Israel agrees to 4-hour daily pauses in Gaza fighting to allow civilians to flee, White House says
WASHINGTON (AP) — Israel has agreed to put in place four-hour daily humanitarian pauses in its assault on Hamas in northern Gaza, the White House said Thursday, as President Joe Biden pressed Israelis for a multi-day stoppage in the fighting in a bid to negotiate the release of hostages held by the militant group.
Biden had asked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to institute the daily pauses during a Monday call and said he had also asked the Israelis for a pause of at least three days to allow for hostage negotiations.
“Yes,” Biden said, when asked whether he had asked Israel for a three-day pause. “I’ve asked for even a longer pause for some of them.” He added there was “no possibility” of a formal cease-fire at the moment, and said it had “taken a little longer” than he hoped for Israel to agree to the humanitarian pauses.
National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said a daily humanitarian pause would be announced Thursday and that the Israelis had committed to announcing each four-hour window at least three hours in advance. Israel, he said, also was opening a second corridor for civilians to flee the areas that are the current focus of its military campaign against Hamas, with a coastal road joining the territory’s main north-south highway.
Similar short-term pauses have occurred over the past several days as tens of thousands of civilians have fled southward, but Thursday’s announcement appeared to be an effort to formalize and expand the process, as the U.S. has pressed Israelis to take greater steps to protect civilians in Gaza.
Fights in bread lines, despair in shelters: War threatens to unravel Gaza's close-knit society
JERUSALEM (AP) — Fistfights break out in bread lines. Residents wait hours for a gallon of brackish water that makes them sick. Scabies, diarrhea and respiratory infections rip through overcrowded shelters. And some families have to choose who eats.
“My kids are crying because they are hungry and tired and can’t use the bathroom,” said Suzan Wahidi, an aid worker and mother of five at a U.N. shelter in the central town of Deir al-Balah, where hundreds of people share a single toilet. “I have nothing for them.”
With the Israel-Hamas war in its second month and more than 10,000 people killed in Gaza, trapped civilians are struggling to survive without electricity or running water. Palestinians who managed to flee Israel’s ground invasion in northern Gaza now encounter scarcity of food and medicine in the south, and there is no end in sight to the war sparked by Hamas’ deadly Oct. 7 attack.
Over half a million displaced people have crammed into hospitals and U.N. schools-turned-shelters in the south. The schools — overcrowded, strewn with trash, swarmed by flies — have become a breeding ground for infectious diseases.
Since the start of the war, several hundred trucks of aid have entered Gaza through the southern Rafah crossing, but aid organizations say that’s a drop in the ocean of need. For most people, each day has become a drudging cycle of searching for bread and water and waiting in lines.
Democratic West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin won't seek reelection, giving GOP a key pickup opportunity
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia announced Thursday that he won’t seek reelection in 2024, giving Republicans a prime opportunity to pick up a seat in the heavily GOP state.
Manchin, 76, said he made the decision “after months of deliberation and long conversations” with his family.
“I believe in my heart of hearts that I have accomplished what I set out to do for West Virginia," he said in a statement. “I have made one of the toughest decisions of my life and decided that I will not be running for re-election to the United States Senate, but what I will be doing is traveling the country and speaking out to see if there is an interest in creating a movement to mobilize the middle and bring Americans together.”
His decision to step down, while not totally unexpected, severely hampers Democratic hopes of holding on to the coal country seat and marks the end of an era for West Virginia, which voted reliably blue for decades before flipping red and becoming one of former President Donald Trump’s most loyal states. For the last few years, Manchin has been the only Democrat elected to statewide office in West Virginia.
But his statement also fuels growing speculation that Manchin harbors national political ambitions. In recent months, he has teased a 2024 presidential campaign, possibly as an independent candidate, although it’s unclear what his voter base would be. Along those lines, a group pushing for Manchin to partner with retiring Utah Sen. Mitt Romney to seek a third-party presidential bid filed paperwork to form a formal draft committee with the Federal Election Commission on Thursday.
Judge in Alaska upholds Biden administration's approval of the massive Willow oil-drilling project
JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — A federal judge on Thursday upheld the Biden administration’s approval of the massive Willow oil-drilling project on Alaska’s remote North Slope, a decision that environmental groups swiftly vowed to fight.
U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason rejected requests by a grassroots Iñupiat group and environmentalists to vacate the project approval, and she dismissed their claims against Willow, which is in the federally designated National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska. The administration's approval of Willow in March drew the ire of environmentalists who accused the president of backpedaling on his pledge to combat climate change.
The company behind the project, ConocoPhillips Alaska, has the right to develop its leases in the reserve “subject to reasonable restrictions and mitigation measures imposed by the federal government,” Gleason wrote. She added that the alternatives analyzed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management as part of its review were consistent with the policy objectives for the petroleum reserve and the stated purpose and need of the Willow project.
The groups that sued over the project raised concerns about planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions from Willow and argued that federal agencies failed to consider how increased emissions from the project could affect ice-reliant species such as the polar bear, Arctic ringed seals and bearded seals, which already are experiencing disruptions due to climate change.
Gleason said an agency environmental review “appropriately analyzed the indirect and cumulative” greenhouse gas emissions impacts of the project.
Man receives the first eye transplant plus a new face. It's a step toward one day restoring sight
NEW YORK (AP) — Surgeons have performed the world’s first transplant of an entire human eye, an extraordinary addition to a face transplant — although it’s far too soon to know if the man will ever see through his new left eye.
An accident with high-voltage power lines had destroyed most of Aaron James’ face and one eye. His right eye still works. But surgeons at NYU Langone Health hoped replacing the missing one would yield better cosmetic results for his new face, by supporting the transplanted eye socket and lid.
The NYU team announced Thursday that so far, it's doing just that. James is recovering well from the dual transplant last May and the donated eye looks remarkably healthy.
“It feels good. I still don’t have any movement in it yet. My eyelid, I can’t blink yet. But I’m getting sensation now,” James told The Associated Press as doctors examined his progress recently.
“You got to start somewhere, there’s got to be a first person somewhere,” added James, 46, of Hot Springs, Arkansas. “Maybe you’ll learn something from it that will help the next person.”
Election offices are sent envelopes with fentanyl or other substances. Authorities are investigating
WASHINGTON (AP) — Authorities were hunting Thursday for whoever sent suspicious letters — including some containing fentanyl — to elections offices in at least five states this week, delaying the counting of ballots in some local races in the latest instance of threats faced by election workers around the country.
The letters were sent to elections offices in the presidential battlegrounds of Georgia and Nevada, as well as California, Oregon and Washington, with some being intercepted before they arrived. Four of the letters contained fentanyl, the FBI and U.S. Postal Inspection Service reported in a statement to elections officials Thursday.
“Law enforcement is working diligently to intercept any additional letters before they are delivered,” the statement said.
The Pierce County auditor's office in Tacoma, Washington, released images of the letter it received, showing it had been postmarked in Portland, Oregon, and read in part, “End elections now."
In Seattle, King County Elections Director Julie Wise said that letter appeared to be the same one her office got — and that it was “very similar” to one King County received during the August primary, which also contained fentanyl.
Ballot shortages in Mississippi created a problem for democracy on the day of a governor's election
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — People in Mississippi's largest county are demanding answers about why some polling places ran out of ballots and voters had to wait for them to be replenished on the day the state was deciding its most competitive governor's race in a generation.
It's unclear how many people left without voting, and activists and local leaders say election officials' failure is shocking, especially in a state where civil rights leaders were beaten or killed in the 1960s and earlier to secure voting rights for Black residents.
“If you can’t vote, that’s a problem for democracy,” said Paloma Wu, a Mississippi Center for Justice attorney who filed one of two lawsuits to keep polling places open later than usual in Hinds County.
Republican Gov. Tate Reeves defeated Democratic challenger Brandon Presley in Mississippi's most expensive gubernatorial race.
Nearly 40% of Mississippi residents are Black. Presley, who's a state utility regulator and second cousin of rock icon Elvis Presley, actively courted Black voters and needed strong support in majority-Black Hinds County, which is home to the capital city of Jackson.
Former top prosecutor for Baltimore convicted in perjury case tied to purchase of Florida homes
GREENBELT, Md. (AP) — A former top prosecutor for the city of Baltimore was convicted on Thursday of charges that she lied about the finances of a side business to improperly access retirement funds during the COVID-19 pandemic, using the money to buy two Florida homes.
A federal jury convicted former Baltimore state's attorney Marilyn Mosby of two counts of perjury after a trial that started Monday.
Mosby served two terms as state’s attorney for Baltimore. A federal grand jury indicted her on perjury charges before a Democratic primary challenger defeated her last year.
James Wyda, a lawyer for Mosby, declined to comment, citing a gag order.
The maximum prison sentence for each count of perjury is five years, said a statement from U.S. Attorney Erek L. Barron's office. “We respect the jury’s verdict and remain steadfastly committed to our mission to uphold the rule of law, keep our country safe, protect the civil rights of all Americans, and safeguard public property," he said.
Chase on Texas border that killed 8 puts high-speed pursuits in spotlight again
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The white Honda Civic sped down Highway 57, a rural two-lane corridor that reaches the U.S.-Mexico border, after a Texas sheriff's deputy tried pulling over the car and gave chase when it didn't stop.
High-speed pursuits of migrants and suspected smugglers have become routine in Texas. But Wednesday's chase came to one of the deadliest endings in recent years: a head-on crash that killed eight people, including Honduran citizens and two residents of Georgia.
The mangled wreckage at the scene near La Pryor, a small town about 100 miles (160 kilometers) west of San Antonio, laid bare the danger of high-speed pursuits undertaken by an ever-expanding presence of law enforcement at the border. Texas alone has stationed hundreds of additional troopers the past two years in the name of curbing the flow of migrants and drugs.
The crash has also renewed criticism that the pursuits are too fast and have gone on for too long despite chases that have ended in injuries or death. In January, U.S. Customs and Border Protection issued a new policy for vehicle pursuits with an eye toward increasing safety.
For some, changes haven't spread wide enough.
Jury awards $1.2 million to Robert De Niro’s former assistant in gender discrimination lawsuit
NEW YORK (AP) — A jury awarded more than $1.2 million to Robert De Niro’s former personal assistant Thursday, finding one of his companies responsible for subjecting her to a toxic work environment.
While the jury found De Niro was not personally liable for the abuse, it said his company, Canal Productions, engaged in gender discrimination and retaliation against former assistant Graham Chase Robinson and should make two payments of $632,142 to her.
De Niro, who spent three days at the two-week trial — including two on the witness stand — has been ensnared in dueling lawsuits with Robinson since she quit in April 2019. He was not in the courtroom when the verdict was read aloud Thursday afternoon.
Robinson, 41, smiled as the verdict was being delivered. After the jury left the room, she hugged her lawyers.
Outside the courthouse, she smiled broadly and at other times seemed to be near tears. She did not comment.
The Associated Press