Update on the latest news, sports, business and entertainment:

March 15, 2017 - 5:44 am


Several courts hear travel ban case today

UNDATED (AP) — A day before President Donald Trump's revised travel ban is to take effect, the executive action will be scrutinized in federal courtrooms across the country today.

In Maryland, a federal judge will hear arguments from the ACLU and others who want to stop the new directive.

Hawaii's lawsuit is heading to a U.S. court in Honolulu, while Washington state wants its own hearing before a federal judge in Seattle.


NEW: Trump to take on fuel standards, hold Nashville rally

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is hitting the road to pay homage to a predecessor and take the first steps in rolling back fuel efficiency standards.

The president is headed to Michigan today, where he's expected to take aim at fuel-economy standards that were a key part of former President Barack Obama's strategy to combat global warming.

The president is also scheduled to travel to Nashville, Tennessee, where he'll lay a wreath at President Andrew Jackson's tomb at the Hermitage to mark what would have been Jackson's 250th birthday.

The president is also scheduled to hold a campaign-style rally in the city Wednesday evening — his second since being sworn into office.


WH fires back at publishing of Trump's tax info

WASHINGTON (AP) — Documents show that in 2005, President Donald Trump earned $153 million and paid $36.5 million in income taxes.

Pages from Trump's federal tax return were obtained by journalist David Cay Johnston, who runs a website called DCReport.org, and were reported on MSNBC's "The Rachel Maddow Show."

Even before the release of the documents, the White House pushed back, saying "You know you are desperate for ratings when you are willing to violate the law to push a story about two pages of tax returns from over a decade ago."


Fed expected to raise interest rates

HONG KONG (AP) — The Federal Reserve wraps up its two-day meeting Wednesday. Economists expect that the U.S. central bank will raise interest rates by a quarter of a percentage point.

It would be only the Fed's third rate hike in a decade, and analysts say it's already priced into financial markets.

Higher rates would make the U.S. more attractive and could siphon away capital from emerging markets and weaken their currencies.


North Korea threat looms over US envoy Tillerson's Asia trip

TOKYO (AP) — Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is on his first trip to Asia, and he's expected to arrive late Wednesday in Tokyo.

Tillerson wants to forge cooperation with Japan, South Korea and China against the nuclear threat from North Korea and demonstrate that "America First" does not mean U.S. diplomatic retreat from the volatile region.


South Korea prosecutors to question ousted leader next week

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea says it will hold an election on May 9 to choose a successor for ousted President Park Geun-hye (goon-hay).

The Constitutional Court ruled Friday to formally end Park's presidency over a huge political scandal involving her and a longtime confidante.

By law, South Korea must hold a national vote to find her successor within two months of the ruling.


Malaysia: Kim Jong Nam's identity confirmed with child's DNA

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — A Malaysian official says police were able to confirm the identity of Kim Jong Nam, who was killed last month at Kuala Lumpur's airport, using a DNA sample from one of his children.

Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi also said negotiations began this week to resolve a diplomat standoff over the death of Kim, the estranged half brother of North Korea's leader. North Korea has rejected the autopsy finding.

Authorities said Kim was killed Feb. 13 when two women smeared his face with the nerve agent VX in an airport terminal. He was carrying a passport bearing the name Kim Chol. Police said last week they had confirmed he was Kim Jong Nam, but refused to say how.

Zahid said Wednesday authorities obtained DNA from one of Kim's children.


Afghan official: 50 killed in last week's attack on hospital

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — An Afghan official says the official death toll from last week's militant assault on a Kabul military hospital has risen to 50.

Officials originally set the death toll at 30 for the March 8 attack. But Gen. Helaludin Helal, the deputy defense minister and head of the team investigating the attack and its aftermath, released the new number in a press conference Wednesday.

The attack was claimed by the Islamic State group. Helal said there were five attackers in total: one suicide bomber who detonated an explosive belt and four gunmen who stormed the building.

Helal said 24 people have been arrested and are under investigation — either for involvement in planning the attack or dereliction of duty in failing to prevent it.


Polls open in Dutch election that is barometer of populism

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — Polling booths have opened across the nation in Dutch parliamentary elections, a vote that is being closely watched as a possible indicator of the strength of far-right populism ahead of national elections in France and Germany later this year.

Two-term Prime Minister Mark Rutte's (RUH'-tuhz) right-wing VVD party was leading in polls ahead of Wednesday's vote, with the anti-Islam Party for Freedom of firebrand lawmaker Geert Wilders (gayrt VIHL'-durz) a close second.

Rutte has framed the vote as a choice between continuity and chaos, portraying himself as a safe custodian of this nation of 17 million's economic recovery, while casting Wilders as a far-right radical who would not be prepared to take tough decisions were he to gain office.


NEW: Syrian rebels deny they'll attend Astana talks

BEIRUT (AP) — An official from one of Syria's rebel factions has denied reports that rebels will send representatives to the present round of talks with the Syrian government underway in Astana, Kazakhstan.

Mamoun Haj Mousa, from the Suqour al-Sham Brigade, says there are no plans for factions to attend the talks — contrary to reports by the Kazakhstan Foreign Ministry.

Another opposition official, Yahya al-Aridi, said of the Kazakh Foreign Ministry announcement: "Let them say what they wish."

The Astana talks, brokered by Russia and Turkey, are centered on reaching a cease-fire in Syria and getting humanitarian relief to millions of suffering civilians. They run parallel to the U.N.-mediated political talks in Geneva aimed at ending Syria's civil war.

Rebels announced earlier this week they would not attend Astana because of repeated cease-fire violations by the government.


Plunging temps could lead to icy conditions following storm

NEW YORK (AP) — Falling temperatures could lead to icy conditions on roads and sidewalks across the Northeast following a late-season storm that plastered the region with sleet and snow.

The powerful nor'easter paralyzed much of the Washington-to-Boston corridor, but fell short of predicted snowfall totals in New York, Boston and Philadelphia.

The storm, which followed a stretch of unusually mild weather, dumped 1 to 2 feet in many places, grounded more than 6,000 flights and knocked out power to nearly a quarter-million customers from Virginia northward.

By the time it reached Massachusetts, it had turned into a blizzard, with near hurricane-force winds gusting to over 70 mph along the coast.

Plunging overnight temperatures threatened to turn the snow, sleet and sloppy mix into a slippery mess.


NEW: Sessions continues to push new tough-on-crime Justice agenda

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Attorney General Jeff Sessions is continuing to push his tough-on-crime agenda, this time to law enforcement officials in Virginia.

Sessions will speak to police and federal officials today in Richmond. He is expected to further underscore his efforts to make fighting street violence a top mission of the Justice Department.

In his first month in office, Sessions has repeatedly cited the need for harsh sentences for the most violent criminals, particularly those who use guns. He has stressed the need to try gun cases in federal court, where they can carry longer sentences in faraway prisons.

But making prosecution of violence a priority is a radical departure for a Justice Department that has focused more on prevention of cyberattacks from foreign criminals, counterterrorism and the threat of homegrown violent extremism.


Jury to decide guilt or innocence in Cuban smuggling case

MIAMI (AP) — A federal jury in Miami begins deliberating today in the trial of a sports agent and a trainer accused of smuggling Cuban baseball players into the United States.

Sports agent Bartolo Hernandez and trainer Julio Estrada are charged with conspiracy and alien smuggling.

Prosecutors said the two oversaw a network of boat captains, handlers, document forgers and used phony paperwork to get the players to the U.S. quickly so they could sign lucrative Major League Baseball contracts.

Defense lawyers say the men did nothing illegal.


Reports: Audi headquarters searched in emissions probe

BERLIN (AP) — German media report that authorities are searching offices of Audi in connection with an investigation into the luxury automaker's parent company Volkswagen's cheating on diesel emissions tests.

Media (the daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung and public ARD television) report that Audi offices, including its headquarters, are being searched today.

The raids come in connection with a fraud investigation launched by Munich prosecutors several weeks ago.

Prosecutors could not be reached for comment.

Volkswagen pleaded guilty Friday in the U.S. to a scheme to get around American pollution rules. If a judge agrees to the Justice Department's sentencing recommendation, the scandal will cost the company more than $20 billion in the U.S. alone.


Dad Seavey beats son, wins Iditarod

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Dad still has it. Mitch Seavey has won his third Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, becoming the fastest and oldest champion at age 57.

Seavey outran his son, defending champion Dallas Seavey, and lapped the oldest musher record that he set at age 53 in 2013.

He previously won the race in 2013 and 2004.


Alaska residents warned to give grumpy moose their space

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Wildlife officials in Alaska are telling people to keep their distance from grumpy moose following two close calls over the weekend.

A woman in the city of Homer was feeding chickens Sunday when a moose trying to eat out of her feed bucket, kicked her in the head.

Another agitated moose charged skiers twice in a lift line Saturday at a resort.

Fish and Game spokesman Ken Marsh says moose do tend to get "a little cranky" this time of year.

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