AP Top News at 3:40 a.m. EST

30 missing in central Italy avalanche that buries hotel
MILAN (AP) - An avalanche buried a mountain hotel in an earthquake-hit region of central Italy, leaving at least 30 people missing, authorities said Thursday. The civil protection agency said that they were working to get rescue vehicles to the Hotel Rigopiano through roads covered in snow, joining initial rescue efforts overnight by alpine rescue teams. The news agency ANSA quoted a rescuer as saying that there were fatalities, but details weren't immediately available. Italian media said that the avalanche covered the three-story hotel in the central region of Abruzzo on Wednesday. The hotel is about 45 kilometers (30 miles) from the coastal city of Pescara.


Trump plans for Scottish resort spark new conflicts concern
NEW YORK (AP) - Donald Trump has vowed his company will do "no new foreign deals" while he is president. But he's left "new" and "deals" open to interpretation. Now those words are drawing scrutiny as his company confirms plans to expand its golf resort near Aberdeen, Scotland, raising concerns about conflicts of interest. A spokeswoman for the resort says the expansion is not a new deal, but just another construction phase that was included in the broad plan approved by the local government in 2008. Some lawyers who specialize in government ethics aren't convinced. Richard Painter, who served as chief ethics lawyer for President George W.


Even before taking office, Trump has changed the presidency
WASHINGTON (AP) - Donald Trump enters the White House on Friday just as he entered the race for president: defiant, unfiltered, unbound by tradition and utterly confident in his chosen course. In the 10 weeks since his surprise election as the nation's 45th president, Trump has violated decades of established diplomatic protocol, sent shockwaves through business boardrooms, tested long-standing ethics rules and continued his combative style of replying to any slight with a personal attack - on Twitter and in person. Past presidents have described walking into the Oval Office for the first time as a humbling experience, one that in an instant makes clear the weight of their new role as caretaker of American democracy.


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Mideast expects big changes under Trump
CAIRO (AP) - Donald Trump's all-but-dismissal of human rights as a foreign policy principle could hit like an earthquake across a Middle East landscape beset by warring factions and beleaguered governments, with some players eyeing the prospect of once unimaginable new alliances. Syria is the foremost test of Trump's promise of a return to a hard-headed realpolitik and could quickly show whether America is truly abandoning promotion of democracy and the rule of law in a way that could reshape much of the region's post-Cold War, post-9/11 order. Trump has raised the possibility of a broad new U.S. partnership with Vladimir Putin's increasingly authoritarian Russia and has even hinted at aligning with Syrian President Bashar Assad, which would amount to a dramatic reversal from years of the Obama administration calls for Assad's ouster.


Carter tells AP more US troops will not fix Iraq or Syria
WASHINGTON (AP) - Sending thousands more American troops into Iraq or Syria in a bid to accelerate the defeat of the Islamic State group would push U.S. allies to the exits, create more anti-U.S. resistance and give up the U.S. military's key advantages, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said in an Associated Press interview. Speaking from his Pentagon office overlooking the Potomac River on Wednesday, Carter said he favors looking for ways to speed up the counter-IS campaign, which administration critics including the president-elect, Donald Trump, have called slow-footed and overly cautious. But he outlined numerous reasons why he believes strongly in the current approach of letting local Iraqi and Syrian forces set the pace.


One more day: Obama in his final hours in the White House
WASHINGTON (AP) - Eight tumultuous years at the helm of American power have come and gone, and for President Barack Obama, this is finally the end. The president is spending his last full day at the White House on Thursday before becoming an ex-president. The big decisions and grand pronouncements are all behind him, but Obama is still in charge until President-elect Donald Trump takes the oath at noon on Friday. The White House left Obama's schedule mostly empty for his last day, while saying he'd use the time to pack up the home he and his family have lived in for most of a decade.


From IS to government control, Syrians left with few choices
SAFIRA, Syria (AP) - Carrying her four-year-old son, Elham Saleh walked all night behind a smuggler, navigating land mines through Islamic State group- and rebel-held territory in northern Syria. Finally, they reached relative safety in Safira, a government-controlled village on the southern edge of the city of Aleppo, where they have been staying for the past two weeks. Saleh's husband, once a rebel fighting to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad, had joined IS but she couldn't bear living under the group's brutal rule any longer. "Once he joined Daesh, I fled with my son, and Daesh began searching for me," said Saleh, using the Arabic acronym for IS and sitting on a couch on the floor of a house that she and her relatives are using in this village southeast of Aleppo.


Trump's Treasury pick facing criticism over foreclosures
WASHINGTON (AP) - Donald Trump's pick to lead the Treasury Department, Stephen Mnuchin, built his reputation and his fortune as a savvy Wall Street investor. But one of those investments has put him in the crosshairs of Democrats as he heads into his confirmation hearing Thursday: sub-prime mortgage lender IndyMac bank. Mnuchin, who served as Trump's finance chairman during the campaign, has defended his role in the purchase of the failed bank, whose collapse in 2008 was the second biggest bank failure of the financial crisis. Mnuchin, who assembled a group to buy the bank from the government, renamed it OneWest and turned it around, selling it for a handsome profit to CIT Group Inc.


NASA study in Hawaii paving way for human travel to Mars
HONOLULU (AP) - A group of NASA-funded researchers are poised to enter an isolated geodesic dome on a Hawaii volcano to study human behavior for long-term space exploration, including a planned voyage to Mars. The six crew members head into their new home Thursday on the Big Island's Mauna Loa volcano for an eight-month stay. There will be no physical human contact with the outside world, a 20-minute delay in communications to simulate the time it takes for messages to reach earth from Mars and the team will be required to wear space suits whenever they leave the compound. The study will assess the psychological difficulties associated with living in isolated and confined conditions far away from home.


Bonds, Clemens making slow gains with changing electorate
Hall of Fame voters are still sharply divided on Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. The electorate is changing, however, and that could be good news for both. Bonds and Clemens inched past the 50-percent mark for the first time Wednesday, each appearing on about 54 percent of ballots cast by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. For a fifth straight year, Bonds and Clemens fell short of the 75 percent needed for induction, but their support is slowly climbing. Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez were elected to the Hall on Wednesday. Bonds and Clemens remain on the outside looking in because of drug suspicions, but they could continue to gain ground as more new voters are welcomed into the process.