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AP Top News at 8:05 a.m. EST

'This is happening': GOP revels in all-but-certain tax deal
WASHINGTON (AP) - Republicans working to execute their first major legislative achievement of Donald Trump's presidency appear to have secured the votes to pass a massive tax overhaul that Trump hoped to present to the American people for Christmas. "This is happening. Tax reform under Republican control of Washington is happening," House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin told rank-and-file members in a conference call Friday. "Most critics out there didn't think it could happen. ... And now we're on the doorstep of something truly historic." It's the widest-ranging reshaping of the tax code in three decades and is expected to add to the nation's $20 trillion debt.


Moore tells supporters 'battle is not over' in Senate race
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - Alabama Republican Roy Moore on Friday told supporters that the "battle is not over" in Alabama's Senate race even though President Donald Trump and others have called on him to concede. Moore sent a fundraising email to supporters asking for contributions to his "election integrity fund' so he could investigate reports of voter fraud. "I also wanted to let you know that this battle is NOT OVER!" he wrote. Democrat Doug Jones on Tuesday defeated Moore by about 20,000 votes, or 1.5 percent, according to unofficial returns. But Moore, who has been accused of sexual misconduct with teenage girls when he was in his 30s, has not yet conceded the heated Alabama race to fill the seat that previously belonged to U.S.


Major media players start commission for sexual misconduct
LOS ANGELES (AP) - The biggest figures and institutions in entertainment have established a commission to be chaired by Anita Hill that intends to combat sexual misconduct and inequality in the industry in the wake of the huge wave of revelations spurred by allegations against Harvey Weinstein. A statement Friday announced the founding of the Commission on Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality in the Workplace, a group that grew out of a meeting called by "Star Wars" producer Kathleen Kennedy and several other prominent women in the industry. "The Commission will not seek just one solution, but a comprehensive strategy to address the complex and interrelated causes of the problems of parity and power," Kennedy said in a statement.


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Army of firefighters takes on still-growing California fire
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. (AP) - The fourth-largest wildfire in California history continues to grow and threaten thousands of homes despite armies of fire crews and fleets of bulldozers and aircraft. Although Santa Ana winds eased on Friday amid the blaze northwest of Los Angeles, they are expected to return with a vengeance over the weekend. And the fire is so large that winds on one end may be gustier than those on the other side. The 11-day-old Thomas fire surging through Ventura and Santa Barbara counties had devoured some 400 square miles (1,000 square kilometers) of brush and timber and burned more than 1,000 buildings, including well over 750 homes.


Trump assails FBI leadership, touts loyalty to police
QUANTICO, Va. (AP) - Taking aim at the credibility of the FBI, President Donald Trump unleashed a blistering attack on the bureau's leadership even as he praised state and local police officers as a bulwark against rising violence and crime. Trump denounced the bureau for its handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation, calling it "really disgraceful" and continuing his questioning of his country's intelligence and law enforcement institutions as no president before. "It's a shame what's happened with the FBI," the president said. "We're going to rebuild the FBI, it'll be bigger and better than ever, but it is very sad when you look at those documents, and how they've done that is really, really disgraceful, and you have a lot of very angry people that are seeing it." The president's broadside appeared to reflect his anger over revelations that senior FBI officials exchanged anti-Trump and pro-Hillary Clinton text messages while working on last year's Clinton probe and during special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into whether Trump associates colluded with Russian officials in the 2016 election.


On Trump turf, GOP still seeks North Dakota Senate candidate
BISMARCK, North Dakota (AP) - In North Dakota, where Donald Trump won in a landslide last year, Republicans' lone Senate candidate is a little-known state lawmaker - and potato farmer - from a remote town closer to the Canadian border than the state capital. While established Republicans and business leaders in other states Trump carried are running to topple Democratic senators, the GOP is struggling to land a big name in North Dakota to run against Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp in 2018. The slow start has raised some worries that the GOP is ceding the early advantage to the well-funded Heitkamp in a place seemingly ripe for Republicans' quest to expand their majority yet surprisingly central to Democrats' effort to hold them off.


Border arrests surge, erasing much of Trump's early gains
SAN DIEGO (AP) - The U.S. government on Friday announced a seventh straight monthly increase in people being arrested or denied entry along the Mexican border, erasing much of the early gains of President Donald Trump's push to tighten the border. Denials of entry for people at official crossings and border arrests reached 39,006 in November, up 12 percent from 34,855 in October and more than double the 15,766 who were stopped or arrested in April. But November's figure was still down 38 percent from 63,361 for November of 2016, shortly before Trump took office. Border arrests don't capture how many people got away from agents but are widely used to understand trends in how many attempt to enter the country illegally.


Fear, shame preserve silence of abuse by clerics in Pakistan
It began with sweets and pocket money when he was 10 years old - special attention from the religious cleric who ran the Pakistani madrassa, or Islamic school, the boy attended. And it escalated to rape and months of sexual abuse, the now 28-year-old young man says. "I feel rage now when I think after he raped me he took a bath and right away he left to lead the prayers," the man, an economist who lives in Islamabad, told The Associated Press. "After that I came to know from three or four of my classmates that the mufti used to do the same with them." Speaking English, at times searching for the right words and at others apologizing for the explicitness of his conversation, he described the cleric's advances: how he took him to another mosque that was not associated with the madrassa the boy attended and then raped him.


Female candidate quits Kansas race over 2005 harassment suit
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A female congressional candidate dropped out of the Kansas race Friday over a 12-year-old lawsuit accusing her of sexually harassing a male subordinate, an unusual case of a woman facing the sort of misconduct allegations that have forced numerous men out of their jobs in recent weeks. Andrea Ramsey announced in a Facebook post that she was ending her campaign, calling allegations that she harassed her former employee and then retaliated against him "a lie." The employee, Gary Funkhouser, filed the lawsuit against OneLab Inc., the Kansas City-area company where Ramsey worked as a vice president. The two parties agreed to dismiss the lawsuit after settlement talks.


This week in odd news: Fatberg on display and a 'java jam'
HOLY COW! WANDERING BOVINE RETURNED TO PHILLY NATIVITY SCENE PHILADELPHIA (AP) - A cow in Philadelphia apparently wanted to be away from the manger, as it escaped twice Thursday morning from a church's live nativity scene. Stormy, the 7-year-old brown and white Hereford, was back munching hay at Old First Reformed Church of Christ by 7:15 a.m. after two sets of adventures on snowy downtown streets. Police first got reports of a cow near an Interstate 95 on-ramp around 2 a.m. Thursday. One of the state police troopers who responded has a cattle ranch in New Jersey and knew how to handle the situation, WPVI-TV reports .