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Israel's Netanyahu mired in series of corruption allegations

Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu might be upbeat these days: The economy is growing, his opposition is weak and the incoming Trump administration seems friendly, even to the much-maligned Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Instead, the long-serving leader is mired in a series of eye-popping corruption investigations in a country that has already jailed a prime minister and president.

Police have interrogated Netanyahu several times "under caution" over questionable ties to top executives in media, international business and Hollywood, whipping up a sense that he might actually be driven from office. The latest scandal, involving secret negotiations with the publisher of a critical newspaper, is proving especially embarrassing.

The transcripts of Netanyahu's taped negotiations with his supposed arch-nemesis, media mogul Arnon Mozes of the Yediot Ahronot newspaper group, have dominated the national agenda in recent weeks. Netanyahu allegedly promised to promote legislation that would weaken Yediot's main competitor in exchange for more favorable coverage.

It follows previous allegations that Netanyahu improperly accepted lavish gifts from wealthy supporters — including Australian billionaire James Packer and Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan — and that his personal attorney, who is also a cousin, represented a German firm involved in a controversial $1.5 billion sale of submarines to Israel.

These follow previous repeated claims that his wife Sara misused state funds for personal use, compounding a public image of Israel's first family as detached hedonists corrupted by years in power.

Netanyahu has repeatedly denied wrongdoing, portraying the accusations as a witch hunt against him and his family by a hostile media. Despite his impressive total of 11 years in office over two periods, Netanyahu has found himself at frequent loggerheads with much of the country's establishment, including lately the security leadership.

"In recent days, there is an unprecedented, orchestrated media campaign to topple the Likud government that I lead. This propaganda campaign is aimed at pressuring the attorney general and others in the state prosecution to indict me," he posted on Facebook.

Cabinet ministers must resign if indicted. But Israeli law is murkier when it comes to prime ministers, and Netanyahu has given no indication that he would step down in such a case.

The government of Netanyahu's predecessor, Ehud Olmert, fell apart before he was indicted and ultimately imprisoned on corruption charges. Former President Moshe Katsav, who just completed a five-year sentence for rape and other sex crimes, also was forced to step down before he was indicted.

Regardless of whether Netanyahu's actions prove criminal, opposition leader Isaac Herzog said they posed a "serious breach of trust between the government and its citizens."

Most of the attention has focused on Netanyahu's reported jockeying with Mozes in 2014 over how to rein in Israel Hayom — a free daily financed by Netanyahu's billionaire friend Sheldon Adelson that largely serves as Netanyahu's mouthpiece and has damaged Yediot financially.

The payoff, allegedly, would be Yediot flipping its editorial line in favor of Netanyahu. The talks ultimately led nowhere. This week, Netanyahu confirmed for the first time that he called an early election in 2015 to block legislation aimed at curtailing Israel Hayom's distribution by forcing it to charge a newsstand fee.

Netanyahu has since appointed himself communications minister, making him responsible for media regulation, and ordered coalition partners not to float any media-related bills without his approval.

The leaks have also raised questions about the journalistic integrity of Yediot, which has gone into damage control mode even as some of its own columnists have called on Mozes to step down. Mozes has been questioned several times by police and hasn't commented publicly.

It is not clear whether a crime was committed, and the other allegations may ultimately prove more serious.

The Netanyahus are said to have received more than $100,000 worth of cigars and liquor from Milchan. Packer has reportedly lavished Netanyahu's college-aged son, Yair, with gifts that included extended stays at luxury hotels in Tel Aviv, New York and Aspen, Colorado, as well as the use of his private jet and dozens of tickets for concerts by Packer's former fiancee, Mariah Carey.

On Tuesday night, Yair was reportedly being questioned by police.

Police are trying to determine whether these constitute bribes, since Packer is reportedly seeking Israeli residency status for tax purposes and Milchan reportedly asked Netanyahu to press the U.S. secretary of state in a visa matter. Israel's Interior Ministry would not comment on Packer's status, and a representative for Milchan did not respond to requests for comment.

None of Netanyahu's coalition partners have come out against him. Cabinet Minister Tzachi Hanegbi, a close associate, said the Likud party was strongly behind its leader and no one was even considering making a run to replace him.

"It doesn't seem to me, in a superficial observation, to be something corrupt or criminal," he said.

But the saga has put a damper on Netanyahu's joy over the arrival of Donald Trump, after eight years of testy ties with President Barack Obama. In a possible sign of trouble, Netanyahu last week suddenly canceled a trip to the World Economic Forum in Switzerland. Aides say there are no plans to attend Trump's inauguration, despite reports that he was invited.

Trump looks to be a far more comfortable fit for Netanyahu and his nationalist coalition. He's appointed a Jewish-American lawyer with close ties to the settlement movement as his ambassador to Israel and vowed to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem — fulfilling a longtime Israeli wish.

Appearing to take a page out of the Trump playbook, Netanyahu has increasingly been attacking the press and taking to social media.

Opposition lawmaker Erel Margalit, who has been leading the calls to investigate Netanyahu, said his conduct over time makes him unfit to serve.

"Netanyahu is finished. It may take several more months but we need to start preparing for the next generation," he said.

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Follow Heller on Twitter at www.twitter.com/aronhellerap

Patricia Cornwell settles lawsuit against financial advisers

Patricia Cornwell has settled a lawsuit against her former business managers, avoiding a second trial for a case that dates to 2009.

The author had claimed the New York accounting firm Anchin, Block & Anchin LLP was negligent in handling her finances and cost her millions in losses or unaccounted-for revenue. A federal jury awarded the author $51 million in 2013, but a judge reversed the decision.

An appeals court last year granted Cornwell a new trial. The case was dismissed Tuesday after the sides reached a settlement.

Cornwell is best known for her series of novels featuring medical examiner Kay Scarpetta.

She declined to comment through a spokeswoman and didn't detail the settlement. An Anchin spokesman could not immediately be reached.

Patricia Cornwell settles lawsuit against financial advisers

Patricia Cornwell has settled a lawsuit against her former business managers, avoiding a second trial for a case that dates to 2009.

The author had claimed the New York accounting firm Anchin, Block & Anchin LLP was negligent in handling her finances and cost her millions in losses or unaccounted-for revenue. A federal jury awarded the author $51 million in 2013, but a judge reversed the decision.

An appeals court last year granted Cornwell a new trial. The case was dismissed Tuesday after the sides reached a settlement.

Cornwell is best known for her series of novels featuring medical examiner Kay Scarpetta.

She declined to comment through a spokeswoman and didn't detail the settlement. An Anchin spokesman could not immediately be reached.

Katherine Heigl announces birth of baby boy, Joshua Bishop

Katherine Heigl has given birth to a baby boy.

A representative for the Heigl tells People magazine the actress and husband Josh Kelley welcomed Joshua Bishop Kelley, Jr. on Dec. 20. Joshua is the couple's first son and Heigl's first biological child. She has two adopted daughters, 4-year-old Adalaide and 8-year-old Naleigh.

Heigl said she and Kelley were "full of high hopes and bubbling anticipation" when announcing the pregnancy in June.

The 38-year-old Heigl shot to stardom on the ABC hit "Grey's Anatomy" and in movies like "Knocked Up" and "27 Dresses."

She's currently set to play a defense lawyer in the upcoming CBS drama, "Doubt," which premieres next month.

CNN's documentary 'The End' tracks end of Obama presidency

Less than 48 hours before President Barack Obama leaves office, CNN will air an intimate tribute told through the workdays and accounts of key White House staff members.

          But however worthy it may be, this two-hour documentary, airing Wednesday at 9 p.m. EST, may face a wary reception.

          For those who have disagreed with Obama's policies and even questioned his citizenship the past eight years, this film is unlikely at such a late date to stir a reappraisal of his legacy or character.

         Meanwhile, for others, the film will be yet another painful reminder of what will soon be over and what might have been.

         Presumably without meaning to plumb the depths of despair gripping Obama's supporters, the program strikes an elegiac chord with its title: "The End: Inside the Last Days of the Obama White House."

         Spanning the past two months, "The End" ends, fittingly, with Obama's farewell address last week in Chicago.

         It begins on election day, as Hillary Clinton's electoral-college defeat by Donald Trump is received at the White House with shock and grief.

         But then we see Obama bucking up his thunderstruck staff.

         "Everybody is sad when their side loses an election," the president says. "But we all have to remember we're all on one team."

           Chief speechwriter Cody Keenan, one of the figures followed through the documentary, crafted the president's magnanimous remarks. In his windowless office in the White House basement, he concedes those words are "obviously not the ones I wanted to be writing."

           Another recurring character, press secretary Josh Earnest, gathers his crew to prep for a news conference as they scramble for grounding in the flood of events.

           "Just don't look at Twitter," cracks one of his fellow writers and they all laugh.

           Nothing in particular is cited from the tweets Trump has made part of his routine.

           "That's a good rule for life," Earnest replies instead.

           Along with tying up the many loose ends of Obama's presidency, these busy last weeks are devoted to arranging an efficient, secure handoff to his successor.

           "Our job is to turn it over to them in as good a shape as possible," says Obama senior adviser Valerie Jarrett. (All agree that the transition team of President George W. Bush set a high standard for cooperation and comity that the Obama administration aspires to meet as it vacates.)

        But there are other, less weighty tasks. Keenan and his staff must hatch a collection of puns for Obama's eighth annual pardoning of the Thanksgiving turkeys (the Chief Executive can't be expected to wing it).

         Then, in a welcome antic moment, the fortunate fowl — Tater and Tot — are seen prior to the ceremony in their luxe DC accommodations: a suite at the Willard Intercontinental hotel.

         As the days count down, the film's participants reflect on what they've experienced in bittersweet terms.

         Keenan recalls the nation's crisis state in 2009 when Obama took office. He confides that many White House newbies were alarmed.

         "The president was the one with the cool head who told us all, 'Read some FDR (whose administration confronted the Great Depression and World War II, among other challenges). See what he told people when it was bleak and when they were scared.'"

         Counting their victories, the film's subjects note with pride the Affordable Care Act — and think back on the brawl that nearly derailed it.

         "What I learned," says Jarrett, "was how willing people in this town were to put their short-term political interests far ahead of what's good for the country."

         Of course, even as this show premieres, the President-elect and other foes of Obama's health care law are already rallied as never before to carry out their vendetta.

         Little wonder that "The End," despite its good intentions, will strike some of its viewers as being less about the Obama era it recognizes than about the two-month run-up to a change they dread that starts with Friday's swearing-in.

          For those viewers, "The End" spells the end of the Obama presidency, and the end of so much more.

          _____

EDITOR'S NOTE — Frazier Moore is a national television columnist for The Associated Press. He can be reached at fmoore@ap.org and at http://www.twitter.com/tvfrazier. Past stories are available at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/frazier-moore

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Online:

http://www.cnn.com/shows/last-days-of-the-obama-white-house

Armani as furry wrapper-in-chief for Milan menswear season

There have been lots of warm fuzzies on the Milan runway this season: shaggy fur, furry footwear, thick knits, big gloves, droopy caps, face-framing neck-warmers. All useful for hunkering down in turbulent times.

Four days of menswear previews for next winter and fall at Milan Fashion Week ended Tuesday with a focus on soft tailoring and comfortable looks.

Blazers tended to be long, and paired with loose-fitting trousers. Overcoats, if not furry, had fur collars. Shoes had big soles with fresh detailing like rubberized studs or built-in socks, but most of all tufts of adorable fur.

There was a nostalgic return to homey knitted gloves and caps. Designers also opted for a rough look with half-finished accents, big embroidery and some deconstruction. Bags were big, ready for a quick get-away. Colors tended toward deeper urban shades of gray and black, with flashes of white, and some designers opted for color blocks.

Some highlights from the final day of Milan Fashion Week, which included previews by three Asian designers supported by the National Italian Fashion Chamber:

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ARMANI IS WRAPPER-IN-CHIEF

Giorgio Armani was the first among wrappers this menswear season.

Armani defined the silhouette of his easy tailored looks with a novelty: sleeve scarves that warm the arms and wrap across the chest. Armani opted for a generous variety, from fine knits in prints or contrast colors for sunny days when an overcoat might be too much, to chunkier furry versions.

The designer also brought back the tie and three-piece dressing for day, in soothing charcoals with a dark velvet double-breasted vest for a dandy look, finished with a narrow-brimmed Trilby hat.

Masculinity was projected in geometric patterns including triangular blocks on zip-up hoodies and softer alpaca pullovers. Hiking boots completed many looks and bags included satchels and doctor bags.

For truly cold days, there were large hooded coats and shaggy furs.

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MILAN WELCOMES A NEW GENERATION

Giorgio Armani continued a recent tradition of inviting up-and-coming designers to preview their collections in his theater. He has helped launched the likes of Stella Jean, Andrea Pompilio and Au Jour Le Jour in recent seasons.

This round, the choices were all Asian designers, which the head of the Italian fashion chamber, Carlo Capasa, said was deliberate.

"We wanted to give a sign of internationality, " Capasa said. "Milan Fashion Week is an open week. We wanted to capture the energy from wherever it comes."

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SILHOUETTE PLAYS FOR YOSHIO KUBO

Yoshio Kubo's manifesto was spare on the page: "I always focus on new details for outfits. I try to see outfits from different angles. I make a story for each season, which people never imagine."

The U.S.-trained designer, who has based his eponymous yoshiokubo line in Tokyo, gave the collection an East-meet-West feel, playing with layers and volumes and deconstructing familiar codes.

"I destroy the silhouette," Kubo said backstage.

The looks would suit any self-respecting rocker. Kimono-style jackets are paired with drop-crotch trousers, while Western blazers are deconstructed by unzipping the shoulders, letting them slouch down shawl-like. Patchworks of white bandana patterns on black leather had a tattoo effect, reflected also in the temporary tattoos on some models' necks.

The 42-year-old Japanese designer worked as an assistant designer for haute couture house Robert Denes in New York after graduating from Philadelphia University's school of textile and science.

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BUCOLIC STORYBOOK LOOKS FOR MOTO GUO

Malaysian designer Moto Guo was the first to concede that the Armani theater was not used to such "crazy" looks.

The 26-year-old designer's collection looked like it walked out of a 1960s grammar school reader, with graphic lines, exaggerated details and soft shades alternating with garish patterns.

The show was built around the bucolic fashion story of a Japanese boy, depicted as a fanciful documentary about his life with an American voiceover.

"You see how he styles himself, what is his wardrobe," the designer said backstage. "Sometimes you understand. Sometimes you have to guess."

Exaggerated proportions defined the collection, including a huge rounded tie with zigzag detailing, jackets with mismatched external pockets and felt beanies in primary colors, some with propellers.

The final look featured a jacket with stiff, oversized arms that appeared fashioned from striped mattress pads.

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A WINTER RAWNESS IN MILAN

The Chinese label Consistence is keeping it raw for fashionable men next winter and fall.

Designers Fang Fang and Tien Lu base their brand in London, and their motto is balancing the casual and the formal.

The designers played with deconstruction. Suits featured what appeared to be a tailor's basting stitching, and sewn-in pockets were external, not internal. White shirts incorporated dark jacket sleeves, and rough frenetic stitching on shirts and blazers suggested a seamstress had let herself go to a rock music soundtrack.

Jackets were missing lapels, which turned up, on their own, as scarves. Belted straps worked as apulets or trailed off arms and backs. A sporty two-tone fur sweatshirt and bomber jacket ensured the label's luxury credentials.

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Follow Colleen Barry on Twitter at https://twitter.com/collbarry

AP FACT CHECK: TV personality Sherri Shepherd isn't dead

The story posted by headlinennews.com uses the circumstances surrounding "Star Wars" actress Carrie Fisher's death in falsely reporting Shepherd's passing. It claims Shepherd suffered a heart attack on a flight from London to Los Angeles on Dec. 23 and died later at a hospital.

But it was Fisher who suffered a heart attack on a London-to-L.A. flight on Dec. 23. She died Dec. 27.

Shepherd has posted several live videos on social media since Dec. 23 in which she discussed current events, including one taken at comedian Ricky Harris' Jan. 5 funeral.

The story also falsely states that Shepherd starred in the movies "The Help" and "Fruitvale Station" and includes photographs of Octavia Spencer, the actress who actually did star in those films.

Shepherd is best known for her work as a co-host on "The View" and her role in the 2009 film "Precious."

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This story is part of an ongoing Associated Press effort to fact-check claims in suspected false news stories.

'Aladdin' star James Monroe Iglehart switches to 'Hamilton'

Tony Award-winner James Monroe Iglehart is trading in his genie bottle for a place in American history onstage.

Iglehart, the star of "Aladdin" on Broadway, will join "Hamilton" in the dual roles of Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson starting in mid-April. It's the joint role Daveed Diggs won a Tony in last year.

Iglehart made his Broadway debut in "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" and originated the role of Bobby in "Memphis" on Broadway before taking over the role of Genie in the "Aladdin" musical. Robin Williams voiced that role in the 1992 animated movie.

Major Attaway, the current Genie standby in the Broadway company, will take over for Iglehart starting Feb. 21.

'Aladdin' star James Monroe Iglehart switches to 'Hamilton'

Tony Award-winner James Monroe Iglehart is trading in his genie bottle for a place in American history onstage.

Iglehart, the star of "Aladdin" on Broadway, will join "Hamilton" in the dual roles of Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson starting in mid-April. It's the joint role Daveed Diggs won a Tony in last year.

Iglehart made his Broadway debut in "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" and originated the role of Bobby in "Memphis" on Broadway before taking over the role of Genie in the "Aladdin" musical. Robin Williams voiced that role in the 1992 animated movie.

Major Attaway, the current Genie standby in the Broadway company, will take over for Iglehart starting Feb. 21.

Steve Harvey sorry for jokes about Asian men

Steve Harvey has apologized for "offending anyone" with jokes targeting Asian men during his syndicated television chat show earlier this month.

Harvey mocked a 2002 book titled, "How to Date a White Woman: A Practical Guide for Asian Men" during an episode aired on Jan. 6. He joked that neither white nor black women had any interest in Asian men.

In a message posted on Twitter on Tuesday , Harvey offered his "humblest apology for offending anyone, particularly those in the Asian community." He says the jokes were meant to be humorous and no "malice or disrespect" was intended.

The comments prompted Asian-American author and restaurateur Eddie Huang to write an op-ed for The New York Times last week titled, "Hey, Steve Harvey, Who Says I Might Not Steal Your Girl?"

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