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

March 03, 2017 - 6:49 pm

ATTORNEY GENERAL-RUSSIA-GRASSLEY

Senate panel won't force Sessions to explain testimony overlooking Russian contact

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee is rejecting a request from panel Democrats to have Attorney General Jeff Sessions testify and explain his contacts with the Russian ambassador.

Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa said late Friday that there is no plan for Sessions to come before the committee before his customary testimony at an annual oversight hearing.

Grassley said in a statement that Sessions did the right thing by recusing himself from any investigation into communications between President Donald Trump's aides and Russian officials. The Republican lawmaker complained that Democrats "didn't even have the decency to give him an opportunity to clear up confusion to the statement in writing."

ATTORNEY-GENERAL-RUSSIA-PENCE

Pence defends Sessions and his Russia comments

WASHINGTON (AP) — Vice President Mike Pence says he did not know of Attorney General Jeff Sessions' meetings with the Russian ambassador but dismissed the criticism of the top law enforcement official.

Speaking to reporters in Wisconsin, Pence said he and President Donald Trump have full confidence in Sessions. Pence called him a "man of intergrity."

Pence says Sessions' answer to the Senate Judiciary Committee while under oath was "clearly unintentional."

Pence says Sessions could have answered the question more clearly. He says Sessions "corrected the record appropriately, and we're just very confident in his ability to lead this agency and respect his decision to recuse himself."

TRUMP-SCHUMER

Trump, hitting back, accuses Schumer of Putin ties

NEW YORK (AP) — President Donald Trump, his administration under siege for contacts with Russian officials, is calling for "an immediate investigation" into Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer's own ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Trump tweeted a photo Friday of Schumer meeting with Putin in New York in 2003.

The president called for a probe into Schumer's "ties to Russia and Putin" and called the New York senator "A total hypocrite!"

Schumer responded on Twitter a short time later writing that he would "happily talk" under oath about his meeting with Putin, which took place "in full view of press and public."

He then challenged Trump to do the same.

Trump's tweet comes a day after Attorney General Jeff Sessions came under scrutiny for his two meetings with a Russian ambassador.

TRUMP

Trump pushes vouchers in Florida school visit

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is praising a Florida Catholic school as the kind of school that disadvantaged children should be able to choose for their education.

Trump visited St. Andrew Catholic School in Florida on Friday and told its principal that "the love you have for what you do is really fantastic."

The president was joined by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. Trump repeated a line from his address to Congress on Tuesday, saying, "Education is the civil rights issue of our time."

He singled out Denisha Merriweather, a former failing student who turned her life around once she chose a new school, saying, "We want millions more to have the chance to achieve the success that you're achieving."

Trump also praised Florida, noting that he captured it in last fall's election.

JEWISH-GROUPS-THREATS

Suspect in Jewish threats appears before judge

ST. LOUIS (AP) — A former journalist accused of making threats to at least eight Jewish institutions as well as to the Anti-Defamation League's New York office has appeared before a federal judge.

Juan Thompson was handcuffed and wearing brown pants and a blue collarless shirt Friday in St. Louis. He politely answered questions.

He was charged with cyberstalking a former ex-girlfriend and was held without bail. Authorities say the threats were made in an effort to smear her.

Magistrate Judge David Noce asked if Thompson needed a public defender to represent him further. Thompson said he had "a little money" to hire a lawyer.

There were at least a half dozen supporters present who would say only that Thompson's record was clean. His lawyer refused to comment.

His next hearing is March 8.

PENCE-EMAIL

UPDATE: AOL emails among records Gov. Pence kept private

JANESVILLE, Wis. (AP) — Vice President Mike Pence repeatedly stonewalled media requests to view public records when he was Indiana's governor.

The latest case involves his use of a private AOL email account to conduct state business, which was first reported Thursday by the Indianapolis Star. The Associated Press has also tried to obtain his AOL emails after filing a public records request in July.

Pence's account was hacked last year. On the campaign trail Pence repeatedly attacked Democrat Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server while secretary of state.

The Republican was elected governor in 2013. During that time his administration has repeatedly delayed or denied the release of records that could shed light on his tenure.

Pence's efforts stand in stark contrast to the image he had previously sought to cultivate. He has long presented himself as a champion of a free press and the First Amendment.

TRUMP-DIPLOMATIC CUTBACKS

Officials: Tillerson eyes State Dept budget cut over 3 years

WASHINGTON (AP) — Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has agreed in principle to a White House proposal to slash foreign aid and diplomatic spending by 37 percent, but wants to spread it out over three years rather than in one dramatic cut.

That's according to officials familiar with Tillerson's response to the proposal from the Office of Management and Budget. The officials said Friday that Tillerson suggested the funding reductions to the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development begin with a 20 percent cut in the next budget year.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because discussions with OMB have just begun and no final proposal has been presented to Congress.

The agencies this year had a combined budget of $50.1 billion, just over 1 percent of the federal budget.

TRUMP-EPA

Environmental programs face deep cuts under budget proposal

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration would slash programs aimed at slowing climate change and improving water safety and air quality, according to details of a draft Environmental Protection Agency budget proposal obtained by the Associated Press.

Under the tentative plan from the Office of Management and Budget, the agency's funding would be cut by roughly 25 percent and about 3,000 jobs would be eliminated, about 19 percent of the agency's staff.

President Donald Trump has said he plans to pay for increased military spending by cuts to domestic agencies and departments.

Proposed cuts include the climate protection budget, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and environmental justice programs.

An EPA spokesperson declined comment. The agency has the opportunity to respond to the proposal, and any final plan would be subject to congressional approval.

MEXICAN-IMMIGRANT-CENTERS

Mexico launches nationwide effort in US to help migrants

MIAMI (AP) — The Mexican government is beefing up its aid to migrants in the U.S. through the creation of 50 legal assistance centers in response to President Donald Trump's measures to curb illegal immigration.

Mexican consulates in the U.S. launched the offices Friday to assist Mexican nationals who are facing or in fear of deportation. The $50 million effort comes as the two countries are in a rift over Trump's plans for a border wall. He says Mexico will pay for it, and Mexico says it won't.

Consulates from Mexico have been juggling numerous inquiries in recent months from migrants concern about their fate and that of their U.S.-born children.

Miami's Mexican consul general, Jose Antonio Zabalgoitia, said Friday that these centers would become "authentic advocates of the rights of Mexican migrants."

SCHWARZENEGGER-APPRENTICE

Schwarzenegger on 'Celebrity Apprentice': I quit

NEW YORK (AP) — Arnold Schwarzenegger says he's through with "The New Celebrity Apprentice," and he's blaming President Donald Trump for the show's recent poor performance.

The former California governor said Friday he wouldn't mind working with NBC and producer Mark Burnett again "on a show that doesn't have this baggage."

The show, which Trump once hosted and has remained as an executive producer, finished with the poorest ratings of any of its celebrity incarnations. The most recent season ended last month and averaged fewer than 5 million viewers an episode.

Schwarzenegger said in an interview with the Empire web site that Trump's involvement left a "bad taste" that drove away sponsors and viewers.

PACKERS-PETERSON-SLAVERY

Paper apologizes for column tying Peterson case to slavery

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — A Wisconsin newspaper is apologizing for a columnist who connected Minnesota Vikings star Adrian Peterson's child abuse case to beatings suffered by slaves.

Green Bay-Press Gazette columnist Pete Dougherty's remark came in a column calling for the Packers to consider signing Peterson.

Referencing the charge Peterson faced for disciplining his son with a wooden switch, Dougherty wrote that Peterson "likely is descended from slaves who suffered savage disciplinary beatings generation after generation after generation. It excuses nothing but also can't be ignored."

The Press-Gazette removed the paragraph Thursday night and apologized to readers. In a statement Friday, editor Robert Zizzo called it "a huge mistake in judgment by a reporter and failed oversight by editors."

The column was also carried by USA Today and the affiliated PackersNews.com.

Dougherty didn't respond to messages seeking comment.

DISNEY-GAY MOMENT-THEATER

Gay moment nixes 'Beauty and the Beast' at Alabama drive-in

HENAGAR, Ala. (AP) — An Alabama drive-in theater won't show a new re-telling of the classic fairy tale "Beauty and the Beast" because one of its characters is portrayed as homosexual.

A Facebook post for the Henagar Drive-In Theatre says its operators are "first and foremost Christians" and will not compromise on what the Bible teaches. They said they will show family-oriented films so customers can "watch wholesome movies."

The post said the owners were taking a stand and making a choice not to show the film, which includes manservant Le Fou, who plays the sidekick to the story's villain Gaston and, according to director Bill Condon, "is confused about his sexuality."

Theater operators did not immediately respond to emails or phone messages to confirm the Facebook posting.

The Disney film releases March 17.

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