AP News in Brief at 9:04 p.m. EDT


Trump strains to unite GOP behind him; Ryan says no, for now

NEW YORK (AP) — Donald Trump is struggling in his efforts to unify the Republican Party behind his presidential campaign, the difficulty immediately underscored Thursday by a startling exchange of negative comments with GOP House Speaker Paul Ryan who said he was not ready to support him.

Although Trump is now the party’s presumptive nominee, Ryan said Thursday, “I’m just not ready to do that at this point. I’m not there right now.” Still, he added, “I hope to. And I want to,” in comments on CNN’s “The Lead.”

Trump responded, in a statement released by his campaign, that he was “not ready to support” Ryan’s agenda as the party’s leader in the U.S. House. “Perhaps in the future we can work together and come to an agreement about what is best for the American people,” he said.

Two days after the Indiana primary all but sealed Trump’s victory as the man who will lead their election ticket in November, he is appealing to big-money donors he blasted during the primaries as he takes his first steps toward raising the massive amounts of cash he’ll need for the general election campaign.

That effort was hardly helped by the rejection — for now — by Ryan, the Wisconsin congressman who was Mitt Romney’s running mate in 2012. In addition, Romney and former President George W. Bush said they do not plan to attend the party’s national convention in July.

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AP Source: Clinton aide interviewed in email investigation

WASHINGTON (AP) — The FBI has interviewed Huma Abedin, a close aide to Hillary Clinton, as part of a federal investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state, a person familiar with the probe said Thursday.

The person insisted on anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation.

The FBI and Justice Department have been investigating whether sensitive information that flowed through Clinton’s email server was mishandled.

Abedin was one of Clinton’s closest aides during her tenure as the nation’s top diplomat, serving as deputy chief of staff. It was not immediately clear whether other aides have been interviewed, or when or if Clinton herself might be questioned.

“From the start, Hillary Clinton has offered to answer any questions that would help the Justice Department complete its review, and we hope and expect that anyone else who is asked would do the same,” Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon said in a statement. “We are confident the review will conclude that nothing inappropriate took place.”

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Los Angeles man guilty in 10 ‘Grim Sleeper’ serial killings

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A former Los Angeles trash collector was convicted Thursday of 10 counts of murder in the “Grim Sleeper” serial killings that targeted poor, young black women over two decades.

Lonnie Franklin Jr. showed no emotion as the verdicts were read and family members who had wondered if they would ever see justice quietly wept and dabbed their eyes with tissues in the gallery.

“We got him,” exclaimed Porter Alexander Jr., whose daughter Alicia, 18, was shot and choked. Her body was found under a mattress in an alley in September 1988. “It took a long time. By the grace of God it happened. It’s such a relief.”

Prosecutors will seek the death penalty during the second phase of trial scheduled to start May 12.

Franklin, 63, was also was found guilty of one count of attempted murder for shooting a woman in the chest and dumping her body from his orange Ford Pinto two months after Alexander’s killing. The survivor, Enietra Washington, provided a link to seven previous slayings and was a key witness at trial.

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Iraq routed IS from Ramadi at a high cost: A city destroyed

RAMADI, Iraq (AP) — This is what victory looks like in the Iraqi city of Ramadi: In the once thriving Haji Ziad Square, not a single structure still stands. Turning in every direction yields a picture of devastation.

A building that housed a pool hall and ice cream shops — reduced to rubble. A row of money changers and motorcycle repair garages — obliterated, a giant bomb crater in its place. The square’s Haji Ziad Restaurant, beloved for years by Ramadi residents for its grilled meats — flattened. The restaurant was so popular its owner built a larger, fancier branch across the street three years ago. That, too, is now a pile of concrete and twisted iron rods.

The destruction extends to nearly every part of Ramadi, once home to 1 million people and now virtually empty. A giant highway cloverleaf at the main entrance to the city is partially toppled. Apartment block after apartment block has been crushed . Along a residential street, the walls of homes have been shredded away, exposing furniture and bedding. Graffiti on the few homes still standing warn of explosives inside.

When Iraqi government forces backed by U.S.-led warplanes wrested this city from Islamic State militants after eight months of IS control, it was heralded as a major victory. But the cost of winning Ramadi has been the city itself.

The scope of the damage is beyond that in other Iraqi cities recaptured so far from the jihadi group. Photographs provided to The Associated Press by satellite imagery and analytics company DigitalGlobe show more than 3,000 buildings and nearly 400 roads and bridges were damaged or destroyed between May 2015, when Ramadi fell to IS, and Jan. 22, after most of the fighting had ended. Over roughly the same period, nearly 800 civilians were killed in clashes, airstrikes and executions.

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Pentagon spokesman says deadly IS attack was a surprise

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Islamic State attack on Kurdish forces in northern Iraq that killed U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Charles Keating was a surprise that, if anticipated, might have turned out differently, a Pentagon spokesman said Thursday.

“Obviously, had we had the forces there, been able to see this attack coming, they would have responded differently to it,” Peter Cook, the Pentagon press secretary, said. “Perhaps this could have been avoided. That’s certainly something that we’re looking at carefully. This particular attack was not anticipated and we were forced to respond.”

Keating is the third U.S. service member to be killed in combat in Iraq since U.S. forces returned there in 2014.

Keating was a member of what the military calls a quick-reaction force that was called to the scene of the gun battle in which a small U.S. military advisory team had already become involved. The Islamic State force managed to penetrate the Kurds’ lines but ultimately was pushed out of the area.

The U.S. military’s main spokesman in Baghdad, Col. Steve Warren, said Wednesday that it was unclear how IS managed to assemble an attacking force of an estimated 125 fighters, plus vehicles, without being detected prior to the assault.

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Community questions delay in Amber Alert for Navajo girl

Several hours after a stranger abducted an 11-year-old Navajo girl as she played near her home, few outside the reservation knew she was missing.

Cellphone alarms jolted New Mexico residents at 2:30 a.m. Tuesday, giving the first warning beyond the Navajo Nation to keep watch for Ashlynne Mike and the man who lured her into his van. He took the girl and her brother Monday afternoon soon after they got off the school bus in a desolate stretch of the reservation.

The Amber Alert’s delay has drawn sharp criticism from those who believe more could have been done to find Ashlynne alive, while others say issuing it earlier would have made little difference. Officials and community members say it took too long for information to get from the tribe to the outside authorities who could help, wasting precious search time.

“My phone buzzed and I realized that this has gotten really serious. Why did it take so long for the Navajo Nation to issue an Amber Alert?” said Rick Nez, president of the tribe’s San Juan Chapter, where Ashlynne lived.

The country’s largest American Indian reservation does not have a system to issue its own child abduction alerts, and a fraction of the 566 federally recognized tribes do. In most cases, state authorities coordinate with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to send word about abductions of children in danger of serious injury or death.

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Russian orchestra plays in Palmyra ruins as strikes kill 28

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — A renowned Russian conductor led a triumphant concert Thursday in the ruins of the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra, once terrorized by the Islamic State group, even as an airstrike on a refugee camp in the north left at least 28 people dead and dozens wounded, including many children.

The performance in the same ancient amphitheater where IS militants carried out widely publicized killings — and called “A Prayer for Palmyra” — was intended to send a message that Russia’s presence in Syria would bring hope and stability.

But even as strains of Bach and Sergei Prokofiev’s First Symphony echoed through the Roman theater packed with an audience that included Russian servicemen, Syrian government ministers and children in colorful native dress, the war raged elsewhere.

Images posted on social media of the aftermath of the airstrike that tore through the Sarmada camp in rebel-held territory close to the border with Turkey showed tents burned to the ground, charred bodies, and bloodied women and children being loaded onto a pickup truck.

It was not immediately clear who carried out the attack on the camp in Idlib province where some 2,000 internally displaced people had taken shelter from the fighting in nearby Aleppo and Hama provinces over the past year. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 28 people were killed while the Local Coordination Committees, another activist group, said more than 30 died.

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110-year-old WWII veteran from Louisiana dies

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A 110-year-old Louisiana man who enlisted in the army during World War II to serve his country has died.

Local television station KPLC-TV in Lake Charles reported that Frank Levingston died Tuesday.

Multiple media outlets described him as the country’s oldest World War II veteran but that could not be independently confirmed.

Levingston was born Nov. 13, 1905 and grew up in northern Louisiana.

ABC News reported that he enlisted in the army on Oct. 6, 1942, less than a year after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and launched the U.S. into the war raging in Europe and the Pacific.

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Wildfire in Alberta now 85,000 hectares in size

FORT MCMURRAY, Alberta (AP) — A massive wildfire raging in the Canadian province of Alberta grew to 85,000 hectares (210,035 acres) and officials said Thursday they would like to move south about 25,000 evacuees who had previously fled north, including 8,000 by air.

More than 80,000 people have emptied Fort McMurray in the heart of Canada’s oil sands, authorities said.

The Alberta government declared a province-wide fire ban in an effort to reduce the risk of more blazes in a province that is very hot and dry.

“It is a very rare step,” Alberta Environment Minister Shannon Phillips said. Phillips called it an offense to ignore the ban and said it can lead to fines.

The government said more than 1,100 firefighters, 145 helicopters, 138 pieces of heavy equipment and 22 air tankers were fighting a total of 49 wildfires, with seven considered out of control. Chad Morrison with AB Wildfire, manager of wildfire prevention, said the blaze grew rapidly, fueled by gusting winds, and he expected the fire to continue to grow Thursday because of dry conditions but it will be away from the community.

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Arsenio Hall sues Sinead O’Connor for libel over Prince post

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Arsenio Hall is suing Sinead O’Connor over a Facebook post in which the singer accused him of furnishing Prince with drugs.

The comedian’s libel lawsuit filed Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court calls O’Connor’s accusations fabricated lies. The lawsuit states O’Connor, who scored a hit in 1990 with her rendition of Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U,” barely knew the superstar and despised him.

O’Connor wrote a Facebook post Monday that stated investigators looking into the supplier of drugs used by Prince should question Hall. She also accused him of drugging her.

O’Conner’s agent did not immediately return an email message seeking comment.

The lawsuit seeks more than $5 million in damages but any award would be decided by a jury. The case was first reported by celebrity website TMZ.

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