Trump scrambles to fill chief of staff position

By Philip Rucker, Josh Dawsey and Robert Costa | Washington Post

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump had no Plan B.

After announcing the exit of his chief of staff, John Kelly, and being turned down by his pick to replace him, Nick Ayers, Trump found himself Monday in an unexpected predicament – scrambling to recruit someone to help run the executive branch of the federal government and guide the administration through the political tumult and possible legal peril ahead.

In any White House, the chief of staff is arguably the most punishing position. But in this White House – a den of disorder ruled by an impulsive president – it has proved to be an especially thankless job. The two people to hold the job were left with their reputations diminished after failing to constrain the president, who often prefers to function as his own chief of staff.

Three members of Trump’s Cabinet who have been discussed inside the West Wing as possible chiefs of staff – Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer – each signaled Monday that they were not interested in the position.

Considerable buzz has centered on two other contenders. Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., noted his interest in the job by issuing a statement saying that “serving as Chief of Staff would be an incredible honor.”

“It is not something I have been campaigning for,” Meadows told reporters Monday on Capitol Hill, adding that his phone “blew up” after the Ayers news broke. “The president has a good list of candidates. I’m honored to be one of those.”

And acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, who traveled with Trump to Kansas City last week, is seen by the president and his allies as a loyalist.

But Trump’s advisers and aides cautioned that there was …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Nation, World


Minn. police look for ‘two Grinches’ who swiped donations

By Elyse Samuels | Washington Post

The Grinch stealing Christmas is supposed to be a story reserved for movies and books. However, a community in Blaine, Minnesota, experienced the real thing, when two thieves stole a red Salvation Army kettle from outside a Cub Foods store on Dec. 4.

Surveillance video shows two people stealing the money intended to go toward Salvation Army services, which include food, shelter, rehabilitation and disaster relief for the poor. The thieves appear to have used bolt cutters to remove the donation bucket from its stand.

“I believe it’s pretty low, pretty pathetic, to prey on a charity at this time of the year that’s raising money to help those in need,” Capt. Mark Boerboom of the Blaine Police Department said. “It was a brazen theft in the middle of the day.”

Police are still searching for the thieves, known as “the Two Grinches.” Authorities have released photos from the surveillance camera to aid in the investigation. It is not known how much money was in the kettle. Boerboom said that, if caught, the thieves will be charged with a felony, damage to property and possession of theft tools.

“The kettle is an iconic symbol around Christmas time,” Salvation Army regional general secretary Robert Doliber said. “The money helps with services year round. We want the public to know we’re anxious to catch the offenders. With as many kettles as we have out, this is pretty rare.”

Doliber lives in Blaine and said the larger community is very generous. Last year, the greater Twin Cities area raised about $2.4 million. This year, it has set a goal of $2.5 million in donations using 370 kettles.

Video of the theft, posted to the Blaine Police Department Facebook page, has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times. Many commenters online want the thieves to …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Nation, World


At least 2 dead as storm slams North Carolina

By Kristine Phillips | Washington Post

North Carolina was blanketed with too much snow too soon: more than a foot in several areas – and winter had barely just arrived.

Years’ worth of snowfall swept through parts of the state in a little more than a day, causing hundreds of crashes, thousands of power outages and at least two confirmed deaths, officials said Monday. Double-digit snowfall totals dropped in many cities and towns over the weekend, far higher than what the state normally sees this time of year.

In one county, five families was stranded while 20 inches of snow buried the area.

By Monday, much of the snow has dissipated, but the state – which is still recovering from the damage wrought by Hurricane Florence in the summer – is not out of the woods yet. A deadly mix of ice and rain will keep roads treacherous, and many could turn into ice rinks overnight, Gov. Roy Cooper said at a news conference.

“Most of North Carolina has gotten through the worst of the storm, but we need to stay vigilant . . . The snow and ice and the danger may not go away as quickly as they came,” Cooper said.

“Even the parts of our state that didn’t see a flake may feel effects from the storm today,” he said. Coastal communities are under flood warnings, and water may wash over parts of Highway 12, which connects the Outer Banks’ barrier islands.

Cooper issued a state of emergency Friday, and the deluge began Saturday.

Just after 4 p.m. Saturday, a tree fell on a moving vehicle in the Charlotte suburb of Matthews. The vehicle crashed into a nearby church. The driver died, while the passenger suffered minor injuries, police said.

In Haywood County in eastern North Carolina, a woman in hospice care died in her home, …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Nation, World


Gamer in Australia arrested after live-streaming woman’s screams

By Alex Horton | Washington Post

MrDeadMoth was focused on his lamp-wielding “Fortnite” avatar before a woman’s off-screen voice dissolved the fantasy visage streaming online.

“I’ll be out soon,” the gamer insisted Sunday evening, his voice rising. “Just wait!” They tussled. He intercepted a cardboard box she appeared to throw. He tossed it back. “Can you not? I said I’ll be out soon.”

Then he rushed toward her, delivering what sounds like a hard slap. She wailed. A child’s voice called out. The man repeated a chilling line to the woman: “How many times do I have to tell you?”

The woman realized a child in the home outside Sydney was not the only potential witness.

“You hear that? All you people there,” she said, apparently speaking to people watching the match over Twitch, the popular streaming social site. “He just hit me in the face!”

Police arrested and changed the 26-year old man with common assault hours later, the New South Wales police said in a statement Monday, as profanity-laced and disturbing video of the incident circulated online.

“While the woman was not seriously injured she was distressed and shaken by the incident,” the police said of the unnamed 21-year-old woman. She was given a protective order. A 3-year-old girl and a toddler were in the home at the time, police said.

A police spokesperson declined to provide the man’s name, citing laws that prohibit releasing details ahead of a court appearance, which is scheduled for Thursday. Australian media identified him as Luke James Munday. He could not be reached for comment.

Recorded video of the incident was considered evidence for investigators, a police spokesperson said. It was not clear whether the woman was the man’s wife or partner, police said.

A spokesperson for Twitch did not return a request for comment on the incident involving Munday.

The battle-royale game …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Nation, World


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