Nativity scene

displayed on grounds of

Ohio Statehouse

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A private group that says it’s committed to “keeping the Christ in Christmas” has placed a small nativity scene on the grounds of the Ohio Statehouse.

The conservative Christian Thomas More Society represents the sponsors, American Nativity Scene, against any constitutional challenges that might arise. The joint effort has led to similar displays at state capitals in 26 states.

Laura Battocletti, executive director of the Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board, said the creche doesn’t broach the constitutional separation between church and state because it’s not state-sponsored. The hosts went through the normal permitting process, she said. They paid a $50 fee to keep the creche on display through Jan. 2.

Battocletti said a menorah has also been displayed on Statehouse grounds in recent years.

Icy silence, frayed connections:


takes a toll

WASHINGTON (AP) — The most raucous committee in Congress sat stone-faced, barely speaking.

One by one, the members around the Judiciary Committee dais voted on the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump. Then they bolted for the doors and the airports, in more than one case without a word.

The all-business iciness during those eight gavel-to-gavel minutes reflected the gravity of advancing articles of impeachment to the House floor for only the third time in American history. But it also told much of the story about impeachment’s toll on Congress, Washington and beyond.

Ever since Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukraine’s president sparked official proceedings against the president, impeachment has been a force that’s bent congressional business around it, with severe strain.

No one feels sorry for Congress, and its members generally don’t feel sorry for themselves. But the wear-and-tear of impeachment is becoming clear in the emotional exchanges and frayed relationships left in its wake.

Justices to take

up dispute over subpoenas for Trump records

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court said Friday it will hear President Donald Trump’s pleas to keep his tax, bank and financial records private, a major confrontation between the president and Congress that also could affect the 2020 presidential campaign.

Arguments will take place in late March, and the justices are poised to issue decisions in June as Trump is campaigning for a second term. Rulings against the president could result in the quick release of personal financial information that Trump has sought strenuously to keep private. The court also will decide whether the Manhattan district attorney can obtain eight years of Trump’s tax returns as part of an ongoing criminal investigation.

The subpoenas are separate from the ongoing impeachment proceedings against Trump, headed for a vote in the full House next week. Indeed, it’s almost certain the court won’t hear the cases until after a Senate trial over whether to remove Trump has ended.

Trump sued to prevent banks and accounting firms from complying with subpoenas for his records from three committees of the House of Representatives and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.

In three separate cases, he has so far lost at every step, but the records have not been turned over pending a final court ruling. Now it will be up to a court that includes two Trump appointees, Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, to decide in a case with significant implications reagrding a president’s power to refuse a formal request from Congress.

How US-China trade deal achieved a little, left out a lot

WASHINGTON (AP) — The limited trade deal that the Trump administration and Beijing announced Friday means Americans will avoid a holiday tax increase on imported toys, clothing and smartphones. U.S. farmers can sell more soybeans and pork to China. And American companies should face less pressure to hand over trade secrets to Beijing.

But what the administration gained from the so-called Phase 1 deal that President Donald Trump celebrated falls well short of the demands the president issued when he launched a trade war against Beijing 17 months ago. Further rounds of negotiations will be required to achieve a more significant agreement.

Still, Friday’s preliminary agreement managed to at least defuse a conflict that had put investors on edge and slowed economic growth entering an election year in which Trump plans to campaign, at least in part, on America’s prosperity.

Under the agreement, the Trump administration dropped its plan to impose new tariffs on $160 billion of Chinese imports beginning Sunday — a tax that would have likely led to higher prices on many consumer goods. The administration also agreed to reduce its existing import taxes on about $112 billion in Chinese goods from 15% to 7.5%.

In return, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer told reporters, China agreed to buy $40 billion a year in U.S. farm products over two years, even though U.S. agricultural exports to China have never topped $26 billion a year. In addition, Beijing committed to ending a long-standing practice of pressuring companies to hand over their technology as a condition of gaining access to the Chinese market.

State mounts

crackdown on

illegal LA pot shops

LOS ANGELES (AP) — California regulators mounted dozens of raids against illegal marijuana retailers in Los Angeles this week, the largest crackdown to date against the city’s thriving black market, officials announced Friday.

The state has been under pressure from California’s legal industry to do more to stop the underground pot economy, which in Los Angeles and other cities often operates in plain sight. According to some estimates, roughly 75% of sales in the state remain under the table, snatching profits from legal storefronts.

Investigators from the state Bureau of Cannabis Control and the Department of Consumer Affairs’ Cannabis Enforcement Unit served search warrants at 24 unlicensed shops from Tuesday through Thursday. They seized $8.8 million in cannabis products, confiscated nearly 10,000 illegal vape pens and $129,000 in cash, the bureau said.

The crackdown was praised by the United Cannabis Business Association, a Los Angeles-based industry group that has been urging the state to do more to shut down rogue operators.

“For a long time we have been playing a game of whack-a-mole, targeting and shutting down a small handful of illegal shops at a time, only to have them reopen days later in the same location or down the street,” said Jerred Kiloh, who heads the group.

Boy, 13, arrested

in killing of Barnard College freshman

NEW YORK (AP) — A 13-year-old boy was arrested Friday in the stabbing death of a Barnard College freshman who was approached in a park by as many as three youths as she ventured from her New York City campus on the eve of final exams.

The boy was arrested on charges including felony murder, City Corporation Counsel James E. Johnson said in a statement. The teen appeared Friday in family court and is being held in a juvenile detention facility. He is due back in court Tuesday.

Rodney Harrison, the New York Police Department’s chief of detectives, said on Twitter that one arrest had been made in the killing and “this remains an active investigation.”

The arrest of such a young suspect added another tragic element to the slaying of 18-year-old Tessa Majors, a case that has troubled city and campus leaders.

The boy, whose name has not been made public, is among just a handful of people in their early teens to be charged with murder in the city in recent years. He will be tried as a juvenile delinquent in family court.

‘Rise of Skywalker’ is almost here, but

a dark side looms

LOS ANGELES (AP) — When Disney bought Lucasfilm for more than $4 billion in 2012, there were lofty expectations of reviving “Star Wars” in spectacular hyper-speed fashion with a new trilogy that continued the story of Luke Skywalker and other beloved characters.

The space saga has been a smart investment, starting with “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” which in 2015 became the fastest movie to reach $1 billion. Despite the financial success, there’s been a dark side — fierce criticism of the new trilogy amplified by social media.

Some fans have attacked the story lines, which have shifted away from Skywalker toward a new generation of characters. The new films are more inclusive and feature a diverse cast and a focus on a female protagonist, Daisy Ridley’s Rey, leading to volleys of racist and sexist remarks directed at the franchise’s newest stars.

With “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” opening in theaters Dec. 20, director J.J. Abrams expects more backlash. Especially since the new film — which he calls the “aftermath of Luke Skywalker and his sister Princess Leia” — is the final installment of a nine-part movie series that began 42 years ago.

WWII veteran to get college degree 73 years later

CINCINNATI (AP) — A World War II veteran will graduate from the University of Cincinnati on Saturday, more than 70 years after he first enrolled.

Paul Blom, 94, began classes for his degree at the university in 1946 after enlisting in the Navy in three years prior, WCPO-TV reported.

“I came down to UC thinking I was going to go to school, but, you know, it was late, it was almost August, and there wasn’t no room for me,” Blom said. He began to help with the family trucking business while taking night classes at the university for the next nine years.

But life got in the way until his family reached out to the university to see whether he could receive an honorary degree. The university found, after a little digging, that it was able to do better than an honorary degree and offer him the associate’s degree he had earned in full.

The veteran will walk at the official commencement ceremony Saturday.

“I’m getting more excited as time goes by, and the countdown, I guess, starts right now,” Blom said.


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