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AP News in Brief at 12:04 a.m. EDT

Democratic impeachment calls swell as McGahn defies subpoena

WASHINGTON (AP) — More Democrats are calling — and more loudly — for impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump after his latest defiance of Congress by blocking his former White House lawyer from testifying on Tuesday.

A growing number of rank-and-file House Democrats, incensed by former counsel Don McGahn’s empty chair in the Judiciary Committee hearing room, are confronting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and pushing her and other leaders to act. Their impatience is running up against the speaker’s preference for a more methodical approach , including already-unfolding court battles.

Pelosi summoned some of them — still a small fraction of the House Democratic caucus — to a meeting of investigators Wednesday to assess strategy.

Some other Democratic leaders, while backing Pelosi, signalled that a march to impeachment may at some point become inevitable.

“We are confronting what might be the largest, broadest coverup in American history,” Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told reporters. If a House inquiry “leads to other avenues including impeachment,” the Maryland Democrat said, “so be it.”

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Biden: Congress should protect abortion rights, if necessary

WASHINGTON (AP) — Joe Biden would support Congress enshrining abortion rights into federal law “should it become necessary,” his presidential campaign said Tuesday, following several other Democratic candidates in promising to take that step if elected president.

The hot-button issue has shot to the forefront of the Democratic primary following a spate of new Republican-backed state laws curbing access to abortion. With all the two dozen Democratic White House hopefuls supportive of abortion rights, the debate in the party has centred on how aggressive they should be if the Supreme Court were to eventually overturn legalized abortion nationwide.

Biden released a video on Tuesday blasting the GOP-backed state laws as “pernicious” and “wrong.” He stopped short in the video of endorsing congressional action and offered no specifics on how he would defend Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision that is now potentially threatened with new legal challenges.

Asked by The Associated Press whether Biden believed the high court decision should be codified in law, the campaign initially pointed to the video, then later added that the former vice-president would support legislation “should it become necessary.” A campaign aide then clarified that Biden would support action immediately, regardless of whether the Supreme Court overturned Roe.

The campaign’s responses highlight what Biden, a devout Roman Catholic, once called his “middle of the road” approach on abortion. As a young senator, he expressed reservations that the Supreme Court “went too far” in its abortion decision. Since then, he’s joined the mainstream of the Democratic Party in defending Roe, though as a senator he sometimes voted with abortion-rights foes on bills related to late-term terminations.

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Another day of tornadoes in Midwest, but St. Louis spared

ST. LOUIS (AP) — A dangerous storm system in the Midwest produced dozens of tornadoes for the second consecutive day Tuesday, demolishing a racetrack grandstand and damaging buildings in a wild animal park in Missouri but sparing St. Louis, the biggest city in its path.

Two deaths, both in Missouri, were blamed on the severe weather that started in the Southern Plains Monday night and moved to the northeast. Missouri and parts of Illinois and Arkansas were in the crosshairs Tuesday. By Wednesday, the storm will move into Great Lakes region, where it will weaken. But another storm system was gathering steam for later this week, potentially covering an area from Texas to Chicago, according to the National Weather Service.

The skies grew dark over St. Louis before nightfall Tuesday and a tornado warning was issued for the city and surrounding suburbs, but the storm passed overhead without producing the rotation that often spawns tornadoes and the city was mostly spared except for heavy rain.

“The danger has passed for the St. Louis area,” said National Weather Service St. Louis meteorologist Jason Gasselin said.

The NWS Storm Prediction Center website listed 37 reports of tornadoes on Tuesday in Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska.

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Trump officials to Congress: Goal is deterring Iran, not war

WASHINGTON (AP) — Tamping down talk of war, top Trump administration officials told Congress on Tuesday that recent actions by the U.S. deterred attacks on American forces. But some lawmakers remained deeply skeptical of the White House approach in the Middle East.

After a day of closed-door briefings on Capitol Hill, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Acting Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan said their objective over recent days has been to deter Iran. Now they want to prevent further escalation, Shanahan said.

“We’re not about going to war,” Shanahan told reporters.

“Our biggest focus at this point is to prevent Iranian miscalculation,” said Shanahan, flanked by Pompeo, after back-to-back briefings for the House and Senate. “We do not want the situation to escalate.”

The officials arrived on Capitol Hill as questions mounted over President Donald Trump’s tough talk on Iran and sudden policy shifts in the region. Skeptical Democrats sought out a second opinion, holding their own briefing with former Obama administration officials, former CIA Director John Brennan and Wendy Sherman, an architect of the Iran nuclear deal.

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Police look at whether transgender women’s deaths connected

DALLAS (AP) — The shooting deaths of two transgender women and the stabbing of a third are being investigated to determine whether they are connected, police in Dallas said Tuesday.

No arrests have been made. The most recent killing occurred over the weekend.

“These cases, although not directly related at this time, do have some similarities the public needs to be aware of,” Maj. Vincent Weddington said during a news conference .

He added that Dallas police will work with federal law enforcement officers to determine if any of the attacks should be considered hate crimes.

Muhlaysia Booker, 23, was found shot to death Saturday in northeastern Dallas. Her death came a month after a cellphone video showed her being brutally beaten in a separate incident.

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Speedy reactor cleanups may carry both risks and rewards

PLYMOUTH, Mass. (AP) — Companies specializing in the handling of radioactive material are buying retired U.S. nuclear reactors from utilities and promising to clean them up and demolish them in dramatically less time than usual — eight years instead of 60, in some cases.

Turning nuclear plants over to outside companies and decommissioning them on such a fast track represents a completely new approach in the United States, never before carried to completion in this country, and involves new technology as well.

Supporters say the accelerated method can get rid of a hazard more quickly and return the land to productive use sooner. But regulators, activists and others question whether the rapid timetables are safe and whether the companies have the expertise and the financial means to do the job.

“We were up in arms that it was 60 years,” Janet Tauro, head of the environmental group New Jersey Clean Water Action, said of the initial plans for decommissioning the Oyster Creek plant. “And then we hear it’s going to be expedited to eight years. It’s great to get it over with, but are there corners that are going to be cut?”

Once a reactor is shut down, the radioactive mess must be cleaned up, spent nuclear fuel packed for long-term storage and the plant itself dismantled. The most common approach can last decades, with the plant placed in a long period of dormancy while radioactive elements slowly decay.

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Handwritten wills shake up Aretha Franklin’s estate

PONTIAC, Mich. (AP) — The discovery of handwritten wills in the home of the late Aretha Franklin could ignite a dispute among family members about the estate of the “Queen of Soul.” She died last August without a formal document to guide her sons about her music, property and other assets. But the newly found writings filed in court Monday could change everything.

Here’s a look at what’s developing, nine months after Franklin’s death in Michigan at age 76:

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HOW WERE THE WILLS DISCOVERED?

A niece, Sabrina Owens, who serves as the estate’s personal representative, discovered a key to a locked cabinet at Franklin’s home on May 3, according to a court filing. Two handwritten wills from 2010 were inside. One says a will from decades earlier is “no good.” The other one found in the cabinet is 11 pages long and has a notary’s signature.

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First accuser testifies at ex-NFL player’s rape trial

VISTA, Calif. (AP) — A female hitchhiker who accused former NFL player Kellen Winslow Jr. of raping her after he picked her up testified Tuesday that she did not flee or defend herself because the muscular football star had threatened to kill her.

Winslow’s attorneys said the two had consensual sex and suggested she had a drinking problem. They said she has given inconsistent statements and lied to the jury about being sober for 30 years, pointing out that she has been arrested 11 times for public intoxication.

The woman, identified as Jane Doe 1, is the first of five accusers expected to take the stand.

Winslow is accused of raping three women and exposing himself to two others. All are expected to testify.

The former football star, and son of Hall of Famer Kellen Winslow, has pleaded not guilty to 12 counts.

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Cholesterol improves in US kids despite high obesity rates

CHICAGO (AP) — Cholesterol levels in children and teens improved in the latest analysis of U.S. health surveys, yet only half of them had readings considered ideal.

Overall, 7% of kids had high cholesterol in surveys from 2009 to 2016. That was down from 10% a decade earlier. In children, high levels mean 200 or above and ideal measures are below 170.

The results were published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The researchers say the mixed bag of results could reflect stubborn rates of childhood obesity, offset by U.S. kids eating fewer snack foods containing unhealthy trans fats. Manufacturers began phasing those out before a 2018 U.S. ban.

In the analysis, researchers used 1999-2016 government surveys of 26,000 kids aged 6 to 19 who had home interviews, physical exams and lab tests.

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Lowry has 25, Raptors rout Bucks 120-102 to even East finals

TORONTO (AP) — Kyle Lowry scored 25 points, Kawhi Leonard had 19 and the Toronto Raptors beat the Milwaukee Bucks 120-102 on Tuesday night to even the Eastern Conference finals at two games apiece.

Serge Ibaka had 17 points and 13 rebounds for the Raptors, who improved to 7-2 at home this post-season. Reserve Norm Powell scored 18 points, and Marc Gasol had 17 points and a team-high seven assists.

The home team has won all four games in the series so far. Game 5 is Thursday night in Milwaukee.

Giannis Antetokounmpo had 25 points and 10 rebounds for the top-seeded Bucks. Khris Middleton scored 30 points.

Milwaukee lost its second straight following a six-game winning streak. It dropped consecutive games just once during the regular season, at Utah on March 2 and at Phoenix on March 4.

The Associated Press