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The United Nations’ human rights chief is lamenting a deteriorating situation in Belarus and says that reported beatings of protesters by security forces may in some cases amount to torture. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said Friday there hasn't been improvement since a Human Rights Council debate about Belarus in September and “recent weeks have seen continued deterioration, particularly with respect to the right of peaceful assembly.” Belarus has seen mass protests triggered by President Alexander Lukashenko’s election to a sixth term in August was riddled with fraud. The Belarusian ambassador in Geneva said that “not all the protests were peaceful, and in response law enforcement agencies used force and detentions. Read more

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As Brexit talks enter their decisive final days, there’s still a big catch: the fishing industry. Fishing stands in the way of a massive trade deal between the European Union and recently departed Britain, putting at risk hundreds of thousands of jobs and tens of billions of euros in annual production losses. While fishing is only a small part of the nations' economies, it is an important point of national pride for coastal and island nations and has a massive impact on politics. And most fish caught by U.K. fishermen are exported to the EU. That's why, as the days to the Jan. 1 deadline dwindle, fisheries remains one of the biggest obstacles. Read more

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Britain’s announcement that it has become the first Western country to authorize the use of a COVID-19 vaccine has sparked debate about whether officials emphasized speed over safety. The U.K.’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency gave temporary authorization for people to receive a vaccine produced by U.S. drugmaker Pfizer and German company BioNTech. The agency made the decision under rules allowing regulators to sign off on medicines more quickly during public health emergencies. Britain's health secretary generated controversy by saying British authorities couldn’t have moved so quickly if the U.K. still belonged to the European Union. That drew a rebuke from the EU, and the U.K. regulator's assurance that “no corners have been cut.”  Read more

Britain’s business minister said Friday that U.K.-EU trade talks are at a “difficult” point, as British officials poured cold water on hopes of an imminent breakthrough. France, meanwhile, says it could veto any agreement it doesn't like. U.K. Business Secretary Alok Sharma said Friday that Britain was “committed to reaching an agreement” but “time is short and we are in a difficult phase.” Negotiators Michel Barnier of the EU and Britain's David Frost remain locked in talks after a week of late-night sessions fueled by deliveries of sandwiches and pizza. U.K. officials briefed media outlets that the EU had set back negotiations by making last-minute demands. The EU denies the allegation. Read more

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In his quest to cling to power, President Donald Trump has managed to lose not just once to Democrat Joe Biden but over and over again in courts across the country. Seemingly incapable of accepting the reality of his defeat, Trump and his allies continue to mount new cases recycling the same baseless claims, even after Trump’s own attorney general said the Justice Department uncovered no widespread fraud. Another legal blow came Thursday, a day after Trump posted a 46-minute speech to Facebook filled with falsehoods. In Wisconsin, the state Supreme Court refused to hear Trump’s lawsuit seeking to disqualify more than 221,000 ballots in its two biggest Democratic counties. Read more

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Denmark has decided to end all oil and gas offshore activities in the North Sea by 2050 and has cancelled its latest licensing round. It says it is “now putting an end to the fossil era.” The Danish Parliament voted late Thursday to end the offshore gas and oil extraction that started in 1972 and has made it the largest producer in the European Union. Non EU-members Norway and Britain are far larger producers. But environmental activists hailed the move as significant as it shows the way forward in how to fight climate change. Read more

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“It’s the hunger that killed him,” the grieving mother says. In this village in Madagascar’s extreme south, she lost her 3-year-old boy in June as hunger swept the region, more severe than in recent years. On a visit this week, The Associated Press spoke with suffering families who are among the 1.5 million people in need of emergency food assistance, according to the U.N. World Food Program. It’s a consequence of three straight years of drought, along with historic neglect by the government of the remote region as well as the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more

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While Senate leader Mitch McConnell is at the center of talks on another coronavirus relief bill, hardships are mounting in his home state of Kentucky. In Louisville, Paula and Anthony Hunter saw their catering and restaurant businesses slam to a halt because of the pandemic. They relied on federal assistance to help stay afloat. Now, months later, they're hoping for another round of aid to hang on until vaccines can conquer the virus. Despite a growing sense of desperation, much of the political pressure in Kentucky is focused not on McConnell but on Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear and the restrictions he has imposed on everyday life. Read more

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The cost of the postponement for the Tokyo Olympics could reach at least $2.8 billion in figures released by the Tokyo organizing committee, the Tokyo city government and Japan's national government. The numbers are in line with estimates that have been made in Japan since the Olympics were postponed eight months ago. They are now set to open on July 23, 2021. About two-thirds of the added costs are being picked up by the two government entities. The other one-third will come from the privately funded organizing committee. Tokyo costs are ballooning and could reinforce skepticism about holding the Olympics in the middle of a pandemic. Read more

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BELGRADE, Serbia — Serbia is opening a new hospital for COVID-19 patients that was built to ease pressure on an overburdened health system. Read more

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Optimism about delivering long-sought COVID-19 relief is building on Capitol Hill after additional rank-and-file lawmakers voiced support for a bipartisan, middle-of-the-road plan taking shape in the Senate. Also, top congressional leaders connected on the topic for the first time in months. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — frequent rivals but proven dealmakers — spoke on the phone Thursday. Their conversation came the day after Pelosi signaled a willingness to make major concessions in search of a COVID-19 rescue package in the $1 trillion range. Some conservatives, including Republicans from COVID-19 hotspots like North Dakota and Iowa, said they were comfortable with an aid package carrying the almost $1 trillion price tag. Read more

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A senior official with the fugitive leadership of Ethiopia's embattled Tigray region says several thousand combatants have been killed in a month of fighting, although claims remain difficult to verify in the conflict between Ethiopian and regional forces. The senior adviser to the Tigray leader in an interview with Tigray TV has urged young people and others in the region to “rise and deploy to battle in tens of thousands,” days after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed over the weekend declared victory. But with communications and transport links still largely severed, it’s difficult to know the situation, including the extent of popular support. Read more

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President-elect Joe Biden is adjusting the scope of his agenda to meet the realities of governing under a divided Congress and the complications of legislating during a historic pandemic. His team and congressional Democrats are looking at ways they can wrap some climate change provisions into a coronavirus aid bill. They’re considering smaller-scale changes to the Affordable Care Act. And they’re already working on an array of executive actions that will allow Biden to achieve some of his priorities without Congress. The maneuvering reflects the reality that passing any major Democratic priorities would be a heavy lift. Read more

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Jeffrey W. Hyatt, 56, died Thursday evening of natural causes, the coroner's office said. Read more

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Authorities in Bangladesh have sent the first group of more than 1,500 Rohingya refugees to an isolated island despite calls by human rights groups for a halt to the process. An official says the 1,642 refugees boarded seven Bangladeshi naval vessels for the trip to Bhashan Char. The island was once regularly submerged by monsoon rains but now has flood protection embankments, houses, hospitals and mosques built at a cost of more than $112 million by the Bangladesh navy. The island’s facilities are built to accommodate 100,000 people, just a fraction of the million Rohingya Muslims who have fled waves of violent persecution in their native Myanmar. Read more

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Showers will develop this afternoon and continue overnight, with the steadiest rain expected Saturday morning, before tapering and ending by midday. Read more

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United States defender Sergiño Dest is fitting in well at Barcelona so far and he says he “hopes” Lionel Messi will decide to stay with the team next year. Dest has flourished amid the turmoil that has rocked Barcelona since it lost 8-2 to Bayern Munich in August. Dest arrived in October and Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman threw him into action in place of injured teammates. He held up despite the steep learning curve and recently scored his first goal. Dest says “it is my time to show what I got.” Read more

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Global stock markets are mostly higher after U.S. jobs data and a pact by oil producers to raise output helped to allay concern following Pfizer's reduction of the number of coronavirus vaccine doses it might ship this year. Benchmarks in London, Shanghai, Frankfurt and Hong Kong advanced, while Tokyo declined. Fewer Americans applied for jobless benefits last week than expected. OPEC and allies including Russia agreed to raise oil output in January that they had slashed to support prices after the pandemic depressed demand. U.S. stock futures gained, rebounding from Thursday's decline after Pfizer reduced the number of vaccine doses it might ship this year by half to 50 million.  Read more

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Outgoing National Intelligence Director John Ratcliffe says China poses the greatest threat to America and the rest of the free world since World War II. He said in an op-ed published by The Wall Street Journal on Thursday that intelligence shows that Beijing intends to dominate the U.S. and the rest of the planet economically, militarily and technologically. Trump administration officials have been stepping up their anti-China rhetoric for months. President Donald Trump used the campaign trail to warn that Biden would be soft on China, although the president-elect agrees that China is not abiding by international trade rules, is giving unfair subsidies to Chinese companies and stealing American innovation.   Read more

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The Israeli government is urging its citizens to avoid travel to the Gulf states of the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, citing threats of Iranian attacks. Thursday's travel advisory comes as Iran is threatening to attack Israeli targets following the assassination of its top nuclear scientist last Friday. Iran accuses Israel of being behind the attack. Israel has not commented. Israel recently signed agreements establishing diplomatic relations with the UAE and Bahrain, and thousands of Israeli tourists are scheduled to travel to the Gulf this month. Iran and its proxies have targeted Israeli tourists and Jewish communities in the past.  Read more

The U.S. government has stepped up a feud with Beijing over security by adding China’s biggest processor chip maker and a state-owned oil giant to a blacklist that limits access to American technology and investment. The restrictions add to steps taken by President Donald Trump against China since losing his re-election bid in November. The Pentagon added four companies including Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. and China National Offshore Oil Corp. to a list of entities it said are linked to a “military-civil fusion” strategy. The Chinese government accused Washington of abusing national security claims to handicap fledgling Chinese industrial competitors. Read more

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A World War II veteran from Alabama has recovered from COVID-19 in time to mark his 104th birthday. A relative says Major Wooten of Madison is physically drained and a little fuzzy mentally after battling the new coronavirus. But granddaughter Holly Wooten McDonald says he appears to be on the mend as he marks his birthday. McDonald said her grandfather tested positive for COVID-19 on Nov. 23 after her mother — his daughter — got the illness. He had to be hospitalized but got better after receiving a new treatment. Wooten left the hospital Tuesday, two days before his 104th birthday. Read more

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Rajon Rondo is planning for a future in coaching. Maybe he'll even get a crack as a general manager. Not that he’s ready to get started on those goals just yet. After capturing his second NBA championship ring with the Lakers, the 34-year-old Rondo has moved on to the youthful Atlanta Hawks. He's the oldest member of the team, where he will serve as a mentor to budding superstar Trae Young while providing valuable minutes off the bench for one of the league’s more intriguing teams. Rondo believes the Hawks are poised to take a big leap in the East.  Read more

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Remy Martin produced another impressive performance on California’s home floor, finishing with 22 points, five assists and four rebounds as No. 25 Arizona State beat the Golden Bears 70-62 in the Pac-12 opener for both schools. Prized freshman Josh Christopher added 14 points for the Sun Devils, and Holland Woods knocked down a key 3-pointer with 2:24 remaining. Cal star Matt Bradley had 20 points and eight rebounds but was just 1 for 9 on 3-pointers. Read more

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Recent COVID-19 cases are being blamed on colder weather forcing more people indoors, and on holiday gatherings, as state health officials are preparing for potential capacity issues at hospitals. Read more

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Located smack in the middle of Hong Kong’s bustling Mong Kok neighborhood, Dignity Kitchen offers an array of mouthwatering Singaporean fare. But what sets Dignity Kitchen apart from other restaurants in the city is that it is a social enterprise, almost entirely staffed by employees with physical or mental disabilities. The restaurant trains disabled employees to prep food and cook, as well as serve customers. “It’s important to help the disabled or the disadvantaged people, because they are at society’s bottom of the pyramid,” says the restaurant’s founder, Koh Seng Choon. Ultimately, Dignity Kitchen aims to place its employees in other jobs in the food and beverage sector.   Read more

President Donald Trump’s frantic effort in the courts to delegitimize an election he lost has come no closer in a month to reversing any results. Lawyers for Trump and his allies have asked judges in several states to take the drastic and unprecedented step of setting aside President-elect Joe Biden’s wins. They filed new cases and vowed to press on with appeals. But the quantity of affidavits, lawsuits and claims made by Trump belies that they are spurious or often repetitive of arguments already rejected by judges and elections officials, some of them Republicans.  Read more

It took just a day for a cellphone video of a man hauling a large box into a Detroit election office to be viewed more than a million times. The images were spread across social media as proof of voter fraud, even though it was debunked by news organizations and public officials. That single video serves as a powerful emblem of the trafficking in false information that has plagued the presidential election won by Joe Biden. In other videos, photos and social media posts, President Donald Trump and his supporters have raised doubts about the outcome based on problems that did not occur.   Read more

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Friday’s monthly U.S. jobs report will help answer a key question overhanging the economy: Just how much damage is being caused by the resurgent coronavirus, the resulting curbs on businesses and the reluctance of consumers to shop, travel and dine out? Economists surveyed by the data provider FactSet have forecast that employers added 450,000 jobs in November. In normal times, that would be a healthy increase. But a gain that size would amount to the weakest monthly hiring since April. The unemployment rate is projected to drop one-tenth of a percentage point to 6.8%.  Read more

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Americans couldn’t resist the urge to gather for Thanksgiving. That's according to data from roadways and airports provided to The Associated Press. Americans drove only slightly less than a year ago and largely ignored the pleas of public health experts, who begged them to forgo holiday travel to help contain the coronavirus pandemic. The nation’s unwillingness to tamp down on travel offered a warning in advance of Christmas and New Year’s as virus deaths and hospitalizations hit new highs. U.S. deaths from the outbreak eclipsed 3,100 on Thursday, obliterating the single-day record set last spring. Read more