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AP News in Brief at 12:04 a.m. EDT

Colonel testifies he raised concerns about Ukraine, Trump

WASHINGTON (AP) — Defying White House orders, an Army officer serving with President Donald Trump’s National Security Council testified to impeachment investigators Tuesday that he twice raised concerns over the administration’s push to have Ukraine investigate Democrats and Joe Biden.

Alexander Vindman, a lieutenant colonel who served in Iraq and later as a diplomat, is the first official to testify who actually heard Trump’s July 25 call with new Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. He reported his concerns to the NSC’s lead counsel.

Vindman also told investigators he tried to change the White House’s rough transcript of the call by filling in at least one of the omitted words, “Burisma,” a reference to the company linked to Biden and his son, according to people familiar with his testimony. But Vindman was unsuccessful.

His concerns, though, were far bigger than the transcript. And lawmakers said his failed effort to edit it didn’t significantly change their understanding of what transpired during Trump’s call that sparked the impeachment inquiry.

Vindman’s arrival in military blue, with medals, created a striking image at the Capitol as the impeachment inquiry reached deeper into the White House. He testified for more than 10 hours.

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Utilities say equipment probably sparked California fires

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Electrical equipment caused two Southern California wildfires — one that killed three people and destroyed more than 1,600 homes last year — and another still smouldering in the well-heeled hills of Los Angeles, where thousands of people including Arnold Schwarzenegger fled homes in the dark, utilities said Tuesday.

The two findings add more examples of electric lines sparking major wildfires as utilities in California increasingly resort to drastic power outages as a precaution to prevent devastating blazes.

A fire that broke out early Monday morning near the J. Paul Getty Museum was sparked after high winds blew a eucalyptus branch onto an electric line that caused it to arc, ignite dry grass and destroy a dozen homes, according to preliminary findings announced by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power utility and the Fire Department.

Meanwhile, Southern California Edison announced that it believes its equipment caused the deadly Woolsey fire last year northwest of Los Angeles that scorched dry grasslands and burned across the Santa Monica Mountains all the way to the coast.

The Ventura County Fire Department found that SoCal Edison equipment ignited the November fire, torching homes in Thousand Oaks, Calabasas and Malibu, the utility said in a statement.

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Brexit ballot: UK lawmakers back December 12 election

LONDON (AP) — Britons will be heading out to vote in the dark days of December after the House of Commons on Tuesday backed an early national vote that could break the country’s political impasse over Brexit — or turn out to be merely a temporary distraction.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson hopes electing a new crop of lawmakers will give his Conservative Party a majority and break the stalemate that blocked his plan to take Britain out of the European Union this month. This week the EU granted Britain a three-month Brexit extension until Jan. 31.

But after three years of inconclusive political wrangling over Brexit, British voters are weary and the results of an election are hard to predict.

The House of Commons voted 438-20 — with dozens of lawmakers abstaining — for a bill authorizing an election on Dec. 12. It will become law once it is approved Wednesday by the unelected House of Lords, which does not have the power to overrule the elected Commons.

Even before the result was announced, the political parties were in campaign mode.

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NCAA board approves athlete compensation for image, likeness

The NCAA took a major step Tuesday toward allowing college athletes to cash in on their fame, voting to permit them to “benefit from the use of their name, image and likeness.”

The nation’s largest governing body for college sports and its member schools now must figure out how to allow athletes to profit — something they have fought against doing for years — while still maintaining rules regarding amateurism. The NCAA Board of Governors, meeting at Emory University in Atlanta, directed each of the NCAA’s three divisions to create the necessary new rules immediately and have them in place no later than January 2021.

Board chair Michael Drake, the president of Ohio State University, said the NCAA must embrace change and modernize “to provide the best possible experience for college athletes.”

But such changes will come with limitations, he said.

“The board is emphasizing that change must be consistent with the values of college sports and higher education and not turn student-athletes into employees of institutions,” Drake told The Associated Press.

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Papadopoulos seeks California seat left vacant by Rep. Hill

LOS ANGELES (AP) — George Papadopoulos, a former Trump campaign aide who was a key figure in the FBI’s Russia probe, filed paperwork Tuesday to run for the U.S. House seat being vacated by Democrat Katie Hill.

Papadopoulos didn’t immediately comment, but on Sunday he tweeted, “I love my state too much to see it run down by candidates like Hill. All talk, no action, and a bunch of sellouts.”

Hill, whose district covers Los Angeles County, announced her resignation on Sunday amid an ethics probe into allegations she had an inappropriate relationship with a staff member.

She’s admitted to a consensual relationship with a campaign staff member, but denied one with a congressional staff member, which would violate U.S. House rules. She’s called herself the victim of revenge porn by an abusive husband she is divorcing.

Papadopoulos, meanwhile, was a key figure in the FBI’s Russia probe into ties between Russia and the Trump campaign.

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Immigration official says US-Mexico border crisis not over

WASHINGTON (AP) — A top U.S. Border Patrol official has a warning: The crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border is not over.

Even though crossings have been down over the past few months and news of custody deaths and teeming facilities full of children and families has faded from front pages and talking points of politicians, the number of migrants coming over border is still high. And resources are still stretched.

“It is kind of a new norm. We’re at risk at any time,” if some recent deterrent efforts are blocked by the courts, like a policy forcing asylum seekers to wait out their claims in Mexico , Brian Hastings, chief of law enforcement operations at Border Patrol said in an interview with The Associated Press.

“We will go back, mark the words, we will go back to the crisis level that we had before.”

Immigration has been a top issue since President Donald Trump took office almost three years ago, with Democrats heavily critical of his administration on border conditions. But Washington is now dominated by talk of impeachment and immigration seems somewhat less pressing, with monthly apprehension numbers declining and Mexico and other nations enhancing co-operation with the U.S. on immigration issues.

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Biden’s communion denial highlights faith-politics conflict

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A Roman Catholic priest’s denial of communion to Joe Biden in South Carolina on Sunday illustrates the fine line presidential candidates must walk as they talk about their faiths: balancing religious values with a campaign that asks them to choose a side in polarizing moral debates.

The awkward moment for Biden came during a weekend campaign swing through South Carolina, a pivotal firewall in his hopes to claim the Democratic presidential nomination. The former vice-president on Sunday visited St. Anthony Catholic Church in Florence, a midsize city in the state’s largely rural northeast. As he frequently does on the trail, Biden — a lifelong Catholic — made a stop at a local parish, attending services without the press before stopping at other churches with reporters.

But the Rev. Robert Morey at St. Anthony opted not to serve communion to Biden. The priest said in a statement to media outlets that his decision was based on Biden’s support of abortion rights, something Morey said the church cannot condone by way of sacrament.

The episode recalled the divisive debate that erupted in 2004, when then-senator and future Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry grappled with public warnings from several Catholic officials that abortion-rights supporters should not receive communion. As Biden joins other candidates in making his faith a key element of his pitch to 2020 voters, Morey’s communion denial raises questions about whether other Democrats might face similar tests of their ability to balance personal beliefs and their public stances on key issues.

Biden’s campaign has declined to comment on the situation. Asked about it Tuesday on MSNBC, the former longtime Delaware senator shifted to an overall discussion of his views on faith.

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Lebanese prime minister quits amid anti-government protests

BEIRUT (AP) — Lebanon’s prime minister resigned Tuesday, bowing to one of the central demands of anti-government demonstrators shortly after baton-wielding Hezbollah supporters rampaged through the main protest camp in Beirut, torching tents, smashing plastic chairs and chasing away protesters.

The demonstrators later returned to the camp in time to hear the news that Prime Minister Saad Hariri said he was stepping down after hitting a “dead end” in trying to resolve the crisis, which has paralyzed the country for nearly two weeks. The protesters erupted in cheers at the news.

The resignation plunges Lebanon deeper into turmoil and uncertainty as it grapples with a severe economic and financial crisis that has led to a scarcity of hard currency and the local currency losing value for the first time in more than two decades. Lebanon is facing a deep-running fiscal crisis as it staggers under one of the highest debt ratios in the world — $86 billion, or more than 150% of the country’s gross domestic product.

The rampage by supporters of Hezbollah and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri’s Shiite Amal movement marked a violent turning point in the protests, which have called for the resignation of the government and the overthrow of the political class that has dominated the country since the 1975-1990 civil war and is blamed for the current economic crisis. The government is dominated by factions allied with Hezbollah, the most powerful armed group in the country.

Hariri had reluctantly worked with those factions as part of a national unity government that had failed to address an increasingly severe economic and fiscal crisis.

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HBO orders 10 episodes of ‘Game of Thrones’ prequel

LOS ANGELES (AP) — HBO is green-lighting a new “Game of Thrones” prequel after reportedly cancelling another that starred Naomi Watts.

The cable channel said Tuesday that it’s given a 10-episode order to “House of the Dragon,” set 300 years before the original series that ended its eight-season run in May.

The prequel is based on George R.R. Martin’s “Fire & Blood,” HBO said. The new drama was co-created by Martin and Ryan Condal, whose credits include “Colony.”

It will focus on House Targaryen, made famous in “Game of Thrones” by Emilia Clarke’s Daenerys and her fearsome dragons.

“House of the Dragon” was announced by HBO programming president Casey Bloys during a presentation for HBO Max, the streaming service launching in May 2020 . A spinoff of HBO megahit “Game of Thrones” would be a key attraction in the increasingly crowded streaming marketplace.

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Strasburg, Nats top Astros 7-2, force World Series Game 7

HOUSTON (AP) — Stephen Strasburg took a gem into the ninth inning and Juan Soto ran all the way to first base with his bat following a go-ahead home run, the same way Houston slugger Alex Bregman did earlier.

Washington has matched the Astros pitch for pitch, hit for hit, win for win — even home run celebration for home run celebration.

Strasburg gutted through without his best fastball to throw five-hit ball for 8 1/3 innings, and now it’s onto a winner-take-all Game 7 to decide the first World Series in which the visiting team won the first six games.

Eaton and Soto hit solo homers off Justin Verlander in the fifth, Anthony Rendon had five RBIs, including with a two-run homer in the seventh, and the Nationals beat the Astros 7-2 Tuesday night to tie the Series at three games apiece.

Fired up after a disputed call at first base went against them in the seventh, the Nationals padded their lead moments later when Rendon homered off Will Harris. Washington manager Dave Martinez, still enraged at umpires, was ejected during the seventh-inning stretch, screaming as a pair of his coaches held him back while the crowd sang along to “Deep in the Heart of Texas.” Rendon added a two-run double off Chris Devenski in the ninth.

The Associated Press