Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: December 28, 2017

Roy Moore challenges his election defeat, Kabul bombings kill at least 40 people, and more

1

Roy Moore challenges election result, claiming voter fraud

Roy Moore on Wednesday filed an election challenge alleging voter fraud, hoping to block Alabama from certifying the results of the vote he narrowly lost to Senator-elect Doug Jones. Moore, a Republican former state Supreme Court chief justice, has refused to concede even though Jones, a Democrat, won by more than 20,000 votes. Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill is expected to certify the result on Thursday, but the Moore campaign filed a last-minute complaint calling for a delay to allow a "thorough investigation" into possible fraud, including claims that people from other states were allowed to vote. Merrill has said it was "highly unlikely" anything would prevent Jones from being certified as the winner of the special election.

2

Afghanistan bombings targeting Shiites kill 41

A flurry of bombings in Kabul killed at least 41 people and wounded dozens more on Thursday. The attacks started when a suicide bomber detonated his explosive vest inside a Shiite cultural center and religious school during a group succession. That attack accounted for most of the casualties. Two other explosions followed, one of them at the entrance to the Afghan Voice Agency news organization. A journalist there said one reporter had been killed. The Islamic State, which has previously targeted Shiite Muslims, claimed responsibility for the bombings. "Today in Kabul, we have witnessed another truly despicable crime in a year already marked by unspeakable atrocities," said the acting head of the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, Toby Lanzer.

3

4 North Korean defectors show possible radiation exposure

At least four North Korean defectors have shown signs of radiation exposure, South Korea said Wednesday. The four are among 30 defectors from the area near North Korea's Punggye-ri nuclear test site, although South Korean authorities could not immediately determine whether they were exposed through the country's controversial nuclear weapons program. North Korea conducted its sixth nuclear test since 2006 in September under the mountains of Punggye-ri. The last explosion was so large that it raised fears that Pyongyang had produced a hydrogen bomb that could have released radiation into the area. Another defector, a soldier, was found to have been exposed to anthrax, stoking concerns that Pyongyang is developing biological weapons in violation of international law.

4

Fighting stops to allow biggest prisoner swap yet in Ukraine

The Ukrainian military and Russian-backed separatists stopped shelling each other on Wednesday as they exchanged hundreds of prisoners. It was the biggest such swap since the start of the conflict in 2014, with the rebels releasing 73 Ukrainians and the nation's government handing over more than 200 separatists. The exchange took place with no serious problems. Several days ago, the Trump administration agreed to provide weapons to Ukraine. Russia said that would only lead to an escalation in the fighting, which has killed 10,000 people. A wholesale prisoner release was a key element in a 2015 internationally brokered peace agreement.

5

Gallup: Obama beats out Trump as most-admired man

Former President Barack Obama is the man Americans admire most in the world, beating out President Trump, Gallup found in its annual survey. Hillary Clinton was the most-admired woman, edging out former first lady Michelle Obama. Gallup has asked Americans to name their most-admired man every year (except one) since 1946; in 58 of those 71 surveys, the incumbent president won top honors — putting Trump in a small group of presidents denied the honor. Former senator, first lady, secretary of state, and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has won top honors among women 16 years in a row and 22 times overall, the most ever.

6

Myanmar judge extends detention of 2 Reuters journalists

A judge in Myanmar extended the detention of two Reuters journalists, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, as police continue an investigation into whether they violated the Official Secrets Act. The journalists were detained two weeks ago after working on Reuters' coverage on the exodus of 655,000 Rohingya Muslims from the western state of Rakhine. The refugees have been fleeing a military crackdown in the area following Rohingya rebel attacks. The Ministry of Information has said the journalists "illegally acquired information with the intention to share it with foreign media" in violation of the British colonial-era secrets law. They could be sentenced to up to 14 years in prison under the law.

7

Consumer confidence dips but remains strong

Consumer confidence dipped slightly this month but remained high during the holiday shopping season, the Conference Board said Wednesday. "Despite the decline in confidence, consumers' expectations remain at historically strong levels, suggesting economic growth will continue well into 2018," said Conference Board economist Lynn Franco. The Conference Board's consumer confidence index edged down to 122.1 in December from 128.6 in November. The fall was slightly more than predicted. "This is an unexpected sign of weakness from the biggest driver of U.S. economic growth," Jennifer Lee, senior economist at BMO Capital Markets, wrote in a research report.

8

IRS: Paying 2018 property taxes early to get deduction might not work

The Internal Revenue Service confirmed Wednesday that some taxpayers will be able to prepay their 2018 property taxes, before the newly passed GOP tax overhaul takes effect. The move will let them save on their 2017 income taxes. Only people who pay before the end of the year and who have already been notified by local tax authorities how much they will owe in property taxes will be able to take advantage of the strategy. State and local laws vary on tax assessments, so some of the many Americans rushing to prepay property taxes might not get the break.

9

Russian hacker says he can prove Kremlin ordered DNC hack

In an interview with an independent Moscow-based television channel, jailed Russian computer hacker Konstantin Kozlovsky said he was ordered by the Kremlin to hack the Democratic National Committee computers during the 2016 presidential campaign, and he can prove it. Kozlovsky said he worked with the Russian intelligence agency FSB, and because he was worried his minders might turn on him, he left behind a "poison pill" during the DNC hack — his passport number and other personal information hidden in a .dat file. Kozlovsky was jailed earlier this year, accused of being part of a hacking group that stole more than $50 million from Russian bank accounts.

10

Frigid weather forecast to continue in Midwest and East through New Year's Day

A series of waves of cold air will keep temperatures 15 to 30 degrees below normal in much of the eastern two-thirds of the U.S. through the weekend leading into New Year's Day. Some parts of the central U.S. could get frigid weather with temperatures as much as 50 degrees colder than normal over the weekend. On the morning of New Year's Day, average lows around the country could be around 10 degrees. A cold blast that spilled over the Great Lakes brought a record 65 inches of snow to Erie, Pennsylvania, and 62 inches to Oswego, New York.

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