AP News in Brief at 12:04 a.m. EST
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AP News in Brief at 12:04 a.m. EST

2-for-1: Total lunar eclipse comes with supermoon bonus

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — The only total lunar eclipse this year and next came with a supermoon bonus.

On Sunday night, the moon, Earth and sun lined up to create the eclipse, which was visible throughout North and South America, where skies were clear. There won’t be another until 2021.

It was also the year’s first supermoon, when a full moon appears a little bigger and brighter thanks to its slightly closer position.

The entire eclipse took more than three hours. Totality — when the moon’s completely bathed in Earth’s shadow — lasted an hour. During a total lunar eclipse, the eclipsed, or blood, moon turns red from sunlight scattering off Earth’s atmosphere.

Besides the Americas, the entire lunar extravaganza could be observed, weather permitting, all the way across the Atlantic to parts of Europe.

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Teen in confrontation with Native American: I didn’t provoke

DETROIT (AP) — The student who stared and smiled at an elderly Native American protester drumming in his face outside the Lincoln Memorial as his schoolmates chanted and laughed says he did nothing to provoke the man in the videotaped confrontation and was only trying to calm the situation.

The student identified himself in an email statement Sunday evening as junior Nick Sandmann of Covington Catholic High School in a northern Kentucky suburb of Cincinnati. An official working with the family confirmed Sandmann’s identity, speaking on condition of anonymity because the source didn’t want to distract from the statement.

Videos posted of the confrontation drew wide criticism on social media. “I am being called every name in the book, including a racist, and I will not stand for this mob-like character assassination of my family’s name,” wrote Sandmann, who added that he and his parents have received death threats since video of Friday’s confrontation emerged.

Both Sandmann and Nathan Phillips say they were trying to defuse tensions that were rising among three groups on a day Washington hosted both the March for Life and the Indigenous Peoples March. But video of Sandmann standing very close to Phillips, staring and at times smiling at him as Phillips sang and played a drum, gave many who watched it a different impression. Other students appeared to be laughing at the drummer; and at least one could be seen on video doing a tomahawk chop.

The dueling accounts emerged Sunday as the nation picked apart footage from dozens of cellphones that recorded the incident on Friday in Washington amid an increasingly divided political climate fueled by a partial government shutdown over immigration policy.

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At 30-day mark, shutdown logjam remains over border funding

WASHINGTON (AP) — Thirty days into the partial government shutdown, Democrats and Republicans appeared no closer to ending the impasse Sunday than when it began, with President Donald Trump lashing out at his opponents after they dismissed a plan he’d billed as a compromise.

Trump had offered the previous day to temporarily extend protections for young immigrants brought to the country illegally as children and those fleeing disaster zones in exchange for $5.7 billion for his border wall. But Democrats said the three-year proposal didn’t go nearly far enough.

On Sunday, Trump branded House Speaker Nancy Pelosi a “radical” and said she was acting “irrationally.” The president also tried to fend off criticism from the right, as conservatives accused him of embracing “amnesty” for immigrants in the country illegally.

“No, Amnesty is not a part of my offer,” Trump tweeted, noting that he’d offered temporary, three-year extensions — not permanent relief. But he added: “Amnesty will be used only on a much bigger deal, whether on immigration or something else.”

The criticism from both sides underscored Trump’s boxed in-position as he tries to win at least some Democratic buy-in without alienating his base.

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Ice glazes over swath of US as wind chills fall below zero

BOSTON (AP) — Bitter cold is setting in after a major winter storm blanketed a wide swath of the country in snow, sleet and rain this weekend, creating dangerously icy conditions that promise to complicate cleanup efforts and make travel challenging on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Some of the coldest temperatures felt so far this season started to set in across the Midwest and Northeast Sunday and are expected to plunge further overnight.

Wind chills will bring temperatures into teens in the New York City area and down to minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 40 degrees Celsius) in upstate New York, the National Weather Service predicted.

In New England, they’ll fall to as low as 20 F (29 C) below zero around Boston and as low as 35 F (37 C) below zero in parts of Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire, the service said.

Temperatures across the Great Lakes, Ohio Valley and the Mid-Atlantic will drop 10 to 20 degrees Fahrenheit below average, the service said.

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After 2016 ruling, battles over juvenile lifer cases persist

Locked up for life at 15, Norman Brown remains defined by the crime that put him behind bars.

Twenty-seven years ago, Brown joined a neighbour more than twice his age to rob a jewelry shop in Chesterfield, Missouri, and the man shot the owner to death. The shooter was executed. But state officials, bound by a 2016 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, pledged to give Brown an opportunity to get out — then rejected parole in a process a federal judge ruled recently must be overhauled.

Three years after the Supreme Court gave inmates like Brown a chance at freedom, the justice system is gaining speed in revisiting scores of cases. About 400 offenders originally sentenced to life without parole as juveniles have been released nationwide, and hundreds of others have been resentenced to shorter terms or made eligible for release by law.

But most remain behind bars as prosecutors and judges wrestle with difficult cases. Tensions have mounted and lawsuits have been filed in states like Missouri, while in 21 others, life-without-parole sentences are prohibited for those 17 and younger. About a third of those bans have been approved since 2016, according to the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth.

“The national trend is certainly one where states are moving away from these sentences, whether by legislation or through the courts,” said Jody Kent Lavy, executive director of the group. But “there are still some outliers that in many ways are refusing to comply with the court’s mandate.”

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Patriots make 3rd straight Super Bowl, beat Chiefs 37-31 OT

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — It’s the dead of winter, meaning the weather in New England can be brutal. And that the Patriots are headed to the Super Bowl.

It took them overtime and more of Tom Brady’s brilliance to get there — for the third straight year. While the folks back home dealt with a frigid storm, Brady blew through Kansas City’s exhausted defence on a 75-yard drive to Rex Burkhead’s 2-yard touchdown run in a 37-31 victory Sunday for the AFC championship.

The drive, during which New England (13-5) had three third-down conversions, was reminiscent of when the Patriots beat Atlanta in the only Super Bowl to go to OT two years ago.

“Overtime, on the road against a great team,” Brady said. “They had no quit. Neither did we. We played our best football at the end. I don’t know, man, I’m tired. That was a hell of a game.”

Awaiting them in Atlanta are the Los Angeles Rams, who won 26-23 in overtime in New Orleans for the NFC championship. The Rams (15-3) last made the Super Bowl in 2002 while based in St. Louis, losing to the Patriots.

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In rare move, Israel confirms attacking Iran forces in Syria

JERUSALEM (AP) — In an extraordinary statement, the Israeli military confirmed early Monday that it attacked Iranian military targets in Syria, hours after carrying out a rare daylight air raid near the Damascus International Airport.

The statement was issued hours after Israeli missile defences intercepted an incoming missile over the Golan Heights in the wake of the airport raid.

“We have started striking Iranian Quds targets in Syrian territory,” the military statement said. “We warn the Syrian Armed Forces against attempting to harm Israeli forces or territory.”

Until now Israel has largely refrained from public admissions of its covert military operations in neighbouring Syria, in order to avoid large-scale involvement in the eight-year civil war.

The Syrian military said Israel carried out intensive airstrikes with successive waves of guided missiles shortly after 1 a.m., but added that Syrian air defences destroyed most of the missiles before they reached their targets.

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Ex-deputy to Argentine bishop says Vatican knew of misdeeds

ORAN, Argentina (AP) — The Vatican received information in 2015 and 2017 that an Argentine bishop close to Pope Francis had taken naked selfies, exhibited “obscene” behaviour and had been accused of misconduct with seminarians, his former vicar general told The Associated Press, undermining Vatican claims that allegations of sexual abuse were only made a few months ago.

Francis accepted Bishop Gustavo Zanchetta’s resignation in August 2017, after priests in the remote northern Argentine diocese of Oran complained about his authoritarian rule and a former vicar, seminary rector and another prelate provided reports to the Vatican alleging abuses of power, inappropriate behaviour and sexual harassment of adult seminarians, said the former vicar, the Rev. Juan Jose Manzano.

The scandal over Zanchetta, 54, is the latest to implicate Francis as he and the Catholic hierarchy as a whole face an unprecedented crisis of confidence over their mishandling of cases of clergy sexual abuse of minors and misconduct with adults. Francis has summoned church leaders to a summit next month to chart the course forward for the universal church, but his own actions in individual cases are increasingly in the spotlight.

The pope’s decision to allow Zanchetta to resign quietly, and then promote him to a new No. 2 position in one of the Vatican’s most sensitive offices, has raised questions again about whether Francis turned a blind eye to the misconduct of his allies or dismissed allegations against them as ideological attacks.

Manzano, Zanchetta’s onetime vicar general, or top deputy, said he was one of the diocesan officials who raised the alarm about his boss in 2015 and sent the digital selfies to the Vatican.

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China’s 2018 economic growth sinks to 3-decade low

BEIJING (AP) — China’s 2018 economic growth fell to a three-decade low, adding to pressure on Beijing to settle a tariff war with Washington.

The world’s second-largest economy expanded by 6.6 per cent over a year earlier, down from 2017’s 6.9 per cent, official data showed Monday. Growth in the three months ending in December dipped to 6.4 per cent — the lowest quarterly level since the 2008 global crisis — from the previous quarter’s 6.5 per cent.

Communist leaders are trying to steer China to slower, more self-sustaining growth based on consumer spending instead of trade and investment. But the deceleration has been sharper than expected, prompting Beijing to step up government spending and order banks to lend more to shore up growth and avoid politically dangerous job losses.

“Growth will remain under pressure,” said Louis Kuijs of Oxford Economics in a report. “Key risks are the ongoing trade tension with the U.S. and that credit growth does not recover.”

Exports held up through most of 2018 despite President Donald Trump’s tariff hikes on Chinese imports in a fight over Beijing’s technology ambitions. But they contracted in December as the penalties began to depress U.S. demand.

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Giuliani: ‘So what’ if Trump and Cohen discussed testimony

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani left open Sunday the possibility that Trump and former personal attorney Michael Cohen might have discussed Cohen’s congressional testimony.

But, he added, “so what” if he did?

Giuliani told CNN’s “State of the Union” that he did not know if Trump had discussed with Cohen a 2017 congressional interview at which Cohen has admitted lying about a Trump Tower real estate project in Moscow. He also acknowledged in a separate interview with NBC News that conversations about that project stretched throughout 2016, including possibly up until October or November of that year.

The question arose in light of a BuzzFeed News report from last week that said Trump had instructed Cohen to lie to Congress and that Cohen relayed that to special counsel Robert Mueller’s team of investigators. Mueller’s office took the unusual step of issuing a statement disputing the story. BuzzFeed said it stands by its reporting.

Giuliani said in interviews with CNN and NBC that Trump never directed Cohen to lie to lawmakers. But on CNN he acknowledged the possibility that Trump and Cohen might have discussed Cohen’s testimony, saying that while he had no knowledge of such a conversation, he wasn’t ruling it out and that it’d be “perfectly normal” anyway.

The Associated Press

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