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

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

April 11, 2019 - 8:05 PM

WikiLeaks' Assange hauled from embassy, faces US charge

LONDON (AP) — British police on Thursday hauled a bearded and shouting Julian Assange from the Ecuadorian Embassy where he was holed up for nearly seven years, and the U.S. charged the WikiLeaks founder with conspiring with former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to get their hands on government secrets.

Police arrested Assange after the South American nation revoked the political asylum that had protected him in the embassy, and he was brought before a British court — the first step in an extradition battle that he has vowed to fight.

Ecuador's President Lenin Moreno said he decided to evict the 47-year-old Assange from the embassy after "repeated violations to international conventions and daily-life protocols," and he later lashed out at him during a speech in Quito, calling the Australian native a "spoiled brat" who treated his hosts with disrespect.

In Washington, the U.S. Justice Department accused Assange of conspiring with Manning to break into a classified government computer at the Pentagon. The charge was announced after Assange was taken into custody.

Assange took refuge in the embassy in 2012 after he was released on bail in Britain while facing extradition to Sweden on sexual assault allegations that have since been dropped. He refused to leave the embassy, fearing arrest and extradition to the U.S. for publishing classified military and diplomatic cables through WikiLeaks.

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Analysis: WikiLeaks founder unlikely to be extradited soon

LONDON (AP) — The battle between WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and the American government was always going to be epic, involving concepts like free speech, journalists' rights, national interests, even treason.

As Assange settles in to his first night in British custody , his allies and enemies alike are gearing up for what promises to be a long, dogged legal slog, not only over his possible extradition to the U.S. but over how U.S. courts should view his actions, which sharply cleave public opinion.

Yet in a way, Assange has been fighting this battle for much of the past decade. The struggle has taken him through a "mansion arrest" in the English countryside; a dramatic escape into the Ecuadorian Embassy in London; a multimillion-pound U.K. police siege of the embassy that has strained government coffers; and even a bizarre attempt to turn him into a Moscow-based diplomat.

Whatever happens now, one thing is clear: Assange, who was dragged out of the embassy and arrested Thursday by British police after Ecuador withdrew his political asylum, is not going anywhere soon. Extradition to the United States could take years more.

Assange's saga kicked off in November 2010, when his publication of 250,000 confidential U.S. diplomatic cables that month left American officialdom apoplectic. Joe Biden, then-U.S. vice-president, compared Assange to a "high-tech terrorist." Sarah Palin, the former Republican vice-presidential candidate, called for him to be hunted down by U.S. troops like an al-Qaida operative.

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US: Avenatti deceived to prevent 'house of cards' collapse

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Federal prosecutors painted a picture of attorney Michael Avenatti on Thursday as a scheming operator who stole millions of dollars from clients, cheated on his taxes, lied to investigators and tried to hide money from debtors in bankruptcy proceedings.

A 36-count indictment returned late Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Santa Ana, California, offered the most damning and detailed account to date of Avenatti's apparent fall from grace a year after he seized the spotlight while crusading for porn actress Stormy Daniels in her legal battles against President Donald Trump.

Avenatti embezzled settlement funds and proceeds from other matters he handled for five clients and doled out small portions, sometimes labeling them as "advances" to prevent thefts from being discovered, prosecutors said.

"Money generated from one set of crimes was used to further other crimes," U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna told reporters. "Typically in the form of payments designed to string along victims so as to prevent Mr. Avenatti's financial house of cards from collapsing."

Avenatti denied the charges on Twitter, saying he had made powerful enemies and would plead not guilty and fight the case. "I look forward to the entire truth being known as opposed to a one-sided version meant to sideline me," he tweeted.

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Authorities say deputy's son behind fires at black churches

OPELOUSAS, La. (AP) — The suspect in a string of fires that destroyed three black churches in rural Louisiana is the white son of a sheriff's deputy whose father helped arrange for his arrest, authorities said Thursday.

Holden Matthews, 21, was jailed without bail on arson charges in connection with the blazes in and around Opelousas, a city of 16,000 where the flame-gutted remains of the buildings evoked memories of civil rights era violence.

Louisiana Fire Marshal Butch Browning offered no motive for the fires. He and other officials stopped short of calling them hate crimes. Eric Rommal, the agent in charge of the New Orleans FBI office, said investigators were still looking into whether the fires were "bias motivated."

Browning said there were no indications that anyone else was involved and the danger to churches was over.

"This community is safe again," he told a news conference. "We are extremely, unequivocally confident that we have the person who is responsible for these tragic crimes."

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Ohio governor signs ban on abortion after 1st heartbeat

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A bill imposing one of the most stringent abortion restrictions in the nation was signed into law in Ohio on Thursday, banning abortions after a detectable heartbeat in a long-sought victory for abortion opponents that drew an immediate constitutional challenge.

In signing the heartbeat bill, Republican Gov. Mike DeWine broke with his predecessor, Republican John Kasich, who had vetoed the measure twice on grounds that it was unconstitutional.

But DeWine defended Ohio Republicans' decision to push the boundaries of the law, because "it is the right thing to do."

"Taking this action really is a kind of a time-honoured tradition, the constitutional tradition of making a good faith argument for modification or reversal of existing legal precedents," he said. "So that is what this is."

He said it's the government's job to protect the vulnerable. The bill outlaws abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which doctors say can be as early as five weeks into pregnancy, before many women know they are pregnant.

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Nipsey Hussle, a hometown hero, immortalized at memorial

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Nipsey Hussle's legacy as a persistent rapper, community activist, uniter, a doting father, a protective sibling and a loving son were underscored at his public memorial service on Thursday, with deeply personal testimonies from those closest to the rapper, including his actress-fiancee Lauren London, collaborator and dear friend Snoop Dogg and his mother, who said she was at peace with the death of her "superhero" son.

Beyonce and Jay-Z were among the big-name celebrities who attended the three-hour event in Los Angeles at the Staples Center, where the last celebrity funeral held at the concert arena was Michael Jackson's in 2009.

The arena was packed with more than 21,000 fans and drove home the important impact Hussle — just 33 when he died — had on his city and the rest of the world.

"I'm very proud of my son. My son Ermias Joseph Asghedom was a great man," said Angelique Smith, dressed in all white. Standing onstage with Hussle's father, Dawit Asghedom, she declared: "Ermias was a legacy."

London, who was in dark sunglasses, was emotional but stood strong onstage as she told the audience: "I've never felt this type of pain before."

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Sudan leader's iron grip finally slips amid protests

BEIRUT (AP) — He was the world's only sitting head of state wanted for genocide. He lost a third of his country, a quarter of its population and most of its oil resources when South Sudan broke away.

Yet Sudan's Omar al-Bashir, who came to power in a military coup in 1989, was able to keep his grip on power for 30 years in what proved to be one of Sudan's most brutal chapters.

It was not until months of popular protests erupted against him that the 75-year-old president finally lost the support of his military commanders, who arrested and deposed him Thursday.

In announcing al-Bashir's overthrow, his defence minister, Gen. Awad Mohammed Ibn Ouf, described him all too accurately as "stubborn and persistent."

Famous for breaking out in dance and jabbing his trademark cane in the air, al-Bashir exuded defiance even at the most critical moments of his political career.

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City of Chicago sues Jussie Smollett for investigative costs

CHICAGO (AP) — Chicago filed a lawsuit against Jussie Smollett on Thursday in a bid to recoup the costs of investigating a racist, anti-gay attack that authorities say was orchestrated by the "Empire" actor as a publicity stunt, with the city saying — at minimum — that it now wants triple the amount it initially asked Smollett to pay.

The 12-page civil lawsuit , filed in Cook County court, is the latest volley in a legal battle that shows no signs of abating since Smollett reported that masked men beat him up on Jan. 29 in Chicago, shouting slurs and wrapping a rope around his neck.

The suit comes after Smollett refused a demand that he send the city $130,106 to reimburse Chicago for overtime as police sought to verify Smollett's account.

The lawsuit doesn't specify an amount of money the city is seeking but does indicate it wants over $390,000 plus "further relief as this Court deems just and equitable." It also asks that Smollett be ordered to foot any legal bills Chicago incurs in suing him.

More than two dozen officers and detectives spent two weeks investigating Smollett's claims, with the police department forced to pay for 1,836 overtime hours, the filing says.

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SpaceX launches mega rocket, lands all 3 boosters

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — SpaceX launched its second supersized rocket and for the first time landed all three boosters Thursday, a year after sending up a sports car on the initial test flight.

The new and improved Falcon Heavy thundered into the early evening sky with a communication satellite called Arabsat, the rocket's first paying customer. The Falcon Heavy is the most powerful rocket in use today, with 27 engines firing at liftoff — nine per booster.

Eight minutes after liftoff, SpaceX landed two of the first-stage boosters back at Cape Canaveral, side by side, just like it did for the rocket's debut last year. The core booster landed two minutes later on an ocean platform hundreds of miles offshore. That's the only part of the first mission that missed.

"What an amazing day," a SpaceX flight commentator exclaimed. "Three for three boosters today on Falcon Heavy, what an amazing accomplishment."

The Falcon Heavy soared from NASA's Kennedy Space Center, using the same pad that shot Apollo astronauts to the moon a half-century ago and later space shuttle crews.

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S. Korean babies born Dec. 31 become 2-year-olds next day

DAEJEON, South Korea (AP) — Just two hours after Lee Dong Kil's daughter was born on New Year's Eve, the clock struck midnight, 2019 was ushered in, and the infant became 2-years-old. She wasn't alone, though it happened for her quicker than most: Every baby born in South Korea last year became 2 on Jan. 1.

According to one of the world's most unusual age-calculating systems, South Korean babies become 1 on the day of their birth and then get an additional year tacked on when the calendar hits Jan. 1. A lawmaker is working now to overturn the centuries-old tradition amid complaints that it's an anachronistic, time-wasting custom that drags down an otherwise ultramodern country.

For parents whose babies are born in December, it can be especially painful. One hour after his daughter's birth in the central city of Daejeon at 10 p.m. on Dec. 31 of last year, Lee posted the news on social media. His friends immediately showered him with congratulatory messages.

"An hour later, when the New Year began, they phoned me again to say congratulations for my baby becoming 2-years-old," said Lee, who is 32 internationally but 34 in South Korea. "I thought, 'Ah, right. She's now 2 years old, though it's been only two hours since she was born. What the heck!'"

The origins of this age reckoning system aren't clear. Being 1 upon birth may be linked to the time babies spend in their mothers' wombs or to an ancient Asian numerical system that didn't have the concept of zero.

News from © The Associated Press, 2019
The Associated Press

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