Update on the latest news, sports, business and entertainment at 4:20 p.m. EDT

April 01, 2017 - 4:30 pm


President: Death toll climbs to 154

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — President Juan Manuel Santos says the death toll from an avalanche of water near Colombia's border with Ecuador has now reached 154 and is likely to rise further.

But he cautioned against speculating about how many people will remain missing.

Santos spoke to reporters in Mocoa on Saturday after a meeting with civil defense officials. He said that the avalanche knocked out power in half of the province of Putumayo, where Mocoa is located. It also wiped out Mocoa's fresh water network, for which 20 water tankers are on their way from other cities.

He said among the 200 people injured, 22 suffered serious injuries for which they are being airlifted to nearby cities.

He blamed climate change for triggering the avalanche, saying that the previous night's rain was almost half the amount Mocoa normally receives in the entire month of March. With the rainy season in much of Colombia just beginning, he said local and national authorities need to redouble their efforts to prevent a similar tragedy.

Santos says: "These rains are increasingly more intense, so we have to be ready."

The president says that instead of sending supplies Colombians should send donations so that families displaced by the tragedy can rebuild.


White House launches counteroffensive amid investigations

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House is on the defensive, throwing counter punches to deflect attention from three investigations into the Kremlin's interference in last year's election and possible Russian ties to President Donald Trump or his associates.

The White House says the real story is not about Russia, but about how Obama administration officials allegedly leaked and mishandled classified material about Americans. Reaching back to campaign mode, Trump aides also contend that Hillary Clinton had more extensive ties to Moscow than Trump.

The White House has not pointed to any hard evidence to support its allegations. It's instead relied on media reports from some of the same publications Trump derides as "fake news." The truth is buried somewhere in classified material that is illegal to disclose.


Supreme Court showdown looms with far-reaching consequences

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate is headed for a tense showdown over President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee that could have far-reaching consequences for Congress, the high court and the nation.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his Republicans are determined to confirm Judge Neil Gorsuch within the week. But to do so, they will likely have to override Democratic objections and unilaterally change Senate rules so that Gorsuch can be confirmed with a simple majority in the 100-seat chamber, instead of the 60-voter threshold.

Though it may seem arcane, the approach is known in Congress as the "nuclear option" because it strikes at the heart of the Senate's traditions of bipartisanship and collegiality.

It would allow all future Supreme Court nominees to be confirmed without regard to the objections of the minority party.


Under Trump, Pentagon seizing more control over warfighting

WASHINGTON (AP) — Week by week, country by country, the Pentagon is quietly seizing more control over warfighting decisions. It is sending hundreds of more troops to war with little public debate and seeking greater authority to battle extremists across the Middle East and Africa.

This week it was Somalia, where President Donald Trump gave the U.S. military more authority to conduct offensive airstrikes on al-Qaida-linked militants. Next week it could be Yemen, where military leaders want to provide more help for the United Arab Emirates' battle against Iranian-backed rebels.

The changes in President Donald Trump's first two months in office underscore his willingness to let the Pentagon manage its own day-to-day combat. But delegating more authority to the Pentagon comes with its own military and political risks.


Trump's rollback of coal rules electrifies Wyoming workers

GILLETTE, Wyo. (AP) — Optimism abounds in the coal-mining city of Gillette, Wyoming, now that President Donald Trump is rolling back some climate-change regulations.

Huge open-pit mines near Gillette produce more than 40 percent of the coal mined in the U.S. Last year was the worst for American coal production since the 1970s as utilities continued switching to natural gas, wind and solar power to generate electricity.

Many people in Gillette also blame environmental regulations imposed by President Barack Obama for trouble at the mines, which laid off 500 miners last year.

Mayor Louise Carter-King predicts Gillette will come back bigger and better than ever with Trump's help.

Economists aren't so confident. They say utilities have little incentive to burn coal and neither do many countries that could import U.S. coal.


The Latest: Mormon leader cautions to guard against bigotry

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A high-ranking Mormon leader is cautioning church members not to be judgmental.

Dale Renlund told a worldwide audience Saturday during a twice-yearly Mormon conference in Salt Lake City that church members must guard against bigotry that sometimes occurs when people fail to respect the religious beliefs of others.

Renlund says Mormons have historically endured hatred and bigotry and must not persecute anyone inside or outside the church.

Renlund is one of the newest members of a top governing body of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints called the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

This weekend's conference is broadcast online to church members around the world.

Earlier Saturday, Mormon leader Henry Eyring spoke about the importance of performing ceremonial baptisms on deceased ancestors who didn't receive the ordinance while alive.


Fox News' Bill O'Reilly says he is vulnerable to lawsuits

NEW YORK (AP) — In response to a New York Times report, Fox News host Bill O'Reilly says in a statement posted to his website that he is "vulnerable to lawsuits" because of his high-profile job.

The newspaper reported Saturday on payouts made to settle accusations of sexual harassment and other inappropriate behavior. The Times reported that O'Reilly or Fox News Channel's owner, 21st Century Fox, have paid $13 million to five women over these complaints.

21st Century Fox did not reply to questions about the allegations but said in a statement Saturday that it had looked into "these matters" in the past few months and discussed them with O'Reilly. The company said O'Reilly "resolved those he regarded as his personal responsibility" although he denied their merits.

Former Fox head Roger Ailes left last summer amid sexual harassment charges.


The Latest: April Fools storm dumps up to 18 inches of snow

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — The April Fools' Day snowstorm that hit parts of northern New England is winding down, but it's not keeping everyone from enjoying the joke.

Erik Lustgarten and Tracy Neff were in Portland, Maine, reveling in the snow Saturday during their weekend away from home in Newburyport, Massachusetts.

Lustgarten said New England residents have to stay on their toes, given the region's weather. Neff said the snow was "fabulous."

By late afternoon, up to 18 inches of snow had fallen in some locations.

Utility crews across Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine continued to work on restoring power to thousands of customers.


The Latest: Venezuela troops block protesters

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Hundreds of soldiers in armored vehicles have blocked the passage of demonstrators who attempted to march from the wealthy east of Caracas to government offices in the city's center.

Some protesters banged on the armored vehicles or climbed atop of them.

A small group that tried to get around was turned back by tear gas.


Dylan finally gets his hands on his Nobel Literature prize

STOCKHOLM (AP) — Bob Dylan finally has his hands on his Nobel Literature diploma and medal.

A member of the Swedish Academy said the 75-year-old American singer/songwriter, who gave a concert in Stockholm on Saturday night, received his award during a small afternoon gathering at a nearby hotel with just academy members and a member of Dylan's staff.

Klas Ostergren of the Swedish Academy told The Associated Press "it went very well indeed" and that Dylan was "a very nice, kind man."

Other members of the academy told Swedish media that Dylan seemed pleased by the award.

Dylan himself did not mention anything about receiving the Nobel at his concert later that night.

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