SESSIONS HAVING TROUBLE REMEMBERING ALL THE LIES HE'S TOLD TO CONGRESS: A defiant Attorney General Jeff Sessions told Congress on Tuesday he never lied under oath about Russian interference in the 2016 election and said sleep deprivation and the "chaos" of the Trump campaign clouded his recollections of campaign contacts with Russians. Sessions sought to explain away apparent contradictions in his public statements by portraying President Donald Trump's campaign as an exhausting operation and said he could not be expected to remember specific encounters from more than a year ago. "In all of my testimony, I can only do my best to answer all of your questions as I understand them and to the best of my memory," Sessions told the House Judiciary Committee. "But I will not accept, and reject, accusations that I have ever lied under oath. That is a lie."
MILITARY COUP IN ZIMBABWE MAY BE THE END OF ROBERT MUGABE'S REIGN: The whiplash developments followed Mugabe's firing of his deputy, which had appeared to position the first lady, Grace Mugabe, to replace Emmerson Mnangagwa as one of the country's two vice presidents at a party conference next month. But the first lady has proved unpopular among some Zimbabweans, and Mnangagwa had significant support from the military. It was not clear Wednesday where Mnangagwa was, though he fled the country last week citing threats to him and his family. Armed soldiers in armored personnel carriers stationed themselves at key points in Harare, while Zimbabweans formed long lines at banks in order to draw the limited cash available, a routine chore in the country's ongoing financial crisis. People looked at their phones to read about the army takeover and others went to work or to shops.
RUSSIA STEPS IN TO BAIL OUT VENEZUELA FROM ECONOMIC COLLAPSE: The Russian Finance Ministry says it has signed a deal to restructure Venezuela's debt. The ministry said Wednesday's deal signed in Moscow envisages that Venezuela will pay its $3.15 billion debt to Russia over 10 years. It noted that payments will be "minimal" during the first six years. The ministry added that the debt restructuring agreement will allow Venezuela to allocate more funds for economic development. The deal was signed a day after Venezuela hosted foreign investors to discuss strategies for reorganizing its debt. Venezuela used its oil wealth to spend heavily on social programs under the late President Hugo Chavez. The drop in world oil prices has ravaged its economy, leading to widespread shortages amid triple-digit inflation.
DEATH TOLL REACHES 530 IN WAKE OF IRAN'S EARTHQUAKE, TENS OF THOUSANDS HOMELESS: Many in the Kurdish town of Sarpol-e Zahab, home to half the casualties from the temblor, told The Associated Press that they still have not received aid and that they needed help to remove debris so they could try to get to their damaged homes and retrieve some essential belongings. Reports said more than 12,000 tents were distributed in the area, though more than 30,000 houses were affected by the quake - 15,500 of them completely destroyed. Debris removal was expected to end within the next 10 days. Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei urged late on Tuesday for continued aid shipments to the area ahead of the "cold weather and difficult cold season." Iranian officials blamed the slow aid in part on the chaotic situation in the stricken region. Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli told an open session of the parliament on Wednesday that a total of 36,000 tents had been sent to the region, including those already distributed.
A NORTH CAROLINA TOYOTA-MAZDA PLANT MOVES CLOSER TO BECOMING A REALITY: North Carolina is a finalist for a long-sought automotive plant to be built by Toyota and Mazda, according to multiple reports. Bloomberg News, citing “people familiar with the negotiations,” reported Tuesday that Alabama is the other finalist for the $1.6 billion car factory that would employ 4,000. According to Bloomberg, the companies have narrowed the list for weeks, eliminating almost a dozen other states that included Tennessee, Texas and South Carolina. Local business leaders are closely watching developments because the Greensboro-Randolph Megasite, in northeastern Randolph County, is often mentioned as a top contender among all sites. The Jackson Sun newspaper quoted an economic development executive who said he believes North Carolina is the leading state with South Carolina — not Alabama — the other contender. John Boyd, a site-selection consultant based in Princeton, N.J., also told the newspaper that he thinks the Randolph site will ultimately be chosen, although no other sources have been that specific.