AP News in Brief at 9:04 p.m. EST




Evacuation lifted for 200K Californians living below dam

OROVILLE, Calif. (AP) — Nearly 200,000 Northern Californians who live downstream of the country's tallest dam were allowed to return home Tuesday after two nights of uncertainty, but they were warned they may still have to again flee to higher ground on a moment's notice if hastily made repairs to the battered structure don't hold.

The fixes could be put to their first test later this week with first of a series of small storms forecast for the region.

But the real test is still to come in the weeks ahead when a record amount of snowfall melts in nearby mountains.

"There is the prospect that we could issue another evacuation order if the situation changes and the risk increases," Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said Tuesday, telling residents they could return home but to remain vigilant.

Residents living below the Oroville Dam were suddenly ordered to evacuate Sunday afternoon after water authorities had assured them for nearly a week that the dam was sound despite a gaping and growing hole found in the structure's main spillway. The order came after authorities feared an earthen emergency spillway used when the lake behind the dam overflows its capacity appeared ready to fail Sunday because of erosion.

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Trump knew Flynn misled WH weeks before ouster: officials

WASHINGTON (AP) — Just six days into his presidency, Donald Trump was informed his national security adviser had misled his vice president about contacts with Russia. Trump kept his No. 2 in the dark and waited nearly three weeks before ousting the aide, Michael Flynn, citing a slow but steady erosion of trust, White House officials said Tuesday.

Flynn was interviewed by the FBI about his telephone conversations with Russia's ambassador to the U.S., a sign his ties to Russia had caught the attention of law enforcement officials.

But in the White House's retelling of Flynn's stunning downfall, his error was not that he discussed U.S. sanctions with the Russian before the inauguration — a potential violation of a rarely enforced law — but the fact that he denied it for weeks, apparently misleading Vice President Mike Pence and other senior Trump aides about the nature of the conversations. White House officials said they conducted a thorough review of Flynn's interactions, including transcripts of calls secretly recorded by U.S. intelligence officials, but found nothing illegal.

Pence, who had vouched for Flynn in a televised interview, is said to have been angry and deeply frustrated.

"The evolving and eroding level of trust as a result of this situation and a series of other questionable incidents is what led the president to ask General Flynn for his resignation," White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Tuesday, one day after the president asked Flynn to leave.

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US official: Russia deployed missile in violation of treaty

WASHINGTON (AP) — Russia has deployed a cruise missile in violation of a Cold War-era arms control treaty, a Trump administration official said Tuesday, a development that complicates the outlook for U.S.-Russia relations amid turmoil on the White House national security team.

The Obama administration three years ago accused the Russians of violating the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty by developing and testing the prohibited cruise missile, and officials had anticipated that Moscow eventually would deploy it. Russia denies that it has violated the INF treaty.

U.S. intelligence agencies have assessed that the missile became operational late last year, said an administration official, who wasn't authorized to publicly discuss the matter and demanded anonymity.

The deployment may not immediately change the security picture in Europe, but the alleged treaty violation may arise when Defense Secretary Jim Mattis attends his first NATO meeting in Brussels on Wednesday. It also has stirred concern on Capitol Hill, where Sen. John McCain, the Senate Armed Services Committee chairman, called on the Trump administration to ensure U.S. nuclear forces in Europe are ready.

"Russia's deployment of nuclear-tipped ground-launched cruise missiles in violation of the INF treaty is a significant military threat to U.S. forces in Europe and our NATO allies," McCain, R-Ariz., said in a statement Tuesday. He said Russian President Vladimir Putin was "testing" Trump.

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Police looking for clues in death of NKorea leader's brother

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Police were checking surveillance tapes Wednesday for clues about who may have assassinated the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at an airport in Kuala Lumpur, a senior official said.

An autopsy will also be performed on the body of Kim Jong Nam, police said. Kim, 46, was targeted Monday in the shopping concourse at the airport and had not gone through immigration yet for his flight to Macau, said a senior government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the case involves sensitive diplomacy.

He was taken to the airport clinic and then died on the way to the hospital, the official said.

Kim, who died on the way to a hospital, told medical workers before he died that he had been attacked with a chemical spray, the official said.

Selangor police chief Abdul Samah Mat said police were searching for clues in the CCTV footage. The airport is in Selangor near Kuala Lumpur.

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'It's about time': Etan Patz's dad finds justice in verdict

NEW YORK (AP) — Nearly four decades after 6-year-old Etan Patz vanished on the way to his school bus stop, a former convenience store clerk was convicted Tuesday of murder in a case that influenced American parenting and law enforcement.

The jury verdict against Pedro Hernandez gave Etan's relatives a resolution they had sought since May 1979 and gave prosecutors a conviction that eluded them when a 2015 jury deadlocked.

"The Patz family has waited a long time, but we've finally found some measure of justice for our wonderful little boy, Etan," said his father, Stanley Patz, choking up.

"I am truly relieved, and I'll tell you, it's about time. It's about time."

Hernandez, who once worked in a shop in Etan's neighborhood, had confessed, but his lawyers said his admissions were the false imaginings of a man whose mind blurred the boundary between reality and illusion.

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No designer babies, but gene editing to avoid disease? Maybe

WASHINGTON (AP) — Don't expect designer babies any time soon — but a major new ethics report leaves open the possibility of one day altering human heredity to fight genetic diseases, with stringent oversight, using new tools that precisely edit genes inside living cells.

What's called genome editing already is transforming biological research, and being used to develop treatments for patients struggling with a range of diseases.

The science is nowhere near ready for a huge next step that raises ethical questions — altering sperm, eggs or embryos so that babies don't inherit a disease that runs in the family, says a report Tuesday from the National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Medicine.

But if scientists learn how to safely pass alterations of the genetic code to future generations, the panel said "germline" editing could be attempted under strict criteria, including that it targets a serious disease with no reasonable alternative and is conducted under rigorous oversight.

"Caution is absolutely needed, but being cautious does not mean prohibition," said bioethicist R. Alta Charo of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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2 big insurance breakups on Valentine's Day

It was a rough day for the already-roiled U.S. health insurance market: One giant merger was abandoned, another is threatened by infighting, and a major insurer announced it will stop selling coverage on public exchanges in 11 states.

Both merger deals had already been rejected by federal regulators and judges, but the companies were considering appeals to those decisions. Now they both appear to be off.

Aetna said it was abandoning its planned $34 billion purchase of Medicare Advantage provider Humana early Tuesday. Then, later in the day, Cigna said it is suing Anthem to kill a $48 billion acquisition bid.

The deals were conceived as a way to help the insurers increase their enrollment and cut down on expenses in part so they could improve their performances on the Affordable Care Act's public insurance exchanges. Big insurers have been hit with substantial losses from the exchanges, even though they represent a relatively small part of their overall business. Many have already cut back their offerings, and that has slashed customer choices in markets around the country.

The collapse of one deal and the uncertain future of the other could hurt shoppers on the exchanges next year by leaving them with even fewer options and potentially higher prices. Humana told investors late Tuesday that it was abandoning it exchanges in all 11 of its states as of the beginning of next year.

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N. Carolina governor offers 'compromise' repealing LGBT law

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper proposed Tuesday what he called a compromise to repeal the state's so-called bathroom bill, saying a new measure is designed to allay fears by some over public bathroom safety.

But a powerful leader in the Republican-controlled General Assembly dismissed it, signaling that any agreement between the governor and GOP lawmakers is still distant. Even a close Cooper ally in the gay rights movement said he didn't support the governor's idea, calling the proposal a distraction from a repeal of what's known as House Bill 2.

The law approved last March by GOP lawmakers and then-Gov. Pat McCrory triggered backlash from businesses and LGBT advocates who say it's discriminatory because it requires transgender people to use restrooms in public buildings that correspond to the sex on their birth certificates. It also excludes sexual orientation and gender identity from local and statewide antidiscrimination protections. A federal trial to decide HB2 is scheduled to begin later this summer.

Cooper's proposal comes as New Orleans welcomes the NBA All-Star game this weekend. The city of Charlotte was supposed to host multimillion-dollar event, but the NBA pulled out after the law was passed. The NCAA and Atlantic Coast Conference also moved several sporting events and businesses such as PayPal decided not to expand in North Carolina.

"It will bring back the NCAA, it will bring back the ACC, the NBA and it will bring back jobs," Cooper said.

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Trump toilets, condoms could be flushed after his China win

SHANGHAI (AP) — President Donald Trump's triumph in the fight to wrest back his brand for construction services in China could spell the end of more than 225 Trump-related marks here that don't belong to him, including Trump toilets, Trump condoms, Trump pacemakers and even a "Trump International Hotel."

After a decade of grinding battle in China's courts, an official finding in Trump's favor expected this week could signal a shift in fortune for the U.S. president's intellectual property. Also at stake are 49 pending Trump trademark applications — all made during his campaign — and 77 previously registered marks, most of which will come up for renewal during his term.

Each win creates value for Trump's business empire — and raises ethics questions about his administration. Critics say the trademarks present conflicts of interest for Trump and may violate the emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution, which bars public servants from accepting anything of value from foreign governments unless explicitly approved by Congress.

"There can be no question that it is a terrible idea for Donald Trump to be accepting the registration of these valuable property rights from China while he's a sitting president of the United States," said Norman Eisen, who served as chief White House ethics lawyer for President Barack Obama. "It's fair to conclude that this is an effort to influence Mr. Trump that is relatively inexpensive for the Chinese, potentially very valuable to him, but it could be very costly for the United States."

China could use Trump's desire to control his brand to extend or withhold favor, particularly since its courts and bureaucracy reflect the imperatives of the ruling Communist Party.

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NBA party over there, where? Not in Charlotte this weekend

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Hornets season ticket holder Doug Doggett was planning on ponying up several hundred dollars for tickets to the NBA All-Star game this weekend in Charlotte.

But since the league has moved its annual showcase to New Orleans, Doggett now has no plans to watch the game on TV.

Charlotte won't be a ghost town this weekend, but it sure won't be buzzing like many had hoped when the NBA awarded the city the 2017 All-Star game. The league moved the event last summer after North Carolina politicians failed to repeal House Bill 2, a law that passed last March that limits the protections of LGBT people.

As a result, Doggett — like other Charlotte residents and businesses — have been left out in the cold, looking for ways to enjoy this weekend. There is an Equestrian Trade Show in town, though it's not generating the same level of excitement.

Vernon Jackson, also a season ticket holder, said he was looking forward to seeing the All-Star game in person but now only plans to watch when Charlotte's Kemba Walker participates in the 3-point contest.
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