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

March 03, 2017 - 1:50 am

ATTORNEY GENERAL-RUSSIA-SESSIONS

UPDATE: Sessions recuses himself from Russia probe

WASHINGTON (AP) — Attorney General Jeff Sessions has agreed to recuse himself from any investigation into Russian meddling in America's 2016 presidential election.

Sessions' announcement came Thursday following criticism that during his confirmation hearing he said nothing about speaking with the Russian ambassador to the United States on two occasions during the presidential campaign.

ATTORNEY GENERAL-RUSSIA-TRUMP

UPDATE: Trump calls criticism of Sessions a 'witch hunt'

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump says criticism of Attorney General Jeff Sessions is "a total witch hunt!"

Some Democrats are calling for Sessions' resignation after he failed to mention during his confirmation hearing that he had twice spoken with the Russian ambassador to the United States during the presidential campaign.

Trump is blaming the controversy on the Democrats, saying, "They lost the election and now, they have lost their grip on reality."

ATTORNEY GENERAL-RUSSIA-KUSHNER

Kushner met with Russian before inauguration

WASHINGTON (AP) — A White House official says President Donald Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner and the man who would become national security adviser, Michael Flynn, met with Russia's ambassador to the U.S. in December.

The official calls the sit-down at New York's Trump Tower a "brief courtesy meeting."

Flynn was fired last month because he misled Vice President Mike Pence and other White House officials about his contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

The Trump team's public accounting of Flynn's conversations with the ambassador have changed multiple times. The White House did not confirm the in-person meeting — or Kushner's contact with the ambassador — until Thursday.

The official isn't authorized to discuss the matter publicly and insists on anonymity.

SENATE-PERRY

Perry sworn in as energy secretary

WASHINGTON (AP) — Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry has been sworn in as President Donald Trump's energy secretary.

Perry was approved by the Senate earlier Thursday by a 62-37 vote. He was sworn in at the White House by Vice President Mike Pence.

Perry — who once pledged to eliminate the Energy Department — has repeatedly promised to be an advocate for the agency and to protect the nation's nuclear stockpile. Perry also has said he'd rely on federal scientists, including those who work on climate change.

Perry has said he'll work to develop American energy in all forms — from oil, gas and nuclear power to renewable sources such as wind and solar power.

PENCE-EMAIL

Pence used a private email account to conduct state business

WASHINGTON (AP) — A newspaper is reporting that Vice President Mike Pence used a private email account to conduct public business as Indiana's governor.

The Indianapolis Star reports that emails provided through a public records request show that Pence communicated with advisers through his personal AOL account.

Public officials are not barred from using personal email accounts under Indiana law. The law is interpreted to mean that any official business conducted on private email must be retained to comply with public record laws.

The vice president's spokesman, Marc Lotter, says Pence "maintained a state email account and a personal email account" like previous Indiana governors.

As Donald Trump's running mate, Pence frequently criticized rival Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server as secretary of state.

FATA FIRE-OREGON

NEW: Oregon mother, son succumb to injuries from fire

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A mother and another one of her children have died following a house fire in Oregon.

Thirty-eight-year-old Tabitha Howell, her husband and 13-year-old son had initially survived the early Wednesday blaze, caused by a portable space heater.

But Howell and the teen died Thursday afternoon.

Also killed were Howell's three younger children and a foster child.

SUPREME COURT-TRANSGENDER BATHROOMS

Apple, IBM, Microsoft back transgender teen at Supreme Court

WASHINGTON (AP) — Apple, IBM and Microsoft are among 53 companies urging the Supreme Court to rule that a transgender teenager has the right to use the boys' bathroom at his Virginia high school.

The businesses signed onto a brief filed Thursday in high school senior Gavin Grimm's lawsuit against the Gloucester (GLAH'-stur) County school board.

Grimm says he wants to use the bathroom that matches his chosen gender. He is challenging the board's policy that prohibits him from using the boys' bathroom.

Airbnb, eBay, PayPal, Tumblr and Williams-Sonoma also are part of the brief that argues that "transgender individuals deserve the same treatment and protections" as everyone else.

The case is scheduled to be argued on March 28, but the school board is seeking a delay.

PRISON LOCKDOWN-NEBRASKA

Disturbance leaves 2 inmates dead at Nebraska prison

TECUMSEH, Neb. (AP) — Officials say two inmates died and others were injured in a disturbance at a Nebraska prison.

Corrections officials say in a statement that two inmates died Thursday in the incident at the Tecumseh State Correctional Institution.

Officials didn't provide details about how the inmates died but noted the disturbance involved about 40 inmates who refused to return to their cells.

No prison staffers were injured.

The Tecumseh prison was the site of a deadly riot in May 2015 that also left two dead and caused extensive property damage.

ZIMBABWE-FLOODS

NEW: Floods in Zimbabwe kill 246 since December

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — Zimbabwe says floods have killed 246 people and left nearly 2,000 homeless since December.

The southern African country has appealed to international donors for $100 million to help those affected by the floods, which have washed away some bridges and roads and cut off some communities from surrounding areas.

Zimbabwe's minister of local government has declared a national disaster and announced the death toll on Thursday. He says 128 people have been injured in the floods.

SEX ABUSE-HAITI

Former US missionary in Haiti accused of child sexual abuse

MIAMI (AP) — U.S. authorities have charged an Arkansas man with sexually abusing children while working as a missionary in Haiti.

Daniel Pye became well-known among missionaries in Haiti as he helped coordinate relief efforts in Jacmel after the January 2010 earthquake. He was jailed for about five months in Haiti in 2011 amid a dispute with members of his U.S.-based mission over property belonging to their home for children.

Following a two-year investigation, prosecutors in Miami have charged Pye with four counts of traveling from South Florida to Haiti to engage in sexual conduct with children

A judge in Arkansas set bond at $5,000, but prosecutors filed a motion Thursday to reverse the decision. He remains in custody.

SNAP-VENICE PROTEST

Venice Beach neighbors protest Snapchat owner

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Snapchat's owner is making new friends on Wall Street but its Los Angeles neighbors aren't putting any filters on their anger.

About two dozen protesters gathered Thursday near the Venice Beach headquarters of Snap Inc. shortly after shares began trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

The Los Angeles Times says they carried signs complaining about Snap's corporate presence, such as: "Snap killed Mom and Pop."

Locals see the company as threatening their colorful, artsy neighborhood near the Venice boardwalk.

Since arriving in 2013, Snap has bought a home, shops and an apartment building, converting them into guarded offices. Locals also fear rent hikes.

According to KABC-TV, a Snap statement says it's tried to be a good neighbor but didn't anticipate such rapid growth and is focusing future growth outside of Venice.

OBIT-COUNTRY CONCERT FOUNDER

NEW: Campground owner who founded country concert in Ohio dies

FORT LORAMIE, Ohio (AP) — An Ohio man who each summer turned his family campground into one of the largest outdoor concerts in the nation has died.

Mike Barhorst and his wife started the Country Concert in the Hills in 1981 and it has since grown into a three-day festival that draws the biggest names in country music.

Family members say Barhorst died Wednesday at his home in Fort Loramie (lohr-uh-MEE'). He was 77.

The annual concert grew out of a family get-together with a few hundred friends in the late 1970s.

Now more than 80,000 people come for one weekend each summer to see the likes of Brad Paisley, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill.

This year's concert in July is set to feature Blake Shelton and Florida Georgia Line.

SLEEP PODS-HIGH SCHOOL

It's nap time for high school students who use 'sleep pods'

LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) — Taking a power nap has never been easier for some high school students in New Mexico.

"Sleep pods" have been installed at a few high schools in the Las Cruces area. KRQE reports that the pods let students lie on a recliner while listening to music as colorful lights shine inside.

Linda Summers is an associate professor at New Mexico State University. She wrote a federal grant that awarded the college $128,000 and the university donated the pods to the high schools. At the time, the pods cost $14,000.

Summers tells KVIA that they've found agitated adolescents responded well to the sleep pods. She says they could be having an argument with someone, go into the pod for 20 minutes and be able to return to class.

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