March 11, 2014

It's one thing for Mariska Hargitay to catch fictional rapists in her role as Detective Olivia Benson on Law & Order: SVU. But Hargitay is taking things a step further with her work to help law enforcement catch real-life rapists.

At a press conference in Detroit today, Hargitay spoke on the problem of untested rape kits, an issue about which she is also producing a documentary. During the conference, Hargitay voiced her support for Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy's push for legislation to clear Detroit's backlog of untested rape kits.

"To me, this is the clearest and most shocking demonstration of how we regard these crimes," Hargitay said. "One would assume that if someone endures a four- to six-hour invasive examination, that that evidence would be handled with care."

In 2004, Hargitay also founded the Joyful Heart Foundation, which provides support to victims of sexual crimes. Here's to hoping her star power will help Worthy's office gain the resources it needs to test the backlogged kits.

Watch Hargitay's moving, tear-filled speech below. --Meghan DeMaria

3:08 a.m. ET
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At least 11 people were killed and more than 50 injured early Monday when a huge fire swept through the Regent Plaza Hotel in Karachi, Pakistan.

Police say the fire started in the hotel kitchen, but the exact cause is undetermined. A doctor at a Karachi hospital where victims were taken said several deaths were caused by suffocation, and there are foreigners being treated for burns. Local television news crews captured footage of guests at the four-star hotel using sheets to climb down from windows, and survivor Hamid Ali told one station that a man was standing on his balcony, pleading for help, but the hotel did not have a way to rescue him. Catherine Garcia

2:39 a.m. ET
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A federal judge ruled late Sunday night that Michigan must start its presidential recount at noon Monday.

In Michigan, Donald Trump received 10,704 more votes than Hillary Clinton, and Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein, citing reports that computer science experts noticed irregularities in the state's election results, has raised millions of dollars to fund a recount. Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette and the Trump campaign filed suits last week, asking state courts to put a stop to the hand-counting of 4.8 million ballots. They argued that Stein, who received about 1 percent of the vote, is not "aggrieved," because it's impossible for her to win the recount. Judge Mark Goldsmith ruled Stein did show "the likelihood of irreparable harm" if the count was delayed, and rejected arguments by the state about the cost to taxpayers. The deadline to complete the count is Dec. 13. Catherine Garcia

1:55 a.m. ET
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During his eighth and final Kennedy Center Honors celebration as president, Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama were treated to cheers and standing ovations by the audience.

Sunday's gala, hosted by Stephen Colbert, recognized Al Pacino, Mavis Staples, Martha Argerich, James Taylor, and Don Henley, Timothy B. Schmidt, and Joe Walsh, surviving members of the Eagles, for influencing American culture. The Obamas were introduced after the honorees, with Colbert saying, "For the past eight years, the White House has given us a leader who's passionate, intelligent, and dignified." The audience rose to give Obama a standing ovation, and the president stood and waved. "Sir, I don't even know why you stood up," Colbert quipped. "I was talking about Michelle."

At an earlier reception, Obama said the arts have "always been part of life at the White House, because the arts are always central to American life." During the ceremony, Don Cheadle spoke about Staples and her family's civil rights legacy; Garth Brooks, Sheryl Crow, and Darius Rucker performed medleys of Taylor's music; and Kevin Spacey shared instructions on how to sound like Pacino. The Eagles were to be honored in 2015, but postponed their participation due to founding member Glenn Frey's poor health. Frey died in January, and his widow, Cindy Frey, stood with his band mates on Sunday night. The ceremony will air Dec. 27 on CBS. Catherine Garcia

1:04 a.m. ET
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In Austria's presidential race, Norbert Hofer has conceded defeat to Alexander Van der Bellen.

Official results won't come in until Monday, but Van der Bellen, the former leader of the Green Party, is the apparent winner, as exit polls show him with 53.6 percent of the vote. Hofer is a member of the right-wing populist Freedom Party of Austria, and wrote on Facebook that he is "incredibly sad it didn't work" and asked "all Austrians to stick together. We are all Austrians, no matter what we decided today. Long live our home Austria." Van der Bellen said he "always campaigned for a pro-European Austrian. This is about values: freedom, equality, and solidarity." He also promised to "actively speak to all voters, including those of Hofer's party."

Being president is largely a ceremonial role in Austria. In May, Van der Bellen won the presidential election by slightly more than 30,000 votes, but Hofer and his party challenged the results. There was concern over how some ballots were handled, and the results were annulled. Had Hofer won, Austria would have become the first country in Western Europe to elect a far-right head of state since the end of World War II, CNN reports. On Twitter, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said "the whole of Europe has heaved a sigh of relief." Catherine Garcia

12:10 a.m. ET
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The phone call between Donald Trump and Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen on Friday was set up well in advance and provocative on purpose, people involved with the planning told The Washington Post Sunday.

The U.S. has a military relationship with Taiwan, but closed its embassy there in 1979, and leaders from the two countries have not spoken since. Beijing views Taiwan as a province, and suggested the phone call was a clear example of Trump's inexperience. Some advisers are calling on Trump to take an aggressive approach to relations with China, and many on his transition team are seen as being hawkish on China, including incoming chief of staff Reince Priebus, the Post says.

Plans for Friday's call were being developed before Trump even became the Republican nominee, people involved with the plan told the Post, and the goal was to set him apart from previous presidents. At July's Republican National Convention, the party platform included a phrase, inserted by Trump allies, that reaffirmed assurances made to Taiwan by President Ronald Reagan in 1982, as well as tougher language toward China. The call is being touted by the Trump camp as being a congratulatory call placed by Tsai, whose office said she told Trump she is hopeful the United States will "continue to support more opportunities for Taiwan to participate in international issues." Those close to the situation told the Post that while this was a calculated communication, it does not signify a formal shift in U.S. relations with Taiwan or China, and senior adviser Kellyanne Conway told reporters Sunday "everyone should just calm down."

The New York Times is also reporting that in September, a woman saying she was a representative of Trump's company went to Taiwan to get information on Taoyuan Aerotropolis, the biggest development project in Taiwan's history. The mayor of the area said investment opportunities were discussed, but no agreement was ever made. Trump Organization spokeswoman Amanda Miller told the Times there have been "no authorized visits to Taiwan on behalf of our brand for the purposes of development," and there were "no plans for expansion into Taiwan." Catherine Garcia

December 4, 2016
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Authorities say on Sunday afternoon a North Carolina man walked into a Washington, D.C., pizza parlor that has been the subject of a false conspiracy theory and fired at least one shot.

Police have identified the suspect as Edgar Maddison Welch, 28, of Salisbury, North Carolina. He allegedly walked into Comet Ping Pong carrying an assault rifle, and pointed the firearm in the direction of an employee, police said. The employee was able to run away, and notified authorities. After firing at least one shot, Welch was arrested without incident, and told police he was there to "self-investigate" Pizza Gate, a bizarre fake story that spread across the internet before the election, claiming that Comet Ping Pong was the epicenter of a child sex slave ring organized by Hillary Clinton and her former campaign manager, CBS News reports. Authorities found two firearms inside the building, as well as an additional weapon inside Welch's vehicle. He has been charged with assault with a deadly weapon.

Owner James Alefantis said he believes the story was started because he was a Clinton supporter. Over the past several months, he has received thousands of threats, and in late November, police found two women on the Comet Ping Pong patio who said they were looking for underground tunnels used to transport children "so they can do these rituals," adding that they were "putting a lot of curses and spells over the city." Catherine Garcia

December 4, 2016
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Calling it the "hardest decision I've ever made," New Zealand Prime Minister John Key surprised his country Monday by announcing he is resigning.

After eight years on the job, he cited family reasons for his decision; The New Zealand Herald reports his wife, Bronagh, requested that he step down, and during his announcement, he said his children have had to deal with an "extraordinary level of intrusion." He won his third term in 2014, and said he doesn't know what he will do next. Now, the National Party has to hold a caucus to select a new prime minister, with Bill English, deputy prime minister, likely to take over in the meantime. Catherine Garcia

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