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November 9, 2017 - 12:05am

Democrats get boost from election wins around the country

NEW YORK — Democrats woke up to a big dose of good news Wednesday as they dissected election results from around the country. One year after the surprise election of President Donald Trump, there were plenty of encouraging signs for Democrats trying to travel the road to recovery.

After a series of losses in red-state special elections, Democrats finally had the night they needed to prove the much-discussed “Trump resistance” movement can be an electoral force. They notched a showy win in the Virginia governor’s race, where Ralph Northam won by nearly nine points. The New Jersey governor’s race was a Democratic blowout. Maine voters approved a Medicaid expansion that was seen as a referendum on former President Barack Obama’s health care law. And Manchester, New Hampshire, elected its first Democratic mayor in a decade. Activists emboldened by Trump’s victory have long claimed they had the power to change elections. They finally proved it at the ballot box.

Christopher Plummer to replace Kevin Spacey in Getty film

LOS ANGELES — In a wholly unprecedented move, Kevin Spacey is being cut from Ridley Scott’s finished film “All the Money in the World” and replaced by Christopher Plummer just over one month before it’s supposed to hit theaters.

People close to the production who were not authorized to speak publicly said Wednesday that Plummer is commencing reshoots immediately in the role of J. Paul Getty. All of Spacey’s scenes will be reshot, the people told The Associated Press. Co-stars Mark Wahlberg and Michelle Williams are expected to participate.

Scott, who is known to be an efficient director, is intending to keep the film’s Dec. 22 release date.

The director’s publicist Simon Halls confirmed the switch late Wednesday.

The film was originally set to have its world premiere at the AFI Fest in Los Angeles on Nov. 16 but was pulled earlier this week amid the sexual harassment reports surrounding Spacey, who has also been fired from “House of Cards” and dropped by his talent agency and publicist.

US tightens travel rules to Cuba, blacklists many businesses

WASHINGTON — Americans seeking to visit Cuba must navigate a complicated maze of travel, commerce and financial restrictions unveiled Wednesday by the Trump administration, part of a new policy to further isolate the island’s communist government.

Now off-limits to U.S. citizens are dozens of Cuban hotels, shops, tour companies and other businesses included on a lengthy American blacklist of entities that have links to Cuba’s military, intelligence or security services. And most Americans will once again be required to travel as part of heavily regulated, organized tour groups run by U.S. companies, rather than voyaging to Cuba on their own.

The stricter rules mark a return to the tougher U.S. stance toward Cuba that existed before former President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro restored diplomatic relations in 2015. They come as President Donald Trump tries to show he’s taking action to prevent U.S. dollars from helping prop up the Cuban government.

“These measures confirm there is a serious reversal in bilateral relations which has occurred as a result of the decisions taken by the government of President Donald Trump,” said Josefina Vidal, the top Cuban diplomat for North America.

Still, the policy is only a partial rollback of Obama’s changes. Cruise ship visits and direct commercial flights between the countries will still be permitted. Embassies in Washington and Havana stay open.

From wire sources


Trump isolationism allows China to fill Southeast Asia void

BEIJING (AP) — When Chinese leader Xi Jinping said last month that “no country can afford to retreat into self-isolation,” he might as well have been talking about Donald Trump as the U.S. president makes his first official visit to Southeast Asia.

As Trump steers his administration’s focus inward, China has stepped into what many see as a U.S.-sized void left behind in the region, boosting cooperation on infrastructure, security and trade, flooding eager countries with tourists and offering itself up as a model for developing nations with sometimes dodgy rights records.

China’s rise in influence, and the perceived decline of the United States by some in the region, is all the more extraordinary because Beijing has often been seen as an arrogant bully in Southeast Asia, where it is mired in disputes over competing claims in the South China Sea.

Throughout the region, countries have looked at Xi and Trump and found more stability and reassurance from the Chinese president, said Richard Heydarian, a Manila-based Asia specialist and author.

“America is clearly on a downward trajectory in terms of its influence in the region,” Heydarian said. “Donald Trump comes in and he sounds even more protectionist than China. So you have a strange, in fact surreal, situation whereby China is now presenting itself as the guardian of the global economic order.”


Garth Brooks wins entertainer of the year at CMA Awards

Garth Brooks continued his winning streak as entertainer of the year at the 2017 Country Music Association Awards, beating out Luke Bryan and Keith Urban.

Brooks, who has won the top prize six times, also beat Chris Stapleton and Eric Church on Wednesday at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee.

“We’re a family,” he said about the country music community when accepting the honor.

Though he ended the awards show on a happy note, the night was marked by emotional and political moments.

Carrie Underwood broke down while singing during the “In Memoriam” section after photos of the 58 people who died at a country music festival in Las Vegas were shown. Little Big Town’s Kimberly Schlapman quoted Maya Angelou when the foursome won vocal group of the year, while bandmate Karen Fairchild told the audience, “Kindness is an attractive quality.”

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