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

March 20, 2017 - 10:36 am


UPDATE: GOP chair says no wiretap on Trump Tower

WASHINGTON (AP) — The chairman of the House intelligence committee says there was no physical wiretap on Trump Tower, but it's possible that "other surveillance activities" were used against President Donald Trump and his associates.

Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., is speaking at the opening of the committee's first public hearing on Russia's interference in the 2016 election. He says the committee has seen no evidence to date that officials from any campaign conspired with Russian agents, but will continue to investigate that question.

He also says the committee will investigate who has been leaking classified information about investigations into Russia's interference.

Nunes says he hopes the committee's hearings will result in a "definitive report" on Russia's involvement in the presidential election.


UPDATE: Democrat calls on FBI to settle wiretap issue

WASHINGTON (AP) — The top Democrat on the House intelligence committee says he hopes FBI Director James Comey will put questions about whether Trump Tower was wiretapped by President Barack Obama "permanently to rest."

Rep. Adam Schiff is speaking at the start of the committee's hearing on Russia's interference in the presidential election. Comey is testifying at the hearing, along with National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers.

Schiff says Democrats on the committee will be focused in part on whether Americans helped Russia with its hacking of Democratic groups and individuals.

Trump has said he has no knowledge of his associates coordinating with Russia during the election. He's refused to back down from his assertion that Obama wiretapped his New York City skyscraper during the campaign, despite there being no evidence.


Trump says Dems 'made up' Russian story

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is accusing Democrats of fabricating allegations of election interference against Russia and creating more "fake news."

His tweets came just hours before a congressional hearing on Russia. The House Intelligence Committee will hear from FBI Director James Comey on whether U.S. officials believe Russia tried to bolster Trump's chances in the election and if there were any connections between Moscow and Trump's campaign aides.

Trump tweeted Monday: "The Democrats made up and pushed the Russian story as an excuse for running a terrible campaign. Big advantage in Electoral College & lost!"

A separate tweet referenced James Clapper, the director of national intelligence under President Barack Obama, who has said that Trump's allegation that Obama wiretapped Trump Tower is false. "James Clapper and others stated there is no evidence Potus colluded with Russia. This story is FAKE NEWS and everyone knows it."

Trump also tweeted that the "real story" is the leaking of classified information.


UPDATE: Grassley says Gorsuch will uphold Constitution

WASHINGTON (AP) — In prepared remarks ahead of Monday's confirmation hearing, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley says Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch is the right person to maintain the "preservation of our constitutional order" and the separation of powers under the Constitution.

Grassley says Gorsuch's "body of professional work is defined by an unfailing commitment to these principles."

Republicans have criticized former President Barack Obama for overreach in using executive orders to get around Congress. Grassley says "separation of powers is just as critical today as it was during the last administration."

At the same time, Grassley tries to head off expected Democratic arguments that Gorsuch often ruled in favor of corporate plaintiffs. He says that's "an old claim" from "an even older playbook.".


UPDATE: Police: Man claims bomb in trunk at White House checkpoint

WASHINGTON (AP) — Authorities say a man who drove to a security checkpoint near the White House in a stolen car was arrested after stating "there's a bomb in the trunk."

A police report says 29-year-old Sean Patrick Keoughan of Roanoke, Virginia, got out of the car at the checkpoint Saturday and was clasping something in his hand when he made the threat. The report says that while he was being taken to the ground he stated: "This is a test."

He was arrested for making a false bomb threat and unauthorized use of a vehicle.

Earlier Saturday, 58-year-old William Bryant Rawlinson of Silver Spring, Maryland, was arrested on a charge of unlawful entry after jumping a metal barrier just outside a White House fence.

The president wasn't at the White House at the time of either incident.


NEW: Merkel disputes Trump's NATO debt claim

BERLIN (AP) — Chancellor Angela Merkel is underlining Germany's rejection of a claim by President Donald Trump that it owes NATO large sums for underspending on defense. She is also pointing to a history of decades of post-World War II military restraint.

Trump tweeted Saturday that "Germany owes vast sums of money to NATO." Germany is short of a NATO target of spending 2 percent of gross domestic product on defense, with the figure currently at 1.23 percent.

Merkel said Monday defense spending is "not just about contributions to NATO, but also about European contributions in Africa for example, U.N. missions." She added: "Not a single NATO member state pays its entire defense budget into NATO."

Merkel said that defense spending "can't be uncoupled from historical developments from one day to the next."


NEW: Already in peril, rural hospitals unsure on health care bill

CLAXTON, Ga. (AP) — Rural hospitals and communities are watching the debate closely in Congress over the future of health care.

Those hospitals have been hit hard in recent years by closures of facilities, particularly in the South and Midwest.

They face a host of challenges such as patients who are older, suffer from chronic illness, and are more likely to be on Medicaid or Medicare.

Doctors at the 10-bed Evans Memorial Hospital in Claxton face those challenges. The hospital went through four years of in-the-red budgets before landing $50,000 in the black this year.

CEO Nikki NeSmith says they no longer fear the doors closing but they also don't get too comfortable.

But many people question whether rural hospitals will fare any better under the recently unveiled Republican health care plan.


Most young Americans don't see Trump as a legitimate leader

WASHINGTON (AP) — There's a new poll on what young adults think about President Donald Trump.

The GenForward survey of people 18 to 30 years old suggests that 57 percent of young adults see Trump as illegitimate. That includes about three-quarters of blacks and a large majority of Latinos and Asians.

About 53 percent of just whites consider Trump a legitimate president, but even 55 percent of that group disapprove of the job Trump is doing.


Afghan official: Taliban kill 3 soldiers in attack in south

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AP) — An Afghan official says the Taliban have attacked a military checkpoint in a southern province, killing three Afghan soldiers.

Provincial spokesman Dost Muhammad Nayab says the attack took place in Uruzgan province on Monday morning and that four other soldiers were wounded in the attack.

Nayab says 13 Taliban were also killed in the battle, which took place on the outskirt of Tirin Kot, the provincial capital.

A provincial security official gave a different toll, saying 10 soldiers were killed in the attack. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media. The discrepancy in the casualty toll could not immediately be resolved.

The Taliban did not comment on the attack. The insurgents frequently attack Afghan security forces across the country.


NEW: 3 Tennessee death row inmates lose Supreme Court appeals

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court has rejected appeals from three Tennessee death-row inmates who say they should not be executed because they are intellectually disabled.

The justices on Monday left in place state court rulings upholding the death sentences of inmates Pervis Payne, Michael Sample and Vincent Sims.

The three men said Tennessee has refused to apply a 2014 Supreme Court ruling that affects inmates with borderline cases of intellectual disability.

The Supreme Court ruling prohibited states in borderline cases from relying only on intelligence test scores to determine whether a death row inmate is eligible to be executed.

The issue in the Tennessee cases was whether that decision should apply to older cases.

The Supreme Court outlawed the execution of intellectually disabled prisoners in 2002.


NEW: Supreme Court rejects appeal of former Connecticut governor

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court has declined to disturb the conviction of former Connecticut Gov. John Rowland on public corruption charges.

The justices on Monday rejected Rowland's appeal of his 2014 conviction for conspiring to hide his work on political campaigns for two Republican congressional candidates.

Rowland argued that contracts he prepared that sought to disguise the nature of his work were not falsified records.

A federal appeals court rejected that argument, ruling last year that Rowland was properly convicted of creating documents that falsified his relationships with congressional candidates Lisa Wilson-Foley and Mark Greenberg.

Rowland served as governor from 1995 to 2004, when he resigned and was sentenced to prison in a different corruption scandal. He is currently serving a 2 ½ -year sentence for the latest conviction.


NEW: Justices won't hear Menendez appeal in corruption case

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court won't hear an appeal from New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez seeking to throw out a corruption indictment against him.

The justices on Monday let stand a lower court ruling that refused to dismiss the charges. A trial in the case is tentatively scheduled for the fall.

The Democratic lawmaker was charged with fraud and bribery in 2015 for allegedly taking official action on behalf of a friend who had given him gifts and campaign donations. He has pleaded not guilty.

Menendez has argued that his meetings with various government officials fell under a constitutional clause that protects the actions of sitting lawmakers.

A federal appeals court said that issue should be argued in front of a jury.


EU chief promises quick movement on Brexit talks

LONDON (AP) — European Council President Donald Tusk says he will present draft guidelines for the negotiations on Britain's departure from the bloc within two days of London notifying its intention to leave on March 29.

Tusk has tweeted that "within 48 hours of the UK triggering Article 50, I will present the draft Brexit guidelines to the EU 27 member states."

By triggering Article 50 of the EU's governing treaty, Britain will set in a motion a process that is expected to see it officially leave in early 2019.

Once the draft negotiating guidelines have been accepted, the European Commission will legally recommend the starting of talks. The remaining 27 EU member states would then have to sign off on that move and formally give a mandate to French politician Michel Barnier to conduct the negotiations on their behalf.

That process is likely to take at least a month, as a summit of EU leaders must be called.


UPDATE: Banks, energy companies take stocks lower

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stocks are opening slightly lower, led by losses in banks after Britain announced it will formally trigger the process of leaving the European Union on March 29.

Britain's departure from the EU will start a long negotiation with uncertain effects for banks and other companies. It is expected to become official in early 2019.

Major indexes in Europe are also lower Monday.

Energy companies are falling as the price of U.S. crude slips about 1 percent. Drilling rig operator Transocean slid 3.8 percent.


US boycotts UN rights council debate on Israel, Palestinians

GENEVA (AP) — The State Department says the United States is boycotting a session at the U.N. Human Rights Council that focuses on Palestine and other Arab occupied territories, saying it is biased against Israel.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner in a statement took aim at a recurring agenda item at the council, which focuses on Israel and the Palestinian territories — the only one of its kind to focus on a single country at every HRC session. It was taking place Monday.

Toner also said the United States would vote against every resolution that might be put forward under the agenda item.

Earlier, the U.N.'s special rapporteur on rights in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel, Michael Lynk, decried how "illegal settlement enterprise has moved at an alarming pace" this year.


$75 million pledged to protect heritage sites in war zones

PARIS (AP) — World donors have pledged more than $75 million dollars to protect endangered world heritage in conflict zones.

French President Francois Hollande, speaking Monday at a donors' conference in the Louvre Museum, said that the goal for the heritage fund is $100 million and urged other countries around the world to contribute.

France is pledging $30 million for the fund and Saudi Arabia is committing $20 million, according to the French Culture Ministry. The United Arab Emirates have promised $15 million, Kuwait $5 million, Luxembourg $3 million, Morocco $1.5 million and philanthropist Thomas Kaplan pledged $1 million.

Switzerland pledged further money in administrative and legal support, and will host the fund in Geneva. Italy said it would provide military personnel and conservation experts.


Norway tops global happiness report overtaking Denmark

HELSINKI (AP) — A global happiness report has made Norway's foreign minister, well, happy.

Norway jumped to top spot in the World Happiness Report despite the plummeting price of oil— a key part of its economy — but researchers said it's the "human things" that matter, such as a feeling of community which is strong in the Scandinavian country of 5 million.

Reacting to the news Monday, Foreign Minister Borge Brende tweeted: "A good start on a Monday mrn: Norway the world's happiest country in a new report that calls on nations to build social trust and equality."

In the report on 155 countries, Denmark fell to second, followed by Iceland, Switzerland and Finland.


YouTubers claim restrictions targeting gay-themed content

UNDATED (AP) — YouTube is explaining why some gay-themed content is being restricted following complaints from users.

Several uploaders have reported on Twitter that their videos had been filtered out for those browsing YouTube under its "restricted" setting. The complaints spawned the hashtag #YouTubeIsOverParty . One creator made a video to voice her complaints last week.

YouTube says its restricted mode uses "community flagging, age-restrictions, and other signals to identify and filter out potentially inappropriate content."

YouTube further explained in a tweet Sunday that "LGBTQ+ videos are available in Restricted Mode, but videos that discuss more sensitive issues may not be." YouTube says it regrets any confusion over the policy and says it's looking into concerns.


NEW: Katy Perry says she 'prayed the gay away' as a youth

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Katy Perry says she "prayed the gay away" during her "unconscious adolescence."

The 32-year-old singer opened up about her sexuality and praised the gay community while receiving an award from the Human Rights Campaign on Saturday in Los Angeles.

Perry was born into a fundamentalist Christian family, but says she was curious about sexuality and knew it wasn't a black-and-white issue. She referenced one of her biggest hits in telling the group "I kissed a girl and I liked it." She added that she also "did more than that." She says she "prayed the gay away" at Christian camps, but later met people outside of her "bubble."

She says without people in her life from the LGBTQ community she'd be "half of the person I am today."


NEW: NFL: Tom Brady's missing Super Bowl jersey found

NEW YORK (AP) — The search for Tom Brady's missing Super Bowl jersey is over.

The NFL says it was in "possession of a credentialed member of the international media." The league did not elaborate in its statement on specifically who had it.

The NFL says the jersey was found through the "cooperation of the NFL and New England Patriots' security teams, the FBI and other law enforcement authorities." The league referred other questions to the FBI.

Brady said his jersey went missing after the Patriots' 34-28 win last month over the Atlanta Falcons.

The statement adds that an ongoing investigation also resulted in the retrieval of the jersey Brady wore in the Patriots' 2015 Super Bowl win against the Seattle Seahawks.

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