Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: December 29, 2017

Alabama certifies Doug Jones' election victory, bakers who refused to make a lesbian couple's wedding lose again in court, and more

1

Alabama certifies Doug Jones as winner of special Senate election

Alabama on Thursday brushed off a legal challenge from Roy Moore and certified Doug Jones as the winner of this month's special Senate election. Jones, a Democrat, beat the Republican former state Supreme Court chief justice by 21,924 votes out of more than 1.3 million cast. Moore asked a court a day earlier to prevent the state from certifying the result until an investigation could be conducted into his allegations of voter fraud. Moore's campaign stumbled after several women accused him of pursuing or sexually assaulting them when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s. "You win with class, you lose with class, and he just can't do it," said Angi Horn Stalnaker, a Republican strategist who ran campaigns against Moore with mixed results.

2

Appeals court rules against bakers who refused lesbian couple's wedding cake order

The Oregon Court of Appeals on Thursday upheld a $135,000 fine against bakers who refused to make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple. Bakers Melissa and Aaron Klein said in 2013 that they wouldn't bake a cake for Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer, because same-sex marriage ran counter to their Christian beliefs. The Bowman-Cryers said in a complaint to the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries that the bakers, owners of Sweetcakes by Melissa, were violating state law by discriminating against them due to their sexual orientation. An administrative law judge sided with them, and the state labor commissioner affirmed heavy damages against the bakers for causing the couple emotional and mental distress.

3

Ex-soccer star George Weah wins Liberia's presidential run-off

Former soccer star George Weah has won Liberia's presidential run-off election with 61.5 percent of the vote, with more than 98 percent of the ballots counted. He defeated Vice President Joseph Boakai, who got 38.5 percent of the vote, National Elections Commission Chairman Jerome Korkoyah said Thursday. Weah is now poised to succeed incumbent Ellen Johnson Sirleaf next month in the country's first democratic transition in more than 70 years. Sirleaf has received praise for keeping Africa's oldest modern republic, which was founded by freed U.S. slaves in 1847, from falling back into war, but faced criticism for failing to reduce corruption or rampant poverty.

4

Judge blocks Arizona from enforcing ban on ethnic studies

A U.S. judge this week permanently blocked an ethnic studies ban in Arizona public schools, finding it racially motivated. The controversial law dismantled a popular Mexican-American studies program, triggering a seven-year court fight. U.S. District Judge A. Wallace Tashima's final judgment bars Arizona education officials from enforcing the 2010 law, which was passed in the same year as the state's landmark immigration crackdown. Tashima wrote in his decision that the law "was enacted and enforced, not for a legitimate educational purpose, but for an invidious discriminatory racial purpose, and a politically partisan purpose," and therefore "cannot be enforced." Attorneys for the state denied racial discrimination was behind the law, and said they were considering an appeal.

5

12 die in New York apartment fire

At least 12 people were killed in a fire at a century-old apartment building in the Bronx. Four other people suffered serious injuries, Mayor Bill de Blasio said, calling the fire "an unspeakable tragedy." It was New York City's deadliest fire since a blaze in a social club killed 87 people in 1990. A woman, declining to give her name to reporters, said she and her daughter escaped, and she pulled out two children from a neighbor's family, but had to leave others behind. "I had one on my front and one on my back," she said. "I couldn't carry the rest of them." Firefighters managed to rescue at least a dozen people.

6

Trump says Mueller investigation makes U.S. 'look very bad'

President Trump told The New York Times on Thursday that Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election "makes the country look very bad, and it puts the country in a very bad position. So the sooner it's worked out, the better it is for the country." In a 30-minute impromptu interview at his Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, Florida, Trump said 16 times that "no collusion" has been discovered between his campaign and Moscow. He said he has "absolute right to do what I want to do with the Justice Department. But for purposes of hopefully thinking I'm going to be treated fairly, I've stayed uninvolved with this particular matter."

7

Trump says freezing East Coast could use 'good old Global Warming'

President Trump responded to bitterly cold temperatures across much of the country by tweeting Thursday that the East Coast "could use a little bit of that good old Global Warming" this holiday weekend. "In the East, it could be the COLDEST New Year's Eve on record," Trump tweeted. "Perhaps we could use a little bit of that good old Global Warming that our Country, but not other countries, was going to pay TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS to protect against. Bundle up!" The message, which ignores climate science pointing to more frequent extreme weather due to human-caused climate change, refers to the cost of the Paris climate accord. Trump announced in June that he was withdrawing the U.S. from the agreement on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

8

South Korea seizes ship suspected of transferring oil to North Korean vessel

South Korea on Friday said it had seized a Hong Kong-flagged ship suspected of transferring oil to a North Korean vessel in violation of United Nations sanctions over Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program. President Trump on Thursday criticized China after reports of the oil transfers. "Caught RED HANDED," Trump tweeted. "There will never be a friendly solution to the North Korea problem if this continues to happen!" China accounts for most of North Korea's foreign trade and oil supplies. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson wrote in The New York Times on Thursday that China had applied some import bans and sanctions to help rein in North Korea's nuclear and missile programs, "but it could and should do more."

9

Apple apologizes for slowing down old iPhones

Apple on Thursday apologized after acknowledging earlier this month that it slowed down older-model iPhones. The company said it would temporarily slash the price of a battery replacement from $79 to $29 in January for customers with an iPhone 6 or later that is out of warranty. Apple also said it will release a software update that will let users see if their battery is affecting the performance of their phone. Apple faced a backlash after revealing two weeks ago that it had issued a software update that prevented iPhones with aging lithium batteries from shutting down without warning. The update can make apps open much slower, but Apple denied it was trying to shorten the life of their products to get people to pay for upgrades.

10

Dick Van Dyke Show actress Rose Marie dies at 94

Actress and singer Rose Marie, who starred in The Dick Van Dyke Show and appeared on The Hollywood Squares for 14 years, died Thursday at her home in California. She was 94. Marie played Sally Rogers on all five seasons of The Dick Van Dyke Show, and was nominated for an Emmy in 1963, 1964, and 1966. "We were a tight-knit, hard-working crew," she told The Hollywood Reporter in 2004. "I couldn't wait to get to the set each day." She appeared on several television shows and movies, and was active in animal welfare issues. A documentary on her life, Wait for Your Laugh, premiered in November. She is survived by her daughter, Georgiana.

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