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March 07, 2017 - 12:49 am

CONGRESS-HEALTH OVERHAUL

House GOP releases bill replacing Obama health care overhaul

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Republicans have released their long-awaited bill dismantling much of former President Barack Obama's health care overhaul. The measure would roll back the government's health care role and is expected to result in fewer people having insurance coverage.

House committees planned votes on the legislation Wednesday. That will launch perhaps the year's defining battle in Congress, and GOP success is by no means assured because of internal divisions.

The plan would repeal the law's fines on people who don't purchase health insurance. Instead of the statute's income-based premium subsidies, people would get tax credits based on age. The subsidies would phase out for higher-earning people.

Obama's expansion of Medicaid to more lower-income people would continue until 2020. The bill would eventually change how the federal government helps finance that program.

HOMELAND SECURITY-FAMILIES SEPARATED

DHS chief: Agency may separate parents, children at border

WASHINGTON (AP) — Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly says his agency is considering separating children and parents caught crossing the Mexican border illegally.

Kelly says such a move would be part of a broader effort to stop families from making the dangerous trek across Mexico to the United States border. He confirmed that he's considering the action during an interview with CNN Monday.

Tens of thousands of parents and children mostly fleeing violence in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala have been caught crossing the border illegally in recent years. Generally, the families are detained for a few days or weeks before being released to wait for an immigration judge to decide their fate.

It can take years for a case to be completed in federal immigration court.

AP-POLL-IMMIGRANTS-VS-REFUGEES

Poll: Small majority in US see risk in admitting refugees

WASHINGTON (AP) — A small majority of Americans see refugees as a risk apart from other legal immigrants.

A new poll shows two-thirds of Americans say the benefit of admitting legal immigrants outweighs the risk. But when it comes to refugees — those fleeing persecution — a bare majority says the risks are great enough to limit their entry into the United States.

The distinction could be one of perception at a time of religious and politically inspired violence. President Donald Trump has long linked immigration limits with a safer country. Trump on Monday halted for 90 days entry to the U.S. for people from Sudan, Syria, Iran, Libya Somalia and Yemen — except for those holding valid visas.

The poll was conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

AFGHAN FAMILY DETAINED

Lawyer describes Afghan dad's US military work

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — An attorney for an Afghan family who traveled to the United States on special visas and were detained by immigration officials in Los Angeles says the father worked for the U.S. military for more than a decade.

The father, mother and three young sons were detained Thursday after they arrived at the LA airport for a connecting flight to Washington state, where they planned to resettle. They were released Monday.

Attorney Rob Blume says the father worked different jobs for the U.S. military in Afghanistan for more than a decade and was assaulted and shot during his time there.

Lawyers say the family went through a more than yearlong process to obtain special immigrant visas, which are given to foreigners who work for the U.S. military in their countries.

Government officials say the family will be interviewed April 5 to determine if they're eligible to use the visas to stay in the country.

KOREAS-TENSION-THAAD

US moves parts of controversial missile defense to SKorea

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — The U.S. military has begun moving equipment for a controversial missile defense system to ally South Korea.

The announcement Tuesday by the U.S. military comes a day after North Korea test-launched four ballistic missiles into the ocean near Japan.

The plans to deploy the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system, or THAAD, have angered not only North Korea, but also China, which sees the system's powerful radars as a security threat.

Some South Korean liberal presidential candidates have also said that the security benefits of having THAAD would be curtailed by worsened relations with neighbors China and Russia.

South Korea and the U.S. have said they plan to have THAAD operational by the end of the year.

MALAYSIA-NORTH KOREA

Malaysia says N. Korean acts forced travel ban

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has strongly condemned North Korea's move to bar Malaysians from leaving the country, saying it is "effectively holding our citizens hostage."

Najib says in a statement issued Tuesday that he has instructed police to prevent all North Korean citizens from leaving Malaysia "until we are assured of the safety and security of all Malaysians in North Korea." Earlier, Malaysian officials had said Malaysia's travel ban was limited to North Korean Embassy officials and staff.

Pyongyang issued its ban earlier Tuesday. Malaysia has said it affects 11 of its citizens currently in North Korea. There are believed to be some 1,000 North Koreans working in Malaysia.

Relations between the countries have been disintegrating since Kim Jong Nam, the half brother of North Korea's leader, was attacked with a nerve agent at a Kuala Lumpur airport terminal Feb. 13.

TRUMP-WIRETAP

McCain says Trump should explain wiretap claims

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Republican chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee says President Donald Trump needs to give more information to the American people and Congress about his wiretapping accusations against his predecessor, Barack Obama.

Sen. John McCain told reporters Monday: "The dimensions of this are huge. It's accusing a former president of the United States of violating the law. That's never happened before."

Without providing any evidence, Trump on Saturday made the explosive claim that Obama tapped his telephones during last year's election.

The White House said Sunday that Congress' intelligence committees should investigate but declined to say anything more.

FBI Director James Comey privately asked the Justice Department to dispute the claim because he believed the allegations were false.

FBI DIRECTOR

NEW: FBI director to visit new offices amid Trump wiretap claims

CHELSEA, Mass. (AP) — FBI Director James Comey (KOH'-mee) is set to visit Massachusetts to mark the opening of the Boston FBI division's new offices and to speak at a cybersecurity conference amid wiretapping accusations lodged by Republican President Donald Trump.

Trump claims Democratic former President Barack Obama tapped his phones during last year's election. Comey has privately asked the Department of Justice to dispute Trump's wiretapping allegations as false.

Obama's camp has flatly denied Trump's claims, which were presented without evidence.

Comey is expected to attend a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday for the Boston FBI division's new headquarters in Chelsea, just north of Boston. On Wednesday he's scheduled to speak at a cybersecurity conference at Boston College.

Comey became a polarizing figure in the presidential race when he spoke publicly about an investigation into Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton's emails.

ATTORNEY GENERAL-RUSSIA

Attorney general clarifies testimony on Russian contacts

WASHINGTON (AP) — Attorney General Jeff Sessions has clarified his confirmation hearing testimony to acknowledge having spoken twice last year with the Russian ambassador.

The filing Monday amends testimony Sessions gave in January when he said he did not have communications with the Russians.

Sessions last week acknowledged that he had spoken with the ambassador once at the Republican National Convention last July and again at a meeting in his Senate office in September.

He agreed to recuse himself from any investigations involving the Trump campaign and Russian interference in the presidential election.

Sessions maintains in Monday's filing that he had answered the question honestly. He says he didn't mention communication with the ambassador because the question had not asked about it.

CARSON-SLAVERY

Carson compares immigration to America to slavery

WASHINGTON (AP) — Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson is comparing slavery to immigration in the United States, a view that one slavery expert calls "inappropriate and wildly inaccurate."

Carson was talking about the work ethic of immigrants who came through Ellis Island during his first speech to the department on Monday. He said, "There were other immigrants who came here on the bottom of slave ships."

A HUD spokesman declined to comment when asked about Carson's statement.

Rana Hogarth is a professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She says slaves, unlike immigrants, were "a group of people making this journey against their will."

Hogarth is calling on Carson to correct his statement.

CONFEDERATE MONUMENTS-NEW ORLEANS

Court: New Orleans can remove 3 Confederate monuments

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — An appeals court has cleared the way for the city of New Orleans to take down three Confederate-era monuments that have been a source of tension in the Southern city.

A ruling Monday by a three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans lifts an injunction blocking the removal.

The City Council voted in December 2015 to remove the monuments after a series of heated public meetings.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu urged the monuments' removal after police said a white supremacist who posed for photos with the Confederate battle flag killed nine parishioners inside an African-American church in South Carolina in June 2015.

But their removal has been sharply controversial in a city where passions over the Civil War still run strong.

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