Thursday, Nov 30th

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Johnson brings defense chops to upcoming spending fight

Mike JohnsonNew Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) has spent the last couple years on the House Armed Services Committee, experience that will influence his handling of the upcoming fight with the Senate over the annual Defense spending bill.

While Johnson’s unique perspective may help in moving forward the immense, $886 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the must-pass legislation faces a series of hurdles and a wide chasm with the Senate. The current House bill contains a series of GOP-backed culture war provisions, which Johnson has supported, that are dead on arrival in the upper chamber.

Still, lawmakers this week expressed optimism over the bill’s chances, including two senior members of the House Armed Services Committee.


Israel releases 39 Palestinian prisoners under hostage deal

Humanitarian trucks GazaIsrael released 39 Palestinian prisoners Friday as part of the first round of exchanges with Hamas, which had earlier freed hostages from Israel, Thailand and the Philippines.

The Foreign Ministry of Qatar, which mediated the negotiations on the deal to release detainees, has confirmed the 39 Palestinian prisoners were released Friday.

The Palestinians were sent home at around the same time as the 24 hostages held by Hamas crossed into Egypt and then into Israel on Friday.

The International Committee of the Red Cross, which is transferring both Israeli and Palestinian prisoners and hostages, said so far 33 Palestinian detainees from the Israeli-run Ofer Prison have arrived in Ramallah, the de facto capitol of the West Bank.


Train derailment, chemical spill disrupt Thanksgiving for Kentucky town

Train derailment in KentuckyA train derailment that spilled molten sulfur in a remote area of eastern Kentucky on the eve of Thanksgiving disrupted holiday plans for local residents on Thursday, some of whom were forced to evacuate after the incident.

The derailment occurred north of Livingston, a town of about 200 people, and involved 16 cars, including two carrying molten sulfur that spilled some of their load.

Railroad operator CSX (CSX.O) said in a statement that the fire from the spilled sulfur had been extinguished.


13 Israelis among about 2 dozen hostages released by Hamas; cease-fire in effect

Medics prepare for hostagesA temporary cease-fire that began early Friday has resulted in a group of hostages being released, the beginning of multi-day plan to return dozens of people to Israel seven weeks after they were taken by Hamas militants, U.S. President Joe Biden said.

The exchange also resulted in the release of 39 Palestinian women and children who were held in Israeli jails.

"It’s only a start," Biden said in an address from Nantucket on Friday afternoon. "But so far it’s gone well."

He said the agreement was the result of "a lot of hard work," including diplomatic efforts by the United States, Qatar and Egypt. The four-day pause in fighting started at 7 a.m. local time, midnight EST. The deal calls for the release of a total of 50 hostages taken by Hamas and 150 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons.


Missing Ukrainian child traced to Putin ally

Missing Ukranian child

A key political ally of Vladimir Putin has adopted a child seized from a Ukrainian children's home, according to documents uncovered by BBC's Panorama.

Sergey Mironov, the 70-year-old leader of a Russian political party, is named on the adoption record of a two-year-old girl who was taken in 2022 by a woman he is now married to.

Records show the girl's identity was changed in Russia.

Mr Mironov has not responded to the investigation's specific allegations.


Former Obama adviser arrested after anti-Palestinian comments to food cart worker

Stuart Seldowitz arrested

A former Obama administration adviser has been arrested after videos shared on social media showed him using Islamophobic language against a New York City food cart worker.

Stuart Seldowitz, 64, was arrested Wednesday on preliminary charges of hate crime, stalking, second-degree aggravated harassment, stalking causing fear and stalking at employment.

Seldowitz is a former State Department employee and national security adviser. He confirmed to CNN before his arrest that it was him in the videos.


Israel arrests Gaza hospital director and bombs 300 targets amid truce delay

Palestinians search for survivorsIsrael’s army has arrested the director of Gaza’s al-Shifa hospital and bombed at least 300 targets from the air, killing dozens of Palestinians, as an agreed four-day truce was delayed until Friday.

Mohammad abu Salmiya and other medics were detained, a colleague said, amid reports that members of the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) had seized them as they were travelling with a World Health Organization evacuation convoy.

“Dr Mohammad abu Salmiya was arrested along with several other senior doctors,” Khalid abu Samra told the AFP news agency, while Gaza’s ministry of health demanded the WHO explain what had happened.


OpenAI ‘was working on advanced model so powerful it alarmed staff’

OpnAI was working on alarming advances

OpenAI was reportedly working on an advanced system before Sam Altman’s sacking that was so powerful it caused safety concerns among staff at the company.

The artificial intelligence model triggered such alarm with some OpenAI researchers that they wrote to the board of directors before Altman’s dismissal warning it could threaten humanity, Reuters reported.

The model, called Q* – and pronounced as “Q-Star” – was able to solve basic maths problems it had not seen before, according to the tech news site the Information, which added that the pace of development behind the system had alarmed some safety researchers. The ability to solve maths problems would be viewed as a significant development in AI.


Trump called Iowa evangelicals ‘so-called Christians’ and ‘pieces of shit’, book says

Iowa farmhouseIn the heat of the Republican primary of 2016, Donald Trump called evangelical supporters of his rival Ted Cruz “so-called Christians” and “real pieces of shit”, a new book says.

The news lands as the 2024 Republican primary heats up, two months out from the Iowa caucus and a day after Trump’s closest rival this time, the hard-right Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, was endorsed by Bob Vander Plaats, an influential evangelical leader in Iowa.

The new book, The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory: American Evangelicals in an Age of Extremism, by Tim Alberta, an influential reporter and staff writer for the Atlantic, will be published on 5 December. The Guardian obtained a copy.

Early in the book, Alberta describes fallout from an event at Liberty University, the evangelical college in Virginia, shortly before the Iowa vote in January 2016.


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