AP Top News at 11:59 p.m. EST
WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican Kevin McCarthy is the new House speaker, but as bruising as it was for him to seize the gavel in a history-making election, it may be even more difficult for the embattled leader to do much with the powerful position — or to even keep it. Like the two most recent Republican speakers, John Boehner and Paul Ryan, McCarthy takes the helm of a restive, rebellious majority split in much the same way as the party itself, between what’s left of the Grand Old Party conservatives and a new generation of tea party-to-Donald Trump hard-liners preferring almost no big government at all.
WASHINGTON (AP) — It was the extraordinary moment that brought House Republicans to the brink — and ultimately the moment they found their way back. Just one vote short of becoming speaker of the House, California Republican Kevin McCarthy stood from his chair and walked down the center aisle to the back of the chamber. It was nearing midnight, and he had already lost 13 votes for speaker over four long days. The room fell almost silent as it became apparent that the GOP leader was now asking — begging, really — the bombastic, blustering, defiant Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz to change his vote from “present” to “McCarthy.”
EL PASO, Texas (AP) — Several hundred people marched through the streets of El Paso Saturday afternoon, and when they arrived at a group of migrants huddling outside a church, they sang to them “no estan solos” — “you are not alone.” Around 300 migrants have taken refuge on sidewalks outside Sacred Heart Church, some of them afraid to seek more formal shelters, advocates say, amid new restrictions meant to crack down on illegal border crossings. This is the scene that will greet President Joe Biden on his first, politically thorny visit to the southern border Sunday. The president announced last week that Cubans, Nicaraguans, Haitians and Venezuelans will be expelled to Mexico if they enter the U.S.
KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine’s president praised the United States for including tank-killing armored vehicles in its latest multibillion-dollar package of military aid, saying they are “exactly what is needed” for Ukrainian troops locked in combat against Russian forces, even as both sides celebrated Orthodox Christmas on Saturday. The White House announcement Friday of $3.75 billion in weapons and other aid for Ukraine and its European backers came as Moscow said its troops are observing a short Orthodox Christmas cease-fire. Ukrainian officials denounced the unilateral 36-hour pause as a ploy and said it appeared to have been ignored by some of Moscow’s forces pressing ahead with the nearly 11-month invasion.
BEIJING (AP) — After two years of separation from his wife in mainland China, Hong Kong resident Cheung Seng-bun made sure to be among the first in line following the reopening of border crossing points Sunday. The ability of residents of the semi-autonomous southern Chinese city to cross over is one of the most visible signs of China’s easing of border restrictions, with travelers arriving from abroad also no longer required to undergo quarantine. “I’m hurrying to get back to her,” Cheung, lugging a heavy suitcase, told The Associated Press as he prepared to cross at Lok Ma Chau station. Travelers crossing between Hong Kong and mainland China, however, are still required to show a negative COVID-19 test taken within the last 48 hours — a measure China has protested when imposed by other countries.
SEATTLE (AP) — The public school district in Seattle has filed a novel lawsuit against the tech giants behind TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and Snapchat, seeking to hold them accountable for the mental health crisis among youth. Seattle Public Schools filed the lawsuit Friday in U.S. District Court. The 91-page complaint says the social media companies have created a public nuisance by targeting their products to children. It blames them for worsening mental health and behavioral disorders including anxiety, depression, disordered eating and cyberbullying; making it more difficult to educate students; and forcing schools to take steps such as hiring additional mental health professionals, developing lesson plans about the effects of social media, and providing additional training to teachers.
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A Virginia teacher who was critically injured when she was was shot by a 6-year-old student in Newport News is showing signs of improvement as authorities struggle to understand how a child so young could be involved in a school shooting, the city’s mayor said Saturday. Newport News Mayor Phillip Jones said the condition of the teacher, a woman in her 30s, is “trending in a positive direction” as she remains hospitalized. Police Chief Steve Drew met with the teacher and her family Saturday morning. “She has improved and is currently listed in stable condition,” police said in a news release.
MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico’s capture of a son of former Sinaloa cartel boss Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán this week was an isolated nod to a drug war strategy that Mexico’s current administration has abandoned rather than a sign that President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s thinking has changed, experts say. Ovidio Guzmán’s arrest in the Sinaloa cartel stronghold of Culiacan on Thursday came at the cost of at least 30 lives — 11 from the military and law enforcement and 19 suspected cartel gunmen. But analysts predict it won’t have any impact on the flow of drugs to the United States.
LONDON (AP) — Allies of Britain’s royal family pushed back Saturday against claims made by Prince Harry in his new memoir, which paints the monarchy as a cold and callous institution that failed to nurture or support him. Buckingham Palace hasn’t officially commented on the book. But British newspapers and websites brimmed with quotes from unnamed “royal insiders,” rebutting Harry’s accusations. One said his public attacks on the royal family took a “toll” on the health of Queen Elizabeth II, who died in September. Veteran journalist Jonathan Dimbleby, a biographer and friend of King Charles III, said Harry’s revelations were the type “that you’d expect … from a sort of B-list celebrity,” and that the king would be pained and frustrated by them.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — The Jacksonville Jaguars are AFC South champions for the first time in five years, a title secured with a 20-16 victory against rival Tennessee on Saturday night in a game that turned on Josh Allen’s 37-yard fumble return for a touchdown with 2:51 remaining. Rayshawn Jenkins forced Josh Dobbs’ fumble, and Allen scooped up the bouncing ball and ran, untouched, the other way for a lead that held up in the regular-season finale for both teams. Dobbs fumbled again on the ensuing possession, and the Jaguars (9-8) started to celebrate their most significant regular-season victory in franchise history.