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AP News in Brief at 11:04 p.m. EDT

March 27, 2019 - 8:04 PM

Prime Minister May says she'll step down if Brexit deal OK'd

LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister Theresa May offered up her job in exchange for her Brexit deal Wednesday, telling colleagues she would quit within weeks if the agreement was passed and Britain left the European Union.

May's dramatic concession that "there is a desire for a new approach - and new leadership" was a last-ditch effort to bring enough reluctant colleagues on board to push her twice-rejected EU divorce deal over the line.

It looked like it might not be enough, as a key Northern Ireland party said it would not be supporting the deal.

May's announcement came as lawmakers held an inconclusive series of votes on alternatives to her unpopular deal. It was the first step in an attempt by Parliament to break the Brexit deadlock and stop the country from tumbling out of the bloc within weeks with no exit plan in place.

May has been under mounting pressure from pro-Brexit members of her Conservative Party to quit. Many Brexiteers accuse her of negotiating a bad divorce deal that leaves Britain too closely tied to the bloc after it leaves.

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Guilty plea to hate crimes in deadly car attack at rally

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — In a case that stirred racial tensions across the country, a self-avowed white supremacist pleaded guilty Wednesday to federal hate crime charges in a deadly attack at a white nationalist rally in Virginia, admitting that he intentionally plowed his speeding car into a crowd of anti-racism protesters, killing a woman and injuring dozens.

James Alex Fields Jr. of Maumee, Ohio, pleaded guilty to 29 of 30 federal charges stemming from the "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville on Aug. 12, 2017.

Under a plea agreement, federal prosecutors will not seek the death penalty against Fields and will dismiss the one count that carried death as a possible punishment. The charges he pleaded guilty to call for life in prison under federal sentencing guidelines.

Fields appeared stoic, with his hands folded in front of him for much of the hearing. He repeatedly responded "yes, sir," when U.S. District Judge Michael Urbanski asked him if he was pleading guilty knowingly and voluntarily.

Under a "statement of facts," Fields admitted that he "expressed and promoted" white supremacist ideology through his social media accounts and engaged in white supremacist chants during the rally in Charlottesville. He also admitted driving his car into the ethnically diverse crowd of anti-racism protesters because of their race, colour, religion or national origin.

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Chicago prosecutor defends decision to drop Smollett charges

CHICAGO (AP) — Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx on Wednesday defended the decision by her staff to drop charges that "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett staged a racist, anti-gay attack in January.

Foxx recused herself before Smollett was charged last month because she had discussed the case with a Smollett family member. The case was handed to First Assistant State's Attorney Joseph Magats.

Foxx didn't directly answer the question when CBS 2 TV in Chicago asked if she believed Smollett was innocent, as Smollett has continued to contend, saying only that the matter was handled properly. She pointed to Smollett forfeiting his $10,000 bond and doing community service in return for dropping the charges. Magats has said that he does not believe Smollett is innocent and Chicago police say he faked the attack.

"I believe that the outcome — him having to forfeit the $10,000, having to do community service, based on the allegations, and again the (low level) felony and no (criminal) background, are an outcome that we could expect with this type of case," she said.

She also insisted no one tried to intervene on Smollett's behalf, despite emails showing that Foxx was contacted by people linked to Smollett about the case.

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Rescued migrants hijack ship, demand it head toward Europe

VALLETTA, Malta (AP) — Migrants hijacked a cargo ship that rescued them in the Mediterranean Sea and forced the crew to put the Libya-bound vessel on a course north toward Europe, authorities in two European countries said.

Italy's interior minister, Matteo Salvini, identified the ship as the Turkish oil tanker El Hiblu 1. He said the tanker had rescued about 120 people and described what was happening as "the first act of piracy on the high seas with migrants" as alleged hijackers.

The new route put the ship on a route to Italy's Lampedusa island and the island nation of Malta. The governments of both countries vowed to keep it from their territorial waters in the Mediterranean.

"Poor castaways, who hijack a merchant ship that saved them because they want to decide the route of the cruise," Salvini, who heads the anti-migrant League party, was quoted as saying by the ANSA news agency.

There was no immediate word on the condition of El Hiblu 1's crew. Other information about the reported hijacking was unavailable or difficult to confirm while the vessel remained at sea.

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DeVos defends plan to eliminate Special Olympics funding

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Wednesday defended a proposal to eliminate funding for the Special Olympics, pushing back against a storm of criticism from athletes, celebrities and politicians who rallied to support the organization.

DeVos became a target on social media after Democrats slammed her plan to remove the group's funding as part of nearly $7 billion in budget cuts for next year. The Special Olympics received $17.6 million from the Education Department this year, roughly 10 per cent of its overall revenue.

In a statement responding to criticism, DeVos said she "loves" the organization's work and has "personally supported its mission." But she also noted that it's a private non-profit that raises $100 million a year on its own. Ultimately, she argued, her agency can't afford to continue backing it.

"There are dozens of worthy nonprofits that support students and adults with disabilities that don't get a dime of federal grant money," she said. "Given our current budget realities, the federal government cannot fund every worthy program, particularly ones that enjoy robust support from private donations."

Special Olympics Chairman Tim Shriver on Wednesday pushed back against the proposed cut.

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'It doesn't open': Mosque survivors describe terror at door

WELLNGTON, New Zealand (AP) — When the gunman began to attack the Al Noor mosque, Ahmed Alayedy scrambled to get to the nearest emergency exit. He was the first one there.

"I tried to open the door," he said. "But it doesn't open."

Alayedy and other survivors of the March 15 mosque attacks in New Zealand have described to The Associated Press a scene of confusion and terror at the door on one side of the main prayer room, in the first accounts of the role the door played.

Alayedy said so many people began crushing him against the door that some of his ribs cracked. Another survivor, Khaled Alnobani, says he thinks as many as 17 people may have died trying to get out through the door.

Investigators have likely examined a new electric locking system installed on the door in the days before the attack. The mosque says an electrician disabled that system the day before the attack, although some of those who escaped question whether that was the case. What is clear is that nobody managed to open the door that afternoon.

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Michael Avenatti goes from media darling to criminal suspect

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Michael Avenatti seemingly came out of nowhere, a sharply dressed lawyer with a penetrating gaze who said he would prove President Donald Trump had sex with a porn star and paid her off to keep quiet ahead of the 2016 election.

Suddenly, Avenatti was everywhere — on Twitter, talking to any camera put in front of him, appearing at rallies and becoming a guest on late-night talk shows, baiting Trump with insults as the president denied having an affair with porn actress Stormy Daniels.

He appeared on cable news shows dozens of times, especially CNN and MSNBC.

"It's a 24-hour news environment. They need to fill those spaces up, and he was more than happy to fill those spots," said Robert Thompson, director of Syracuse University's Center for the Study of Popular Television.

Trump haters loved his willingness to match the president insult for insult. Avenatti relished the fight and the attention it brought.

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Maddow, other MSNBC hosts see ratings drop, Fox up

NEW YORK (AP) — Rachel Maddow isn't backing away from her coverage of President Donald Trump and any connection to Russia's involvement in trying to influence the 2016 presidential campaign. The question is how much her fans want to listen.

Maddow's audience has dipped on her two days back on the air since Attorney General William Barr reported that special counsel Robert Mueller had found no collusion between Trump and Russia's efforts. Her audience of 2.5 million on Monday was 19 per cent below her average this year, and it went down further to 2.3 million on Tuesday, the Nielsen company said.

Meanwhile, her head-to-head competitor on Fox News Channel, Sean Hannity, saw his audience soar on Monday to 4 million viewers, a 32 per cent increase from his average. It slipped to 3.57 million on Tuesday. One of Trump's most prominent media fans, Hannity was to interview the president on Wednesday's show.

Hannity and Maddow have run neck-and-neck atop the cable news ratings this year, with Maddow having the slight edge.

Fox's Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham also saw their audiences top their averages both days, while other prime-time hosts on MSNBC and CNN saw their audiences plunge.

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Fake heiress' life of luxury left others footing big bills

NEW YORK (AP) — Anna Sorokin travelled in celebrity circles and tossed $100 tips — all the more reason to believe she was the German heiress she said she was. But behind the jet-set lifestyle and pricey threads, prosecutors have said, was a fraudster who bilked friends, banks and hotels for a taste of the high life.

Sorokin, 28, lived in luxury New York City hotel rooms she couldn't afford, promised a friend an all-expenses paid trip to Morocco and then stuck her with the $62,000 bill, and peddled bogus bank statements in a quest for a $22 million loan, the Manhattan District Attorney's office has alleged.

On Wednesday, the one-time darling of the Big Apple social scene went on trial on grand larceny and theft of services charges alleging she swindled various people and businesses out of $275,000 in a 10-month odyssey that saw her jetting to the Midwest and Marrakesh before landing in a cell at Rikers Island.

"Her overall scheme has been to claim to be a wealthy German heiress with approximately $60 million in funds being held abroad," prosecutor Catherine McCaw said after Sorokin's October 2017 arrest. "She's born in Russia and has not a cent to her name as far as we can determine."

Sorokin's attorney said she never intended to commit a crime.

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MLB moves into new era: No players left from 20th century

Four-man outfields. High-tech anti-spying rules. A starting pitcher facing just one batter in a playoff game.

But beyond all the shifts, analytics and social media outreach, here's the best way to tell Major League Baseball has zoomed into a new era: There's not a single active player left from the 20th century.

Not one.

Adrian Beltre and Bartolo Colon were the last, the Elias Sports Bureau said. And with all 30 teams set to play Thursday — from Bryce Harper's home debut at Citizens Bank Park to Mookie Betts and the champion Boston Red Sox visiting Seattle — this year MLB becomes the first of the four major sports without someone still around who played in the 1900s.

The last time that was true in the big leagues? Back before even the World Series existed.

News from © The Associated Press, 2019
The Associated Press

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