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AP Top News at 3:57 a.m. EST

Trump speaks directly with Taiwan's leader, irking China
BEIJING (AP) - In a break with decadeslong diplomatic tradition, President-elect Donald Trump spoke directly with the president of Taiwan, a move that drew an irritated response from China and looked set to cast uncertainty over U.S. policy toward Asia. It is perhaps unprecedented for a U.S. president or president-elect to speak directly with a leader of Taiwan, a self-governing island the U.S. broke diplomatic ties with in 1979. In first comments apparently meant to downplay the significance of the call, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Saturday the contact between Taiwan's president and Trump was "just a small trick by Taiwan" that he believed would not change U.S.


The "Two Trumps" surface in president-elect's transition
NEW YORK (AP) - Donald Trump's skeptics hope the presidency will reveal a serious side of the brash businessman. His supporters want him to keep the freewheeling style that rattled Washington. In true Trump fashion, so far he's doing both. Trump has soothed some Republican establishment anxieties with many of his early Cabinet picks, including the respected retired Gen. James Mattis to lead the Pentagon and Georgia Rep. Tom Price, an orthopedic surgeon tapped to head the Department of Health and Human Services. He's hinted that he's open to shifting some of his most controversial policies, including his rejection of climate change and support for torture.


A Cabinet of generals? Trump's choices get mixed reviews
WASHINGTON (AP) - Donald Trump's move to pack his administration with military brass is getting mixed reviews, as Congress and others struggle to balance their personal regard for the individuals he's choosing with a broader worry about an increased militarization of American policy. No fewer than three combat-experienced retired Army and Marine leaders, with multiple deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, are on tap for high-level government jobs normally reserved for civilians. Others are entrenched in Trump's organization as close advisers. Retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn will serve as the president's national security adviser, and Trump announced retired Marine four-star Gen.


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Ruins of homes in Kirkuk a sign of divisions to come in Iraq
IRBIL, Iraq (AP) - All along the street, houses have been reduced to rubble in the central Iraqi city of Kirkuk. The work of Kurdish security forces retaliating against Sunni Arabs after a recent Islamic State group attack, residents say. Kurdish security forces moved in with bulldozers and excavators and demolished at least 100 homes in the Huzeiran neighborhood of Kirkuk in the week after a deadly suicide bombing in October, according to residents interviewed by The Associated Press and a report by Human Rights Watch. The destruction points to the dangerous divisions that threaten to burst out now that the IS "caliphate" appears on the verge of collapsing with the assault on its bastion Mosul further north.


Dazed Tennessee residents get first look at wildfire rubble
GATLINBURG, Tenn. (AP) - Charlotte Moore needed a phone charger. "I'll just get it at home," she shrugged. Then she remembered that her home was gone. The realization came as she made the familiar drive up to the top of Laurel Mountain in the Roaring Fork neighborhood of Gatlinburg on Friday, where what lay ahead was anything but familiar. On the first day officials let property owners return to assess the damage from the wildfire that devastated their homes, the eastern Tennessee tourist destination was headed toward an uncertain future. As people were allowed into the city, Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters raised the death toll to 13 and said the number of damaged buildings now approached 1,000.


San Bernardino recalls terror attack with silence, speakers
SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (AP) - Exactly a year to the moment that a pair of shooters unleashed a terrorist attack on San Bernardino, a bell rang 14 times Friday at the city's Inland Regional Center in honor of the people who died there. "We will never forget that day or the victims of this senseless act of violence. We strive to move forward and search for the good that is in us all," said Lavinia Johnson, the center's executive director. During the ceremony outside the center, employees of nearby businesses who sheltered people during the chaos were also thanked by Keith Nelson, the center's chairman.


Colombia repatriates dead as airline's licensing questioned
RIO NEGRO, Colombia (AP) - Victims of this week's tragic air crash in the Andes were flown home Friday as Bolivia's president called for "drastic measures" against aviation officials who signed off on a flight plan that experts and even one of the charter airline's executives said should never have been attempted because of a possible fuel shortage. The move by President Evo Morales came after evidence emerged that the pilot reported the plane was out of fuel minutes before it slammed into a muddy mountainside, killing all but six of the 77 people on board. Among the dead were players and coaches from a small-town Brazilian soccer team that was headed to the finals of one of South America's most prestigious tournaments after a fairy-tale season that had captivated their soccer-crazed nation.


Small Brazilian city prepares to bury remains of soccer club
CHAPECO, Brazil (AP) - This Brazilian hometown of the soccer team whose dream season ended in tragedy this week prepared Friday for the sad return of so many whose lives were cut short on an Andes mountainside, hanging origami figures of peace in the team's green and white colors from the fence of the local soccer stadium. As the bodies of the victims killed in the plane crash began the journey home Friday, gravediggers finished preparing the ground at cemeteries in the small city of Chapeco. A memorial service was planned for Saturday in the southern Brazilian city that was home to the Chapecoense soccer club, which was on its way to the finals of one of South America's most prestigious tournaments when the plane went down in Colombia on Monday, killing all but six of the 77 people on board.


Chains and branded skin: California kidnap case baffles cops
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Three weeks after Sherri Papini disappeared, the question of whether she was dead or alive was answered when the young mother and wife was spotted waving frantically for help along a California freeway early on Thanksgiving morning. But the mystery over what happened to her during those 22 days just seemed to grow stranger. She was battered and bruised, her hands were chained, her long blond hair had been chopped off, and her flesh had been branded with a threatening message. The 34-year-old Papini told authorities that she had been kidnapped at gunpoint by two women Nov. 2 while she was out for a run near her home.


Kerr tells Comcast SportsNet Bay Area he smoked pot for pain
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) - Steve Kerr, the reigning NBA Coach of the Year with the Golden State Warriors, acknowledged he tried marijuana twice in the past 18 months while dealing with debilitating back pain. Kerr told Comcast SportsNet Bay Area's Warriors Insider Podcast with Monte Poole on Friday that he used medicinal marijuana but it didn't help - but painkillers have been worse. "I have no idea if I would, maybe I would have failed a drug test, I don't even know if I'm subject to a drug test or any laws from the NBA," Kerr said. "I tried it and it didn't help at all." The 51-year-old Kerr missed the first 43 games last season and the team's record 24-0 start while on a leave of absence following complications from two back surgeries.

 

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