Israel, Iran engage in most serious confrontation in Syria
BEIRUT (AP) — Israeli forces unleashed a heavy bombardment against Iranian military installations in Syria on Thursday in what Israel called retaliation for an Iranian rocket barrage on its positions in the occupied Golan Heights, the most serious military confrontation between the two bitter enemies to date.
The two rivals have long fought each other through proxies, and with the new exchange each seemed to be sending a warning that a direct clash between them could swiftly escalate.
"If we get rain, they'll get a flood," Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman warned.
The scope of the attacks — which Israel called its largest in Syria since the 1973 Mideast war — raised the spectre of a full-fledged war between Iran and Israel in Syria, a conflict that could potentially drag the militant Hezbollah and Lebanon into the mix with devastating effects, although both sides appeared to signal they wanted the confrontation to remain contained, at least for now.
Israel, however, has been emboldened by President Donald Trump's withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal earlier this week, and the latest escalation seemed to signal a potentially co-ordinated surge in military activity targeting Iran.
Trump's high-risk doctrine? Swing for the bleacher seats
WASHINGTON (AP) — The way President Donald Trump sees it, why go for a solid single when you can swing for a home run?
Trump's upcoming summit with North Korea's Kim Jong Un is only the latest example of the president's go-big strategy. From tax reform to international trade to foreign policy, Trump has pursued a high-risk, high-reward approach that advisers say can help produce results on longstanding problems — and that critics warn could trigger dangerous repercussions all the way from a trade war to global conflict.
Drawn to big moments and bigger headlines, Trump views the North Korea summit as a legacy-maker for him, believing that the combustible combination of his bombast and charm already has led to warmer relations between North and South. As he welcomed home three Americans who had been detained in North Korea, Trump early Thursday used a televised, middle-of-the-night ceremony to play up both his statecraft and stagecraft.
"I think you probably broke the all-time, in history, television rating for three o'clock in the morning," Trump told reporters on the tarmac at Joint Base Andrews.
Trump has also played the disruptor's role in recent weeks and months by withdrawing the U.S. from the Iran nuclear deal, imposing sweeping tariffs on allies and announcing he's moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, which is claimed by both Israelis and Palestinians.
Summit set, detainees free; Trump sees NKorea 'big success'
WASHINGTON (AP) — Envisioning "a very special moment for world peace," President Donald Trump announced Thursday he will meet North Korea's Kim Jong Un for highly anticipated summit talks in Singapore on June 12. He set the stage for his announcement by hosting a 3 a.m., made-for-TV welcome home for three Americans held by Kim's government.
"We welcomed them back home the proper way," Trump told supporters at a campaign rally in Indiana Thursday evening.
Final details in place, Trump and Kim agreed to the first face-to-face North Korea-U.S. summit since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War. It's the most consequential and perhaps riskiest foreign policy effort so far in Trump's presidency as North Korea's nuclear program approaches a treacherous milestone — the capacity to strike the continental U.S. with a thermonuclear warhead.
Trump says the U.S. is aiming for "denuclearization" of the entire Korean peninsula, but he has yet to fill in just what steps that might include and what the timing would be.
"We're starting off on a new footing," Trump said of himself and Kim as he welcomed the detainees in a floodlit ceremony at Joint Base Andrews outside Washington. He hailed their release as a potential breakthrough in relations between the longtime adversary nations.
10 Things to Know for Friday
Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Friday:
1. IRAN, ISRAEL TRADE AIRSTRIKES
The scope of the tit-for-tat attacks in Syria and the Golan Heights raises the spectre of a full-fledged war between Iran and Israel in Syria.
2. SITE, DATE SET FOR SUMMIT
Trump announces he will meet North Korea's Kim Jong Un for highly anticipated talks in Singapore on June 12.
In Indiana, Trump urges GOP to mobilize for 2018 midterms
ELKHART, Ind. (AP) — Embracing his role as party leader, President Donald Trump issued a stern warning at a rally Thursday that Democrats would disrupt the economic progress of his administration, imploring Republicans to mobilize during the 2018 midterm elections.
Trump used one of his signature rallies in northern Indiana to paint a rosy picture of his presidency, pointing to low unemployment, "booming" job growth and optimism under his watch. Two days after Indiana wrapped up a divisive Republican Senate primary, the president praised a lengthy ticket of House and Senate candidates by name and predicted Democrats would dismantle his agenda if they regained control of Congress.
"You have to work every day between now and November to elect more Republicans so that we can continue to make America great again," Trump said, referencing his 2016 campaign slogan.
The president, who was joined at the Elkhart rally by home-state Vice-President Mike Pence, said Democrats would raise taxes, "destroy your jobs" and "knock the hell out of your border."
Chief among his targets: Indiana's Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly, who faces Republican businessman Mike Braun in what is expected to be one of the nation's most competitive Senate races.
Hawaii volcano could spew boulders the size of refrigerators
PAHOA, Hawaii (AP) — If Hawaii's Kilauea volcano blows its top in the coming days or weeks, as experts fear, it could hurl ash and boulders the size of refrigerators miles into the air, shutting down airline traffic and endangering lives in all directions, scientists said Thursday.
"If it goes up, it will come down," said Charles Mandeville, volcano hazards co-ordinator for the U.S. Geological Survey. "You don't want to be underneath anything that weighs 10 tons when it's coming out at 120 mph."
The volcano, which has been spitting and sputtering lava for a week, has destroyed more than two dozen homes and threatened a geothermal plant. The added threat of an explosive eruption could ground planes at one of the Big Island's two major airports and pose other dangers. The national park around the volcano announced that it would close because of the risks.
"We know the volcano is capable of doing this," Mandeville said, citing similar explosions at Kilauea in 1925, 1790 and four other times in the last few thousand years. "We know it is a distinct possibility."
He would not estimate the likelihood of such an explosion, but said the internal volcanic conditions are changing in a way that could lead to a blast in about a week. The volcano's internal plumbing could still prevent an explosion.
What's that smell? Flower town's shift to pot creates stink
CARPINTERIA, Calif. (AP) — This picturesque coastal town cradled by mountains and sandy shores is a scene out of a Southern California postcard. Residents of Carpinteria say they feel lucky to live in what they consider a slice of paradise.
But change is in the air. And sometimes, they say, it stinks.
That's because marijuana has become a new crop of choice in the farmlands surrounding this tight-knit community of 14,000, which has long helped fuel the U.S. cut flower industry.
Residents say a thick, skunk-like odour from the marijuana plants settles over the valley in the evenings and before dawn. To keep out the stench, they have tried stuffing pillows under doors, lighting incense and shutting windows, a reluctant choice since it also keeps out the cool ocean breezes that are part of the town's allure.
"We don't want a marijuana smell," said Xave Saragosa, a 73-year-old retired sheriff's deputy who was born and raised in the town and lives near a greenhouse that grows marijuana. "We want fresh air."
Mahathir Malaysia's leader again after ruling party booted
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Malaysia's former authoritarian leader Mahathir Mohamad was sworn in as prime minister on Thursday, cementing a stunning political comeback and a historic change in government after leading opposition parties to their first election victory in six decades.
The ceremony before Malaysia's king at the official state palace in Kuala Lumpur ended a day of uncertainty during which rumours swirled that the National Front, Malaysia's perennial ruling party, would try to stay in power. People waiting outside the palace cheered, waved opposition flags and sounded car horns.
The election result is a political earthquake for the Muslim-majority country, sweeping aside the 60-year rule of the National Front and its leader Najib Razak, whose reputation was tarnished by a monumental corruption scandal, a crackdown on dissent and a new sales tax that hurt his coalition's poor rural supporters.
It was also a surprising exception to backsliding on democratic values in Southeast Asia, a region of more than 600 million people where governments of countries including Thailand, Cambodia and the Philippines have swung toward harsh authoritarian rule. Amnesty International said Malaysia's first-ever change in government is an opportunity to "eradicate repressive policies" and put human rights first.
"We need to have this government today without delay," Mahathir, 92, said before the ceremony. "There is a lot of work to be done. You know the mess the country is in and we need to attend to this mess as soon as possible and that means today."
Vegas next in Western final after Jets stun Preds in Game 7
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Winnipeg Jets are headed to the first Western Conference final in their short history after knocking off the NHL's best team in the regular season.
Tyler Myers and Paul Stastny scored 2:06 apart in the first period, and the Jets stunned the Nashville Predators 5-1 on Thursday night in their first Game 7 — continuing an amazing run for a team swept in its previous two playoff appearances.
Stastny finished with a second goal and an assist, and Mark Scheifele also had two goals. Blake Wheeler and Kyle Connor each had two assists.
Connor Hellebuyck made 36 saves for Winnipeg, which won three of four games in Nashville after missing the Presidents' Trophy by three points to the Predators.
The Jets now host Vegas in Game 1 on Saturday night in a conference final nobody could've predicted when this season started.
AP sources: WH aide dismissed McCain view, says 'he's dying'
WASHINGTON (AP) — A White House official dismissed a view expressed by Sen. John McCain about President Donald Trump's CIA nominee, saying Thursday at a staff meeting that "it doesn't matter" because "he's dying anyway," two people in the room told The Associated Press.
Kelly Sadler was discussing McCain's opposition to Trump's pick for CIA director, Gina Haspel, when she made the comment, according to the two people, who described feeling shocked and stunned by the remark. They spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity to discuss the closed-door communications staff meeting.
The White House did not dispute the remark. In a statement, they said, "We respect Senator McCain's service to our nation and he and his family are in our prayers during this difficult time."
The Hill newspaper first reported the comment.
The 81-year-old Arizona Republican, who has spent three decades in the Senate, was diagnosed in July with glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer. He left Washington in December and underwent surgery last month for an infection.