WASHINGTON (AP) - U.S. EMPLOYERS ADDED 148,000 JOBS IN DECEMBER. THAT IS A MODEST GAIN BUT ENOUGH TO SUGGEST THE ECONOMY ENTERED THE NEW YEAR WITH SOLID MOMENTUM. THE LABOR DEPARTMENT SAYS THE UNEMPLOYMENT RATE REMAINED 4.1 PERCENT FOR A THIRD STRAIGHT MONTH, THE LOWEST SINCE 2000.

WASHINGTON (AP) - THE POSSIBILITY THAT ATTORNEY GENERAL JEFF SESSIONS WOULD RECUSE HIMSELF FROM THE RUSSIA INVESTIGATION HAD PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP CONCERNED. SO, ACCORDING TO A PERSON FAMILIAR WITH THE MATTER, TRUMP DIRECTED HIS WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL TO TELL SESSIONS NOT TO STEP ASIDE. THE PERSON SAYS DON MCGAHN'S CONVERSATION WITH SESSIONS OCCURRED ON THE PRESIDENT'S ORDERS AND JUST BEFORE THE ATTORNEY GENERAL ANNOUNCED HE WOULD RECUSE HIMSELF FROM THE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT'S INVESTIGATION.

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES (AP) - A RUSSIAN DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS THE UPCOMING U.N. SECURITY COUNCIL SESSION ON IRAN IS AN ATTEMPT BY THE UNITED STATES TO VIOLATE IRAN'S SOVEREIGNTY. SERGEI RYABKOV MADE THE COMMENTS FRIDAY, SEVERAL HOURS BEFORE THE SESSION IS TO CONVENE. THE UNITED STATES, WHICH HAS VOICED SUPPORT FOR THE ANTI-GOVERNMENT PROTESTS THAT HAVE SWEPT IRAN OVER THE PAST WEEK, CALLED FOR THE EMERGENCY SESSION.
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WYOMING SECRETARY OF STATE ED MURRAY CRITICIZED THE PRESIDENTIAL COMMISSION ON ELECTION INTEGRITY LAST SUMMER, AND NOW PRAISED PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP'S DECISION TO END IT.

MURRAY SAID THE COMMISSION, ESTABLISHED BY TRUMP IN MAY, NEVER CLEARLY STATED ITS PURPOSE OR EXPLAINED WHY IT WANTED PRIVATE VOTER INFORMATION SUCH AS PARTY AFFILIATIONS, VOTING HISTORIES, DATES OF BIRTH, THE LAST FOUR DIGITS OF VOTERS' SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBERS, AND ANY INFORMATION ABOUT FELONY CONVICTIONS AND MILITARY STATUS.

IN JULY, MURRAY REJECTED THE COMMISSION'S REQUEST, AND CALLED IT A FEDERAL OVERREACH INTO A MATTER OF STATE SOVEREIGNTY.

WHITE HOUSE SPOKESWOMAN SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS SAID WEDNESDAY THAT TRUMP'S DECISION CAME FROM THE REFUSAL BY MANY STATES TO PROVIDE VOTER INFORMATION.

SANDERS ADDED THE ADMINISTRATION DIDN'T WANT TO ENGAGE IN TAXPAYER-FUNDED LEGAL BATTLES, SO IT WAS TURNING THE MATTER OVER TO THE DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY.

CRITICS SAW THE COMMISSION AS PART OF A CONSERVATIVE CAMPAIGN TO STRIP MINORITY VOTERS AND POOR PEOPLE FROM THE VOTER ROLLS, AND TO JUSTIFY UNFOUNDED CLAIMS MADE BY TRUMP THAT VOTER FRAUD COST HIM THE POPULAR VOTE IN 2016 TO DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE HILLARY CLINTON.

PAST STUDIES HAVE FOUND VOTER FRAUD TO BE EXCEPTIONALLY RARE.
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BILLINGS, MONT. (AP) - COAL COMPANIES IN THE UNITED STATES BOOSTED PRODUCTION IN 2017 TO REVERSE A TWO-YEAR DECLINE. THE U.S. ENERGY INFORMATION ADMINISTRATION SAID THURSDAY THAT COMPANIES MINED 771 MILLION TONS OF COAL THROUGH DEC. 30, A 6 PERCENT INCREASE VERSUS 2016. YET THE INDUSTRY'S LONG-TERM PROSPECTS REMAIN IN DOUBT AND THE GOVERNMENT SAYS PRODUCTION IN THE LAST WEEK OF 2017 FELL 32 PERCENT FROM THE PREVIOUS WEEK.

MOOSE, WYO. (AP) - WILDLIFE MANAGERS IN GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK IN NORTHWEST WYOMING SAY THEY HAD TO EUTHANIZE A RED FOX THAT WAS EXHIBITING BOLD BEHAVIOR BECAUSE PEOPLE HAD BEEN FEEDING IT. THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE SAYS THE FOX HAD TO BE KILLED BECAUSE OF CONCERN FOR HUMAN SAFETY. BIOLOGISTS HAVE DOCUMENTED INCREASING NUMBERS OF HABITUATED AND FOOD-CONDITIONED FOXES IN THE PARK.

POWELL, WYO. (AP) - A WYOMING MAN ESCAPED FROM HIS BURNING MOBILE HOME THANKS TO HIS 5-MONTH-OLD GERMAN SHEPHERD, WHICH WOKE HIM BY JUMPING ON HIM. REYNALDO "REY" ADAME, OF POWELL, SAID WHEN HE WAS WOKEN UP AT 6:55 A.M. TUESDAY HE FOUND FLAMES LICKING UNDERNEATH THE COUCH HE WAS ON. ADAME WAS HOSPITALIZED FOR A DAY FOR SMOKE INHALATION.

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - A WYOMING-BASED COMPANY THAT ILLEGALLY DUMPED OILFIELD WASTE IN WESTERN NORTH DAKOTA HAS PAID THE STATE MORE THAN $950,000 AFTER THE STATE SUPREME COURT AFFIRMED THE FINE LAST MONTH. THE DEPARTMENT OF MINERAL RESOURCES SAYS THAT BLACK HILLS TRUCKING PAID $951,526 TO THE NORTH DAKOTA INDUSTRIAL COMMISSION LAST WEEK. IT'S THE LARGEST FINE EVER COLLECTED BY THE REGULATORY GROUP.