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Trial highlights: Conspiracy theories and fidget spinners

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats argued that President Donald Trump sought a phony investigation of a political rival and pursued a discredited conspiracy theory about Ukraine, while restless senators played with a new toy Thursday during Trump's impeachment trial. Democrats said there was no evidence that former Vice President Joe Biden did anything improper in dealings with Ukraine. Republicans outside the chamber challenged Democrats' argument and pledged to find out more about Biden and his son’s dealings in Ukraine. Meanwhile, senators found a new outlet to focus their attention: fidget spinners handed out by North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr.


China confirms 1st death outside epicenter of viral outbreak

BEIJING (AP) — China has moved to lock down at least three big cities in an unprecedented effort to contain the deadly new virus that has sickened hundreds of people and spread to other parts of the world. The open-ended lockdowns are unmatched in size, and their potential for success is uncertain. China's National Health Commission confirmed 830 cases of the new coronavirus with 25 deaths. The first death has also been confirmed outside the central province of Hubei. The health commission in Hebei, a northern province bordering Beijing, said an 80-year-old man died after returning from a stay in Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak.


3 US firefighters who died in Australia crash identified

SYDNEY (AP) — The three American firefighters who were killed when the aerial water tanker they were in crashed while battling wildfires in Australia have been identified by their employer. Canada-based Coulson Aviation says the men who died Thursday in the crash of the C-130 Hercules were Capt. Ian H. McBeth, 44, of Great Falls, Montana; First Officer Paul Clyde Hudson, 42, of Buckeye, Arizona; and Flight Engineer Rick A. DeMorgan Jr., 43, of Navarre, Florida. New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian confirmed the deaths in the state's Snowy Monaro region, which came as Australia grapples with an unprecedented fire season that has left a large swath of destruction.


Ex-pharmaceutical exec gets 5 1/2 years for pushing opioid

BOSTON (AP) — The founder of an Arizona pharmaceutical company has been sentenced to 5 1/2 years in prison for his role in a bribery and kickback scheme that prosecutors said helped fuel the opioid crisis. John Kapoor, the 76-year-old former chairman of Insys Therapeutics, was sentenced Thursday in federal court in Boston. Kapoor and others were accused of paying millions of dollars in bribes to doctors across the nation to prescribe the company’s highly addictive fentanyl spray, known as Subsys. The case is considered the first that sought to hold an opioid maker criminally liable for the drug crisis, which has claimed nearly 400,000 lives over the last two decades.


Coalition of states sue over rules governing 3D-printed guns

WASHINGTON (AP) — Attorneys general in 20 states and the District of Columbia have filed a lawsuit challenging a federal regulation that could allow blueprints for making guns on 3D printers to be posted on the internet. New York Attorney General Tish James is helping to lead the coalition. She says posting the blueprints would allow anyone to go online and use the downloadable files to create unregistered and untraceable assault-style weapons that could be difficult to detect. The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the suit.


Trump: Mideast peace plan likely rolled out in days

JERUSALEM (AP) — President Donald Trump says he'll likely release the long-awaited White House Mideast peace plan ahead of his meeting Tuesday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his main political rival Benny Gantz. Trump told reporters Thursday on Air Force One en route to a Republican Party meeting in Florida that it was a “great plan” that "really would work." He says his administration has talked briefly with the Palestinians. They have already rejected the administration's peace plan, which is expected to heavily favor Israel and is unlikely to garner any international support if it is seen as undermining the prospect of a two-state solution.


'Bogus' Ukraine theory led to Trump's abuse, Dems tell trial

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democratic House prosecutors have made an expansive argument at President Donald Trump's impeachment trial that he abused power like no other president in history, swept up by a “completely bogus” theory about Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election. The Democrats say that led Trump to demand that Ukraine investigate his rival Joe Biden — while he withheld crucial military aid as leverage. On Friday, the Democrats will press their final day of arguments before skeptical Republican senators on the other charge against the president, obstruction of Congress. Trump's defense team is waiting its turn, which will come Saturday.


North Carolina pastor charged with more than 100 sex crimes

NORTH WILKESBORO, N.C. (AP) — A North Carolina pastor has been charged with more than 100 felony sex offenses involving three children, who were as young as four years old. The Wilkes County Sheriff's office says 58-year-old Rodney Luffman was arrested without incident at his home. He's a pastor at Open Arms Outreach Ministries in Elkin. Luffman is accused of abusing three victims beginning about 20 years ago, when they ranged in age from 4 to 15 years old. Det. Amanda Boyd said the crimes allegedly continued for 15 years. Luffman remains jailed and it's not clear whether he has an attorney who can comment on his behalf.


'Sopranos' actress says Weinstein raped her in the mid-1990s

NEW YORK (AP) — Actress Annabella Sciorra has confronted Harvey Weinstein at his New York City rape trial. Sciorra told a jury Thursday that the former Hollywood studio boss overpowered and raped her in the mid-1990s and made other crude overtures such as sending X-rated chocolates and showing up uninvited in his underwear with a bottle of baby oil. Weinstein's lawyers sought to sow doubts about Sciorra's story. The 67-year-old Weinstein has insisted any sexual encounters were consensual.


Russian pleads guilty in Virginia to large-scale card fraud

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) — A Russian national has pleaded guilty to running a website that helped people commit more than $20 million in credit-card fraud. Twenty-nine-year-old Aleksei Burkov struck a plea bargain Thursday in federal court in Alexandria. He was extradited to the U.S. from Israel in November over the objection of Russian officials. An indictment accused Burkov of running a website called Cardplanet that let people buy stolen credit-card numbers for anywhere from $3 to $60. People used the numbers to make more than $20 million in fraudulent purchases. Prosecutors say Burkov even offered a money-back guarantee if a stolen card number no longer worked.

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