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    Russian President Vladimir Putin says Moscow is prepared to immediately extend a pivotal nuclear arms reduction pact with the United States. Speaking at Thursday’s meeting with military officials, Putin said that Russia has repeatedly offered the U.S. to extend the New START treaty that expires in 2021 but hasn’t heard back. He said that “Russia is ready to extend the New START treaty immediately, before the year’s end and without any preconditions.” The pact, which was signed in 2010 by U.S. President Barack Obama and then Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, limits each country to no more than 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads and 700 deployed missiles and bombers. Putin and other Russian officials have repeatedly voiced concern about Washington’s reluctance to discuss the treaty’s extension.
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is bristling over a question about whether she “hates” President Donald Trump. Pelosi told reporters at her weekly press conference Thursday that as a Catholic, she resents the suggestion that she hates anyone. She fired back at the questioner: “Don't mess with me when it comes to words like that.” The reporter asked: “Do you hate the president, Madam Speaker?” “I don't hate anybody,” Pelosi responded. Earlier, Pelosi announced that the House will draft articles of impeachment against Trump over his pressure on Ukraine to investigate Democrats and political rival Joe Biden as Trump was withholding aid to Ukraine.
  • Slovakia’s police say they have charged former Prime Minister Robert Fico with racism for his comments about the embattled Roma minority. The investigators say Fico, a populist leader, publicly agreed with racist remarks about the Roma made by a far-right lawmaker who was convicted of racism by a court earlier this year. The 2016 radio remarks by the lawmaker, Milan Mazurek of the People's Party Our Slovakia, included pejorative words and accusations about the Roma population who he claimed 'have never done anything for the nation.' Mazurek became the first Slovak lawmaker to lose a seat following a criminal conviction. Fico said that almost the entire nation would agree with Mazurek’s words. Police said Thursday that Fico could face up to five years in prison if tried and convicted.
  • The Latest on strikes in France (all times local): 3:45 p.m. Small groups of protesters are hurling flares, smashing store windows and setting fires in eastern Paris amid mass strikes over the government’s retirement reform. Associated Press reporters saw demonstrators destroy a bus shelter as masked activists ran and threw projectiles on the sidelines of a big, otherwise peaceful protest Thursday. A stoplight blazed after a garbage can below was set alight. Protesters also set fire to a construction trailer and started other blazes around the neighborhood around the Gare de l’Est train station where the march began. Paris deployed 6,000 police for the march but police held back as the violence began. Firefighters came to try to extinguish the fires. ___ 8:10 a.m. Most French trains are at a standstill, schools are closed and the Eiffel Tower is warning visitors to stay away as unions hold nationwide strikes and protests over the government’s retirement reform. Paris deployed 6,000 police for what’s expected to be a major demonstration Thursday through the capital, as subway stations across the city were shuttered, multiplying traffic jams. Public sector workers fear President Emmanuel Macron’s reform will force them to work longer and shrink their pensions. The transportation minister said he will meet with unions Thursday to try to defuse tensions. The SNCF railway said about nine out of 10 high-speed trains are canceled, as are about 30 percent of Air France’s domestic flights. Paris monuments also warned of strike disruptions, and many tourists canceled plans to visit.
  • The European Union’s new head for crisis management is visiting Albania to assess damages and reconstruction needs after last week’s powerful earthquake. In his first official mission as a member of the European Commission, Janez Lenarcic met Thursday with Prime Minister Edi Rama and visited quake-hit areas. The 6.4-magnited earthquake on Nov. 26 killed 51 Albanians and injured more than 3,000 others. More than 11,000 buildings were damaged and an estimated 12,000 people made homeless. Many have found shelter in hotels, public buildings, tents, with relatives or in neighboring Kosovo. The European Commission had already sent 15 million euros ($16.6 million) to Albania. Rama was optimistic, after returning from a NATO summit in London this week, about positive reaction to his plans for an international donors’ conference for earthquake relief.
  • The director of the Norwegian Nobel Institute has called it “highly problematic” that the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize winner won’t attend any event next week where he could be asked questions publicly, while the spokesman for Ethiopia’s prime minister cited “pressing” domestic issues and the leader’s “humble disposition.” Organizers “had wished that Abiy Ahmed would have agreed to meet the Norwegian and international press,” Olav Njoelstad said, telling Norwegian broadcaster NRK on Wednesday that most Peace Prize winners have no problem putting aside three or four days for traditional Nobel events. “We have been very clear about this and have clarified that there are several reasons we find this highly problematic,” Njoelstad said. “I think it has to do in part with the challenges he faces at home, and his religious faith and personal humility.” Abiy’s press secretary, Billene Seyoum, told The Associated Press that it is “quite challenging” for a head of state to dedicate many days to the extensive Nobel program, particularly since “domestic issues are pressing and warrant attention.” Abiy will attend essential events in consultation with the Nobel Institute “to honor and respect the Nobel tradition.” At the same time, “the humble disposition of the prime minister, rooted in our cultural context, is not in alignment with the very public nature of the Nobel award,” Billene said. “The prime minister is humbled and grateful for the recognition.” Skipping the media isn’t unprecedented. U.S. President Barack Obama also declined to speak to reporters when he won the Peace Prize in 2009. Abiy has rarely given interviews since taking office last year. His spokesman called him “one of the most accessible Ethiopian prime ministers to date in public and media engagements.” Abiy was awarded the Peace Prize for making peace with neighboring Eritrea after one of Africa’s longest-running conflicts and for introducing sweeping political reforms, but already troubles are growing at home. Violent unrest, sometimes along ethnic lines, is expected to worsen ahead of Ethiopia’s election in May. Debate has broken out on social media about whether Abiy deserves the award. When the Peace Prize was announced earlier this year, Nobel chairwoman Berit Reiss-Andersen said some people may consider it too early to give it to Abiy, but 'it is now that Abiy Ahmed's efforts need recognition and deserve encouragement.'   The prime minister is expected to give his acceptance speech Tuesday at Oslo City Hall before officials, including Norwegian royals, after receiving the 9-million kronor ($945,000) cash award, a gold medal and a diploma. Abiy also is to meet with Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg and open a Nobel Prize exhibition during a private ceremony. ___ Meseret reported from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Cara Anna in Johannesburg contributed to this report.
  • North Korea threatened Thursday to resume insults of U.S. President Donald Trump and consider him a “dotard” if he keeps using provocative language, such as referring to its leader as “rocket man.” Choe Son Hui, the first vice foreign minister, issued the warning via state media days after Trump spoke of possible military action toward the North and revived his “rocket man” nickname for North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un. The comments came as prospects dim for a resumption of nuclear diplomacy between the two countries. In recent months, North Korea has hinted at lifting its moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile tests if the Trump administration fails to make substantial concessions in nuclear diplomacy before the end of the year. Choe said Trump’s remarks “prompted the waves of hatred of our people against the U.S.” because they showed “no courtesy when referring to the supreme leadership of dignity” of North Korea. She said North Korea will respond with its own harsh language if Trump again uses similar phrases and shows that he is intentionally provoking North Korea. “If any language and expressions stoking the atmosphere of confrontation are used once again on purpose at a crucial moment as now, that must really be diagnosed as the relapse of the dotage of a dotard,” Choe said. On Wednesday, the North’s military chief, Pak Jong Chon, also warned that the use of force against the North would cause a “horrible” consequence for the Americans. He said North Korea will take unspecified “prompt corresponding actions at any level” if the U.S. takes any military action. During a visit to London, Trump on Tuesday said his relationship with Kim was “really good” but also called for him to follow up on a commitment to denuclearize. Trump added, “We have the most powerful military we ever had, and we are by far the most powerful country in the world and hopefully we don’t have to use it. But if we do, we will use it.” Trump also said Kim “likes sending rockets up, doesn’t he?” He added that “That’s why I call him rocket man.” In 2017, Trump and Kim traded threats of destruction as North Korea carried out a slew of high-profile weapons tests aimed at acquiring an ability to launch nuclear strikes on the U.S. mainland. Trump said he would rain “fire and fury” on North Korea and derided Kim as “little rocket man,” while Kim questioned Trump’s sanity and said he would 'tame the mentally deranged U.S. dotard with fire.” The two leaders have avoided such words and developed better relations after North Korea entered nuclear negotiations with the U.S. last year. Trump even said he and Kim “fell in love.” Kim and Trump have met three times, starting with a summit in Singapore in June last year. But their nuclear diplomacy has remained largely deadlocked since their second meeting in Vietnam in February ended without any deal due to disputes over U.S.-led sanctions on North Korea.
  • The vaccine alliance GAVI announced Thursday it would invest $178 million to create a global stockpile of about 500,000 Ebola vaccines, a decision that health officials say could help prevent future outbreaks from spiraling out of control. The public-private partnership includes the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the World Bank, among others. The funding announcement was made after a meeting of GAVI’s board. GAVI said the investment, which it called an estimate, will be provided between now and 2025. Since the current outbreak in eastern Congo was identified last August, health officials have immunized more than 255,000 people with a recently licensed vaccine made by Merck. To date there have been nearly 3,200 confirmed Ebola cases, including more than 2,200 deaths, in what has become the second deadliest Ebola outbreak in history. Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, chair of Gavi’s board, called the creation of the Ebola vaccine stockpile a “historic milestone in humanity’s fight against this horrific disease.” GAVI said “a coordinating mechanism” to decide how and when vaccines will be used will be established with partner organizations. There are similar stockpiles for vaccines against yellow fever, meningitis and cholera. Those limited shots are doled out to developing countries by WHO, UNICEF, the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders after receiving technical advice from others. The Ebola vaccine stockpile will be available to all countries, but only developing countries will be able to get vaccines for free in addition to support for the logistical costs of mounting vaccination campaigns. Jason Nickerson, a humanitarian affairs adviser at Doctors Without Borders, said the new stockpile would change how officials respond to future Ebola outbreaks. “Knowing how many doses of the vaccine exist in the world, and then being able to get a supply of them to high-risk countries in a very quick way, gives us another tool to respond to these outbreaks,” he said. Earlier this year, the medical charity publicly called for an independent committee to oversee Ebola vaccination efforts in Congo, saying WHO sometimes used arbitrary criteria to determine who would get immunized. It said the fact that Ebola was continuing to spread despite the large number of people vaccinated was a damning assessment of the response. Containing this outbreak has been complicated by violence and misunderstandings in a part of Congo that had never reported an Ebola case before. Last week, response activities were suspended after attacks killed four Ebola responders, including a member of a vaccination team. Multiple rebel groups operate in eastern Congo and the region has been described as a war zone. WHO has warned continued attacks on health workers and Ebola clinics could undermine attempts to curb Ebola and prompt a resurgence of the disease.
  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has confirmed that Turkey dropped its objection to a NATO plan to bolster the defense of Poland and Baltic states neighboring Russia but warned allies that it expects support in its fight against terrorism. Erdogan made the comments to Turkish journalists in London on Thursday, a day after NATO members reaffirmed their commitment to collective defense at a summit meeting. Turkey had threatened not to endorse the plan for Poland and the Baltic nations, after other NATO members criticized its military operation in Syria, launched to drive away Syrian Kurdish fighters away from its border. Turkey considers the Kurdish fighters as terrorists. Erdogan said: 'We said 'yes' to this business but you (NATO allies) should not leave us alone in the fight against terrorism.
  • Lawmakers in Slovakia have rejected a proposed bill that would have made it obligatory for women seeking abortions to first have an ultrasound and obtain the consent of the father before having the procedure. The bill was submitted by three members of the conservative Slovak National Party. In its initial draft, the bill made it mandatory for women to listen to the fetal heartbeat where possible. After being debated earlier this week, the bill was rejected on Thursday. Last month, more than 30 organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, wrote to Slovak parliamentarians expressing their “deep concern” about the proposed law. They warned that if the legislation was adopted, Slovakia would be the only European Union country to impose such requirements on women in countries with legalized abortion.

The Latest News Headlines

  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she will ask Thursday for the drafting of articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump. >> Read more trending news  Update 11 a.m. EST Dec. 5: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is speaking with reporters after announcing earlier Thursday that the House plans to move forward with articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump. Counsels for Republicans and Democrats will present impeachment evidence Monday at a 9 a.m. hearing, according to Politico and Axios. The Judiciary Committee will also hold a hearing to mark up the articles of impeachment, according to Axios. Update 9:50 a.m. EST Dec. 5: Officials with President Donald Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign slammed the decision announced Thursday morning by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to draft articles of impeachment against Trump. “The facts are uncontested,” Pelosi said at a news conference Thursday morning. “The president abused his power for his own personal political benefit at the expense of our national security.” Marc Lotter, director of strategic communications for Trump’s 2020 campaign, said in a tweet that Democrats decided to impeach the president “over ‘feels’ not ‘facts.'” Campaign manager Brad Parscale accused Democrats of trying to “take the decision of who should be president out of the hands of voters.” “Impeaching the President has always been their goal, so they should just get on with it so we can have a fair trial in the Senate and expose The Swap for what it is,” he said. “Speaker Pelosi, Chairman (Adam) Schiff, and Hunter Biden should testify, and then we can get back to the business of our country.” Democrats have been building a case for impeachment against Trump based on his decision to ask Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, one of several Democrats vying for the 2020 presidential nomination. Trump has denied any wrongdoing. Update 9:30 a.m. EST Dec. 5: White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democrats “should be ashamed” after the California politician announced plans to move forward with articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump.  “(Trump) has done nothing but lead our country - resulting in a booming economy, more jobs & a stronger military, to name just a few of his major accomplishments,” Grisham wrote Thursday morning in a tweet. “We look forward to a fair trial in the Senate.” Pelosi said Thursday morning that Trump’s decision to ask Ukraine for an investigation into his political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, were “a profound violation of public’s trust.” “The president abused his power for his own personal political benefit at the expense of national security by withholding military aid and crucial Oval Office meeting in exchange for an announcement of an investigation into his political rival,” she said. Update 9:20 a.m. EST Dec. 5: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Thursday morning that the House will move forward to draft articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump. “The facts are uncontested,” she said at a news conference Thursday morning. “The president abused his power for his own personal political benefit at the expense of our national security.” The announcement came one day after House Democrats held a closed-door meeting on impeachment, according to Cox Media Group’s Jamie Dupree. The House Judiciary Committee also held its first hearing Wednesday on impeachment. “Our democracy is what is at stake,” Pelosi said Thursday. “The president leaves us no choice but to act.” The historic announcement came as Democrats push toward a vote, possibly by Christmas. Original report: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will give an update Thursday morning on the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. The California Democrat plans to make the announcement from the Speaker’s Balcony Hallway at 9 a.m. EST. On Wednesday, the impeachment inquiry moved to the House Judiciary Committee as three of four law professors considered experts in impeachment from across the country testified they believe Trump’s action toward Ukraine constitutes bribery. The three professors – Pamela Karlan, Noah Feldman and Michael Gerhardt – were called by the Democrats. The fourth professor testifying Wednesday, Jonathan Turley, called by Republicans, did not agree. House Democrats launched the inquiry in September to investigate whether Trump abused his power by pressuring Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to announce investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden and Biden’s son, Hunter, and their connection to a Ukrainian energy company in exchange for an invitation to the White House and a military aid package. Read more here or here. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • An Oklahoma man was arrested this week on two different felony charges after investigators say he knowingly transmitted HIV to at least two victims. >> Read more trending news  Court papers state Benjamin Whitney had consensual sex with the victims and didn’t tell them he had HIV. In one case, the victim reportedly said Whitney explicitly told him he was not infected with the virus. The victim didn’t know he had it until he started feeling ill shortly after their sexual encounter and was tested by the Tulsa County Health Department. In the second case, the victim reportedly didn’t know he had it until he was approached by others who told him he may want to get checked. Court papers state Whitney was diagnosed with HIV in 2014 and received counseling regarding his test results, so he was aware he had it. Whitney was charged in July and was arrested on Tuesday. Read more here.
  • A Kentucky mother is facing a murder charge after her toddler son died from injuries he suffered during recent flooding in Edmonson County. >> Read more trending news  According to WBKO and WNKY, Alexandra Richardson, 28, of Bowling Green, was arrested Wednesday on charges of murder, wanton endangerment and operating a vehicle while under the influence of drugs after her 20-month-old son, Carson McCollough, died at a hospital in Nashville, Tennessee, late Tuesday. She also was charged with possessing drugs and drug paraphernalia, officials said. An arrest warrant obtained by WBKO alleged that Carson and Richardson’s 7-year-old son were in the vehicle Monday when their mother “wantonly drove ... around a ‘road closed’ sign and into a flooded creek” on Oak Hill Road. Although Richardson and the older boy escaped the waters, the toddler was swept away, WBKO reported. Rescue crews found Carson and rushed him to a Bowling Green hospital, authorities said. A helicopter then flew the boy to Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, where he died, according to WBKO. In a Wednesday news release, the Edmonson County Sheriff’s Office said Richardson “made admissions to using methamphetamine and marijuana,” and blood tests taken Monday showed both drugs were in her system, WNKY reported. A search of Richardson’s home uncovered what appeared to be “a small amount” of the drugs, according to the news station. Richardson is being held at the Hart County Jail. Deputies also arrested her boyfriend, 56-year-old William Suttle, on charges of possessing drugs and drug paraphernalia, WNKY reported. Read more here or here.
  • A school librarian at Cedar Hills Elementary in Jacksonville is charged with grand theft. Jail records show 61-year-old Pamela Drinkwater is being held on no bond. School District Police arrested Drinkwater on Wednesday, but the specifics of her arrest were not yet available. Drinkwater has been an employee with Duval Schools since 2008, having worked at Enterprise Learning Academy and Long Branch Elementary before being assigned to Cedar Hills in 2014. Cedar Hills Principal Marva McKinney said in a robocall to parents that this type of behavior is not tolerated, and the school is cooperating fully with internal and external investigation.  “Due to internal and external investigations surround this situation, I cannot share any further information, but I can tell you that the staff member will be reassigned from her school duties pending the outcome of the internal investigation by our Office of Professional Standards”, said McKinney. 
  • After another chilly morning, we're in for a nice couple of days. We’ll see lots of sun and not a whole lot of wind with temperatures near 70 degrees.  The average high is 69 degrees. Action News Jax Chief Meteorologist Mike Buresh says Saturday will be cooler because of a wind shift that will also bring a chance for showers.  Sunday may bring a few showers and will be partly to mostly cloudy with afternoon temperatures near 70, but cooler at the beaches.  The new work week will start off unseasonably warm with temps approaching 80 degrees. 

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