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AP Top News at 8:21 p.m. EDT

Selling the GOP health care bill: Does Trump help or hurt?
WASHINGTON (AP) - It was a platform most politicians can only hope for: A captivated, 6,000-person crowd and more than an hour of live, prime-time television coverage to hype the Republican vision for a new health care system. But when President Donald Trump got around to talking about the Republican plan - about 15 minutes into his speech - he was wildly off message. Instead of preaching party lines about getting the government out of Americans' health decisions and cutting costs, he declared: "Add some money to it!" The moment captured a major dilemma for Republicans as they look for ways to jumpstart their stalled health care overhaul.


Little progress evident as GOP hunts health bill votes
WASHINGTON (AP) - Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell explored options for salvaging the battered Republican health care bill Wednesday but confronted an expanding chorus of GOP detractors, deepening the uncertainty over whether the party can resuscitate its bedrock promise to repeal President Barack Obama's overhaul. A day after McConnell, short of votes, unexpectedly abandoned plans to whisk the measure through his chamber this week, fresh GOP critics popped forward. Some senators emerged from a party lunch saying potential amendments were beyond cosmetic, with changes to Medicaid and Obama's consumer-friendly insurance coverage requirements among the items in play. "There's a whole raft of things that people are talking about, and some of it's trimming around the edges and some of it's more fundamental," said Sen.


Australian police charge Vatican cardinal with sex offenses
SYDNEY (AP) - Australian police say they are charging a top Vatican cardinal with historical sexual assault offenses. Cardinal George Pell is Pope Francis' chief financial adviser and Australia's most senior Catholic. He has now become the highest-ranking Vatican official to ever be charged in the church's long-running sexual abuse scandal. Victoria state Police Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton said on Thursday that police have summonsed Pell to Australia to face multiple charges related to "historic sexual offenses." Patton says there are multiple complainants against Pell. He gave no further details about the allegations. Pell has repeatedly denied all abuse allegations against him.


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US demands more security on international flights to US
WASHINGTON (AP) - The Homeland Security Department is demanding that airlines around the world step up security measures for international flights bound for the United States or face the possibility of a total electronics ban for planes. Compliance with the new rules could lead to the lifting of a ban on laptops and other large electronics already in place for airlines flying to the United States from 10 airports in the Middle East and Africa. It could also stave off a much-discussed expansion of the ban to flights from Europe. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly announced the rollout of the new rules Wednesday.


Officials finalizing details of Trump's revived travel ban
WASHINGTON (AP) - Senior officials from the departments of State, Justice and Homeland Security labored Wednesday to finalize rules for visitors from six mostly Muslim nations who hope to avoid the Trump administration's revived travel ban and come to the United States. The deliberations came as U.S. embassies and consulates awaited instructions on how to implement this week's Supreme Court order that partially reinstated the ban after it was blocked by lower courts. The administration has given itself a Thursday deadline for implementing the scaled-back ban, which applies to visitors from Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Libya, Iran and Yemen. The justices' opinion exempts applicants from the ban if they can prove a "bona fide relationship" with a U.S.


Activists who probed Ivanka Trump supplier freed in China
GANZHOU, China (AP) - After a month behind bars, three Chinese investigators who went undercover at a factory that made Ivanka Trump shoes walked freely out of the local police station Wednesday. But they still face an uncertain future and the threat of a trial. Chinese authorities released the three, who have been accused of breaking the law by using secret cameras and listening devices. They were freed on bail, which is extremely rare for individuals who have been detained for alleged crimes, a possible sign they won't be formally charged and put on trial. But they're not in the clear yet.


Venezuela hunts for copter pilot behind 'terrorist attack'
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) - Oscar Perez is a cop, pilot, action movie star and dog trainer. He's now also a fugitive, accused of strafing two key Venezuelan government buildings from a helicopter in a quixotic attempt to set off a revolt against President Nicolas Maduro. Authorities on Wednesday conducted a nationwide manhunt for Perez a day after the government charged that he stole the police chopper and directed grenades and gunfire against the Supreme Court and Interior Ministry in what Maduro called a "terrorist attack." No one was injured, and there was no sign of damage at the buildings. But the episode added another layer of intrigue to a 3-month-old political crisis that has left at least 75 people dead and hundreds more jailed or injured in clashes between security forces and protesters seeking Maduro's removal.


Travel ban a blow to Sudan refugees awaiting US resettlement
CAIRO (AP) - Dozens of Sudanese activists living in Egypt as refugees, many of whom fled fundamentalist Islamic militias and were close to approval for resettlement in the United States, now face legal limbo after the Supreme Court partially reinstated President Donald Trump's travel ban on six Muslim nations, including Sudan. Many said they are not safe in Egypt because Sudanese agents operating in the country under tacit Egyptian approval regularly threaten them and their families, sometimes targeting them with violence. Tayeb Ibrahim, who has worked to expose Sudanese government abuses in areas it controls in the country's volatile South Kordofan province, was partially blinded after being attacked with acid by Sudanese government agents, and narrowly escaped being brought back to Sudan after being kidnapped in Egypt.


Iraqis fight house to house for costly victory in Mosul
MOSUL, Iraq (AP) - Gunfire echoes through the pockmarked streets as Maj. Ihab Jalil al-Aboudi's soldiers fight block by block for the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, occasionally pausing to help terrified families flee to safety across the rubble. Associated Press reporters accompanied his forces for three weeks in May as they battled Islamic State militants in neighborhoods around Mosul's Old City, part of a massive offensive launched in October that Iraqi commanders hope to finally complete in the coming days. Driving the Islamic State from Iraq's second largest city would hand a major defeat to the extremist group three years after it swept across much of northern and central Iraq.


Man destroys new Ten Commandments statue at Arkansas Capitol
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - A man yelled "Freedom!" as he crashed his vehicle into Arkansas' new Ten Commandments monument early Wednesday, nearly three years after he was arrested in the destruction of Oklahoma's monument at its state Capitol, authorities said. The privately funded Arkansas monument had been in place outside the state Capitol in Little Rock for less than 24 hours before it was knocked from its plinth and smashed to pieces. Michael Tate Reed, 32, of Van Buren, Arkansas, was booked in the Pulaski County jail shortly after 7:30 a.m. on preliminary charges of defacing objects of public interest, criminal trespass and first-degree criminal mischief.