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

March 04, 2017 - 12:53 am

ATTORNEY GENERAL-RUSSIA-GRASSLEY

Sessions to amend testimony regarding Russian contacts

WASHINGTON (AP) — Attorney General Jeff Sessions plans on Monday to provide amended testimony regarding his contacts with Russia's ambassador to the U.S. during the presidential election.

In a statement Friday, Justice Department spokesman Peter Carr says Sessions will also respond to questions raised by Democratic senators.

The nine Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee had asked that Sessions appear again before the committee to discuss the subject. They say significant questions remain unanswered.

The Republican chairman, Sen. Chuck Grassley, rejected their request.

Sessions has recused himself from any probe that examines communications between President Donald Trump's aides and Moscow. His decision came after revelations that Sessions spoke twice with the Russian ambassador during the campaign and failed to say so despite questioning from Congress.

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.

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.

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.

TRUMP-KEYSTONE

Keystone pipeline won't use US steel despite Trump pledge

PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — The Keystone XL oil pipeline won't use American steel in its construction, despite what President Donald Trump says.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders says that's due to language in a presidential directive Trump issued in January. Sanders says the directive applies to new pipelines or those being repaired. She says it would be hard to do an about face on Keystone because it's already under construction and the steel has been acquired.

Trump said as recently as last week that Keystone and another pipeline must use American steel "or we're not building one."

Shortly after taking office, Trump used his executive powers to greenlight the two pipeline projects that had been blocked by President Barack Obama.

The Keystone pipeline would run from Canada to refineries in the Gulf Coast.

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."

GREAT LAKES-ASIAN CARP

NEW: Members of Congress urge Trump to release Asian carp report

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — Three members of Congress are urging President Donald Trump to break a logjam on preventing Asian carp from invading the Great Lakes.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was scheduled this week to release a draft report on strengthening defenses against the carp at a lock-and-dam complex near Chicago. Instead, the Corps said it was delaying action indefinitely.

Shipping interests have opposed upgrading the Brandon Road Lock and Dam to keep the carp out of Lake Michigan, saying such changes could hamper cargo traffic.

Republican Reps. Bill Huizenga and Mike Bishop of Michigan and Democrat Marcy Kaptur of Ohio wrote Trump a letter Friday urging release of the report.

They say withholding it worsens the threat of Asian carp reaching the Great Lakes and damaging its fishing industry.

MARINES-TORTOISE RELOCATION

NEW: Federal authorities approve California tortoise removal

TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. (AP) — Federal authorities have approved a plan to move nearly 1,500 desert tortoises from a Southern California Marine base.

The Riverside Press-Enterprise says the Navy and the Bureau of Land Management have signed off on the proposal.

The Marine Corps wants to remove the tortoises from about 88,000 acres of land at the Twentynine Palms base in the Mojave Desert so it can use the area for training.

Exercises with tanks and live ammunition are scheduled to begin in August.

The removal could begin at the end of this month or in April after the reptiles emerge from their underground winter hibernation.

The tortoises would be flown by helicopter to BLM land near Barstow.

Critics say the move will devastate the threatened species. The BLM disagrees.

WAREHOUSE PARTY FIRE

UPDATE: All 36 victims of Ghost Ship fire died from smoke inhalation

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Investigators say smoke inhalation killed all 36 victims of a fire at a party at an Oakland warehouse.

The Alameda County coroner confirmed the causes of death Friday for the Dec. 2 fire at the warehouse and artists' colony known as the Ghost Ship.

Autopsies were performed in December, and the cause of death has been known for weeks, but came to light Friday when the San Francisco Chronicle called the coroner to check on the status of the investigation.

The result, while striking in its uniformity, is not surprising. Smoke inhalation is the most common cause of fire fatalities.

The blaze broke out during a dance party and quickly ripped through the cluttered warehouse. Oakland fire officials have yet to announce the cause of the blaze.

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.

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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