Israel strikes Gaza tunnels as truce efforts remain elusive
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — The Israeli military unleashed another heavy wave of airstrikes Monday on the Gaza Strip, saying it destroyed militant tunnels and the homes of nine Hamas commanders. International diplomacy to end the weeklong war that has killed hundreds appeared to make little headway.
Israel has said it will press on for now with its attacks against Hamas, the militant group that rules Gaza, and the United States signaled it would not pressure the two sides for a cease-fire even as President Joe Biden said he supported one.
The latest attacks destroyed the five-story building housing the Hamas-run Religious Affairs Ministry, a building Israel said housed the main operations center of Hamas' internal security forces. Israel also killed a top Gaza leader of Islamic Jihad, another militant group whom the Israeli military blamed for some of the thousands of rocket attacks launched at Israel in recent days. Israel said its strikes destroyed 15 kilometers (9 miles) of tunnels used by militants.
At least 212 Palestinians have been killed in the week of airstrikes, including 61 children and 36 women, with more than 1,400 people wounded, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. Ten people in Israel, including a 5-year-old boy and a soldier, have been killed in the ongoing rocket attacks launched from civilian areas in Gaza toward civilian areas in Israel.
Violence has also erupted between Jews and Arabs inside Israel, leaving scores of people injured. On Monday, a Jewish man attacked last week by a group of Arabs in the central city of Lod died of his wounds, according to police.
Biden raises cease-fire, civilian toll in call to Netanyahu
President Joe Biden expressed support for a cease-fire between Israel and Gaza's militant Hamas rulers in a call to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday, but stopped short of demanding an immediate stop to the eight days of Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocket barrages that have killed more than 200 people, most of them Palestinian.
Biden's carefully worded statement, in a White House readout of his second known call to Netanyahu in three days as the attacks pounded on, came with the administration under pressure to respond more forcefully despite its determination to wrench the U.S. foreign policy focus away from Middle East conflicts.
Biden's comments on a cease-fire were open-ended, and similar to previous administration statements of support in principle for a cease-fire. That's in contrast to demands from dozens of Democratic lawmakers and others for an immediate halt by both sides. But the readout of the call to the Israeli leader showed increased White House concern about the air and rocket attacks —including Israeli airstrikes aimed at weakening Hamas — while sticking to forceful support for Israel.
The U.S. leader “encouraged Israel to make every effort to ensure the protection of innocent civilians,” the White House said in its readout.
An administration official familiar with the call said the decision to express support and not explicitly demand a cease-fire was intentional. While Biden and top aides are concerned about the mounting bloodshed and loss of innocent life, the decision not to demand an immediate halt to hostilities reflects White House determination to support Israel’s right to defend itself from Hamas, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the private deliberations.
Supreme Court to take up major abortion rights challenge
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court agreed Monday to a showdown over abortion in a case that could dramatically alter nearly 50 years of rulings on abortion rights.
With three justices appointed by President Donald Trump part of a 6-3 conservative majority, the court is taking on a case about whether states can ban abortions before a fetus can survive outside the womb.
Mississippi, which is asking to be allowed to enforce an abortion ban after 15 weeks of pregnancy, is not asking the court to overrule the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision confirming a woman's right to an abortion, or a decision 19 years later that reaffirmed it.
But abortion rights supporters said the case is a clear threat to abortion rights. “The court cannot uphold this law without overturning the principal protections of Roe v. Wade,” Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a call with reporters.
Even if the court does not explicitly overrule earlier cases, a decision favorable to the state could lay the groundwork for allowing even more restrictions on abortion, including state bans on abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, as early as six weeks.
EXPLAINER: Do I still have to wear a mask? What about kids?
The government's new guidance on masks for vaccinated people has left some Americans confused and sent businesses and states scrambling to adjust their rules.
Target and CVS on Monday became the latest retailers to say vaccinated shoppers and workers don't have to wear masks in stores. New York said it will adopt the new mask advice this week, while California said it will wait a month.
About 123 million Americans — 37% of the population — are fully vaccinated against coronavirus, and more than 157 million, or 47%, have received at least one dose.
WHAT'S THE NEW ADVICE?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week said people who are fully vaccinated no longer need to wear a mask indoors or outdoors and can stop social distancing in most places. Fully vaccinated means two weeks after the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, or two weeks after the one-dose Johnson & Johnson shot.
Giuliani lawyers: Feds treat him like drug boss or terrorist
NEW YORK (AP) — Attorneys for Rudy Giuliani say a covert warrant that prosecutors obtained for his Apple iCloud account in November 2019 and a raid last month by agents who seized his electronic devices show they are treating him more like a drug kingpin or terrorist than a personal lawyer to former President Donald Trump.
In a letter to a federal judge in Manhattan, the lawyers said that by secretly seizing Giuliani's cloud data files in 2019, investigators had improperly intruded on private communications with the president.
The seized files, they wrote, likely included “material relating to the impending impeachment, the welfare of the country, and to national security.”
They asked the judge to unseal affidavits in support of the Nov. 4, 2019, search warrant. Reviewing the affidavits, the lawyers said, will help them expand their argument “that this unilateral, secret review was illegal" and that any evidence gathered from it should be suppressed.
The letter was sent to a Manhattan federal judge who is considering whether to appoint a “special master” to protect attorney-client privilege during a review of evidence gathered from raids on Giuliani’s residence and office in April.
Gaetz associate pleads guilty to sex trafficking charges
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — A Florida politician who emerged as a central figure in the Justice Department’s sex trafficking investigation into Rep. Matt Gaetz pleaded guilty Monday to six federal charges and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors as part of a plea deal.
Joel Greenberg, a longtime associate of Gaetz's, appeared in federal court in Orlando. He pleaded guilty to six of the nearly three dozen charges he faced, including sex trafficking of a minor, and he admitted that he had paid at least one underage girl to have sex with him and other men.
Gaetz was not mentioned in the plea agreement or during the court hearing. But Greenberg’s cooperation — as a key figure in the investigation and a close ally of Gaetz's — may escalate the potential legal and political liability that the firebrand Republican congressman is facing.
Federal prosecutors are examining whether Gaetz and Greenberg paid underage girls and escorts or offered them gifts in exchange for sex, according to two people familiar with the matter. Investigators have also been looking at whether Gaetz and his associates tried to secure government jobs for some of the women, the people said. They are also scrutinizing Gaetz’s connections to the medical marijuana sector, including whether his associates sought to influence legislation Gaetz sponsored.
The people had knowledge of the investigation but were not allowed to publicly discuss the ongoing investigation and spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity.
Arizona Republicans fight back against election fraud claims
PHOENIX (AP) — The top Republicans in Arizona's largest county gave an impassioned defense of their handling of the 2020 election Monday, calling on fellow members of the GOP and business leaders to speak out against an unprecedented partisan election audit.
The GOP-dominated Maricopa County Board of Supervisors cast the audit as a sham that's spun out of the control of the state Senate leader who's ostensibly overseeing it. Board Chairman Jack Sellers said Senate President Karen Fann is making an “attempt at legitimatizing a grift disguised as an audit.”
After former President Donald Trump claimed without evidence that his loss was marred by fraud, Fann used the Senate's subpoena power to take possession of ballots and voting machines from Maricopa County, a longtime Republican stronghold that was won by Democrat Joe Biden last year. She turned all of it over to Cyber Ninjas, a small Florida-based cybersecurity firm owned by a Trump supporter who has promoted election conspiracies, to conduct an audit along with several subcontractors.
Last week, Fann sent a letter to Sellers questioning records that document the chain of custody of the ballots and accusing county officials of deleting data. The county on Monday sent a 12-page response vehemently denying wrongdoing, explaining its processes and accusing Cyber Ninjas of incompetence.
“They can’t find the files because they don’t know what they're doing," Sellers said during a public meeting held to refute Fann's allegations. “We wouldn't be asked to do this on-the-job training if qualified auditors had been hired to do this work.”
Powerful cyclone hits land in India amid deadly virus surge
NEW DELHI (AP) — A powerful cyclone that emerged in the Arabian Sea made landfall on India's western coast on Monday, hours after authorities evacuated hundreds of thousands of people and suspended COVID-19 vaccinations in one state.
Cyclone Tauktae, the most powerful storm to hit the region in more than two decades, came ashore in Gujarat state with heavy rain, a battering storm surge and sustained winds of up to 165 kilometers (103 miles) per hour, the India Meteorological Department said.
Forecasters warned of possible extensive damage from high winds, heavy rainfall and flooding in low-lying areas.
Twelve people were reported dead before the storm hit land and hundreds of thousands were evacuated, a process complicated by the coronavirus pandemic.
The massive storm came as India is battling a devastating coronavirus surge — and both the storm and the virus could exacerbate the effects of the other. The storm had already led to the suspension of some vaccination efforts and there is greater risk of virus transmission in crowded evacuation shelters.
EXPLAINER: How AT&T-Discovery deal affects consumers, rivals
NEW YORK (AP) — AT&T said Monday it will combine its massive WarnerMedia media assets, which includes HBO and CNN, with Discovery Inc. to create a new media heavyweight in a $43 billion deal.
The deal, which isn't slated to close until next year, will create new publicly traded company that will enter a streaming arena that has been flooded in the past two years with new players including those owned by AT&T and Discovery, which operate HBO Max and Discovery+, respectively. Bigger and more established services, such as Netflix, Disney, and Amazon, remain the ones to beat. Netflix has more than 200 million subscribers globally, and Disney has more than 100 million.
It is a major directional shift for AT&T, which squared off with the Justice Department less than three years ago in an antitrust fight when it wanted to acquire Time Warner Inc. for more than $80 billion. It also marks the second time this year AT&T is divesting a business not directly related to its core broadband and wireless business. In February, the company spun off DirecTV for a fraction of the $48.5 billion it paid for the satellite TV service in 2015.
The deal still needs approval from Discovery shareholders and regulators before it can be finalized. AT&T stockholders don’t need to vote on the transaction.
Here's a look at how the combination is likely to affect viewers, investors, employees and competitors.
New York suspends Bob Baffert pending Kentucky Derby probe
Bob Baffert was suspended Monday from entering horses at New York racetracks, pending an investigation into Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit's failed postrace drug test.
Baffert will temporarily not be allowed to stable any horses at Belmont Park, Aqueduct Racetrack and Saratoga Race Course or run any of his horses at the New York Racing Association’s tracks. That ban includes races at Belmont Park, with the Belmont Stakes coming up June 5.
“In order to maintain a successful thoroughbred racing industry in New York, NYRA must protect the integrity of the sport for our fans, the betting public and racing participants,” NYRA President and CEO Dave O’Rourke said. “That responsibility demands the action taken today in the best interests of thoroughbred racing.”
Baffert had not committed to entering any horses in the third leg of the Triple Crown but had many in consideration for other races on Belmont Stakes day.
NYRA officials say they took into account Baffert's previous penalties in Kentucky, California and Arkansas, along with the current situation with Medina Spirit, and expects to make a final determination about the length and terms of the suspension based in information revealed by Kentucky's ongoing investigation.