Update on the latest news, sports, business and entertainment at 8:20 p.m. EDT

April 05, 2017 - 8:23 pm

SYRIA

Syria chemical attack death toll surpasses 80

BEIRUT (AP) — A Syrian monitoring group says the death toll from a suspected chemical weapons attack on the northern town of Khan Sheikhoun has risen to 86.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says those killed in Tuesday's attack include 30 children and 20 women.

U.S. intelligence officials, the World Health Organization, and Doctors Without Borders say the initial evidence points to the use of nerve gas in the attack.

The Trump administration and other international officials accuse the Syrian government of carrying out the strike, allegations Damascus has denied.

Moscow, a stalwart ally of the Syrian government, says toxic gases were released when Syrian government jets bombed a rebel munitions factory in the town's outskirts.

TRUMP-NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL

Trump removes Bannon from National Security Council

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump has removed chief strategist Steve Bannon from the National Security Council, reversing a controversial early decision to give Bannon access to the high-level meetings.

A new memorandum about the composition of the NSC was published in the Federal Register on Wednesday. The memo no longer lists the chief strategist as a member of the Principal's Committee, a group of high-ranking officials that convene to discuss pressing national security priorities.

The new memo also restores the director of national intelligence and the Joint Chiefs chairman to the Principal's Committee.

Bannon's addition to the NSC sparked concerns from Trump critics, who said it was inappropriate for the political adviser to play a role on national security matters.

CONGRESS-HEALTH OVERHAUL

White House, lawmakers adrift over reviving health bill

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration and Republican lawmakers plan to continue their uphill effort to exhume the House GOP's all-but-buried health care bill.

But the party seems adrift and divided for now over how to reshape it to attract enough votes to muscle it through the chamber.

White House officials and leading legislators plan to resume talks Wednesday.

They huddled for two hours in a Capitol basement meeting room. But they failed to cut a deal on a White House proposal to let states seek federal permission to drop coverage mandates that President Barack Obama's health care law slapped on insurers.

The White House offers got an uneven reception earlier from GOP moderates and conservatives. That dimmed prospects they could salvage one of their leading legislative priorities.

OIL TRAIN ACCIDENTS

APNewsBreak: Thousands of defects found on oil train routes

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Inspectors have found almost 24,000 safety defects over the past two years along U.S. railroad routes used to ship volatile crude oil.

Data obtained by The Associated Press shows many of the defects were similar to problems blamed in past derailments that caused massive fires or oil spills in Oregon, Virginia, Montana and elsewhere.

The safety gaps were discovered during targeted federal inspections on almost 58,000 miles of oil train routes in 44 states. The program began two years ago following a string of oil train accidents across North America, including a 2013 derailment in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, that killed 47 people.

The inspections resulted in 1,118 recommended violations.

Federal Railroad Administration spokesman Marc Willis says the targeted inspections have improved safety by making railroads more responsive to concerns raised by agency officials.

MASTERS-JOHNSON INJURED

Johnson injures back falling down stairs on eve of Masters

AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — Dustin Johnson's manager says the world's No. 1 player has taken a serious fall on a staircase on the eve of the Masters.

David Winkle of Hambric Sports says in an email that Johnson fell on the stairs of his rental home in Augusta on Wednesday. He says Johnson landed hard on his lower back and is resting with discomfort.

Doctors have advised Johnson to remain stable and start taking anti-inflammatory medication.

Winkle says Johnson hopes to be able to play in the Masters when it starts on Thursday.

SENATE-SUPREME COURT-THE LATEST

The Latest: Senators worry about coming blowup over Gorsuch

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senators from both parties are worried about the coming blowup over Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is poised to change Senate rules. By lowering the threshold for a vote on Supreme Court nominees from 60 votes to a simple majority, Republicans would eliminate the ability of Democrats to keep Gorsuch off the high court.

But some Republicans worry the move will weaken Senate traditions.

Arizona Republican John McCain said, "I fear that someday we will regret what we are about to do. In fact, I am confident we will." He said there has to be a Senate "where the rights of the minority are protected regardless of which party is in power at the time."

Still, McCain is expected to go along with McConnell on changing the filibuster rule.

UNITED STATES-SYRIA-THE LATEST

The Latest: Tillerson asks Russia to rethink Assad support

WASHINGTON (AP) — Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says there's "no doubt in our mind" that the Syrian government under President Bashar Assad's leadership is responsible for what he's calling a "horrific attack."

Tillerson says the U.S. thinks that it is time for Russia to rethink its support for Assad's government. He's reacting to a chemical attack in rebel-held territory in northern Syria that killed more than 80 people Tuesday.

Tillerson commented during a brief photo op with visiting Mexican Foreign Secretary Luis Videgaray.

US WOMEN-LABOR

US Soccer and women's national team agree on new contract

The U.S. Soccer Federation and the World Cup champion women's team have agreed on a labor contract, settling a dispute in which the players sought equitable wages to their male counterparts.

The financial terms and length of the multiyear deal were not disclosed.

The agreement was ratified by the players and the federation's board Tuesday. The team had been playing under a memorandum of understanding that expired Dec. 31.

A group of players drew attention to the fight for a better contract a year ago when they filed a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that alleged wage discrimination by the federation. The women maintained that players for the men's national team earned far more than they did in many cases despite comparable work.

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