and many question if he will be able to bring the change the country craves.

“We are witnessing the beginning of a new, unfolding democracy,” the 75-year-old announced Wednesday upon his return to the country, two weeks after his firing by longtime mentor Robert Mugabe led to the president’s downfall.

Despite the message of inclusion, Zimbabweans noted that Mnangagwa made his first public remarks outside ruling ZANU-PF party headquarters and, switching to the local Shona language, praised the party.

They ask whether Mnangagwa will be adequately independent from ZANU-PF to revive the battered economy and restore democracy with the backing of the opposition and others.

The ruling party has proven it protects its own. It assured Mugabe he would not be prosecuted if he stepped down, ZANU-PF chief whip Lovemore Matuke told The Associated Press: “He is safe, his family is safe and his status as a hero of his country is assured.”

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Sound heard in Argentine sub search was likely ‘explosion’

MAR DEL PLATA, Argentina (AP) — An apparent explosion occurred near the time and place an Argentine submarine went missing, the country’s navy reported Thursday, prompting relatives of the vessel’s 44 crew members to burst into tears and some to say they had lost hope of a rescue.

Navy spokesman Enrique Balbi said the search will continue until there is full certainty about the fate of the ARA San Juan, despite the evidence of an explosion and with more than a week having passed since the submarine disappeared. It was originally scheduled to arrive Monday at Argentina’s Mar del Plata Navy Base.

The U.S. Navy and an international nuclear test-ban monitoring organization said a “hydro-acoustic anomaly” was produced just hours after the navy lost contact with the sub on Nov. 15. It was near the submarine’s last known location.

“According to this report, there was an explosion,” Balbi told reporters. “We don’t know what caused an explosion of these characteristics at this site on this date.”

The navy spokesman described the “anomaly” as “singular, short, violent and non-nuclear.”

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Macy’s Thanksgiving parade revels on amid tight security

NEW YORK (AP) — The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade featured balloons, bands, stars and heavy security in a year marked by attacks on outdoor gathering spots.

With new faces and old favourites in the lineup, the Americana extravaganza made its way through 2 1/2 miles (3.22 kilometres) of Manhattan on a cold morning.

“The crowds are still the same, but there’s a lot more police here. That’s the age we live in,” Paul Seyforth said as he attended the parade he’d watched since the 1950s.

“Not a lot’s changed — the balloons, the bands, the floats — and that’s the good thing,” said Seyforth, 76, who’d flown in from Denver to spend his 50th wedding anniversary in New York and see this year’s parade.

The televised parade was proceeding smoothly, though about midway through, a gust of wind on a largely calm day blew a candy-cane balloon into a tree branch, and it popped near the start of the route on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. No one was injured.

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Papua New Guinea officials remove last refugees from camp

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Papua New Guinea authorities said Friday they had relocated the last asylum seekers who had refused for three weeks to leave a closed immigration camp for fear they would face violence in the alternative accommodations.

Police Chief Superintendent Dominic Kakas said police and immigration officials removed all 378 men from the male-only camp on Manus Island over two days and took them by bus to residences in the nearby town of Lorengau.

“Everybody’s gone. Everybody got on the buses, they packed their bags and they moved over,” Kakas said.

Refugee advocates say officials used force and destroyed asylum seekers’ belongings to make them leave Manus.

Video was released of officials in the camp wielding what appeared to be wooden sticks.

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Shoppers mobilize on Thanksgiving, as retailers branch out

NEW YORK (AP) — Shoppers are hitting the stores on Thanksgiving as retailers under pressure look for ways to poach shoppers from their rivals.

As the holiday shopping season officially kicked off, retailers are counting on a lift from a better economy. But they’re also looking beyond economic data and mapping out ways to pick up sales from other retailers as Amazon expands its reach.

That can mean opening earlier than rivals on the holidays or even jumping into new product categories. So shoppers may find some surprises: toys and TVs at J.C. Penney, Barbies at Best Buy, kitchen appliances like wine refrigerators at B.J.’s.

At Macy’s Herald Square in Manhattan, it was the deals like cosmetic and perfume sets from $10 to $20 as well as 40 per cent off on boots and shoes that drew attention. Its Apple shop was packed too, with deals on gadgets like the Apple Watch.

Tiffany Lloyd, in town from Columbia, Maryland, was visiting tourist sites when she realized stores were open.

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Rivers, Chargers beat fading Cowboys 28-6 on Thanksgiving

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Philip Rivers was more than comfortable on the Thanksgiving stage for the first time in his 14 NFL seasons.

Same with Keenan Allen, who didn’t have to wait nearly that long.

Rivers threw for 434 yards and three touchdowns, Allen had a career-high 172 yards in his second straight huge game and the Los Angeles Chargers beat the fading Dallas Cowboys 28-6 on Thursday.

Desmond King returned an interception 90 yards for the punctuating touchdown. The Chargers (5-6) moved within 1 1/2 games of AFC West-leading Kansas City after starting 0-4 while the Chiefs won their first five.

“Playing on Thanksgiving was everything it was cranked up to be,” said Rivers, who was 27 of 33 in his ninth career 400-yard game . “As a quarterback, you want to play well and throw it to your guys, and we did a lot today. But I’m more excited about our team.”