AP News in Brief at 9:04 p.m. EST


It starts postcard-pretty, but this snowstorm is deadly

WASHINGTON (AP) — A storm that arrived postcard-pretty in the nation’s capital Friday was morphing into a painful, even paralyzing blizzard with gale-force winds pushing heavy snow and coastal flooding. One in seven Americans could get at least half a foot of snow by Sunday, and Washington could see snowdrifts more than 4 feet high.

The first flakes were lovely, but forecasters warned that much, much more was on its way.

Not that anyone will see the worst of it: Much heavier snow and wind gusting to 50 mph should create blinding whiteout conditions once the storm joins up with a low pressure system off the coast, said Bruce Sullivan, a forecaster at the National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland.

Two feet or more of snowfall is forecast for Washington and Baltimore, and nearly as much for Philadelphia. New York City’s expected total was upped Friday to a foot or more. But Sullivan said “the winds are going to be the real problem; that’s when we’ll see possible power outages.”

The result could create snowdrifts 4 to 5 feet high, so even measuring it for records could be difficult, he said.

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The Latest: Tourists visit White House

WASHINGTON (AP) — The latest on the blizzard slamming the eastern part of the United States. (all times local)

8:30 p.m.

Even the start of the snowstorm couldn’t keep some tourists from visiting the White House.

On Friday afternoon, several groups and couples were walking in the park in front of the mansion, and the fountain in the home’s yard was still spraying water.

Newlyweds Stefan Tomic and Cherokee Tomic, both 22, were visiting from New York and had just arrived in the city Friday by bus. They said they didn’t want to change their plans because of the weather and that their first stop was the White House.

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Air Force: Human error damaged nuclear-armed missile in silo

WASHINGTON (AP) — Errors by three airmen troubleshooting a nuclear missile in its launch silo in 2014 triggered a “mishap” that damaged the missile, prompting the Air Force to strip the airmen of their nuclear certification and quietly launch an accident investigation, officials said Friday.

In a statement released to The Associated Press, the Air Force declined to provide key additional details or a copy of the report produced last November by the Accident Investigation Board, saying the information was classified and too sensitive to be made public.

Under the Air Force’s own regulations, Accident Investigation Board reports are supposed to be made public. The Air Force did release a brief summary to the AP after it repeatedly sought answers for more than a year. The summary said the full report was classified on Nov. 9, 2015, by Gen. Robin Rand, who took over as commander of Air Force Global Strike Command in July 2015.

The Air Force said the accident caused no injuries and posed no risk to public safety. It said top Pentagon officials were briefed on the results of the investigation in December, as were members of Congress.

The damaged missile was removed from its underground silo, which is designated Juliet-07 and situated among wheat fields and wind turbines about nine miles west of Peetz, Colorado. The silo, one of 10 in a cluster, or flight, that straddles the Colorado-Nebraska border, is controlled by launch officers of the 320th Missile Squadron and administered by the 90th Missile Wing at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming.

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Film academy president: ‘We need to step this up’

Film academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs says that despite the organization’s internal efforts toward inclusion, a second year of all-white acting Oscar nominees made her think, “We need to step this up.”

Boone Isaacs announced Friday that the academy will double the number of female and minority members by 2020, and will immediately diversify its leadership by adding three new seats to its board of governors, to be filled in the coming weeks.

The academy now aims for women to comprise 48 percent of its membership and “diverse groups” at least 14 percent as an initial step.

“We all are aware that our membership is pretty closed, if you will,” she said in an interview Friday with The Associated Press. “However, life has changed. Things have changed.”

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ 51-member board of governors unanimously approved a series of reforms late Thursday to “begin the process of significantly changing our membership composition,” Boone Isaacs said, following a weeklong storm of criticism and calls for an Oscar boycott because of the lack of diversity among nominees.

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Flint lead problem could be eased by recoating old pipes

Flint’s mayor has floated a shockingly high price tag to fix the Michigan city’s lead-contamination problem: $1.5 billion to replace damaged pipes. Gov. Rick Snyder put the figure at $700 million.

In the meantime, officials and water experts are hopeful that there is a less drastic and far cheaper step — using a chemical to recoat existing pipes and contain the lead. If it works, that could make the water safe enough to drink until the damage to the system can be fully assessed.

The problem is that nobody knows how badly the pipes were damaged after the state’s disastrous decision in 2014 to use the Flint River as the city’s drinking water source without adding a chemical to control corrosion. That caused lead to leach into the water for a year and a half and contributed to a spike in child lead poisoning before city and state officials fully acknowledged the problem.

“I don’t think anybody knows how long it will take or the amount of corrosion built up in the pipes,” longtime city Councilman Scott Kincaid said.

The city last fall resumed buying Detroit water, drawn from Lake Huron, and experts said they believe lead levels are already dropping with the addition of phosphate, which helps form an interior coating on the pipes to prevent lead leaching.

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Clinton faces challenge in Iowa caucus reminiscent of 2008

WASHINGTON (AP) — Recall this 2008 storyline: Hillary Clinton enters the presidential campaign as the Democratic front-runner, runs into an inspirational candidate who generates big crowds and enthusiasm. And she winds up in a dogfight in Iowa.

Sound familiar? With 10 days left before Iowa’s lead-off caucuses, Clinton finds herself in a heated contest against insurgent rival Bernie Sanders reminiscent of her 2008 face-off with then-Sen. Barack Obama. The Vermont senator has soared to a nip-and-tuck race in Iowa and holds an advantage in New Hampshire, putting Clinton back on the brink in her second presidential bid.

Clinton lost Iowa in 2008, a setback that she never fully recovered from against Obama, who went on to win the White House. This time she hopes a larger field organization in Iowa and an escalation of her critiques of Sanders’ record and message might undercut his momentum.

Yet there may be a silver lining for Clinton’s 2016 campaign: Unlike Obama, Sanders is a self-described “democratic socialist” and has done little to expand his support beyond white liberal voters who populate the first two presidential contests. Clinton has locked down nearly all of the establishment support — governors, members of Congress and Democratic leaders — who can help her in a lengthy primary.

And, for now, the former secretary of state has an advantage in a series of Southern-heavy primaries and caucuses after Iowa and New Hampshire. The question is whether that edge vanishes if Sanders defeats Clinton in the first two contests, a distinct possibility.

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Trump, GOP leaders realizing they may need each other

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Donald Trump and some mainstream Republicans are engaged in a long-distance flirtation. Both sides are coming to the realization that they’ll need each other if the billionaire businessman becomes the party’s presidential nominee.

The GOP establishment is no fonder of Trump than when he first roiled the campaign last summer with his controversial comments about immigrants and women. But with voting beginning in just over a week, his durability atop preference polls has pushed some donors, strategists and party elders to grudgingly accept the prospect of his winning the nomination.

“We’d better stop hoping for something else and accept the possibility that he’s our nominee and be prepared to rally around him if that’s the case,” said Fred Malek, a top Republican presidential fundraiser.

Bob Dole, the 1996 Republican nominee who represented Kansas in the House and Senate for decades, said of Trump: “He’s got this personality where I do believe he could work with Congress.”

Trump, too, has started to suggest that he’d look for ways to work with Republican leaders if he wins.

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US student held in North Korea, little information released

CINCINNATI (AP) — Officials in North Korea and the U.S. released little information Friday about a university student from Ohio who was detained for what the authoritarian nation called a “hostile act.”

Otto Warmbier is the second person from southwest Ohio to be detained in North Korea in less than two years. A Dayton-area man, Jeffrey Fowle, was held for nearly six months in 2014.

North Korea’s state media said the University of Virginia student entered the country under the guise of a tourist and plotted against North Korean unity with “the tacit connivance of the U.S. government and under its manipulation.” The date of his arrest was unclear, as were any details of what he did.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, campaigning in New Hampshire as a Republican presidential candidate, called the arrest “inexcusable.” His Columbus office released a letter he sent to President Barack Obama, urging his Democratic administration to “make every effort to secure Mr. Warmbier’s immediate release and keep (his) family constantly apprised.” Kasich said North Korea should either provide evidence of the alleged anti-state activities or release Warmbier.

The U.S. Department of State said it was “aware of media reports that a U.S. citizen was detained in North Korea.”

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Europe’s migration crisis claims another 46 lives in Aegean

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — The death toll in Europe’s migration crisis rose Friday when two overcrowded smuggling boats foundered off Greece and at least 46 people drowned — more than a third of them children — as European officials remained deeply divided on how to handle the influx.

More than 70 people survived, and a large air and sea search-and-rescue effort was underway off the eastern islet of Kalolimnos, the site of the worst accident. It was unclear how many people were aboard the wooden sailboat that sank there in deep water, leaving at least 35 dead.

Coast guard divers were due to descend to the sunken wreck early Saturday, amid fears that more people had been trapped below deck.

At least 800 people have died or vanished in the Aegean Sea since the start of 2015, as a record of more than 1 million refugees and economic migrants entered Europe. About 85 percent of them crossed to the Greek islands from nearby Turkey, paying large sums to smuggling gangs for berths in unseaworthy boats.

Rights groups said the deaths highlight the need for Europe to provide those desperate to reach the prosperous continent’s shores with a better alternative to smuggling boats.

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GOP lawmakers want exemptions for gay marriage opponents

ATLANTA (AP) — Months after the Supreme Court effectively legalized same-sex marriage, lawmakers across the U.S. are pushing bills that would give businesses and some public employees the right to refuse serving gay couples because of their religious beliefs.

The American Civil Liberties Union opposes such bills and says variations have been proposed in 22 states — mostly by Republicans, though they aren’t universally backed in the GOP. Top employers, including Delta Air Lines, Home Depot, Porsche and UPS in Georgia, warn the proposals are unwelcoming and bad for business.

Even so, Georgia lawmakers have pressed on with a bill to allow business owners to refuse products or services for same-sex couples planning a wedding, and another that protects state employees who have religious objections to the marriages.

Republican state Rep. Kevin Tanner, sponsor of a bill allowing bakers or other business owners to deny wedding-related services for gay couples, said he’s not sure the measure has enough support to pass this year but called for a “non-emotional argument.”

“I don’t think anyone really fundamentally wants to prohibit the free exercise of religion and the ability of people to raise their children and still be able to make a living just because they have a different belief system than someone who is their customer,” he said.

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