AP Top News at 7:48 p.m. EST

Colleagues paint caustic portrait of artist colony founder
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - The founder of a ramshackle Oakland artists' colony where dozens of people burned to death saw himself as a kind of guru and loved to surround himself with followers but showed chilling disregard for their well-being, according to relatives, neighbors and acquaintances. Derick Ion Almena, 46, leased and operated the cluttered warehouse where a blaze erupted Friday night during a dance party, leaving at least 36 people dead in the nation's most lethal building fire in over a decade. Neighbors and occupants of the building said he had illegally carved it into rented living and studio space for artists, calling it the Satya Yuga collective.


No experience needed: Trump taps Carson for HUD secretary
NEW YORK (AP) - Donald Trump chose retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson on Monday to be secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, raising fresh concerns about the lack of experience some of Trump's Cabinet picks have with agencies they're now being chosen to lead. Carson, who opposed Trump in the Republican primaries, has no background in government or running a large bureaucracy. In addition, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, Trump's choice to be ambassador to the United Nations, has no foreign policy experience. Steve Mnuchin, a former Goldman Sachs partner and Hollywood executive, is Trump's man to lead the Treasury Department but has never worked in government.


Mistrial declared in black motorist's shooting by officer
CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) - A South Carolina judge declared a mistrial Monday after a jury deadlocked in the murder trial of a white former police officer charged in the shooting death of an unarmed black motorist. A panel of one black and 11 white jurors - who had seemed close to a verdict to convict Friday, with apparently only one holdout - said Monday they were unable to reach a unanimous decision after deliberating more than 22 hours over four days. "We as a jury regret to inform the court that despite the best efforts of all parties we are unable to come to a unanimous decision," said Circuit Judge Clifton Newman, reading a note from the jury before declaring a mistrial.


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Families brace for news that loved ones among fire victims
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) - Terry Ewing is waiting for the confirmation he already knows in his heart: His girlfriend was among the dozens killed in the Oakland warehouse fire. Hundreds of family members and friends find themselves in similar limbo, as firefighters continue a painstaking search for victims. On Monday prosecutors said murder charges could result from their investigation as the death toll rose to 36. Officials say they know more bodies will be discovered. "We've all quietly slipped into using past tense verbs, and I think everybody, in their hearts has a good idea of what the news is," Ewing said.


Music therapist, teacher, teens among warehouse fire victims
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) - A therapist who used music to help kids cope with trauma. A woman who taught at a Montessori school. An artist who could make friends with anyone. These were some of the people killed when flames ripped through a converted Oakland warehouse during a dance party Friday night. The death toll from the fire climbed to 36 on Monday. Alameda County Sheriff's Sgt. Ray Kelly said the victims also included 17-year-olds and people from Europe and Asia. Here's a closer look at who they were: PASSIONATE MUSIC THERAPIST Travis Hough, 35, believed music healed people, including himself.


Obama legacy: Handing Trump a broad view of war powers
WASHINGTON (AP) - After eight years as a wartime president, Barack Obama is handing his successor an expansive interpretation of the commander in chief's authority to wage war around the globe. And that reading has continued to grow even as Obama prepares to pass control to Donald Trump. In his final weeks in office, Obama has broadened the legal scope of the war on extremism, the White House confirmed Monday, as it acknowledged for the first that the administration now asserts it is legally justified to take on the extremist group al-Shabab in Somalia. The determination is based on an expanded application of a 9/11-era use of force authorization, a statute Obama has repeatedly leaned on to justify military operations.


2 Russian nurses killed in rebel shelling of Syria's Aleppo
ALEPPO, Syria (AP) - Rebel shelling killed two Russian nurses and eight civilians Monday in Aleppo, and a Russian fighter jet crashed as it was returning to an aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean after a sortie over Syria, but the pilot ejected safely, Moscow officials said. The shelling that targeted government-controlled western Aleppo was one of the most intense in recent days. It coincided with a crushing air and ground assault that has seen forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad recapture more than half of opposition-held eastern Aleppo. Russia and militias allied with Iran and Lebanon's Hezbollah have been staunch supporters of Assad in his country's bitter civil war, now in its sixth year.


By accident or design, Trump signals tougher China policy
WASHINGTON (AP) - Whether by accident or design, President-elect Donald Trump is signaling a tougher American policy toward China, sparking warnings from both the outgoing Obama administration and Beijing. On Monday, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said progress with the Chinese could be "undermined" by a flare-up over the sovereignty of Taiwan, the self-governing island the U.S. broke diplomatic ties with in 1979. That split was part of an agreement with China, which claims the island as its own territory, although the U.S. continues to sell Taiwan billions in military equipment and has other economic ties. Trump broke protocol last week by speaking with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, then took to Twitter to challenge China's trade and military policies.


Man convicted in son's hot-car death gets life, no parole
MARIETTA, Ga. (AP) - A judge on Monday sentenced a Georgia man to serve life in prison without the possibility of parole after a jury found that he intentionally left his toddler son in a hot SUV to die. Jurors last month convicted Justin Ross Harris, 36, of malice murder and other charges in the June 2014 death of his 22-month-old son, Cooper. Prosecutors argued throughout the trial that Harris was unhappily married and intentionally killed his son because he wanted an escape from family life. Defense attorneys maintained that Harris was a loving father and that while he was responsible for the boy's death, it was a tragic accident.


Heisman finalists: Jackson, Watson, Peppers, 2 Sooners
NEW YORK (AP) - Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson is a Heisman Trophy finalist for the second consecutive season, joining Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson, Michigan linebacker Jabrill Peppers and Oklahoma teammates Baker Mayfield and Dede Westbrook. The finalists were announced Monday on ESPN and the award will be presented Saturday in New York. Watson finished third in last year's voting, won by Alabama running back Derrick Henry. Just like last year, he heads to New York not as the favorite but as the contender coming on strong at the end. Mayfield finished fourth last season, but did not get an invite to Heisman presentation in New York.