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AP Top News at 1:44 a.m. EDT

Senate clears White House-backed trade bill
WASHINGTON (AP) - In a victory for President Barack Obama, the Senate passed bipartisan legislation Friday night to strengthen the administration's hand in global trade talks, clearing the way for a highly unpredictable summer showdown in the House. The vote was 62-37 to give Obama authority to complete trade deals that Congress could approve or reject, but not change. A total of 48 Republicans supported the measure, but only 14 of the Senate's 44 Democrats backed a president of their own party on legislation near the top of his second-term agenda.


Senate blocks House surveillance bill, 2-month extension
WASHINGTON (AP) - The Senate struggled unsuccessfully to prevent an interruption in critical government surveillance programs early Saturday, blocking a House-passed bill and several short-term extensions of the USA Patriot Act. The main stumbling block was a House-passed provision to end the National Security Agency's bulk collection of domestic phone records. Instead, the records would remain with telephone companies subject to a case-by-case review.


IS militants purge Syrian town of Assad loyalists
BEIRUT (AP) - Islamic State group militants hunted down Syrian government troops and loyalists in the newly captured town of Palmyra, shooting or beheading them in public as a warning, and imposing their strict interpretation of Islam, activists said Friday. The purge, which relied mostly on informants, was aimed at solidifying the extremists' grip on the strategic town that was overrun Wednesday by IS fighters.


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AP Interview: Steinem says isolating N. Korea not working
PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) - Iconic women's rights activist Gloria Steinem may be in North Korea, but she is as outspoken as ever. In an interview with The Associated Press, the 81-year-old feminism pioneer said she decided to join a group of women in a rare and in some quarters highly controversial walk across the Demilitarized Zone dividing North and South Korea because she thinks efforts to force change by isolating the North have failed. But, she said, she has no intention of letting the North's leadership off the hook for its own human rights record.


DC authorities: Ex-con had help in wealthy family's slaying
WASHINGTON (AP) - An ex-convict denied bond on a murder charge Friday had help from others holding a family captive inside their mansion for at least 18 hours, authorities said, and their investigation is continuing. During their ordeal, the business executive and his wife told others to stay away - even ordering a pizza deliverer to leave two pies at the door - as they frantically arranged for $40,000 in cash to be dropped off at the home.


Boat by boat, how 3,000 stranded migrants reached land
More than 3,000 migrants abandoned by human traffickers have been rescued or washed ashore this month in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. Some are Rohingya Muslims fleeing persecution in Myanmar, while others are Bangladeshis seeking better economic prospects. Many more are feared to still be stranded at sea, abandoned by traffickers amid a regional crackdown. Here's a look at the migrants who have made it ashore over the last three weeks:


US: Myanmar should share responsibility for Rohingya crisis
YANGON, Myanmar (AP) - Navy ships were scouring Southeast Asian waters for boats believed to be carrying thousands of migrants with little food or water, and a top U.S. diplomat said Myanmar needs to shoulder some responsibility for the crisis. That's something it has been reluctant to do. U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said Friday that Rohingya Muslims fleeing the predominantly Buddhist nation were risking perilous journeys and putting their lives in the hands of human traffickers because "they are in despair and don't see a future" at home.


Fierce gunbattle kills 43 in west Mexico cartel territory
ECUANDUREO, Mexico (AP) - The latest in a series of clashes between Mexican authorities and a powerful, fast-growing drug cartel turned into the deadliest confrontation in recent memory, with 42 suspected gang gunmen and one Federal Police officer killed during a three-hour firefight at a remote western ranch. The battle on Friday followed two other recent unprecedented attacks by the cartel, one that killed 15 state police officers and another that shot down an army helicopter with a rocket launcher for the first time in Mexico's history. The death toll from all three is at least 76 people at a time when the Mexican government claims crime is falling dramatically and the interior minister recently insisted the country "is not in flames."


El Salvador hosting beatification of slain Archbishop Romero
SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (AP) - Huge crowds are expected at Saturday's ceremony to beatify Roman Catholic Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was cut down by an assassin's bullet 35 years ago and declared a martyr for his faith this year by Pope Francis. It is the first step toward possible canonization, although many of the 260,000-plus faithful anticipated to fill the capital's Savior of the World Plaza already credit him with miracles and refer to him as "Saint Romero of the Americas."


Choppy slick is harder to clean up; more oily animals found
LOS ANGELES (AP) - A 10-square-mile oil slick off the coast of California is thinner than a coat of paint and it's becoming harder to skim from choppy waters, officials said Friday as more dead animals were discovered on the Santa Barbara coast. The combination of sunlight and waves helped evaporate and dissolve some of the oil that blackened beaches and covered wildlife in thick goo after a pipeline on shore leaked up to 105,000 gallons Tuesday.

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