People also are talking about the president attacking an ally overseas, gas price riots in Iran and more marijuana vaping seizures.
Congressman who spent hundreds to fly pet rabbit will admit misusing campaign money
For more than a year, California Rep. Duncan Hunter insisted that criminal charges against him and his wife were the result of a conspiracy of the "deep state" meant to drive the six-term Republican from office in the Democrat-dominated state.
But in a stunning turn of events, Hunter now says he plans to plead guilty to the misuse of campaign funds at a federal court hearing Tuesday in San Diego. Hunter, an early supporter of President Donald Trump, said in a TV interview that aired Monday that he is prepared to go to jail. He has not said exactly when he will resign.
The change in plea marks the second time this year a Republican congressman who was re-elected while indicted has later pleaded guilty to federal charges.
Hunter, 42, said a trial would be tough on his three children.
"I think it's time for them to live life outside the spotlight," he told San Diego TV station KUSI.
His wife Margaret Hunter also was charged in the case and in June accepted a plea deal that called for her to testify against her husband. The couple could have faced decades in prison before the plea deals. His wife faces up to five years in prison.
Federal prosecutors said the couple spent more than $250,000 in campaign money for golf outings, family vacations to Italy and Hawaii, tequila shots and airline tickets for their pet rabbit.
Prosecutors also revealed Hunter spent some of the money on romantic relationships with lobbyists and congressional aides.
Hunter's departure will mark the end of a political dynasty in Southern California's most Republican district. He was elected in 2008 after his father represented the district for 28 years.
Until now, Hunter had resisted calls to resign, framing the charges as a political attack by prosecutors sympathetic to Democrat Hillary Clinton.
After his wife agreed to a plea deal, Hunter said "it's obvious that the Department of Justice went after her to get to me for political reasons."
Former federal attorney Jason Forge, who prosecuted California Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham in 2005 for one of the worst bribery scandals to ever bring down a federal lawmaker, said Hunter's outlandish denials ran out of gas.
He also was probably running out of money, Forge said. The couple had overdrawn their bank accounts more than 1,000 times, according to prosecutors.
"In terms of evidence against him, I view this as being an inevitable outcome that was apparent from the day the indictment came out with that level of detail," he said. "But looking at it from a political perspective, it would seem to be a shocking result. He couldn't have been more aggressive in his denials."
Iran claims 'rioters' killed amid protest over gas prices
Iranian state television on Tuesday acknowledged security forces shot and killed what it described as "rioters" in multiple cities amid recent protests over the spike in government-set gasoline prices — the first time that authorities have offered any sort of accounting for the violence they used to put down the demonstrations.
Amnesty International believes the unrest and crackdown that followed, beginning in mid-November, killed at least 208 people. An Iranian judiciary official disputed the toll as "sheer lies," without offering any evidence to support his position.
Iran shut down internet access amid the unrest, blocking those inside the country from sharing their videos and information. It also limited the outside world's insight into the scale of the protests and the violence, though online videos have emerged purporting to show security forces shooting protesters.
The recent demonstrations over gasoline prices — while not drawing as many Iranians into the streets as the 2009 protests over the country's disputed presidential election — rapidly turned violent, faster than previous rallies.
That shows the widespread economic discontent gripping Iran since May 2018, when President Donald Trump imposed crushing sanctions after unilaterally withdrawing from Tehran's nuclear deal with world powers.
The demonstrations came after months of attacks across the Mideast that the U.S. blames on Tehran. Meanwhile, Iran has begun breaking the limits of the nuclear deal in hopes of pressuring Europe into finding a way for Tehran to sell its crude oil abroad despite American sanctions.
The state TV report alleged that some of those killed were "rioters who have attacked sensitive or military centers with firearms or knives or have taken hostages in some areas." The report described others killed as passers-by, security forces and peaceful protesters, without assigning blame for their deaths.
In one case, the report said security forces confronted a separatist group armed with "semi-heavy weapons" in the city of Mahshahr in Iran's southwestern Khuzestan province. The surrounding oil-rich province's Arab population long has complained of discrimination by Iran's central government and insurgent groups have attacked oil pipelines in the past there. Online videos purportedly from the area showed peaceful protests, as well as clashes between demonstrators and security forces.
"The marshes you see behind me and on the right are where hostile groups were hiding and shooting at the police, but praise to Allah, the armed forces deftly and vigilantly came to the field and foiled their plots," Mahshahr police chief Col. Reza Papi said in the report.
State TV also acknowledged that security forces confronted "rioters" in Tehran, as well as in the cities of Shiraz and Sirjan. It also mentioned Shahriar, a suburb of Tehran where Amnesty on Monday said there had been "dozens of deaths." It described the suburb as likely one of the areas with the highest toll of those killed in the unrest. Shahriar has seen heavy protests.
Amnesty offered no breakdown for the deaths elsewhere in the country, though it said "the real figure is likely to be higher."
Judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili disputed Amnesty's death toll.
"I bluntly say that numbers and figures given by hostile groups are sheer lies," he told reporters on Tuesday. "Real statistics are seriously different from what they announce and numbers are far less than what they claim."
However, Esmaili — like every other Iranian official since the crackdown — offered no evidence to support his claim, nor any casualty information. A United Nations agency also has said it fears the unrest may have killed "a significant number of people."
Democrats and France get Trump attack treatment
President Donald Trump criticized Democrats at the opening of a NATO leaders’ meeting Tuesday, calling the impeachment push by his rivals “unpatriotic” and “a bad thing for our country.”
Trump, who commented while meeting with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, has criticized Democrats for holding an impeachment hearing while he is abroad.
The House Judiciary Committee has set a hearing on the constitutional grounds for Trump’s possible impeachment on Wednesday just before he wraps up two days of meetings with NATO alliance members in London.
“I think it’s very unpatriotic of the Democrats to put on a performance,” Trump said. “I think it’s a bad thing for our country.”
Trump isn’t the only one complaining. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, White House counsel Pat Cipollone and adviser Kellyanne Conway all have criticized the committee’s timing.
Trump insists he’s solely focused on scoring domestic and foreign policy wins, including revamping NATO so that allies spend more on defense. But he’s often appeared consumed by the day-to-day battle against impeachment.
“I’m not even thinking about it,” Trump insisted anew Tuesday.
Before the trip to London, Trump slammed “Do Nothing Democrats” for scheduling the hearing during the NATO meeting as “Not nice!”
He also said that during the flight he had read a newly issued Republican-prepared report on impeachment that called his decision to hold up military aid to Ukraine “entirely prudent.”
Democrats contend Trump abused his presidential powers by holding up the aid to pressure Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son
But Trump was adamant that the cloud of impeachment wasn’t undercutting his negotiating position on the international stage.
“I know most of the leaders,” Trump said. “I get along with them. It’s a hoax. The impeachment is a hoax. It’s turned out to be a hoax. It’s done for purely political gain. They’re going to see whether or not they can do something in 2020 because otherwise they’re going to lose.”
He also took aim at French President Emmanuel Macron over Macron's criticism of NATO, and criticized the other members of the military alliance for being too slow to beef up their defense budgets.
As prime ministers and presidents of the 29-member alliance converged on London for a summit marking NATO’s 70th birthday, Trump told reporters Macron’s comments were “very nasty” when he lamented the “brain death” of the organization due in large part to a lack of U.S. leadership.
“Sometimes he’ll say things that he shouldn’t say,” Trump said. “Sometimes I think he does things that are counterproductive for his own country.”
As vaping grows, so do seizures of marijuana cartridges
As health officials scrutinize marijuana vaping, it's increasingly on law enforcement's radar, too.
From New York City to Nebraska farm country to California, authorities have seized at least 510,000 marijuana vape cartridges and arrested more than 120 people in the past two years, according to an Associated Press tally derived from interviews, court records, news accounts and official releases.
A Wisconsin mother, her two adult sons and five other people were charged this fall in what investigators describe as a black-market manufacturing operation that churned out thousands of cartridges a day packed with THC, the cannabis chemical that causes a high. In neighboring Minnesota, authorities said they found nearly 77,000 illicit pot cartridges in a man's suburban Minneapolis home and car in September.
An Alabama prosecutor has seen a spurt in pot vape cases in juvenile court. And in New York City, drug authorities say they've seized about 200,000 illegal cartridges just since this summer, often while investigating groups suspected of trafficking in traditional-form marijuana or other drugs.
"We're putting a lot more resources in pursuing these organizations," said Ray Donovan, the special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration's New York office. "This is where the market is going ... These criminal organizations are going to jump on whatever the business model is and try to take advantage and exploit that."
Fueled recently by alarm over a deadly lung illness that health officials have linked to illicit THC vaping, the pursuit of pot cartridges has added a new layer to drug enforcement while authorities are grappling with the opioid crisis and other drug issues.
In states with and without legal marijuana markets, drug investigators, highway patrols and local police departments have been adjusting to searching for a form of marijuana that comes in small packages, doesn't smell like pot and might look like legal nicotine vapes — or require discerning what's legal and not in states that allow marijuana use.
California officials seized 7,200 cartridges in October from a Los Angeles warehouse tied to a state-licensed company that made Kushy Punch-brand vapes. The state later revoked the company's license.
Kushy Punch has said the cartridges were old, unusable and not meant for distribution. The brand says it's looking for new manufacturing partners.
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Narcotics Bureau may soon start tallying vape seizures when busting allegedly illegal pot dispensaries, Capt. Holly Francisco said.
Vaping rapidly gained ground in the past few years among marijuana users as a fast-acting and discreet alternative to smoking the drug. Thirty-three states have legalized marijuana at least for medicinal use, but bootleg vape "carts" — short for cartridges — have cropped up there and elsewhere, selling for roughly $20 to $50 apiece.
FBI warns your smart TV may be spying on you
Those Black Friday and Cyber Monday super sales are not only a boon for your bank account, but may also reap serious rewards for cyber criminals intent on causing harm, according to the FBI.
In a pre-holiday message to consumers, an FBI field office is warning that "smart TVs" -- televisions equipped with internet streaming and facial recognition capabilities -- may be vulnerable to intrusion.
In addition to outlining how new advanced technological features risk allowing television manufacturers and app developers to snoop on consumers, the bureau says malicious cyber actors can also take control of unsecured smart TVs and potentially wreak havoc on unsuspecting owners.
"Next-gen smart TVs and devices run complex software, have Internet connections, and often have integrated sensors like microphones," says Matt Tait, cybersecurity expert and former analyst at GCHQ, the British signals intelligence service. "These features enable things like internet streaming services and voice-commands, but can unfortunately be subverted by hackers if the device gets compromised."
"At the low end of the risk spectrum, they can change channels, play with the volume, and show your kids inappropriate videos," the FBI warning states. "In a worst-case scenario, they can turn on your bedroom TV's camera and microphone and silently cyberstalk you."
In order to guard against possible intrusion, the FBI recommends that smart TV owners educate themselves on their device's security settings (available from a simple Google search), change default network passwords set by manufactures, and understand how to enable and disable microphones and cameras.
If a particular smart TV does not allow the disabling of cameras, the bureau says placing black tape over the camera is one basic and simple solution to shutting out prying eyes.
Mother accused of killing her two kids after claiming they killed themselves
When first responders arrived at Lisa Snyder's home in Pennsylvania on September 23, they found a horrific scene.
Snyder's 8-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter were in the basement, hanging by their necks from a support beam, a probable cause affidavit filed with the court said. The children were in cardiac arrest and died a few days later, the affidavit said.
Snyder told investigators that she thought the children killed themselves, the affidavit said. Her son was bullied at school and had talked about taking his life, his mother told troopers, and he told her he didn't want to die alone.
But that story was a lie, prosecutors say. Investigators found no evidence that the boy was being bullied.
On Monday, more than two months after the children died, Snyder, 36, was arrested and charged with murdering Conner and Brinley.
Snyder's attorney, Dennis Charles, declined to comment when reached Monday on the phone. "My policy has always been not to discuss active cases with the media," he said.
Berks County District Attorney John Adams said at a news conference Monday that Snyder continues to maintain the children killed themselves.
He described investigators' findings but offered no motive.
"I don't know that there's any explanation for her behavior at all. I don't think that I can stand up here nor can anyone explain the horrific loss of two innocent children's lives," Adams said.
Snyder was charged with two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of endangering the welfare of children, two counts of third-degree murder, tampering with/fabricating physical evidence, cruelty to animals and sexual intercourse with an animal.
She's being held without bond in the Berks County Prison.
The woman told investigators children made fun of Conner "because he is fat" and he would often tell his mother he hated school. She also claimed that he had considered ending his own life "but I am scared to go by myself" according to a police affidavit.
First responders found the children in the basement, hanging from the beam about three feet apart, the affidavit said.