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Swollen rivers near record levels as Florence looms

WILMINGTON, N.C. (AP) — With Wilmington cut off from the rest of North Carolina by still-rising floodwaters from Florence, officials plan to airlift food and water to a city of nearly 120,000 people as rescuers elsewhere pull inland residents from homes threatened by swollen rivers.

The spreading disaster claimed additional lives Sunday, with at least 17 people confirmed dead, and the nation’s top emergency official said other states were in the path this week.

“Not only are you going to see more impact across North Carolina, … but we’re also anticipating you are about to see a lot of damage going through West Virginia, all the way up to Ohio as the system exits out,” Brock Long of the Federal Emergency Management Agency said Sunday on Fox News.

In Wilmington , the state’s eighth-largest city, residents waited for hours outside stores and restaurants for basic necessities like water. Police guarded the door of one store, and only 10 people were allowed inside at a time.

County commission chairman Woody White said officials were planning for food and water to be flown into the coastal city.

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WHAT’S HAPPENING: Rain, floods still in Florence’s forecast

MIAMI (AP) — The forecast for Florence has not changed, unfortunately: It’s still raining, and rivers are still rising. All roads in and out of a North Carolina city of 120,000 people are underwater. Residents of inland communities who thought they were safe from the storm have to find high ground because of expected flooding. When the sun finally comes out later this week, it’s going to take all the damage a long time to dry out.

BY THE NUMBERS

—Storm deaths: Florence is being blamed for at least 17 deaths in the Carolinas, while Typhoon Mangkhut has killed at least 64 people in the Philippines and China.

—Heavy rains: Nearly 34 inches (86 centimeters) of rain fell from Thursday through Sunday in Swansboro, on the North Carolina coast, according to the National Weather Service

—In the dark: About 575,000 outages, mostly in North Carolina

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Hope fades in Philippines for dozens trapped in landslides

ITOGON, Philippines (AP) — A Philippine mayor said Monday that it’s unlikely any of the dozens of people thought buried in a huge landslide set off by Typhoon Mangkhut will be found alive, though rescuers were still digging through the massive mound of mud and debris covering a chapel where they had sheltered.

Mayor Victorio Palangdan of Itogon town in Benguet province, among the worst-hit by the typhoon that struck Saturday, said at a news conference that of the 40 to 50 people thought buried, there’s a “99 percent (chance) that they really are all dead.”

Mangkhut has killed 65 people since it tore through the Philippines. The storm killed another four people in China, where Mangkhut weakened to a tropical storm as it churned inland Monday.

Palangdan said rescuers have dug out 11 bodies from a the slide, which is covering a former miners’ bunkhouse that had been turned into a chapel. Dozens of residents sought shelter there during the storm despite warnings it was dangerous.

“They laughed at our policemen. They insisted,” he said. “They were resisting when our police tried to pull them away. What can we do?”

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Accuser’s story of attack roils plan for Kavanaugh vote

WASHINGTON (AP) — Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation for the Supreme Court is taking an uncertain turn as Republican senators express concern over a woman’s private-turned-public allegation that a drunken Kavanaugh groped her and tried to take off her clothes at a party when they were teenagers.

The White House and other Kavanaugh supporters had dismissed the allegation of sexual misconduct when it was initially conveyed in a private letter. With a name and disturbing details, the accusation raised the prospect of congressional Republicans defending President Donald Trump’s nominee ahead of midterm elections featuring an unprecedented number of female candidates and informed in part by the #MeToo movement.

The GOP-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee appeared nonetheless committed to a vote later this week despite Christine Blasey Ford’s account in The Washington Post. Kavanaugh, she said, pinned her to a bed at a Maryland party in the early 1980s, clumsily tried to remove her clothing and put his hand over her mouth when she tried to scream. Kavanaugh repeated his previous denial that such an incident ever took place.

A split seemed to be emerging among the GOP.

As Democrats, led by Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, called for a delay in the vote, two committee Republicans — all 11 on the GOP side are men — Sens. Jeff Flake of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, said they wanted to hear more from Ford. Flake went as far as to say he was “not comfortable” voting for Kavanaugh for the time being. A potential “no” vote from Flake would complicate the judge’s prospects. A Republican not on the committee, Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, said the vote should be postponed until the committee heard from Ford. Contacted Sunday by CNN, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, wouldn’t say if the vote should be postponed.

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New leak shows Julian Assange sought Russian visa in 2010

LONDON (AP) — Julian Assange had just pulled off one of the biggest scoops in journalistic history, splaying the innards of American diplomacy across the web. But technology firms were cutting ties to his website, WikiLeaks, cable news pundits were calling for his head and a Swedish sex crime case was threatening to put him behind bars.

Caught in a vise, the silver-haired Australian wrote to the Russian Consulate in London.

“I, Julian Assange, hereby grant full authority to my friend, Israel Shamir, to both drop off and collect my passport, in order to get a visa,” said the letter, which was recently obtained by The Associated Press.

The Nov. 30, 2010 missive is part of a much larger trove of WikiLeaks emails, chat logs, financial records, secretly recorded footage and other documents leaked to The Associated Press.

The files provide both an intimate look at the radical transparency organization and an early hint of Assange’s budding relationship with Moscow.

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S. Korea’s Moon wants ‘heart-to-heart’ summit talks with Kim

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Monday that he will push for “irreversible, permanent peace,” and for better dialogue between Pyongyang and Washington, during “heart-to-heart” talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un this week. His chief of staff, however, played down the chance that Moon’s summit with Kim will produce major progress in nuclear diplomacy.

Moon flies to Pyongyang on Tuesday for his third summit of the year with Kim. This one comes as global diplomatic efforts to rid North Korea of its nuclear program have stalled and questions have been raised about how serious Kim is about following through with his vague commitments to denuclearize.

“I aim to have lots of heart-to-heart talks with Chairman Kim Jong Un,” Moon said during a meeting with top advisers, according to his office. “What I want to achieve is peace. I mean irreversible, permanent peace that is not shaken by international politics.”

To achieve such a peace, Moon said he’ll focus during the summit on easing a decades-long military standoff between the Koreas and promoting a North Korea-U.S. dialogue on denuclearization issues.

Moon said he wants “to find a middle ground between a U.S. request for (North Korea’s) denuclearization and the North’s request for corresponding measures such as ending hostile relations and security assurances.”

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Death tolls often rise weeks after storm hits

More than six months after Hurricane Irma’s catastrophic rampage across the Caribbean and the southeastern United States, the number of deaths attributed to the storm increased to 129 — more than twice the amount reported at the end of the storm.

It took years for Hurricane Katrina’s death toll to become fully known. That number is still debated today with figures used by disaster agencies varying by as much as 600 deaths.

And while the change in the number of dead from Hurricane Maria is perhaps the most dramatic — rising from 64 to a 2,975 after the Puerto Rican governor commissioned university researchers to review the count — it’s common for death tolls in natural disasters to escalate weeks and months later because of deaths indirectly caused by a storm.

Those can include things like infections from contaminated water, electrocutions from downed power lines and failure to receive dialysis because of power outages. Deaths directly linked to a disaster include drownings from a storm surge or being crushed in a wind-toppled building.

“Sometimes we may never know how many deaths really occurred,” said Susan L. Cutter, director of Hazards & Vulnerability Research Institute at University of South Carolina.

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Barack Obama’s return: good or bad for Democrats?

WASHINGTON (AP) — Nearly two years out of the White House, former President Barack Obama is facing another political test.

To the delight of many Democrats, he’s stepped back into the fray that former presidents often try to avoid, campaigning for Democratic candidates ahead of the midterms and blasting the political culture of the Trump era. He attracted a large, adoring crowd this past week in Ohio and will be in Pennsylvania on Friday campaigning for Democratic Sen. Bob Casey.

But Obama’s return poses challenges for both the former president and his party. For one, Obama has struggled to turn admiration for him into votes when he’s not on the ballot. Democrats lost significant ground in the 2010 and 2014 midterms and his enthusiastic campaigning for Hillary Clinton didn’t carry her across the finish line in 2016. Perhaps more importantly, Obama’s public re-entry into politics could serve as a motivating factor for Republicans, potentially handing the GOP a gift at a time when they face an uphill battle to maintain their grip on Congress.

“This is perfect for us,” said Rep. Lou Barletta, the Republican challenging Casey for the Senate seat. “It will energize Republicans as a reminder.”

The former president will also “energize those blue-collar Democrats who worried about their jobs under Obama and went out to vote for Donald Trump,” Barletta added.

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To avoid overdoses, some test their heroin before taking it

NEW YORK (AP) — The newest tool in the fight against opioid overdoses is an inexpensive test strip that can help heroin users detect a potentially deadly contaminant in their drugs.

Sales of fentanyl test strips have exploded as a growing number of overdose-prevention programs hand them out to people who use illicit drugs.

Though they weren’t designed for it, the test strips can signal the presence of fentanyl in illicit drugs. Some health officials question their accuracy, but they have proven to be so popular that some programs can’t get enough to satisfy demand.

“As soon as I hit the street with them, they’re gone,” said Washington, D.C., needle-exchange outreach worker Maurice Abbey-Bey.

The U.S. is in the midst of the deadliest drug overdose epidemic in its history, and it’s been getting worse. More than 70,000 Americans died of drug overdoses last year, a 10 percent increase from the year before, according to preliminary U.S. government numbers.

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The Emmy winner is … maybe viewers, diversity, ‘SNL’ brand

LOS ANGELES (AP) — As Emmy Award nominees nervously wait to hear their name called, or not, there’s more on the line at Monday night’s ceremony than personal glory.

“Saturday Night Live” creator Lorne Michaels, producing his second Emmy telecast in 30 years, is tasked with turning viewership around after the 2017 show’s audience of 11.4 million narrowly avoided the embarrassment of setting a new low.

The 8 p.m. EDT ceremony on NBC clearly bears his stamp, with “SNL” faux news anchors Michael Che and Colin Jost as hosts and familiar “SNL” faces, including Kate McKinnon and Alec Baldwin, as presenters and nominees. The long-running NBC sketch show, already the top Emmy winner ever with 71, could snare up to three more.

The pressure’s on Michaels because NBC and other broadcasters are increasingly reliant on awards and other live events to draw viewers distracted by streaming and more 21st- century options. The networks, which air the Emmy telecast on a rotating basis, are so eager for the ad dollars it generates and its promotional value for fall shows that they endure online competitors sharing the stage.

It’s Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” that’s the defending best drama series champ, with HBO’s two-time previous winner “Game of Thrones” the top rival. NBC’s “This Is Us” is the only network nominee in the category. On the comedy side, the front-runners are FX’s “Atlanta” and Amazon Prime Video’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” with ABC’s “black-ish” the only network show in contention.