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Zimbabwe asks if new leader, a Mugabe ally, can bring change

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Zimbabwe’s incoming leader Emmerson Mnangagwa, widely known as the Crocodile, is seen as a smart, ruthless politician, and many question if he will be able to bring the change the country craves.

“We are witnessing the beginning of a new, unfolding democracy,” the 75-year-old announced Wednesday upon his return to the country, two weeks after his firing by longtime mentor Robert Mugabe led to the president’s downfall.

Despite the message of inclusion, Zimbabweans noted that Mnangagwa made his first public remarks outside ruling ZANU-PF party headquarters and, switching to the local Shona language, praised the party.

They ask whether Mnangagwa will be adequately independent from ZANU-PF to revive the battered economy and restore democracy with the backing of the opposition and others.

The ruling party has proven it protects its own. It assured Mugabe he would not be prosecuted if he stepped down, ZANU-PF chief whip Lovemore Matuke told The Associated Press: “He is safe, his family is safe and his status as a hero of his country is assured.”

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Sound heard in Argentine sub search was likely ‘explosion’

MAR DEL PLATA, Argentina (AP) — An apparent explosion occurred near the time and place an Argentine submarine went missing, the country’s navy reported Thursday, prompting relatives of its 44 crew members to burst into tears and some to say they had lost hope of a rescue.

Navy spokesman Enrique Balbi said the search will continue until there is full certainty about the fate of the ARA San Juan, despite the evidence of an explosion and with more than a week having passed since the submarine disappeared. It was originally scheduled to arrive Monday at Argentina’s Mar del Plata Navy Base.

The U.S. Navy and an international nuclear test-ban monitoring organization said a “hydro-acoustic anomaly” was produced just hours after the navy lost contact with the sub on Nov. 15.

“According to this report, there was an explosion,” Balbi told reporters. “We don’t know what caused an explosion of these characteristics at this site on this date.”

The navy spokesman described the event as “singular, short, violent and non-nuclear.” It was detected near where the ARA San Juan went missing.

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Barton to go mum over disclosed photo, citing probe

WASHINGTON (AP) — Suggesting he’s a victim of revenge porn from a jilted lover, Republican Rep. Joe Barton of Texas says he plans to go silent about the release of a nude photo of him online because police are investigating the disclosure as a possible crime against him. Authorities have not confirmed an investigation.

The 68-year-old Barton, who joined the House in 1985, has acknowledged sharing intimate material with a lover and accused her of threatening to make it public when he ended the relationship. The unidentified woman told The Washington Post that she did not put it online and said the congressman sought to intimidate her by threatening to go to the authorities if she exposed his conduct.

The he said-she said dispute erupted in the midst of sexual misconduct allegations drawing in several other members of Congress as well as Senate Republican candidate Roy Moore of Alabama, who is accused of disrobing a 14-year-old girl. The consequences for Barton are not immediately apparent aside from his mortification: The relationship with the woman was evidently consensual.

The Post published details of a secretly recorded conversation between Barton and his lover from 2015 in which he threatened to “take all this crap to the Capitol Hill Police and have them launch an investigation” if she did not agree to keep “inappropriate photographs and video” that he had exchanged with her from becoming public. He said she had already shared material with other women with whom he had been involved.

In a statement after that report, Barton said the “Capitol Police reached out to me and offered to launch an investigation and I have accepted. Because of the pending investigation, we will have no further comment.” He said the woman’s comments on the tape could be evidence of a “potential crime against me.”

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Franken’s rising political star obscured by accusations

WASHINGTON (AP) — “Many of you have jobs, many of you have families,” Sen. Al Franken told Democratic leaders gathered on the eve of a hotly contested governor’s election in Virginia. After an expectant pause, he leaned into the microphone and added, “Ignore them.”

Franken was jokingly beseeching activists to get out the vote the following day, in what ended up as a surprisingly decisive victory for Democratic candidate Ralph Northam. But the moment, barely two weeks ago, also underscored how high the one-time “Saturday Night Live” comic had risen in his party’s firmament.

After spending much of his nearly nine years as senator trying to shed his funnyman image and quietly digging into issues like internet access and consumer protection, he was now a draw at political events and mentioned by some as a 2020 presidential possibility. Months of savaging some of President Donald Trump’s appointees had turned the Harvard-educated Franken into a weapon of choice for Democrats eager to attack the administration and energize party voters.

Now, Franken’s rising trajectory has been interrupted by allegations he had physical contact with four women without their permission. He faces a Senate ethics investigation for improper conduct and hasn’t been seen publicly since the first claims of misbehavior last week. His future is suddenly unclear.

“It’s always a great disappointment when leaders you like and admire do bad stuff,” said Mike Lux, a liberal Democratic consultant. He said it was premature to say how the allegations would affect Franken’s career. But, Lux added, “If more incidents come to light, he’s got a real problem.”

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Macy’s Thanksgiving parade revels on amid tight security

NEW YORK (AP) — The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade featured balloons, bands, stars and heavy security in a year marked by attacks on outdoor gathering spots.

With new faces and old favorites in the lineup, the Americana extravaganza made its way through 2 ½ miles (3.22 kilometers) of Manhattan on a cold morning.

“The crowds are still the same, but there’s a lot more police here. That’s the age we live in,” Paul Seyforth said as he attended the parade he’d watched since the 1950s.

“Not a lot’s changed — the balloons, the bands, the floats — and that’s the good thing,” said Seyforth, 76, who’d flown in from Denver to spend his 50th wedding anniversary in New York and see this year’s parade.

The televised parade was proceeding smoothly, though about midway through, a gust of wind on a largely calm day blew a candy-cane balloon into a tree branch, and it popped near the start of the route on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. No one was injured.

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Trump credits troops, and himself, for military advances

PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — President Donald Trump thanked U.S. troops for their service on Thursday, assuring them “we’re really winning” against America’s foes as he celebrated Thanksgiving at his private club in Florida and provided lunch for Coast Guard men and women on duty for the holiday.

Using the occasion to pat himself on the back, Trump told deployed military members via a video conference that they’ve achieved more progress in Afghanistan and against the Islamic State group under his watch than had been made in years of the previous administration.

“Everybody’s talking about the progress you’ve made in the last few months since I opened it up,” he told the 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 82nd Airborne Division, whose members are conducting operations in Kandahar, Afghanistan. “We’re being talked about again as an armed forces — we’re really winning.”

Speaking from a gilded room at his Mar-a-Lago club, Trump said: “We’re not fighting anymore to just walk around, we’re fighting to win, and you people are really, you’ve turned it around over the last three to four months like nobody’s seen, and they are talking about it, so thank you very much.”

Turning to the 74th Expeditionary Fighters Squadron based at the Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, Trump suggested the Obama administration hadn’t allowed soldiers on the ground to do their jobs.

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As shoppers mobilize on Thanksgiving, retailers branch out

NEW YORK (AP) — Shoppers are hitting the stores on Thanksgiving and will be finding some surprises: toys and TVs at J.C. Penney, Barbies at Best Buy, kitchen appliances like wine refrigerators at B.J.’s.

As the holiday shopping season officially kicked off Thursday, retailers are counting on a lift from a better economy. But they’re also looking beyond economic data and mapping out ways to pick up sales from other retailers as Amazon expands its reach.

That can mean opening earlier than rivals on the holidays or even jumping into new product categories. The fight for market share comes as analysts at Bain say Amazon is expected to take half of the holiday season’s sales growth. And Amazon is the top destination for people to begin holiday shopping, according to a September study by market research firm NPD Group.

“The retailers are in survival mode. It’s about stealing each other’s market share,” said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at NPD. “Amazon is the Grinch. They’re stealing the growth.”

Abi and Sush Gyawali — both 27-year-old biology graduate students at the University of Missouri — were among hundreds of people who lined up outside J.C. Penney in Columbia, Missouri, before the store opened at 2 p.m. Thursday.

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Bannon insurgency stresses loyalty to Trump, not policy test

WAUKESHA, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin Senate candidate Kevin Nicholson, a consultant for Fortune 500 companies, doesn’t look much like the renegade outsiders whom political strategist Steve Bannon says he’s recruiting for his war on the Republican establishment. But Nicholson has Bannon’s backing anyway, thanks to his loyalty to President Donald Trump.

As Bannon drafts his team of challengers to the old guard, the new guard is increasingly aligned not by ideology, but by its history of support for the president. Republicans who have criticized the president or been slow to embrace him are out.

One particular test for the Breitbart News chairman and former Trump White House strategist is how such Republicans reacted during the campaign to the 2005 “Access Hollywood” video showing Trump bragging about sexually imposing himself on women. Those who kept quiet about it or stuck with him earn Bannon’s favor now even if it means looking the other way on some policy positions and affiliations. Nicholson, for example, has backing from wealthy free-trade advocates, an awkward policy fit with Trump’s economic nationalism.

“If you were never-Trump, refused to ever endorse the president or withdrew your endorsement following ‘Access Hollywood’weekend, don’t even bother walking through Bannon’s door,” said Bannon adviser Andy Surabian.

Bannon hopes chiefly to topple Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, whom he has blamed for obstructing Trump’s agenda, especially efforts to dismantle Barack Obama’s 2010 health care law. Bannon has threatened to find a Republican primary opponent for almost every GOP senator seeking re-election in 2018.

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Congressional Russia probes likely to head into 2018

WASHINGTON (AP) — Some Republicans are hoping lawmakers will soon wrap up investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 election that have dragged on for most of the year. But with new details in the probe emerging almost daily, that seems unlikely.

Three congressional committees are investigating Russian interference and whether President Donald Trump’s campaign was in any way involved. The panels have obtained thousands of pages of documents from Trump’s campaign and other officials, and have done dozens of interviews.

The probes are separate from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Mueller can prosecute for criminal activity, while Congress can only lay out findings, publicize any perceived wrongdoing and pass legislation to try to keep problems from happening again. If any committee finds evidence of criminal activity, it must refer the matter to Mueller.

All three committees have focused on a June 2016 meeting that Trump campaign officials held in Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer and others. They are also looking into outreach by several other Russians to the campaign, including involvement of George Papadopoulos, who pleaded guilty this month to lying to the FBI as part of Mueller’s probe. New threads continue to emerge, such as a recent revelation that Donald Trump Jr. was messaging with WikiLeaks, the website that leaked emails from top Democratic officials during the campaign.

A look at the committees that are investigating, and the status of their work when they return from their Thanksgiving break:

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Texans displaced by Harvey readjust plans for holiday feast

HOUSTON (AP) — The kitchen where George and Arva Dorsey prepare an 18-dish feast every Thanksgiving has been stripped of everything but its granite countertops, standing on their own with no appliances below. The house they renovated and expanded over three decades has been gutted down to its wooden beams.

Almost three months after Hurricane Harvey slammed into the Texas Gulf Coast, killing more than 80 people and damaging at least 200,000 homes, the Dorseys and other families are celebrating Thanksgiving however they can.

“We try to keep our head up, and we know that God is above all,” said Arva Dorsey, sitting next to her husband in the dining room where they would have served Thanksgiving dinner. “So many of the blessings have come through this disaster. We’re just grateful.”

George Dorsey said one possibility was the family — including some members from out of town — could spend Thursday with a friend. Or they might go to a local buffet-style restaurant for turkey and trimmings.

Some people are gathering at churches that have held large meals for people displaced by the storm and volunteers spending the holiday away from their families to help rebuild. Others will go to annual events like Houston’s “Super Feast,” where volunteers this year will hand out clothes and supplies along with turkey and stuffing.