Associated Press - 5/355 - SaintPetersBlog

Associated Press

Alabama 7-point favorite over Clemson in college football championship game

Alabama is a seven-point favorite against Clemson in a College Football Playoff championship game rematch, according to gambling odds website Pregame.com.

The defending national champion and top-ranked Crimson Tide beat No. 4 Washington 24-7 in the Peach Bowl semifinal game Saturday. The third-ranked Tigers won in similar fashion later in the night, beating No. 2 Ohio State 31-0 in the Fiesta Bowl.

Alabama beat Clemson 45-40 last year in the College Football Playoff final, winning a fourth national championship in a seven-year span under coach Nick Saban.

Pregame.com founder RJ Bell says the Crimson Tide were projected to be a heavier favorite, but oddsmakers were impressed by Clemson’s dominance against the Buckeyes. Bell says Alabama opened as an eight-point favorite Friday night.

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Grand Old Party? Donald Trump remaking GOP in his image

For eight years, a leaderless Republican Party has rallied around its passionate opposition to President Barack Obama and an unceasing devotion to small government, free markets and fiscal discipline.

No more.

On the eve of his inauguration, Donald Trump is remaking the party in his image, casting aside decades of Republican orthodoxy for a murky populist agenda that sometimes clashes with core conservative beliefs. Yet his stunning election gives the GOP a formal leader for the first time in nearly a decade. The New York real estate mogul becomes the face of the party, the driver of its policies and its chief enforcer.

Despite their excitement, Republican loyalists across the country concede that major questions remain about their party’s identity in the age of Trump.

The simple answer: The modern-day Republican Party stands for whatever Trump wants it to.

“He’s a sometime-Republican,” American Conservative Union Chairman Matt Schlapp said. “Donald Trump was elected without having to really put all the details out on all these questions. We are going to see in the first six months how this plays out. Does government get bigger or does it get smaller?”

Trump is eyeing a governing agenda that includes big-ticket items that Schlapp and other conservative leaders would fight against under any other circumstances. Yet some see Trump’s agenda as more in line with the concerns of average Americans, which could help the party’s underwhelming public standing and keep them in power.

The president-elect initially promised a massive infrastructure spending bill to update the nation’s roads and bridges, an investment that could dwarf the infrastructure spending Republicans opposed when it appeared in Obama’s 2009 stimulus package. Trump has also vowed to put the federal government in the child care business by allowing parents to offset child care costs with tax breaks. And he has railed against regional trade deals and threatened to impose tariffs on some imports, a sharp break from the free-market approach that has defined Republican policies for decades.

“From a policy perspective, he might be one of the more flexible Republican presidents. He’s just not encumbered with 30 years of Republican ideology,” said veteran Republican operative Barry Bennett, a former Trump adviser.

“If there’s a win involved, he’s interested,” Bennett said.

Republicans in Congress and elsewhere have expressed some hesitation, but most appear to be willing to embrace the incoming president’s priorities — at least at first.

There are indications that Trump may initially avoid issues that would divide his party. That’s according to Trump’s incoming chief of staff, Reince Priebus, who said in a recent radio interview that the new administration will focus in its first nine months on conservative priorities like repealing Obama’s health care law and rewriting tax laws.

In a postelection interview with The New York Times, Trump acknowledged that he didn’t realize during the campaign that New Deal-style proposals to put people to work building infrastructure might conflict with his party’s small-government philosophy.

“That’s not a very Republican thing — I didn’t even know that, frankly,” Trump said.

Trump’s confusion can be forgiven, perhaps, given his inexperience in Republican politics. He was a registered Democrat in New York between August 2001 and September 2009. And once he became a Republican, his political views were shaped from his perch in New York City, where the Republican minority is much more liberal — particularly on social issues — than their counterparts in other parts of the country.

Trump said he was “fine” with same-sex marriage in a postelection interview in November, for example. And while he opposes abortion rights, he supported Planned Parenthood’s non-abortion-related women’s health services throughout his campaign.

It’s unclear how aggressively Trump will fight for his priorities, but there are signs that he’s not expected to have much tolerance for detractors in either party. He has been remarkably thin-skinned, using Twitter to jab critics like former President Bill Clinton, “Saturday Night Live” and a little-known union official from Indiana.

“You cross him at your peril,” said Rick Tyler, a Republican strategist who worked for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz‘s GOP presidential bid.

Tyler said Trump’s leadership style as he prepares to enter the Oval Office sends a clear message: “Unless you move in my way, I’ll make your life, including Republicans, pretty miserable.”

At the same time, the public’s perception of the Republican Party seems to be improving, albeit modestly.

A NBC/Wall Street Journal Poll conducted in December found that 37 percent of Americans have a positive rating of the GOP compared to 36 percent who have an unfavorable view. That’s slightly better than the Democratic Party, which earns positive marks from 34 percent and negative from 42 percent.

Before Trump’s rise, the Republican Party’s message didn’t necessarily resonate with the needs of “everyday Americans,” said veteran Republican strategist Alex Conant.

“The challenge for the party now is to adopt policies that fulfill those needs. And we have a lot of work to do on that front,” Conant said.

The uncertainty leaves longtime Republican loyalists with more questions than answers about the future of their party.

“The party will be what Trump wants it to be,” said Steve Duprey, a Republican national committeeman from New Hampshire.

Republish with permission of The Associated Press.

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Great expectations: Small businesses upbeat about 2017

Donald Trump‘s election as president has made many small business owners more upbeat about 2017.

Dean Bingham says he’s cautiously optimistic because business picked up at his auto repair shop after the election — people who had put off fixing their cars have decided it’s time to get them serviced.

“Over the last month, customers have been coming in with optimism that they didn’t have the last few years,” says Bingham, owner of a Mr. Transmission/Milex franchise in Greenville, South Carolina.

The shop has been so busy Bingham’s looking to hire a seventh employee to help out in the front while he works on cars.

While many business owners are more confident because their revenue looks to increase in 2017 due to the overall improving economy, they’re also optimistic because they expect Trump to deliver on promises to lower taxes and roll back regulations including parts of the health care law. But owners may not be expecting overnight relief — many recognize it will take time to see what the administration’s plans are, and what it will accomplish.

Business owners were considerably more optimistic about 2017 in a survey taken shortly after the election. Forty-six percent of the 600 questioned in the Wells Fargo survey said the operating environment for their companies would improve next year; that compares to 30 percent two years ago, after the last congressional elections. Just over half the owners said actions that Trump and Congress will take next year will make their companies better off. Twenty-six percent said the government’s actions would have no effect, and 17 percent said their businesses would be worse off.

Nick Braun expects his pet insurance business to benefit because he thinks consumers will feel more comfortable about buying nonessentials like health coverage for their pets.

“I truly believe that 2017 will not only be a great year for our business, but the U.S. economy in general,” says Braun, whose company, PetInsuranceQuotes.com, is based in Columbus, Ohio.

Braun thinks promised changes to the health care law will be one factor encouraging consumers to spend on things that aren’t their top priorities. He’s also hoping that changes to the law will make it easier for him to buy insurance for his six staffers, which he provides even though the law doesn’t require him to. He says he’s had to change carriers several times because many insurance companies haven’t wanted to write policies for small businesses.

Some companies that cater to other small businesses see the hopefulness in their customers, and it’s infectious.

“The election does give me more optimism than I would have had otherwise,” says Kurt Steckel, CEO of Bison Analytics, which does software consulting. Bison’s inquiries from prospective clients, small companies that are looking to expand, have nearly doubled since the election.

Steckel is also upbeat about an overhaul of the health care law. He says the cost of his small group insurance rose sharply when the law went into effect, and he had to stop offering coverage to his 10 staffers. He says if insurance were to become more affordable, he’d restore coverage.

Among the other laws and regulations that small business advocacy groups want to see eliminated or changed are the Department of Labor’s overtime rules that were scheduled to go into effect Dec. 1, but were put on hold by a federal court in Texas. Trump’s nominee for labor secretary, fast-food company CEO Andy Puzder, opposes the regulations.

“The decision to appoint Puzder as labor secretary is a big indication that there’s going to be a significant rollback of Obama administration initiatives,” says James Hammerschmidt, a labor and business lawyer with the firm Paley Rothman in Bethesda, Maryland.

Federal laws and regulations are only part of the requirements that small businesses must comply with — state and local governments in some parts of the country have more stringent laws and rules. For example, while the federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, many states and some cities have a higher minimum, with plans to raise it to as much as $15.

“Small business owners whose companies are located in more progressive jurisdictions or operate across local or state borders will have to deal with a patchwork of local and state employment laws that may be difficult, time-consuming and likely aggravating to navigate,” Hammerschmidt says.

Many owners may be cautious in the first half of 2017 while they wait to see what the government does, particularly with health care, says Walt Jones, owner of a management consulting business, SEQ Advisory Group, whose clients include small companies. He also expects owners who do business with the government wait to see if federal agencies increase the number of contracts they award to small companies.

Jones is optimistic that Trump’s pledge to improve the country’s roads and other parts of its infrastructure will mean more government contracts, and in turn, more business for his company.

“As long as the administration sticks to the promises he (Trump) made during the campaign, I definitely see opportunities for small businesses,” Jones says.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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Fiesta Bowl: Dabo Swinney looks to put a rare L on Urban Meyer’s record

Urban Meyer was giving the abridged version of the core values he has instilled in Ohio State football, the pillars upon which he has built the Buckeyes.

There is 4 to 6, A to B, in reference to the effort expected on each play. Power of the unit focuses on each position group. Competitive excellence, which sort of speaks for itself.

“You mean the game-day underwear, that’s not the key ingredient?” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney chimed in, getting a smile from Meyer.

“I’m not saying I don’t wear them,” Meyer responded.

Swinney and Meyer shared the stage Friday morning for the final news conference before the second-ranked Buckeyes (11-1, No. 3 CFP) and Tigers (12-1, No. 2 CFP) face off in the Fiesta Bowl. The coaches exchanged handshakes and kind of a half-hug, pat-on-the-back thing before posing for photos with an ostentatious trophy that goes to the winner of Saturday night’s game – along with a trip to the College Football Playoff championship game.

The 52-year-old Meyer has a resume few who have ever coached college football can match. No current coach who has at least 10 seasons of experience has a better winning percentage than Meyer’s .854. He has won three national championships, including the first College Football Playoff title two years ago.

At the beginning of this week in Arizona, Swinney compared Meyer to Notre Dame legend Knute Rockne and joked about how he needed to quickly read Meyer’s book to gain some insight.

Swinney, 47, talks about Meyer with reverential deference, but he is on the short list of current coaches who can claim Meyer-levels of success. Clemson needed more work when Swinney took over during the 2008 season than Ohio State did when Meyer became coach in 2012. But since 2011, Swinney is 68-14 (.829), including a victory against Ohio State in the 2014 Orange Bowl, one of only two postseason loses on Meyer’s record (10-2).

The only thing Swinney and Clemson have not accomplished during this run, the greatest in the history of the program, is a national championship. Deshaun Watson and the Tigers came up just short last year against Alabama. Watson, the Heisman Trophy runner-up, was fabulous against the Tide and followed it up with another spectacular season (3,914 yards passing and 37 touchdowns).

“I would think that you would see his poise,” Swinney said about Watson. “And to me his poise really makes him incredibly unique, because he just – he just never changes.”

Clemson returns to the playoff for a semifinal in the stadium where they lost 45-40 to Alabama in January. University of Phoenix Stadium is also the site of Meyer’s first national championship victory. His Florida Gators won the 2006 BCS title in Glendale, routing Ohio State.

“That was the first one, and I still, to this day remember, everybody on the sideline celebrating, screaming it’s not over yet. And it was pretty much over. And then we ran a bubble screen with about a minute and a half left to Percy Harvin, and he nudged the ball past the first down marker, and I thought, even us, we can’t screw this up now,” Meyer said. “The knees started shaking and it was a special moment, though.”

Swinney can relate. He played on the 1992 Alabama team that won the national championship.

“So I can definitely see it and visualize that and hopefully we’ll have our opportunity to hold the trophy up one of these days,” Swinney said.

“And we’ve got a chance this year. But they don’t give those things away, man,” he added. “You’ve got to go earn it and play well and you’ve got to beat the best. And that’s what we’re playing, the best of the best.”

Things to know about the third, and by far most important, meeting between Ohio State and Clemson:

AS GALLMAN GOES: Wayne Gallman has a Clemson record 17 100-yard rushing games in his career and the Tigers are 17-0 in those games.

“Once he gets to the next level, it’s hard to take him down,” Ohio State linebacker Raekwon McMillan said about Gallman.

GROUNDED BUCKEYES: Redshirt freshman Mike Weber has 1,072 yards rushing for the Ohio State, but when games get tight the Buckeyes like to let quarterback J.T. Barrett carry the ball.

Barrett had 92 yards rushing and two touchdowns in a come-from-behind, overtime victory against Wisconsin. He ran for 125 yards and a touchdown in the double overtime win against Michigan.

DO-IT-ALL SAMUEL: Ohio State All-American Curtis Samuel is the only player in the country with at least 800 yards receiving (822 on 65 catches) and 700 rushing (730). He has 15 touchdowns (eight rushing and seven receiving) and the key to stopping the Buckeyes is to identify where Samuel is lining up. It’s like playing Where’s Waldo, Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables said.

“Everybody’s focusing on the quarterback on that little read power play, well, who has Waldo out here on the edge?” he said.

Republished with permission from the Associated Press.

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Peach Bowl: Alabama dynasty vs. playoff outsider Washington

Alabama is very familiar with this role.

Washington? It’s been a while.

The Peach Bowl features one of college football’s greatest dynasties against the definite outsider in this season’s College Football Playoff.

The top-ranked Crimson Tide (13-0) is going for its second straight national title and fifth in the last nine seasons under coach Nick Saban.

At this point, it’s national championship or bust for Alabama.

A loss in Saturday’s semifinal game would make this season a failure.

“It’s the Bama way,” linebacker Reuben Foster said.

Washington (12-1) comes into the Peach Bowl with an entirely different perspective.

The Huskies wandered in the wilderness for much of the past two decades, playing in only one major bowl since Don James retired after the 1992 season and slogging through a stretch of six straight losing seasons that included an 0-12 debacle in 2008.

Chris Petersen took over as coach in 2014 and struggled through his first two years, going 15-12. But it all came together this season as the Huskies overcame their lone loss, at home against Southern Cal , to claim the final playoff berth behind a trio of perennial national contenders that also included Ohio State and Clemson.

For Petersen, the return to prominence comes down a simple formula he looks for in every recruit: talent plus character equals OKG (Our Kind of Guy).

“We feel real strongly about the guy that we’re looking for that we think fits our culture, our style of football,” he said Friday. “There’s a lot of good players out there, and some of those guys don’t fit what we’re all about.”

Some things to watch for when the Crimson Tide takes on the Huskies:

HURTS VS. SEAHAWKS LITE: Saban said Washington’s secondary reminds him of the Seattle Seahawks. That’s a bit of an overstatement, but the Huskies do rely heavily on a talented, experienced group that includes safety Budda Baker and cornerbacks Sidney Jones and Kevin King. If the defense can shut down Alabama’s running game, it might play into Washington’s hands. While Jalen Hurts has put together a dynamic season at quarterback for the Crimson Tide, he is still just a freshman who could get confused by some of the looks the Huskies throw at him. Washington has created 33 turnovers this season, more than any team in the country, including 19 interceptions.

KIFFIN’S INFLUENCE: Lane Kiffin is winding up his three-year run as Alabama’s offensive coordinator, a time that will be remembered for bringing the Tide more in line with the wide-open times. While Kiffin doesn’t sound like he’s had a whole lot of fun working for the hardnosed Saban , it’s clear he was given the latitude to transform Alabama into more of a spread-like team. From Saban’s perspective, the willingness to change and adapt is the key to keeping a team on top. Kiffin will leave after the Tide completes its playoff run to become the head coach at Florida Atlantic.

BALANCED HUSKIES: Jake Browning and a high-flying passing game gets much of the attention at Washington, but don’t overlook a ground game that features 1,339-yard rusher Myles Gaskin. He came through big in victories over Utah and especially Colorado in the Pac-12 championship game, when Browning was held to 118 yards on 9-of-24 passing. Washington will surely need to be balanced against Alabama’s defense, which is the best in the land.

HOME-FIELD ADVANTAGE: Alabama will be playing at the Georgia Dome for the second time this month – having already won the Southeastern Conference title on the same field – and in a city that is a manageable drive for most of its fan base. That should give the Crimson Tide a decided edge in the stands , especially when Washington is on offense. “It’s not quite a home game for anybody, but it’s probably more of an away game for us,” Petersen said. “It’s going to be loud because it’s inside and that will make it difficult to call some things.”

WATCH YOUR BACK: Petersen’s reputation as a gambling, creative coach who isn’t afraid to try just about anything was forever sealed at the 2007 Fiesta Bowl, when his Boise State team pulled off three improbable plays to beat Oklahoma. Given that the Huskies are a two-touchdown underdog, look for Petersen to dig deep into his bag of tricks looking for something to catch Alabama off guard. Saban said the Tide has spent “a lot of time” at practice on dealing with plays they haven’t seen before. “Rather than thinking that they’re trick plays, they’re little unusual plays that create a tremendous amount of attention to detail and discipline for defensive players.”

Republished with permission from the Associated Press

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Judge invalidates pollution notification rule

A Florida administrative law judge says a rule requiring companies to notify the public of pollution events within 24 hours is invalid.

The new rule was pushed by Gov. Rick Scott after it took weeks for the public to be notified about a giant sinkhole at a fertilizer plant that sent millions of gallons of polluted water into the state’s main drinking water aquifer.

Administrative law judge Bram Canter on Friday ruled that the new rule, which would result in fines for companies who failed to report pollution within a day, was “an invalid exercise of delegated legislative authority.”

Five business groups – Associated Industries of Florida, Florida Farm Bureau Federation, Florida Retail Federation, Florida Trucking Association and the National Federation of Independent Business – challenged the rule in court, saying it would create excessive regulatory costs.

Scott’s office says he is reviewing the ruling and that he still believes the current rules are outdated and need to change.

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Year’s top news filled with division — and no middle ground

Fed up with Europe’s union across borders? Reject it. Disgusted with the U.S. political establishment? Can it.

The news in 2016 was filled with battles over culture and territory that exposed divisions far deeper than many realized. But people confronting those divides repeatedly rejected the prospect of middle-ground solutions and the institutions put in place to deliver them.

While the headlines told many different stories, the thread connecting much of the news was a decisive torching of moderation, no matter how uncertain the consequences.

“You’re not laughing now, are you?” Nigel Farage, a leader of the Brexit campaign, told the European Parliament after voters in Great Britain spurned membership in the continental union. “What the little people did … was they rejected the multinationals, they rejected the merchant banks, they rejected big politics and they said, ‘Actually, we want our country back.'”

Farage was speaking only about the United Kingdom. But his observation that many people well beyond Britain shared that disdain for working within the system was borne out repeatedly in the year’s biggest headlines.

In a U.S. presidential campaign fueled by anger and insults, in Syria’s brutal war and Venezuela’s massive protests, in fights over gay rights and migration, opposing sides rejected not just compromise but also the politics of trying to forge it.

That was clear from the year’s first days, when armed activists took over a national wildlife refuge in Oregon’s high desert, opposing the federal government’s control of public lands.

“It needs to be very clear that these buildings will never, ever return to the federal government,” LaVoy Finicum, an Arizona rancher among the activists, told reporters. Weeks later, federal agents stopped vehicles outside the refuge, arresting eight of the activists and fatally shooting Finicum when he reached into a jacket that held a loaded gun.

Even in the rare cases when compromise prevailed, it was viewed with suspicion.

When a deal took effect in January limiting Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for relief on sanctions, it marked the culmination of prolonged negotiation by President Barack Obama‘s administration. But the pact was repeatedly attacked by critics in both countries, including Donald Trump, saying it gave the other side too much.

“The wisest plan of crazy Trump is tearing up the nuclear deal,” a leading Iranian hard-liner, Hossein Shariatmadari, told his country’s news agency.

In mid-February, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died in his sleep, leaving a vacuum on a court where he had long been the leading conservative voice. Barely an hour after Scalia’s death was confirmed, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell staked out an uncompromising position on what lay ahead.

“The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court justice,” McConnell said, disregarding the fact that U.S. voters had twice elected Obama. “Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.”

North Carolina lawmakers prompted protests and counterprotests when they rushed through House Bill 2, voiding local gay-rights ordinances and limiting bathroom access for transgender people. Companies, the NBA and others followed through on threats to move jobs, games and performances out of the state, amplifying the division.

Tensions over U.S. policing bled into a third year. In July, a sniper killed five Dallas police officers during a protest over shootings of black men by police in Louisiana and Minnesota. A South Carolina jury failed to reach a verdict in the trial of a white officer caught on video fatally shooting a black man fleeing a traffic stop.

Division, though, was hardly limited to the U.S.

In Venezuela, triple-digit inflation and shortages of food and medicine fueled 6,000 protests throughout the year that brought millions into the streets. But the government of President Nicolas Maduro, blamed by many voters for the chaos, blocked a recall campaign.

“If you’re going to shoot me because I’m hungry, shoot me!” a young man shouted at a soldier during one protest in Caracas.

In Colombia, voters narrowly rejected a deal between the government and a guerrilla group to end a 52-year civil war. Even when lawmakers approved a renegotiated deal, the peace remained fragile.

In Brazil, senators impeached President Dilma Rousseff for manipulating budget figures, though many of the lawmakers were, themselves, tarred by accusations of corruption. South Korean President Park Geun-hye was stripped of power in December amid allegations she let a close friend use the government for financial gain.

Meanwhile, Syria’s war entered its sixth year. But despite pressure by the U.S. and its allies, Russia and the government of President Bashar Assad unleashed an assault on Aleppo to wipe out rebels, driving up the toll in a conflict that has already claimed as many as 500,000 lives.

“This is a targeted strategy to terrorize civilians and to kill anybody and everybody who is in the way of their military objectives,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said, accusing Syria and Russia of war crimes.

“As long as war crimes are at question,” a Russian government spokeswoman said, “the Americans should start with Iraq.”

In Yemen, cease-fires broke down, extending a nearly two-year civil war. But with Syria capturing most international attention, a famine resulting from the turmoil was mostly overlooked.

As the fighting continued, terrorist strikes spread fear well beyond the Middle East.

A bombing at a Brussels airport in March and another attack in June at Istanbul’s airport by gunmen with explosives killed a total of nearly 80 people. More than 70 died when a bomb went off in a park in Pakistan, with a faction of the Pakistani Taliban claiming responsibility. In July, a terrorist drove a truck into a Bastille Day crowd in Nice, France, killing 86 and injuring more than 400 others. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility.

In June, security guard Omar Mateen opened fire inside a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, in the deadliest mass shooting ever in the U.S. In a call to police during the attack, which killed 49, Mateen — a U.S. citizen born to parents who emigrated from Afghanistan three decades earlier — said he was acting on behalf of the Islamic State group.

A day later, Trump pointed to the attack in a renewed call to ban Muslim immigrants to the U.S. while suggesting that American Muslims were turning a blind eye to terrorists in their midst.

“We cannot continue to allow thousands upon thousands of people to pour into our country, many of whom have the same thought process as this savage killer,” Trump said.

Still, there were moments when the obstinacy that characterized so much of the news was set aside.

When boxing great Muhammad Ali died in June, a figure whose outspokenness on race, religion and other issues once made him deeply polarizing was eulogized as an inspiration.

In March, Obama became the first U.S. president to visit Cuba since 1928, affirming a contentious move to resume ties after more than a half-century of hostility. But the death of Cuba’s Fidel Castro in November renewed criticism of the U.S. opening, with Trump threatening to “terminate the deal.”

The hard line typified the outspokenness that attracted many voters. Critics lambasted the U.S. presidential campaign for feeding prejudice against minorities and denigrating women, warning that Trump could not win.

But each time Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton appeared to open a gap between herself and the billionaire developer, a scandal over her use of a personal email server while serving as secretary of state returned to the headlines.

When FBI Director James Comey reignited the issue in late October by announcing his agency had found new emails, Clinton’s popularity fell even as early voting began. Trump clinched victory by winning states representing an Electoral College majority, though Clinton captured more than 2.8 million more votes nationwide.

“Now it’s time for America to bind the wounds of division,” Trump told supporters in his first speech as president-elect.

The election’s shocking outcome was arguably the year’s biggest news story. But Trump’s speech made headlines in no small part for sounding a note of moderation that was jarringly out of place in a year of discord.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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St. Pete restaurant wants to help women feel safe on dates

A restaurant in downtown St. Petersburg is taking it upon itself to make sure guests feel safe when meeting new people on dates.

The Tampa Bay Times reports that Iberian Rooster, a Portuguese fusion eatery, has placed a framed sign in the women’s restroom. If a woman feels unsafe and needs help, the sign encourages them to order an angel shot at the bar or through their server at their table. That code will alert staff someone is in need.

The restaurant owner says if a guest orders an angel shot neat, a bartender will escort them to their car. If they order it with ice, the bartender will call an Uber or a Taxi. Order it with lime, and the restaurant staff will call the police.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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Closing statement: Florida Supreme Court justice steps down

Florida Supreme Court Justice James E.C. Perry has reached his final day in office.

Perry

Perry is stepping down Friday because he reached the mandatory retirement age for justices.

Perry was appointed by then-Gov. Charlie Crist to the court in 2009. He was the fourth black justice appointed to the court.

During his tenure, he was part of a group of justices that has issued rulings that angered the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott.

Perry last week issued a lengthy dissent that asserted the state had applied the death penalty in a “biased and discriminatory fashion” and that there was no way it could be carried out in a constitutional manner.

Scott earlier this month appointed C. Alan Lawson, the chief judge of the 5th District Court of Appeal, to replace Perry.

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Pulse nightclub massacre is Florida’s top story of 2016

The massacre of 49 patrons of the Pulse nightclub in Orlando has been voted Florida’s top story of 2016.

The state’s newspaper editors said in an Associated Press poll that the second-biggest story of the year was Florida resident Donald Trump‘s defeat of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in Florida by 1.3 percentage points in the presidential race.

Florida’s two hurricanes, the impact of Cuban leader Fidel Castro‘s death and an outbreak of the Zika virus tied for third place.

In fourth place was the legal tussle over Florida’s death penalty.

Two solar power amendments and the indictment of U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown tied for fifth place.

The death of Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez and the death of a toddler by a Disney World alligator tied for sixth place.

Reprinted with permission of the Associated Press

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