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AP News in Brief at 11:04 p.m. EDT

September 06, 2017 - 8:05 PM

Irma lashes at Puerto Rico, leaves tiny Barbuda devastated

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Hurricane Irma lashed Puerto Rico with heavy rain and powerful winds Wednesday night, leaving nearly 900,000 people without power as authorities struggled to get aid to small Caribbean islands already devastated by the historic storm.

Florida rushed to prepare for a possible direct hit on the Miami area by the Category 5 storm with potentially catastrophic 185 mph winds.

Nearly every building on the island of Barbuda was damaged when the eye of the storm passed almost directly overhead early Wednesday and about 60 per cent of the island's roughly 1,400 people were left homeless, Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne told The Associated Press.

"Either they were totally demolished or they would have lost their roof," Browne said after returning to Antigua from a plane trip to the neighbouring island. "It is just really a horrendous situation."

He said roads and telecommunications systems were destroyed and recovery will take months, if not years. A 2-year-old child was killed as a family tried to escape a damaged home during the storm, Browne told the AP.

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'This is a buzz saw': Florida braces for Hurricane Irma

MIAMI (AP) — Florida residents picked store shelves clean and long lines formed at gas pumps Wednesday as Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 monster with potentially catastrophic winds of 185 mph, steamed toward the Sunshine State and a possible direct hit on the Miami metropolitan area of nearly 6 million people.

The most powerful hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic destroyed homes and flooded streets as it roared through a chain of small islands in the northern Caribbean some 1,000 miles from Florida. Forecasters said Irma could strike the Miami area by early Sunday, then rake the entire length of the state's east coast and push into Georgia and the Carolinas.

"This thing is a buzz saw," warned Colorado State University meteorology professor Phil Klotzbach. "I don't see any way out of it."

An estimated 25,000 people or more left the Florida Keys after all visitors were ordered to clear out, causing bumper-to-bumper traffic on the single highway that links the chain of low-lying islands to the mainland.

But because of the uncertainty in any forecast this far out, state and local authorities in Miami and Fort Lauderdale held off for the time being on ordering any widespread evacuations there.

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10 Things to Know for Thursday

Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Thursday:

1. IRMA ROARS THROUGH CARIBBEAN

Heavy rain and powerful winds lash Puerto Rico as the hurricane, packing 185-mph winds, stays on course for a possible direct hit on south Florida.

2. WHO'S REACHING ACROSS THE AISLE

Trump blithely overrules his party's congressional leaders to cut a deal with Democrats to fund the government and raise the federal borrowing limit.

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15 states, DC seek court relief over DACA, but will it work?

NEW YORK (AP) — Fifteen states and the District of Columbia sued the U.S. government Wednesday to block President Donald Trump's plan to end protection against deportation for young immigrants, saying it was motivated by prejudice against Mexicans.

Legal experts, however, say the evidence of bias is not strong in the case involving the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA.

"It might be able to muck up the works, maybe push off the effective date of the repeal, but I don't see litigation being successful in the same way as the travel ban," Kari Hong, an immigration expert at Boston College Law School, said, referring to the lawsuit earlier this year that limited the Trump ban involving predominantly Muslim nations.

As indications of Trump's bias, the suit cited his previous statement referring to some Mexican immigrants as rapists and his decision to pardon former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was convicted of contempt for ignoring a federal court order to stop traffic patrols that targeted immigrants.

"Ending DACA, whose participants are mostly of Mexican origin, is a culmination of President's Trump's oft-stated commitments — whether personally held, stated to appease some portion of his constituency, or some combination thereof — to punish and disparage people with Mexican roots," the lawsuit filed in federal court in Brooklyn said.

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Facebook: Accounts from Russia bought ads during US campaign

WASHINGTON (AP) — Hundreds of fake Facebook accounts, probably run from Russia, spent about $100,000 on ads aimed at stirring up divisive issues such as gun control and race relations during the 2016 U.S. presidential election, the social network said Wednesday.

Although the number of ads is relatively small, the disclosure provides a more detailed peek into what investigators believe was a targeted effort by Russians to influence U.S. politics during the campaign, this time through social media.

The 470 accounts appeared to come from a notorious "troll farm," a St. Petersburg-based organization known for promoting pro-Russian government positions via fake accounts, according to two people familiar with the investigation. The people were granted anonymity because they weren't authorized to publicly discuss details of the investigation.

In all, the accounts purchased some 3,000 ads between June 2015 and May 2017. While they ads didn't specifically reference the election, a candidate or voting, they nevertheless allowed "divisive messages" to be amplified via the social media platform, the company's chief security officer, Alex Stamos, said in a statement.

Facebook has turned over its findings to federal authorities investigating Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election. Robert Mueller, the special counsel, is charged with overseeing Russian meddling in the U.S. election and any potential co-ordination with associates of President Donald Trump.

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Trump overrules GOP with deal on spending, debt, Harvey aid

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump briskly overruled congressional Republicans and his own treasury secretary Wednesday to cut a deal with Democrats to keep the government operating and raise America's debt limit. The immediate goal was ensuring money for hurricane relief, but in the process the president brazenly rolled his own party's leaders.

In deal-making mode, Trump sided with the Democratic leaders — "Chuck and Nancy," as he amiably referred later to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi — as they pushed for the three-month deal, brushing aside the urgings of GOP leaders and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin for a much longer extension to the debt limit. Republicans want that longer allowance to avoid having to take another vote on the politically toxic issue before the 2018 congressional elections.

The session painted a vivid portrait of discord at the highest ranks of the Republican Party. After an angry August that Trump spent lobbing attacks at fellow Republicans, specifically targeting Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for the failure of health care legislation, the president wasted little time once Congress came back this week in demonstrating his disdain for the GOP House and Senate leaders charged with shepherding his agenda into law.

At first, in Wednesday's Oval Office meeting, the Republicans lobbied for an 18-month debt ceiling extension, then 12 months and then six, but Trump waved them off. As Mnuchin continued to press an economic argument in favour of a longer-term deal, Trump tired of it and cut him off mid-sentence.

At another point, the meeting totally lost focus when Ivanka Trump entered to raise an unrelated issue on child care tax credits. Details of the meeting were disclosed by several people briefed on the proceedings who spoke only on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk publicly.

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Boat with Rohingya refugees capsizes, killing 5 as more flee

KUTUPALONG, Bangladesh (AP) — A trawler carrying Rohingya Muslims fleeing violence in Myanmar capsized, killing at least five people, as the country's leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, blamed a misinformation campaign for fueling a crisis the U.N. says has pushed some 146,000 refugees into Bangladesh.

Suu Kyi's top security adviser also sought to counter the storm of international criticism over alleged army abuses against the Rohingya ethnic minority, asserting that security forces were acting with restraint in pursuing "terrorists."

On the Bangladesh side of the border with Buddhist-majority Myanmar, residents of Shah Porir Dwip fishing village recovered five bodies from the Bay of Bengal on Wednesday, hours after the boat capsized around midnight, police official Yakub Ali said.

It was not immediately clear where the boat began its journey, or if the passengers had been among some 450 detained by Bangladeshi border guards and ordered Tuesday to return to Myanmar.

While some border guards were letting refugees cross into Bangladesh, others were sending them back.

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Seeking home's comforts, Rohingya couple make deadly choice

BANDARBAN, Bangladesh (AP) — The young Rohingya couple fleeing violence in Myanmar had escaped with their family to nearby Bangladesh, where they spent days living in a hastily built shelter on a muddy hill. For the sake of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, they decided to return home briefly, for a quick bath and clean clothes.

The man's brother soon followed them — to retrieve their bodies.

"Kefayet Ullah's brother has been slaughtered near the fence!" a man shouts in a cellphone video as a cousin carries Jarullah's body, blood from the corpse pouring down his back. "They cut his hands and legs and belly also."

Kefayet Ullah carried his dead sister-in-law. Wailing and moans — "Oh, Allah!" — can be heard in the video as the group encounters villagers along the wooded path.

Ullah said he couldn't bear the thought of leaving his loved ones behind, and so risked his life to bring back their bodies so they could be buried in peace. There was also one life left to save: the couple's 2-year-old son, who was found near his parents' bodies.

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Pope Francis says he brings message of hope to Colombia

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — Pope Francis received a spirited and symbolic welcome as he arrived in Colombia on Wednesday, saying he wants to bring a message of hope for Colombians as they work to heal the wounds and divisions left by Latin America's longest-running armed conflict.

Francis' white popemobile was nearly mobbed by jubilant crowds who flooded the 15-kilometre (9-mile) road into Bogota from the airport, and his security detail struggled to keep them at bay without a police barricade in sight. Francis relishes diving into crowds and didn't seem at all fazed by the flower-tossing masses, even giving a few high-fives to some young people who got a little too close.

The first pope from Latin America looked thrilled to be back in Colombia, the first country he visited after he was ordained a priest and where he exerted a good deal of effort encouraging peace negotiations that spanned his papacy.

One of the gifts he received on the tarmac had particular symbolic significance: a sculpted peace dove offered to him by the young son of a rebel father and politician mother who was taken captive by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, in 2002. The boy was taken from his mother, Clara Rojas, now a congresswoman, and didn't see her again until he was 3 years old.

In his only public remarks on his first day in Colombia, Francis begged young Colombians who gathered outside the Vatican embassy to serenade him: "Don't ever lose happiness and hope."

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Keys, Vandeweghe complete US sweep of women's SFs at US Open

NEW YORK (AP) — Madison Keys completed the clean sweep for American women, giving the host country all four U.S. Open semifinal spots for the first time in 36 years.

The 15th-seeded Keys served impeccably, controlled groundstroke exchanges from the baseline and was never in trouble during a 6-3, 6-3 victory over 418th-ranked qualifier Kaia Kanepi of Estonia that lasted only 69 minutes Wednesday night.

That came several hours after 20th-seeded CoCo Vandeweghe's 7-6 (4), 6-3 elimination of 2016 runner-up and top-seeded Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic. Pliskova's loss means she will be replaced at No. 1 in the rankings by Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza.

On Thursday, Keys faces Vandeweghe — with the winner reaching her first Grand Slam final — and No. 9 seed Venus Williams meets 83rd-ranked Sloane Stephens.

"Oh, my God, it feels so good. We have so many Americans to talk about in the last days of the U.S. Open," Keys said. "I can't tell you how many times I have sat in this chair and had to hear, you know, how horrible tennis is in America."

News from © The Associated Press, 2017
The Associated Press

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