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

Trump eyes shift to policy ‘meat’ as convention fight looms

NEW YORK (AP) — Republican Donald Trump declared it’s “great to be home” at a massive rally in the New York City suburbs Wednesday, shrugging off a defeat in Wisconsin a day earlier and instead, predicting victory in his delegate-rich home state.

“I love these people. These are my people,” he said to thunderous cheers.

Dozens of police officers amassed outside the soundstage venue on Long Island as protesters chanted “your hats are made in China” and “dump Trump.”

Trump supporters retaliated, declaring “socialism sucks!” and “leave this country!”

The rally comes as the GOP front-runner signaled a shift toward “more meat on the bone” in his policy speeches amid new signs of campaign discord after his stinging Wisconsin loss to rival Ted Cruz emboldened his critics and pushed the GOP closer to its first contested national convention in four decades.


Chaos in Cleveland? Odds of contested convention increase

WASHINGTON (AP) — The chances of a contested Republican national convention just got higher with Donald Trump’s loss to Ted Cruz in Wisconsin. Despite his wide lead in the delegate count, Trump isn’t scooping up delegates fast enough to ensure he’ll win a majority during the primaries and caucuses. A look at what’s known — and, more importantly, unknown — about how a contested convention might work.


What’s a contested convention? It’s when the convention opens without a presumptive nominee because no candidate has been able to lock up commitments from a majority of convention delegates. This year, the magic number for the Republicans is 1,237 — one delegate more than half of the 2,472 convention delegates.


Only Trump has a potential path to lock up enough delegates before the convention, and it’s an extremely slim one. To claim the nomination by the end of the primaries on June 7, he’d have to win 57 percent of the remaining delegates. So far, he’s won just 46 percent. The delegate count so far: Trump, 743; Cruz, 517; John Kasich, 143.


10 Things to Know for Thursday

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


Trump signals a shift toward “more meat on the bone” in his policy speeches, while Clinton embraces a tougher approach toward Sanders.


America is emerging as a top tax haven alongside the likes of Switzerland, the Cayman Islands and Panama, those seeking reform of the international tax system say.


A top haven for tax cheats that may surprise you: the US

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. lambastes and strong-arms countries that help drug lords and millionaire investors hide their money from tax collectors. Critics say it should look closer to home.

America itself is emerging as a top tax haven alongside the likes of Switzerland, the Cayman Islands and Panama, those seeking reform of the international tax system say. And states such as Delaware, Nevada, South Dakota and Wyoming, in particular, are competing with each other to provide foreigners with the secrecy they crave.

“There’s a big neon sign saying the U.S. is open to tax cheats,” says John Christensen, executive director of the Tax Justice Network.

America’s openness to foreign tax evaders is coming under new scrutiny after the leak this week of 11.5 million confidential documents from a Panamanian law firm. The Panama Papers show how some of the world’s richest people hide assets in shell companies to avoid paying taxes.

Christensen’s group, which campaigns for a global crackdown on tax evaders, says the United States ranks third in the world in financial secrecy, behind Switzerland and Hong Kong but ahead of notorious tax havens such as the Cayman Islands and Luxembourg.


Politicians, celebs in spotlight over offshore accounts

BERLIN (AP) — The fallout from a massive leak of records on offshore accounts dragged a growing number of leaders and celebrities into the spotlight Wednesday, with a Bollywood actor, a race car driver and Ukraine’s president among those denying they evaded taxes.

The reports center on millions of documents detailing how the rich and powerful use shell companies in low-tax states like Panama or the Cayman Islands, sometimes giving them fanciful names like “Goldfinger” or “SkyFall.”

The suspicion that such accounts are used to skirt taxes prompted a rush of denials, statements and, in some cases, media blackouts.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko was the latest high-profile politician to face scrutiny over the issue, denying he had meant to evade taxes by putting his candy company offshore.

Poroshenko had promised voters he would sell his business when he ran for office in 2014. But according to the reports, he merely moved it secretively offshore.


Country icon Merle Haggard, champion of the underdog, dies

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Country giant Merle Haggard, who rose from poverty and prison to international fame through his songs about outlaws, underdogs and an abiding sense of national pride in such hits as “Okie From Muskogee” and “Sing Me Back Home,” died Wednesday at 79, on his birthday.

Haggard’s manager, Frank Mull, said the country icon died in Palo Cedro, California, of pneumonia that he had been battling for months. His publicist, Tresa Redburn, said no official cause of death has been determined.

He had kept up an ambitious touring schedule, but the pneumonia in both lungs had forced him to cancel several shows this year. Mull said his family was by his side when he died at home and they were planning a funeral for Saturday at his home.

A masterful guitarist, fiddler and songwriter as well as singer, the Country Music Hall of Famer with the firm, direct baritone recorded for more than 40 years, releasing dozens of albums and No. 1 hits.

“He was my brother, my friend. I will miss him,” said Willie Nelson, his longtime friend, in a statement. Tanya Tucker recalled fondly the time they ate bologna sandwiches by the river: “I just can’t imagine a world without Merle. It’s so hard to accept, but I’ll continue honoring him on stage just as I do during every show.”


GOP’s social, fiscal conservatives at odds over gay rights

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Republican lawmakers upset about the Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage have advanced measures in about a dozen states this year that could strengthen protections for those who refuse on religious grounds to provide services to same-sex couples.

The bills could benefit court clerks, photographers, florists, bakers, wedding-hall operators and others who say gay matrimony goes against their beliefs.

For a party already being torn apart by the presidential contest, the state legislative efforts have exposed deep rifts between the GOP’s social conservatives and its pro-business wing. Business leaders worry that such measures will allow discrimination and scare away companies and major events.

So far, only a few proposals have become law. Those include narrowly tailored protections shielding Florida clergy from having to perform same-sex weddings and college religious organizations in Kansas from losing aid.

A far more sweeping one was signed into law Tuesday by Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, despite objections from some major corporations. It creates a religious shield from government penalties for an array of people and organizations, including marriage-license clerks, adoption agencies, counselors and more than a dozen categories of businesses that provide wedding-related services. It applies not only to those with religious beliefs about gay marriage, but also to those who believe that sex outside marriage is wrong and that sexual identity is determined at birth.


Allergan, Pfizer call off proposed $160B merger

Top U.S. drugmaker Pfizer and Irish rival Allergan are charting independent futures after scrapping a record $160 billion deal torpedoed by new Treasury Department rules meant to block American companies from moving their corporate addresses overseas — on paper — to avoid U.S. taxes.

The rules issued Monday, aimed at stopping the companies’ “tax inversion” deal, wiped out its financial incentives and rationale for Pfizer Inc., though they had no impact on Allergan PLC.

That led Pfizer and Allergan to walk away “by mutual agreement” on Wednesday. Pfizer, which is based in New York, will pay Allergan $150 million as reimbursement for its deal-related expenses.

It was Pfizer’s third, and most expensive, failed attempt at an inversion, leaving analysts to speculate Pfizer will drop the strategy for good. The merger would have moved Pfizer’s address, but not its operations or headquarters, to Ireland, where it would have paid hundreds of millions of dollars less in annual U.S. corporate taxes.

Tax inversions, in which a big U.S. company buys a smaller one in another country with a lower tax rate, and then moves the combined company’s address there on paper, are a hot issue in the presidential race. President Obama on Tuesday called them “one of the most insidious tax loopholes out there,” adding that Treasury’s new rules are meant to make wealthy corporations shoulder their tax responsibility like working-class Americans.


WHO: Diabetes rises fourfold over last quarter-century

GENEVA (AP) — Excessive weight, obesity, aging and population growth drove a nearly four-fold increase in worldwide cases of diabetes over the last quarter-century, affecting 422 million people in 2014, the World Health Organization reported Wednesday.

In a new report on diabetes, the U.N. health agency called for stepped-up measures to reduce risk factors for diabetes and improve treatment and care that has ballooned in recent years alongside an increase in obesity rates. WHO said 8.5 percent of the world population had diabetes two years ago, up from 108 million, or 4.7 percent, in 1980.

On Wednesday, WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said:

“We need to rethink our daily lives: to eat healthily, be physically active and avoid excessive weight gain.”

The Geneva-based agency blamed growing consumption of food and beverages high in sugar. Diabetes increased around the world but affects lower- and middle-income people more often than wealthier populations. The rates rose most in Africa, the Middle East and Asia — with the “Eastern Mediterranean” region more than doubling its prevalence to 13.7 percent of the population, the only world region with a double-digit percentage.


Charlie Sheen under investigation by Los Angeles police

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Los Angeles police said Wednesday that actor Charlie Sheen is the subject of a criminal investigation headed by detectives from an elite stalking unit.

Officer Matthew Ludwig said Sheen was listed as a suspect in a criminal investigation report received on March 31. He declined to detail the allegations or identify the alleged victim, but he said detectives from the department’s Threat Management Unit have obtained a search warrant in the case.

The celebrity news site RadarOnline reported Wednesday that it had been served a subpoena from Los Angeles police for a 35-minute audio recording purportedly of Sheen that includes Sheen threatening his ex-fiancee, Scottine Ross. She performed in porn films under the name Brett Rossi and is suing Sheen for having sex with her without disclosing he is HIV positive.

“We believe the search warrant is illegal and violates federal and state law prohibiting the use of search warrants against media companies who are reporting news and information,” Dylan Howard, editor in chief of The National Enquirer and editorial director of RadarOnline.com, wrote in a statement.

RadarOnline has not posted the audio, but has described it as being recorded by one of Sheen’s former lovers. The website states the LAPD warrant wants the audio not only for evidence against Sheen, but because it might also yield information that would exonerate him.

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