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

Rattled Republicans seek a last-ditch strategy to stop Trump

WASHINGTON (AP) — Staring down the prospect of nominating Donald Trump for president, Republicans spiraled into a chaotic, last-ditch search Wednesday for a way to save the GOP from hitching its fortunes to an unpredictable celebrity candidate without alienating his throng of followers.

Sensing a window closing fast, GOP leaders and elder statesmen toggled through a menu of scenarios but landed on none. Some amplified calls to rally around a Trump alternative, even if that alternative is Ted Cruz, a prickly conservative with few friends in the party.

Others laid out still-hazy plans for a brokered national convention, an option likely to smack of the backroom dealing Trump fans despise. Some floated more extreme measures, talking of breaking from the party and starting anew.

“It’s all a play to stall it or try to deny him the nomination,” said Neil Newhouse, a GOP pollster. “And the problem with that is no one has the best scenario for how to do that.”

The scrambling came as the billionaire candidate racked up commanding victories in seven of eleven Super Tuesday primary contests, and the path to victory for his rivals narrowed. Trump’s strength — which stretched from the Deep South to New England — exposed the depths of the divisions within the party, no matter who becomes the nominee in this election.


Ben Carson says ‘no path forward’ in his bid for White House

WASHINGTON (AP) — Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson said he is effectively ending his bid for the White House Wednesday, concluding a roller-coaster campaign that briefly took him to the top of a chaotic GOP field but ended with a Super Tuesday whimper.

“I do not see a political path forward,” Carson said in a statement posted on his campaign website, though he added, “I remain deeply committed to my home nation, America” and promised to offer details of his future when he speaks Friday at a conservative conference in Washington.

He did not explicitly say that he’s ending his campaign, only noting that he does not plan to take part in Thursday’s Fox News debate. But his longtime businessman and friend, Armstrong Williams, confirmed that the soft-spoken candidate would no longer be asking for votes.

“There’s only one candidate in this 2016 election on the GOP side, and his name is Trump. That’s the reality,” Williams said, adding that Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz also should drop out, as they “also have no path” to the nomination.

Carson’s exit reduces the active Republican field to four candidates, though billionaire Donald Trump remains the clear leader in earned delegates and voter preference polls.


10 Things to Know for Thursday

Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Thursday:


Sensing a window closing fast, GOP leaders and elder statesmen toggle through a menu of scenarios but land on none.


Ben Carson says he is effectively ending his presidential campaign that briefly took him to the top of a chaotic GOP field but ended with a Super Tuesday whimper.


Seoul: North Korea fires short-range projectiles into sea

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea’s Defense Ministry says North Korea has fired several short-range projectiles into the sea just hours after the United Nations slapped sanctions on Pyongyang for its recent nuclear test and long-range rocket launch.

The North’s launches also come shortly after Seoul approved its first legislation on human rights in North Korea

The South Korean bill’s passage was ahead of the U.N. Security Council unanimously approving its toughest sanctions against North Korea in 20 years.

A total of 212 South Korean lawmakers voted for the bill and 24 others abstained in the floor vote. It becomes law when it is endorsed by the Cabinet Council, considered a formality.

North Korea’s state media has warned that enactment of the law would result in “miserable ruin.”


Deeply split Supreme Court wrestles with abortion case

WASHINGTON (AP) — A Supreme Court deeply split over abortion wrestled Wednesday with widely replicated Texas regulations that could drastically cut the number of abortion clinics in the state. As ever, Justice Anthony Kennedy appeared to hold the outcome in his hands on a court operating with eight justices since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

The court’s most significant abortion case since the early 1990s crackled with intensity during 85 minutes of pointed questions from liberal and conservative justices that suggested little common ground in resolving the clinics’ claim that the regulations are medically unnecessary and unconstitutionally limit a woman’s right to an abortion.

Texas says it is trying to protect women’s health in rules that require doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and force clinics to meet hospital-like standards for outpatient surgery. The rules would cut the number of abortion clinics in the state by three-fourths, abortion providers say.

The three women justices and Justice Stephen Breyer repeatedly questioned why Texas needed to enact the 2013 law. “But what is the legitimate interest in protecting their health? What evidence is there that under the prior law, the prior law was not sufficiently protective of the women’s health?” Ruth Bader Ginsburg asked Texas Solicitor General Scott Keller.

More than 210 women are hospitalized annually as a result of complications from abortions, Keller said. Pressed by Ginsburg, Keller acknowledged that was a relatively small complication rate but said the state still could act to make abortion safer. With about 70,000 abortions a year in Texas, that works out to a rate of less than one-half of 1 percent.


UN approves toughest sanctions on North Korea in 20 years

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Security Council on Wednesday unanimously approved the toughest sanctions on North Korea in two decades, reflecting growing anger at Pyongyang’s latest nuclear test and rocket launch in defiance of a ban on all nuclear-related activity.

The United States and China, North Korea’s traditional ally, spent seven weeks negotiating the new sanctions, which include mandatory inspections of cargo leaving and entering North Korea by land, sea or air; a ban on all sales or transfers of small arms and light weapons to Pyongyang; and expulsion of diplomats from the North who engage in “illicit activities.”

The U.S., its Western allies and Japan pressed for new sanctions that went beyond the North’s nuclear and missile programs but China was reluctant to impose measures that could threaten the stability of the neighboring country and cause its economy to collapse. Nonetheless, Beijing did agree to several measures aimed at shutting down financing for nuclear and missile programs.

“The international community, speaking with one voice, has sent Pyongyang a simple message: North Korea must abandon these dangerous programs and choose a better path for its people,” President Barack Obama said in a statement.

North Korea started off the new year with what it claims was its first hydrogen bomb test on Jan. 6 and launched a satellite on a rocket on Feb. 7. The launch was condemned by much of the world as a test of banned missile technology.


Pioneering Oklahoma energy CEO dies in fiery car crash

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Aubrey McClendon, a natural gas industry titan, was killed when police say he drove his sport utility vehicle “straight into a wall” in Oklahoma City on Wednesday, a day after he was indicted on a charge of conspiring to rig bids to buy oil and natural gas leases in northwest Oklahoma.

Police Capt. Paco Balderrama said McClendon, co-founder of Chesapeake Energy and a part-owner of the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder, was the only occupant in the vehicle when it slammed into a concrete bridge embankment shortly after 9 a.m.

“He pretty much drove straight into the wall,” Balderrama said. “The information out there at the scene is that he went left of center, went through a grassy area right before colliding into the embankment. There was plenty of opportunity for him to correct and get back on the roadway and that didn’t occur.”

McClendon’s death follows an announcement Tuesday that he had been indicted by a federal grand jury.

Balderrama says it’s too early to say whether the collision was intentional. He said McClendon was not wearing a seat belt and that he was driving faster than the 50 mph speed limit.


Syrian villagers hope for calm as Russia keeps eye on truce

MAARZAF, Syria (AP) — Just days into a U.S.-Russia-brokered cease-fire, many residents in a pro-government Syrian village long engulfed in fierce fighting in a central province expressed hope Wednesday that the truce will prevail and that a sense of normalcy could soon return.

But the cease-fire is partial and though as such it has mostly held across the war-wrecked nation, it excludes the Islamic State group as well as Syria’s al-Qaida branch, known as the Nusra Front, and other militant factions that the United Nations considers terrorist organizations.

In a stark reflection of those limitations, a car bomb killed 18 commanders of a U.S.-backed rebel group on Wednesday, a serious blow to the rebels, while Syrian Kurdish-led forces took strategic ground in Aleppo province from the Nusra Front, in a surprise offensive aimed at encircling the provincial capital.

Russia’s Defense Ministry, in a bid to secure the cease-fire, said it has set up a coordination center that includes several dozen officers who visit opposition groups and local communities to help negotiate local truce deals.

On a trip to central Syria organized by the Russian government Wednesday, an Associated Press team saw one such document being signed in the village of Maarzaf, about 15 kilometers (9 miles) west of the city of Hama, the provincial capital.


Guilty plea ends case of 2 slain Virginia college students

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — A hospital orderly pleaded guilty Wednesday to abducting and killing two Virginia college students, wrapping up a mystery that began in 2009 when one of the women disappeared from a Metallica concert. The other young woman, 18-year-old Hannah Graham, vanished five years later under similar circumstances, after a night of partying with friends.

Along the way, investigators solved a 2005 rape case and used DNA evidence to tie all three cases to Jesse LeRoy Matthew Jr.

In a plea deal, prosecutors dropped a capital murder charge that could have resulted in the death penalty and Matthew agreed to a sentence of four consecutive life terms. Those are in addition to the three life terms he was already serving for the rape.

A statements of facts filed with Matthew’s plea agreement said autopsies determined that Graham had a broken nose and likely died of suffocation or strangulation, while 20-year-old Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington suffered a broken arm, broken ribs and a skull fracture.

“We cannot comprehend the selfish and inhumane action that took place that evening and we anguish over the suffering Morgan experienced that night,” Morgan’s father, Daniel Harrington, said in court.


Lawyer: Mexican drug lord changes mind, wants extradition

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman is willing to plead guilty to any charges in the United States if U.S. authorities promise him a short sentence in a medium-security prison, one of his lawyers said Wednesday.

Guzman wants to accelerate the extradition process so he can escape harsh conditions in a Mexican maximum-security prison, where guards will not let his client sleep, lawyer Jose Refugio Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez said that he and Guzman’s family are reviewing options for a U.S. defense attorney.

“We have talked about a proposal … to plead guilty to the charges in the United States without questioning their veracity,” said Rodriguez, who heads Guzman’s legal team.

“That in exchange for a reduction in the applicable sentence like others have done in these situations, but also look for a medium-security prison so that he’s not in the conditions that he has here,” he said, calling the decision “an act of desperation” because Guzman had “reached his limit.”