Defense Secretary Carter makes surprise visit to Afghanistan BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan (AP) - U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter on Friday made an unannounced visit to Afghanistan to consult with military commanders and deliver a pre-holiday pep talk to U.S. troops. It is Carter's last planned trip to Afghanistan before handing off his Pentagon responsibilities to his designated successor, retired Marine Gen. James Mattis. Carter is scheduled to meet later in the day with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. The U.S. has about 10,000 troops in Afghanistan to train and advise Afghan security forces combatting a resilient Taliban insurgency. U.S. special operations forces are hunting down al-Qaida and Islamic State militants.
Trump meets with Ohio State victims, taking on somber duty DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - In the midst of his Cabinet deliberations, President-elect Donald Trump flew to Ohio Thursday to meet with victims and families after the latest U.S. outbreak of violence, a somber duty that became all too familiar to his predecessor. In Columbus, Trump met with those who had been attacked by a knife-wielding Ohio State University student and had words of tribute for astronaut and senator John Glenn of Ohio - "indeed an American hero" - who died Thursday at 95. Then he was off to Des Moines, Iowa, for the latest stop on his victory tour of states that helped him win the presidency.
Trump picks fast food executive Andrew Puzder for Labor WASHINGTON (AP) - President-elect Donald Trump plans to add another wealthy business person and elite donor to his Cabinet, saying he would nominate fast-food executive Andrew Puzder as labor secretary. Puzder heads CKE Restaurants Holdings, the parent company of Carl's Jr., Hardee's and other chains. In 2010, he published a book called "Job Creation: How it Really Works and Why Government Doesn't Understand It." "Andy will fight to make American workers safer and more prosperous by enforcing fair occupational safety standards and ensuring workers receive the benefits they deserve, and he will save small businesses from the crushing burdens of unnecessary regulations that are stunting job growth and suppressing wages," President-elect Trump said in a statement.
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John Glenn, astronaut and US Senator, dies at 95 WASHINGTON (AP) - He became a hero as the first American to orbit the Earth and then served as a longtime U.S. senator. But John Glenn, who died Thursday at age 95, continued to defy gravity decades after his initial flight. The last survivor of the original Mercury 7 astronauts flew into space again at age 77. To his fellow crewmates on the space shuttle Discovery in 1998, the legend-turned-senator had to be called John. Or else. "He didn't want any special treatment as a U.S. Senator," said crewmate Scott Parazynski. "He said, 'Don't call me Senator Glenn. I'm going to ignore you if you call me that.
John Glenn, the 1st American to orbit Earth, dies at age 95 WASHINGTON (AP) - John Glenn, whose 1962 flight as the first U.S. astronaut to orbit the Earth made him an all-American hero and propelled him to a long career in the U.S. Senate, died Thursday. The last survivor of the original Mercury 7 astronauts was 95. Glenn died at the James Cancer Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, where he was hospitalized for more than a week, said Hank Wilson, communications director for the John Glenn School of Public Affairs. John Herschel Glenn Jr. had two major career paths that often intersected: flying and politics, and he soared in both. Before he gained fame orbiting the world he was a fighter pilot in two wars, and as a test pilot he set a transcontinental speed record.
Russia says Aleppo combat suspended, residents say no let-up BEIRUT (AP) - Russia said the Syrian army was suspending combat operations in Aleppo late Thursday to allow for the evacuation of civilians from besieged rebel-held neighborhoods, but residents and fighters reported no let-up in the bombing and shelling campaign on the opposition's ever-shrinking enclave. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, speaking in Germany after talks with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, said military experts and diplomats would meet Saturday in Geneva to work out details of the rebels' exit from Aleppo's eastern neighborhoods, along with civilians who were willing to leave the city. Lavrov said the Syrian army suspended combat action late Thursday to allow some 8,000 civilians to leave the city in a convoy spreading across a five-kilometer (three-mile) route.
South Korean president faces possible last day in power SEOUL, South Korea (AP) - South Korean President Park Geun-hye entered what could be her last day in power Friday, as lawmakers geared up for what's widely expected to be a successful impeachment vote amid a corruption scandal that has left her isolated and loathed. Just ahead of the vote, opposition members of parliament sat on the floor and chanted "Impeach" with raised fists. They're confident that they'll get what they want Friday, the last day of the current parliamentary session, because dozens of members of Park's ruling party have said they'll vote against the woman who was once their standard bearer.
Alabama executes man convicted of killing store clerk ATMORE, Ala. (AP) - A man convicted of killing a convenience store clerk more than two decades ago in Alabama was put to death Thursday night, after two brief delays by the U.S. Supreme Court. Ronald Bert Smith Jr., 45, was pronounced dead at 11:05 p.m. after a lethal injection at the state prison in southwest Alabama. Smith heaved and he coughed repeatedly for the first 13 minutes of the 30-minute execution, clenching his fists and raising his head at the beginning of the procedure. A prison guard performed two consciousness checks before the final two lethal drugs were administered. During the first one, Smith moved his arm.
Attorney: Dylann Roof's mom had heart attack during trial CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) - Dylann Roof's mother suffered a heart attack not long after prosecutors described how her son planned a cold and calculated killing of nine black church members in a racially motivated attack, the white man's attorney said in court documents Thursday. Roof's mother collapsed and said "I'm sorry" several times on Wednesday as family members and court security came to help her during the opening of her son's federal death penalty trial. Roof's attorney mentioned the heart attack in court documents asking for a mistrial, saying a survivor's testimony was so emotional that "spectators and even court personnel - including members of the prosecution and defense - were crying with her." The documents didn't give the mother's current condition.
Right to the end, Trump campaign spent less than Clinton's WASHINGTON (AP) - Donald Trump's campaign spent about $94 million in its final push for the White House, according to new fundraising reports filed Thursday. The Republican continued his campaign-long trend of spending far less than Democratic rival Hillary Clinton. Her campaign blew through almost $132 million in its closing weeks, according to reports filed Thursday with the Federal Election Commission. The latest reports cover Oct. 20 through Nov. 28. Over the course of the primary and general elections, the Trump campaign raised about $340 million. That included $66 million that the billionaire businessman contributed from his own pocket. The Clinton campaign, which maintained a longer and more concerted fundraising focus, brought in about $581 million.