Update on the latest news, sports, business and entertainment:

March 18, 2017 - 4:09 am

TILLERSON-ASIA

North Korea, South China Sea on Tillerson agenda in Beijing

BEIJING (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has arrived in Beijing for his first face-to-face talks with Chinese leaders expected to focus on North Korea's nuclear program, trade and South China Sea territorial disputes.

Tillerson's visit followed his remarks in South Korea on Friday in which he warned that pre-emptive military action against North Korea might be necessary if the threat from their weapons program reaches a level "that we believe requires action."

China, the North's biggest source of diplomatic support and economic assistance, has yet to respond.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, with whom Tillerson was due to meet on Saturday afternoon, warned last week that the North and Washington and Seoul were like "two accelerating trains" headed at each other, with neither side willing to give way.

TRUMP-REPUBLICANS

NEW: With friends like these: Trump struggles to win over GOP

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans on Capitol Hill have a lot to say about their new president.

They say Donald Trump's proposed budget is "draconian, careless and counterproductive" and call the health care plan a bailout that won't pass. They also dismiss as "inexplicable" his administration's suggestion that President Barack Obama used London's spy agency for surveillance.

Less than two months into his administration, Republicans are emerging as one of the biggest obstacles to Trump's young administration, endangering his early efforts to pass his agenda and make good on some of his biggest campaign promises.

Republicans are divided over the health care plan, and several are resisting his push to use tax dollars to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. And Republicans are largely rejecting his first budget.

BUDGET-HEALTH CARE

NEW: Republican health care plan creates budget problems for GOP

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans intent on scrapping Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act have a budget problem.

As it turns out, repealing and replacing the law they hate won't save nearly as much money as getting rid of it entirely, the goal they've been campaigning on for seven years. That means trouble for the federal deficit and for Congress' fiscal conservatives who repeatedly warn about leaving their children and grandchildren worse off financially.

President Donald Trump and other GOP leaders know they can't just get rid of what they call "Obamacare." So they've come up with a bill they insist would give Americans more choices on health coverage.

But it only reduces the deficit by $337 billion over a decade and doesn't move the federal budget much closer to being balanced.

TRUMP-MERKEL

Trump says allies 'must pay what they owe'

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump says he told German Chancellor Angela Merkel that he has "strong support" for NATO but that allies "must pay what they owe."

Trump, making his first appearance with Merkel, opened their White House news conference Friday by saying that "many nations owe vast sums of money" and that situation is "very unfair to the United States."

Trump said these nations need "to pay their fair share" in order to receive the promise of defense from the rest of the alliance.

The president has long complained that the U.S. shoulders too much of the burden of the cost of the alliance, which now comprises 28 nation.

Merkel said she was encouraged that Trump supports NATO, stressed its vital role and pledged that Germany will increase its own payments.

CONGRESS-HEALTH OVERHAUL

Trump optimistic on new health law

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump says he expects the House Republican health plan will be passed "substantially pretty quickly."

Speaking at a joint news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel Friday, Trump calls it a "great plan" and says it is "getting more and more popular with the Republican base, the conservative base and with people generally."

Trump repeated his claim that so-called Obamacare is "a disaster." He said that in the end of the process it will be a great plan.

Several Republicans have said they can't support the law as it stands and are demanding changes.

TRUMP-WIRETAP

Trump stands by his claim Obama tapped his phones

WASHINGTON (AP) — The head of the House intelligence committee says the Justice Department has supplied the information it requested about President Donald Trump's explosive accusation that former President Barack Obama had the phones at Trump Tower wiretapped during the presidential election.

But California Republican Devin Nunes won't go into details. He'll only say that the department "fully complied" with the committee's request.

Trump on Friday stood by his unproven claim that his predecessor wiretapped his phones, suggesting he was the victim of the same sort of surveillance the Obama administration was once alleged to have used to monitor German Chancellor Angela Merkel's calls.

"At least we have something in common, perhaps," Trump said during a joint news conference with Merkel.

Merkel, who was making her first visit to the White House since Trump took office, did not weigh in on the 2013 incident, which angered many in Germany.

Trump's allegations against President Barack Obama have sparked a reactions ranging from bafflement to anger in Washington, with both Democrats and Republican lawmakers saying they have no evidence to support his claim.

FORMER CONGRESSMAN CHARGED

Former Texas congressman accused of taking charity's money

HOUSTON (AP) — Former Texas Rep. Steve Stockman, who invited rocker Ted Nugent to President Barack Obama's 2013 State of the Union address, is accused of spending money meant for charity on himself and contributions to his campaign.

Stockman, a Republican who served two stints in the U.S. House, is charged with conspiracy to make conduit contributions and false statements. He was released from custody after a hearing Friday pending his trial.

The Houston Chronicle reports that Stockman on Friday blamed his arrest on a "deep state" shadow government — a theory that has taken hold among some conservatives that there is a shadowy network of powerful entrenched federal and military interests working to undermine President Donald Trump.

Authorities allege that shortly after starting his second House term in 2013, Stockman solicited $350,000 from a wealthy businessman to go to a Nevada-based charity and then put the money into an account Stockman had opened.

TEXAS FUGITIVE-PURSUIT

Officials: Texas fugitive dead after pursuit in Mississippi

MCCOMB, Miss. (AP) — Authorities say a man wanted for a double homicide in Texas is dead after a pursuit in Mississippi.

Mississippi Bureau of Investigation spokesman Warren Strain tells WLBT-TV that early investigation seems to indicate the man shot and killed himself Friday after leading state troopers on a high-speed chase.

Highway Patrol spokesman Cpl. Brandon Fortenberry tells The Enterprise-Journal that troopers received word the suspect, traveling in a white Ford Escape, had crossed the Mississippi-Louisiana line on Interstate 55 about 4:33 p.m. About a mile south of Summit, he went into a field where he apparently shot himself about 5 p.m.

Strain says his agency working with Texas authorities to positively identify the man, who's suspected of killing two people Wednesday in the Austin area over an apparent business dispute.

FLINT WATER

EPA awards $100 million for Flint water infrastructure work

FLINT, Mich. (AP) — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has awarded $100 million to help fund infrastructure upgrades in Flint amid the city's crisis with lead-tainted water.

The grant announced Friday was promised to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality by Congress in December.

It aims to help Flint accelerate and expand its work to replace lead water service lines and fund other critical water infrastructure improvements.

The city switched to untreated Flint River water in 2014, resulting in lead being leached from pipes into the water supply. Flint returned to Detroit's water system in 2015, but residents still must use filters or bottled water while authorities make the system safe.

Mayor Karen Weaver said in a statement that the much-needed money will help Flint reach a goal of replacing 6,000 pipes this year.

REPORTER-SEIZURES-TWITTER

Man charged with seizure-causing tweet to Newsweek reporter

DALLAS (AP) — A Maryland man has been arrested on a federal cyberstalking charge of sending a Dallas-based magazine reporter an image on Twitter intended to trigger an epileptic seizure.

Federal officials say twenty-nine-year-old John Rayne Rivello, of Salisbury was arrested in Maryland on Friday on a criminal complaint filed in Dallas.

The complaint was filed in December by Kurt Eichenwald, a Newsweek reporter who has epilepsy and was sent a strobe image to his Twitter account on Dec. 15 intended to trigger a seizure. Included with the image was the message: "You deserve a seizure for your posts."

The image was apparently sent in response to Eichenwald's outspoken criticism of then-President-elect Donald Trump.

Eichenwald thanked federal and Dallas law enforcement for the break in the case.

NORTH CAROLINA-GOVERNOR

NC judges: Some GOP laws against governor unconstitutional

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A North Carolina judicial panel says some laws enacted by Republican legislators to undercut the new Democratic governor's powers are unconstitutional.

But the three-judge panel also ruled Friday that one law subjecting Gov. Roy Cooper's Cabinet secretaries to confirmation by the Senate was justified.

Cooper's attorneys said in court this month that the laws enacted two weeks before he took office should be invalidated because they skew the balance of powers among government branches and made it harder for Cooper to carry out his gubernatorial duties in the state Constitution.

The judges agreed with Cooper on throwing out laws that shifted his powers in carrying out elections to the legislature and that gave civil service protections to hundreds of former Republican Gov. Pat McCrory's political appointees.

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