Update on the latest news, sports, business and entertainment

March 25, 2017 - 2:54 pm

SEVERE WEATHER

NEW: Storm destroys church as threat continues in Midwest, South

RINGGOLD, La. (AP) — Authorities say an apparent tornado demolished a church as a large system of storms threatened several states across the South and Midwest.

The Bienville Parish Sheriff's Office said on Saturday that the storm destroyed the Ringgold Assembly of God Church in Ringgold, Louisiana, late Friday night. No injuries were reported.

The National Weather Service planned damage surveys to confirm whether a tornado struck the church.

Saturday's storms were moving across Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana, where power companies on Saturday reported more than 15,000 customers without electricity.

The Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma, says Saturday's storms are just the start of what's expected to be a very active week for severe weather.

Forecasters said that on Sunday, residents in Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas could see another round of severe storms.

TRUMP-NATIONAL-SECURITY-ADVISER

Ex-CIA chief: Flynn's firm discussed removing cleric from US

WASHINGTON (AP) — A former CIA director has accused former Trump administration national security adviser Michael Flynn of participating in a discussion with Turkish officials about possibly subverting the U.S. extradition process to remove a Turkish cleric from the United States.

The Wall Street Journal first reported the allegations made by former CIA Director James Woolsey. A Flynn spokesman says that Woolsey's claims are false and that "no such discussion occurred."

Woolsey said the discussion generally involved removing cleric Fethullah Gulen from the U.S. without going through the lengthy extradition process. The Turkish government has sought Gulen's extradition after accusing the cleric of directing a failed coup last summer. The U.S. government has rebuffed that request. Gulen, who has a green card and lives in Pennsylvania, has denied involvement.

TURKEY-EU

Erdogan: Turkey might hold referendum on EU membership

ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkey's president says the country might pursue a Brexit-like referendum on whether to pursue European Union membership.

Speaking Saturday at a Turkish-U.K. forum in the southern city of Antalya, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made the proposal as tensions are escalating between Ankara and European governments ahead of an April 16 referendum to expand the powers of the Turkish presidency.

Bringing up Brexit — the British departure from the EU — Erdogan said a similar referendum "might" be held after the April 16 vote, adding that he would respect whatever the people decided.

At a rally earlier Saturday, Erdogan lashed out those who claimed Turkey would not be let into the EU if the referendum passed.

He says "Turkey is no one's whipping boy."

IRAQ

US command: Mosul airstrikes were at the request of Iraq

BAGHDAD (AP) — An initial review of airstrikes over the past days indicates that the U.S.-led coalition has struck fighters and equipment of the Islamic State group west of the northern city of Mosul at the request of Iraqi security forces, where there were allegations of civilian casualties, the Pentagon said.

The coalition said in a statement Saturday that the airstrike was conducted on March 17.

Reports have indicated that the airstrikes have allegedly killed more than 100 civilians in western Mosul where U.S.-backed government troops are fighting IS.

The coalition said it takes all allegations of civilian casualties seriously and a formal Civilian Casualty Credibility Assessment has been opened to determine the facts surrounding this strike and the validity of the allegation of civilian casualties.

MANHATTAN EXPLOSION

Lawyer for bomb suspect wants attempted murder trial moved

ELIZABETH, N.J. (AP) — A lawyer for the man accused of setting off bombs last year in New Jersey and New York, injuring more than 30 people, is seeking a change of venue for his trial on attempted murder charges stemming from a shootout with police.

Deputy Public Defender Peter Liguori said Ahmad Rahimi can't get a fair trial in Union County, citing the excessive media coverage he and the bombings have received.

Rahimi is charged with attempted murder for the Sept. 19 gunbattle with five officers in Linden, New Jersey. At the time, he was being sought for allegedly planting two bombs in Manhattan and two in New Jersey — near a charity run in Seaside Park, and in a trash can in Elizabeth.

The Union County Prosecutor's Office declined comment on the request.

TOURIST ASSAULT-TRIAL

American guilty of attacking Japanese tourist gets 22 years

LOCKPORT, N.Y. (AP) — A western New York man found guilty of attacking a Japanese tourist in a Niagara Falls park has been sentenced to 22 years in prison.

Robert MacLeod was found guilty of robbery, sexual abuse and assault in January following the attack on Christmas night in 2015. The 45-year-old man was sentenced Friday and got the maximum sentence.

Prosecutors say MacLeod attacked Koyuki Nakahara in Niagara Falls State Park after she asked him for directions, when she was traveling with a Japanese tour group.

Nakahara testified that MacLeod punched her and molested her. The Associated Press generally doesn't identify people who say they are victims of sexual abuse, but Nakahara has previously discussed her case publicly.

MacLeod testified he had a confrontation with another woman, not Nakahara.

FORMER CONGRESSMAN CHARGED

Ex-US Rep. Stockman expects to be 'vindicated' on charges

HOUSTON (AP) — Former U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman says he expects "to be vindicated" on allegations he conspired with staffers to bilk conservative foundations out of at least $775,000 that was meant for charitable purposes and voter education.

After a court hearing Friday, Stockman told reporters he didn't intend to plead guilty or enter into a plea agreement.

Shaun Clarke, Stockman's attorney, said the Texas Republican will fight to clear his name.

Stockman served two non-consecutive terms in the U.S. House. He was arrested this month after being charged with conspiracy to make conduit contributions and false statements.

A former Stockman campaign worker pleaded guilty Monday to two counts of conspiracy and is cooperating with authorities.

Stockman has blamed his arrest on a "deep state" shadow government that's targeting him.

TRUMP TOWER-AIRBNB

NYC says Trump Tower resident wrongly rented out on Airbnb

NEW YORK (AP) — A woman who owns an apartment at Trump Tower is being fined $1,000 by the city after they say she wrongly rented it out on Airbnb.

According to an affidavit and summons, Yelena Yelagina owns apartment 30H at 721 Fifth Avenue. The New York Times reported it was available since around September for up to $450 nightly. Renters learned the address after they'd booked reservations. The listing was later taken down.

A New York state law levies fines against people who rent out their entire living space for less than 30 days. New York City agreed in December to enforce the law only against the hosts and not to fine Airbnb. The Trump Organization says condominium rules prohibit Airbnb listings.

Calls to Yelagina rang unanswered. A hearing is set for May 4.

SELF-DRIVING CAR-CRASH

Self-driving Uber SUV struck during Arizona accident

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — Officials say a self-driving Uber SUV was operating on its own when it was struck by another vehicle making a left turn at an intersection in Arizona, where the company is testing autonomous vehicles.

No one was seriously injured. Uber says its vehicles have been grounded as it investigates.

Police in Tempe say the self-driving SUV was obeying the law and the driver in the other car who didn't yield was cited for a moving violation after the Friday night crash.

An Uber statement Saturday says there were no passengers in the self-driving Volvo SUV at the time of the crash but there were two operators in the front.

Police say the Uber rolled over onto its side as a result of the collision.

ODD-BIGFOOT CRASH

NEW: Idaho woman says she crashed because she saw a sasquatch

(Information in the following story is from: The Moscow-Pullman Daily News, http://www.dnews.com)

MOSCOW, Idaho (AP) — A northern Idaho woman told police she crashed into a deer because she was distracted by a sasquatch in her rearview mirror.

The Moscow-Pullman Daily News reports (http://bit.ly/2n2zshf ) that the 50-year-old Tensed woman was driving south on U.S. Highway 95 on Wednesday when she struck a deer near Potlatch.

The woman told Benewah County Sheriff's officials that she saw a sasquatch chasing a deer on the side of the road while driving. She says she checked one of her mirrors to get a second look at the beast and when she looked up, the deer ran in front of her.

Sheriff's officials marked the incident as a vehicle versus deer collision but did not report any evidence of Bigfoot.

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