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AP News in Brief at 11:04 p.m. EST

Trump heads to TV, border as fed workers face paycheck sting

WASHINGTON (AP) — With no breakthrough in sight, President Donald Trump will argue his case to the nation Tuesday night that a “crisis” at the U.S.-Mexico border requires the long and invulnerable wall he’s demanding before ending the partial government shutdown. Hundreds of thousands of federal workers face missed paychecks Friday as the shutdown drags through a third week.

Trump’s Oval Office speech — his first as president — will be followed by his visit Thursday to the southern border to highlight his demand for a barrier. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeted that he will use the visit to “meet with those on the front lines of the national security and humanitarian crisis.”

The administration is also at least talking about the idea of declaring a national emergency to allow Trump to move forward on the wall without Congress approving the $5.6 billion he wants. Vice President Mike Pence said the White House counsel’s office is looking at the idea. Such a move would certainly draw legal challenges, and Trump — who told lawmakers he would be willing to keep the government closed for months or even years — has said he would like to continue negotiations for now.

Trump’s prime-time address will be carried live by ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox Broadcasting, Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, MSNBC and NBC.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer called on the networks to give Democrats a chance to respond. “Now that the television networks have decided to air the President’s address, which if his past statements are any indication will be full of malice and misinformation, Democrats must immediately be given equal airtime,” they wrote in a joint statement released Monday night.

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Administration: Government shutdown won’t delay tax refunds

WASHINGTON (AP) — Taxpayers who are owed refunds will be paid on time, despite the government shutdown that has closed many federal agencies, a Trump administration official said Monday as concern mounted over the risk that the payments could be delayed.

The acting director of the White House budget office, Russell Vought, said customary rules will be changed to make the payments possible. He told reporters that an “indefinite appropriation” was available for the refunds, which would go out as normal.

As it dragged through a third week, the partial government shutdown could not have come at a worse time for the Internal Revenue Service. Tax-filing season officially begins Jan. 28, and while those who owe Uncle Sam will still have to pay up by April 15, people who are due to receive money back have worried about whether the closure could postpone their payments.

About three-quarters of taxpayers receive annual refunds, giving them an incentive to file their returns early. Many lower-income people count on refunds as their biggest cash infusion of the year.

The IRS said late Monday that it will recall a large number of furloughed employees to process returns. They will probably work without pay. Under the previous rules, hundreds of billions of dollars in refunds could be delayed because funding would not be available.

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North Korea confirms Kim’s departure to China for summit

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is making a four-day trip to China, the North’s state media reported Tuesday, in what’s likely an effort by Kim to coordinate with his only major ally ahead of a summit with U.S. President Donald Trump that could happen early this year.

Kim departed for China on Monday afternoon with his wife Ri Sol Ju and other top officials, the North’s Korean Central News Agency said. It said Kim is visiting China at the invitation of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

South Korean media reported that Kim’s distinctive armored train was expected to reach Beijing on Tuesday morning, which happens to be Kim’s birthday.

China’s official Xinhua News Agency issued a nearly identical report, while Beijing’s North Railway Station was cocooned in security, with dozens of police and paramilitary troops patrolling outside. What appeared to be official cars were seen driving past the security cordon into the station, although journalists on the scene were too far away to identify them clearly.

Kim is expected to stay at the highly secure Diaoyutai State Guest House in the capital’s west, with meetings held at the Great Hall of the People, the hulking seat of the legislature that sits next to Tiananmen Square.

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Amazon emerges as most valuable US firm amid market turmoil

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Amazon has eclipsed Microsoft as the most valuable publicly traded company in the U.S. as a see-sawing stock market continues to reshuffle corporate America’s pecking order.

The shift occurred Monday after Amazon’s shares rose 3 percent to close at $1,629.51 and lifted the e-commerce leader’s market value to $797 billion. Meanwhile, Microsoft’s stock edged up by less than 1 percent to finish at $102.06, leaving the computer software maker’s value at $784 billion.

It marks the first time Amazon has held the top spot and ends Microsoft’s brief return to the pinnacle after it surpassed Apple in late November .

The repositioning has been triggered by mounting concerns that the Trump administration’s trade war with China and rising interest rates will bog down the worldwide economy. If that were to happen, it’s likely to slow the growth of companies in technology and other industries that generate a substantial chunk of their revenue outside the U.S.

That’s one reason most technology stocks are well off their peaks. Amazon, for instance, remains 21 percent below its high reached in September when the company’s stock value stood above $1 trillion. Apple was worth even more back then, but its stock has plunged by 37 percent since early October to erase about $400 billion of its market value.

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AP Explains: Can Trump use an emergency to build his wall?

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration is weighing using a national emergency declaration to circumvent Congress and the budget stalemate and force construction of the president’s long-promised southern border wall.

“We’re looking at a national emergency because we have a national emergency,” President Donald Trump told reporters Sunday amid stalled negotiations. He said during a press conference Friday that he would prefer to win the money he’s demanding via Congress, but could “absolutely” call an emergency “and build it very quickly.”

Such a move would be a dramatic escalation of the current showdown, which has forced a partial government shutdown that’s now in its third week. Here’s what we know:

WHY AN EMERGENCY DECLARATION?

The administration has spent months trying to figure out how the president might be able to move forward with the wall — the central promise of his 2016 campaign — if Congress refuses to give him the money.

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Nissan’s ex-chair Ghosn appears in court, asserts innocence

TOKYO (AP) — The former chairman of Japan’s Nissan, Carlos Ghosn, appeared in court on Tuesday and asserted his innocence while demanding the reason for his prolonged detention.

The hearing was Ghosn’s first public appearance since his Nov. 19 arrest.

Ghosn, appearing in a dark suit without a tie and wearing plastic slippers and looking thinner than he had before his arrest, denied any wrongdoing.

“Your honor, I am innocent of the accusations against me,” he said. “I am wrongfully accused,” he said, reading from a prepared statement.

Prosecutors have charged Ghosn with falsifying financial reports in underreporting his income. Widely respected for having saved the Japanese automaker from near bankruptcy, Ghosn said the company’s and his own finances were harmed by the global financial crisis a decade ago.

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Woman sentenced to life as teen in killing wins clemency

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A woman who says she was a 16-year-old sex trafficking victim when she killed a man in 2004 was granted clemency Monday by Tennessee’s governor and will be released from prison later this year.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam granted clemency to Cyntoia Brown, who had been serving a life sentence but who will be released on parole on Aug. 7 — 15 years from the date she was first arrested.

“Cyntoia Brown committed, by her own admission, a horrific crime at the age of 16. Yet, imposing a life sentence on a juvenile that would require her to serve at least 51 years before even being eligible for parole consideration is too harsh, especially in light of the extraordinary steps Ms. Brown has taken to rebuild her life,” Haslam said in his statement.

Brown, 30, will remain on parole supervision for 10 years on the condition she does not violate any state or federal laws, holds a job, and participates in regular counseling sessions.

Brown’s case has attracted national attention from criminal justice reform advocates, and the attention has amped up as Haslam’s second and final term nears an end. He leaves office Jan. 19.

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Man pleads guilty to killing 6 in between driving for Uber

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (AP) — A Michigan man charged with killing six strangers between picking up rides for Uber pleaded guilty to murder on Monday, just before attorneys were set to interview jurors for his trial.

Jason Dalton’s surprise move came about three years after the shootings, which occurred over the course of a few hours in and around Kalamazoo. Dalton pleaded guilty to murder and attempted murder over his attorney’s objections, triggering a mandatory sentence of life in prison with no chance for parole on Feb. 5.

“Yes, I’ve wanted this for quite a while,” Dalton replied when a judge asked if the pleas were voluntary.

The 48-year-old Dalton answered “yes” to a series of questions, admitting that he shot eight people at three locations. After his arrest, police quoted Dalton as saying a “devil figure” on Uber’s app was controlling him on the day of the shootings.

Four women were killed in the parking lot of a Cracker Barrel restaurant: Barbara Hawthorne, Dorothy “Judy” Brown, Mary Lou Nye and her sister-in-law, Mary Jo Nye. Rich Smith and his 17-year-old son, Tyler Smith, were fatally shot while looking at a pickup truck in a dealer’s lot.

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Ginsburg misses Supreme Court arguments for the 1st time

WASHINGTON (AP) — Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is missing arguments for the first time in more than 25 years as she recuperates from cancer surgery last month, the Supreme Court said.

Ginsburg was not on the bench as the court met Monday to hear arguments. It was not clear when she would return to the court, which will hear more cases Tuesday and Wednesday, and again next week.

Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said the 85-year-old justice is continuing to recuperate and work from home after doctors removed two cancerous growths from her left lung on Dec. 21.

Ginsburg was discharged from a New York hospital on Dec. 25.

Chief Justice John Roberts said in the courtroom Monday that Ginsburg would participate in deciding the argued cases “on the basis of the briefs and transcripts of oral arguments.”

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Presidents, commissioners put brakes on CFP expansion talk

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — The College Football Playoff is not close to expanding.

After a month of chatter about possible changes to the four-team playoff, the conference commissioners and university presidents who constitute the playoff brain trust met Monday at the Fairmont Hotel in downtown San Jose and quelled the speculation.

“As far as expanding the number of teams in the playoff, it’s way too soon — much too soon — to know if that is even a possibility,” Mississippi State University President Mark Keenum, the chairman of the CFP board of managers, said in a statement.

The playoff is in its fifth season. No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Clemson will play the national championship game Monday night at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara.

Expansion talk perked up last month when Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany told The Athletic he was ready to begin talking about an eight-team format after his conference was left out of the playoff for a second consecutive season.

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