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    Congress is moving swiftly to prevent a looming U.S. rail workers strike. Lawmakers are reluctantly intervening in a labor dispute to stop what would surely be a devastating blow to the nation’s economy if the transportation of fuel, food and other critical goods were disrupted. The House is expected to act first on Wednesday. The bill Congress is considering would impose a compromise labor agreement brokered by President Joe Biden's administration. That agreement was ultimately voted down by four of the 12 unions representing more than 100,000 employees at large freight rail carriers. The unions have threatened to strike if an agreement can’t be reached before a Dec. 9 deadline.

      Asian shares are trading mostly lower ahead of a closely watched speech by the Federal Reserve chief that may give clues about future interest rate hikes. Markets are also eyeing developments in China, where protests have erupted recently over the “zero-COVID” strategy that has confined millions of people to their homes, sometimes for months. Shares fell in Tokyo but were higher in Sydney, Seoul, Hong Kong and Shanghai. Authorities in China have eased some controls after demonstrations in at least eight mainland cities and Hong Kong. Security forces have detained an unknown number of people. Wall Street finished mixed.

        Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley says she would take the Christmas holiday to mull a possible 2024 presidential bid. That contradicts her statement last year that she wouldn’t enter the race if former President Donald Trump opted to run again. Haley's comments Tuesday at Clemson University resemble her remarks at last week’s Republican Jewish Coalition gathering in Las Vegas. But Haley’s new tone stands in stark contrast with April 2021, when she said she would not seek her party’s nomination if Trump were also running. Her staffers decline to say if such a conversation had taken place, now that Trump is officially in the race.

        Residents in several towns across Louisiana and Mississippi have taken cover amid the blare of tornado sirens amid a severe weather outbreak erupting in the Deep South. There were no immediate reports of damage from the potent storms late Tuesday, but multiple tornado warnings were issued. More than 25 million people are in the path of the vast storm system moving from Texas to Indiana and Georgia. The latest storm outlook says parts of Louisiana and Mississippi are at the highest risk for strong storms. Meanwhile, heavy snow was snarling traffic in parts of the Upper Midwest.

        The Democratic San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to allow police to use potentially lethal, remote-controlled robots in emergency situations. The vote Tuesday was 8 to 3. Civil rights advocates opposed the proposal, saying it would lead to further militarization of police. The San Francisco Police Department said it would like the option to deploy robots equipped with explosive charges to disable suspects when lives are at stake. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors is divided on support for law enforcement. A new state law requires police and sheriffs departments to inventory its military grade equipment and seek approval for their use.

        Australia’s former Prime Minister Scott Morrison has listed his achievements in government including standing up to a “bullying" China as he unsuccessfully argued against being censured by the Parliament for secretly amassing multiple ministerial powers. The center-left Labor Party government introduced to the House of Representatives a rare censure motion against the conservative prime minister who took the unprecedented steps of appointing himself to five ministerial roles, usually without the knowledge of the existing minister. A censure motion against Morrison has no material effect other than to tarnish his political legacy. The House passed the motion 86 to 50 on Wednesday. It was sure to pass because Labor holds a majority in the House.

        Colorado Gov. Jared Polis has visited the memorial outside a gay club where five people were killed in a shooting attack last week. He solemnly walked Tuesday past flowers, crosses and photos of the victims. Polis is the first openly gay man elected a governor in the U.S., back in 2018. He picked up a piece of pink chalk and drew a heart and wrote “We remember” on the pavement outside Club Q in Colorado Springs — an LGBTQ gathering place. The motive for the Nov. 19 attack there remains under investigation and one person is in custody. Polis later visited a brewery and hugged its owner — the man who tackled the shooting suspect.

        Despite assurances that lava from Hawaii's Mauna Loa isn't threatening communities, some residents are remaining vigilant. For Nicole Skilling, the first eruption in 38 years of the world’s largest active volcano is bringing back bad memories. She fled from another Hawaii volcano in 2018. Back then she lived near the community where lava destroyed more than 700 homes. She relocated to the South Kona area, only to find herself packing her car with food and supplies after Mauna Loa erupted late Sunday. Officials say the areas where lava is emerging are far from homes and communities. The eruption has also drawn onlookers to a national park for views of the event that are said to be “spectacular.”

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        Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes has been convicted of seditious conspiracy for a violent plot to overturn President Joe Biden's election, handing the Justice Department a major victory in its massive prosecution of the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection. A Washington, D.C., jury on Tuesday found Rhodes guilty of sedition after three days of deliberations. The nearly two-month-long trial showcased the far-right extremist group’s efforts to keep Republican Donald Trump in the White House at all costs. An attorney for Rhodes says they intend to appeal. Rhodes was also convicted of obstruction of an official proceeding, but acquitted of two other conspiracy charges.

        A Missouri man convicted of ambushing and killing a St. Louis area police officer he blamed in the death of his younger brother has been executed. Kevin Johnson was put to death by lethal injection Tuesday night at the state prison in Bonne Terre. He was 37. It was the state’s second execution this year. Johnson’s attorneys didn’t deny that he killed Kirkwood Police Officer William McEntee in 2005, but contended he was sentenced to death in part because he was Black. The courts and Republican Gov. Mike Parson declined to stop the execution.

        Hundreds of people have gathered at Harvard University and near Chinese consulates in New York and Chicago to support protesters who have called for that country’s leader to step down amid severe anti-virus restrictions in the biggest demonstrations against the government in Beijing in decades. About 50 protesters, mostly students at the elite Ivy League school, sang songs Tuesday in both Chinese and English. Several hundred gathered near consulates in New York and Chicago. Some held pieces of blank paper in front of their faces as a symbol of defiance to Chinese government censorship.

        French President Emmanuel Macron will be the guest for the first state visit of Joe Biden’s presidency. The event this week is a revival of diplomatic pageantry that had been put on hold because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Biden-Macron relationship has turned around from its choppy start. Macron briefly recalled France’s ambassador to the United States last year after the White House announced a deal to sell nuclear submarines to Australia that undermined a contract that France had to sell diesel-powered submarines. Today, Macron has become one of Biden’s most forward-facing European allies in the Western response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

        Federal prosecutors say a Southern California man has admitted to firing BB guns at a Planned Parenthood clinic at least 11 times and agreed to plead guilty to two crimes. A plea agreement by Richard Royden Chamberlin was filed Monday in federal court. Prosecutos say Chamberlin attacked a Pasadena clinic in 2020 and 2021 because it provided abortions. Police stopped Chamberlin in 2021, finding eight BB guns and a .22-caliber pistol. Chamberlin has a prior felony conviction. He agreed to plead guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm and forcible interference with the obtaining and provision of reproductive health services.

        President Joe Biden says he hopes lawmakers can work together to fund the government, boost spending for Ukraine and avert a crippling rail strike. His comments came as he met with congressional leaders at the White House on Tuesday. Biden is seeking to lock in more legislative wins before Democrats lose unified control of Washington on Jan. 3. But Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the likely new Republican House speaker, said Biden “got an indication that it’s going to be different” once the GOP takes control of the House. He blasted the Biden administration’s immigration policies, and promised a new round of investigations once the GOP is in power.

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