AP News in Brief at 12:04 a.m. EST


IS makes unusual claim of responsibility for Turkey attack

ISTANBUL (AP) — The Islamic State group on Monday made an unusual claim of responsibility for a major terrorist attack in Turkey, saying a “soldier of the caliphate” carried out the mass shooting at an Istanbul nightclub that killed 39 people as they welcomed the new year.

The group said Christian revelers were targeted in response to Turkish military operations against IS in northern Syria, but most of the dead were foreign tourists from Muslim countries.

The claim came after a recent IS propaganda video urged attacks on Turkey, which is home to an air base used in the U.S.-led effort against the group in Syria and Iraq.

Turkish authorities never confirmed the authenticity of the Dec. 22 video that purported to show Turkish soldiers who were burned alive, but access to social media was temporarily restricted in what appeared to be an effort to curb circulation of the footage.

The nightclub assailant, armed with a long-barreled weapon, killed a policeman and a civilian early Sunday outside the Reina club before entering and firing at some of the estimated 600 people inside. The establishment is frequented by famous locals, including singers, actors and athletes.

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House GOP votes to gut independent ethics office

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Republicans on Monday voted to eviscerate the Office of Congressional Ethics, the independent body created in 2008 to investigate allegations of misconduct by lawmakers after several bribery and corruption scandals sent members to prison.

The ethics change, which prompted an outcry from Democrats and government watchdog groups, is part of a rules package that the full House will vote on Tuesday. The package also includes a means for Republican leaders to punish lawmakers if there is a repeat of the Democratic sit-in last summer over gun control.

Under the ethics change pushed by Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., the non-partisan Office of Congressional Ethics would fall under the control of the House Ethics Committee, which is run by lawmakers. It would be known as the Office of Congressional Complaint Review, and the rule change would require that “any matter that may involve a violation of criminal law must be referred to the Committee on Ethics for potential referral to law enforcement agencies after an affirmative vote by the members,” according to Goodlatte’s office.

Lawmakers would have the final say under the change. House Republicans voted 119-74 for the Goodlatte measure despite arguments from Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., against the change. They failed to sway rank-and-file Republicans, some of whom have felt unfairly targeted by the OCE.

“The amendment builds upon and strengthens the existing Office of Congressional Ethics by maintaining its primary area of focus of accepting and reviewing complaints from the public and referring them, if appropriate, to the Committee on Ethics,” Goodlatte said in a statement.

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10 Things to Know for Tuesday

Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Tuesday:

1. TURKEY HUNTS FOR NIGHTCLUB GUNMAN

The Islamic State militant group says a “soldier of the caliphate” carried out the mass shooting that killed 39 people ringing in the new year in Istanbul.

2. ‘THIS EPIDEMIC HITS EVERYBODY’

Bruce Bandler, a federal prosecutor in Pa. who is fighting the opioid crisis, understands addiction’s toll because he lost his son to heroin.

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Storms kill 4, damage buildings across Southern states

A powerful storm system that moved across the South on Monday killed four people in Alabama and left a trail of damage over several states, officials said.

The line of severe thunderstorms spawned several possible tornadoes, and the threat continued into early Tuesday for southern Alabama, southwest Georgia and the Florida Panhandle.

Four people were killed Monday evening when a tree fell on their mobile home in Rehobeth, Alabama, said Kris Ware, a spokeswoman for the Dothan Houston County Emergency Management Agency.

The National Weather Service had issued a tornado warning for Houston County in the southern part of the state Monday evening. Local media outlets reported that emergency officials advised residents to stay in their homes and assess damage in the morning.

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley said in a statement on social media that the Houston County sheriff had told him about the deaths and he offered “prayers for those impacted.”

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IS suicide bomber kills 36 in Baghdad market

BAGHDAD (AP) — A suicide bomber driving a pickup loaded with explosives struck a bustling market in Baghdad on Monday, killing at least 36 people in an attack claimed by the Islamic State group hours after French President Francois Hollande arrived in the Iraqi capital.

The bomb went off in a fruit and vegetable market that was packed with day laborers, a police officer said, adding that another 52 people were wounded.

During a press conference with Hollande, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said the bomber pretended to be a man seeking to hire day laborers. Once the workers gathered around, he detonated the vehicle.

IS claimed the attack in a statement circulated on a militant website often used by the extremists. It was the third IS-claimed attack in as many days in and around Baghdad, underscoring the lingering threat posed by the group despite a string of setbacks elsewhere in the country over the past year, including in and around the northern city of Mosul.

The attack took place in Sadr City, a vast Shiite district in eastern Baghdad that has been repeatedly targeted by Sunni extremists since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

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With Roof as his own lawyer, sentencing to begin in slayings

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — After a judge ruled Monday that Dylann Roof is competent to represent himself, the same jury that last month unanimously found him guilty in the slayings of nine black parishioners at a South Carolina church will return to court to begin contemplating his punishment.

With the 22-year-old representing himself, the process is sure to be unconventional. But even if Roof is sentenced to death, it’s highly unlikely he’d be executed anytime soon.

While prosecutors plan to call up to 38 people related to the nine people killed and three who survived the June 2015 slaughter during Bible study at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, Roof said last week he plans on calling no witnesses and presenting no evidence.

Roof was found guilty last month on 33 federal charges, including hate crimes and obstruction of the practice of religion. A jury took less than three hours to return its verdict, and a judge dismissed the jury for a break over the holidays.

Typically in what’s known as the sentencing phase, defense attorneys call relatives and other witnesses to testify about their client’s unsteady state of mind before and during the crimes. Given that background, the defense hopes, a jury might be more likely to spare the defendant’s life and opt against the death penalty.

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Under 3 weeks left: Obama in closing stretch of presidency

WASHINGTON (AP) — His last vacation behind him, President Barack Obama is entering the closing stretch of his presidency, an eleventh-hour push to tie up loose ends and put finishing touches on his legacy before handing the reins to President-elect Donald Trump.

Obama returned to Washington midday Monday from Hawaii with less than three weeks left. His final days will largely be consumed by a bid to protect his endangered health care law, a major farewell speech and the ongoing handover of power to Trump.

In an email to supporters on Monday, Obama said his valedictory speech on Jan. 10 follows a tradition set in 1796 when the first president, George Washington, spoke to the American people for the last time in office. The speech will take place at McCormick Place, a giant convention center in Obama’s hometown of Chicago.

“I’m thinking about them as a chance to say thank you for this amazing journey, to celebrate the ways you’ve changed this country for the better these past eight years, and to offer some thoughts on where we all go from here,” Obama said.

Obama’s chief speechwriter, Cody Keenan, traveled with Obama to Hawaii and spent much of the trip working on the speech. The Chicago trip will likely be Obama’s last outside Washington as president and will be include a “family reunion” for Obama’s former campaign staffers.

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Medicare launches revamp for heart attacks, hip fractures

WASHINGTON (AP) — Heart attacks and broken hips cause much suffering and worry as people grow older. This year, Medicare wants to start changing how it pays for treatment of these life-threatening conditions, to promote quality and contain costs. Beneficiaries and family members may notice a new approach.

Hospitals and doctors in dozens of communities selected for large-scale experiments on this front are already gearing up. The goal is to test the notion that better coordination among clinicians, hospitals, and rehab centers can head off complications, prevent avoidable hospital re-admissions and help patients achieve more stable and enduring recoveries. If results back that up, Medicare can adopt the changes nationwide.

The cardiac and hip fracture experiments are the latest development in a big push under the Obama administration to reinvent Medicare, steering the program away from paying piecemeal for services, regardless of quality and cost. It’s unclear whether Donald Trump as president will continue the pace of change, slow down or even hit pause.

Trump’s Health and Human Services nominee, orthopedic-surgeon-turned-congressman Tom Price, has expressed general concern that the doctor-patient relationship could be harmed by Medicare payment changes seeking to contain costs. And the Medicare division that designed the experiments — the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation — is itself under threat of being abolished because it was created by President Barack Obama’s 2010 health care law.

Some outside groups, including AARP, worry that Medicare may be moving too fast and that focusing on cost containment could lead to beneficiaries being shortchanged on rehab care.

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Cruel bully or modern-day Wyatt Earp? Sheriff’s mixed legacy

PHOENIX (AP) — The full-throated bravado that made Sheriff Joe Arpaio a household name in debates over illegal immigration and the treatment of jail inmates was missing as he started his last news conference in a law enforcement career that spanned a half-century.

After being charged with a crime and booted from office by voters, the 84-year-old Arpaio looked tired and dispirited as he defended his investigation of President Barack Obama’s birth certificate — a debunked controversy that critics say Arpaio exploited to raise funds from his supporters.

The sheriff mispronounced several words as he attacked the birth record of the president he blames for his political demise. The media-savvy lawman ended the news conference by uncharacteristically declining to mix it up with reporters about the credibility of the five-year Obama investigation by his volunteer posse.

He told his 75 supporters in the room that the investigation wasn’t about whether Obama was born in the U.S. and instead focused on a claim that the birth certificate was fraudulent.

“This is tough for me to say — believe me, all of you media know me,” Arpaio said. “Sometimes I get diarrhea of the mouth. But I am going to tell you, we are not going to answer any questions. There is more sensitive information that we have regarding this matter, and I am not going into it.”

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USC hits FG at gun, beats Penn State 52-49 in epic Rose Bowl

PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — After 98 combined points and 1,040 yards of spectacular offensive play, the highest-scoring Rose Bowl in history rested on the left foot of a Southern California kicker who had already missed two field goals.

Matt Boermeester somehow blocked out the cacophonous tension in the chilly air. He focused only on securing a perfect ending to an epic evening.

“Game was on the line, but you’ve got to keep true to your technique and trust it,” Boermeester said.

His technique was sound. His kick was true. And the Trojans got their storybook finish in Pasadena.

Boermeester hit a 46-yard field goal as time expired , and No. 9 USC rallied from a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter for a 52-49 victory over No. 5 Penn State on Monday night in the 103rd edition of the Granddaddy of Them All.

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