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AP Top News at 4:41 a.m. EST

Conservatives hail end of bathroom rule for transgender kids
WASHINGTON (AP) - Conservatives are praising the Trump administration's rollback of public school bathroom requirements for transgender students, saying the move corrects a legal overreach by the Obama administration that is best left for states to decide. Transgender rights advocates, meanwhile, are vowing to overcome a major setback. "We're not discouraged. And we're going to keep fighting like we have been and keep fighting for the right thing," said Gavin Grimm, a transgender teen who sued his Virginia high school over its bathroom access policy and whose case is set to be heard by the Supreme Court next month. The Justice and Education departments said Wednesday that public schools no longer need to abide by the Obama-era directive instructing them to allow transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms of their chosen gender.


US, Mexico at odds over deportation as top officials meet
MEXICO CITY (AP) - Mexico's mounting unease and resentment over President Donald Trump's immigration crackdown are looming over a gathering of U.S. and Mexican leaders that the U.S. had hoped would project a strong future for relations between neighbors. There is no shortage of tension points as U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly meet Thursday with top Mexican officials. After all, it's Kelly who's tasked with executing Trump's plan to target millions for possible deportation, and Tillerson who must explain it to the rest of the world. As the pair arrived in Mexico City, the two countries seemed much farther apart than their close geographical proximity would suggest.


Immigrants fearing deportation under Trump change routines
In Orange County, California, dozens of immigrant parents have signed legal documents authorizing friends and relatives to pick up their children from school and access their bank accounts to pay their bills in the event they are arrested by immigration agents. In Philadelphia, immigrants are carrying around wallet-size "Know Your Rights" guides in Spanish and English that explain what to do if they're rounded up. And in New York, 23-year-old Zuleima Dominguez and other members of her Mexican family are careful about answering the door and start making worried phone calls when someone doesn't come home on time. Around the country, President Donald Trump's efforts to crack down on the estimated 11 million immigrants living illegally in the U.S.


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AP Analysis: Damage control N. Korea style: Deny and attack
TOKYO (AP) - Faced with the killing of its leader's half brother in what appears to have all the trappings of a politically motivated hit, North Korea is turning up the volume on a familiar defense: Flatly deny the allegations, viciously attack the accusers. It's a position the North has been in before, from dismissing U.N. reports outlining human rights abuses or the findings to disputing who threw the first punch in the Korean War. But, while master of the message at home, rarely, if ever, has Pyongyang managed to effectively sway world opinion. With evidence emerging that seems to strongly implicate some kind of North Korea connection to the killing of Kim Jong Un's estranged half brother Kim Jong Nam, the North is intensifying its public attack on the officials in charge of the investigation in Malaysia.


Iraqi police forces enter Mosul airport, seize runway
BAGHDAD (AP) - Iraqi federal police pushed their way into the perimeter of Mosul International Airport on Thursday, taking control of the runway amid fierce exchanges of fire with Islamic State militants hunkered down in several airport buildings, police officials said. The advance came as part of a major assault that started five days earlier to drive the Islamic State group from the western half of Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city. Two police official told The Associated Press that after police forces pushed onto the airport grounds and seized the runway, they came under heavy fire from inside the buildings at the site, including the main airport building.


North Korea denies it was behind killing at Malaysia airport
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) - North Korea denied Thursday that its agents masterminded the assassination of the half brother of leader Kim Jong Un, saying a Malaysian investigation into the death of one of its nationals is full of "holes and contradictions." The North's response came a day after Malaysian police said they were seeking two more North Koreans, including the second secretary of North Korea's embassy in Kuala Lumpur, in connection with the Feb. 13 killing of Kim Jong Nam at a Malaysian airport. Malaysia police have not directly pinpointed North Korea as being behind the death of Kim Jong Nam, but have already arrested a North Korean man working at a Malaysian company along with three other Southeast Asian people.


UN hosts 'Geneva IV' talks: Sequel or new script for Syria?
GENEVA (AP) - Yet another sequel to chronically-fruitless Syria peace talks, or an entirely new script? After months of Syria bloodshed, stalled humanitarian aid deliveries and stop-and-start diplomacy, U.N. Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura is reconvening talks between government and opposition delegations on Thursday, in the latest bid to end the country's catastrophic six-year war that has killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced millions more. Hopes are not exactly high for "Geneva IV," the fourth round of U.N-mediated intra-Syrian talks since early last year. Battlefield gains by President Bashar Assad's forces against Western-backed rebels, a new diplomatic push led by Turkey and Russia, and uncertainty about the Trump administration's strategy on Syria - the U.S.


AP Analysis: Why Venezuelans have lost hope life will change
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) - Venezuela is so short on food that tens of thousands are going hungry or even starving. Its murder rate is among the highest in the world. Its economy is so crippled that the average shopper spends 35 hours a month waiting in line - three times more than in 2014. Yet even as the country becomes increasingly unlivable, the socialist government is more entrenched than it has been in years. A sense of hopelessness has settled over what was once among the richest nations in South America, a belief that nothing will really change. To understand why people have given up, look at Jhorman Valero and his family.


Conservatives learn dealing with Trump can be complicated
WASHINGTON (AP) - For the past eight years, thousands of conservative activists have descended on Washington each spring with dreams of putting a Republican in the White House. This year, they're learning reality can be complicated. With Donald Trump's presidential victory, the future of the conservative movement has become entwined with an unconventional New York businessman better known for his deal-making than any ideological principles. It's an uneasy marriage of political convenience at best. Some conservatives worry whether they can trust their new president to follow decades of orthodoxy on issues like international affairs, small government, abortion and opposition to expanded legal protections for LGBT Americans - and what it means for their movement if he doesn't.


7 Earth-size worlds found orbiting star; could hold life
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) - For the first time, astronomers have discovered seven Earth-size planets orbiting a single nearby star - and these new worlds could hold life. This cluster of planets is less than 40 light-years away in the constellation Aquarius, according to NASA and the Belgian-led research team who announced the discovery Wednesday. The planets circle tightly around a dim dwarf star called Trappist-1, barely the size of Jupiter. Three are in the so-called habitable zone, the area around a star where water and, possibly life, might exist. The others are right on the doorstep. Scientists said they need to study the atmospheres before determining whether these rocky, terrestrial planets could support some sort of life.