Perez, Ellison head to second ballot in DNC race ATLANTA (AP) - Democrats were still deadlocked over who should lead their party in the era of President Donald Trump, with the contest between former Labor Secretary Tom Perez and Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison headed to a second ballot on Saturday. The election of chairman of the Democratic National Committee has animated the hundreds of party officials, donors and activists who convened in Atlanta. The unusually competitive race highlights the intensity of Democratic soul-searching after Hillary Clinton's presidential loss, which capped a pronounced slide in the party's fortunes from Washington to statehouses around the country. Tom Perez, labor secretary under President Barack Obama, fell within two votes of winning the party chairmanship on the first ballot Saturday.
The Latest: Ellison named deputy to new Dem Party head Perez In a show of unity, newly minted Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez has picked runner-up Keith Ellison to be deputy chairman. Perez won the top job on the second ballot Saturday at the DNC meeting in Atlanta. Perez, who was labor secretary under President Barack Obama, immediately asked members to make Ellison the deputy. In remarks to the gathering, Ellison stressed the need for a unified party despite the divisions between establishment Democrats who backed Perez and the liberal wing that favored Ellison. The Minnesota congressman spoke of the "earnest work we must do to confront Donald Trump" as well as creating a country where everyone can aspire to a good life.
The Latest: Malaysia says autopsy shows nerve agent effects Malaysian authorities have begun sweeping the airport terminal where North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un's half brother was killed to check for possible traces of the nerve agent that was suspected to have been used in the attack. The investigation has unleashed a serious diplomatic fight between Malaysia and North Korea, a prime suspect in the Feb. 13 killing of Kim Jong Nam at Kuala Lumpur's airport. Friday's revelation by Malaysian police that the banned chemical weapon VX nerve agent was used to kill Kim raised the stakes significantly in a case that has broad geopolitical implications. The sweep started around 2 a.m.
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In Trump's first speech to Congress, will decorum hold? WASHINGTON (AP) - A presidential speech to Congress is one of those all-American moments that ooze ritual and decorum. The House sergeant-at-arms will stand at the rear of the House of Representatives on Tuesday night and announce the arrival of Donald Trump before a joint session of Congress by intoning: "Mister Speaker, the President of the United States" just like always. Trump will stride down the center aisle to lusty cheers and hearty handshakes from his Republican supporters. First lady Melania Trump, accompanied by special guests, will smile from the gallery above. From there, though, the president who favors disruption over decorum can take the night in any number of directions.
Conditions deteriorate in west Mosul as Iraqi advances slow MOSUL, Iraq (AP) - The Iraqi advance into Mosul's western half slowed Saturday as combat turned to urban warfare and Iraqi forces met stiff resistance from the Islamic State group. Hundreds of civilians poured out of Mosul on foot following the advances, but the vast majority of 750,000 estimated to still be in the city's west remain trapped, and describe deteriorating humanitarian and security conditions. Special forces Lt. Gen. Abdul-Wahab al-Saadi said that his troops are "moving very slowly" and that IS fighters are responding with car bombs, snipers and dozens of armed drones. The drones have caused relatively few deaths, but have inflicted dozens of light injuries that have disrupted the pace of ground operations.
AP FACT CHECK: Trump and his overdrawn apocalypse WASHINGTON (AP) - In President Donald Trump's estimation, the U.S. border isn't merely porous, it's "wide open." Darkness and danger are everywhere, even Sweden. American infrastructure isn't just in need of improvement but it's in "total disrepair and decay." The health law is not only flawed, but it's an "absolute and total catastrophe." His apocalyptic view of everything he intends to fix leaves no nuance, but that's where reality often resides. For example, Trump himself actually likes parts of former President Barack Obama's health overhaul, such as the extended coverage for older children. And the U.S. remains an economic powerhouse able to transport goods in a stressed system of roads, bridges and ports that are not in total decay.
In a blow, twin attacks on Syrian security kill at least 32 BEIRUT (AP) - In synchronized attacks, insurgents stormed into heavily guarded security offices in Syria's central Homs city, clashed with troops and then blew themselves up, killing a senior officer and at least 31 others, state media and officials reported. The swift, high-profile attacks against the Military Intelligence and State Security offices, among Syria's most powerful, were claimed by an al-Qaida-linked insurgent coalition known as the Levant Liberation Committee. A Syrian lawmaker on a state-affiliated TV station called it a "heavy blow" to Syria's security apparatuses. The attacks came as Syrian government and opposition delegates meet in Geneva in U.N.-mediated talks aimed at building momentum toward peace despite low expectations of a breakthrough.
Pre-existing conditions complicate health care replacement CHICAGO (AP) - As Republicans try to unite around a replacement for the Affordable Care Act, one of the most popular parts of the law will be among the most difficult to replace: the guarantee of health coverage for people with pre-existing conditions. The challenge of providing insurance for Americans who have no other alternative has some congressional Republicans considering whether to ask the states to reboot high-risk pools, an option with a rocky history. In the past, the pools served as insurers of last resort for people in poor health who could not get an individual policy from a commercial insurer.
Warren Buffett sticks to business, avoids politics in letter OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - Investors who wanted billionaire Warren Buffett to address the current state of the world in his annual letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders will likely be disappointed, but they can still take some comfort in his consistently rosy long-term outlook for the U.S. economy. Buffett re-emphasized points he's made in the past, such as his advice to avoid high Wall Street fees by investing in low-cost index funds. And he again praised the country's market system for its ability to allow Americans to continue building "mind-boggling amounts" of wealth over time. Unlike last year's letter, when the longtime Democrat and Hillary Clinton supporter took the opportunity to say he thought the country was in much better shape than some presidential candidates made it sound, Buffett mostly steered clear of politics this year.
Transgender boy moves within 1 win of girls Texas title CYPRESS, Texas (AP) - A 17-year-old transgender boy moved within one match of winning a Texas state girls wrestling title. Mack Beggs pinned Kailyn Clay to improve to 56-0, putting him in Saturday afternoon's championship match. Beggs is a junior from Euless Trinity in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. His family has said he would rather be wrestling boys. Some girls and their advocates agree. They say the testosterone Beggs has been taking while transitioning from female to male has made him too strong to wrestle fairly against girls. But state policy calls for students to wrestle against the gender listed on their birth certificates.