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WORLD NEWS BRIEFS, DEC.11 – Sexual misconduct in hospitality industry; massive California fire; health insurance price hike; more

In this 2017 photo provided by Beba Rodriguez, Beba's mother, Ana Quincoces, sits at a friend's dining room table in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. Quincoces, a Miami-based attorney and entrepreneur who owns her own food line, says her business and its success involves working mostly with men, and sales and other activities are often concluded over lunch or drinks. Those opportunities, she says, are dwindling, because many of the men she knows through her business "are terrified." Some men see a simple strategy for stemming sexual harassment at work: Just avoid one-on-one interactions with women. (©Beba Rodriguez via AP)
In this 2017 photo provided by Beba Rodriguez, Beba's mother, Ana Quincoces, sits at a friend's dining room table in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. Quincoces, a Miami-based attorney and entrepreneur who owns her own food line, says her business and its success involves working mostly with men, and sales and other activities are often concluded over lunch or drinks. Those opportunities, she says, are dwindling, because many of the men she knows through her business

Sexual misconduct often part of the job in hospitality work

CHICAGO (AP) - One woman recalls how a general manager at a Chicago-area restaurant where she worked told her that if security cameras recorded him reaching between her legs and grabbing her genitals, he could simply “edit that out.”

Another woman worked at an Atlanta restaurant and says her boss did nothing when two dishwashers kept making vulgar comments, so she quit wearing makeup to look less attractive and hopefully end the verbal abuse.

In the wake of sexual misconduct allegations against several prominent men in entertainment, politics and journalism, accounts like the ones these women share quietly play out in restaurants, bars and hotels across the country and rarely get the headlines.

Court documents and interviews with the women and experts on the topic show hospitality industry workers are routinely subjected to sexual abuse and harassment from bosses, co-workers and customers that are largely unchecked. The nature of the work, which often has employees relying on tips, can make them especially vulnerable to abuse.

“I was absolutely humiliated,” said Sharonda Fields, who said the abuse at the Atlanta restaurant began shortly after she started working there last year. “It was degrading. I felt embarrassed. I felt low. I just felt like nothing happened when those guys talked to me that way, and especially when the staff and the managers knew what was going on. It made me feel like dirt.”

New evacuations as huge Southern California fire flares up

LOS ANGELES (AP) - A powerful flare-up on the western edge of Southern California's largest and most destructive wildfire sent residents fleeing Sunday, as wind-fanned flames churned through old-growth brush in canyons and along hillsides toward coastal towns.

Crews with help from a fleet water-dropping planes and helicopters saved homes as unpredictable gusts sent the blaze deeper into residential foothill areas northwest of Los Angeles that haven't burned in decades. New evacuations were ordered as the fire sent up an enormous plume near Montecito and Carpinteria, seaside areas in Santa Barbara County that had been under fire threat for days and were now choked with smoke.

“The winds are kind of squirrely right now,” said county fire spokesman Mike Eliason. “Some places the smoke is going straight up in the air, and others it's blowing sideways. Depends on what canyon we're in.”

The department posted a photo of one residence engulfed in flames. It's unclear whether other structures burned. Thousands of homes and businesses in the county were without power.

The air thick with acrid smoke, even residents of areas not under evacuation orders took the opportunity to leave, fearing another shutdown of U.S. 101, a key coastal highway that was closed intermittently last week. Officials handed out masks to residents who stayed behind in Montecito, the wealthy hillside enclave that's home to celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey, Jeff Bridges and Rob Lowe.

Price hikes push health insurance shoppers into hard choices

Margaret Leatherwood has eight choices for health insurance next year but no good options.

The cheapest individual coverage available in her market would eat up nearly a quarter of the income her husband brings home from the oilfields.

The Bryson, Texas, couple makes too much to qualify for Affordable Care Act tax credits that help people buy coverage. But they don't make enough to comfortably afford insurance on their own, even though Paul Leatherwood works seven days a week.

“I hate to put it like this, but it sucks,” said Margaret Leatherwood, who stays at home and takes care of her grandchildren.

This largely middle-class crowd of shoppers is struggling to stay insured. They've weathered years of price hikes and shrinking insurance choices with no help. Faced with more price increases for next year, they're mulling options outside insurance or skipping coverage entirely - a decision that could lead to a fine for remaining uninsured and huge bills if an emergency hits.

After allegations, Moore avoids spotlight, questions

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - Republican U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore has been a rare sight on the traditional campaign trail in the days ahead of a critical U.S. Senate race. He's appeared at only a handful of rallies in front of friendly audiences and steadfastly has shunned reporters from the mainstream media.

Moore's past campaigns have never been heavy on the conventional, but his relative absence from the spotlight this time around is nearly unheard of for a major party candidate.

Moore has focused on meeting with small groups of supporters and an aggressive social media campaign out of camera range as he tries to win Tuesday's election against Democrat Doug Jones - a contest that was supposed to be an easy GOP victory - until November, when a number of women stepped forward to accuse Moore of engaging in sexual misconduct when he was in his 30s and they were teenagers.

Moore has denied the allegations and refuses to back down.

Moore's stealth effort has left Jones resorting to mockery as the Democrat crisscrosses the state trying to pull an upset in Tuesday's special election, buoyed by the possibility that enough Republicans will abandon the 70-year-old Moore in the wake of the allegations.

Firm convictions, uneasiness at churches before Senate race

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) - Alabama's race for U.S. Senate settled into church for worship on Sunday, with the minister at a historic black congregation calling the race a life-or-death matter for equal rights, conservatives standing by Republican Roy Moore and others feeling unsettled in the middle.

Speaking at Birmingham's 16th Street Baptist Church, where four black girls died in a Ku Klux Klan bombing in 1963, the Rev. Arthur Price evoked the civil rights era between hymns. Democratic nominee Doug Jones prosecuted the last two Klansmen convicted in the attack and has attended events at the church, a downtown landmark with twin domed towers.

“There's too much at stake for us to stay home,” Price said of Tuesday's election. He didn't endorse Jones from the pulpit but in a later interview called the candidate “a hero” to the congregation and Birmingham.

Despite allegations of sexual misconduct involving teen girls decades ago, Moore isn't being abandoned by worshippers at Montgomery's Perry Hill Road Baptist Church, where Moore spoke at a “God and Country” rally in September before the accusations arose.

Leaving the red-brick building after a service that ended with a hymn and an altar call, Kevin Mims said he didn't believe the claims against Moore. But even if true, he said, they occurred long ago, and Moore is a conservative who stands “on the word of God.”

Bitcoin futures rise as virtual currency hits major exchange

CHICAGO (AP) - The first-ever bitcoin future jumped after it began trading Sunday as the increasingly popular virtual currency made its debut on a major U.S. exchange.

The futures contract that expires in January surged more than $3,000 to $18,010 four hours after trading launched on the Chicago Board Options Exchange. The contract opened at $15,000, according to data from the CBOE.

The CBOE futures don't involve actual bitcoin. They're securities that will track the price of bitcoin on Gemini, one of the larger bitcoin exchanges.

The start of trading at 5 p.m. CST overwhelmed the CBOE website. “Due to heavy traffic on our website, visitors to www.cboe.com may find that it is performing slower than usual and may at times be temporarily unavailable,” the exchange said in a statement. But it said the trading in the futures had not been disrupted.

Another large futures exchange, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, will start trading its own futures on Dec. 18 but will use a composite of several bitcoin prices across a handful of exchanges.

AP-NewsBreak: Files show birth of Papua independence struggle

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) - Prominent Papuans pleaded for the U.S. to give them money and arms in the mid-1960s to fight Indonesia's colonization of their vast remote territory, according to recently declassified American files that show the birth of an independence struggle that endures half a century later.

The documents add to the historical evidence of deep Papuan grievances against Indonesia at a time when clashes between rebels and Indonesian security forces have flared in the impoverished region and Papuan nationalists have succeeded in drawing more attention to their cause at the United Nations. Indonesia's defence minister said last week that activists who attended a recent pro-Papuan independence meeting in Vanuatu should be arrested on return to Indonesia.

The files are among the thousands of pages of cables between the State Department and the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta from the 1960s that were declassified earlier this year. The 37 boxes of telegrams are stored at the National Archives and Records Administration in Maryland and researchers are working on making them available online.

Papua, which makes up the western half of the giant island of New Guinea, remained in Dutch hands after Indonesia shook off colonial rule at the end of World War II. Many Indonesians saw their government's campaign in the early 1960s to take Papua from the Dutch as the final victory in their struggle for independence. But to Papuans, with a Melanesian culture and history distinct from Southeast Asia, Indonesia was a hostile colonizer.

The rest of the world looked away as a rigged vote of a little more than 1,000 hand-picked and closely managed Papuans cemented Indonesia's control in 1969. The Netherlands, which before annexation was preparing Papua for self-rule, did not object. The U.S., which in 1967 helped American mining company Freeport secure rights to exploit rich copper and gold deposits in Papua, did not want to upset a status quo favourable for U.S. business or destabilize Indonesia's pro-U.S. government.

Tigertown: Morris, Trammell elected to baseball Hall of Fame

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) - Fittingly, Jack Morris reached the Hall of Fame in extra innings.

Morris was elected to the Hall by its Modern Era committee on Sunday along with former Detroit Tigers teammate Alan Trammell, completing a joint journey from Motown to Cooperstown.

The big-game pitcher and star shortstop were picked by 16 voters who considered 10 candidates whose biggest contributions came from 1970-87. Morris got 14 votes and Trammell drew 13, one more than the minimum needed.

They will be enshrined on July 29, and fitting they'll go in together. They both began their big league careers in 1977 with Detroit and played 13 seasons alongside each other with the Tigers.

“The time that I've spent wondering if this day would ever come seems to be vanished and erased right now because it did come, and it's amazing,” the 62-year-old Morris said during a conference call.

Teams can lock up as many as 5 playoff berths in Week 14

As many as five playoff berths can be locked up Sunday, and New England can clinch before taking the field Monday night.

A Buffalo loss or tie against the Colts on Sunday clinches the AFC East for the Patriots, while New England can clinch Monday night by beating Miami if the Bills win.

Pittsburgh clinches a berth with a Buffalo loss or tie, though the Steelers need to tie or beat Baltimore to win the AFC North.

Philadelphia could clinch the NFC East if Dallas ties or loses to the Giants before the Eagles take the field in Los Angeles.

Minnesota can win the NFC North by beating Carolina or if Detroit and Green Bay both tie.

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