A federal judge has halted a presidential election recount in Michigan, determining that Green Party candidate Jill Stein, who led the recount effort, had no chance of winning. She only secured 1 percent of the vote. The Michigan Republican Party and the state’s attorney general challenged the recount, which began Monday, saying taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay for the $5 million effort. Stein’s attorney argued there were troubling voting problems throughout the state and said, according to the Detroit Free Press, “there is no way of knowing whether fraud occurred without conducting the recount.” A recount is already underway in Wisconsin, while a federal judge is still deciding whether one in Pennsylvania should move forward. Underdog efforts to get a recount are also underway in Nevada and Florida. Stein is likely to appeal the Wednesday decision in Michigan.
—A federal judge has halted a presidential election recount in Michigan. More here
—The death toll in the earthquake in Indonesia’s Aceh province has risen to 102, officials say.
—We’re live-blogging the news stories of the day below. All updates are in Eastern Standard Time (GMT -5).
Federal Judge Halts Presidential Recount in Michigan
Two Teens Charged With Starting Deadly Tennessee Wildfire
Authorities in Tennessee have arrested two teenagers accused of setting the deadly wildfires that scorched 17,000 acres last week and killed 14 people. The teens, whose names were not released, were charged with aggravated arson. The fire began November 23 in the Great Smoky Mountains. Last week strong winds reaching nearly 90 miles per hour whipped the flames up and spread the blaze to the nearby resort town of Gatlinburg. Many residents didn’t have time to evacuate; about 150 people were injured and 1,750 buildings were damaged. The two teens are waiting in jail for their bond hearing, and could be transferred to criminal court.
Italy's Renzi Resigns After Referendum Loss
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has formally resigned, days after voters easily defeated a referendum on constitutional changes that he had championed. Renzi had said that he would quit if the referendum was rejected, but clarified Monday he’d stay in office until the Senate passed the government’s budget for next year, which it did earlier Wednesday. It’s unclear what happens next, though Italian news reports have speculated that Pier Carlo Padoan, the country’s widely respected finance minister, will be named interim prime minister.
Ohio's 'Heartbeat' Abortion Law Goes to Governor Kasich
Ohio lawmakers have sent Governor John Kasich a bill that would outlaw abortions the moment the fetus’s heartbeat can be detected—about six weeks into a pregnancy. The measure would ban even those pregnancies that are caused by rape and incest. Kasich, a Republican, hasn't indicated whether he'll sign the measure, which would make Ohio’s abortion laws among the toughest in the nation. If he vetoes the bill, three-fifth of the lawmakers in the Statehouse and the Senate must vote to override the veto. Similar “heartbeat” laws passed in other states have been challenged in courts, which have consistently struck the measures down. Kasich has 10 days to decide.
Oakland Warehouse Fire Death Toll Stands at 36
The death toll in the Oakland warehouse fire stands at 36, the Associated Press reported Wednesday as recovery efforts at the site ended. Twenty-seven of the victims were identified, Oakland city officials said in a statement Tuesday, though the name of one victim, a minor, has not been released. Though the exact cause of the blaze, which began Friday night during a rave hosted inside the warehouse, has not yet been determined, investigators say they are looking at a refrigerator as a potential source. As my colleague J. Weston Phippen reported, some have speculated the fire was a result of overcrowding in a location with a number of building-code violations, while others have pointed to the Bay Area’s skyrocketing rent for causing the overcrowding.
British Regulators Fine Pfizer for 2,600-Percent Increase in Cost of Epilepsy Drug
British regulators took the unusual move of fining Pfizer, the U.S. drug company, for “excessive and unfair prices” after the company raised the cost of an epilepsy drug 2,600 percent. The fine against Pfizer and Flynn Pharma, the drug distributor, totaled $117 million, a record in the country. The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said Pfizer unnecessarily marked up the cost of the drug, phenytoin sodium, used by 48,000 people, by taking advantage of a peculiarity in the British system. Unlike in the U.S. where drug companies are more free to set their own prices, the UK closely regulates drug costs, especially brand-name drugs. Pfizer was accused of removing the drug’s brand name so it could be sold as a generic drug, then raising the cost from $4 to $85. A spokeswoman for Pfizer said the move “fully complies with established competition law,” and that the drug had been unprofitable before the cost change. The CMA said Pfizer “deliberately exploited” the rules.
More Than 100 Killed After 6.5-Magnitude Earthquake Strikes Indonesia
Updated at 11:45 p.m.
At least 102 people were killed and several hundred injured Wednesday in the 6.5-magnitude earthquake that struck Indonesia’s Aceh province, the Associated Press reports. The quake, which centered on Pidie Jaya district, caused the collapse of more than 200 homes and shops, as well as 14 mosques. A school and a hospital were also badly damaged. Muhammad Reza Faisal, the director of the hospital, told the AP the facility pitched tents on the damaged grounds to care for those injured. Aceh was last struck by a major earthquake in 2004, the shock from which triggered a tsunami that resulted in the deaths of 230,000 people and left nearly 2 million homeless in more than a dozen countries. No tsunami warning has been issued for this earthquake.
A Pakistani Plane Carrying 47 People Crashed in the Country's North
Updated December 7 at 12 p.m. ET
A plane carrying more than 40 people crashed in the mountainous regions of northern Pakistan on Wednesday. Local news organizations are reporting that everyone on board died. The Pakistan International Airlines plane had left Chitral, a city in the country’s northwest at about 3:40 p.m., and was headed for the capital, Islamabad. A government official told Reuters the plane was on fire before it hit the ground, and images showed a trail of burning debris along the plane’s path. So far, authorities have recovered 36 bodies from the crash, all badly burned. One of the victims was pop singer Junaid Jamshed, whose popularity in Pakistan is compared to that of actor Brad Pitt in the U.S., and who quit at the height of his career and became a renowned Muslim preacher.
Syrian Rebels Withdraw From Aleppo's Old City
Rebels fighting troops loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have withdrawn from the old city of Aleppo, their last major stronghold, giving the government a major victory. The development was confirmed by the UK-based Syrian Observatory of Human Rights, a monitoring group that is regarded widely as reliable. Aleppo, Syria’s largest city before the civil war began more than five years ago, has been divided since 2012. Rebels firmly controlled the eastern part, but recent fighting, in which Syrian troops, supported by Russian airstrikes, bombarded the rebels, hit civilian targets, and reclaimed territory, has given Assad control of about three-quarters of eastern Aleppo. The rebels also proposed a five-day truce in which civilians would be allowed to leave Aleppo. The government hasn’t responded, though it had previously announced its own cease-fires—no longer in effect—to allow civilians to leave and rebels to surrender. Assad and Russia view the rebels as terrorists, but groups such as ISIS are not present in the city, though Islamist factions are.