Obama defends decision to commute Chelsea Manning's sentence WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama firmly defended his decision to cut nearly three decades off convicted leaker Chelsea Manning's prison term Wednesday, arguing in his final White House news conference that the former Army intelligence analyst had served a "tough prison sentence" already. Obama said he granted clemency to Manning because she had gone to trial, taken responsibility for her crime and received a sentence that was harsher than other leakers had received. He emphasized that he had merely commuted her sentence, not granted a pardon, which would have symbolically forgiven her for the crime. "I feel very comfortable that justice has been served," Obama said.
Price says affordability, access key to health care reform WASHINGTON (AP) - President-elect Donald Trump's pick for health secretary said Wednesday that access and affordability were his goals for revamping health care, and he offered assurances that the new administration is not planning to launch a Medicare overhaul. Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., testified before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions at the start of a confirmation process that at times turned contentious. He said the health care system is losing focus on patients, its first priority. He answered "absolutely not," when asked if the incoming administration intends to tackle Medicare while trying to repeal President Barack Obama's health care law and replace it with a GOP version.
In break with Trump, EPA pick says climate change isn't hoax WASHINGTON (AP) - Donald Trump's choice to head the Environmental Protection Agency said Wednesday that climate change is real, breaking with both the president-elect and his own past statements. In response to questions from Democrats during his Senate confirmation hearing, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt said he disagreed with Trump's earlier claims that global warming is a hoax created by the Chinese to harm the economic competitiveness of the United States. "I do not believe climate change is a hoax," Pruitt said. The 48-year-old Republican has previously cast doubt on the extensive body of scientific evidence showing that the planet is warming and man-made carbon emissions are to blame.
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Former President George H.W. Bush, wife Barbara hospitalized HOUSTON (AP) - Former President George H.W. Bush was admitted to an intensive care unit on Wednesday, and his wife, Barbara, was hospitalized as a precaution, according to his spokesman. The 92-year-old former president was admitted to the ICU at Houston Methodist Hospital to "address an acute respiratory problem stemming from pneumonia," family spokesman Jim McGrath said in a statement. McGrath said the former first lady was hospitalized as a precaution after experiencing fatigue and coughing. "Doctors performed a procedure to protect and clear his airway that required sedation. President Bush is stable and resting comfortable in the ICU, where he will remain for observation," McGrath said in the statement.
West African bloc vows Gambia intervention at midnight DAKAR, Senegal (AP) - After more than two decades in power, Gambian President Yahya Jammeh faced the prospect of a midnight military intervention by regional forces, as the man who once pledged to rule the West African nation for a billion years clung to power late Wednesday. A military commander with the regional bloc known as ECOWAS announced that Jammeh had only hours to leave or face troops already positioning along Gambia's borders. "We are waiting so that all political means have been exhausted. The mandate of the president is finished at midnight," declared Seydou Maiga Mboro, speaking on Senegalese radio station RFM.
Trump's America: Rural-urban divide in Georgia LULA, Ga. (AP) - Patti Thomas owns a flower shop in the north Georgia town of Lula. Xavier Bryant runs an independent pharmacy just outside Atlanta. Looking toward the inauguration of an entrepreneur as president, the two share this expectation: Donald Trump will be good for business. "He's already proven he can turn things around," the 52-year-old Thomas says, crediting Trump with Ford Motor Co.'s recent announcement that it would scrap a planned Mexico plant while expanding in Michigan. "Just his business enthusiasm, we've been lacking that." "My intuition," the 33-year-old Bryant agrees, "is telling me that small business owners will win" in Trump's economy.
Earth sets hottest year record for third-straight time, WASHINGTON (AP) - Earth sizzled to a third-straight record hot year in 2016, with scientists mostly blaming man-made global warming with help from a natural El Nino that's now gone. Two U.S. agencies and international weather groups reported Wednesday that last year was the warmest on record. They measure global temperatures in slightly different ways, and came up with a range of increases, from minuscule to what top American climate scientists described as substantial. They're "all singing the same song even if they are hitting different notes along the way. The pattern is very clear," said Deke Arndt of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Denver starts work on allowing pot in public, a first in US DENVER (AP) - Denver is starting work Wednesday on becoming the first city in the nation to allow marijuana clubs and public pot use in places such as coffee shops, yoga studios and art galleries. Voters narrowly approved the "social use" measure last November. But the ballot proposal didn't spell out many rules for how the marijuana could be consumed, beyond saying that the drug can't be smoked inside and that patrons must be over 21. A workgroup made up of Denver business owners, city pot regulators and marijuana opponents starts work on suggesting regulations in the afternoon. The state Liquor Control Board already has decreed that no businesses with a liquor license can allow marijuana use.
For driverless cars, a moral dilemma: Who lives or dies? BOSTON (AP) - Imagine you're behind the wheel when your brakes fail. As you speed toward a crowded crosswalk, you're confronted with an impossible choice: veer right and mow down a large group of elderly people or veer left into a woman pushing a stroller. Now imagine you're riding in the back of a self-driving car. How would it decide? Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are asking people worldwide how they think a robot car should handle such life-or-death decisions. Their findings so far show people prefer a self-driving car to act in the greater good, sacrificing its passenger if it can save a crowd of pedestrians.
World's primates facing extinction crisis, new report says WASHINGTON (AP) - Gorillas, monkeys, lemurs and other primates are in danger of becoming extinct, and scientists say it's our fault that our closest living relatives are in trouble, a new international study warns. About 60 percent of the more than 500 primate species are "now threatened with extinction" and 3 out of 4 primate species have shrinking populations, according to a study published in Wednesday's journal Science Advances . While scientists had tracked dwindling numbers of individuals and groups of primates in forests around the world, this is the first big-picture look. The result was "a bigger wake-up call" than previously thought, said researcher Paul Garber of the University of Illinois.