In Brief: Nation & World: 12-29-16

In parting shot, Kerry tears into Israel over settlements

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In parting shot, Kerry tears into Israel over settlements

WASHINGTON (AP) — Secretary of State John Kerry tore into Israel on Wednesday for settlement-building, accusing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of dragging Israel away from democracy and forcefully rejecting the notion that America had abandoned Israel with a controversial U.N. vote. Netanyahu accused the Obama administration of a biased bid to blame Israel for failure to reach a peace deal.

In a farewell speech, Kerry laid out a two-state vision for peace that he won’t be in office to implement, but that the U.S. hoped might be heeded even after President Barack Obama’s term ends. He defended Obama’s move last week to allow the U.N. Security Council to declare Israeli settlements illegal, the spark that set off an extraordinary and deepening diplomatic spat between the U.S. and its closest Mideast ally.

“If the choice is one state, Israel can either be Jewish or democratic, it cannot be both, and it won’t ever really be at peace,” Kerry said in a speech that ran more than an hour, a comprehensive airing of grievances that have built up in the Obama administration over eight years but were rarely, until this month, discussed publicly.

Netanyahu pushed back in a hastily arranged televised statement in which he suggested he was done with the Obama administration and ready to deal with President-elect Donald Trump, who has sided squarely with Israel. The Israeli leader faulted Kerry for obsessing over settlements while paying mere “lip service” to Palestinian attacks and incitement of violence.

“Israelis do not need to be lectured about the importance of peace by foreign leaders,” Netanyahu said from Jerusalem.

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Trump accuses Obama of ‘inflammatory’ roadblocks

PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — President-elect Donald Trump accused President Barack Obama on Wednesday of throwing up “inflammatory” roadblocks during the transition of power and his administration of treating Israel with “total disdain,” further straining the veneer of civility between the incoming and outgoing leaders.

Although Trump didn’t detail his complaints in his morning broadsides on Twitter, the president-elect has made it clear that it didn’t sit well with him when Obama recently boasted that he would have won the election if he’d been running. Trump’s largely respectful tone about Obama since the election evaporated in his latest tweets.

“Doing my best to disregard the many inflammatory President O statements and roadblocks,” Trump tweeted. “Thought it was going to be a smooth transition – NOT!”

Trump also took direct issue with the Obama administration’s decision to let a U.N. Security Council resolution critical of Israel pass.

“We cannot continue to let Israel be treated with such total disdain and disrespect,” he said in a two-part tweet. “They used to have a great friend in the U.S., but … not anymore. The beginning of the end was the horrible Iran deal, and now this (U.N.)! Stay strong Israel, January 20th is fast approaching!”

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Dylann Roof won’t work to spare his life in church massacre

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof says he won’t call any witnesses or present evidence while representing himself during the punishment phase of his death penalty trial, but he is working hard to keep secret potentially embarrassing evidence about himself and his family.

Just exactly what that evidence is remains a mystery. Roof, the judge and prosecutors carefully tiptoed around describing it during a hearing Wednesday. The judge has indicated that it may be allowed during the penalty phase of the trial, which starts next week.

The same jurors who convicted Roof earlier this month of killing nine black church members in a racially motivated attack will hear from Roof as well as testimony from the families of victims. At the end of the penalty phase, the panel will decide whether Roof, who is white, should be put to death or spend the rest of his life in prison.

Roof was warned by U.S. Judge Richard Gergel that being his own lawyer was a bad idea.

“That’s your decision,” Gergel said. “I think that highlights my advice to you that you aren’t served by being your own counsel.”

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Fans create impromptu Walk of Fame star for Carrie Fisher

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Fans seeking to pay tribute to Carrie Fisher have created an impromptu star for the actress on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.

Fisher fans took over a blank star on Hollywood Boulevard and used paste-on letters to spell out her name and the phrase “May the force be with you always.” Candles and flowers surround the star.

Fisher did not have an official star on the Walk of Fame, but administrators of the Los Angeles tourist attraction are allowing the tribute temporarily to give fans a place to mourn.

Walk of Fame stars are granted by a committee overseen by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. Celebrities must apply to be considered and be willing to pay a $30,000 fee.

There has also been a run on Fisher’s books since the “Star Wars” actress and humorist died on Tuesday.

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With the loss of its celebrities, Gen X ponders mortality

Princess Leia was our first girl movie heroine, and we made our moms braid brunette yarn so we’d have earmuff buns for Halloween. Carol Brady of “The Brady Bunch” was the ideal mother we probably didn’t have, because our moms had to work and left us latchkey kids home alone, with TV and processed food our only companions.

Carrie Fisher and Florence Henderson — and other icons of Generation X’s youth — are now gone, stolen by the cruel thief that is 2016. The year has left the generation born between the mid-1960s and the early 1980s wallowing in memories and contemplating its own mortality.

“It’s a very melancholy time,” sighed Shelly Ransom, a 47-year-old speech-language pathologist in Darien, Connecticut. “This is really bringing back a lot of teen angsty feelings. These people are supposed to still be the voices of my generation. It’s sad to see these artists not there to be our voice.”

Or, as weary, 51-year-old Lawrence Feeney, a filmmaker from New Port Richey, Florida, put it: “You lose George Michael and Carrie Fisher in a three-day span, you feel like you’ve gotten a couple of daggers thrown at you.”

Throughout the year, office conversations, dinner party discussions and social media have exploded with incredulity, sadness and fear, as one ’80s celebrity after another died, starting in January with David Bowie.

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Man suspected of ties to Berlin attacker detained in Germany

BERLIN (AP) — German prosecutors said Wednesday that they have detained a Tunisian man they think may have been involved in last week’s truck attack on a Christmas market in Berlin.

The 40-year-old, who wasn’t identified, was detained in Berlin during a search of his home and business, federal prosecutors said.

The man’s telephone number was saved in the cellphone of Anis Amri, a fellow Tunisian believed to have driven a truck into the market on Dec. 19. Amri, 24, was killed in a shootout with Italian police in a suburb of Milan early Friday.

Of the new suspect, prosecutors said in a statement that “further investigations indicate that he may have been involved in the attack.”

Twelve people died and dozens more were injured in the truck attack. The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility.

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Turkey, Russia discussing Syria cease-fire

BEIRUT (AP) — Turkey and Russia are discussing a broader Syrian cease-fire after brokering the deal that evacuated rebel-held eastern Aleppo, Syrian opposition factions said Wednesday, but a number of rebel groups say they won’t agree to anything until they get more details.

All previous attempts at enforcing a nationwide cease-fire in Syria have failed. The recent warming of ties between Russia and Turkey, who provide crucial support to opposing sides of the war, may prove to be a game changer, but the challenges are immense.

The foreign ministers of Turkey, Russia and Iran met in Moscow last week for talks on Syria that pointedly included no Syrians, indicating they prefer to pursue a grand bargain among great powers with stakes in the conflict rather than a domestic settlement between the government and the opposition.

An official with one of the factions confirmed to The Associated Press that Russian and Turkish officials were debating a cease-fire proposal that would encompass the whole of Syria. He spoke on condition of anonymity because the talks were ongoing.

Rebels have opposed previous proposals that would allow the government to continue its offensives around the outskirts of the capital, Damascus.

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Video appears to show Texas police shooting man walking away

DALLAS (AP) — A police dashcam video released five months after a Texas officer shot a black man appears to show the man walking away as the officer fired, and the man’s lawyer says he was not a threat.

David Collie was shot in the back, leaving him paralyzed, lawyer Nate Washington said Wednesday. Police said at the time of the July encounter that a Fort Worth officer fired twice, striking Collie “once in the lower torso.”

The officer and a Tarrant County sheriff’s deputy with him were off-duty at the time and working a security detail at an apartment complex, Washington said.

Police were searching for two shirtless black men who they believed had committed a robbery near a gas station, Washington said. Authorities said in a news release they issued at the time that Collie pulled a box cutter from his pocket and pointed it at the officers.

Collie was charged with aggravated assault on a public servant but a grand jury declined to indict him.

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Fish oil pills for pregnant moms may cut asthma risk in kids

Children whose moms took high doses of fish oil during their last three months of pregnancy were less likely to develop chronic wheezing problems or asthma by age 5, finds a study that suggests a possible way to help prevent this growing problem.

Asthma cases have been rising in developed countries, while consumption of omega-3 fatty acids like those found in fish has decreased. Some earlier studies suggested that omega-3 deficiency during pregnancy may affect asthma risk in babies, but they were too small to be definitive.

It’s not known why this may be — one theory is that fish oil lowers inflammation, which can tighten airways.

Researchers at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark did a rigorous test, assigning about 700 women to take 2.4 grams a day of a supplement containing two types of fish oil, or look-alike pills of olive oil, in their third trimester of pregnancy, when babies’ lungs are maturing. Neither the moms nor the researchers knew who was getting what until after three years, and then only the researchers knew until the children reached age 5.

Moms recorded how many episodes a child had of lung problems lasting for at least three days. This was called persistent wheezing until a child turned 3 and asthma after that.

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Detroit demolishes thousands of structures; many more to go

DETROIT (AP) — Remnants of the roof and walls creaked, groaned and then crumpled to the ground Wednesday from what once was an industrial building that covered an entire city block, likely the last structure demolished this year under Detroit’s massive blight elimination program.

Blows from an excavator methodically destroyed a portion of what had been a 60,000-square-foot building on Cloverdale Avenue in a west side neighborhood of homes, auto repair shops and other light industrial buildings.

When leveled, the structure that a local resident said had once housed an industrial laundry or dry cleaners, will mark about 3,130 structures cleared in 2016 and about 10,700 — mostly houses — razed since 2014. The vast majority are owned by the city’s Land Bank Authority.

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But the city has a long way to go. A blight task force in 2014 said 40,000 needed to be torn down and 38,000 others were falling apart in one of the nation’s poorest major cities that emerged in December 2014 from the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history.

Many blocks have more abandoned houses and empty lots than lived-in homes, a result of the exodus of whites and much of the black middle class from the city. About 1.8 million people lived in Detroit in the 1950s. Fewer than 700,000 currently call Detroit home, according to the U.S. Census.