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AP Top News at 12:36 a.m. EDT

Charges, insults fly after Trump aide assails congresswoman
WASHINGTON (AP) - The White House on Friday rushed to defend chief of staff John Kelly after he mischaracterized the remarks of a Democratic congresswoman and called her an "empty barrel" making noise. A Trump spokeswoman said it was "inappropriate" to question Kelly in light of his stature as a retired four-star general. The administration also insisted it's long past time to end the political squabbling and insult trading over President Donald Trump's compassion for America's war dead, even as it lobbed fresh vilification at Florida Rep. Frederica Wilson. She kept the barbed exchanges going, adding a new element by suggesting a racial context.


Judge tosses $417M award against Johnson & Johnson
LOS ANGELES (AP) - A judge on Friday tossed out a $417 million jury award to a woman who claimed she developed ovarian cancer by using Johnson & Johnson talc-based baby powder for feminine hygiene. Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Maren Nelson granted the company's request for a new trial, saying there were errors and jury misconduct in the previous trial that ended with the award two months ago. Nelson also ruled that there wasn't convincing evidence that Johnson & Johnson acted with malice and the award for damages was excessive. The decision will be appealed even though Eva Echeverria has died, said her attorney, Mark Robinson Jr.


Q&A on the GOP effort to overhaul the nation's tax system
WASHINGTON (AP) - Divided Republicans in Congress are tackling an ambitious overhaul of the nation's tax system that would deeply cut levies for corporations and double the standard deduction used by most average Americans. Despite controlling Congress and the White House, Republicans failed to carry out their years-long promise to dismantle and replace former President Barack Obama's health care law. They say the nearly $6 trillion tax plan, to bring the first major revamp in three decades, is their once-in-a-generation opportunity. President Donald Trump sets it as his highest legislative priority. But can they deliver? What are the next steps for Congress?


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Kids, screens and parental guilt: Time to loosen up?
NEW YORK (AP) - Parents of small children have long been hearing about the perils of "screen time." And with more screens, and new technologies such as Amazon's Echo speaker, the message is getting louder. And while plenty of parents are feeling guilty about it, some experts say it might be time to relax a little. Go ahead and hand your kid a gadget now and then to cook dinner or get some work done. Not all kids can entertain themselves quietly, especially when they are young. Try that, and see how long it takes your toddler to start fishing a banana peel out of the overflowing trash can.


Experts say Chile poet did not die of cancer, deepen mystery
SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) - A team of international scientists said Friday that Nobel Prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda did not die of cancer or malnutrition, rejecting the official cause of death but not laying to rest one of the great mysteries of post-coup Chile. While saying what the poet and Communist Party politician did not die of, the forensic experts didn't say what he did die of or end the debate over whether he was murdered by agents of Gen. Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship shortly after the country's 1973 military takeover. Panel members said they will continue to identify pathogenic bacteria that might have caused Neruda's death to determine if a third party was involved.


Google parent turns on internet balloons in Puerto Rico
MENLO PARK, Calif. (AP) - Google's parent Alphabet Inc. said Friday that its stratospheric balloons are now delivering the internet to remote areas of Puerto Rico where cellphone towers were knocked out by Hurricane Maria. Two of the search giant's "Project Loon" balloons are already over the country enabling texts, emails and basic web access to AT&T customers with handsets that use its 4G LTE network. The balloons - called HBAL199 and HBAL237 - are more than 60,000 feet (18,000 meters) above land, according to FlightRadar24.com . They navigate using an algorithm that puts them in the best position to deliver signal by rising and falling to ride wind currents.


Chinese power over North Korea? It's more myth than reality
BEIJING (AP) - At first glance, it seems the perfect solution to the world's most dangerous standoff: Find a way to get China to use its enormous influence to force North Korea to abandon its nuclear bombs. The countries, after all, share a long, porous border, several millennia of history and deep ideological roots. Tens, and possibly hundreds, of thousands of Chinese soldiers, including Mao Zedong's son, died to save North Korea from obliteration during the Korean War, and China is essentially Pyongyang's economic lifeline, responsible for most of its trade and oil. The notion of Chinese power over the North - that the countries are as "close as lips and teeth," according to a cliche recorded in the 3rd century - is so tantalizing that Donald Trump has spent a good part of his young presidency playing it up.


Japan votes: Incumbent PM Abe appears headed to victory
TOKYO (AP) - Japan's leader may have made the right call after all, if not for his country then for himself. Media polls indicate Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's ruling coalition will handily win a general election Sunday, possibly even retaining its two-thirds majority in the more powerful lower house of parliament. Japanese voters may not love Abe, but they appear to want to stick with what they know, rather than hand the reins to an opposition with little or no track record. Uncertainly over North Korea and its growing missile and nuclear arsenal may be heightening that underlying conservatism. "I buy into Prime Minister Abe's ability to handle diplomacy," said Naomi Mochida, a 51-year-old woman listening to Abe campaign earlier this week in Saitama prefecture, outside of Tokyo.


TV Academy could boot Weinstein; new allegation revealed
LOS ANGELES (AP) - Another influential entertainment organization said Friday it would consider booting disgraced film mogul Harvey Weinstein as another woman accused the Oscar winner of sexual abuse. The Television Academy, which bestows Emmy awards, said a disciplinary hearing set for November could lead to termination of his membership. Weinstein, accused of sexually harassing and abusing numerous women over decades, has been fired from The Weinstein Co., a TV and movie film production company he co-founded with his brother Bob. He has been expelled from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Producers Guild and the British Academy of Film and Television Arts.


New Battle of the Alamo is brewing over Texas shrine revamp
SAN ANTONIO (AP) - Remember the Alamo? A new Texas battle is brewing over how best to do so. Land Commissioner George P. Bush is overseeing a 7-year revamp of the shrine where 189 Texas independence fighters were killed by Mexican Gen. Santa Anna's troops in 1836. The site's size would quadruple after excavation and restoration of historical structures, the closing of nearby streets and the building of a more than 100,000-square foot museum to house artifacts and guide visitors through the Alamo's history. The project has raised the ire of some conservatives, who worry that the Battle of the Alamo will be sanitized by "political correctness" at a time when Confederate monuments are being removed across the country.

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