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Kushner denies collusion

Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner denied Monday that he colluded with Russians in the course of President Donald Trump's White House bid, declaring in a statement ahead of interviews with congressional committees that he has "nothing to hide."

The 11-page statement , released hours before Kushner's closed-door appearance before the Senate intelligence committee, details four contacts with Russians during Trump's campaign and transition. It aims to explain inconsistencies and omissions in a security clearance form that have invited public scrutiny.

"I did not collude, nor know of anyone else in the campaign who colluded, with any foreign government," Kushner said in the prepared remarks in which he also insists that none of the contacts, which include meetings at Trump Tower with the Russian ambassador and a Russian lawyer, was improper.

Kushner arrived Monday morning at a Senate office building, exiting a black sport utility vehicle and greeting photographers gathered outside with a grin and a wave.

In speaking to Congress, Kushner — as both the president's son-in-law and a trusted senior adviser during the campaign and inside the White House — becomes the first member of the president's inner circle to face questions from congressional investigators as they probe Russian meddling in the 2016 election and possible links to the Trump campaign. He is to meet with staff on the Senate intelligence committee Monday and lawmakers on the House intelligence committee Tuesday.

Kushner's appearances have been highly anticipated, in part because of a series of headlines in recent months about his interactions with Russians and because the reticent Kushner had until Monday not personally responded to questions about an incomplete security clearance form and his conversations with foreigners.

"I have shown today that I am willing to do so and will continue to co-operate as I have nothing to hide," he said in the statement.



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Teen streams her fatal crash

A teenage driver lost control of her car while she was livestreaming on Instagram and recorded part of the crash that killed her younger sister in California.

After a gap in the livestream, the driver is seen standing over the body of the dead girl, saying she was sorry and it was the last thing she wanted to happen. She also says she will go to prison, but doesn't care.

The California Highway Patrol says 18-year-old Obdulia Sanchez was driving the car Friday when it veered onto the shoulder of a road in the San Joaquin Valley.

It says she overcorrected, causing the vehicle to swerve and overturn into a field.

Relatives confirmed to KFSN-TV that Sanchez was livestreaming at the time of the crash that killed her 14-year-old sister. The station says the livestream was recorded by someone who viewed it.

Authorities did not know if Sanchez has an attorney.

The CHP is examining the video as part of its investigation.



Trump lashes out online

President Donald Trump is expressing his frustration with fellow Republicans, saying they "do very little to protect their President."

In one of several tweets issued Sunday afternoon and evening, Trump said the lack of support happens even with "some that were carried over the line on my back."

Trump's tweet wasn't clear about why he was upset. It came as Republicans in the Senate struggled to come together on a bill to overhaul President Barack Obama's health care law.

On that topic, another tweet from the president was more specific: "If Republicans don't Repeal and Replace the disastrous ObamaCare, the repercussions will be far greater than any of them understand!"

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was making a last-gasp effort to resuscitate the legislation after Trump insisted that senators not leave town for their August recess without passing a health bill.



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Allowing trade in rhino horn

South Africa said Monday it is moving ahead with draft regulations for a domestic trade in rhino horn, despite critics' concerns that a legal market will spur rhino poaching.

Anyone possessing a rhino horn will need a permit under national rules that are being prepared, and South Africa continues to recognize a ban on the international trade in horn that was imposed in 1977, said Edna Molewa, the environmental affairs minister.

Earlier this year, South Africa's constitutional Court rejected a government appeal to preserve a 2009 ban on the domestic trade in the horns of rhinos, which have been poached in record numbers in the past decade. 

Rhino breeders say a regulated trade would undercut poaching. Some international conservation groups disagree, saying it would only encourage traffickers to kill rhinos and try to sell their horns on the legal market.

Molewa also said 529 rhinos were killed for their horns in South Africa in the first half of this year, a drop of 13 over the same period in 2016. South Africa has nearly 20,000 rhinos, according to some estimates.



No plans for 'first pet'

Politically ambitious pups and kittens: Put your resumes aside.

The job of first pet — an enviable White House gig with luxurious live-in privileges, after-hours access to the president and guaranteed positive press coverage — is not currently available.

That's because President Donald Trump is not looking for a fluffy sidekick at the moment. Asked about plans for a four-legged addition to the White House, Stephanie Grisham, a spokeswoman for Melania Trump, said in a statement: "The first family is still getting settled so there are no plans at this time."

If Trump stays pet-free, he will be breaking with a long held tradition of presidential pet ownership.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's had his beloved terrier Fala. President George H.W. Bush's English springer spaniel Millie was featured on "The Simpsons." When President Barack Obama's family acquired their Portuguese water dog Bo, it was big news.

"In the modern-day presidency, almost all of them have had a pet," said Jennifer Pickens, a White House social expert who wrote "Pets at the White House." Still, she noted, "all didn't necessarily have them at the beginning of the administration."



Jailed over taxi dispute

An American university student is free following a weeklong detention in China for allegedly injuring a taxi driver who was roughing up his mother during a fare dispute, in a case that drew objections over the student's treatment from U.S. lawmakers.

Guthrie McLean, a student at the University of Montana, was released from a detention centre in Zhengzhou early Monday, according to his mother, Jennifer McLean, a teacher who lives in the central Chinese city.

"We are very, very very, very happy," Jennifer McLean wrote in an email to The Associated Press. She said the release — at 2 a.m. local time when her son was delivered to her doorsteps — came as a surprise after she'd twice been told to anticipate a release only to be disappointed.

The release followed an agreement with Chinese authorities to drop any charges against Guthrie Mclean, according to Montana U.S. Sen. Steve Daines.

Jennifer McLean told The AP the taxi driver had been pushing her around and hurting her when her son intervened and pushed the taxi driver to the ground.

She said when police detained Guthrie five weeks later on charges of intentional injury, they demanded the equivalent of $7,400 in compensation and threatened to imprison her son for up to three years if they refused to pay, which they refused.



Cartel capture in Cancun

Mexican military and police forces say they have captured a member of the Jalisco cartel suspected of being behind a shooting attack on the office of prosecutors in Cancun.

The attack in January left four people dead and marred Cancun's reputation as a calm beach resort. It came a day after a shooting at a music festival in a nearby town left three foreigners and two Mexicans dead.

Security forces said in a joint statement Sunday that the Jalisco New Generation Cartel member was taken into custody during raids on five houses in Cancun. The suspect was identified as Joshua Loyo.

The statement called him "one of the main generators of violence in Quintana Roo" state.

It said he was presumably responsible for killing members of rival gangs.



Feline mayor purrs no more

Stubbs, the honorary feline mayor of the Alaska town of Talkeetna, has died at the age of 20.

The animal's owners announced the cat's death late Saturday in a statement.

"Stubbs lived for 20 years and 3 months," the family wrote. "He was a trooper until the very last day of his life."

According to Stubb's family, Mayor Stubbs, as the cat was most commonly known, went to bed Thursday and died overnight, KTVA-TV reports.

Talkeetna, a town with a population of about 900, elected the yellow cat mayor in a write-in campaign in 1998.

There is no human mayor in the town.

Stubbs had survived an attack by a dog in 2013 and a false report of his death last year. But by late 2016, he was largely staying at home instead of being out and about at local Nagley's General Store.

Although Stubbs is gone, one of his owners' kittens might be ready to take up his mayoral mantle.



Phelps vs shark

Michael Phelps has finally met his match... a great white shark.

To kick off the Discovery Channel’s annual Shark week, the most decorated Olympian of all time raced against a simulation of a great white shark in a 100-metre swim.

He also was given a special fin to make sure the playing field was even.

The 28-time Olympic medalist finished in 38.1 seconds, proving to be no match for the shark’s 36.1.

But like all true athletes, he has already asked for a rematch.

"Rematch? Next time..warmer water," Phelps tweeted.



9 suffocate in truck

UPDATED: 1:30 p.m.

At least 9 people died after being crammed into the back of a sweltering tractor-trailer found parked outside a Walmart in the midsummer Texas heat, authorities said Sunday in what they described as an immigrant-smuggling attempt gone wrong.

The driver was arrested, and nearly 20 others rescued from the rig were hospitalized in dire condition, many with extreme dehydration and heatstroke, officials said.

Authorities were called to the parking lot late Saturday night or early Sunday and found eight dead inside the 18-wheeler. Another victim died at the hospital, Thomas Homan, acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, told The Associated Press.

Based on initial interviews with survivors, Homan said there may have been more than 100 people in the truck at one point. Thirty-eight were found inside, and the rest were believed to have fled or been picked up, authorities said.

Homan said some of the survivors told authorities they were from Mexico.

It was just the latest smuggling-by-truck operation to end in tragedy. In one of the worst cases on record in the U.S., 19 immigrants locked inside a stifling rig died in Victoria, Texas, in 2003.

"We're looking at a human-trafficking crime," Police Chief William McManus said, adding that many of those inside the 18-wheeler appeared to be in their 20s and 30s and that there were also apparently two school-age children.

He called it "a horrific tragedy."

Authorities did not say whether the rig was locked when they arrived, whether it was used to smuggle the occupants across the border into the U.S., or where it might have been headed. San Antonio is about a 150-mile (240-kilometre) drive from the Mexican border.

There was no immediate word on any charges brought against the driver, whose name was not released. The U.S. Homeland Security Department stepped in to take the lead in the investigation.

The victims "were very hot to the touch. So these people were in this trailer without any signs of any type of water," San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood said.

The temperature in San Antonio reached 101 degrees (38 Celsius) on Saturday and didn't dip below 90 (32 C) until after 10 p.m. The trailer didn't have a working air conditioning system, Hood said.

The tragedy came to light after a person from the truck approached a Walmart employee in the parking lot and asked for water late Saturday night or early Sunday morning, McManus said.

The employee gave the person water and then called police, who found the dead and the desperate inside the rig. Some of those in the truck ran into the woods, leading to a search, McManus said.

Hours later, after daybreak, a helicopter hovered over the area, and investigators were still gathering evidence from the tractor-trailer, which had an Iowa license plate and was registered to Pyle Transportation Inc. of Schaller, Iowa. A company official did not immediately respond to a phone message seeking comment.

Investigators checked store surveillance video, which showed vehicles arriving and picking up people from the truck, authorities said.

"By any standard, the horrific crime uncovered last night ranks as a stark reminder of why human smuggling networks must be pursued, caught and punished," Homan said in a statement.

In the May 2003 case, the immigrants were being taken from South Texas to Houston. Prosecutors said the driver heard them begging and screaming for their lives but refused to free them. The driver was sentenced to nearly 34 years in prison.

The Border Patrol has reported at least four truck seizures this month in and around Laredo, Texas. On July 7, agents found 72 people crammed into a truck with no means of escape, the agency said. They were from Mexico, Ecuador, Guatemala and El Salvador.

Authorities in Mexico have also made a number of such discoveries over the years.

Last December, they found 110 migrants trapped and suffocating inside a truck after it crashed while speeding in the state of Veracruz. Most were from Central America, and 48 were minors. Some were injured in the crash.

Last October, also in Veracruz state, four migrants suffocated in a truck carrying 55 people.



Hello, I'm in the trash chute

A man looking for a dropped cellphone ended up in a stinky situation, tumbling into a building's trash chute where he had to be rescued.

Washington, D.C. fire spokespeson Vito Maggiolo says the man was throwing out trash at an apartment building when he thought he dropped the cellphone in the chute. Maggiolo says the man leaned in to check and fell inside.

Maggiolo says the man was able to call 911 from inside the trash chute around 3 a.m. Sunday, though it wasn't clear what phone he used. A video posted online shows firefighter rescue crews pumping fresh air down the chute to the man through a hose. They eventually hauled him out using a harness.

Maggiolo says the man didn't appear hurt and was released at the scene.



Huge US wildfire slowed

Crews contending with triple-digit temperatures slowed the spread of an aggressive wildfire that destroyed dozens of homes in a rural area of California near Yosemite National Park, officials said Sunday.

The blaze burning for a week has scorched just over 118 square miles (305 square kilometres) of dense brush and dead trees in the Sierra Nevada foothills. Many evacuated residents were allowed to return, but flames continue to threaten about 1,500 homes in Mariposa County.

The fire was 40 per cent contained, but officials said it could take crews another two weeks to fully surround it.

"They are still out in front of an uncontrolled fire, but the fire isn't moving at 30 mph (48 kph). The fire is crawling along," fire spokesman Brandon Vaccaro said Saturday. Flames spared Mariposa, a historic Gold Rush-era town, but more than 60 nearby homes and about 64 other buildings were destroyed.

Nearly 4,500 firefighters fought the blaze using air tankers and fleets of helicopters and bulldozers.

The fire grew by up to 47 square miles (122 square kilometres) a day at its peak. But by the weekend, the growth rate was slowed despite dry, blistering weather, Vaccaro said.

The smoke blurred the scenic vistas of Yosemite National Park, about 35 miles (56 kilometres) west of the fire. Tourists expecting the grandeur of falls and granite peaks instead saw hazy grey silhouettes.

Some roads remained closed. But Mariposa, with a population of about 2,000, was coming back to life.

Steve Valdez was back at work Saturday at a hardware store despite losing his home of 17 years to the fire.

"There are people out there who depend upon us to get power, to get water, to get their equipment fixed," he said.

Valdez, 60, and his wife had 20 minutes to grab a few photographs, bills and some family Bibles before they fled the encroaching flames. When they returned, only the home's chimney was still standing. They plan to rebuild.

The fire was one of more than a dozen that have ravaged California in recent weeks.

To the south, officials have finally lifted all remaining evacuations in a stubborn fire burning for more than two weeks in the mountains of Santa Barbara County. The blaze, which destroyed 16 homes, is 87 per cent and hasn't grown in size for several days.



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