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March 09, 2017 - 8:40 pm

CHINA-TRUMP TRADEMARKS

UPDATE: China defends its decision granting trademarks to Trump

SHANGHAI (AP) — China on Thursday defended its handling of 38 trademarks it recently approved provisionally for President Donald Trump, saying it followed the law in processing the applications at a pace that some experts view as unusually quick.

Democrats in Congress were critical of Trump after The Associated Press reported Wednesday that the potentially valuable trademarks had been granted, raising questions of conflict of interest and political favoritism. One senator said the issue "merits investigation."

Trump has sometimes struggled to win trademarks from China; he secured one recently after a 10-year fight that turned his way only after he declared his candidacy for the presidency.

China's foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said in a regular briefing with reporters that Chinese authorities handle all trademark applications "in accordance with the law and regulation." He declined to comment on speculation about political influence on Trump's trademark approvals.

TRUMP-NATIONAL SECURITY

VP Pence says ouster of national security adviser Flynn was understandable

WASHINGTON (AP) — Vice President Mike Pence says the revelation that former national security adviser Michael Flynn did work before his appointment that could have furthered the interests of the government of Turkey was "an affirmation" of the decision to seek Flynn's resignation.

Pence says in an interview with Fox News that the report was the first he had heard about Flynn's role.

Flynn filed paperwork with the Justice Department acknowledging his work for a company owned by a Turkish businessman — work that could have aided Turkey's government.

Asked if he was disappointed, Pence says, "I think it is an affirmation of the president's decision to ask General Flynn to resign."

The White House said President Donald Trump was not aware of Flynn's work on the matter.

GERMANY-AX ATTACK

5 injured in ax attack in Germany

BERLIN (AP) — Police in Duesseldorf, Germany say a man was arrested after injuring five people with an ax at the main train station in what appeared to be a random attack.

Officers were alerted about an attack Thursday evening, prompting a large-scale response.

A police statement says: "A person, probably armed with an ax, attacked people at random. At least five people were injured, one of them very seriously."

Their statement adds that the suspected attacker was arrested after jumping off an overpass near the train station. The man suffered serious injuries and was taken to a hospital.

Police say an ax was recovered and officers have been searching the area in and around the station, which was closed for the investigation.

German authorities have heightened security measures following a series of attacks in public places over the past year.

HEALTH CARE OVERHAUL

Trump speaks optimistically of prospects for health care rewrite

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump says that contrary to some media reports, plans to overhaul health care are "coming along great."

Trump tweets that, "Despite what you hear in the press, healthcare is coming along great. We are talking to many groups and it will end in a beautiful picture."

The White House and Republican leaders are facing a party badly divided over the high-stakes overhaul campaign. Opposition comes from conservatives like Sen. Rand Paul who say the party should simply repeal President Barack Obama's health care law.

Conservative lawmakers and allied outside groups claim the bill takes too timid a whack at Obama's law. Numerous GOP centrists and governors are antagonistic, worried their states could lose Medicaid payments and face higher costs for hospitals

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UNITED STATES-ISLAMIC STATE

US Mideast commander gives senators update on Syria

WASHINGTON (AP) — The top U.S. commander in the Middle East is signaling that there will be a larger and longer American military presence in Syria to accelerate the fight against the Islamic State group and ease friction within the complicated mix of warring factions there.

Gen. Joseph Votel, head of U.S. Central Command, tells senators he'll need more conventional U.S. forces to insure stability once the fight to defeat Islamic State militants in their self-declared capital of Raqqa is over. He says the U.S. military can't just leave once the fight is over because the Syrians will need help keeping IS out and ensuring the peaceful transition to local control.

Votel's testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee comes as a couple hundred Marines moved into Syria in recent days to bring in large artillery guns for the Raqqa fight, and another couple hundred Army Rangers went into northern Syria to tamp down skirmishes between Turkish and Syrian forces near the border.

TRAVEL BAN

Revised Trump travel order ban subjected to new legal challenges

SEATTLE (AP) — President Donald Trump's new travel ban order is facing a legal challenge.

Officials in Washington state said they will file a suit seeking to block the order. This came just a day after Hawaii launched its own lawsuit, and Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson said both Oregon and New York had asked to join his state's legal action. Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said her state is joining fellow states in challenging the revised travel ban.

Washington was the first state to sue over the original ban, which resulted in Judge James Robart in Seattle halting its implementation around the country. Ferguson said the state would ask Robart to rule that his temporary restraining order against the first ban applies to Trump's revised action.

Trump's revised ban bars new visas for people from six predominantly Muslim countries: Somalia, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Libya and Yemen. It also temporarily shuts down the U.S. refugee program.

Unlike the initial order, the new one says current visa holders won't be affected, and removes language that would give priority to religious minorities.

EDUCATION-TRANSGENDER STUDENTS

Transgender families press education secretary on rights

WASHINGTON (AP) — Families of transgender students came away from a meeting with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos saying that she was receptive to their concerns but must now follow up with action.

DeVos met Wednesday with two transgender students and their parents, as well as with the parent of a transgender child who committed suicide. Separately, she also met with several LGBT advocacy organizations. Participants asked DeVos to do more to protect transgender rights.

The meeting came shortly after the Trump administration rescinded Obama-era guidance that instructed schools to let students use bathrooms in line with their stated gender identity, not their assigned gender at birth.

Karen Dolan, the mother of a transgender high school student, said DeVos listened carefully and empathized but wouldn't commit to doing more to help the students.

IMMIGRANTS-ENFORCEMENT-SCAMS

Con artists prey on immigrants fearing a Trump crackdown

NEW YORK (AP) — Authorities say con artists are exploiting immigrants' fears of deportation by posing as federal agents and demanding they pay up or else.

An immigrant in New York City, for example, got a call from someone who told him he was in the U.S. illegally and would have to hand over $1,550 to stay.

People in the U.S. without permission are seen as easy targets for such scams because they are reluctant to go to the police.

As a result, authorities have found it difficult to investigate such schemes or determine how common they are.

The New York attorney general's office says immigrants should know this: A real agent from ICE, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, will never ask for money.

JEWISH GROUPS-THREATS

NYPD intel chief: 1 person suspected in most Jewish threats

NEW YORK (AP) — New York City's head of police intelligence says investigators believe one person is behind a large number of the threats made against U.S. Jewish institutions this year.

John Miller appeared Thursday on the show "CBS This Morning." He described the threats as coordinated.

Miller said investigators believe a man using a voice changer is behind the scores of threats. They also think he's using a phone spoofing device that makes it appear the call is not coming from the number he's using.

He said the criminal has "technical prowess."

The Anti-Defamation League says 148 threats targeting Jewish institutions have been received across the country since January.

On Thursday, a Jewish children's museum in Brooklyn was evacuated for a few hours after police investigated an emailed bomb threat.

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