US & World News

from the Associated Press

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Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot is urging the public to remain peaceful and reserve judgement until an independent board can complete its investigation into the police shooting of a 13-year-old boy last month. During a news conference before the promised release of investigation materials, including body camera footage of an officer fatally shooting Adam Toledo on March 29, Lightfoot called on people to keep calm. Choking up at times, Lightfoot decried the city’s long history of police violence and misconduct, especially in black and brown communities, and said too many young people are left vulnerable to “systemic failures that we simply must fix.” The Civilian Office of Police Accountability said it would release footage of Toledo's March 29 shooting and other materials Thursday.

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A sketch on a popular Italian TV show mocking Chinese people has launched a debate about racism, and satire, in Italy. While Asian and Black people took to social media to share their experiences with racism growing up in Italy, and how it can be fomented by satire, the TV hosts at the center of the uproar said Thursday they have been subjected to a “wave of hatred,” including death threats. 

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The United States is opening more distance between itself and much of the rest of the world in the race against the coronavirus. The U.S. has administered almost 200 million vaccine doses, even as other countries, rich and poor, struggle with stubbornly high infection rates and deaths. Nearly half of American adults have gotten at least one dose of the vaccine, and about 30% of adults in the U.S. have been fully vaccinated. But the picture is still relentlessly grim in parts of Europe and Asia as variants of the virus fuel an increase in new cases and the worldwide death toll closes in on 3 million.

Court documents obtained by The Associated Press show that Alaska wrongly denied benefits to same-sex spouses for years by claiming their unions were not recognized even after courts struck down gay marriage bans. The agency that determines eligibility for a yearly oil wealth check paid to nearly all Alaska residents denied the payout for same-sex spouses or dependents of military members stationed in other states for five years after a federal court invalidated Alaska’s ban on same-sex marriage in 2014. One spouse sued, and the state settled the lawsuit Wednesday. In the settlement, the state acknowledged it wrongly denied the benefits and said it wouldn't do it again.

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Under a steady rain, the flag-draped casket of U.S. Capitol Police Officer William Evans was carried into a Massachusetts church as dozens of state police troopers stood in the street and saluted. Mourners followed the casket into St. Stanislaus Kostka Church in Adams on Thursday for a private funeral Mass, which was to be followed by burial at Bellevue Cemetery. Evans will be laid to rest beside his father, Howard. The 41-year-old was killed this month when a driver struck him and another officer at a barricade outside the Senate. He was raised in North Adams and Clarksburg. He had served with the U.S. Capitol Police since 2003.

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Divers await a break in stormy weather that will allow them to reach a capsized oil industry vessel and search for survivors. Twelve people were still missing from the lift boat that flipped over Tuesday in hurricane-force winds and high seas off the Louisiana coast. Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Jonathan Lally said Thursday that rescuers don’t know whether any of the missing might be caught inside. The Coast Guard expects the divers to make it to the vessel Thursday, but their safety is also a factor. Six people from the Seacor Power were rescued alive and one person’s body was recovered from the water Wednesday.

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A federal judge has given the green light to move jailed R&B singer R. Kelly to New York City to go on trial this summer after several delays. Kelly has been held in Chicago, where he’s facing a potential second trial in the fall in a seperate federal case related to a sprawling sex crimes investigation. The trial in Brooklyn federal court been delayed several times because of the pandemic. But the judge said on Thursday that it would finally go forward on Aug. 9. Kelly has denied charges he sexually exploited women and girls. 

A new study concludes that 2.5 billion Tyrannosaurus rex prowled North America. Thursday's study said they didn't all roam Earth at once. That's over a couple million years or so. And at any one moment, maybe 20,000 or so were alive. The study figures out the T. rex population based on its size, how much it had to eat and its sexual maturity. It’s a first-of-its-kind estimate, though it comes with a huge margin of error. Scientists say if there were much fewer T. rex, we may never have known they existed. Only about 100 or so T. rex fossils have been found.

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Prince William and Prince Harry won’t walk side-by-side as they follow their grandfather’s coffin into the church ahead of Prince Philip’s funeral on Saturday. That will minimize the chances of any awkward moments between the brothers, who have faced strains in their relationship since Harry’s decision to step away from royal duties last year. Buckingham Palace on Thursday released the broad outlines of the funeral program for the husband of Queen Elizabeth II, who died last week at 99. It said William and Harry’s cousin, Peter Phillips, would walk between the princes as they escort the coffin to St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle. Prince Charles, the heir to the throne, and his sister, Princess Anne, will lead the 15-member procession.

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A meeting aimed to improve fraught ties between NATO allies Greece and Turkey quickly descended into a tense exchange of accusations between the two countries’ foreign ministers on Thursday. Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias traveled to Ankara Thursday to meet his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu, following a slight easing of tensions. Appearing before the cameras to deliver their press statements, the two initially spoke about keeping the channels of dialogue open and increasing economic cooperation in an effort to improve ties. But their meeting soon turned sour after Dendias accused Turkey of violating Greece’s sovereign rights and warned that Ankara would face European Union sanctions if the violations continue. Cavusoglu retorted calling Dendias’ words “unacceptable.”

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Growing cease-fire violations and a massive Russian military buildup are causing tensions to rise in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. Ukraine and the West have become increasingly worried about the presence of more Russian troops near the border with its neighbor and urged Moscow to pull them back. Russia has argued that it’s free to deploy its forces anywhere on its territory and warned Ukraine against using force to reclaim control of the rebel east. More than 14,000 people have died in seven years of fighting between forces from Kyiv and separatists loyal to Moscow. 

The top House Republican says Rep. Matt Gaetz is innocent until proven guilty. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy says that means he doesn't plan to punish the Florida Republican unless charges are filed against him. Gaetz has been under federal investigation for sex trafficking allegations, but he's denied the accusations and no charges have yet been filed. McCarthy tells reporters that Gaetz privately told him he's innocent. McCarthy says he told Gaetz that the party would act against him if legal action began against him. Internal House GOP rules require that lawmakers charged with serious felonies lose their membership in committees. 

The White House says President Joe Biden will host South Korean President Moon Jae-in for meetings in the second half of May. It will be Biden's second opportunity to sit in person with a foreign counterpart since he took office during the pandemic. Biden is scheduled to meet with Japan's prime minister at the White House on Friday. The visit by South Korea's president will follow visits to Seoul by the secretary of state and defense secretary. It also follows a recent meeting in Maryland among the national security advisers from the U.S., Japan and South Korea. 

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More than a dozen consumer groups and three federal employee unions are asking the U.S. government to stop using vehicles in its fleet with unrepaired safety recalls. The group also says the General Services Administration is selling vehicles to the public without the repairs being made, including those with potentially dangerous Takata air bags and faulty General Motors ignition switches. The groups urged President Joe Biden in a letter to make all federal agencies get the vehicles fixed and to stop selling cars and trucks without repairs. The White House deferred comment to the GSA, the lead agency on the government vehicle fleet. Messages were left Thursday seeking comment from the GSA.

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Young South Africans enthusiastically performed Zulu dancing and traditional African music as part of the lessons provided by the Jabulile Arts and Culture Society in the poor Orange Farm township, 28 miles outside Johannesburg. Amid the classes in dancing and marimba music, a leader of the culture group praised Britain’s Prince Philip, who died last week and whose Duke of Edinburgh Awards helped to fund the culture group’s activities. The South African youth group has been operating for the past 11 years as part of The President’s Award an initiative empowering youths aged between 14 and 24. It has been operating in the country for the past 35 years.

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Ukraine’s top diplomat is asking for stronger Western backing amid escalating tensions in the country’s east and a Russian troop buildup across the border. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said after talks with his counterparts from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania that “words of support aren’t enough.” He asked the Baltic nations to reach out to other European Union and NATO members about offering “practical assistance” to Kyiv. More than 14,000 people have died in eastern Ukraine amid seven years of fighting between Ukrainian forces and Russia-backed separatists since 2014. Efforts to reach a political settlement have stalled, and violations of a shaky truce have become increasingly frequent in recent weeks.  

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U.S. stocks are rallying toward records after a suite of stellar data suggested the recovery for the economy and corporate profits is accelerating. The S&P 500 was 1% higher in Thursday afternoon trading and on track to surpass its all-time high set on Tuesday. Expectations are very high on Wall Street that the economy is in the midst of exploding out of the cavern created by the pandemic. Reports on Thursday only bolstered those expectations, including ones showing how hungry Americans are to spend again, how fewer workers are losing their jobs and how much fatter corporate profits are getting. 

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Twenty-year-old Daunte Wright was fatally shot by a police officer in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center  after being pulled over for a minor traffic violation, setting off days of protests. Friends and family say Wright was a skinny, smiling young man who loved making people laugh and who, after becoming a father in his teens, relished the role of doting young dad. He also had talked to a mentor about being careful if he was pulled over by police, given the long history of Black men shot by police during traffic stops.                             

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U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has appealed for other countries to inject $2 billion more to a U.N.-backed effort to ship coronavirus vaccines to the world’s poorest countries — at a time when rich countries have seized the lion’s share of them. The United States was co-hosting an online conference Thursday that has brought together presidents, prime ministers and other dignitaries to help buttress the $6.3 billion already raised for the COVAX program. The program has begun donating millions of vaccines to 92 low- and middle-income countries. But the World Health Organization has repeatedly decried a lack of equity in the vaccine rollout, with as countries like the U.S. receiving the vast majority of doses so far. 

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Mercedes-Benz has a new luxury car and it's electric powered. The EQS unveiled on Thursday is only the latest offering from Germany's carmakers as they try to challenge electric newcomer Tesla. The EQS appeals to wealthy, tech-minded buyers with its giant touchscreen panel that stretches across the entire front of the car in place of the usual dashboard. It's the battery-powered counterpart to the Mercedes brand's luxury flagship, the S-Class which costs more than $100,000. For now Mercedes isn't saying how much the EQS will cost. 

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Poland’s top court has ruled it is unconstitutional for the country’s human rights commissioner to remain in the job indefinitely after the end of his term. Thursday's ruling paves the way for the removal of the current acting commissioner or ombudsman, Adam Bodnar. It is also another step in the ruling party's campaign to take control of state institutions and remove anyone that could block its decisions. Bodnar's term ended in September, and lawmakers were due to try again later Thursday to choose his replacement. Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party has been critical of Bodnar, but it has been locked in a stalemate with the opposition over the choice of his successor. 

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A white former Minnesota police officer faces her first court appearance in the traffic-stop shooting of Black motorist Daunte Wright that has engulfed a small Minneapolis suburb in four straight days of conflict between protesters and police. Kim Potter is expected to appear via Zoom on Thursday afternoon. She was charged Wednesday with second-degree manslaughter in what her chief said appeared to be a case of confusing her Taser with her handgun. Wright's family members, Black community leaders and others are calling for more serious charges. They say there's no excuse for the shooting.

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Delta Air Lines says it lost $1.2 billion in the first quarter, but the airline thinks it can be profitable by late summer unless there's a resurgence of COVID-19. Delta reported the results on Thursday. CEO Ed Bastian says ticket sales have been stronger in the last two weeks than at any time since the pandemic hit the U.S. last year. Right now it’s mostly vacationers booking trips to mountains, beaches and resorts. Delta and other airlines are adding flights for summer in the expectation that passengers will show up. Delta will also stop blocking off middle seats on May 1. 

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A former California college student charged with murder in the 1996 disappearance of classmate Kristin Smart and the defendant's father, who is accused of helping hide her body, made their first court appearance but did not enter pleas. Paul Flores was charged with first-degree murder in the killing that allegedly happened as he tried to rape Smart in his dorm room at California Polytechnic State University campus in San Luis Obispo after a party. His father Ruben Flores is charged as an accessory after murder. Their arraignments and bail hearings were postponed until Monday.

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The great-grandchildren of the founder of the luxury fashion house Gucci are appealing to filmmaker Ridley Scott to respect their family’s legacy in a new film that focuses on a sensational murder. “The House of Gucci” starring Lady Gaga and Adam Driver is based on a book about the 1995 murder-for-hire of Maurizio Gucci, one of Gucci founder Guccio Gucci’s grandchildren, and the subsequent trial and conviction of his ex-wife, Patrizia Reggiani. Gaga plays Reggiani. One of the murder victim's second cousins, Patrizia Gucci, says the family is worried that the film goes beyond the headline-grabbing true crime story and pries into the private lives of the Guccio Gucci heirs. 

Mortgage rates fell for a second straight week amid signs of economic improvement. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac reports that the benchmark 30-year home-loan rate declined to 3.04% this week from 3.13% last week. At this time last year, the long-term rate was 3.31%. The rate for a 15-year loan dipped to 2.35% from to 2.42% last week. Last week’s decline was the first in more than two months. Mortgage rates have been at historically low levels, but strong demand and low supply of available homes have pushed prices higher in recent years.

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Disabled performers and filmmakers have a moment in the Oscar spotlight that they hope becomes a movement. Jim LeBrecht, co-director of the nominated documentary “Crip Camp,” who has spina bifida and uses a wheelchair, says a golden age for films about people with disabilities could come if Hollywood lets filmmakers with disabilities tell their own stories. Robert Tarango, the deaf-blind star of the nominated short “Feeling Through," says his film can help alleviate the fear of hiring actors like him. Paul Raci, nominated for best supporting actor for “Sound of Metal,” says that movie's innovative and authentic treatment of deaf people should become the norm.

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A new wave of public health advocacy that is multilingual, culturally sensitive, entertaining and personal is rapidly replacing mundane public service announcements in the battle to stamp out the disinformation around COVID-19 vaccines in communities of color. Barbers are busting vaccine myths as they cut hair, while a company that made comics to combat Islamic extremism is creating Spanish-language animated stories to smash conspiracy theories hindering Latinos from getting shots. The innovative messaging has grown out of urgency. Black and Latino people have been hit disproportionately hard by the coronavirus, yet their vaccination rates are less than half that of white people. 

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France has become the third country in Europe after the U.K. and Italy to reach the unwanted milestone of 100,000 COVID-19-related deaths as new infections and deaths surged due to virus variants. The country of 67 million is the eighth nation in the world to reach the mark after a year of hospital tensions, on-and-off lockdowns and personal losses that have left families nationwide grieving the pandemic’s impact. France added 300 new deaths Thursday to the previous day’s tally of 99,777, bringing the total to 100,077 deaths. Lionel Petitpas, president of the association “Victims of COVID-19,” told the Associated Press that the number of 100,000 deaths is “an important threshold.” 

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President Joe Biden’s proposal to get rid of every lead water pipe in the country could have huge ramifications. That's especially true in communities where a large number of Black, Latino and low-income residents have been left effectively drinking from a lead straw. The problem persists decades after scientists established that lead consumption is unsafe at any level. Biden announced the pipe proposal as part of his $2.3 trillion infrastructure package. There are few, if any, cities across the country where the issue resonates more than in Chicago. The city is estimated to have some 380,000 lead pipes bringing water into homes, schools and businesses.  

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The defense at the murder trial of former Officer Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd has rested its case without putting Chauvin on the stand, wrapping up after two days of testimony to the prosecution’s two weeks. Chauvin informed the court Thursday that he will not testify, saying he would invoke his Fifth Amendment right not to take the stand. The prosecution briefly recalled a lung and critical care expert who’d testified during the state’s case to rebut a defense expert’s testimony that carbon monoxide poisoning might have contributed to Floyd’s death. Closing arguments are set for Monday, after which the racially diverse jury will begin deliberating.

A Tennessee mayor has asked for the release of video footage of a shooting at a high school that left a student dead and a police officer wounded, but the local district attorney denied the request. Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon said on Twitter that she requested release of redacted video footage of Monday’s shooting at Austin-East Magnet High School. She said her request was denied by the district attorney, who told her the integrity of the investigation needed to be protected. Police said a 17-year-old student had a gun inside a school and was fatally shot in a confrontation with officers in a bathroom. An officer was wounded.

It's time for big companies to show that their huge stock-price moves over the last year were warranted. Not only are expectations high for this upcoming earnings season, which got going Wednesday with reports from some Wall Street titans like JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs, they’re rising even more by the day. Analysts predict earnings grew close to 25% in the first quarter. But even that may not juice stock prices further, because the S&P 500 has already soared more than 80% since hitting a bottom in March 2020. 

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The former Minneapolis police officer charged with murder in George Floyd’s death won’t testify in his own defense. Derek Chauvin on Thursday invoked his right to remain silent and leave the burden of proof on the state. It's a high-stakes decision. Taking the stand could have helped humanize Chauvin to jurors who haven’t heard from him directly at trial. But it also could have opened him up to a devastating cross-examination. In court, without the jury present, defense attorney Eric Nelson and Chauvin agreed it would be an understatement to say they had gone back and forth on the decision. 

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A top associate of Russia’s imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny has been convicted of trespassing and handed a suspended sentence of one year community service after she tried to doorstep an alleged security operative believed to be involved in Navalny’s poisoning with a Soviet-era nerve agent. A court in Moscow found Lyubov Sobol, a key figure in Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, guilty of forcing her way into the apartment of a relative of the alleged operative whom Navalny had previously duped into revealing details of his supposed poisoning. Sobol condemned the verdict as “shame and disgrace” and vowed to appeal. She tweeted that “in the meantime, a (criminal) case into the attempt at Navalny’s life hasn’t been even opened.”  

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The top watchdog for the U.S. Capitol Police will tell a House committee on Thursday that there is a need for a culture change within the force after broad failures in its response to the Jan. 6 insurrection. Capitol Police Inspector General Michael A. Bolton has investigated the force’s missteps since the siege, when hundreds of President Donald Trump’s supporters broke into the building and sent lawmakers fleeing for their lives. In a 104-page report obtained by The Associated Press, he paints a dire picture of his agency’s ability to respond to future threats and casts serious doubt on whether the force would be able to respond to another large-scale attack. 

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The BBC’s coverage of the death of Prince Philip has drawn almost 110,000 complaints from the public, making it the most complained about piece of television programming ever in the U.K. The broadcaster cleared its normal schedules across two TV channels on Friday to run a series of special programs after Queen Elizabeth II’s husband died at the age of 99. Popular shows were postponed and replaced by news programs and pre-recorded tributes, and the BBC Four channel was taken off air completely. BBC radio stations also aired programs about the royal. The broadcaster said in a statement Thursday that Philip’s death was a “significant event” but acknowledged that some was unhappy with the coverage.

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India’s two largest cities have imposed stringent restrictions on movement and one planned to use hotels and banquet halls to treat coronavirus patients. Those moves came as news infections in the country shot past 200,000 Thursday amid a devastating surge that is straining a fragile health system. The soaring cases and deaths have forced India to delay exports of vaccines to other countries. India is a major producer of COVID-19 shots, and its pivot to focus on domestic demand has weighed heavily on global efforts to end the pandemic. New Delhi announced stay-at-home orders for the weekend. The moves in the capital came after similar measures were imposed in the financial capital, Mumbai.

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Sikhs across the U.S. are holding toned-down Vaisakhi celebrations this week, joining people of other faiths in observing major holidays cautiously this spring as COVID-19 keeps an uneven hold on the country. Vaisakhi marks the day in 1699 when Sikhism took its current form. Communities typically celebrate by gathering at gurdwaras, or places of worship, for prayer, and there are often processions, parades, activities and food. But this year the tents and food stalls are being replaced in some cases by smaller, socially distanced groups and take-home meals, with worship times staggered and attendance limited in accordance with health guidelines.