AP news recap at 8:19 p.m. EST

House of Representatives votes to avert rail strike, force unions to settle

WASHINGTON (AP) – Congress is moving urgently to stave off the looming U.S. rail strike. The House of Representatives on Wednesday passed a bill that would bind companies and workers to a proposed solution reached in September that failed to win the support of all 12 unions involved. The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration. It would enforce a compromise labor agreement brokered by President Joe Biden’s administration. This agreement was eventually rejected by four of the 12 unions representing more than 100,000 workers at major rail freight companies. Unions have threatened to strike if an agreement cannot be reached by December 9th.

Jeffries wins historic assignment to lead House Dems to Pelosi

WASHINGTON (AP) — New York Congressman Hakeem Jeffries was elected House Democrat leader and will become the first black American to lead a major political party in Congress in the new year. Democrats met behind closed doors for internal party elections on Wednesday when Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her team stepped aside. House Democrats are ushering in a new generation of leaders. Jeffries, 52, has vowed to “get things done” even after Republicans gained control of the chamber and relegated Democrats to the minority party in January. The trio, led by Jeffries, includes 59-year-old Massachusetts Rep. Katherine Clark as Democratic whip and 43-year-old California Rep. Pete Aguilar as caucus chair.

China pledges crackdown on ‘enemy forces’ as Xi faces public testing

BEIJING (AP) – China’s ruling Communist Party has vowed to “tack firmly against infiltration and sabotage activities by enemy forces.” The statement from the Central Political and Legal Commission was released late Tuesday, after the largest street demonstrations in decades by citizens fed up with tough anti-virus restrictions. While it didn’t directly address protests, the statement serves as a reminder of the party’s determination to impose its rule. There was a massive show of force by the internal security services to prevent a repeat of the protests that erupted in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and other cities over the weekend. Security forces carried out random ID checks and searched mobile phones for evidence of participation in demonstrations.

Treasury Department makes Trump taxes available to House Committee

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Treasury Department says it has complied with a court order to make former President Donald Trump’s tax returns available to a congressional committee. The Supreme Court last week denied Trump’s request for an order that would have barred the Treasury Department from filing tax returns for Trump and some of his companies to the Democrat-controlled House Ways and Means Committee for six years. The court ended the three-year legal battle over the disclosure of Trump’s tax returns. A ministry spokesman said “the Treasury Department has complied with last week’s court decision,” but declined to say whether the committee had access to the documents.

Messi and Argentina advance at World Cup, beat Poland 2-0

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Lionel Messi will make at least one more appearance on the World Cup stage. The great Argentine had saved a penalty but his team still beat Poland 2-0 after second-half goals from Alexis Mac Allister and Julian Alvarez to advance to the last 16. Argentina finished first in Group C and set up a game against surprise qualifying Australia. Poland also advanced despite the defeat. Argentina have bounced back from the start of the World Cup with a shocking 2-1 defeat by Saudi Arabia. Messi’s last World Cup is expected to take place on Saturday. He will be relieved after failing to score a penalty in the second World Cup in a row.

Mistrial explained in actor Danny Masterson’s rape trial

LOS ANGELES (AP) – A judge has declared a mistrial in the rape trial of ‘That ’70s Show’ actor Danny Masterson. The jury told Los Angeles Judge Charlaine Olmedo that they were hopelessly stuck and could not reach a unanimous verdict on any case. The judge declared a mistrial on Wednesday afternoon. Masterson is accused of raping three women, including a former girlfriend, between 2001 and 2003 when he was at the height of his fame as the star of the Fox sitcom That ’70s Show. Masterson pleaded not guilty. His attorney argued that the acts were consensual.

Half-empty Idaho campus filled with fear, grief after murders

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — In a normal year, University of Idaho students would be busy between classes and the library, cramming for final exams and looking forward to winter break. But on Wednesday, a little less than half of the students appeared to have switched to online classes after four of their classmates were stabbed. Blaine Eckles is the university’s dean of studies. He hopes candlelight vigils to be held across the state tonight will offer temporary comfort in grief and fear. The murders remain unsolved and police have not yet named anyone interested in the case. Idaho Gov. Brad Little is providing $1 million in emergency relief funds for the investigation, and the FBI has assigned 44 agents.

Spectators flock to see glowing lava erupting from the Hawaii volcano

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii (AP) — The world’s largest volcano oozes out streams of glowing lava, drawing thousands of awed onlookers who clog a Hawaiian highway that could soon be covered by the flow. Mauna Loa awoke from its 38-year slumber Sunday, dumping volcanic ash and debris from the sky. On Wednesday, a major road connecting towns on the east and west coasts of the Big Island became an impromptu vantage point. Thousands of cars clogged the highway near Volcanoes National Park. Anne Andersen left her night shift as a nurse to see the spectacle. She was afraid that the road would soon be closed.

Fleetwood Mac singer-songwriter Christine McVie has died aged 79

NEW YORK (AP) – Christine McVie, the soulful British musician who sang lead on many of Fleetwood Mac’s biggest hits, has died at the age of 79. The band announced their deaths on social media on Wednesday, saying, “There are no words to describe our sadness at the death of Christine McVie.” No cause of death or other details were immediately announced. McVie was a consistent presence and personality in a band known for their frequent line-up changes and volatile personalities. During their commercial peak years from 1975 to 1980, the band sold tens of millions of records and were a continuing source of fascination for fans, turning personal struggles into melodic, captivating songs.

Red, white and blue theme for the French White House State Dinner

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House says Thursday’s state dinner for the French president is designed to highlight the ties that bind the United States and its oldest ally. First Lady Jill Biden and White House staffers previewed the agreements on Wednesday. Maine lobster poached in butter, beef with shallot jam and a trio of American cheeses are on the menu. Dessert is orange chiffon cake with roasted pears and creme fraiche ice cream. A glamorous state dinner at the White House is a high diplomatic honor reserved only for America’s closest allies. Thursday’s affair will be the Biden administration’s first.

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