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President Joe Biden is assuring the nation that the U.S. economy is chugging along. But along with his upbeat words on Friday, a new jobs report showed that high inflation remains a threat. At the White House, the president signed a bill to avoid a rail strike that he said could have caused 765,000 job losses in two weeks and plunged the country into recession. But many voters and economists already fear that a downturn is nigh and that the price of reducing inflation will be layoffs. Biden pointed to the addition of 263,000 jobs and the unemployment rate holding steady at 3.7% last month as proof that his policies have bulked up the economy.

    A special council set up to review the Maine National Guard's response to sexual assault and sexual harassment is focusing on how to improve responses to individual cases. The Advisory Council on Military Sexual Trauma, delivered its report Thursday to Gov. Janet Mills. She created the council earlier this year. The report outlines how to improve coordination of state and local law enforcement, prosecutors and the guard’s response to cases. Maine Adjutant Gen. Douglas Farnham says the council has provided opportunity for service members to learn how to support survivors and provide accountability.

    On Friday afternoon more than 2,000 experts will wrap up a week of negotiations on plastic pollution at one of the largest global gatherings ever to address what even industry leaders in plastics say is a crisis. It was the first meeting of a United Nations committee on plastics set up in March to draft what is intended to be a landmark treaty to bring an end to plastic pollution globally. The United Nations Environment Programme held the first meeting of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee in Punta del Este, Uruguay Monday to Friday. Even in this first meetings of five set to take place over the next two years, factions came into focus as some countries want top-down global mandates, and the chemical industry wants country-by-country rules.

    The European Union has reached a deal for a $60-per-barrel price cap on Russian oil. It's a key step as Western sanctions aim to reorder the global oil market to prevent price spikes and starve President Vladimir Putin of funding for his war in Ukraine. They needed to set the discounted price that other nations will pay by Monday, when an EU embargo on Russian oil shipped by sea and a ban on insurance for those supplies take effect. The price cap is led by the Group of Seven wealthy democracies and still needs their approval. It aims to prevent a sudden loss of Russian oil to the world that could lead to a new surge in energy prices.

      The U.S., Europe and the Group of 7 democracies are poised to put a price cap on Russian oil exports to other countries. The cap proposed by U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen aims to reduce Russia’s oil earnings that support its military and the invasion of Ukraine. But there are questions about how effective the cap will be. The Monday start date coincides with the European Union’s embargo on most Russian oil shipments. There’s uncertainty about how all this will affect oil markets, which are swinging between fears of lost Russian supply and weakening demand from the lagging global economy. Russia could retaliate by halting shipments, and Europe may struggle to replace imports of Russian diesel fuel.

        The United States' newest nuclear stealth bomber is making its public debut after years of secret development. The new bomber is part of the Pentagon’s answer to rising concerns over a future conflict with China. The B-21 Raider gets its name from the 1942 Doolittle Raid over Tokyo and is the first new American bomber aircraft built in more than 30 years. Almost every aspect of the B-21 Raider program is classified. The Pentagon is providing the public its first glimpse of the Raider at an invitation-only event in Palmdale, California, on Friday. Falls Church, Virginia-based Northrop Grumman is building the Raider, which will take its first flight next year.

          The Biden administration has put a well-known Russian paramilitary organization on a list of religious freedom violators alongside a number of notorious terrorist organizations. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced Friday that he had designated the Wagner Group as an “entity of particular concern" for its activities in the Central African Republic. The Wagner Group is run by a confidant of Russian President Vladimir Putin and its mercenaries are accused of numerous human rights abuses. The designation does not immediately carry U.S. sanctions but opens the organization up to potential penalties for violations of religious freedom. Also on the list are Afghanistan's Taliban, Nigeria's Boko Haram, Somalia's al-Shabab and two factions of the Islamic State group.

          The nation’s employers kept hiring briskly in November despite high inflation and a slow-growing economy — a sign of resilience in the face of the Federal Reserve’s aggressive interest rate hikes. The economy added 263,000 jobs, while the unemployment rate stayed 3.7%, still near a 53-year low. November’s job growth dipped only slightly from October’s 284,000 gain. Last month’s hiring amounted to a substantial increase. All year, as inflation has surged and the Fed has imposed ever-higher borrowing rates, America’s labor market has defied skeptics, adding hundreds of thousands of jobs, month after month. With not enough people available to fill jobs, businesses are having to offer higher pay to attract and keep workers.

          The Colorado Secretary of State has ordered a recount in Colorado’s congressional race where Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert led Democrat Adam Frisch by just 550 votes in an unexpectedly tight race. The Associated Press has declared the election too close to call and will await results of the recount. Boebert, a Republican lightning rod, claimed victory in a tweeted video from the U.S. Capitol over a week after the election. Frisch is a former city councilman from the posh ski town of Aspen. He conceded the race while acknowledging that the mandatory recount is unlikely to change the results.

          A fiercely competitive Senate runoff in Georgia has national implications as Democrats try to solidify their hold on the upper chamber of Congress. Democrat Raphael Warnock is trying to win a full Senate term against Republican challenger Herschel Walker. Warnock got over 37,000 more votes than Walker in the Nov. 8 election, out of nearly 4 million votes counted. However, Warnock fell just shy of a majority, requiring Tuesday’s runoff.

          With no statewide offices on the ballot, Louisiana’s general election on Dec. 10 features three constitutional amendments. One would restate that only U.S. citizens can vote in Louisiana, which is already part of the state constitution. The other two would give the state Senate the authority to confirm a handful of executive appointments by the governor. There is also a general election for Public Service Commission, which regulates public utilities.

          The United States' 988 call service for helping anyone experiencing a mental health emergency is back up and running after a daylong outage. The hotline was out of service Thursday but was restored shortly before midnight and was running Friday. People experiencing a mental health crisis were still able to reach a mental health counselor by texting 988 or visiting 988lifeline.org to start a chat. A Health and Human Services spokeswoman says the federal government is investigating the hotline’s outage. Telecommunications company Intrado provides the emergency response service. The Omaha, Nebraska-based company hasn't returned repeated requests for comment. A telecoms analyst from Recon Analytics says he doesn't think there was “anything malicious."

          An Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker behind “American Factory” whose films explored themes of race, class and gender, Julia Reicher has died at 76. Her family said through a representative that she died Thursday night in Ohio from cancer. Often called the “godmother of American independent documentaries,” Reichart told the stories of ordinary Americans, from autoworkers dealing with plant closures and foreign investors, to communists and female labor activists in the 1930s. In her 50 years of filmmaking, Reichert won two Primetime Emmy Awards and was nominated for four Oscars, winning one.

          The U.N.'s high commissioner for human rights says Myanmar’s military-installed government has sentenced more critics to death, bringing the total to 139, and is using capital punishment as a tool to crush opposition. High Commissioner Volker Türk says at least seven university students were sentenced to death behind closed doors on Wednesday and there are reports that as many as four more youth activists were sentenced on Thursday. The military seized power in February last year, ousting the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi. The army’s action was met with widespread peaceful protests that were quashed with lethal force. The government hanged four political activists in July, in the country’s first executions in at least three decades.

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          A key electrical power plant in a Moscow-backed breakaway region of Moldova will not resume energy supplies to the rest of the country after officials failed to reach any agreements on Friday amid an acute energy crisis, authorities said. The meetings held Friday between Moldovan officials and de-facto authorities from Transnistria took place in Moldova’s capital, Chisinau, and focussed on a range of bilateral issues raising hopes of easing a severe energy crisis for Moldova, Europe’s poorest country.  But the talks did not yield any solutions including resuming electricity supplies, Vitaly Ignatyev, the unrecognized government’s foreign minister, told reporters.

          About 150 Tibetan exiles holding blank pieces of paper have rallied in India’s capital to express solidarity with people in China protesting its “zero COVID” policy. The blank paper is a symbol of defiance used by protesters in China against the ruling Communist Party’s widespread censorship. Street protests broke out in several Chinese cities over the weekend over rigid restrictions to combat COVID-19. The demonstration in New Delhi was organized by the Tibetan Youth Congress, which supports the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader who fled to India in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule.

          A security organization born in the Cold War to maintain peace in Europe has ended a high-level meeting without a final resolution. The outcome on Friday underlined the existential crisis the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe is facing amid Russia's war against Ukraine. The Vienna-based OSCE is made up of 57 members, including the United States, Canada, Russia and Ukraine. One member launching a war against another has created hurdles for the group, which makes decisions by consensus. Running through the meeting of foreign ministers and other representatives was the question of how the OSCE can continue to function without agreement from Russia and its ally Belarus, which say they've been unfairly isolated.

          About 8,000 American troops watch over the airspace of the Middle East from a major air base run by Qatar as World Cup fans throng stadiums in the energy-rich nation. Al-Udeid Air Base was built on a flat stretch of desert about 20 miles (30 kilometers) southwest of Qatari capital Doha. The base once was considered so sensitive that American military officers identified it as only being somewhere “in southwest Asia.” The sprawling hub is now Qatar’s strategic gem. It showcases the Gulf Arab emirate’s tight security partnership with the United States,. Washington considers Doha a major non-NATO ally.

          Ohio House lawmakers have advanced a proposal meant to ensure that gun owners’ lawfully held firearms and ammunition aren’t seized by the government during natural disasters, public health crises or other declared emergencies. The bill cleared the Republican-led House on Thursday. During such emergencies, it would deem certain firearms businesses “essential,” temporarily extend concealed carry licenses that would otherwise expire and keep government entities from stopping lawful hunting or fishing practices. The bill's Republican sponsor has said it doesn't add new gun rights but clarifies that owners “cannot have their rights taken away.” Opponents say the measure would hinder local governments from protecting their residents.

          Prosecutors have resumed their closing argument in the Trump Organization’s criminal tax fraud trial, promising to share previously unrevealed details about Donald Trump’s knowledge of a tax dodge scheme hatched by one of his top executives. Assistant Manhattan District Attorney Joshua Steinglass continued his summary of the case on Friday after telling jurors Thursday that “Donald Trump knew exactly what was going on with his top executives." The tax fraud case is the only trial to arise from the three-year investigation of Trump and his business practices by the Manhattan district attorney’s office. The company has denied wrongdoing, with its lawyers arguing Weisselberg was only out to benefit himself. Trump himself is not on trial.

          An urgent meeting of South Africa’s ruling party to discuss the future of President Cyril Ramaphosa has been delayed as calls continue for his resignation over a scandal over money stolen from his farm. The African National Congress’ national executive committee on Friday had been expected to discuss a parliamentary report which suggests Ramaphosa may have violated anti-corruption laws related to the theft of millions of dollars from his Phala Phala farm in 2020. The committee has the power to force the president to resign and has done so in the past. A party leader says the meeting will reconvene before a parliamentary debate Tuesday.

          President Joe Biden says Democrats should give up “restrictive” caucuses and move to champion diversity in the order of their presidential primary calendar. His recommendation deals a major blow to Iowa’s decadeslong status as the state that leads off the process. In a letter to the rule-making arm of the Democratic National Committee, Biden does not mention specific states he’d like to see go first. But he’s told Democrats he would like to see South Carolina moved to the front of the calendar, according to three people familiar with his recommendation who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations. He recommends that Michigan and Georgia move into the first five states.

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