Bill and Melinda Gates divorcing
SEATTLE — Bill and Melinda Gates announced Monday that they are divorcing. The Microsoft co-founder and his wife, who launched the world’s largest charitable foundation, said they would continue to work together at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. In identical tweets, they said they had made the decision to end their marriage of 27 years. “We have raised three incredible children and built a foundation that works all over the world to enable all people to lead healthy, productive lives,” they said in a statement. “We ask for space and privacy for our family as we begin to navigate this new life.”
Florida to end Covid restrictions
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Gov. Ron DeSantis moved to suspend all remaining COVID-19 restrictions imposed by communities across his state, signing into law on Monday freshly passed legislation giving him sweeping powers to invalidate local emergency measures put in place during the pandemic — including mask mandates, limitations on business operations and the shuttering of schools. “We don’t know what’s going to happen in the future, but I think this creates a structure that’s going to be a little bit more respectful, I think, of people’s businesses jobs, schools and personal freedom.” Some mayors, particularly those aligned with the Democratic Party, decried Republican-led preemptions as a power grab against local government’s ability to control a potential resurgence of the coronavirus but also restrict their ability to respond to future public health emergencies.
Tot freed from wooden barrel
PORTLAND, Tenn. — Fire rescuers and medical staff used a power saw and screwdrivers to extract a toddler from an antique wooden barrel in which he became wedged during a visit with his grandparents. Kelly Strubing and her husband took their 2-year-old son Dorian to the emergency room after he got stuck Saturday. EMS and firefighters worked with hospital staff to free the boy. X-rays determined where his hips, knees and feet were. His arms, shoulders and head stuck out from the top of the barrel, which allowed him to hold on to a teddy bear. The workers used a power saw to cut some wood from the bottom of the barrel and screwdrivers were used to chip away at the top opening to make a hole big enough for his feet to fit through, Strubing said. The first responders pulled the toddler through the top of the barrel once his legs were straightened. “It was certainly nerve-wracking, but now that he’s safe we all are getting a good laugh from it,” Strubing said.
‘Lucky’ mom gives birth on flight
HONOLULU — A doctor and a team of neonatal medical professionals were in the right place at the right time — helping a Utah woman deliver her baby onboard an hourslong flight to Hawaii. Lavinia “Lavi” Mounga was traveling from Salt Lake City to Hawaii on April 28 for a family vacation when she gave birth to her son, Raymond, at just 29 weeks gestation. Dr. Dale Glenn, a Hawaii Pacific Health family medicine physician, along with Lani Bamfield, Amanda Beeding and Mimi Ho — neonatal intensive care unit nurses from North Kansas City Hospital — were also on board. “About halfway through the flight, there was an emergency call, and I’ve experienced this before and usually they’re pretty clear asking if there is a doctor on board,” Glenn said. “This call was not like this and it was fairly urgent.” Bamfield said she heard someone call out for medical help and saw how little the baby was. All three nurses and the doctor sprung into action. With no special equipment for the preemie, the group got creative: they used shoelaces to cut and tie the umbilical cord and used a smartwatch to measure the baby’s heart rate. “We’re all trying to work in a very small, confined space in an airplane, which is pretty challenging. But the teamwork was great,” Glenn said.
Homeless man’s dog killed
MORGANTON, N.C. — Police are searching for a gunman who shot and killed a homeless man’s dog in front of him. The gunman walked up to the homeless man near a store on Sunday afternoon and fatally shot the dog, named DJ. Investigators haven’t determined a motive for the shooting.
Remains found in two bears
DURANGO, Colo. — Human remains were found in two of the three black bears euthanized after they were suspected of killing a Colorado woman in an apparent attack. The 39-year-old woman was found dead north of Durango in southwestern Colorado on Friday, her body mauled, and authorities suspected a rare bear attack because of the bear scat and hair found at the scene. A dog team found a 10-year-old female black bear and two yearling cubs nearby and they were killed because they were suspected of attacking her and it was believed they would likely attack someone else. The woman was believed to have gone walking with her dogs earlier Friday, according to her boyfriend. He returned home at about 8:30 p.m. and the dogs were outside, but the woman was missing.
Oktoberfest canceled again
BERLIN — Bavarian officials on Monday canceled Oktoberfest festivities for a second year in a row due to concerns over the spread of COVID-19, saying there are too many risks in hosting the celebrations — which bring in visitors from around the world — during a global pandemic. Bavarian Governor Markus Soeder said it was with “heavy hearts” that they decided to call off the festival for which the state is known globally, but that with coronavirus numbers still stubbornly high and German hospitals already struggling, it had to be done. “Oktoberfest will be held again, and will be big again,” he pledged. Germany is in the middle of a coronavirus lockdown that includes a ban on large gatherings, with an infection rate of 146.9 new weekly infections per 100,000 residents.
Germany busts child porn site
BERLIN — German prosecutors announced Monday they have busted one of the world’s biggest international darknet platforms for child pornography, used by more than 400,000 registered members. Frankfurt prosecutors said in a statement together with the Federal Criminal Police Office that in mid-April three German suspects, said to be the administrators of the “Boystown” platform, were arrested along with a German user. One of the three main suspects was arrested in Paraguay. They also searched seven buildings in connection with the porn ring in mid-April in Germany. The authorities said the platform was “one of the world’s biggest child pornography darknet platforms” and had been active at least since 2019. Pedophiles used it to exchange and watch pornography of children and toddlers, most of them boys, from all over the world.
San Diego boat wreck kills 3
SAN DIEGO — A 40-foot cabin cruiser overloaded with 32 people capsizes just off the San Diego coast, killing three and critically injuring another person. The others aboard survived without major injuries. The Coast Guard on Monday ended its search for survivors of the boat wreck, which happened on a bright Sunday morning near tidepools of Cabrillo National Monument, a popular spot for tourists and hikers. The vessel had the hallmarks of a smuggling attempt from Mexico gone awry, though authorities stopped short of confirming it. The boat captain was in custody.
Verizon sells Yahoo and AOL
AOL and Yahoo are being sold again, this time to a private equity firm. Wireless company Verizon will sell Verizon Media, which consists of the once-pioneering tech platforms, to Apollo Global Management in a $5 billion deal. Verizon said Monday that it will keep a 10% stake in the new company, which will be called Yahoo. Yahoo at the end of the last century was the face of the internet, preceding the behemoth tech platforms to follow, such as Google and Facebook. And AOL was the portal, bringing almost everyone who logged on during the internet’s earliest days. Verizon spent about $9 billion buying AOL and Yahoo over two years starting in 2015, hoping to jump-start a digital media business that would compete with Google and Facebook. It didn’t work — those brands were already fading even then — as Google and Facebook and, increasingly, Amazon dominate the U.S. digital ad market. The year after buying Yahoo, Verizon wrote down the value of the combined operation, called “Oath,” by roughly the value of the $4.5 billion it had spent on Yahoo. Verizon has been shedding media assets as it refocuses on wireless, spending billions on licensing the airwaves needed for the next generation of faster mobile service, called 5G. It sold blogging site Tumblr in 2019 and HuffPost to BuzzFeed late last year. The digital media sector in recent years has been consolidating as companies seek profitability.
Denmark removes J&J vaccine
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Denmark on Monday removed the single-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 shot from its vaccination program to investigate reports of rare but potentially dangerous blood clots. Denmark, which has been very cautious with all vaccines, has already taken the AstraZeneca shot out of its vaccination program for the same reason. Both the J&J and AstraZeneca shots are made with similar technology. The Danish Health Authority said in a statement that it “has concluded that the benefits of using the COVID-19 vaccine from Johnson & Johnson do not outweigh the risk of causing the possible adverse effect.”
General shift on sex assault policy
WASHINGTON — In a potentially significant shift in the debate over combating sexual assault in the military, the nation’s top general says he is dropping his opposition to a proposal to take decisions on sexual assault prosecution out of the hands of commanders. Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stopped short of endorsing the changes recommended by an independent review panel. But in an interview with The Associated Press and CNN, Milley said he is now open to considering them because the problem of sexual assault in the military has persisted despite other efforts to solve it. “We’ve been at it for years, and we haven’t effectively moved the needle,” he said. “We have to. We must.” The comments by Milley, as arguably the most influential officer and as the senior military adviser to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and to President Joe Biden, are likely to carry considerable weight among the service chiefs and add to momentum for the change. Austin, himself a former senior commander and former vice chief of the Army, has not publicly commented on the review commission’s proposal, but it is his creation and thus its recommendations are seen as especially weighty. Lawmakers are also stepping up pressure for the change.
Apple faces Epic attack
SAN RAMON, Calif. — Apple’s lucrative app store was alternately portrayed as a price-gouging monopoly and a hub of world-changing innovation during the preamble to a trial that may reshape the technological landscape. The contrasting portraits were drawn on Monday as lawyers for Apple and its foe, Epic Games, outlined their cases in an Oakland, California, federal court before U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, who will decide the case. While Apple depicted its app store as an invaluable service beloved by consumers and developers alike, Epic Games attacked it as a breakthrough idea that has morphed into an instrument of financial exploitation that illegally locks out competition. The trial, expected to last most of this month, revolves around the 15% to 30% commission that Apple charges for subscriptions and purchases made from apps downloaded from its store — the only one accessible on the iPhone, iPad and iPod. Epic, the maker of the popular Fortnite video game, laid out evidence drawn mostly from Apple’s internal documents in an attempt to prove the company has built a digital “walled garden” during the past 13 years as part of a strategy crafted by its late co-founder, Steve Jobs. The formula, Epic contends, is designed to make it as difficult as possible for consumers to stop buying its products and services.
Storms spawn Mississippi twisters
YAZOO CITY, Miss. — Severe storms spawning multiple tornadoes moved across the South on Monday, damaging homes and uprooting trees from Mississippi to Kentucky. A tornado spotted in Atlanta forced thousands to seek shelter, and one man was killed when a falling tree brought power lines onto his vehicle. in Douglasville, Georgia, west of Atlanta. The weather first turned rough in Mississippi on Sunday, where just south of Yazoo City, Vickie Savell was left with only scraps of the brand new mobile home where she and her husband had moved in just eight days ago. It had been lifted off its foundation and moved about 25 feet It was completely destroyed. “Oh my God, my first new house in 40 years and it’s gone,” she said Monday, amid tree tops strewn about the neighborhood and the roar of chainsaws as people worked to clear roads. As the system moved east, storms damaged homes in a Kentucky town early Monday and a tornado watch for much of the day covered large parts of Alabama and Georgia.
EPA rule to phase out HFCs
WASHINGTON — In the first Biden administration rule aimed at combating climate change, the Environmental Protection Agency is proposing to phase down production and use of hydrofluorocarbons, highly potent greenhouse gases commonly used in refrigerators and air conditioners. The proposed rule follows through on a law Congress passed in December authorizing a 15-year phaseout of HFCs. The new rule is intended to decrease U.S. production and use of the gases by 85% over the next 15 years, part of a global phaseout intended to slow climate change. HFCs are considered a major driver of global warming and are being targeted worldwide. President Joe Biden has pledged to embrace a 2016 global agreement to reduce HFCs.
Help Americans age at home
WASHINGTON — A majority of Americans agree that government should help people fulfill a widely held aspiration to age in their own homes, not institutional settings, a new poll finds. There’s a surprising level of bipartisan agreement on some proposals that could help make that happen, according to the late March survey from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. Still, Republicans lag Democrats in support of some policies, including the most far-reaching idea: Only 42% of Republicans favor a government long-term care insurance program for all Americans, compared with 78% of Democrats. Overall, 60% of the public supports that approach. Other government options to help people deal with the costs of long-term care get solid support across the political spectrum. For example, 63% favor more funding to help low-income people age at home, a policy reflected in President Joe Biden’s stimulus plan and his COVID-19 relief law. That includes about half of Republicans and about three-quarters of Democrats. Overall, only 10% are opposed. There’s also bipartisan alignment about proposals involving public-private partnerships.
Biden quadruples refugee cap
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Monday formally raised the nation’s cap on refugee admissions to 62,500 this year, weeks after facing bipartisan blowback for his delay in replacing the record-low ceiling set by former President Donald Trump. Refugee resettlement agencies have waited for Biden to quadruple the number of refugees allowed into the United States this year since Feb. 12, when a presidential proposal was submitted to Congress saying he planned to do so. But the presidential determination went unsigned until Monday. Biden said he first needed to expand the narrow eligibility criteria put in place by Trump that had kept out most refugees. He did that last month in an emergency determination. But it also stated that Trump’s cap of up to 15,000 refugees this year “remains justified by humanitarian concerns and is otherwise in the national interest.” That brought sharp pushback for not at least taking the symbolic step of authorizing more refugees to enter the U.S. this year. The second-ranking Senate Democrat, Dick Durbin of Illinois, called that initial limit “unacceptable” and within hours the White House made a quick course correction. The administration vowed to increase the historically low cap by May 15 — but probably not all the way to the 62,500 Biden had previously outlined. In the end, Biden returned to that figure.
Minnesota cop, chief resign
BROOKLYN CENTER, Minn. — A white police officer who fatally shot a Black man during a traffic stop in a Minneapolis suburb resigned Tuesday, as did the city’s police chief — moves that the mayor said he hoped would help heal the community and lead to reconciliation after two nights of protests and unrest. But police and protesters faced off once again after nightfall Tuesday, with hundreds of protesters gathering again at Brooklyn Center’s heavily guarded police headquarters, now ringed by concrete barriers and a tall metal fence, and where police in riot gear and National Guard soldiers stood watch. “Murderapolis” was scrawled with black spray paint on a concrete barrier. “Whose street? Our street!” the crowd chanted under a light snowfall. About 90 minutes before the curfew deadline, state police announced over a loudspeaker that the gathering had been declared unlawful and ordered the crowds to disperse. That quickly set off confrontations, with protesters launching fireworks toward the station and throwing objects at police, who launched flashbangs and gas grenades, and then marched in a line to force back the crowd. “You are hereby ordered to disperse,” authorities announced, warning that anyone not leaving would be arrested. The state police said the dispersal order came before the 10 p.m. curfew because protesters were trying to take down the fencing and throwing rocks at police. The number of protesters dropped rapidly over the next hour, until only a few remained. Police also ordered all media to leave the scene.
US begins reuniting families
SAN DIEGO — The Biden administration said Monday that four families that were separated at the Mexico border during Donald Trump’s presidency will be reunited in the United States this week in what Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas calls “just the beginning” of a broader effort. Two of the four families include mothers who were separated from their children in late 2017, one Honduran and another Mexican, Mayorkas said, declining to detail their identities. He described them as children who were 3 years old at the time and “teenagers who have had to live without their parent during their most formative years.” Parents will return to the United States on humanitarian parole while authorities consider other longer-term forms of legal status, said Michelle Brane, executive director of the administration’s Family Reunification Task Force. The children are already in the U.S. Exactly how many families will reunite in the United States and in what order is linked to negotiations with the American Civil Liberties Union to settle a federal lawsuit in San Diego, but Mayorkas said there were more to come. “We continue to work tirelessly to reunite many more children with their parents in the weeks and months ahead,” Mayorkas told reporters. “We have a lot of work still to do, but I am proud of the progress we have made and the reunifications that we have helped to achieve.”
Judges hear Census arguments
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — The fight over whether the U.S. Census Bureau can use a controversial statistical technique to keep people’s information private in the numbers used for drawing political districts on Monday went before a judicial panel that must decide if the method provides enough data accuracy. A panel of three federal judges heard arguments on whether the method known as “differential privacy” meets the federal legal requirement for keeping private the personal information of people who participated in the 2020 census while still allowing the numbers to be sufficiently accurate for the highly partisan process of redrawing congressional and legislative districts. Differential privacy adds mathematical “noise,” or intentional errors, to the data to obscure any given individual’s identity while still providing statistically valid information. Because a panel of three federal judges will decide the matter, any appeal could go straight to the Supreme Court. This first major challenge to the Census Bureau’s use of differential privacy comes in a lawsuit filed by the state of Alabama and three Alabama politicians over the statistical agency’s decision to delay the release of data used for drawing the political districts. Normally, the redistricting data is released at the end of March, but the Census Bureau pushed the deadline to sometime in August, at the earliest, because of delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Alabama claims the delay was caused by the bureau’s attempt to implement differential privacy, which the state’s attorneys say will result in inaccurate redistricting numbers. At least 16 other states back Alabama’s challenge, which is asking the judges for a preliminary injunction to stop the Census Bureau from implementing the statistical technique. Alabama also wants the agency to release the redistricting data by July 31.
Air traffic continues to rise
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Air travel in the U.S. hit its highest mark since COVID-19 took hold more than 13 months ago, while European Union officials are proposing to ease restrictions on visitors to the continent as the vaccine sends new cases and deaths tumbling in more affluent countries. The improving picture in many places contrasts with the worsening disaster in India. In the U.S., the average number of new cases per day fell below 50,000 for the first time since October. And nearly 1.67 million people were screened at U.S. airport checkpoints on Sunday, according to the Transportation Security Administration, the highest number since mid-March of last year. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation giving him sweeping powers to invalidate local emergency measures put in place during the outbreak. While the law doesn’t go into effect until July, the Republican governor said he will issue an executive order to more quickly get rid of local mask mandates. “I think this creates a structure that’s going to be a little bit more respectful, I think, of people’s businesses, jobs, schools and personal freedom,” he said.
Calls for justice at N.C. funeral
ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. — The Rev. Al Sharpton issued a powerful call for transparency and the release of body camera footage at the funeral Monday for Andrew Brown Jr., a Black man shot and killed by deputies in North Carolina, with the civil rights leader likening withholding the video to a “con” job done on the public. “I know a con game when I see it. Release the whole tape and let the folks see what happened to Andrew Brown,” Sharpton told mourners in a scorching eulogy at the invitation-only service at a church in Elizabeth City. “You don’t need time to get a tape out. Put it out! Let the world see what there is to see. If you’ve got nothing to hide, then what are you hiding?” he said, to loud applause. A judge ruled last week that the video would not be made public for at least a month to avoid interference with a pending state investigation into the April 21 shooting of Brown, 42, by deputies attempting to serve drug-related search and arrest warrants. An independent autopsy commissioned by his family said Brown was shot five times, including once in the back of the head. Family members who were privately shown a portion of the body camera video say Brown was trying to drive away when he was shot. The shooting sparked days of protests in the city in rural northeastern North Carolina.
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