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AP Top News at 11:52 a.m. EDT

Pick 6: Transfer quarterbacks who could make a big impact
Florida might have solved its long-running quarterback problem with the addition of Notre Dame transfer Malik Zaire. That move became official last week, and as a graduate transfer, Zaire will be immediately eligible. Zaire is no lock to be the Gators' starter when they open against Michigan in Arlington, Texas, at the home of the Dallas Cowboys. Of course, if coach Jim McElwain and the Gators really felt good about redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks, then Zaire probably would not be going to school in Gainesville. Florida is one of several schools likely turning to a transfer quarterback this season to lead their teams.


US to seek more security on international flights
WASHINGTON (AP) - The Homeland Security Department is set to announce new security measures Wednesday for international flights bound to the United States, which could lead to a lifting of a ban on laptops and other electronics from passenger cabins from certain airports. Industry and U.S. officials briefed on the announcement said airlines flying directly to the United States will be required to implement the enhanced measures. If they don't, their passengers may be barred from carrying laptops and other large electronics in passenger cabins. Such a laptop ban has been in place at 10 airports in the Middle East and Africa since March amid concerns about an undisclosed threat described only as sophisticated and ongoing.


Mattis says Syria's government taking US threat seriously
BRUSSELS (AP) - Syria's government has taken seriously the U.S. warning against launching another chemical weapons attack, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Wednesday. Speaking to reporters traveling with him to Brussels, Mattis noted there has been no such attack since the White House issued a surprise statement Monday night that threatened President Bashar Assad's government with "a heavy price" if it used chemical weapons. The U.S. says it saw active preparations at Syria's Shayrat airfield for using such weapons. Mattis wouldn't say what specifically triggered U.S. concerns that an attack might be imminent. He said President Donald Trump has showed "how seriously we took them." Trump's approach has been designed to "dissuade" Syria from using chemical weapons, Mattis added.


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GOP 'Obamacare' repeal teeters after Senate shelves vote
WASHINGTON (AP) - The Republican Party's long-promised repeal of "Obamacare" stands in limbo after Senate GOP leaders, short of support, abruptly shelved a vote on legislation to fulfill the promise. The surprise development leaves the legislation's fate uncertain while raising new doubts about whether President Donald Trump will ever make good on his many promises to erase his predecessor's signature legislative achievement. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell announced the delay Tuesday after it became clear the votes weren't there to advance the legislation past key procedural hurdles. Trump immediately invited Senate Republicans to the White House, but the message he delivered to them before reporters were ushered out of the room was not entirely hopeful.


Venezuela: Helicopter strafes court in 'terrorist attack'
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) - A police helicopter fired on Venezuela's Supreme Court and Interior Ministry in what President Nicolas Maduro said was a thwarted terrorist attack aimed at ousting him from power. The confusing incident, which may ratchet up tensions in a country already paralyzed by months of deadly anti-government protests, took place as Maduro was speaking live on state television Tuesday and as the high court handed down a series of rulings against the opposition. He later said the helicopter had fired on the pro-government court with grenades, one of which didn't go off, helping avoid any loss of life.


China frees 3 activists who probed Ivanka Trump supplier
GANZHOU, China (AP) - Chinese authorities have released on bail three activists who had been detained after investigating labor conditions at a factory that produced shoes for Ivanka Trump and other brands. The three activists walked out of a police station in Ganzhou, a city in southeastern Jiangxi province, on Wednesday, the final day of their legally mandated 30-day detention period limit. The activists were working with China Labor Watch, a New York-based group, and were investigating Huajian Group factories in the southern Chinese cities of Ganzhou and Dongguan. One of the activists, Hua Haifeng, carried his 3-year-old son in his arms as he walked out with his wife and other family members.


Man destroys new Ten Commandments statue at Arkansas Capitol
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Capitol police arrested a man after Arkansas' new Ten Commandments monument was smashed to pieces when someone rammed a vehicle into it early Wednesday, less than 24 hours after the 6-foot (1.8 meter) granite statue was placed on state Capitol grounds. Secretary of State's Office spokesman Chris Powell said capitol police arrested the male suspect early Wednesday. The driver is identified in an arrest report as Michael Tate Reed of Van Buren, Arkansas. A Facebook Live video shot early Wednesday and posted on an account belonging to a Michael Reed appears to show the destruction of the monument.


Mom's ex-boyfriend gets life in killing of 'Baby Doe'
BOSTON (AP) - A Massachusetts man was sentenced Wednesday to life in prison in the killing of a 2-year-old girl who became known as Baby Doe after her remains washed up on the shore of a Boston Harbor island. Michael McCarthy, 37, will be eligible for parole after serving 20 years under the sentence imposed by Judge Janet Sanders. McCarthy was convicted Monday of second-degree murder in the 2015 killing of Bella Bond, the daughter of his girlfriend at the time. A computer-generated image of Bella was shared by millions on social media as authorities scrambled to identify her. Assistant District Attorney David Deakin asked the judge to set McCarthy's parole eligibility at 25 years - 10 years more than the minimum.


Transit agency: Human error caused subway train derailment
NEW YORK (AP) - A subway train derailment that injured nearly three dozen people and sparked major delays is being blamed on human error, not a track defect. A preliminary investigation indicates the derailment Tuesday morning in Harlem was caused by "an improperly secured piece of replacement rail that was stored on the tracks," Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman Joe Lhota and Interim Executive Director Ronnie Hakim said in a joint statement late Tuesday. "Storing equipment in between tracks is a common practice employed by railroads across the country to accelerate rail repairs," the statement said. "The key to this being an effective and safe practice is making sure that the extra equipment is properly bolted down, which does not appear to have happened in this case." The derailment tossed people to the floor and forced hundreds of passengers to evacuate through darkened tunnels.


Paddington bear creator Michael Bond dies at 91
LONDON (AP) - It was a last-minute Christmas gift for his wife that inspired Michael Bond to create Paddington bear, the marmalade-loving teddy in a duffel coat and floppy hat. Bond would go on to see his creation enchant children for more than half a century and become an icon immortalized in print, on screens and as countless stuffed toys before his death at age 91. His publisher, HarperCollins, said Wednesday that the author died at his home a day earlier after a short illness. Ann-Janine Murtagh, executive publisher of HarperCollins Children's Books, said Bond "will be forever remembered for his creation of the iconic Paddington, with his duffel coat and wellington boots, which touched my own heart as a child and will live on in the hearts of future generations." The furry adventurer first appeared in "A Bear Called Paddington" in 1958 - a stowaway from "Darkest Peru" who arrived at London's Paddington train station wearing a sign saying "Please look after this bear.