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March 16, 2017 - 5:48 am


Trump budget slashes agency money to boost defense spending

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is unveiling a $1.15 trillion budget, a far-reaching overhaul of federal government spending that slashes a dozen Cabinet departments to finance a significant increase in the military and a down payment on a U.S.-Mexico border wall.

Thursday's scheduled budget release will upend Washington with cuts to long-promised campaign targets like foreign aid and the Environmental Protection Agency as well as strong congressional favorites such as medical research and community development grants.

The $54 billion boost for the military is the largest since President Ronald Reagan's Pentagon buildup in the 1980s, promising immediate money for troop readiness, the fight against Islamic State militants and procurement of new ships, fighter jets and other weapons systems. It is financed by $54 billion in cuts to foreign aid and domestic agencies.


Trump wants to privatize air traffic control

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump wants to privatize the nation's air traffic control operations, a top priority of the airline industry.

In the president's budget proposal, he says spinning off air traffic operations from the Federal Aviation Administration and placing them under an "independent, non-governmental organization" would make the system "more efficient and innovative while maintaining safety."


UPDATE: Tillerson defends sharp State Dept budget cut

TOKYO (AP) — Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says he is "willingly" taking on the challenge of a sharp cut in funding for the State Department.

The White House is unveiling a federal government budget today. And the department and the U.S. Agency for International Development are among the hardest-hit agencies, with funding reduced by 28 percent, or $10 billion.

Tillerson says the current level of spending is "not unsustainable." He says the cut reflects expectations the U.S. will be involved in fewer military conflicts and its aid programs can become more effective and attract resources from other countries.

Tillerson is in Tokyo, at the start of a three-nation tour of North Asia.


Trump suffers second defeat as revised travel ban on hold

HONOLULU (AP) — A federal court, for a second time, has blocked President Donald Trump's travel ban.

This time, the ruling came Wednesday from a judge in Hawaii, who rejected the government's claims that the revised travel ban is about national security, not discrimination. U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson also said Hawaii would suffer financially if the executive order constricted the flow of students and tourists to the state.


Refugee family lands in US amid fight over travel ban

SAN DIEGO (AP) — An Iraqi family has landed in the United States as a federal court blocked a travel ban that would have kept others like them out of the country for 120 days.

Nadia Hanan Madalo and her family arrived in San Diego on Wednesday to be reunited with Madalo's siblings and mother, who arrived as refugees in recent years.

After long emotional hugs, she said she felt lucky. The family waited four years to get into the United States.

The family expected to be among the last let in but a federal court Wednesday blocked the Trump administration's revised ban.


Deportation of Afghan man who helped US military is blocked

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — A federal appeals court has temporarily blocked the deportation of an Afghan man who had obtained a special visa for people who helped the U.S. military.

The ruling late Wednesday blocks a New Jersey federal judge's decision to allow the deportation.

The judge in New Jersey had said that the man was unlikely to win in his case against the U.S. government because his visa already had been revoked.


NEW: Sweden's intel agency: there is 'a real and serious threat'

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — The head of Sweden's domestic intelligence agency says there is "a real and serious threat against the security" of the country, which "has an increased military strategic importance."

Intelligence head Anders Thornberg says the agency has "never had a bigger and more complex task," adding cooperating with others — at home and abroad — is crucial.

Thornberg didn't release details today but in September, non-NATO-member Sweden stationed permanent troops on the Baltic Sea island of Gotland. The move was described as sending a signal after Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea and its "increasing pressure" in the region.

When presenting the agency's annual report, Thornberg said it had investigated an undisclosed number of cases where people were suspected of giving out classified information to foreign governments.


House GOP health bill facing fresh House committee test

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House and Republican leaders are talking to rank-and-file lawmakers about revising the GOP health care overhaul. They're hoping to keep a rebellion by conservatives and moderates from imperiling the party's priority legislation.

Signs of fraying GOP support are showing four days after a congressional report projected the bill would pry coverage from millions of voters. The measure would strike down much of former President Barack Obama's 2010 overhaul and reduce the federal role, including financing, for health care consumers and is opposed uniformly by Democrats.

The House Budget Committee is set to consider the measure Thursday. Republicans expressed confidence the bill would be approved, but the vote could be tight. The panel can't make significant changes but was expected to endorse non-binding, suggested changes to nail down votes.


Disbarred lawyer faces sentencing in kidnap once called hoax

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A disbarred Harvard University-trained attorney faces decades in prison for a kidnapping so elaborate and bizarre that police in California initially dismissed it as a hoax.

Federal prosecutors are seeking a 40-year sentence today for Matthew Muller. He pleaded guilty in September to holding a woman for ransom in a case that investigators once erroneously likened to the movie, "Gone Girl."

They realized that Denise Huskins was telling the truth about her March 2015 abduction only after Muller was implicated in a different crime.

Muller could face life in prison, but prosecutors agreed to recommend 40 years in exchange for his guilty plea.

Defense attorney Thomas Johnson wants a 30-year sentence, saying says his 39-year-old client has been diagnosed as manic and depressive and can be rehabilitated with proper treatment.


US soldiers train for jungle warfare at Hawaii rainforest

HONOLULU (AP) — The Army is training soldiers to fight and survive in the jungle using a new school in a Hawaii rainforest.

The Army set up the course at a base some 30 miles west of Waikiki a few years ago. It's the Army's first such school since it gave up its jungle training center in Panama in 1999 when the U.S. returned land there to the Panamanian government.

The Hawaii training grounds have a stream soldiers can practice crossing and cliffs for rappelling.

The 25th Infantry Division's deputy commander says the Army set up the school as its footprint was shrinking in Iraq and Afghanistan after more than a decade of war in those countries.

Brig. Gen. Stephen Michael says soldiers must be able to fight in the tough environment of the Pacific.


Boko Haram releases video showing killing of accused spies

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — An organization that monitors extremist groups says Boko Haram has released a video showing the killing of three accused spies by gunshot and beheading.

The SITE Intelligence Group says in a statement today that a fighter in the video uploaded Monday calls those killed "agents" of Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari.

SITE points out that while the video opens with images used by so-called "provinces" of the Islamic State group, it comes from Boko Haram's own production unit. SITE says this indicates the group has "some degree of autonomy." One faction of Boko Haram is allied with the Islamic State group.

Nigeria's president declared the Boko Haram insurgency "crushed" late last year, but its fighters continue to threaten the vast region around Lake Chad in defiance of a multinational force.


Malaysia says it has family consent to decide on Kim's body

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — A senior Malaysian police official says the family of Kim Jong Nam, who was killed last month, has given consent to Malaysia to decide what to do with his body.

Officials say police confirmed Kim's identity using the DNA of one of his children. Kim was holding a diplomatic passport by the name of Kim Chol when he was attacked Feb. 13 at Kuala Lumpur's airport by two women who smeared the banned VX nerve agent on his face. He died within 20 minutes.

Deputy national police Chief Noor Rashid Ibrahim said Thursday that Kim's family will let the government decide what to do with his body.

Noor Rashid said any decision will be subject to negotiations between the two countries amid a diplomatic standoff over the killing.

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