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

Sanders lags in delegates but leads in likability

WASHINGTON (AP) — Bernie Sanders is still behind when it comes to delegates and votes, but he has one clear advantage over his Democratic and Republican presidential rivals — a lot of people actually like him.

By 48 percent to 39 percent, more Americans have a favorable than an unfavorable opinion of Sanders, giving him the best net-positive rating in the field, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll. Unlike the other candidates, Sanders also is doing better as more Americans get to know him: His favorable rating is up from an earlier AP-GfK poll.

The numbers speak to Sanders’ rapid rise from a relatively unknown Vermont senator to a celebrated voice proclaiming political revolution. They also reflect just how unpopular the rest of the field is.

But the growing popularity may be coming too late for Sanders, who lags Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, with time running out in the primary campaign.

After winning the Democratic caucuses in Wyoming on Saturday, Sanders has now won seven of the past eight state contests. Still, to win the Democratic nomination, he must take 68 percent of the remaining delegates and uncommitted superdelegates, which would require a sudden burst of blow-out victories.


With UN envoy in Damascus, IS takes Syrian town from rebels

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — Islamic State militants recaptured a vital border crossing in northern Syria and shot down a government warplane in the country’s west Monday as the U.N.’s special envoy urged the warring parties to respect a fragile cease-fire ahead of peace talks set to resume in Geneva this week.

U.N. Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura’s plea came amid stepped up fighting around the northern city of Aleppo, Syria’s largest, and elsewhere in the country’s northern and western provinces.

He spoke after meeting with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem in Damascus in preparation for the talks, set to begin Wednesday in Geneva between the government and an umbrella opposition coalition backed by the U.S., Saudi Arabia, and other Western powers.

De Mistura said he emphasized the importance “of protecting and maintaining and supporting the cessation of hostilities,” describing it as fragile and stressing that all sides “need to make sure that it continues to be sustained.”

The U.N. envoy said the talks would focus on a political transition for Syria, where the civil war, now in its sixth year, has killed 250,000 people and displaced half the country’s pre-war population of 23 million people. About 4 million people have fled the country.


Paris-Brussels attacks network a ‘supercell’ of extremism

PARIS (AP) — The number of people linked to the Islamic State network that attacked Paris and Brussels reaches easily into the dozens, with a series of new arrests over the weekend that confirmed the cell’s toxic reach and ability to move around unnoticed in Europe’s criminal underworld.

From Belgium’s Molenbeek to Sweden’s Malmo, new names are added nearly daily to the list of hardened attackers, hangers-on, and tacit supporters of the cell that killed 130 people in Paris and 32 in Brussels. A computer abandoned by one of the Brussels suicide bombers in a trash can contained not only his will, but is beginning to give up other information as well, including an audio file indicating the cell was getting its orders directly from a French-speaking extremist in Syria, according to a police official with knowledge of the investigation. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak publicly about the investigation.

Ten men are known to be directly involved in the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris; others with key logistical roles then — including the bomber, a logistics handler, and a hideout scout — went on to plot the attack March 22 in Brussels. But unlike Paris, at least two people who survived the attack have been taken into custody alive, including Mohamed Abrini, the Molenbeek native who walked away from the Brussels international airport after his explosives failed to detonate.

But investigators fear it may not be enough to stave off another attack. Abdelhamid Abaaoud, another Molenbeek native whose charisma made him a natural draw to many in the Brussels neighborhood after he joined IS extremists in Syria, said before his death that he returned to Europe among a group of 90 fighters from Europe and the Mideast, according to testimony from a woman who tipped police to his location.

Patrick Skinner, a former CIA case officer who is now with the Soufan Group security consultancy, described the Brussels-Paris network as a “supercell.”


Candidates with the muscle could alter GOP convention rules

WASHINGTON (AP) — With the Republican nominating convention less than 100 days away, the GOP’s presidential candidate isn’t the only thing still up for grabs. Also in play: The rules by which the nominee will be chosen.

Yet there’s one certainty about the party’s July gathering in Cleveland: A candidate, an alliance of candidates or party leaders backed by enough delegates will be able to change the procedures any way they want.

Front-runner Donald Trump has 743 of the 1,237 delegates needed to leave the GOP convention as nominee. His closest competitor, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, is fewer than 200 delegates behind. Yet many top Republicans view both as certain losers who could cost them congressional seats.

A look at the rules governing the convention and how they could be altered to impact the nomination:



City mourns Saints player as questions over death remain

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — People across Louisiana sought Monday to process the news that one of the Saints’ much-loved players, former defensive end Will Smith, was shot in the back Saturday night in what police called a deadly act of road rage.

Smith, 34, arrived in New Orleans in 2004 as a No. 1 draft pick and played with such passion and power that he quickly became a defensive captain. Off the field, he won hearts in his adopted city, which was devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and rejuvenated when the Saints won the Superbowl in 2009.

“I am telling you that this man loved the city of New Orleans,” said Terrell Haynes, who got to know Smith and his wife Racquel through their work with Kingsley House, an organization helping underprivileged families and kids. “That’s the part that is really disheartening, that this man loved this city.”

Police said Cardell Hayes, a former semi-pro football player, rear-ended Smith’s Mercedes G63 with his Humvee H2, pushing Smith’s big, blocky SUV into a Chevrolet Impala carrying Smith’s acquaintances, before Hayes opened fire.

A defense attorney for Hayes, John Fuller, said there’s more to the story: He said Hayes himself had been rear-ended moments earlier by a hit-and-run driver, and called 911 to describe the car he was following before he ran into the back of Smith’s Mercedes. It remains unclear whether the car he was pursuing was the Mercedes, the Impala or some other unrelated car.


AP-GfK Poll: On range of issues, Clinton has edge over Trump

WASHINGTON (AP) — In an early general election warning for Donald Trump, Americans say they trust Democrat Hillary Clinton over the Republican businessman on a range of issues, including immigration, health care and nominating Supreme Court justices.

Even when asked which of the two candidates would be best at “making American great” — the central promise of Trump’s campaign — Americans are slightly more likely to side with Clinton, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll.

The survey does reveal some potential trouble spots for Clinton. Trump is nearly even with her on whom Americans trust to handle the economy, which voters consistently rank as one of the top issues facing the country. Clinton is trusted more on the economy by 38 percent of Americans, while 35 percent side with Trump.

And despite Americans’ overall preference for Clinton on a host of issues, just 20 percent say she represents their own views very well on matters they care about, while 23 percent say somewhat well.

But as with most issues addressed in the AP-GfK poll, the numbers for Trump are even worse: Just 15 percent of Americans say he represents their views very well and 14 percent say somewhat well.


White officer gets probation in black driver’s shooting

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A white South Carolina police officer who was charged with a felony for shooting and killing a black driver at the end of a chase took a plea deal Monday and was sentenced to three years of probation.

Justin Craven, 27, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor misconduct in office, multiple media outlets reported. A prosecutor wanted the North Augusta police officer charged with voluntary manslaughter, which carries up to 30 years in prison, but a grand jury refused to indict Craven. He was later charged with a different felony.

Craven’s plea comes amid a nationwide debate over the use of force and how white police officers treat black people, fueled by high-profile incidents including the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Freddie Gray’s death after he was injured in a Baltimore police van.

The death of 68-year-old Ernest Satterwhite was captured on video from Craven’s dashboard camera. The Associated Press requested the footage nearly two years ago and eventually sued the State Law Enforcement Division, which refused to release the video until after Craven’s plea Monday.

The footage shows Craven run to Satterwhite’s car after the man stops at his home and stick a gun and both arms into the driver’s open window. A black arm is seen pushing back, and Craven pulls the weapon out of the window and fires several shots.


Israel to free 12-year-old Palestinian girl held in prison

JERUSALEM (AP) — A 12-year-old Palestinian girl who was imprisoned after she confessed to planning a stabbing attack in a West Bank settlement will be released early, Israel’s prison service said Monday, capping a saga that drew attention to the dual legal system in the West Bank.

The case has put Israel’s military justice system in a tough spot as it deals with a girl who has pleaded guilty to a crime, yet has not even completed the seventh grade. She is believed to be the youngest female Palestinian ever sent to an Israeli prison.

According to court documents provided by the military, the girl, whose name could not be published because of her age, approached the West Bank settlement of Carmei Tsur on Feb. 9 with a knife hidden under a shirt.

A security guard ordered her to halt, and a resident instructed her to lie on the ground and told her to give up the knife, which she did. An amateur video clip shown on Israeli TV showed the resident asking the girl, who was wearing her school uniform, whether she had come to kill Jews, and she said yes. She later pleaded guilty to attempted manslaughter in a plea bargain and was sentenced to 4½ months in prison.

Last week, the girl’s family appealed to Israeli military and prison officials to release her, citing her age.


‘Hire some new redactors’: How US hinders records requests

WASHINGTON (AP) — As U.S. officials dealt with the fallout of the government’s once-secret “Cuban Twitter” program, they had one thing on their side: notorious delays in the federal Freedom of Information Act.

The government didn’t have copies of the documents, which formed the basis of an Associated Press investigation detailing a program on which taxpayers spent millions. But officials were worried that asking the contractor to hand over copies would risk making the details even more public.

“The risk is that it gets FOIA’d later. FOIA will take six months,” Mark Lopes, a former senior official with the U.S. Agency for International Development, wrote in newly released emails. “I say yes so we get through the next week, six months from now when FOIA comes out, this will all be over?”

USAID’s calculus — realizing that the nation’s public-records law can be so slow as to border on unusable — comes amid new data showing that delays to process requests from the public or journalists worsened under the Obama administration. Last year, the government also set a record for coming up short in finding documents.

The government’s responsiveness under FOIA is widely regarded as a barometer of its openness. President Barack Obama has said his administration is the most transparent in history.


Sporadic fighting mars first day of cease-fire in Yemen

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — A U.N.-brokered cease-fire was mostly holding across war-torn Yemen on Monday with scattered violations reported by both sides. Much of the remaining violence took place in the besieged city of Taiz, where shelling killed at least one person and wounded five, according to residents.

There were also sporadic exchanges of gunfire and air strikes in other parts of the country after the truce between the Saudi-led coalition, which backs Yemen’s internationally recognized government, and the Shiite rebels known as Houthis went into effect at midnight Sunday.

The truce is meant build confidence between Yemen’s warring sides ahead of the U.N.-sponsored peace talks scheduled to take place in Kuwait on April 18.

Residents of Taiz, which has been besieged by the rebels for over a year, are blaming the Houthis for overnight shelling that killed one civilian and wounded four. According to the military council of Taiz resistance, which is loyal to the internationally recognized government, there were a total of 25 violations by the Houthis; meanwhile the Houthis claimed 56 cease-fire violations by the pro-government forces across the country. Residents also said three airstrikes hit Houthi positions during the day in Taiz.

Mohammed al Qubati, information minister for the internationally recognized government, acknowledged that there were dozens of violations. Speaking to The Associated Press from Saudi Arabia, he said, “We urge self-restraint.”

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