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    Germany's Siemens says it has signed contracts worth some 700 million euros ($824 million) to build two gas-powered electricity plants in Libya.The Munich-based industrial conglomerate said Monday that the plants will be built in Misrata and Tripoli and that the value of the contracts with the state-owned General Electricity Company of Libya includes long-term service agreements.It said the deal will expand Libya's power generation capacity by about 1.3 gigawatts, but didn't specify in a statement when the new plants will start operation.The deal comes weeks after Siemens AG announced plans to cut about 6,900 jobs worldwide at its power, gas and drives divisions, half of them in Germany. It pointed to a sharp decline in earnings amid increasing pressure from renewable energy sources.
  • Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about today: 1. PUTIN MAKES SURPRISE STOP IN SYRIA EN ROUTE TO CAIRO The Russian president visits a Russian military air base in Latakia and announces a partial pullout of his forces from the country. 2. DIVERGENT VIEWS ON WHAT ALABAMA SENATE VOTE MEANS The matchup between Roy Moore and Doug Jones mixes both the Deep South state's tortured history and the nation's current divisive, bitterly partisan politics. 3. MYANMAR MILITARY'S RAPE OF ROHINGYA MUSLIMS SWEEPING, METHODICAL In interviews with the AP, more than two dozen women and girls bolster the U.N.'s contention that the Myanmar armed forces are systematically using rape as a 'calculated tool of terror' to exterminate the Rohingya people. 4. FOR TRUMP, GOP A MOMENTOUS 2 WEEKS Republicans are determined to deliver the first revamp of the nation's tax code in three decades and agree on a spending bill to avert a government shutdown over the holidays. 5. WHAT ARE UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES OF WORKPLACE SCANDALS Some women, and men, worry the same climate that's emboldening women to speak up about sexual misconduct could backfire by making some men wary of female colleagues. 6. FIREFIGHTERS BRACE FOR 2ND WEEK OF CALIFORNIA WILDFIRES Southern California fire officials anticipate more growth and danger due to continued strong wind gusts, no rain and decades-old dry vegetation. 7. DEADLINE WEEK CRUNCH FOR HEALTH LAW SIGN-UPS Friday is the last day for millions of people still eligible to enroll in subsidized private coverage in 39 states served by the federal HealthCare.gov website. 8. BITCOIN FUTURES RISE AS VIRTUAL CURRENCY HITS MAJOR EXCHANGE The futures contract that expires in January surges more than $3,000 to $18,580 eight hours after trading for the popular virtual currency launched on the Chicago Board Options Exchange. 9. WHO ARE FAVORITES FOR POST-WEINSTEIN GOLDEN GLOBES Steven Spielberg's Pentagon Papers drama 'The Post' and Christopher Nolan's World War II tale 'Dunkirk' are expected to lead the film categories, while Hulu's 'The Handmaid's Tale' and HBO's 'Big Little Lies' could be in for a big day on the TV side. 10. STEELERS CLINCH AFC NORTH Ben Roethlisberger throws for 506 yards and two touchdowns, becoming the first quarterback in NFL history to top 500 yards passing three times, as Pittsburgh (11-2) rallies past Baltimore 39-38.
  • Making his second visit to Egypt since 2015, Russian President Vladimir Putin flew to Cairo on Monday for talks with his Egyptian counterpart on the two countries' rapidly expanding ties and regional issues.Egypt's general-turned-president, Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, has visited Russia three times since the ouster of his Islamist predecessor in 2013. After taking office, el-Sissi has bought billions of dollars' worth of Russian weapons, including fighter jets and assault helicopters.The two countries are also in the late stages of negotiations over the construction by a Russian company of Egypt's first nuclear energy reactor.Last month, Russia approved a draft agreement with Egypt to allow Russian warplanes to use Egyptian military bases, a significant leap in bilateral ties and evidence of Moscow's expanding military role in a turbulent Middle East.Putin flew to Cairo after a brief and previously unannounced visit to a Russian military air base in Syria, according to Russia's Tass news agency. The air base has served as the main foothold for the air campaign Russia has waged since September 2015 in support of Syrian President Bashar Assad against armed groups opposed to his rule.Egypt's currently close ties with Russia harken back to the 1950s and 1960s, when Cairo became Moscow's closest Arab ally during the peak years of the Cold War.Egypt changed allies in the 1970s under the late President Anwar Sadat, who replaced Moscow with Washington as his country's chief economic and military backer following the signing of a U.S.-sponsored peace treaty with Israel. Egypt has since become a major recipient of U.S. economic and military aid.In what would have been unthinkable during the Cold War, Egypt has under el-Sissi been able to maintain close ties with both Russia and the United States.Egypt, however, has not been able thus far to persuade Russia to resume its flights to Egypt, suspended since October 2015 when a suspected bomb brought down a Russian airliner over Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, killing all 224 people on board. Egypt has since spent millions of dollars to upgrade security at its airports and undergone numerous checks by Russian experts to ascertain the level of security at the facilities.The suspension of Russian flights has dealt a devastating blow to Egypt's vital tourism industry. Britain, another major source of visitors, has since the Russian airliner's crash also suspended flights to Sharm el-Sheikh, a Red Sea resort in Sinai from which the Russian airliner took off shortly before it crashed.'Your Excellency: When will Russian tourism return to Egypt?' read the front-page banner headline in a Cairo daily loyal to the government, in both Arabic and Russian.There have been speculations that el-Sissi and Putin might during the visit finalize and announce a deal on the construction of the nuclear reactor on Egypt's Mediterranean coast after months of wrangling over technical and financial details.Egypt and Russia have already initialed an agreement for a $25 billion Russian loan to finance the construction.
  • Russian athletes are overwhelmingly in favor of competing at the upcoming Pyeongchang Games despite a ban on the national team, the country's Olympic committee said Monday.Sofia Velikaya said the Russian Olympic Committee's athletes' commission, which she chairs, has heard from 'all the athletes in all sports' on the Olympic program, with a majority in favor of competing.Velikaya said no athletes have told the ROC they would rather boycott.'At the current moment, everyone's training and everyone's hoping to take part in the Olympics,' Velikaya said.The International Olympic Committee last week barred the Russian team from Pyeongchang because of doping offenses at the 2014 Sochi Games, but is allowing Russians to compete under a neutral flag as 'Olympic Athletes from Russia.'Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the government won't stand in their way.ROC spokesman Konstantin Vybornov said teams from biathlon and snowboard had recorded videos affirming their desire to compete, while the men's hockey team has written 'a collective letter.'Some Russian hardliners believe it is shameful for athletes to compete at the Olympics without their national flag. But Velikaya defended the athletes, saying everyone watching will know who is from Russia.'The choice of competing at the Olympics is strictly individual,' Velikaya said. 'I call on Russian society to treat athletes' decisions with understanding and respect.'With the IOC due to send out invitations to individual Russians over the next two months, Velikaya said Russian sports officials would put together lists of their preferred teams. Those rosters, she said, would stop the IOC from inviting 'numbers five and six' in the Russian team while leaving out genuine medal contenders.Russia is pushing back against some IOC conditions, however, backing appeals by Russian athletes banned for doping at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.Velikaya also said her commission will ask the IOC to remove a condition stopping athletes from being invited to Pyeongchang if they have been suspended for doping in the past. That affects a few athletes with earlier offenses unconnected to the Sochi Olympics, including biathletes banned for using the blood-booster EPO and speedskating world champion Denis Yuskov, who was suspended in 2008 after testing positive for marijuana.Forcing the Russians to compete as neutral athletes puts the IOC in the uncomfortable position of regulating how they celebrate.The Russian flag won't be flown at medal ceremonies, but what happens if a Russian winner accepts a flag or a gift from a spectator for a victory lap? Can Russian athletes fly the flag from their windows in the athletes village? Those are on a list of questions Vybornov said Russia will ask of the IOC.'A figure skater wins, let's say, and they throw her a teddy bear in Russian uniform onto the ice,' Vybornov said. 'She picks it up. Can she do that? Or is that an offense?
  • Baby milk maker Lactalis and French authorities have ordered a global recall of millions of products over fears of salmonella bacteria contamination.The French company, one of the largest dairy groups in the world, said it has been warned by health authorities in France that 26 infants have become sick since Dec. 1.According to a list published on the French health ministry's website, the recall affects customers in countries around the world, including: Britain and Greece in Europe, Morocco and Sudan in Africa, Peru in South America and Pakistan, Bangladesh and China in Asia.Company spokesman Michel Nalet told The Associated Press on Monday that the 'precautionary' recall both in France and abroad affects 'several million' products made since mid-February.Lactalis said in a statement that the 26 cases of infection were linked to products called Picot SL, Pepti Junior 1, Milumel Bio 1 and Picot Riz.It said it is 'sincerely sorry for the concern generated by the situation and expresses its compassion and support to the families whose children fell ill.'The company said a possible source of the outbreak has been identified in a tower used to dry out the milk at a production site in May. Disinfection and cleaning measures have been put in place at the suspected site in western France.The health scare started earlier this month when Lactalis was told that 20 infants under six months of age had been diagnosed with salmonella infection. The company ordered a first recall that has been extended to more products at the request of French authorities following new cases of infections.Lactalis employs 75,000 people in 85 countries, with a turnover of 17 billion euros ($20 billion).The symptoms of salmonella infection include abdominal cramps, diarrhea and fever. Most people recover without treatment.
  • Venezuela's ruling socialists swept nearly all the races for mayors across the country, and President Nicolas Maduro is now threatening to ban key opposition parties from future elections in the oil-rich country wracked by economic crisis.Hundreds of supporters shouted 'Go Home, Donald Trump' to interrupt Maduro at a rally late Sunday in the colonial center of Caracas, where he announced that pro-government candidates grabbed more than 300 of the 335 mayoral offices.Sunday's voting marked the last nationwide elections before next year's presidential race when Maduro is expected to seek another term despite his steep unpopularity.'The imperialists have tried to set fire to Venezuela to take our riches,' Maduro told the crowd. 'We've defeated the American imperialists with our votes, our ideas, truths, reason and popular will.'The elections played out as Venezuelans struggle with triple-digit inflation, shortages of food and medicine, and charges that Maduro's government has undermined democracy by imprisoning dissidents and usurping the powers of the opposition-controlled National Assembly.Three of the four biggest opposition parties refused to take part in Sunday's contests, protesting what they called an electoral system rigged by a 'dictator.' The last time the opposition refused to compete in congressional elections in 2005 it strengthened the government's hand for years.After dropping his vote into the cardboard ballot box earlier in the day, Maduro responded to the boycott.'A party that has not participated today cannot participate anymore,' Maduro said. 'They will disappear from the political map.'This has been a turbulent year for Venezuela, which holds the world's largest oil reserves but has been battered by low crude prices and a crash in production. The country saw months of protests that left more than 120 dead earlier this year, and it is now facing U.S. economic sanctions as it seeks to refinance a huge international debt.The struggles have caused the president's approval rating to plunge, although the opposition has been largely unable to capitalize on Maduro's unpopularity.Maduro said the third electoral victory for the ruling party in little more than four months signaled that the socialist 'Chavista' revolution begun by the late President Hugo Chavez has defeated its opponents who are intent on sowing violence in the country.In a country of 30 million people, 9 million cast ballots — about half of eligible voters. Maduro's opponents on social media questioned the figures.The mayoral elections follow a crushing defeat of opposition candidates in October's gubernatorial elections, where anti-Maduro candidates won just five of 23 races amid allegations of official vote-buying and other irregularities.Given the opposition's disarray, political analysts said they doubted Maduro's opponents would be able to rally behind a single candidate in next year's presidential election.'These were absolutely predictable results,' local pollster Luis Vicente Leon said on Twitter. 'It's absurd to think that an abstaining political force can win the majority of mayorships.
  • Clashes have erupted between police and protesters in Spain's northeastern Catalan city of Lleida after a judicial ruling ordered the city's museum to return 44 pieces of religious art to the neighboring regional government of Aragon.Regional police cordoned off the area around Lleida Museum early Monday as technicians prepared to remove the disputed artwork.Several hundred people turned up to protest the transfer and there were brief scuffles and police baton charges as officers tried to move them further away from the museum.An Aragon provincial court had given till Monday for the museum to hand over the art — which was originally housed in the region's Sijena monastery — following a 2015 court ruling.Catalonia bought the art from nuns in 1983 but the court ruled the sale illegal.
  • Declaring a victory in Syria, Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday visited a Russian military air base in the country and announced a partial pullout of Russian forces from the Mideast nation.Putin's visit marks his first trip to Syria, drawing a symbolic line under the campaign that has shored up President Bashar Assad's government. It is also the first visit by a foreign head of state to war-ravaged Syria since its bloodletting started nearly seven years ago.Putin's brief stop at the Hemeimeem air base in Syria's coastal province of Latakia while on route to Egypt comes days after the Russian president declared his bid to run for re-election in the March 18 vote, helping encourage the feelings of pride about Russia's revived global clout and prestige.It also follows the Russian announcement last week that the Syrian army under the Russian air cover routed the Islamic State in eastern Syria and fully restored control over the border with Iraq.In a televised speech to the Russian troops at the base, the Russian leader hailed their valor.'You have shown the best qualities of a Russian soldier,' Putin said.The Hemeimeem base, in the heartland of Assad's Alawite minority, has served as the main foothold for the Russian military campaign in Syria.In a speech to the troops, Putin said that he had ordered the military to withdraw a 'significant part' of the Russian contingent in Syria.'Friends, the Motherland is waiting for you,' Putin said. He added that 'if the terrorists again raise their heads, we will deal such blows to them they have never seen.'Russian television stations showed Putin walking off the plane, embracing and shaking hands with Assad at the air base.Putin said that the Russian military will maintain their presence at the Hemeimeem air base and the naval facility in Tartus.Syrian TV said Assad thanked Putin for his troops' effective contribution to the fight against terrorism in Syria.Russia launched its air campaign in Syria at the end of September 2015 when Assad's government was teetering on the brink of collapse and quickly changed the course of the conflict in its favor.
  • British Prime Minister Theresa May says there is a new sense of optimism in the talks to secure Britain's departure from the European Union.May is set to address the House of Commons on Monday, updating lawmakers on the negotiations just days after hammering out a deal with the EU on the so-called divorce issues, including the Irish border and Britain's financial obligations. Brexit talks are now expected to move onto trade and security cooperation.But Britain's argument that nothing is settled until all is agreed upon is causing unease among other countries involved in the decision. Irish officials have rejected assertions that the deal is merely a 'statement of intent' rather than legally binding.The Irish government branded the view 'bizarre' and insisted that an agreement is binding.
  • An anti-corruption agency established in Ukraine two years ago was expected to be the driving force that would uproot the endemic graft that depleted the nation's resources and worried its Western allies.But the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine instead has come under fire from allies of President Petro Poroshenko who are trying to curtail its operations and authority.NABU chief Artem Sytnik told The Associated Press in a weekend interview that fear is behind the recent attempts by political and business elites to weaken the agency that was supposed to be a visible symbol of reform in Ukraine.'The old and new elites are quite scared' after realizing 'there are no untouchables anymore,' Sytnik said.Last month, the Security Service of Ukraine and the prosecutor general's office derailed a sting operation by undercover NABU agents to catch a State Migration Service official suspected of issuing passports and residence permits for bribes. The agencies accused NABU of illegal eavesdropping and released the names of its agents, blowing their covers.Poroshenko's faction and its allies in parliament also have submitted a bill that would allow lawmakers to fire the anti-corruption agency's director with a simple majority vote. Under current law, NABU's chief can only be fired for a criminal conviction, a provision that was intended to ensure independence.'Those attacks are directly linked to the fact that we investigate an increasing number of criminal cases involving people who are in control of the media, material or administrative resources, which they turn against us,' Sytnik said.Since its creation in 2015, NABU has investigated 461 cases involving business executives, government officials and judges accused of involvement in corrupt schemes.Sytnik thinks the current campaign against his agency results from a probe that targeted the son of Interior Minister Arsen Avakov for alleged involvement in a scheme to embezzle 14 million hryvnias (about $520,000) allocated for purchasing police rucksacks.Avakov has insisted his son was innocent and alleged that NABU of falling under political influence.International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde expressed concern about the recent developments 'that could roll back progress that has been made in setting up independent institutions to tackle high-level corruption, including the National Anti-Corruption Bureau.'Fighting corruption is a key demand of the Ukrainian society, is crucial to achieving stronger and equitable growth, and is part of the government's commitment under the program with the IMF,' Lagarde said in a statement last week.She urged the Ukrainian government and parliament to safeguard NABU's independence and to move quickly to set up an independent anti-corruption court 'to credibly adjudicate high-level corruption cases.'IMF made the establishment of a court where corruption cases could be prosecuted a condition for releasing further installments of a $17.5-billion aid package as Ukraine grapples with the separatist conflict in the east.In what was seen as another attempt to block anti-corruption efforts, lawmakers from Poroshenko's faction and their allies voted Thursday to dismiss the chairman of the anti-corruption committee in parliament.'The former and present corrupt elite have colluded,' the ousted committee head, Yegor Sobolev, said. 'Their plan is to break the independence of anti-corruption bodies, replace them with fake ones and stop the process of cleaning the government,' he added.Popular anger over corruption was a factor in months of protests that drove Ukraine's former Russia-leaning president from office in February 2014. Poroshenko's failure to oversee progress has caused growing impatience and triggered calls for his impeachment led by Mikheil Saakashvili, the former Georgia president turned Ukrainian opposition leader.After leading several rallies in Kiev, Saakashvili was arrested Friday on allegations that he colluded with Ukrainian businessmen tied to Russia to topple the president. Saakashvili scoffed at the charges, alleging they resulted from longtime hostility between him and Russian President Vladimir Putin.'The detention of Saakashvili shows how far Poroshenko is ready to go to muzzle his opponents and those who expose corruption,' Sobolev said.Thousands of Saakashvili's supporters marched across the Ukrainian capital Sunday, demanding his release and calling for Poroshenko to be impeached.'Poroshenko is continuing the worst traditions of the old nomenklatura,' said Vitaly Shabunin, the head of watchdog group the Center for Fighting Corruption. 'The same old elites, the same people have taken different political slogans, but their way of thinking and their goals have remained the same.