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

4 dead as Hurricane Florence drenches the Carolinas

WILMINGTON, N.C. (AP) — Blowing ashore with howling 90 mph (155 kph) winds, Florence splintered buildings, trapped hundreds of people and swamped entire communities along the Carolina coast Friday in what could be just the opening act in a watery, two-part, slow-motion disaster. At least four people were killed.

Forecasters warned that drenching rains of 1 to 3½ feet (30 centimeters to 1 meter) as the hurricane-turned-tropical storm crawls westward across North and South Carolina could trigger epic flooding well inland over the next few days.

As 400-mile-wide (645-kilometer-wide) Florence pounded away at the coast with torrential downpours and surging seas, rescue crews used boats to reach more than 360 people besieged by rising waters in New Bern, while many of their neighbors awaited help. More than 60 people had to be rescued in another town as a cinderblock motel collapsed at the height of the storm’s fury.

Florence flattened trees, crumbled roads and the assault wasn’t anywhere close to being over, with the siege in the Carolinas expected to last all weekend. The storm knocked out power to more than 890,000 homes and businesses, according to poweroutage.us, which tracks the U.S. electrical grid.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper called Florence an “uninvited brute” that could wipe out entire communities as it grinds across the state.

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Maria’s death toll climbed long after rain stopped

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Ramona Gonzalez did not drown when Hurricane Maria drenched Puerto Rico. She did not die in the tempest, or from destruction wrought by the storm’s 154 mph (248 kph) winds.

Instead, this disabled, 59-year-old woman died a month later, from sepsis — caused, says her family, by an untreated bedsore.

In all, the storm and its aftermath took the lives of unfortunates like Gonzalez and thousands of others, many of whom could have been saved with standard medical treatment. This was a slow-motion, months-long disaster that kept Puerto Ricans from getting the care they needed for treatable ailments, even as President Donald Trump lauded his administration’s response.

A year after Maria roared across the Caribbean, reporters for The Associated Press, the news site Quartz and Puerto Rico’s Center for Investigative Journalism have put together the most detailed portrait yet of the agonizing final days of victims of the storm, interviewing 204 families of the dead and reviewing accounts of 283 more to tell the stories of heretofore anonymous victims.

Trump cast doubt on the storm’s widely accepted death toll Thursday, tweeting that “3000 people did not die” when Maria hit after a near-miss by Hurricane Irma in September, 2017. He said the death count had been inflated “by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible,” by adding unrelated deaths to the toll from causes like old age.

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Manafort pleads guilty, will cooperate with special counsel

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort agreed Friday to cooperate with the special counsel’s Trump-Russia investigation as he pleaded guilty to federal crimes and avoided a second trial that could have exposed him to more time in prison.

The deal gives special counsel Robert Mueller a key cooperator who steered the Trump election effort for a pivotal stretch of the 2016 presidential campaign. The result also ensures the investigation will extend far beyond the November congressional elections despite entreaties from the president’s lawyers that Mueller bring it to a close.

It is unclear what information Manafort is prepared to offer investigators about the president or that could aid Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. But his involvement in key episodes under scrutiny, and his leadership of the campaign at a time when prosecutors say Russian intelligence was working to sway the election, may make him an especially valuable witness.

The agreement makes Manafort the latest associate of Trump, a president known to place a premium on loyalty among subordinates, to admit guilt and work with investigators in hopes of leniency.

Manafort had long resisted the idea of cooperating even as prosecutors stacked additional charges against him in Washington and Virginia. Trump had saluted that stance, publicly praising him and suggesting Manafort had been treated worse than gangster Al Capone. Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, had suggested a pardon might be a possibility after the investigation was concluded.

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Trump, Pompeo bash ex-Secretary of State Kerry on Iran talks

WASHINGTON (AP) — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo unloaded Friday on his Obama-era predecessor John Kerry for “actively undermining” U.S. policy on Iran by meeting several times recently with the Iranian foreign minister, who was his main interlocutor in the Iran nuclear deal negotiations.

In unusually blunt and caustic language, Pompeo said Kerry’s meetings with Mohammad Javad Zarif were “unseemly and unprecedented” and “beyond inappropriate.” President Donald Trump had late Thursday accused Kerry of holding “illegal meetings with the very hostile Iranian Regime, which can only serve to undercut our great work to the detriment of the American people.”

Pompeo said he would leave “legal determinations to others” but slammed Kerry as a former secretary of state for engaging with “the world’s largest state-sponsor of terror” and telling Iran to “wait out this administration.” He noted that just this week Iranian-backed militias had fired rockets at U.S. diplomatic compounds in Iraq.

“You can’t find precedent for this in U.S. history, and Secretary Kerry ought not to engage in that kind of behavior,” an agitated Pompeo told reporters at the State Department. “It’s inconsistent with what foreign policy of the United States is as directed by this president, and it is beyond inappropriate for him to be engaged.”

Kerry, who is promoting his new book “Every Day is Extra,” tweeted a response to Trump that referred to the president’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, who agreed on Friday to cooperate with the special counsel’s investigation into Russia interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign.

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Moon faces toughest challenge yet in 3rd summit with Kim

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — The first inter-Korean summit of 2018, a sunny spectacle in late April, reduced war fears on the peninsula. The second, an emergency one in May, helped ensure a historic meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump came off.

Now, at his third summit with Kim next week in Pyongyang, South Korean President Moon Jae-in faces his toughest challenge yet: delivering something substantive that goes beyond previous vague statements on denuclearization and helps get U.S.-North Korea talks back on track.

Negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang have sputtered in recent weeks, raising doubts about whether Kim is truly willing to relinquish his nuclear arsenal and putting pressure on Moon to broker progress once again.

The result will likely be a crucial indicator of how the larger nuclear negotiations with the United States will proceed. Moon will try to get Kim to express more clearly that he’s prepared to abandon his nuclear weapons, which could create momentum for a second Kim-Trump summit.

Whether Moon succeeds, fails or falls somewhere in between, the third inter-Korean summit could help answer a persistent question: When Kim says he supports the “complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” what does he actually mean?

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Everyone wants answers: State, feds hunt for gas blast cause

LAWRENCE, Mass. (AP) — Investigators worked Friday to pinpoint the cause of a series of fiery natural gas explosions that killed a teen driver in his car just hours after he got his license, injured at least 25 others and left dozens of homes in smoldering ruins.

Authorities said an estimated 8,000 people were displaced at the height of Thursday’s post-explosion chaos in three towns north of Boston rocked by the disaster. Most were still waiting, shaken and exhausted, to be allowed to return to their homes.

Gov. Charlie Baker said Friday that hundreds of gas technicians were being deployed throughout the night and into Saturday to make sure each home is safe to enter.

Even after residents return and their electricity is restored, gas service won’t be turned on until technicians can inspect every connection in each home — a process that could take weeks.

“This remains a tremendous inconvenience for many people,” Baker said. “It’s essential for the crews to get this right.”

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Ferocious typhoon plows through rain-soaked Philippines

TUGUEGARAO, Philippines (AP) — Typhoon Mangkhut slammed into the Philippines’ northeastern coast early Saturday, its ferocious winds and blinding rain ripping off tin roof sheets and knocking out power, and plowed through the agricultural region at the start of the onslaught.

The typhoon made landfall before dawn in the coastal town of Baggao in Cagayan province on the northern tip of Luzon Island, a breadbasket of flood-prone rice plains and mountain provinces often hit by landslides. More than 5 million people were at risk from the storm, which the Hawaii-based Joint Typhoon Warning Center downgraded from a super typhoon but still punching powerful winds and gusts equivalent to a category 4 Atlantic hurricane.

There were no immediate reports of major damages or casualties in the region, where a massive evacuation from high-risk areas was carried out over two days.

Associated Press journalists in a hotel in Cagayan’s capital city of Tuguegarao saw tin roof sheets and other debris hurtle through the air and store signs crash to the ground. Cars shook as wind gusts pummeled a parking lot.

With a huge raincloud band 900 kilometers (560 miles) wide, combined with seasonal monsoon rains, the typhoon dumped intense rain that could set off landslides and flash floods. Storm warnings have been raised in almost all the provinces across the Luzon, including the capital, Manila, restricting sea and air travel.

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Kavanaugh denies allegation of sexual misconduct in school

WASHINGTON (AP) — Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on Friday denied an allegation of sexual misconduct from when he was in high school, seeking to defuse a potential threat to his confirmation as a handful of key senators remained silent on whether they would vote for him.

In a statement released by the White House, Kavanaugh said: “I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation. I did not do this back in high school or at any time.”

Senate Republicans insist Kavanaugh’s confirmation remains on track. But the allegation has inflamed an already intense political battle over President Donald Trump’s nominee. It also pushes the #MeToo movement into the court fight, less than two months before congressional elections that have seen a surge of female Democratic candidates.

The New Yorker magazine reported that the alleged incident took place at a party when Kavanaugh, now 53, was attending Georgetown Preparatory School. The woman making the allegation attended a nearby school.

The magazine says the woman sent a letter about the allegation to Democrats. A Democratic aide and another person familiar with the letter confirmed Friday to The Associated Press that the allegation is sexual in nature. Two other people familiar with the matter confirmed it concerned an incident alleged to have occurred in high school. They were not authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

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Dallas police face ire over portrayal of man shot by officer

DALLAS (AP) — Attorneys for the family of a black man who was killed in his own apartment by a white police officer accused Dallas police of trying to “assassinate his character” and expressed fury that authorities sought a search warrant that resulted in the discovery of marijuana in the victim’s apartment.

At a news conference Friday, the lawyers said the search warrant, which allowed investigators to look for drugs, should have never been issued.

They also called for the firing of police officer Amber Guyger, who gunned down 26-year-old Botham Jean in his own apartment on Sept. 6. She has been booked on a preliminary charge of manslaughter and is free on bond.

Guyger told investigators she mistook Jean’s apartment for her own, which is right below his, and that upon entering the dark home, she believed she had encountered an intruder and shot him when he didn’t obey her verbal commands.

Lee Merritt, one of the Jean family attorneys, said Friday that investigators wasted no time in digging for dirt they could use to smear Jean’s name. Within hours of Jean being shot, they asked a judge for a warrant to search his home for drugs, among other things.

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New US survey shows some progress against opioid crisis

Figures from a U.S. government survey released Friday show some progress in the fight against the ongoing opioid addiction crisis with fewer people in 2017 using heroin for the first time compared to the previous year.

The number of new users of heroin decreased from 170,000 in 2016 to 81,000 in 2017, a one-year drop that would need to be sustained for years to reduce the number of fatal overdoses, experts said.

Fewer Americans are misusing or addicted to prescription opioid painkillers. And more people are getting treatment for heroin and opioid addiction, the survey found.

The Trump administration said the positive trends show government efforts are working.

Messages are reaching people about the dangers of heroin and the deadly contaminants it often contains on the street, Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz, an administration health official, said in a video presentation released with the figures.

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