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AP Top News at 5:59 a.m. EST

Suspect in Kim Jong Nam attack says she got $90 for a prank
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) - The Indonesian woman who is one of the suspects in the killing of North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un's half brother said she was paid $90 for what she believed was a prank, an Indonesian official said Saturday. Siti Aisyah also told authorities she did not want her parents to see her in custody, Andriano Erwin, Indonesia's deputy ambassador to Malaysia, said one day after Malaysia revealed that VX nerve agent was used in the bizarre killing at Kuala Lumpur's airport. "She doesn't want her family get sad to see her condition," Erwin said after a 30-minute meeting with Aisyah.


AP Analysis: Will China be North Korea's Trump card?
TOKYO (AP) - China's announcement it has suspended North Korean coal imports may have been its first test of whether the Trump administration is ready to do something about a major, and mutual, security problem: North Korea's nukes. While China is Pyongyang's biggest enabler, it is also the biggest outside agent of regime-challenging change - just not in the way Washington has wanted. Judging from Trump's limited comments so far, and the gaping chasm between Washington's long-held focus on sanctions and punishment and Beijing's equally deep commitment to diplomatic talks that don't require the North to first give up its arsenal, a deal between the two won't come easily.


AP PHOTOS: A selection of pictures from the past week
Highlights from the weekly AP photo report, a gallery featuring a mix of front-page photography, the odd image you might have missed and lasting moments our editors think you should see. This week's gallery features African migrants, a man floating off Peru's Pacific coast and protesters clashing in Portland, Ore. --- This gallery contains photos published, Feb. 18-Feb. 24, 2017. See the latest AP photo galleries: http://apne.ws/TXeCBN The Archive: Top photo highlights from previous weeks: http://apne.ws/13QUFKJ --- Follow AP photographers on Twitter: http://twitter.com/AP/lists/ap-photographers Follow AP Images on Twitter: http://twitter.com/AP-Images Visit AP Images online: http://www.apimages.com http://www.apimages.com/ --- This gallery was produced by Patrick Sison in New York.


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AP Exclusive: Analysts downplay threat from 7 nations in ban
WASHINGTON (AP) - Analysts at the Homeland Security Department's intelligence arm found insufficient evidence that citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries included in President Donald Trump's travel ban pose a terror threat to the United States. A draft document obtained by The Associated Press concludes that citizenship is an "unlikely indicator" of terrorism threats to the United States and that few people from the countries Trump listed in his travel ban have carried out attacks or been involved in terrorism-related activities in the U.S. since Syria's civil war started in 2011. Trump cited terrorism concerns as the primary reason he signed the sweeping temporary travel ban in late January, which also halted the U.S.


White House defends contacts with FBI over Russia reports
WASHINGTON (AP) - The White House on Friday defended chief of staff Reince Priebus against accusations he breached a government firewall when he asked FBI Director James Comey to publicly dispute media reports that Trump campaign advisers had been frequently in touch with Russian intelligence agents. President Donald Trump's spokesman, Sean Spicer, argued Priebus had little choice but to seek Comey's assistance in rebutting what Spicer said were inaccurate reports about contacts during last year's presidential campaign. The FBI did not issue the statement requested by Priebus and has given no sign one is forthcoming. "I don't know what else we were supposed to do," Spicer said.


White House bars major news outlets from informal briefing
News organizations including The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, CNN and Politico were blocked from joining an informal, on-the-record White House press briefing Friday. The Associated Press chose not to participate in the briefing after White House press secretary Sean Spicer restricted the number of journalists included. Typically, the daily briefing is televised and open to all news organizations credentialed to cover the White House. "The AP believes the public should have as much access to the president as possible," Lauren Easton, the AP's director of media relations, said in a statement. On Friday, hours after President Donald Trump delivered a speech blasting the media, Spicer invited only a pool of news organizations that represents and shares reporting with the larger press corps.


At town halls, GOP caught between Trump, angry voters
URBANDALE, Iowa (AP) - When hundreds of angry constituents chanted "no wall" at his Iowa town hall, Republican Rep. David Young agreed it wasn't necessary. When they demanded that President Donald Trump release his tax returns, the second-term congressman called it a "no-brainer." And, when they yelled at the mention of White House adviser Steve Bannon's name, Young quickly replied: "I don't know much about him." "On the subject of the president, I want you to know that although he's the president, he's not my boss," the lawmaker said, struggling to be heard over yet another round of raucous chants that echoed across the suburban Des Moines auditorium.


As party rebuilds, Democrats seek a new DNC leader
ATLANTA (AP) - Democrats are beginning the process of rebuilding their party by choosing a new national chairman charged with turning widespread opposition to President Donald Trump into more election victories. With the outcome of Saturday's vote uncertain, former Labor Secretary Tom Perez and Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison made a final push Friday to cajole support from the hundreds of state party leaders, donors and activists who make up the Democratic National Committee and determine the party's direction. Perez supporters say he's on the cusp of the required majority. Ellison maintains that he is still a viable candidate. A handful of other candidates are holding out hope that neither Ellison nor Perez can command a majority, opening up the race for an upset in later rounds of voting.


Inside the fight against IS sleeper cells in liberated Mosul
MOSUL, Iraq (AP) - Two crudely armored pickup trucks cruised along an eastern Mosul highway. A masked Iraqi officer riding shotgun yelled "Go! Go! Go!" and switched the radio from Iraqi folk music to fast, patriotic battle hymns as the vehicles sped up and weaved through the busy afternoon traffic. Inside were members of Iraq's National Security Service, or NSS, a secretive intelligence and security unit that reports directly to the prime minister. Using tips from Mosul residents, they are taking the lead in hunting down suspected Islamic State sleeper cells that have managed remain behind as Iraqi forces fight to retake the country's second largest city.


Twin attacks on Syrian security buildings kill at least 32
BEIRUT (AP) - Twin attacks on two Syrian security offices in the central city of Homs Saturday killed at least 32 people, including a senior security official who heads the feared Military Intelligence services, state media and officials reported. An al-Qaida-linked insurgent coalition known as the Levant Liberation Committee claimed responsibility for the attacks, which also left another high-ranking officer seriously wounded. In a statement on their Telegram channel, the group said five attackers stormed the two different security offices. The group said bombs were also detonated at checkpoints outside the buildings just as rescuers were arriving, leading to more casualties.

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