Visiting a city he once called a "hellhole" to meet with the leaders of an alliance he threatened to abandon, President Donald Trump is in the heart of Europe on Thursday to address a continent still reeling from his election and anxious about his support.

Trump meeting with anxious NATO and EU leaders

BRUSSELS Visiting a city he once called a "hellhole" to meet with the leaders of an alliance he threatened to abandon, President Donald Trump is in the heart of Europe on Thursday to address a continent still reeling from his election and anxious about his support.

Trump is slated to attend his first meeting of NATO, the decades-long partnership that has become intrinsic to safeguarding the West but has been rattled by the new president's wavering on honoring its bonds.

Trump has mused about pulling out of the pact because he believed other countries were not paying their fair share and he has so far refused to commit to abiding by Article 5, in which member nations vow to come to each other's defense. He also is slated to meet with the heads of European Union institutions after having publicly cheered for the dissolution of the body when the United Kingdom voted to leave the EU last summer.

Trump is slated to leave Brussels late Thursday for the final piece of his trip, a two-day stay in Sicily for G-7 meetings.

Reporter alleges GOP hopeful Greg Gianforte body-slammed him

BOZEMAN, Mont. Witnesses said the Republican candidate for Montana's sole congressional seat body-slammed a reporter Wednesday, the day before the polls close in the nationally watched special election.

Greg Gianforte was in a private office preparing for an interview with Fox News when Guardian newspaper reporter Ben Jacobs came in without permission, campaign spokesman Shane Scanlon said.

The Fox News crew watched in astonishment as, after Jacobs pressed him on the GOP health care bill, "Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him," Fox News reporter Alicia Acuna wrote in an article. She added that Gianforte then began to punch Jacobs.

Taiwan holds war games simulating Chinese island attack

TAIPEI, Taiwan Taiwan's military has practiced repelling a simulated Chinese assault on an outlying island group as part of annual military drills addressing the threat from across the Taiwan Strait.

Units from the army, navy and air force were deployed for Thursday's drills on the Penghu islands. They featured tanks, rocket launchers, assault helicopters and soldiers using shoulder-fired missiles to repel a force invading from across the 160-kilometer (100 mile)-wide strait.

Warships maneuvered offshore and fighter jets deployed flares.

Test rocket launched into space from New Zealand pad

WELLINGTON, New Zealand California-based company Rocket Lab says it has successfully launched a test rocket into space from its New Zealand launch pad.

The company tweeted Thursday afternoon: "Made it to space. Team delighted. More to follow!"

Rocket Lab was given official approval last week to conduct three test launches from the remote Mahia Peninsula. The company hopes to begin commercial launches later this year and eventually launch one rocket every week.

New Zealand has never had a space program but officials hope regular launches could change perceptions of the nation and generate hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

Fastest growing US cities are in South; 4 of top 5 in Texas

DALLAS Ten of the 15 fastest-growing cities with populations of 50,000 or more were spread across the South in 2016, with four of the top five found in Texas, according to new population estimates released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Conroe, Texas, a northern Houston suburb, was the fastest-growing of the 15, seeing a 7.8 percent increase from 2015 to 2016, a growth rate more than 11 times that of the nation.

The rest of the top five fastest-growing large cities were Frisco, Texas, a northern Dallas suburb, with a 6.2 percent increase; McKinney, Texas, another northern Dallas suburb, saw a 5.9 percent increase; Greenville, South Carolina, ran up a 5.8 percent increase; and Georgetown, Texas, a northern Austin suburb, had a 5.5 percent increase.

"Overall, cities in the South continue to grow at a faster rate than any other U.S. region," said demographer Amel Toukabri of the bureau's population division.