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

Original Publication Date April 01, 2024 - 9:06 PM

With famine looming, aid group halts food delivery in Gaza after Israeli strike kills 7 workers

DEIR AL-BALAH, Gaza Strip (AP) — Some of Israel's closest allies, including the United States, on Tuesday condemned the deaths of seven aid workers who were killed by airstrikes in Gaza — a loss that prompted multiple charities to suspend food deliveries to Palestinians on the brink of starvation.

The deaths of the World Central Kitchen workers threatened to set back efforts by the U.S. and other countries to open a maritime corridor for aid from Cyprus to help ease the desperate conditions in northern Gaza.

President Joe Biden issued an unusually blunt criticism of Israel by its closest ally, suggesting that the incident demonstrated that Israel was not doing enough to protect civilians.

“Israel has not done enough to protect aid workers trying to deliver desperately needed help to civilians,” he said, adding he was “outraged and heartbroken" by their killings.

“Incidents like yesterday’s simply should not happen,” he added. "The United States has repeatedly urged Israel to deconflict their military operations against Hamas with humanitarian operations, in order to avoid civilian casualties.”


Tehran vows response after strike blamed on Israel destroyed Iran's Consulate in Syria and killed 12

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran on Tuesday vowed to respond to an airstrike widely attributed to Israel that destroyed Iran’s Consulate in the Syrian capital of Damascus the previous day and killed 12 people, including two Iranian generals and a member of the Lebanese militant Hezbollah group.

Four Syrian citizens were also killed in the strike, a Syrian official said Tuesday, without providing any details about them. Hezbollah, which has been a key ally of both Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government and Iran, also pledged “punishment and revenge” on Israel.

Iran’s deputy U.N. ambassador Zahra Ershadi told a contentious emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council that some Iranians were injured, but “The final and accurate death toll remains uncertain as the entire diplomatic premises has been destroyed with individuals trapped under the rubble.”

Israel, which has repeatedly targeted Iranian officers in Syria and in Lebanon, did not confirm Monday’s attack.

Iran provides money and weapons to Hezbollah, as well as Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups fighting Israel in Gaza. Clashes between Israel and Hezbollah along the Israeli-Lebanese border have increased since the war in Gaza began nearly six months ag o.


Taiwan's strongest earthquake in nearly 25 years damages buildings and causes a small tsunami

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Taiwan's strongest earthquake in a quarter century rocked the island during the morning rush Wednesday, damaging buildings and creating a tsunami that washed ashore on southern Japanese islands. There were no immediate reports of deaths or injuries, and the tsunami threat largely passed about two hours later.

A five-story building in the lightly populated southeastern coastal city of Hualien near the epicenter appeared heavily damaged, collapsing its first floor and leaving the rest leaning at a 45-degree angle. In the capital, tiles fell from older buildings and within some newer office complexes, while debris fell from some building sites. Schools evacuated their students to sports fields, equipping them with yellow safety helmets. Some also covered themselves with textbooks to guard against falling objects as aftershocks continued.

Train service was suspended across the island of 23 million people, as was subway service in Taipei, where a newly constructed above-ground line partially separated. The national legislature, a converted school built before World War II, also had damage to walls and ceilings.

Traffic along the east coast was at a virtual standstill, with landslides and falling debris hitting tunnels and highways in the mountainous region. Those caused damage to vehicles, though it wasn't clear if anyone was hurt.

Despite the quake striking at the height of the morning rush hour just before 8 a.m., the initial panic faded quickly on the island that is regularly rocked by temblors and prepares for them with drills at schools and notices issued via public media and mobile phone.


Biden and Xi discuss Taiwan, AI and fentanyl in a push to return to regular leader talks

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping discussed Taiwan, artificial intelligence and security issues Tuesday in a call meant to demonstrate a return to regular leader-to-leader dialogue between the two powers.

The call, described by the White House as “candid and constructive,” was the leaders’ first conversation since their November summit in California produced renewed ties between the two nations’ militaries and a promise of enhanced cooperation on stemming the flow of deadly fentanyl and its precursors from China.

Xi told Biden that the two countries should adhere to the bottom line of “no clash, no confrontation” as one of the principles for this year.

“We should prioritize stability, not provoke troubles, not cross lines but maintain the overall stability of China-U.S. relations,” Xi said, according to China Central Television, the state broadcaster.

The roughly 105 minute call kicks off several weeks of high-level engagements between the two countries, with Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen set to travel to China on Thursday and Secretary of State Antony Blinken to follow in the weeks ahead.


Trump accuses Biden of causing a border 'bloodbath' as he escalates his immigration rhetoric

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — Donald Trump accused President Joe Biden of unleashing a “bloodbath” at the U.S.-Mexico border Tuesday, escalating his inflammatory rhetoric as he campaigned in two Midwestern swing states likely to be critical to the outcome of the 2024 election.

Trump, who has accused migrants of “poisoning the blood of the country” and vowed to launch the largest domestic deportation operation in the nation's history if he wins a second term, said Biden was allowing a “bloodbath” that was “destroying the country.” In Michigan, he referred to people in the U.S. illegally who are suspected of committing crimes as “animals,” using dehumanizing language that those who study extremism have warned increases the risk of violence.

“Under Crooked Joe Biden, every state is now a border state. Every town is now a border town because Joe Biden has brought the carnage and chaos and killing from all over world and dumped it straight into our backyards,” Trump said in Grand Rapids, where he stood flanked by law enforcement officers in uniform before a line of flags.

While violent crime is down, Trump and other Republicans have attacked Biden by seizing on several high-profile crimes alleged to have been committed by immigrants in the U.S. illegally as border crossings have hit record highs. Polls suggest Trump has an advantage over Biden on the issue as many prospective voters say they’re concerned about the impact of the crossings.

Trump continued to hammer the theme at a rally in Green Bay, Wisconsin, Tuesday evening as the state was holding its presidential primaries. Trump accused rogue nations of “pumping migrants across our wide open border" and “sending prisoners, murders, drug dealers, mental patients, terrorists" — though there is no evidence any country is engaged in that kind of coordinated effort.


The largest fresh egg producer in the US has found bird flu in chickens at a Texas plant

The largest producer of fresh eggs in the U.S. said Tuesday it had temporarily halted production at a Texas plant after bird flu was found in chickens, and officials said the virus had also been detected at a poultry facility in Michigan.

Ridgeland, Mississippi-based Cal-Maine Foods, Inc. said in a statement that approximately 1.6 million laying hens and 337,000 pullets, about 3.6% of its total flock, were destroyed after the infection, avian influenza, was found at a facility in Parmer County, Texas.

The plant is on the Texas-New Mexico border in the Texas Panhandle about 85 miles (137 kilometers) southwest of Amarillo and about 370 miles (595 kilometers) northwest of Dallas. Cal-Maine said it sells most of its eggs in the Southwestern, Southeastern, Midwestern and mid-Atlantic regions of the United States.

“The Company continues to work closely with federal, state and local government officials and focused industry groups to mitigate the risk of future outbreaks and effectively manage the response,” the statement said.

"Cal-Maine Foods is working to secure production from other facilities to minimize disruption to its customers," the statement said.


Houston police chief won't say if thousands of dropped cases reveals bigger problems within agency

HOUSTON (AP) — Houston’s police chief on Tuesday declined to say whether recent revelations that more than 264,000 cases filed with Houston police in the past eight years were dropped speak to broader problems within his agency that need to be fixed.

During a nearly two-hour meeting at police headquarters in downtown Houston with reporters and local community leaders, Chief Troy Finner acknowledged his department has lost some trust with the public because of the ongoing scandal. In February, Finner announced that hundreds of thousands of incident reports, including for sexual assaults and property crimes, were never submitted for investigation as officers assigned them an internal code that cited a lack of available personnel.

But Finner said he wasn’t ready to declare that the mishandling of these incident reports was an example of bigger cultural problems within the police department and how officers perform their duties. After a deadly drug raid in 2019, an audit found multiple problems with the Houston police narcotics unit behind the raid, including a lack of supervision and officers making hundreds of errors in cases.

“It’s ugly. It don’t feel good. It’s a part of that process that we brought upon ourselves,” Finner said during the meeting, which reporters were not allowed to record.

Finner said there would be accountability but declined to provide more details on this, citing an internal affairs investigation set to be completed by the end of April.


Company helping immigrants in detention ordered to pay $811M+ in lawsuit alleging deceptive tactics

NEW YORK (AP) — A company that provides services for immigrants in federal detention was ordered Tuesday to pay more than $811 million in restitution and penalties in a lawsuit alleging it used deceptive and abusive tactics.

Nexus Services must pay roughly $231 million in restitution as well as penalties of $13.8 million to New York, $7.1 million to Virginia and $3.4 million to Massachusetts, according to a judgement filed in federal court for the Western District of Virginia in Harrisonburg. The Virginia-based company, its subsidiary Libre by Nexus and its three executives must also each pay more than $111 million in civil penalties.

“This judgment is a victory for thousands of immigrant families who lost their life savings and were targeted and preyed on by Libre,” New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement. “Libre exploited vulnerable immigrants and their families to pad its pockets, and that is illegal and unconscionable.”

James joined state attorneys general in Virginia and Massachusetts and the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in a 2021 lawsuit that accused the company of violating state and federal consumer protection laws.

The officials said the company promised to secure immigrants’ release on bond while their immigration claims were being processed but concealed and misrepresented the true nature and costs of its services. They said the company collected thousands of dollars in fees above the face value of the bonds and forced immigrants to wear painful ankle monitors.


Second channel opened allowing some vessels to bypass wreckage at the Baltimore bridge collapse site

BALTIMORE (AP) — Crews opened a second temporary channel on Tuesday allowing a limited amount of marine traffic to bypass the mangled wreckage of Baltimore’s collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge, which had blocked the vital port’s main shipping channel since its destruction one week ago.

Work is ongoing to open a third channel that will allow larger vessels to pass through the bottleneck and restore more commercial activity, officials announced at a news conference Tuesday afternoon. The channels are open primarily to vessels involved in the cleanup effort, along with some barges and tugs that have been stuck in the Port of Baltimore.

A tugboat pushing a fuel barge was the first vessel to use an alternate channel late Monday. It was supplying jet fuel to Delaware’s Dover Air Force Base.

Gov. Wes Moore said rough weather over the past two days has made the challenging salvage effort even more daunting. Conditions have been unsafe for divers trying to recover the bodies of the four construction workers believed trapped underwater in the wreckage.

“We promised these families that we would do everything in our power to bring them closure, but also my directive is to complete this mission with no injuries and no casualties,” Moore said.


Going from assistant to top job remains a tough climb for Black coaches in major men's conferences

Bruiser Flint remembers being a Massachusetts assistant coach building a resume that would one day have him running his own program. He had twice interviewed elsewhere before his moment arrived with mentor John Calipari bolting for the NBA, vacating the big chair for the Minutemen.

The breakthrough had come for Flint, who was 30 at the time: He had joined the limited ranks of Black men in charge of a top-level college basketball team.

“I was unbelievably grateful,” Flint recalled. “It was my first job ... and I think at the time, I might have been the youngest head coach in the country. That was one of my goals, that’s what you work for.”

Nearly three decades later, Flint has led two programs and again works with Calipari, now at Kentucky. And while numbers have improved, Black coaches remain in an unbalanced equation: They fill a majority of assistant coaching roles at the top level of men’s college basketball yet hold fewer than 1 of 3 of head coaching jobs.

“I think that there are more guys, I believe, that have come through the ranks as assistants that are prepared and just waiting on an opportunity,” said longtime Florida State head coach Leonard Hamilton, who is Black. "I think you’re going to see some more mobility in the future than it has been in the past because now there’s so many young, up-and-coming, prepared coaches that there’s always some qualified people available that are just waiting on the opportunity.”

News from © The Associated Press, 2024
The Associated Press

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