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New York congressman Hakeem Jeffries has been elected House Democratic leader and will become in the new year the first Black American to lead a major political party in Congress. Democrats met Wednesday behind closed doors for the internal party elections as Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her team step aside. House Democrats are ushering in a new generation of leaders. The 52-year-old Jeffries has vowed to “get things done,” even after Republicans won control of the chamber and relegate Democrats to the minority party in January. The trio led by Jeffries includes 59-year-old Rep. Katherine Clark of Massachusetts as the Democratic whip and 43-year-old Rep. Pete Aguilar of California as caucus chairman.

    More severe penalties for committing certain types of arsons and large-scale thefts at stores in North Carolina are among all or portions of 10 new state laws that take effect as December begins. The legislation being implemented starting on Thursday creates new felony crimes for setting fire to a prison, an occupied commercial structure and an unoccupied commercial structure. Another law orders more serious felonies for high-priced organized thefts at retailers. And a new rule taking effect attempts to remove any enforcement gaps in domestic violence protective orders while waiting for courts to act.

      North Carolina government is appealing a judge’s order that demands by certain dates many more community services for people with intellectual and development disabilities who otherwise live at institutions. Health and Human Services Secretary Kody Kinsley announced the formal challenge on Wednesday. He says his agency has grave concerns about some directives issued four weeks ago by Judge Allen Baddour. One in particular says new admissions to new admissions for people with such disabilities in state-run development centers, privately intermediate care facilities and certain adult care homes must end by January 2028. Kinsley says the decision could shutter small facilities and leave clients without accommodations.

      Congress is moving urgently to head off the looming U.S. rail strike. The House passed a bill Wednesday that would bind companies and workers to a proposed settlement reached in September that failed to gain the support of all 12 unions involved. The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration. It would impose a compromise labor agreement brokered by President Joe Biden's administration. That agreement was ultimately voted down by four of the 12 unions representing more than 100,000 employees at large freight rail carriers. The unions have threatened to strike if an agreement can’t be reached before a Dec. 9 deadline.

        Republican Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos was scheduled to be interviewed Wednesday by the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Committee Chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson told reporters that Vos would be the last witness before the panel completes its report. Vos filed a federal lawsuit seeking to block a subpoena to provide testimony about his phone call with Donald Trump in July 2021 during which the former president asked him to overturn results of the 2020 election. Arguments in that lawsuit were postponed. Trump repeatedly tried to pressure Vos to overturn President Joe Biden’s narrow win in Wisconsin, a move Vos rejected.

        Only scattered challenges to certification of the midterm election have been reported in the United States, and not a single one is based on any problems with the accuracy of the results. The biggest certification challenge comes in a lightly populated county in southeastern Arizona. The state's secretary of state has sued the Republican-controlled commission to force it to sign off on the election. While the overall number of certification fights is less than expected, election experts are concerned about what the attempts to delay or stop certification of accurate election results signals for the next presidential contest.

          City Council members in Portland, Oregon, have voted to allocate $27 million of the city's budget to build designated camping areas for homeless people. The money will help fund a measure passed earlier this month that banned street camping and approved the creation of six designated campsites. The $27 million approved Wednesday will help launch the first three sites. The city aims to move homeless people from the hundreds of encampments scattered across the city to the sanctioned camping areas over the next 18 months. The plans have sparked fierce debate. Supporters say it would make streets safer and connect people with resources, while opponents say it would criminalize homelessness.

          More crimes would be added to a list that could disqualify defendants in court from being released while awaiting trial under follow-up legislation to a contentious criminal justice overhaul. It’s a key component to clarifications Democratic lawmakers are making to the SAFE-T Act, a sweeping update to a variety of issues. They include eliminating cash bail and having judges determine pre-trial detention. The legislation filed Wednesday also clarifies what a prosecutor needs to do to prove that a defendant is a danger to others and should be detained. The law takes effect Jan. 1. Lawmakers say they will take action on it before their fall session adjourns Thursday.

          The lead contractors in charge of building a suicide prevention net on San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge say it will cost more than double its original price because of deterioration on the bridge that was concealed and other problems. The allegations filed in state court Monday by Shimmick Construction Co. and Danny’s Construction Co. say that changes to and flaws in the government's net design and the lack of transparency about the deterioration of maintenance platforms have raised the construction price to about $400 million, from its original price tag of $142 million. The Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District blames the delays on the contractor.

          The Pennsylvania state Senate is beginning what could be a long and partisan process of considering whether to force Philadelphia Democratic District Attorney Larry Krasner from office. Members of the Republican-controlled Senate formally received articles of impeachment from the House on Wednesday. The impeachment is part of a wave of efforts across the country to remove progressive prosecutors. The impeachment trial was scheduled to start Jan. 18. Krasner calls his impeachment “pure politics” while Democrats call it an abuse of legislative power. The vote to impeach Krasner in the Republican-controlled House was nearly along party lines. A Senate vote to convict will require cooperation from Democrats.

          What many Americans hoped would be the first normal holiday season in three years has instead been thrown into crisis by inflation, with Christmas on the horizon. Food banks and charities across the country are reporting higher than expected levels of food insecurity as prices rise and food becomes less accessible to millions of American families.  Although the pandemic has largely faded, months of rising prices have driven working families back to the food bank lines. And that's left charitable organizations struggling to meet the demand.

          South Dakota’s attorney general has announced that he has filled a position to coordinate efforts from state, tribal and local law enforcement agencies, as well as nonprofit organizations, to tackle alarming rates of Indigenous people going missing or having their deaths remain unsolved. The attorney general’s office has put a new focus on crimes against Native American people, recently hiring two women to address problems Vargo described as interrelated: human trafficking and missing or murdered Indigenous people. The state’s Native American communities suffer from crisis-level rates of people going missing or killed. Currently, 57% of people who are listed in the attorney general’s database of missing people are Native American.

          A special election will be held to replace a Pennsylvania state lawmaker who died several weeks before voters elected him to another term. The only question may be who orders the special election. House Speaker Bryan Cutler on Wednesday ordered the election for Feb. 7 to fill the seat of late Democratic Rep. Tony DeLuca. Cutler issued the order on the last day of the two-year legislative session, but Democrats may also order a special election for the seat. Top-ranking Democrat Rep. Joanna McClinton, who is slated to become the House’s next speaker, said she plans to issue her own writ of election on Thursday.

          The prominent Guatemalan investigative newspaper “El Periodico” has announced it is stopping its print edition, after the government arrested the paper's president. José Rubén Zamora was arrested in July on a charge of money laundering. All of the paper's reporters have been let go, and it is not clear how it can continue with digital editions only. Zamora has overseen dozens of investigations into corruption during his leadership at El Periodico. The closure of the print edition came on Wednesday, which is the “Day of the Journalist” in Guatemala. Guatemala's chief prosecutor has been criticized for blocking corruption investigations and instead pursuing the prosecutors and judges who carried them out.

          State media report former Chinese President Jiang Zemin has died at age 96. Jiang led China out of isolation after the army crushed the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests in 1989. He supported economic reforms that led to a decade of explosive growth. State media say Jiang died in Shanghai of leukemia and multiple-organ failure. Jiang saw China through history-making changes including a revival of market-oriented reforms, the return of Hong Kong from Britain in 1997, and Beijing's entry into the World Trade Organization. His government stamped out dissent, jailing human rights, labor and pro-democracy activists and attacking the Falun Gong spiritual movement.


          Indiana’s Republican attorney general has asked the state medical licensing board to discipline an Indianapolis doctor who has spoken publicly about providing an abortion to a 10-year-old rape victim who traveled from Ohio after its more-restrictive abortion law took effect. The complaint alleges Dr. Caitlin Bernard violated state law by not reporting the girl’s child abuse to Indiana authorities and violated patient privacy laws by telling a reporter about the girl’s treatment. That account sparked a national political uproar in the weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June. Bernard maintains the girl’s abuse had already been reported to Ohio police before the doctor ever saw the child.

          A former Florida tax collector whose arrest led to a federal investigation of U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz learns this week how much prison time he gets on charges of sex trafficking a minor and identity theft. Former Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg on Wednesday tried to convince a judge that his cooperation in several probes should lighten his prison sentence. Prosecutors already have asked for a reduction because of Greenberg's cooperation. During a court hearing, U.S. District Judge Gregory Presnell calculated that the reduction would put prison time at between 9 1/4 and 11 years. The judge will make a final sentencing decision Thursday.

          President Joe Biden says he hopes lawmakers can work together to fund the government, boost spending for Ukraine and avert a crippling rail strike. His comments came as he met with congressional leaders at the White House on Tuesday. Biden is seeking to lock in more legislative wins before Democrats lose unified control of Washington on Jan. 3. But Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the likely new Republican House speaker, said Biden “got an indication that it’s going to be different” once the GOP takes control of the House. He blasted the Biden administration’s immigration policies, and promised a new round of investigations once the GOP is in power.

          Intentional false reports about school shootings and other hoax emergency calls could be prosecuted as a felony under legislation passed by the Republican-led Ohio House. The bill would create a felony offense for “swatting,” which is when someone knowingly reports a false emergency that prompts a response by law enforcement. Supporters of the bill say such situations cause unnecessary panic, disruption and expense, and can end with innocent people being arrested or harmed. The legislation would make “swatting” at least a third-degree felony. The state public defender’s office opposed the bill, arguing there’s no need, as penalties for false reporting of crimes already exist.

          Fentanyl testing strips would be decriminalized under a bill passed by the Ohio House. Lawmakers on Wednesday advanced a proposal that proponents say would help prevent fatal overdoses and save lives. The strips are used to detect the powerful synthetic opioid often found laced in other drugs. The strips would no longer be classified as illegal drug paraphernalia under the bipartisan measure. Democratic sponsor Rep. Kristin Boggs, of Columbus, calls that a “critical step” and a tool to help prevent fentanyl overdoses. No one has testified against the bill. It now goes to the Senate.

          In a picturesque corner of western Wisconsin, a growing right-wing conservative movement has rocketed to prominence. They see America as a dark place, dangerous, where democracy is under attack by a tyrannical government. They say few officials can be trusted, and believe neighbors might someday have to band together to protect one another. They have felt the contempt of people who see them as fanatics. But they insist they are just normal people who aren't so different from the rest of America. And their views haven't been swayed - not at all - by midterm elections that failed to see the sweeping Republican victories that many had predicted.

          An honorary member of the Buckingham Palace household has resigned after repeatedly asking a Black woman who runs a charity for survivors of domestic abuse what country she “really came from.’’ The conversation was detailed on Twitter by Ngozi Fulani, chief executive of Sistah Space, an east London refuge that provides specialist support for women of African and Caribbean heritage. The incident took place at a reception hosted by Camilla, the queen consort, for women working to fight domestic violence.