AP News in Brief at 11:04 p.m. EDT

Reversing course, Trump admits Obama was born in the US

WASHINGTON (AP) — After five years as the chief promoter of a lie about Barack Obama’s birthplace, Donald Trump abruptly reversed course Friday and acknowledged the fact that the president was born in America. He then immediately peddled another false conspiracy.

“President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period,” Trump declared, enunciating each word in a brief statement at the end of a campaign appearance. “Now we all want to get back to making America strong and great again.”

But as the GOP presidential nominee sought to put that false conspiracy theory to rest, he stoked another, claiming the “birther movement” was begun by his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton. There is no evidence that is true.

“Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy. I finished it,” Trump said.

While the question of Obama’s birthplace was raised by some backers of Clinton’s primary campaign against Obama eight years ago, Clinton has long denounced it as a “racist lie.”


EU leaders look at 6 months for rebuilding EU dream

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia (AP) — With policy splits among European Union countries putting their bloc under existential threat, national leaders agreed Friday on a six-month time table to come up with solutions for the multiple crises hobbling their union. But they delivered few concrete commitments on ways to bridge the deep differences.

While not on the agenda, Britain’s decision to leave the EU hung over the meeting, reinforced by the absence of British Prime Minister Theresa May. But the 27 leaders attending talks in the Slovak capital had plenty of other divisive issues to discuss: Migration, a common European defense policy, worrying unemployment and the anemic state of the economy

In the end, the leaders committed to have a clear roadmap of the way ahead and some practical results when they meet in late March to mark the 60th anniversary of the EU founding Treaty of Rome in the Italian capital.

“Europe can, must move forward, as long as it has clear priorities: protection, security, prosperity and the future of the youth,” said French President Francois Hollande in a joint news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Merkel called the current situation in the EU “critical,” not only because Britain voted in June to leave the EU, the first ever member to do so.


Trump adjusts call for Clinton bodyguards to lose their guns

MIAMI (AP) — Donald Trump made his usual sarcastic call Friday for Hillary Clinton’s Secret Service agents to be stripped of their firearms — and then added, “let’s see what happens to her.”

Trump has long incorrectly suggested his Democratic opponent wants to overturn the Second Amendment and take away Americans’ right to own guns. At a rally in Miami, he again riffed about confiscating the agents’ guns and then went further.

“I think that her bodyguards should drop all weapons. They should disarm, right?” Trump asked the crowd. “Take their guns away, she doesn’t want guns. Take their — and let’s see what happens to her. Take their guns away. OK, it would be very dangerous.”

Trump’s meaning was not immediately clear and a campaign spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for an elaboration.

But the Clinton campaign had a quick reaction. Spokesman Robby Mook released a statement Friday night saying Trump “has a pattern of inciting people to violence. Whether this is done to provoke protesters at a rally or casually or even as a joke, it is an unacceptable quality in anyone seeking the job of Commander in Chief.


‘Virginia Woolf’ playwright Edward Albee dies at age 88

NEW YORK (AP) — Three-time Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Edward Albee, who challenged theatrical convention in masterworks such as “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” and “A Delicate Balance,” died Friday, his personal assistant said. He was 88.

He died at his home in Montauk, east of New York, assistant Jackob Holder said. No cause of death was immediately given, although he had suffered from diabetes. With the deaths of Arthur Miller and August Wilson in 2005, he was arguably America’s greatest living playwright.

Several years ago, before undergoing extensive surgery, Albee penned a note to be issued at the time of his death: “To all of you who have made my being alive so wonderful, so exciting and so full, my thanks and all my love.”

Albee was proclaimed the playwright of his generation after his blistering “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” opened on Broadway in 1962. The Tony-winning play, still widely considered Albee’s finest, was made into an award-winning 1966 film starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.

The play’s sharp-tongued humor and dark themes were the hallmarks of Albee’s style. In more than 30 plays, Albee skewered such mainstays of American culture as marriage, child-rearing, religion and upper-class comforts.


Israeli settlements have grown during the Obama years

JERUSALEM (AP) — In his landmark speech to the Arab world seven years ago, President Barack Obama warned that Israeli settlements on occupied territories were undermining hopes for peace. “It is time for these settlements to stop,” he declared.

As Obama heads into the home stretch of his presidency, he leaves behind an unfulfilled vision. Not only did he fail to stop it, but he watched Israeli construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem thrive — despite repeated White House condemnations.

According to Israeli government data obtained by The Associated Press, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pushed a wave of construction during the Obama presidency that matched, and even exceeded, the amount of building that took place under his predecessors during the Bush years.

The figures show the limits of U.S. influence over its close ally and a reluctance to link financial support to Israel with policy differences. Despite the Israeli defiance over settlements and a long history of friction between Obama and Netanyahu, the two countries signed a deal this week giving Israel $38 billion in U.S. military aid over 10 years, the largest deal of its kind in American history.

Hanan Ashrawi, a senior Palestinian official, said the Obama presidency has been a disappointment for her people. After the promise of his 2009 speeches in Egypt and Turkey pledging to build bridges with the Muslim world, “it’s been downhill since then,” she said.


AP Exclusive: Deep-sea volcano a hotspot for mysterious life

GEOLOGIST SEAMOUNTS, Hawaii (AP) — The turquoise waters became darker and darker, and squiggly glow-in-dark marine creatures began to glide past in the inky depths like ghosts.

The three-man submarine went down, down, down into the abyss and drew within sight of something no human had ever laid eyes on: Cook seamount, a 13,000-foot extinct volcano at the bottom of the sea.

Scientists aboard the vessel Pisces V visited the volcano earlier this month to examine its geological features and its rich variety of marine life, and an Associated Press reporter was given exclusive access to the dive. It was the first-ever expedition to the Cook seamount by a manned submersible.

Among other things, the researchers from the University of Hawaii and the nonprofit group Conservation International spotted such wonders as a rare type of octopus with big fins that look like Dumbo’s ears, and a potentially new species of violet-hued coral they dubbed Purple Haze.

Conservation International hopes to study 50 seamounts, or undersea volcanoes, over the next five years.


FAA contemplating whether millions of drones will fill skies

WASHINGTON (AP) — So many people are registering drones and applying for drone pilot licenses that federal aviation officials said Friday they are contemplating the possibility of millions of unmanned aircraft crowding the nation’s skies in the not-too-distant future.

In the nine months since the Federal Aviation Administration created a drone registration system, more than 550,000 unmanned aircraft have been registered with the agency, said Earl Lawrence, director of the FAA’s drone office.

Speaking at the first meeting of a new government-industry drone advisory committee, Lawrence said new registrations are coming in at a rate of 2,000 a day. By comparison, the FAA says there are 260,165 manned aircraft registered in the U.S.

The FAA began issuing drone pilot licenses to commercial operators less than a month ago. Already, 13,710 people have applied to take the pilot exam, and 5,080 have passed it, Lawrence said. It’s clear the agency’s estimate of 15,000 licensed drone pilots by the end of 2016 will easily be exceeded, he said.

The FAA now forecasts there will be more than 1.3 million licensed drone pilots by 2020.


Attorneys of boy shot by Columbus officer seek witnesses

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Attorneys for the family of a 13-year-old Ohio boy fatally shot by a policeman said Friday they want to hear from witnesses, because the police version of events “might not be true.”

Meanwhile, a 19-year-old who said he was the boy’s friend told a newspaper that Tyre King had a real-looking BB gun, was out to rob someone and ran from police.

Police say an officer who believed the gun was real shot the boy Wednesday night after witnesses reported a group of people had robbed a man of $10.

Relatives are still grieving and working on the funeral arrangements, Sean Walton, an attorney for Tyre’s family, said Friday morning. Walton said he’s looking for people with information in the case to come forward.

“We just have many different witness accounts that are contradictory to the police officer’s version of events,” Walton said. “What is currently out there might not be true.”


Aid convoys for Syria’s Aleppo delayed amid rising violence

BEIRUT (AP) — Trucks carrying humanitarian aid to Syria’s besieged rebel-held part of the city of Aleppo were held up for yet another day as heavy fighting broke out Friday on the edges of Damascus between government forces and insurgents.

The clashes were some of the most serious since a U.S.-Russia-brokered cease-fire went into effect this week. The fighting and mutual accusations of violations sparked concern that the fragile cease-fire, which brought some relief to millions of people across the war-ravaged country, may be starting to fray.

In a further sign of tensions picking up, the Obama administration warned Russia that potential military cooperation in Syria will not happen unless humanitarian aid begins to flow into Aleppo and other besieged communities.

The Russian military had said that the Syrian army withdrew its armor, artillery and other weapons from a key highway near Aleppo early Thursday, signaling the possible arrival of aid convoys after several days of delay. Syrian state TV said bulldozers began clearing the road on the northwestern edge of Aleppo that leads into besieged rebel-held neighborhoods to make way for the convoys.

But a Russian official, Lt. Gen. Vladimir Savchenko, said the Syrian army Friday moved its heavy weapons back to Castello Road after the opposition failed to withdraw their arms in sync in line with the truce deal.


Police lock down a Denver hospital complex amid gun report

DENVER (AP) — Police locked down a Denver hospital complex Friday amid reports that gunshots were fired and a man was seen carrying a rifle on the grounds.

A room-by-room search of Rose Medical Center continued into the evening. No arrests or injuries were reported, and investigators did not confirm if any shots had been fired.

Police later lifted orders for people to shelter in place at buildings near the hospital complex but urged those inside Rose Medical Center to stay in place while officers continued to investigate.

Hospital spokeswoman Julie Hogan said Friday night that employees and patients were systematically being allowed to leave as police cleared the area zone-by-zone. Authorities declined to say how many people were still inside.

During the lockdown, police officers carrying long guns surrounded the facility east of downtown, and several roads were closed and blocked by patrol cars.

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