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Ukraine opens first war crimes trial of captured Russian
KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Journalists packed a small courtroom in Kyiv for the trial of a captured Russian soldier accused of killing a Ukrainian civilian in the early days of the war — the first of dozens of war crimes cases that Ukraine’s top prosecutor said her office is pursuing.
As the trial of 21-year-old Russian Sgt. Vadim Shyshimarin got underway in the capital, Russian forces suffered heavy losses in a Ukrainian attack that destroyed a pontoon bridge they were using to try to cross a river in the east, Ukrainian and British officials said in another sign of Moscow’s struggle to salvage a war gone awry.
Ukraine’s airborne command released photos and video of what it said was a damaged Russian pontoon bridge over the Siversky Donets River in Bilohorivka and at least 73 destroyed or damaged Russian military vehicles nearby.
Britain’s Defense Ministry said Russia lost “significant armored maneuver elements” of at least one battalion tactical group in the attack. A Russian battalion tactical group consists of about 1,000 troops.
“Conducting river crossings in a contested environment is a highly risky maneuver and speaks to the pressure the Russian commanders are under to make progress in their operations in eastern Ukraine,” the ministry said in its daily intelligence update.
Musk puts Twitter buy ‘on hold,’ casting doubt on $44B deal
DETROIT (AP) — Tesla billionaire Elon Musk has put his plan to buy Twitter on what he called a temporary “hold,” raising fresh doubts about whether he’ll proceed with the $44 billion acquisition.
Musk tweeted early Friday that he wanted to pinpoint the number of spam and fake accounts on the social media platform. He has been vocal about his desire to clean up Twitter’s problem with “spam bots” that mimic real people, and he appeared to question whether Twitter was underreporting them.
But the company has disclosed in regulatory filings that its bot estimates might be low for at least two years, leading some analysts to believe that Musk could be raising the issue as a reason to back out of the purchase.
“Twitter deal temporarily on hold pending details supporting calculation that spam/fake accounts do indeed represent less than 5% of users,” Musk tweeted Friday morning, indicating he’s skeptical that the number of inauthentic accounts is that low.
On Friday, Musk subsequently tweeted that he’s “still committed to acquisition.” Neither Twitter nor Musk responded Friday to requests for comment. Musk has conducted a long flirtation with Twitter that culminated in an April deal to acquire the social platform.
Israeli police beat pallbearers at journalist’s funeral
JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli riot police on Friday pushed and beat pallbearers at the funeral for slain Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, causing them to briefly drop the casket in a shocking start to a procession that turned into perhaps the largest display of Palestinian nationalism in Jerusalem in a generation.
The scenes of violence were likely to add to the sense of grief and outrage across the Arab world that has followed the death of Abu Akleh, who witnesses say was killed by Israeli troops Wednesday during a raid in the occupied West Bank. They also illustrated the deep sensitivities over east Jerusalem — which is claimed by both Israel and the Palestinians and has sparked repeated rounds of violence.
Abu Akleh, 51, was a household name across the Arab world, synonymous with Al Jazeera’s coverage of life under Israeli rule, which is well into its sixth decade with no end in sight. A 25-year veteran of the satellite channel, she was revered by Palestinians as a local hero.
Thousands of people, many waving Palestinian flags and chanting “Palestine! Palestine!” attended the funeral. It was believed to be the largest Palestinian funeral in Jerusalem since Faisal Husseini, a Palestinian leader and scion of a prominent family, died in 2001.
Ahead of the burial, a large crowd gathered to escort her casket from an east Jerusalem hospital to a Catholic church in the nearby Old City. Many of the mourners held Palestinian flags, and the crowd began shouting, “We sacrifice our soul and blood for you, Shireen.”
Records: 2 people in execution knew drugs hadn’t been tested
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — At least two people connected to a Tennessee execution that was abruptly put on hold last month knew the night before that the lethal injection drugs the state planned to use hadn’t undergone some required testing, newly released records show.
Citing an “oversight,” Gov. Bill Lee had called off the execution of 72-year-old Oscar Smith barely an hour before the planned lethal injection April 21 for Smith’s conviction in the 1989 killings of his estranged wife and her two teenage sons. The governor’s office later disclosed that the drugs had not been tested for endotoxins.
The Republican governor’s administration declined to release much information, saying the issue was “technical.” Instead, Lee recently appointed a former U.S. attorney to lead an independent investigation and also paused four other executions scheduled this year.
On April 21, there were no signs the lethal injection would not take place until about an hour beforehand, when the governor’s office issued a news release calling it off. Just before learning of his reprieve, Smith had received communion from his spiritual adviser, who was going to be allowed in the execution chamber. He had eaten a last meal, and media witnesses and relatives of the families were gathered and waiting. The U.S. Supreme Court had also denied Smith’s last-hour bid for a stay.
On Friday, the Department of Correction released 20 pages of heavily redacted emails and text messages to The Associated Press through a public records request.
Fatal boat trip highlights Haitians fleeing violence
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Haitians are fleeing in greater numbers to the neighboring Dominican Republic, where they board rickety wooden boats painted sky blue to blend with the ocean to try to reach Puerto Rico — a trip in which 11 Haitian women drowned this week, with dozens of other migrants believed missing.
It was the latest fatal trip as U.S. authorities said they have detained twice the number of migrants in and around U.S. jurisdictions in the Caribbean in the past year compared with a year earlier.
“We’ve seen our Haitian numbers explode,” Scott Garrett, acting chief patrol agent for U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Puerto Rico, told The Associated Press.
Garrett and others say Haiti’s political instability, coupled with brutal gang violence and a crumbling economy, have prompted people to flee, with more doing so via the Dominican Republic. Both countries share the island of Hispaniola, which lies west of Puerto Rico, with a treacherous area known as the Mona Passage separating the two.
In the most recent capsizing, spotted on Thursday, 11 bodies of Haitian women were found and 38 people rescued — 36 of them Haitians and two from the Dominican Republic. Authorities say one of those rescued was charged with human smuggling. The boat capsized about 11 miles (18 kilometers) north of the uninhabited island of Desecheo, west of Puerto Rico. Dozens are believed missing.
North Korea confirms 21 new deaths as it battles COVID-19
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea on Saturday reported 21 new deaths and 174,440 more people with fever symptoms as the country scrambles to slow the spread of COVID-19 across its unvaccinated population.
The new deaths and cases, which were from Friday, increased total numbers to 27 deaths and 524,440 illnesses amid a rapid spread of fever since late April. North Korea said 243,630 people had recovered and 280,810 remained in quarantine. State media didn’t specify how many of the fever cases and deaths were confirmed as COVID-19 infections.
The country imposed what it described as maximum preventive measures on Thursday after confirming its first COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic. It had previously held for more than two years to a widely doubted claim of a perfect record keeping out the virus that has spread to nearly every place in the world.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during a ruling party Politburo meeting on Saturday described the outbreak as a historically “great upheaval” and called for unity between the government and people to stabilize the outbreak as quickly as possible.
Officials during the meeting mainly discussed ways to swiftly distribute medical supplies the country has released from its emergency reserves, Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency said. In a report presented to the Politburo, the North’s emergency epidemic office blamed most of the deaths on “mistakes like overmuch taking of drugs, bereft of scientific medical treatment.”
House subpoenas its own, grave new norm after Jan. 6 attack
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Jan. 6 committee’s remarkable decision to subpoena House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and other congressional Republicans over the insurrection at the Capitol is as rare as the deadly riot itself, deepening the acrimony and distrust among lawmakers and raising questions about what comes next.
The outcome is certain to reverberate beyond the immediate investigation of Donald Trump’s unfounded efforts to overturn Joe Biden’s presidential election victory. Fuming Republicans vow to use the same tools, weaponizing congressional subpoena powers if they wrest control of the House in November’s midterm elections to go after Democrats, even at the highest levels in Congress.
“It’s setting a very jarring and dangerous precedent,” said Rep. Peter Meijer of Michigan, who was among the handful of Republicans who voted to impeach Trump over the insurrection.
On Friday, the subpoenas for McCarthy and the four other Republican lawmakers were served as the committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol is wrapping up its initial phase. Public hearings are expected to begin in June, and the panel is still determining whether to call Republican senators to testify.
While the summons for McCarthy and the other Republican lawmakers was not wholly unexpected, it amplified concerns over the new norm-setting in Congress.
Baby formula shortage fueling spike in milk bank interest
The U.S. baby formula shortage has sparked a surge of interest at milk banks around the U.S. with some mothers offering to donate breast milk and desperate parents calling to see if it’s a solution to keep their babies fed.
It’s a pathway that won’t work for every formula-fed baby, especially those with special dietary needs, and it comes with challenges because the country’s dozens of nonprofit milk banks prioritize feeding medically fragile infants. The organizations collect milk from mothers and process it, including through pasteurization, then work with hospitals to distribute it.
The shortage stemmed from a safety recall and supply disruptions and has captured national attention with panicked parents looking to swap and buy formula online and President Joe Biden urging manufacturers to increase production and discussing with retailers how they could restock shelves to meet regional disparities. Biden’s administration also said Friday that formula maker Abbott Laboratories committed to give rebates through August for a food stamp-like program that helps women, infants and children called WIC.
At the Mothers’ Milk Bank Northeast, based in Newton, Massachusetts, interest in donating and receiving milk because of the shortage has spiked. Typically, the milk bank gets about 30-50 calls a month from people looking to donate. On Thursday alone, 35 calls came in from potential donors, said Deborah Youngblood, the bank’s executive director.
“It’s interesting the first sort of response that we got was from potential donors — so people responding to the formula shortage with sort of an amazing, compassionate response of ‘how can I be part of the solution?’” she said.
Dallas police: Shooting at Koreatown salon may be hate crime
DALLAS (AP) — Dallas’ police chief said Friday that a shooting that injured three women in a hair salon in the city’s Koreatown might have been a hate crime as he announced that it could be connected to two other shootings at businesses run by Asian Americans.
Chief Eddie Garcia had previously said police didn’t have any indication the shooting Wednesday at Hair World Salon was motivated by hate, but he said that had changed as of Friday afternoon.
“The possibility that we are dealing with a violent gunman who is motivated by hate is chilling and deeply disturbing,” Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson said in a statement Friday.
Authorities are still searching for a man dressed all in black who opened fire at the salon, then drove off in a maroon minivan. Garcia said investigators found that a similar vehicle was reported to be involved in two other recent shootings, including an April 2 drive-by in the area where the salon is located. No one was injured in either of those shootings.
“We are turning to every resident of the city of Dallas to keep an eye out and safeguard our city,” Garcia said. “Hate has no place here.”
Mickelson decides not to defend title at PGA Championship
Phil Mickelson withdrew Friday from the PGA Championship, electing to extend his hiatus from golf following his incendiary comments he made about a Saudi-funded rival league he supports and the PGA Tour he accused of greed.
Mickelson authored one of the most stunning victories last year when he won the PGA at Kiawah Island, at age 50 becoming the oldest champion in 161 years of the majors.
Now, the popular phrase from a decade ago — “What will Phil do next?” — carries more intrigue than sheer excitement.
The PGA of America announced his decision on social media. The PGA Championship starts Thursday at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Mickelson has not played since Feb. 6 at the Saudi International, where he accused the PGA Tour of “obnoxious greed” in an interview with Golf Digest.
The Associated Press