AP Top News at 7:13 a.m. EDT

Kelly defends plan for Russia back channel as a 'good thing'
WASHINGTON (AP) - Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly is defending an alleged effort by top White House adviser Jared Kushner to create back-channel communications with Russia, describing it as a "good thing" as the Trump administration sought to quell mounting questions over secret ties to the Kremlin. Speaking on Sunday's news shows, Kelly said he didn't know whether the reports by The Associated Press and other news outlets involving Kushner, who is President Donald Trump's son-in-law, were true. But Kelly said such back-channel communications don't bother him and would not be harmful to U.S. security interests. "It's both normal, in my opinion, and acceptable," Kelly said.


Trump lashes out at leaks, considers staff upheaval
WASHINGTON (AP) - President Donald Trump is assailing internal leaks as he considers an overhaul of his White House staff and grapples with a burgeoning crisis involving alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign. Frustrated with what he views as his team's inability to push back against the drumbeat of new revelations, Trump is seeking expanded teams of lawyers and experienced public relations hands. While he has called his first trip abroad a "home run," it was shadowed by reports about Moscow's interference and possible improper dealings with the Trump campaign and associates. The latest reports hit close to the Oval Office, alleging that Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner proposed secret back-channel communications with Russia during the presidential transition.


6-day war begets 50 years of conflict for Israel
JERUSALEM (AP) - It may well be remembered as a pyrrhic victory for Israel: in six days it stunned the world by vanquishing several Arab armies, only to be saddled with a deeply corrosive 50-year fight with the Palestinians for the Holy Land. For several weeks in 1967, the underdog Israelis genuinely feared that their young Jewish state would be wiped out, even with memories of the Nazi Holocaust in Europe still fresh. They mobilized reserves to face Egyptian troops arrayed at the border. They appointed the eyepatch-wearing military hero Moshe Dayan as minister of defense. They barricaded the streets with sacks of sand.


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NKorean missile launch may be testing rivals, not technology
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) - North Korea's latest missile test Monday may have less to do with perfecting its weapons technology than with showing U.S. and South Korean forces in the region that it can strike them at will. South Korean and Japanese officials said the suspected Scud-type short-range missile flew about 450 kilometers (280 miles) on Monday morning before landing in Japan's maritime economic zone, setting off the usual round of condemnation from Washington and the North's neighbors. It's the latest in a string of test launches by North Korea as it seeks to build nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles that can reach the U.S.


Merkel: Europe must stay united in face of ally uncertainty
BERLIN (AP) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday urged European Union nations to stick together in the face of emerging policy divisions with the U.S., Britain's decision to leave the bloc and other challenges. Speaking at a campaign event held in a Bavarian beer tent, Merkel suggested that the G-7 summit in Italy that ended Saturday had served as something of a wakeup call. G-7 leaders were unable to reach unanimous agreement on climate change after U.S. President Donald Trump said he needed more time to decide whether to back a key climate accord. "The times in which we can fully count on others are somewhat over, as I have experienced in the past few days," Merkel told the crowd of some 2,500 that gathered to hear her and Bavarian governor Horst Seehofer.


Putin set to visit France in hope of mending strained ties
MOSCOW (AP) - On a trip that will likely shape Russia-France ties for years to come, President Vladimir Putin is set to visit France for talks on Monday with newly-elected French President Emmanuel Macron after expressing sympathy for his rivals during the campaign. After Moscow lost its bets in the French vote, the visit offers the Russian leader a chance to turn the page and try to establish ties with Macron as the Kremlin has struggled to mend a bitter rift in relations with the West. The meeting comes in the wake of the Group of Seven's summit over the weekend where relations with Russia were part of the agenda, making Macron the first Western leader to speak to Putin after the talks.


Relative 'devastated' after shooting kills 8 in Mississippi
BROOKHAVEN, Miss. (AP) - Head in hands, his voice strained, Vincent Mitchell sat outside his little yellow home and tried to make sense of how a family dispute led to a rampage that killed eight people, including the deputy who tried to keep them safe. "I'm devastated. It don't seem like it's real," Mitchell said shortly after the arrest of his stepson-in-law, Willie Corey Godbolt. "Him and my stepdaughter, they've been going back and forth for a couple of years with that domestic violence." Godbolt showed up at Mitchell's home in the southern Mississippi town of Bogue Chitto shortly before midnight Saturday to demand that his estranged wife give up their two children.


Get ready for busy travel season; airlines could set record
DALLAS (AP) - If you're planning a big vacation trip this summer, move over. You're going to have lots of company. By air or car, traveler numbers are expected to rise over last year thanks to a decent economy and stable gasoline prices. U.S. airlines expect to carry 234 million passengers from June 1 through Aug. 31, up from the summer record of 225 million a year ago, according to the trade group Airlines for America. While fares are edging up overall, they are still relatively affordable by historical standards. And travelers can find deals, especially on routes flown by discount airlines such as Spirit.


AP Exclusive: VA drug thefts continue despite new efforts
WASHINGTON (AP) - Federal authorities have launched dozens of new criminal investigations into possible opioid and other drug theft by employees at Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals, a sign the problem isn't going away despite new prevention efforts. Data obtained by The Associated Press show 36 cases opened by the VA inspector general's office from Oct. 1 through May 19. It brings the total number of open criminal investigations to 108 involving missing prescriptions, theft or unauthorized drug use. Most of those probes typically lead to criminal charges. The numbers are an increase from a similar period in the previous year.


A fan remembers Gregg Allman's life-affirming sound
NEW YORK (AP) - The stage remains dark in the moments before the final show. It's the Allman Brothers' annual New York City Beacon Theater run, in March 2011. Across the twilight, the first clear notes of "Hot 'Lanta" rise from Gregg Allman's Hammond B3 keyboard. Stage lights come up as the organ's tremolo fills the hall. Drums, percussion and bass join in, twin lead guitars launch over the top and an enormous driving rhythm floods the room, penetrating me to the bone. For myself and so many others who followed the band over the years, going to an Allman Brothers concert was a full-throttle, life-affirming experience.