10 things you need to know today: December 8, 2017
Sen. Al Franken announces he will resign, Congress averts a government shutdown, and more
Al Franken announces resignation after inappropriate-touching allegations
Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) announced that he is resigning within weeks after multiple women accused him of touching them inappropriately. A day earlier, more than 20 fellow Democrats called on him to step down. Franken said the ongoing public reckoning over sexual harassment and assault was "long overdue," but he defended his actions, saying some of the allegations were "simply not true," while he remembered others "quite differently" than his accusers. Franken also took a swipe at Republicans, saying it was ironic "that I am leaving while a man who has bragged on tape about his history of sexual assault sits in the Oval Office, and a man who has repeatedly preyed on young girls campaigns for the Senate with the full support of his party."
Congress passes bill to avert government shutdown
The House and Senate passed a stopgap spending bill on Thursday to avert a partial government shutdown this weekend after current funds run out. The votes sent the measure to President Trump in time to beat a weekend deadline. The spending bill keeps government agencies funded through Dec. 22, giving Republicans and Democrats time to reach agreements on a host of unresolved issues, including funding a key children's health program and restoring protection from deportation for young immigrants brought to the country illegally as children. Leaders from both parties met with President Trump in initial discussions both sides described as "productive."
Palestinians protesting Trump's Jerusalem move clash with Israeli police
Palestinians protesting President Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital clashed with Israeli forces in the West Bank and along the Gaza border. At night, two rockets were fired toward Israel from Gaza but fell inside the Palestinian territory. Palestinian schools and stores closed in a widely observed general strike. Ismail Haniya, the leader of the Islamic militant group Hamas, called for a new intifada, or uprising. "Trump will regret this decision," he said. For decades, U.S. governments held the position that the fate of Jerusalem, which Israel and the Palestinians both claim as their capital, would have to be determined as part of a broader peace agreement, but Trump said it was time to try something new and recognize current reality.
California wildfires rage on, fanned by high winds
Powerful winds drove a Ventura County wildfire, the strongest of six major blazes raging in Southern California, closer to several communities and forced more people to evacuate. The blaze, known as the Thomas Fire, has burned more than 96,000 acres on a 10-mile path from the city of Santa Paula to the Pacific Ocean. A woman's body was found in a scorched area near Ojai, and two people suffered burns from one of two new fires that broke out Thursday. Five thousand firefighters are battling the fires, about half of them assigned to the Thomas Fire. "Honestly, the firefighters are taking a beating, but we have to acknowledge the residents because they're taking a beating, too," said Thomas Kruschke, spokesman for the Ventura County Fire Department.
U.K. and EU agree on general Brexit terms
The U.K. and the European Union on Friday announced a deal on general terms of their split. The breakthrough came after months of deadlock, including a near breakdown over disagreement over borders between Northern Ireland — part of the U.K. — and the Republic of Ireland — part of the EU. Britain made a series of concessions, including how much it will pay the EU, guarantees on the rights of EU citizens living in the U.K. and British citizens in the EU, and language ruling out a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. The accord, which still needs approval from EU leaders, clears the way for the more difficult next phase of the divorce process: detailed trade negotiations.
Judge sentences former S.C. officer to 20 years for killing Walter Scott
A federal judge on Thursday sentenced former South Carolina police officer Michael Slager to 20 years in prison for fatally shooting Walter Scott, an unarmed black man, after a 2015 traffic stop caught in a bystander video that went viral. A jury deadlocked last year in Slager's trial on state murder charges. Slager, who is white, said he shot Scott, who was running away, out of fear for his life. Earlier this year, he pleaded guilty to a single count of violating Scott's civil rights in a deal with federal prosecutors. U.S. District Judge David Norton sentenced Slager to 20 years after determining that the shooting constituted second-degree murder, and Scott's false testimony amounted to obstruction of justice. "No matter what sentence I give," Norton said, "neither the Scott family nor the Slager family is going to like it or think it's right."
GOP Rep. Trent Franks resigning after discussing surrogacy with female staffers
Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) announced Thursday that he is resigning early next year after learning that the Ethics Committee is reviewing his discussions of surrogacy with two former subordinates, "making each feel uncomfortable." "I deeply regret that my discussion of this option and process in the workplace caused distress," Franks said in a statement. Franks reportedly asked the staffers if they would serve as surrogates for him and his wife. Franks said in his statement they had "long struggled with infertility," including three miscarriages. Franks, a vocal evangelical Christian conservative who has written anti-abortion legislation, had recently announced he would run for what would have been his ninth term. He is the third lawmaker to resign this week, following Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.).
2 students killed in shooting at N.M. high school
Two students and a suspected attacker were killed Thursday in a shooting at Aztec High School in northwestern New Mexico near the Colorado state line. Students hid in classrooms after the male shooter opened fire inside the school. Investigators would not immediately say whether the suspect was killed by police or committed suicide. They identified the victims as Casey Marquez and Francisco Fernandez. Authorities did not immediately identify the suspect, or say whether he knew the victims. Garrett Parker, a sophomore, told Albuquerque television station KOAT he was in history class when he heard the gunshots, then school officials issued a warning on a loudspeaker. "Thankfully, our teacher always locks the door no matter what," Parker said.
U.N. torture watchdog calls out U.S. jails for Taser use
The United Nations special rapporteur on torture, Nils Melzer, on Thursday urged U.S. authorities to investigate inappropriate use of Tasers on inmates in some U.S. jails. Melzer viewed video footage from 22 incidents in jails in Ohio, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Oklahoma that Reuters released this week, and said the incidents showed "clearly gratuitous infliction of severe pain and suffering" that appeared to violate the U.N.'s ban on cruel, inhuman, and degrading punishment, and could amount to torture. "In my view, all of the incidents shown in this video require independent investigation and most of them are likely to merit prosecution," Melzer said.
Former U.S. gymnastics team doctor sentenced to 60 years for child porn
Former Team USA gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar was sentenced to 60 years in prison Thursday for child pornography crimes. Investigators found more than 37,000 images of child porn on his hard drive while searching his home as part of the probe into assault allegations. Federal Judge Janet Neff said Nassar "should never again have access to children." Nassar, 54, also has been accused of abusing more than 130 of his patients during medical exams between 1998 and 2015. Nassar previously agreed to a sentence of between 25 and 40 years for the abuse charges, the second of his three criminal cases. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has argued that Nassar should serve a sentence of 125 years. "One year for every victim. That's 125 years, that sounds just about right," Schuette said.