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AP News in Brief at 11:14 p.m. EDT

Original Publication Date June 13, 2024 - 9:06 PM

Supreme Court strikes down Trump-era ban on rapid-fire rifle bump stocks, reopening political fight

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court on Friday struck down a Trump-era ban on bump stocks, the rapid-fire gun accessories used in the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, in a ruling that threw firearms back into the nation's political spotlight.

The high court's conservative majority found that the Trump administration overstepped when it changed course from predecessors and banned bump stocks, which allow a rate of fire comparable to machine guns. The decision came after a gunman in Las Vegas attacked a country music festival with semiautomatic rifles equipped with the accessories.

The gunman fired more than 1,000 rounds into the crowd in 11 minutes, sending thousands of people fleeing in terror as hundreds were wounded and dozens killed.

The ruling thrust guns back into the center of the political conversation with an unusual twist as Democrats decried the reversal of a GOP administration’s action and many Republicans backed the ruling.

The 6-3 majority opinion written by Justice Clarence Thomas found the Justice Department was wrong to declare that bump stocks transformed semiautomatic rifles into illegal machine guns because, he wrote, each trigger depression in rapid succession still only releases one shot.

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Speaker Johnson says House will go to court for Biden audio after Justice Dept. refused to prosecute

WASHINGTON (AP) — Speaker Mike Johnson said Friday that the House will go to court to enforce the subpoena against Attorney General Merrick Garland for access to President Joe Biden's special counsel audio interview, hours after the Justice Department refused to prosecute Republicans’ contempt of Congress charge.

“It is sadly predictable that the Biden Administration’s Justice Department will not prosecute Garland for defying congressional subpoenas even though the department aggressively prosecuted Steve Bannon and Peter Navarro for the same thing,” Johnson said in a statement. “This is yet another example of the two-tiered system of justice brought to us by the Biden Administration.”

In a letter to Johnson earlier Friday, a Justice Department official cited the agency's “longstanding position and uniform practice” to not prosecute officials who don’t comply with subpoenas because of a president’s claim of executive privilege.

The Democratic president last month asserted executive privilege to block the release of the audio, which the White House says Republicans want only for political purposes. Republicans moved forward with the contempt effort anyway, voting Wednesday to punish Garland for refusing to provide the recording.

Assistant Attorney General Carlos Felipe Uriarte noted that the Justice Department under presidents of both political parties has declined to prosecute in similar circumstances when there has been a claim of executive privilege.

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The Supreme Court's ruling on mifepristone isn't the last word on the abortion pill

The Supreme Court 's ruling on technical grounds Thursday keeps the abortion pill mifepristone available in the U.S. for now, but it won't be the last word on the issue, and the unanimous opinion offers some clues for how abortion opponents can keep trying to deny it to women nationwide.

Some state attorneys general have indicated that they'll press ahead, though they haven't laid out exactly how.

And while the ruling said the anti-abortion doctors who brought the lawsuit failed to show they've been harmed when others use the drug, that might not stop some other plaintiff from a successful challenge.

“The decision is good that the doctors don’t have standing,” said Dr. Rebecca Gomperts, director of Aid Access, an abortion pill supplier working with U.S. providers. “The problem is, the decision should have said that nobody has standing in this case – that only the women have standing.”

Justice Brett Kavanaugh's opinion even provides a road map for people with “sincere concerns about and objections to others using mifepristone and obtaining abortions.”

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Some Mexican shelters see crowding south of the border as Biden's asylum ban takes hold

MATAMOROS, Mexico (AP) — Some shelters south of the U.S. border are caring for many more migrants now that the Biden administration stopped considering most asylum requests, while others have yet to see much of a change.

The impact appears uneven more than a week after the temporary suspension took effect. Shelters south of Texas and California have plenty of space, while as many as 500 deportations from Arizona each day are straining shelters in Mexico's Sonora state, their directors say.

“We’re having to turn people away because we can’t, we don’t have the room for all the people who need shelter,” said Joanna Williams, executive director of Kino Border Initiative, which can take in 100 people at a time.

About 120 are in San Juan Bosco shelter in Nogales, across the border from the Arizona city with the same name, up from about 40 before the policy change, according to its director, Juan Francisco Loureiro.

“We have had a quite remarkable increase,” Loureiro said Thursday. Most are Mexican, including families as well as adults. Mexico also agreed to accept deportees from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela.

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Alex Jones’ personal assets to be sold to pay $1.5B Sandy Hook debt. Company bankruptcy is dismissed

HOUSTON (AP) — A federal judge on Friday ordered the liquidation of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones' personal assets but dismissed his company’s separate bankruptcy case, leaving the immediate future of his Infowars media platform uncertain as he owes $1.5 billion for his false claims that the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting was a hoax.

Judge Christopher Lopez approved converting Jones’ proposed personal bankruptcy reorganization to a liquidation. But Lopez threw out the case of his company, Austin, Texas-based Free Speech Systems, after failed attempts by Jones to reach an agreement with Sandy Hook families on his proposals to reorganize and keep operating the company while paying them millions of dollars.

It wasn’t immediately clear what will happen in the coming weeks to Free Speech Systems, Infowars’ parent company, which Jones built into a multimillion-dollar moneymaker over the past 25 years by selling dietary supplements and other products. But both Jones and lawyers for the Sandy Hook families said they expect Infowars to cease operating at some point because of the huge debt.

A trustee appointed Friday in Jones' personal bankruptcy case to oversee the liquidation now has control over his assets, including Infowars, according to lawyers for Sandy Hook families.

Dismissal of Free Speech Systems' case means the families can now move immediately to collect on the $1.5 billion in state courts in Texas and Connecticut where they won defamation lawsuits against Jones and the company. It's possible Infowars will continue operating during the collection efforts, which could include selling off the company's assets.

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G7 leaders agree to lend Ukraine billions backed by Russia's frozen assets. Here's how it will work

WASHINGTON (AP) — Leaders of the Group of Seven wealthy democracies have agreed to engineer a $50 billion loan to help Ukraine in its fight for survival. Interest earned on profits from Russia’s frozen central bank assets would be used as collateral.

Details of the deal were being hashed out by G7 leaders at their summit in Italy. The money could reach Kyiv before the end of the year, according to U.S. and French officials.

President Joe Biden told reporters at a news conference Thursday that the move was part of a “historic agreement.” Ukraine's president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said providing a loan through Russia's assets "is a vital step forward in providing sustainable support for Ukraine in winning this war."

Here's how the plan would work:

Most of the money would be in the form of a loan mostly guaranteed by the U.S. government, backed by profits being earned on roughly $260 billion in immobilized Russian assets. The vast majority of that money is held in European Union nations.

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Pope Francis becomes first pontiff to address a G7 summit, raising alarm about AI. The G7 responds

BARI, Italy (AP) — Pope Francis challenged leaders of the world’s wealthy democracies on Frida y to keep human dignity foremost in developing and using artificial intelligence, warning that such powerful technology risks turning human relations themselves into mere algorithms.

Francis brought his moral authority to bear on the Group of Seven, invited by host Italy to address a special session at their annual summit on the perils and promises of AI. In doing so, he became the first pope to attend the G7, offering an ethical take on an issue that is increasingly on the agenda of international summits, government policy and corporate boards alike.

Francis said politicians must take the lead in making sure AI remains human-centric, so that decisions about when to use weapons or even less-lethal tools always remain made by humans and not machines.

“We would condemn humanity to a future without hope if we took away people’s ability to make decisions about themselves and their lives, by dooming them to depend on the choices of machines,” he said. “We need to ensure and safeguard a space for proper human control over the choices made by artificial intelligence programs: Human dignity itself depends on it.”

The G7 final statement largely reflected his concerns.

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South Africa's President Ramaphosa is reelected for second term after a dramatic late coalition deal

CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) — South African President Cyril Ramaphosa was reelected by lawmakers for a second term on Friday, after his party struck a dramatic late coalition deal with a former political foe just hours before the vote.

Ramaphosa, the leader of the African National Congress, won convincingly in Parliament against a surprise candidate who was also nominated — Julius Malema of the far-left Economic Freedom Fighters. Ramaphosa received 283 votes to Malema's 44 in the 400-member house.

The 71-year-old Ramaphosa secured his second term with the help of lawmakers from the country's second biggest party, the Democratic Alliance, and some smaller parties. They backed him in the vote and got him over the finish line following the ANC's loss of its long-held majority in a landmark election two weeks ago that reduced it to 159 seats in Parliament.

During a break in what turned out to be a marathon parliamentary session, the ANC signed the last-minute agreement with the DA, effectively ensuring Ramaphosa stays on as the leader of Africa’s most industrialized economy. The parties will now co-govern South Africa in its first national coalition where no party has a majority in Parliament.

The deal, referred to as a government of national unity, brings the ANC together with the DA, a white-led party that had for years been the main opposition and the fiercest critic of the ANC. At least two other smaller parties also joined the agreement.

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Doncic scores 29, Mavericks roll past the Celtics 122-84 to avoid a sweep in the NBA Finals

DALLAS (AP) — Luka Doncic scored 25 of his 29 points in the first half, Kyrie Irving added 21 points and the Dallas Mavericks emphatically extended their season on Friday night, fending off elimination by beating the Boston Celtics 122-84 in Game 4 of the NBA Finals.

The Mavs' stars were done by the end of the third quarter, with good reason. It was all Dallas from the outset, the Mavs leading by 13 after one quarter, 26 at the half and by as many as 38 in the third before both sides emptied the benches.

The 38-point final margin was the third-biggest ever in an NBA Finals game, behind only Chicago beating Utah 96-54 in 1998 and the Celtics beating the Los Angeles Lakers 131-92 in 2008.

Before Friday, the worst NBA Finals loss for the 17-time champion Celtics was 137-104 to the Lakers in 1984. This was worse. Much worse, at times. Dallas' biggest lead in the fourth was 48 — the biggest deficit the Celtics have faced all season.

The Celtics still lead the series 3-1, and Game 5 is in Boston on Monday.

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High orange juice prices may be on the table for a while due to disease and extreme weather

MOGI GUACU, Brazil (AP) — Orange juice prices have always been volatile, falling when bumper harvests create an oversupply of oranges and rising when frost or a hurricane knocks out fruit trees.

But the record-high prices the world is seeing for OJ right now may be on the table for a while, since the diseases and extreme weather ravaging orange groves in some top-producing countries aren’t easily resolved problems.

This year’s harvest in Brazil, the world’s largest exporter of orange juice, is likely to be the worst in 36 years due to flooding and drought, according to a forecast by Fundecitrus, a citrus growers’ organization in Sao Paulo state.

“The concern isn't just that the price of juice is going up. The concern is not having the juice,” Oscar Simonetti, an orange farmer in Mogi Guacu, Brazil, said.

In the U.S., Florida's already diminished orange production fell 62% in the 2022-2023 season after Hurricane Ian further battered a crop that was struggling due to an invasive pest. Drought also cut Spain’s orange production last year.

News from © The Associated Press, 2024
The Associated Press

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