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    Beyond the slick, Hollywood-style cinematics, the Islamic State is targeting Western recruits with videos suggesting they, too, can be heroes like Bruce Willis' character in 'Die Hard.'That's the conclusion of The Chicago Project on Security and Threats, which analyzed some 1,400 videos released by IS between 2013 and 2016. Researchers who watched and catalogued them all said there is more to the recruitment effort than just sophisticated videography, and it's not necessarily all about Islam.Instead, Robert Pape, who directs the security center, said the extremist group is targeting Westerners — especially recent Muslim converts — with videos that follow, nearly step-by-step, a screenwriter's standard blueprint for heroic storytelling.'It's the heroic screenplay journey, the same thing that's in Wonder Woman, where you have someone who is learning his or her own powers through the course of their reluctant journey to be hero,' Pape said.The project at the University of Chicago separately has assembled a database of people who have been indicted in the United States for activities related to IS. Thirty-six percent were recent converts to Islam and did not come from established Muslim communities, according to the project. Eighty-three percent watched IS videos, the project said.The group's success in using heroic storytelling is prompting copycats, Pape said. The research shows al-Qaida's Syria affiliate has been mimicking IS' heroic narrative approach in its own recruitment films. 'We have a pattern that's emerging,' Pape said.Intelligence and law enforcement officials aren't sure the approach is all that new. They say IS has been using any method that works to recruit Westerners. Other terrorism researchers think IS' message is still firmly rooted in religious extremism.Rita Katz, director of SITE Intelligence Group, which tracks messaging by militant groups, agrees that IS makes strong, visual appeals resembling Hollywood movies and video games, making its media operation more successful than al-Qaida's. And IS videos can attract hero wannabes, she said.'However, these features of IS media are only assets to a core message it uses to recruit,' Katz said. 'At the foundation of IS recruitment propaganda is not so much the promise to be a Hollywood-esque hero, but a religious hero. There is a big difference between the two.'When a fighter sits in front of a camera and calls for attacks, Katz said, he will likely frame it as revenge for Muslims killed or oppressed somewhere in the world. The message is designed to depict any terror attack in that nation as justified and allow the attacker to die as a martyr, she said.The promise of religious martyrdom is powerful to anybody regardless of whether they are rich or poor, happy or unhappy, steeped in religion or not at all, she said.Pape said he knows he's challenging conventional wisdom when he says Westerners are being coaxed to join IS ranks not because of religious beliefs, but because of the group's message of personal empowerment and Western concepts of individualism.How else can one explain Western attackers' loose connections to Islam, or their scarce knowledge of IS's strict, conservative Sharia law, he asked. IS is embracing, not rejecting, Western culture and ideals, to mobilize Americans, he said.'This is a journey like Clint Eastwood,' Pape said, recalling Eastwood's 1970s performance in 'High Plains Drifter' about a stranger who doles out justice in a corrupt mining town. 'When Clint Eastwood goes in to save the town, he's not doing it because he loves them. He even has contempt for the people he's saving. He's saving it because he's superior,' Pape said.'That's Bruce Willis in 'Die Hard.' That's Wonder Woman. ... Hollywood has figured out that's what puts hundreds of millions in theater seats,' Pape said. 'IS has figured out that's how to get Westerners.'Pape said the narrative in the recruitment videos targeting westerners closely tracks Chris Vogler's 12-step guide titled 'The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers.' The book is based on a narrative identified by scholar Joseph Campbell that appears in drama and other storytelling.Step No. 1 in Vogler's guide is portraying a character in his 'ordinary world.'An example is a March 25, 2016, video released by al-Qaida's Syria branch about a young British man with roots in the Indian community. It starts: 'Let us tell you the story of a real man... Abu Basir, as we knew him, came from central London. He was a graduate of law and a teacher by profession.'Vogler's ninth step is about how the hero survives death, emerging from battle to begin a transformation, sometimes with a prize.In the al-Qaida video, the Brit runs through sniper fire in battle. He then lays down his weapon and picks up a pen to start his new vocation blogging and posting Twitter messages for the cause.Matthew Levitt, a terrorism expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, says it doesn't surprise him that IS would capitalize on what he dubs the 'zero to hero' strategy because the organization is very pragmatic and accepts recruits regardless of their commitment to Islamic extremism.Heroic aspirations are only one reason for joining the ranks of IS, he said. Criminals also seek the cover of IS to commit crimes. Others sign up because they want to belong to something.'I've never seen a case of radicalization that was 100 percent one way or the other,' Levitt said.
  • Ivanka Trump is condemning recent tabloid coverage of President Barack Obama's eldest daughter Malia, saying the college student deserves privacy and ought to be 'OFF limits.'The president's daughter tweets: 'Malia Obama should be allowed the same privacy as her school aged peers. She is a young adult and private citizen, and should be OFF limits.'The former first daughter is a first-year student at Harvard University. Malia Obama took a gap year after graduating high school in 2016, in what the Obamas said was an effort to start college without the distraction of her father in the White House.The informal society of presidential children has historically been protective of its youngest members, without regard for political party.
  • The Latest on President Donald Trump (all times local):2 p.m.President Donald Trump says he will be calling his Egyptian counterpart 'in a short while' to discuss Friday's 'tragic terrorist attack, with so much loss of life.'At least 235 people were killed Friday when militants attacked a crowded mosque during prayers in the Sinai Peninsula, setting off explosives and spraying worshippers with gunfire.Trump says in a tweet after departing one of his golf clubs in Florida that, 'We have to get TOUGHER AND SMARTER than ever before, and we will.'He adds: 'Need the WALL, need the BAN! God bless the people of Egypt.'Trump appears to be referring to his promises to build a border wall along the southern U.S. border with Mexico and his efforts to bar people from certain Muslim-majority countries from coming to the U.S.___11:10 a.m.President Donald Trump is denouncing what he's calling the 'Horrible and cowardly terrorist attack on innocent and defenseless worshipers (sic) in Egypt.'Militants attacked a crowded mosque during Friday prayers in the Sinai Peninsula, settling off explosives, spraying worshippers with gunfire and killing at least 200 people in the deadliest ever attack on Egyptian civilians by Islamic extremists.Trump says on Twitter, 'The world cannot tolerate terrorism' and that 'we must defeat them militarily and discredit the extremist ideology that forms the basis of their existence!'Trump's tweet came as he was playing golf at one of his Florida courses with Tiger Woods and Dustin Johnson.___10:30 a.m.Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu says U.S. President Donald Trump has told his Turkish counterpart that the United States will no longer supply arms to Syrian Kurdish fighters.Cavusoglu said Trump relayed his decision during a telephone conversation between the Turkish and U.S. leaders on Friday. Cavusoglu was present in Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's office during the telephone call.Turkey considers the Kurdish Syrian fighters, known by the initials YPG, to be terrorists because of their affiliation to outlawed Kurdish rebels in Turkey. A U.S. decision to arm the fighters soured relations between the two NATO allies.Cavusoglu said: 'Mr. Trump clearly stated that he had given clear instructions and that the YPG won't be given arms and that this nonsense should have ended a long time ago.'___9:40 a.m.Turkey's president says he discussed the Syrian crisis and other regional issues with in a phone call Friday with President Donald Trump.President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's office said the two leaders also discussed ties between Turkey and the United States during their telephone conversation on Friday.Their discussion comes days after Erdogan attended a trilateral meeting with the Russian and Iranian leaders in Sochi, Russia, to promote a peaceful settlement in Syria.Relations between NATO allies Turkey and the United States have soured over a number of issues, including U.S. support to Syrian Kurdish fighters which Ankara considers to be terrorists because of their links to outlawed Kurdish rebels in Turkey.Earlier, Trump tweeted that he'd be speaking with Erdogan 'about bringing peace to the mess that I inherited in the Middle East.'___7:30 a.m.President Donald Trump says he'll be speaking with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday 'about bringing peace to the mess that I inherited in the Middle East.'Trump railed during his campaign about the ongoing conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, but has boasted about progress in recent months under his watch.Trump says in a tweet that he'll 'get it all done, but what a mistake, in lives and dollars to be there in the first place!'It's unclear exactly which countries he's referring to, but Trump has cited $6 trillion in the past to assess U.S. spending on conflicts in the Middle East.Fact checkers have found that number to be only partially accurate since it falls on the high end of analysts' estimates and includes future medical care and disability benefits and nation-building costs.___7:17 a.m.President Donald Trump will be playing golf with Tiger Woods at Trump's course in Jupiter, Florida, Friday.Trump says in a tweet that top-rated golfer Dustin Johnson also will take part.Woods' 79 PGA Tour victories and 14 major titles both rank No. 2 all-time. He has not competed professionally since February because of a back injury and is not expected to return this year. His last win was in August 2013Trump says after golf, he'll return to his private Mar-a-Lago club 'for talks on bringing even more jobs and companies back to the USA!'___6:50 a.m.He's not letting it go.President Donald Trump is continuing to rail against football players who kneel during the National Anthem to protest racism and police brutality.Trump asks his followers in a Black Friday tweet: 'Can you believe that the disrespect for our Country, our Flag, our Anthem continues without penalty to the players.'He's accusing NFL commissioner Roger Goodell of having 'lost control' of what he called a 'hemorrhaging league' where 'Players are the boss!'Trump's tweet was in response to one from his social media chief, Dan Scavino.Scavino had shared a Breitbart News story about New York Giants player Olivier Vernon taking the knee during the anthem on Thanksgiving ahead of a game against the Redskins.The website is run by Trump's former chief strategist.
  • President Donald Trump spoke Friday with Turkey's president 'about bringing peace to the mess that I inherited in the Middle East' before hitting the links with Tiger Woods and pro golfer Dustin Johnson.During the call between U.S. and Turkish leaders, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu claimed, Trump said the United States would no longer supply arms to Syrian Kurdish fighters. Cavusoglu was in Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's office during the call.Turkey considers the Kurdish Syrian fighters, known by the initials YPG, to be terrorists because of their affiliation with outlawed Kurdish rebels in Turkey. A U.S. decision to arm the fighters soured relations between the two NATO allies.'Mr. Trump clearly stated that he had given clear instructions and that the YPG won't be given arms and that this nonsense should have ended a long time ago,' Cavusoglu said.The White House did not immediately respond to questions about Cavusoglu's claims and did not immediately release its own take on the call.Erdogan's office said in its summary that the two leaders had discussed the Syrian crisis and other regional issues during their phone call Friday, and that they also discussed ties between Turkey and the United States.Their talk came days after Erdogan attended a trilateral meeting with the Russian and Iranian leaders in Sochi, Russia, to promote a peaceful settlement in Syria. Relations between NATO allies Turkey and the United States have soured over a number of issues, including U.S. support to Syrian Kurdish fighters which Ankara considers to be terrorists because of their links to outlawed Kurdish rebels in Turkey.The leaders also called on other countries to provide humanitarian aid, clear Syrian territory of mines and restore vital infrastructure destroyed by the war.In a series of morning tweets from Florida, Trump said he'd be calling Erdogan to discuss the situation in the Middle East. 'I will get it all done, but what a mistake, in lives and dollars (6 trillion), to be there in the first place!' he wrote.Trump railed during his campaign about the ongoing conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq but has boasted about progress under his watch in recent months. Trump has used the $6 trillion figure to describe U.S. spending on Middle East conflicts, though fact checkers have said the number is only partially accurate, since it falls on the high end of analysts' estimates and includes future costs, such as future medical care and disability benefits as well as nation-building costs.Trump also tweeted that after his call he would be 'heading over to Trump National Golf Club, Jupiter, to play golf (quickly) with Tiger Woods and Dustin Johnson. Then back to Mar-a-Lago for talks on bringing even more jobs and companies back to the USA!'In a break from the practice of past administrations, the Trump White House rarely discloses when the president is golfing, let alone whom he golfs with during frequent trips to courses he owns in Florida, New Jersey and Virginia.Trump and his aides often appear concerned about the perception that he is vacationing during his trips away from the White House, insisting that he is partaking in high level meetings and making calls while staying in Bedminister, New Jersey, or at his private Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida.Wood plans to return to competitive play next week after his most recent back surgery sidelined him for seven months.Trump also complained again Friday about football players who kneel during the National Anthem to protest racism and police brutality. 'Can you believe that the disrespect for our Country, our Flag, our Anthem continues without penalty to the players,' Trump said in one of several tweets Friday morning, accusing NFL commissioner Roger Goodell of having 'lost control' of what he called a 'hemorrhaging league' where 'Players are the boss!'Trump's tweet was in response to one from his social media chief, Dan Scavino. Scavino had shared a Breitbart News story about New York Giants player Olivier Vernon taking the knee during the anthem on Thanksgiving ahead of a game against the Redskins.The website is run by Trump's former chief strategist.
  • Democratic Sen. Al Franken issued a Thanksgiving explanation and apology in the wake of four women alleging that he had touched them inappropriately, a message that ended with a promise to regain constituents' trust and suggested no resignation was being contemplated.Franken, elected to one of Minnesota's Senate seats in 2008, faces a Senate ethics investigation for improper conduct. His statement Thursday didn't admit to groping or other inappropriate touching but acknowledged that some women felt that he had done something offensive during their encounters. Still, the senator apologized.'I've met tens of thousands of people and taken thousands of photographs, often in crowded and chaotic situations,' he wrote. 'I'm a warm person; I hug people. I've learned from recent stories that in some of those encounters, I crossed a line for some women — and I know that any number is too many. Some women have found my greetings or embraces for a hug or photo inappropriate, and I respect their feelings about that.'He continued: 'I've thought a lot in recent days about how that could happen, and recognize that I need to be much more careful and sensitive in these situations. I feel terribly that I've made some women feel badly and for that I am so sorry, and I want to make sure that never happens again. And let me say again to Minnesotans that I'm sorry for putting them through this and I'm committed to regaining their trust.'The multiple accusations against Franken came as the issue of sexual harassment gripped the nation and brought about firings and admonishments against powerful men in politics, entertainment, media and other institutions.Los Angeles radio anchor Leeann Tweeden said last week that Franken had put his tongue in her mouth during a 2006 USO tour undertaken when the former 'Saturday Night Live' writer and performer was still working as a comedian. She posted a photo of Franken with his hands above her chest as she slept wearing a flak vest aboard a military plane. Soon after the post, he apologized to her.Another woman, Lindsay Menz, said Monday that Franken had squeezed her buttocks in 2010 while posing for a photo at the Minnesota State Fair. Franken said he didn't remember the picture but expressed remorse that Menz felt 'disrespected.' Two more women alleged in a Huffington Post story published Wednesday that Franken touched their buttocks during campaign events in 2007 and 2008.Franken has not appeared in public since the first allegation, canceling an event in Atlanta for his book 'Al Franken, Master of the Senate' and, according to aides, 'spending time with his family and doing a lot of reflecting.
  • 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:SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEEThe Senate intelligence panel, which has been the most bipartisan in its approach, has interviewed more than 100 people, including most of those attending the Trump Tower meeting. Chairman Richard Burr of North Carolina and the panel's top Democrat, Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, have said they plan to bring in Donald Trump Jr. The president's son was one of several Trump campaign officials in the meeting.The committee has looked broadly at the issue of interference, and called in executives from Facebook, Twitter and Google, pushing them to take steps to prevent Russian election meddling on their platforms. Warner told The Associated Press the committee is still looking for more information from those companies, which were initially reluctant to cooperate.Burr has said that he wants to wrap up the probe by early spring, when congressional primaries begin. While there are many areas of bipartisan agreement on the meddling, it's unclear whether all members will agree to the final report. It's also unclear if the report will make a strong statement on whether the Trump campaign colluded in any way with Russia.Warner said it's plain there were 'unprecedented contacts' as Russians reached out to the Trump campaign but what's not established is collusion.___HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEEIn the House, Democrats hope the intelligence committee can remain focused on the Russia probe as the panel's GOP chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes, and other Republicans have launched new, separate investigations into Democrat Hillary Clinton and a uranium deal during President Barack Obama's administration. Nunes stepped back from the Russia probe in April after criticism that he was too close to the White House, but remains chairman of the committee.Some Republicans on the panel have grown restless with the probe, saying it has amounted to a fishing expedition and pushing for it to end. Still, the committee has continued to interview dozens of witnesses involved with the Trump campaign, among them several participants in the 2016 meeting. On Nov. 30, the panel will interview Attorney General Jeff Sessions behind closed doors. Lawmakers are interested in Sessions' knowledge about interactions between Trump campaign aides and Russians, and also his own contacts.The top Democrat on the panel, California Rep. Adam Schiff, told AP the committee has multiple interviews before the New Year. He said the Republican investigations into Clinton and Obama could be 'an enormous time drain,' but they have not yet fully organized. He says the committee must be thorough and he doesn't believe the Russia investigation should end soon.___SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEEThe Senate Judiciary Committee has also divided along partisan lines as Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the panel's top Democrat, haven't agreed on some interviews and subpoenas. But as in the House, the panel has proceeded anyway, conducting bipartisan, closed-door interviews with several people who were in the 2016 meeting.The panel is showing recent signs that it is aggressively pursuing the investigation. The committee is the only one to have interviewed Trump Jr. And just before the Thanksgiving break, it sent Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, a letter asking him to be more forthcoming with the committee.Grassley has been focused on a law that requires foreign agents to register and the firing of James Comey as FBI director. Along with the other committees, Judiciary is also looking into a dossier of allegations about Trump's own connections to Russia.It's not known if the panel will issue a final report, or if its probe will conclude before next year's elections.
  • In a move that could signal cooperation with the government, lawyers for former national security adviser Michael Flynn have told President Donald Trump's lawyers that they are no longer communicating with them about special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian election interference.Flynn's legal team communicated the decision this week, said a person familiar with the move who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation. The New York Times first reported the decision.The decision could be a sign that Flynn is moving to cooperate with Mueller's investigation or negotiate a deal for himself. In large criminal investigations, defense lawyers routinely share information with each other. But it can become unethical to continue such communication if one of the potential targets is looking to negotiate a deal with prosecutors.Robert Kelner, a lawyer for Flynn, declined to comment, as did a lawyer for Flynn's son, Michael Flynn Jr., who has also come under investigation from Mueller's prosecutors.Flynn was forced to resign as national security adviser in February after White House officials concluded that he had misled them about the nature of his contacts during the transition period with the Russian ambassador to the United States.FBI agents interviewed Flynn in January about his communications with the ambassador, Sergey Kislyak. Days later, Sally Yates, then acting attorney general, informed White House counsel Don McGahn that Flynn was in a compromised position and vulnerable to blackmail because of inaccurate public statements from the White House about Flynn's contacts with Kislyak.Flynn was facing a Justice Department investigation over his foreign business dealings even before Mueller was appointed as special counsel in May to investigate potential coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election. Mueller has since inherited that investigation.Flynn, a prominent Trump backer in the campaign, has been a key figure in Mueller's probe and of particular interest to Trump. Former FBI Director James Comey, for instance, said that Trump encouraged him to end an FBI investigation into Flynn during a private Oval Office meeting in February.In addition to scrutinizing Flynn's contacts with Russia during the transition and campaign, Mueller has been investigating the retired U.S. Army lieutenant general's role in $530,000 worth of lobbying work his now-defunct firm performed for a Turkish businessman during the final months of the 2016 presidential campaign.The lobbying campaign sought to gather derogatory information on Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish cleric and green-card holder living in Pennsylvania. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused Gulen of being behind a botched coup and has sought his extradition. Gulen has denied the allegations, and U.S. officials have rebuffed Turkey's extradition demands, citing a lack of evidence.Flynn and his firm, Flynn Intel Group, carried out the lobbying and research work for several months, meeting with officials from the U.S. and Turkish governments. Flynn also published an op-ed on Election Day in The Hill newspaper, parroting many of the Turkish government's talking points about Gulen. At the time, neither Flynn nor his company was registered with the Justice Department to represent Turkish interests.Soon after the publication of the op-ed, the Justice Department began investigating Flynn's lobbying work, and in March, he registered with the department as a foreign agent. In federal filings, Flynn acknowledged the work could have benefited the government of Turkey.Since then, FBI agents working for Mueller have been investigating whether the Turkish government was directing the lobbying work and not a private company owned by a Turkish businessman, Ekim Alptekin, as Flynn's firm has contended. FBI agents have also been asking about Flynn's business partner, Bijan Kian, who served on Trump's presidential transition, and Flynn's son, Michael Flynn Jr., who worked for his father as part of the lobbying campaign. Flynn Jr. also was a near constant presence around his father during the Trump campaign and presidential transition period.Mueller announced his first charges in the investigation last month, including the guilty plea of a foreign-policy adviser to the campaign, George Papadopoulos, and the indictments of former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and business associate Rick Gates.__Associated Press writer Chad Day contributed to this report.
  • Overhauling welfare was one of the defining goals of Bill Clinton's presidency, starting with a campaign promise to 'end welfare as we know it,' continuing with a bitter policy fight and producing change that remains hotly debated 20 years later.Now, President Donald Trump wants to put his stamp on the welfare system, apparently in favor of a more restrictive policy. He says 'people are taking advantage of the system.'Trump, who has been signaling interest in the issue for some time, said this past week that he wants to tackle the issue after the tax overhaul he is seeking by the end of the year. He said changes were 'desperately needed in our country' and that his administration would soon offer plans.For now, the president has not offered details. Spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said more specifics were likely early next year. But the groundwork has already begun at the White House and Trump has made his interest known to Republican lawmakers.Paul Winfree, director of budget policy and deputy director of Trump's Domestic Policy Council, told a recent gathering at the conservative Heritage Foundation that he and another staffer had been charged with 'working on a major welfare reform proposal.' He said they have drafted an executive order on the topic that would outline administration principles and direct agencies to come up with recommendations.'The president really wants to lead on this,' Winfree said. 'He has delivered that message loud and clear to us. We've opened conversations with leadership in Congress to let them know that that is the direction we are heading.'Trump said in October that welfare was 'becoming a very, very big subject, and people are taking advantage of the system.'Clinton ran in 1992 on a promise to change the system but struggled to get consensus on a bill, with Democrats divided and Republicans pushing aggressive changes. Four years later, he signed a law that replaced a federal entitlement with grants to the states, placed a time limit on how long families could get aid and required recipients to go to work eventually.It has drawn criticism from some liberal quarters ever since. During her presidential campaign last year, Democrat Hillary Clinton faced activists who argued that the law fought for by her husband punished poor people.Kathryn Edin, a professor at Johns Hopkins University who has been studying welfare since the 1990s, said the law's legacy has been to limit the cash assistance available to the very poor and has never become a 'springboard to work.' She questioned what kinds of changes could be made, arguing that welfare benefits are minimal in many states and there is little evidence of fraud in other anti-poverty programs.Still, Edin said that welfare has 'never been popular even from its inception. It doesn't sit well with Americans in general.'Robert Rector, a senior research fellow at Heritage, said he would like to see more work requirements for a range of anti-poverty programs and stronger marriage incentives, as well as strategies to improve results for social programs and to limit waste. He said while the administration could make some adjustments through executive order, legislation would be required for any major change.'This is a good system,' he said. 'We just need to make this system better.'Administration officials have already suggested they are eyeing anti-poverty programs. Trump's initial 2018 budget proposal, outlined in March, sought to sharply reduce spending for Medicaid, food stamps and student loan subsidies, among other programs.Budget director Mick Mulvaney said this year, 'If you are on food stamps and you are able-bodied, we need you to go to work.
  • Former U.S. Rep. Maurice Hinchey, a veteran lawmaker known for pressing to protect the environment during a career that spanned from the era of the Love Canal toxic waste site to the recent debate over natural-gas fracking, has died. He was 79.Hinchey, a Democrat, died Wednesday at his home in Saugerties, in the Hudson Valley, his family said in a statement on his Facebook page. The family announced in June that he had a rare, progressive neurological condition called frontotemporal degeneration, or frontotemporal dementia, but his cause of death was not immediately available.House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi called Hinchey a fierce defender of the environment, strong advocate for veterans and 'tireless progressive champion for American families.'He leaves us with a legacy of leadership and a lifetime of public service that embody the best of America,' Pelosi said in a statement.Hinchey retired from Congress in 2013, after 20 years there and 18 years in the state Assembly, where he developed an expertise on environmental issues.As chair of the Assembly's Environmental Conservation Committee, he led hearings into the disaster at Love Canal, a Niagara Falls neighborhood where it emerged in the 1970s that a chemical company had dumped 22,000 tons of toxic waste decades earlier. Complaints about miscarriages, birth defects and other health problems among residents made the area a symbol of environmental catastrophe and led to federal Superfund legislation to clean up the nation's abandoned waste sites.In the 1980s, Hinchey was the main sponsor of a New York law that was the nation's first aimed specifically at fighting acid rain.As a congressman, Hinchey continued to delve into environmental and energy issues, including promoting solar power, fighting a planned high-voltage power line in his district and speaking out against fracking, a gas drilling technique once eyed for parts of his district before New York banned it in 2014.Hinchey also was a longtime member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee and was involved in pushing for information about a George W. Bush-era warrantless wiretapping program that intercepted Americans' international calls and emails as an anti-terrorism measure.Democratic state Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, of Kingston, was among Hinchey's first staffers in the Assembly.'The champion we all longed for, he feared no giants and stood up to every bully, in politics, in business and in all of life,' Cahill said.Republican Dutchess County Executive Marcus Molinaro said Hinchey left 'a living, breathing legacy that remains a foundation of our quality-of-life' throughout New York state.Hinchey was born in New York City on Oct. 27, 1938. He grew up in Saugerties and went into the Navy, serving for three years, according to his congressional bio. He later earned bachelor's and master's degrees at the State University of New York in New Paltz.___This story has been corrected to show the lawmaker's surname is Hinchey, not Hinchley.
  • Lawyers for former national security adviser Michael Flynn have told President Donald Trump's legal team that they are no longer communicating with them about special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian election interference.The decision could be a sign that Flynn is moving to cooperate with Mueller's investigation or negotiate a deal for himself. Flynn's legal team communicated the decision this week, said a person familiar with the move who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation.In large criminal investigations, defense lawyers routinely share information with each other. But it can become unethical to continue such communication if one of the potential targets is looking to negotiate a deal with prosecutors. Robert Kelner, a lawyer for Flynn, didn't respond to a request for comment Thursday. A lawyer for Flynn's son, Michael Flynn Jr., who has also come under investigation from Mueller's team of prosecutors, declined to comment.The New York Times first reported the decision.Flynn was forced to resign as national security adviser in February after White House officials concluded that he had misled them about the nature of his contacts during the transition period with the Russian ambassador to the United States.He was interviewed by the FBI in January about his communications with the ambassador, Sergey Kislyak. The deputy attorney general at the time, Sally Yates, soon advised White House officials that their public assertions that Flynn had not discussed sanctions with Kislyak were incorrect and that Flynn was therefore in a compromised position.Flynn was facing a Justice Department investigation over his foreign business dealings even before Mueller was appointed as special counsel in May to investigate potential coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election. Mueller has since inherited that investigation.Flynn, a prominent Trump backer on the campaign trail, has been a key figure in Mueller's probe and of particular interest to Trump. Former FBI Director James Comey, for instance, said that Trump encouraged him to end an FBI investigation into Flynn during a private Oval Office meeting in February.In addition to scrutinizing Flynn's contacts with Russia during the transition and campaign, Mueller has been investigating the retired U.S. Army lieutenant general's role in $530,000 worth of lobbying work his now-defunct firm performed for a Turkish businessman during the final months of the 2016 presidential campaign.The lobbying campaign sought to gather derogatory information on Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish cleric and green-card holder living in Pennsylvania. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused Gulen of being behind a botched coup and has sought his extradition. Gulen has denied the allegations, and U.S. officials have rebuffed Turkey's extradition demands, citing a lack of evidence.Flynn and his firm, Flynn Intel Group, carried out the lobbying and research work for several months, meeting with officials from the U.S. and Turkish governments. Flynn also published an op-ed on Election Day in The Hill newspaper, parroting many of the Turkish government's talking points about Gulen. At the time, neither Flynn nor his company was registered with the Justice Department to represent Turkish interests.Soon after the publication of the op-ed, the Justice Department began investigating Flynn's lobbying work, and in March, he registered with the department as a foreign agent. In federal filings, Flynn acknowledged the work could have benefited the government of Turkey.Since then, FBI agents working for Mueller have been investigating whether the Turkish government was directing the lobbying work and not a private company owned by a Turkish businessman, Ekim Alptekin, as Flynn's firm has contended. FBI agents have also been asking about Flynn's business partner, Bijan Kian, who served on Trump's presidential transition, and his son, Michael Flynn Jr., who worked for his father as part of the lobbying campaign. Flynn Jr. also was a near constant presence around his father during the Trump campaign and presidential transition period.Mueller announced his first charges in the investigation last month, including the guilty plea of a foreign-policy adviser to the campaign, George Papadopoulos, and the indictments of former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and business associate Rick Gates.__Associated Press writer Chad Day contributed to this report.

News

  • Atlanta police have been handing out the flyers across the city telling people that a permit is needed to give food to the homeless. The fliers are being used as a warning to those trying to help the homeless. Channel 2’s Justin Wilfon found one group who received more than a warning. Instead of getting praise for helping Atlanta’s homeless, Adele Maclean and Marlon Kautz say they’re getting punished for it. “We’re looking at a citation,” Maclean said. Channel 2 Action News’ cameras were there when police wrote the pair a ticket for handing out food to the homeless without a permit. “I mean outrageous, right? Of all the things to be punished for, giving free food to people who are hungry?” Maclean told Wilfon. TRENDING STORIES: Worker killed after woman drives onto sidewalk on busy road, police say There's a Christmas tree shortage in metro Atlanta Arrests made in violent robberies of Asian-owned businesses The pair said they give food to the homeless every Sunday in Atlanta’s Woodruff Park, and have never heard of needing a permit. “It seems ridiculous to me that they would be spending their time and resources on stopping people from feeding the homeless,” said Maclean said. Wilfon contacted the city to find out what was going on. A city representative said the Fulton and DeKalb County boards of health both require permits to give food to the homeless and the city of Atlanta enforces those requirements. While the requirements aren’t new, Atlanta police told Wilfon they recently started more strictly enforcing them for several reasons. The city believes there are better ways to help the homeless, like getting them into programs and shelters. They are also taking issue with the litter the food distributions leave behind. Ben Parks, who runs a nonprofit for the homeless, told Wilfon he can see the argument from both sides. “I understand where the city’s coming from. I understand when they see groups come in and leave a bunch of trash behind,' Parks said. While this ordinance is also on the books in DeKalb County, DeKalb police told Wilfon Wednesday that they are not using police to enforce it. They’re leaving that up to the health department.
  • A candidate for mayor says she has always wondered if the current mayor of Atlanta won his seat fair and square. Mary Norwood lost to current Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed in 2009. Make sure to tune in to WSB-TV as Keisha Lance Bottoms and Mary Norwood go head-to-head in a live runoff debate moderated by Channel 2’s Justin Farmer, LIVE on Sunday, Dec. 3 at 5 p.m.  Norwood told Channel 2’s Dave Huddleston that she never spoke publicly about the accusation because what she said she knew what happened wasn't significant enough to upset the entire system.  [WATCH: Keisha Lance Bottoms speaks on Channel 2 Action News This Morning] But our partners at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution got a copy of a transcript of a private June meeting where she brought up the 2009 election.  'I just want you to be who you say you are, live where you say you live and vote once,' Norwood told Huddleston.  [WATCH: Mary Norwood speaks on Channel 2 Action News This Morning] Norwood raised concerns about the 2009 election, which she lost to Reed by a couple of hundred votes.  TRENDING STORIES: Worker killed after woman drives onto sidewalk on busy road, police say There's a Christmas tree shortage in metro Atlanta Arrests made in violent robberies of Asian-owned businesses She told Huddleston that she always suspected there was voter fraud.  'I know there are instances where individuals were asked to vote in the election,' Norwood said.  She said individuals who didn’t live in Atlanta still voted in the mayor's race.   [SPECIAL SECTION: The Atlanta Mayor’s Race] Norwood said she's never talked publicly about the accusation, but privately has mentioned it to several groups, including last June, at a meeting that was recorded and leaked to the AJC. 'I have spoken privately to many groups, including last night to the NAACP, about the fact that I did not go public with some things I was concerned about with that election,' Norwood said.  ATLANTA MAYOR QUICK FACTS The city’s last five mayors have been African-American The last 27 have been Democrats There have only ever been two Republican mayors of Atlanta Shirley Franklin was the first female mayor of Atlanta. The next mayor will be the second Only four former Atlanta mayors were born in Atlanta Click here for more facts about Atlanta mayors Huddleston contacted Reed for a comment on this story Wednesday. His spokesperson responded and said in part: “If Mary Norwood had proof that the election results were invalid in 2009, she should have stepped forward and challenged the results then. She did not because she could not. She has no evidence to back up her claims. She has been a public official for the past four years and never raised any concerns about the integrity of our voting system.' Norwood said after the 2009 race, she joined the Fulton County Elections Board to get a new director on staff.  She told Huddleston that she's confident the Dec. 5 mayor's race will be fair, accurate and impartial.
  • Beyond the slick, Hollywood-style cinematics, the Islamic State is targeting Western recruits with videos suggesting they, too, can be heroes like Bruce Willis' character in 'Die Hard.'That's the conclusion of The Chicago Project on Security and Threats, which analyzed some 1,400 videos released by IS between 2013 and 2016. Researchers who watched and catalogued them all said there is more to the recruitment effort than just sophisticated videography, and it's not necessarily all about Islam.Instead, Robert Pape, who directs the security center, said the extremist group is targeting Westerners — especially recent Muslim converts — with videos that follow, nearly step-by-step, a screenwriter's standard blueprint for heroic storytelling.'It's the heroic screenplay journey, the same thing that's in Wonder Woman, where you have someone who is learning his or her own powers through the course of their reluctant journey to be hero,' Pape said.The project at the University of Chicago separately has assembled a database of people who have been indicted in the United States for activities related to IS. Thirty-six percent were recent converts to Islam and did not come from established Muslim communities, according to the project. Eighty-three percent watched IS videos, the project said.The group's success in using heroic storytelling is prompting copycats, Pape said. The research shows al-Qaida's Syria affiliate has been mimicking IS' heroic narrative approach in its own recruitment films. 'We have a pattern that's emerging,' Pape said.Intelligence and law enforcement officials aren't sure the approach is all that new. They say IS has been using any method that works to recruit Westerners. Other terrorism researchers think IS' message is still firmly rooted in religious extremism.Rita Katz, director of SITE Intelligence Group, which tracks messaging by militant groups, agrees that IS makes strong, visual appeals resembling Hollywood movies and video games, making its media operation more successful than al-Qaida's. And IS videos can attract hero wannabes, she said.'However, these features of IS media are only assets to a core message it uses to recruit,' Katz said. 'At the foundation of IS recruitment propaganda is not so much the promise to be a Hollywood-esque hero, but a religious hero. There is a big difference between the two.'When a fighter sits in front of a camera and calls for attacks, Katz said, he will likely frame it as revenge for Muslims killed or oppressed somewhere in the world. The message is designed to depict any terror attack in that nation as justified and allow the attacker to die as a martyr, she said.The promise of religious martyrdom is powerful to anybody regardless of whether they are rich or poor, happy or unhappy, steeped in religion or not at all, she said.Pape said he knows he's challenging conventional wisdom when he says Westerners are being coaxed to join IS ranks not because of religious beliefs, but because of the group's message of personal empowerment and Western concepts of individualism.How else can one explain Western attackers' loose connections to Islam, or their scarce knowledge of IS's strict, conservative Sharia law, he asked. IS is embracing, not rejecting, Western culture and ideals, to mobilize Americans, he said.'This is a journey like Clint Eastwood,' Pape said, recalling Eastwood's 1970s performance in 'High Plains Drifter' about a stranger who doles out justice in a corrupt mining town. 'When Clint Eastwood goes in to save the town, he's not doing it because he loves them. He even has contempt for the people he's saving. He's saving it because he's superior,' Pape said.'That's Bruce Willis in 'Die Hard.' That's Wonder Woman. ... Hollywood has figured out that's what puts hundreds of millions in theater seats,' Pape said. 'IS has figured out that's how to get Westerners.'Pape said the narrative in the recruitment videos targeting westerners closely tracks Chris Vogler's 12-step guide titled 'The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers.' The book is based on a narrative identified by scholar Joseph Campbell that appears in drama and other storytelling.Step No. 1 in Vogler's guide is portraying a character in his 'ordinary world.'An example is a March 25, 2016, video released by al-Qaida's Syria branch about a young British man with roots in the Indian community. It starts: 'Let us tell you the story of a real man... Abu Basir, as we knew him, came from central London. He was a graduate of law and a teacher by profession.'Vogler's ninth step is about how the hero survives death, emerging from battle to begin a transformation, sometimes with a prize.In the al-Qaida video, the Brit runs through sniper fire in battle. He then lays down his weapon and picks up a pen to start his new vocation blogging and posting Twitter messages for the cause.Matthew Levitt, a terrorism expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, says it doesn't surprise him that IS would capitalize on what he dubs the 'zero to hero' strategy because the organization is very pragmatic and accepts recruits regardless of their commitment to Islamic extremism.Heroic aspirations are only one reason for joining the ranks of IS, he said. Criminals also seek the cover of IS to commit crimes. Others sign up because they want to belong to something.'I've never seen a case of radicalization that was 100 percent one way or the other,' Levitt said.
  • A Georgia mother whose toddler has been waiting for a kidney transplant his whole life was gifted a car on Tuesday -- hours before a kidney donor was found. >> Read more trending news  Carmellia Burgess brought her son home from Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta on Nov. 8, where he’d been since Oct. 29.  Burgess’s son, AJ, battled a potentially deadly infection, contracted pneumonia, had surgery to implant a new port for his dialysis treatments and received blood transfusions before he was released from the hospital, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution previously reported. MORE: Toddler heads home from hospital to wait for kidney transplant But his mother didn’t have a car to get AJ to his hemodialysis appointments three times a week, she wrote on Facebook. That trouble ended Tuesday, when actor Tyler Perry gifted Burgess with a new car. The family later learned a deceased donor kidney would be given to AJ this week, attorney Mawuli Davis said.
  • A federal lawsuit set to go to trial next month marks the latest legal action brought against former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio over allegations that he pursued a trumped-up criminal case to get publicity and embarrass an adversary.The political opponent in this case: U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake.One of Flake's sons filed a malicious-prosecution lawsuit, saying Arpaio pursued felony animal cruelty charges against him and his then-wife in a bid to do political damage to the senator and gain publicity.Austin Flake and his wife were charged in the heat-exhaustion deaths of 21 dogs in June 2014 at a kennel operated by his in-laws. The Flakes were watching the dogs when the in-laws were out of town.The dogs died when an air conditioning unit failed in a small room where the animals spent the night.The case against the Flakes was dismissed at the request of prosecutors, and the owners of the kennel pleaded guilty to animal cruelty charges after an expert determined the air conditioner failed because the operators didn't properly maintain it.The lawsuit, which is scheduled for trial on Dec. 5, alleges that Arpaio was intent on linking the Flakes to the deaths, going so far as to conduct surveillance on the senator's home. The suit also says Arpaio's investigators examined phone records to see if the younger Flake called his father during the time he was watching the dogs.Lawyers for Austin Flake and his then-wife have said the senator disagreed with Arpaio over immigration and was critical of the movement questioning the authenticity of then-President Barack Obama's birth certificate.In a deposition, Arpaio didn't accept responsibility for bringing the charges against the couple and was unable to cite any evidence to support the allegations. But he still expressed confidence in his investigators.'I am going by what my detectives accomplished during their investigation,' Arpaio said during the July 2016 deposition. 'They had the nuts and bolts already. I defend my people. I have confidence in them. I don't have to know everything that's going on.'Arpaio and Jeffrey Leonard, an attorney representing Maricopa County and the former sheriff, declined to comment on the case.Stephen Montoya, an attorney for Austin Flake and his former wife, Logan Brown, said the sheriff's office didn't have evidence showing his clients intended to hurt the dogs, yet still charged them with crimes that devastated them and contributed to the demise of their marriage.'It splashed their names across the internet as the murderers of 21 dogs. It really ravaged them emotionally,' Montoya said, noting that Austin Flake was 21 and his wife was 20 at the time.A ruling in August by U.S. District Judge Neil Wake dismissed a defamation allegation from the lawsuit but determined investigators didn't have probable cause to charge the couple.'A factfinder could thus reasonably find that the prosecutors initially charged the Flakes based on pressure from Arpaio,' Wake wrote.The prosecutor who brought the allegations said in a court filing that she wasn't pressured by Arpaio's office to prosecute the couple and that the decision to present the case to a grand jury was made by her and her supervisors. The Maricopa County Attorney's Office isn't named as a party in the lawsuit.The lawsuit doesn't specify how much money the younger Flake and his ex-wife are seeking. But they previously sought $4 million in a notice of claim — a precursor to a lawsuit.It isn't the first time Arpaio has been accused of trumping up charges in an animal cruelty case.He launched an investigation against a police officer from the Phoenix suburb of Chandler over a 2007 death of a police dog that was left in a hot vehicle for 12 hours in blistering summer heat.The officer was charged with animal abuse but eventually acquitted. He filed a lawsuit alleging Arpaio brought the criminal case so the sheriff could exploit the publicity.Taxpayers paid $775,000 to the officer to settle the case.___Follow Jacques Billeaud at twitter.com/jacquesbilleaud. His work can be found at https://www.apnews.com/search/jacques%20billeaud .
  • Two-game winning streaks have given much-needed midseason boosts to Tampa Bay and Atlanta.Now it's time to see which team is ready for the tough NFC South.The Falcons (6-4) have moved into playoff position with back-to-back wins over Dallas and Seattle. Atlanta plays five of its last six regular-season games against NFC South rivals, including Sunday's visit from the Buccaneers.The Buccaneers (4-6) have won two straight over the Jets and Dolphins. Four of their last six games will be against NFC South opponents, including two against Atlanta.Tampa Bay faces a tough climb up the NFL's only division with three teams with winning records. The two straight wins have come with Ryan Fitzpatrick subbing for injured quarterback Jameis Winston . Fitzpatrick, who will make his third straight start against Atlanta, says the wins have helped boost morale.'It's definitely changed a little bit, a little more upbeat, but it's still businesslike attitude,' Fitzpatrick said. 'We know we've dug ourselves a big hole and we still have a long way to go.'Asked what Fitzpatrick has brought to the offense, Tampa Bay coach Dirk Koetter said 'Toughness. Smarts. Competitiveness. Desire to win. Calming influence. How's that off the top of my head?'The Falcons have the same record through 10 games as they did in 2016, when they won the NFC championship before losing to New England in the Super Bowl. Last week's 34-31 win at Seattle left Atlanta in position for a wild card, even though they still trail New Orleans (8-2) and Carolina (7-3) in the division.'I knew it was going to be a battle,' said Falcons coach Dan Quinn of the division. 'That would be certainly the case this weekend. ... We had real regard for the division before the season started. As you go through and look at the different matchups and how some of the teams play, that's certainly the case.'While the Buccaneers' surge has come without Winston, the Falcons have had starting running back Devonta Freeman for only two snaps of their two straight wins. Freeman left the 27-7 win over Dallas with a concussion after only two plays and was held out last week.Freeman was still in the concussion protocol for the start of practice this week and is expected to miss his second straight game, leaving Tevin Coleman as the starter.Here are some things to watch as the Buccaneers and Falcons renew their NFC South rivalry:RYANS EXPECTING TWINS: Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan and his wife, Sarah, are expecting twins. For Ryan, the news brings more significance to his jersey number 2.'There is something about 2,' Ryan said, smiling. 'Before, I just liked it. Now I have something for it. It's cool.'Ryan said the twins are due 'in a couple months. We're just very happy, very excited.'REAL MCCOY: Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy is tied with Arizona linebacker Chandler Jones for the NFL lead with 20 quarterback hits. McCoy is tied with Atlanta's Grady Jarrett with 10 tackles for loss, tied for the most among defensive tackles. He leads the Bucs with 5.0 sacks.GOODBYE GEORGIA DOME: This will be the Falcons' first home game since their old home, the Georgia Dome, was imploded on Monday . Koetter, the former Falcons offensive coordinator, is eager to see the $1.5 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which was built beside the old facility.'I've heard it's awesome,' Koetter said. 'I am anxious to see it. I always thought the Georgia Dome was dark and had bad acoustics. I couldn't hear a word anybody said in there.'90-GAME MILESTONES WITHIN REACH: Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones is on the brink of setting new NFL standards for catches and yards receiving in the first 90 games of a career. Jones has 551 catches. He needs eight receptions to pass Anquan Boldin's record of 558. Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown is second with 554.Jones has 8,396 yards receiving. He needs 107 yards to pass Lance Allworth's 90-game record of 8,502.WARD VS. WARD: Terron Ward moved up the depth chart with Freeman's concussion. As Coleman's top backup, there is a greater chance he'll go against older brother T.J. Ward, Tampa Bay's backup safety. The head-to-head competition is rare for the brothers.'We never played against each other,' said Terron Ward of the brothers' childhood, noting he is 5 years younger than his 30-year-old brother and the two would play together against cousins.'We used to get out there at Thanksgiving and Christmas, two on two,' he said. '... It would go back and forth so it's always been fun.'___For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_NFL