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Divers aim to reach capsized vessel in search for survivors

PORT FOURCHON, La. — As 12 people remained missing from a capsized oil industry vessel, Coast Guard divers waited for a break in stormy weather Thursday that would allow them to reach the hull and search for survivors.

“There is the potential they are still there, but we don’t know,” Lally said early Thursday. “We’re still searching for 12 people because there are 12 still missing.”

The Coast Guard expects the divers to make it to the vessel today, but the safety of the rescuers is also a factor, he said.

“With something like this, that is a vessel that is capsized with the potential of people trapped inside, there are a lot of dynamic aspects we have to look at,” Lally said.

“We don’t have a whole lot of information of where they are,” Lally added.

Six people from the Seacor Power were rescued alive and one person’s body was recovered from the water Wednesday as searchers scanned an area larger than the state of Rhode Island.

Part of the overturned ship’s hull and one of its legs were still visible, leaving most of the bulky vessel underwater. Also called a jackup rig, it has three long legs designed to reach the sea floor and lift it out of water as an offshore platform.

Authorities also plan to use all-terrain vehicles Thursday to search the shoreline near Port Fourchon, a major base for the U.S. oil and gas industry. Lafourche Parish President Archie P. Chaisson III said the sheriff’s office, harbor police and Homeland Security officers were looking for signs of life on the shore.

“There are some local guys that are on that vessel,” Chaisson said. “It’s a very tight community in that industry. Those crews are very tight. This crew had apparently been around for a while working together.”

Marion Cuyler, the fiancée of crane operator Chaz Morales, was waiting with family of other missing workers at a Port Fourchon fire station Wednesday near a landing site where helicopters were coming and going. She said she talked to her fiancé before he left Tuesday.

“He said that they were jacking down and they were about to head out, and I’m like, ‘The weather’s too bad. You need to come home.’ And he’s like, ‘I wish I could.’”

Despite a widening search involving Coast Guard boats and aircraft, no other crew members have been spotted. Interrupted by darkness and bad weather, the effort spread to more than 1,440 square miles (3,730 square kilometers) by Wednesday afternoon, according to a news release.

“We had both air and surface assets out last night — nothing materially has changed,” U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Third Class John Michelli said around dawn Thursday.

Coast Guard Capt. Will Watson said winds were 80 to 90 mph (130 to 145 kph) and waves rose 7 to 9 feet high (2.1 to 2.7 meters) when the lift boat overturned.

“That’s challenging under any circumstance,” Watson said at a Wednesday news conference. “We don’t know the degree to which that contributed to what happened, but we do know those are challenging conditions to be out in the maritime environment.”

Watson said the vessel left Port Fourchon at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, bound for Main Pass off the southeast Louisiana coast.

“We did have some weather reports yesterday that there would be some challenging weather. But this level of weather was not necessarily anticipated,” he said.

The National Weather Service in New Orleans issued a special marine warning before 4 p.m. Tuesday that predicted steep waves and winds greater than 50 knots (58 mph).

The Coast Guard received a distress message from a good Samaritan at 4:30 p.m. and issued an urgent marine broadcast that prompted multiple private vessels in the area to respond, saving four people, the agency said. Coast Guard crews rescued another two people.

National Weather Service meteorologist Phil Grigsby said the system was an offshore derecho — or straight-winds storm. “This was not a microburst — just a broad straight-line wind event that swept over a huge area,” Grigsby said.

He said the weather service’s nearest official gauge, at Grand Isle, showed about 30 minutes of 75 mph (120 km/h) winds, followed by hours of winds over 50 mph (80 km/h).

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McGill contributed to this story from New Orleans and Martin from Atlanta.

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US jobless claims plunge to 576,000, lowest since pandemic

The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell sharply last week to 576,000, a hopeful sign that layoffs are easing as the economy recovers from the pandemic recession

WASHINGTON — The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits tumbled last week to 576,000, a post-COVID low and a hopeful sign that layoffs are easing as the economy recovers from the pandemic recession.

The Labor Department said Thursday that applications plummeted by 193,000 from a revised 769,000 a week earlier. Jobless claims are now down sharply from a peak of 900,000 in early January and well below the 700,000-plus level they had been stuck at for months.

The decline in unemployment claims coincides with other evidence that the economy is strengthening as vaccinations accelerate, pandemic business restrictions are lifted in many states and Americans appear increasingly willing to travel, shop, eat out and otherwise spend again. In March, employers added a healthy 916,000 jobs, the most since August, and the unemployment rate fell to 6%, less than half the pandemic peak of 14.8%.

For the week ending March 27, 16.9 million people were continuing to collect unemployment benefits, down from 18.2 million in the previous week. That decline suggests that some of the unemployed are being called back to jobs.

Yet the still-high number of ongoing recipients shows that even as the economy has improved in recent weeks, millions are facing a loss of a job or income and have been struggling to pay bills or rent. The last time the jobless rate was this low, weekly claims were around 350,000, still well below their current level.

Economists point to a range of potential explanations. Some states are still struggling to clear backlogs of applications from previous weeks. As a result, jobless claims being reported now may stem from layoffs that occurred weeks ago. Other states are also facing what they suspect is a sizable number of fraudulent claims for unemployment aid.

Still, not all unemployment applications are approved. The government reports each week on how many people have applied for aid — but not how many have actually received it. Claims are rejected if the applicants hadn’t earned enough money to qualify or had been fired or quit their jobs. Unemployment aid is intended for people who have been laid off through no fault of their own.

Michael Feroli, an economist at JPMorgan Chase, has found that the proportion of unemployment claims that are approved plummeted in the winter months. In February, for example, fewer than 25% of applications were approved and paid, Feroli discovered, down from a long-run average of about 45%. That suggests that the current level of jobless claims has been artificially inflated as more Americans seek benefits, because of the higher payments, even though some don’t actually qualify.

Most analysts have grown bullish about the economy’s prospects for the coming months. They include Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell, who expressed his belief in an appearance last Sunday on “60 Minutes” that the economy is at “an inflection point” and appears poised for a boom.

“We feel like we’re at a place where the economy’s about to start growing much more quickly and job creation coming in much more quickly,” Powell said. “This growth that we’re expecting in the second half of this year is going to be very strong. And job creation, I would expect to be very strong.”

Many economists, in fact, are concerned more about a potential burst of inflation stemming from the unleashing of pent-up consumer demand. Prices for lumber, copper, oil and other raw materials have already risen as demand for gas, homes and electronic equipment has jumped.

Consumer prices rose 0.6% in March, the most since 2012, the government reported Tuesday, and are up 2.6% in the past year. Excluding the volatile food and energy categories, though, prices rose by a more benign 1.6% year over year.

Powell has said that while inflation will likely pick up in the coming months, the price increases will probably ease as the pandemic-induced disruptions in many industries’ supply chains are worked out.

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Nobel doctor calls sexual violence in conflict a `pandemic’

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Dr_ Denis Mukwege is warning that the scourge of sexual violence and rape in all conflicts is now “a real pandemic.”

UNITED NATIONS — Nobel Peace Prize laureate Dr. Denis Mukwege warned Wednesday that the scourge of sexual violence and rape in all conflicts is now “a real pandemic” and without sanctions and justice for the victims these horrific acts won’t stop.

The Congolese doctor told the U.N. Security Council in a video briefing that “we are still far away from being able to draw a red line against the use of rape and sexual violence as a strategy of war domination and terror.”

Mukwege appealed to the international community “to draw a red line against the use of rape and sexual violence as a weapon of war.” And he stressed that the “red line” must mean “blacklists with economic, financial and political sanctions as well as judicial prosecutions against the perpetrators and instigators of these egregious crimes.”

Mukwege founded the Panzi Hospital in the eastern Congo city of Bukavu, and for over 20 years has treated countless women who were raped amid fighting between armed groups seeking control of some the central African nation’s vast mineral wealth. He lamented that sexual violence and impunity continue.

He shared the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize with activist Nadia Murad, who was kidnapped and sold into sexual slavery by Islamic State militants in 2014 along with an estimated 3,000 Yazidi girls and women.

Mukwege said there has been progress in international law, and the greatest challenge today is to transform commitments into obligations, and Security Council resolutions into results. Accountability and justice “are the best tools of prevention,” he said, and without punishment and sanctions, rapes and sexual violence in conflicts will continue.

Mukwege spoke at a council meeting on Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ latest report on sexual violence in conflict which said the COVID-19 pandemic led to a spike in gender-based violence last year. It focused on 18 countries where the U.N. said it has verified information that 52 warring parties are “credibly suspected” of patterns of “rape and other forms of sexual violence” in conflicts on the council agenda. The majority of the parties are opposition, rebel and terrorist groups — so-called “non-state actors” — and over 70 percent “are persistent perpetrators.”

In the latest example, Pramila Patten, the U.N. special representative on conflict-related sexual violence, told the council that right now in Ethiopia’s remote, mountainous regions of north and central Tigray, where fighting continues between the government and the region’s fugitive leaders, “women and girls are being subjected to sexual violence with a level of cruelty beyond comprehension.”

“Health care workers are documenting new cases of rape and gang-rape daily, despite their fear of reprisals and attacks on the limited shelters and clinics in operation,” Patten said, noting that the report records allegations of over 100 rape cases since fighting began in November but it may take months to determine the full scale and magnitude of the atrocities.

She said the report documents “over 2,500 U.N.-verified cases of conflict-related sexual violence committed in the course of 2020,” including in Congo, Central African Republic, Libya and South Sudan’s western Darfur region.

“Each of these cases cries out for justice,” Patten said. “It is time to write a new social contract in which no military or political leader is above the law, and no woman or girl is beneath the scope of its protection.”

Caroline Atim, director of the South Sudan Women with Disabilities Network who represented non-governmental organizations focused on women, peace and security, became the first deaf person to brief the Security Council. She used sign language for her remarks which were voiced by an interpreter.

Despite a 2018 peace deal, Atim said, “South Sudan remains engulfed by intercommunal, ethnic, political and armed conflicts where gender-based violence is deliberately used as a tool of humiliation against women and girls.”

“More than 65% of South Sudanese women have experienced sexual or physical violence, a figure that is double the global average and among the highest in the world,” she said, echoing calls for a halt to sexual violence, a survivor-centered approach for victims, and accountability for perpetrators.

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Editorial Roundup: US – ABC News

Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:

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April 14

The Chicago Tribune on the federal pause of administering the Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus vaccine:

Blood clots in veins that drain blood from the brain can lead to alarming strokelike results. The symptoms can be severe headaches, abdominal pain, leg pain and shortness of breath.

That’s why it made sense for federal, state and local health officials to hit the pause button Tuesday and again on Wednesday on continued distribution of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. Six known cases of a rare clotting disorder called cerebral venous sinus thrombosis in women between the ages of 18 and 48 might be linked to the vaccine, health officials said. More information is needed.

On Wednesday, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention met to decide next steps. The committee opted for additional time to gather information. They also learned more about the six women, one of whom died 11 or 12 days after receiving the vaccine — a 45-year-old woman with no known risk factors — and other reactions reported nationally that could be linked to the vaccine.

A Nebraska woman, 48 years old, presented with possible cerebral venous symptoms 14 days after the vaccination. She has not recovered. The youngest woman with possible serious side effects, an 18-year-old from Nevada, experienced complications, including cerebral venous sinus thrombosis, 14 days after vaccination. Her status, doctors said, is “not recovered.”

Five of the six women reported headaches initially. Later, some of them reported left-side weakness, vomiting, vision troubles, severe abdominal pain and loss of consciousness. Three remain hospitalized with two in intensive care, doctors said on Wednesday.

The individual stories are scary to be sure.

But it’s critical to keep them in context. Of the nearly 7 million doses given across the U.S., only six suspected cases with this side effect are known so far. In Illinois, more than 290,000 doses have been given, including to Gov. J.B. Pritzker, with no serious problems.

The vaccine remains effective in inoculating patients from COVID-19 66% of the time and limiting severe cases of COVID-19 that require hospitalization nearly 100% of the time, health officials said.

Hitting the pause button was a smart and cautious approach, and continues to be so, especially given two other alternatives exist, Pfizer and Moderna, to continue mass vaccination programs. The city of Chicago is rescheduling appointments for those who were supposed to get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Pritzker said the state would help supplement supplies of the other two brands to Chicago for residents still waiting to be inoculated.

Dozens of health experts met Wednesday to discuss in detail what they know. The continued pause, out of an abundance of caution, is not something to be feared but rather, something on which to build confidence in safety protocols. If the vaccine is pulled off shelves permanently, it will be because of this moment.

Online: https://www.chicagotribune.com

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April 14

The Wall Street Journal on President Biden’s approach to bipartisanship:

President Biden campaigned on unity and bipartisanship, but his governing philosophy has been the opposite. So now the White House is redefining the concept.

“If you looked up ‘bipartisan’ in the dictionary, I think it would say support from Republicans and Democrats,” Anita Dunn, a senior White House adviser, said recently. “It doesn’t say the Republicans have to be in Congress.”

To take Mr. Biden’s $1.9 trillion Covid spending spree: The thesis seems to be that if polls say it’s broadly popular, then it’s “bipartisan,” though zero Republicans voted for it. That’s certainly a novel way to look at it.

Mr. Biden also got into the act last week by rewriting the history of how he handled his bill on partisan lines. On Feb. 1, before the bill went through, 10 GOP Senators (enough to break a filibuster) visited Mr. Biden at the White House with a $600 billion counteroffer. A day later, Democrats in Congress began to push through their $1.9 trillion budget resolution, so they could pass Mr. Biden’s plan wholesale. The Republican offer was dismissed out of hand.

“I would’ve been prepared to compromise,” Mr. Biden said last week, “but they didn’t. They didn’t move an inch. Not an inch.”

The GOP Senators fired back in a public statement. “Our $618 billion proposal was a first offer to the White House designed to open bipartisan negotiations,” they said. “The Administration roundly dismissed our effort as wholly inadequate in order to justify its go-it-alone strategy.”

Perhaps Mr. Biden was hoping to hear a higher opening offer. But if he’s really interested in working across the aisle, then why not haggle?

The answer is that he had no intention of doing so. Democrats told him they could ram it through on narrow partisan majorities, and they did. It looks like that’s also what they plan to do with Mr. Biden’s $4 trillion infrastructure, social welfare, climate and tax proposals. Mr. Biden’s governance so far makes Donald Trump look bipartisan and unifying.

Online: https://www.wsj.com

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April 13

The Bangor Daily News on the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright by a police officer in Minnesota:

Shock. Outrage. Fatigue. It is hard to watch yet another video of a police officer killing a Black man without a mixture of emotions. The predominant question we, and many other Americans, have is simple: Why does this keep happening?

Certainly police officers are sometimes caught in the midst of dangerous situations that require split-second decisions for the safety of the community and the officers involved. But why do traffic stops too often become deadly when Black men are involved? And why are Black men disproportionately pulled over, often for minor offenses like an expired inspection sticker?

On Sunday, a female police officer in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, shot 20-year-old Daunte Wright during a traffic stop. According to the Brooklyn Center Police chief, the officer thought she was firing her Taser, but instead shot Wright once in the chest. He died of the gunshot wound. The officer and chief have both resigned.

According to police, Wright was pulled over for expired registration tags. Police found out that there was a warrant for Wright’s arrest. In a dashcam video, police were handcuffing Wright when he resisted and got back into the car. Obviously, none of that should amount to a death sentence. Wright was shot in the driver’s seat before speeding off and crashing the car. Wright was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash and his girlfriend was injured.

The shooting of Wright took place only about 10 miles from the Hennepin County Courthouse where former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is on trial for the killing of George Floyd. Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds after Floyd was arrested for using a suspected counterfeit $20 bill at a small grocery store. Floyd pleaded that he could not breathe and bystanders asked officers to allow Floyd to have medical attention.

The chief of the Minneapolis Police Department testified that Chauvin’s actions were a clear violation of its policies. We appreciate the sentiment from law enforcement officers around the country who have condemned Chauvin’s actions. It’s valuable for officers to stand up and say that this isn’t who they are. But that also requires a sustained commitment to reflection and reform. This can’t keep happening.

The shooting of Wright came the same weekend that video of an officer in Virginia pepper spraying a Black and Hispanic Army officer was revealed. In that incident, which occured in December, Army Lt. Caron Nazario was stopped by police who did not see the temporary license plate on his new SUV.

Police, with guns drawn, ordered Nazario, who was in uniform, out of the vehicle but he said he was afraid to do so. An officer pepper sprayed Nazario in the face. He was then pulled from the vehicle and forced to the ground.

At the end of the interaction, officers told Nazario he was free to go if he did not talk about the incident, but that he would face additional charges if he complained about it. The officer who used the pepper spray has been fired.

Police in America fatally shoot about 1,000 people a year, a number that has remained fairly constant in recent years, according to data collected and compiled by The Washington Post.

Black Americans are more than twice as likely to be killed by police than white Americans. And, although Black Americans account for 13 percent of the country’s population, they account for more than a quarter of those killed by police. Hispanic Americans are also disproportionately killed by police.

More than 95 percent of victims of police shootings are men and the majority are between the ages of 20 and 40.

But, the problems start well before an officer draws a gun. Researchers have found that Black motorists are much more likely to be pulled over than white drivers and that Black drivers are more likely to be searched.

An analysis of 16 years worth of traffic stop data in North Carolina found that Black drivers were 63 percent more likely to be stopped. When accounting for the fact that Black people drive 16 percent less, Black drivers were nearly twice as likely to be stopped. Black drivers were more than twice as likely to be searched during a traffic stop than white drivers. However, contraband was more likely to be found in searches of white drivers.

The researchers also gathered and analyzed traffic stop data from law enforcement agencies in 16 states, including Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Ohio and Vermont that pointed to similar disparities in the rate at which Black drivers were stopped and searched compared to white drivers.

“‘Driving while Black’ is very much a thing; it’s everywhere and it’s not just a North Carolina or a Southern problem but across the United States,” said Kelsey Shoub, an assistant professor of political science at the University of South Carolina and one of three co-authors of “Suspect Citizens: What 20 Million Traffic Stops Tell Us About Policing and Race.” “The second thing is that it appears to be more systemic than a few ‘bad apple’ officers engaged in racial profiling.”

This and other data highlight the need for systemic reviews of police training and conduct with an eye toward rooting out racially motivated behavior among law enforcement officials.

As if we needed it, this data and the continued killing of Black men remind us that disparities in policing can have needlessly fatal consequences. It should not be radical to suggest that these patterns must stop.

We condemn the protests that have turned violent in the wake of Wright’s death and fail to see how looting is a legitimate response to a very real problem of failed police work. We also understand why too many Black Americans feel unheard and fear for their safety when doing what should be everyday things, like driving or going to a convenience store.

We don’t have all the answers, or maybe any of the answers. But we do know this cycle can’t keep repeating itself.

Online: https://bangordailynews.com

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April 13

The Los Angeles Times on President Biden’s announcement of the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan:

President Biden’s announcement Wednesday that he will begin removing all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by the end of the month and complete the withdrawal by Sept. 11, the 20th anniversary of the terror attacks that provoked the war, will finally bring to a close direct American military involvement there.

But as the administration has said, it will not end the government’s role in trying to broker a lasting peace and regional stability. “What we won’t do is use our troops as a bargaining chip in that process,” a government official told the Washington Post, which first reported the development.

The situation remains dicey. The Trump administration signed an agreement last year to remove the last of U.S. troops by May 1 (which also would precipitate withdrawals by NATO allies), but that date was thrown into doubt after security officials warned that a precipitous departure could add to the instability and increase the chances of the country descending back into civil war.

It’s unclear whether that risk diminishes if the U.S. waits until the end of summer to be gone, or what the Taliban might do in the interim (it has resisted attacking U.S. troops since the agreement). But the timing of our departure has been problematic ever since President George W. Bush launched the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks two decades ago. His and successive administrations have long struggled to craft an exit plan from a deployment that once peaked at about 100,000 troops.

What is clear is that it is in the best interests of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, the Taliban and the U.S. to reach a lasting peace accord before the withdrawal of U.S. and allied troops. And at this point in that seemingly endless engagement, the departure of U.S. troops might compel the compromises necessary to achieve peace.

The original allied goal was to destroy the Al Qaeda training bases and oust from power the Taliban regime of Islamist hard-liners who sheltered the terrorist network. Those goals were met, but we’ve had far less success standing up a sustainable, self-sufficient Afghan government. And we’ve been unable to broker a successful conclusion to the molasses-like negotiations between the Afghan government and a resurgent Taliban.

Continuing to risk American lives in Afghanistan has limited appeal to the American public, which is more focused on jobs, the economy and the COVID-19 pandemic than the situation in Afghanistan. That doesn’t mean the Biden administration should slip the estimated 3,500 remaining U.S. troops out while Americans are distracted, but that the lack of clear options suggests the president would encounter little significant political opposition from a nation tired of war.

So the president is right to make this move, but he also must make certain that the U.S. and its allies continue to exert whatever diplomatic influence they can to keep the sporadic attacks by each side from escalating into open civil war, and to ensure the region doesn’t become a fresh nest for terrorists. The best path to a sustainable peace, and political and social stability, is that the Afghans themselves negotiate the path to their own future.

Online: https://www.latimes.com

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April 13

The Hindu on discussions in Vienna between the remaining members of the Iran nuclear deal:

The Vienna talks between the remaining members of the Iran nuclear deal — China, Russia, the U.K., France, Germany and Iran — have raised hopes for the revival of the agreement from which then President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the U.S. in May 2018.

After the initial round of talks, European and Iranian diplomats have said efforts to revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as the deal is officially called, are on “the right track”. An American delegation, led by Robert Malley, the White House special envoy for Iran, is also in Vienna, though the Americans and the Iranians would not hold direct talks. All sides agree that bringing the deal back on track is ideal, but who will blink first?

The U.S. wants Iran to end its uranium enrichment and centrifuge development programmes and return to the 2015 agreement, while Tehran has demanded the U.S. lift all sanctions imposed by Mr. Trump and still enforced by President Joe Biden. The agenda at Vienna, therefore, is to produce a road map for the revival of the JCPOA by addressing these two critical issues — Iran’s nuclear enhanced programme and American sanctions.

The Biden administration has displayed flexibility in its approach towards Iran. The President appointed a special envoy, ended the U.S.’s support for Saudi Arabia’s war against the Houthis, Iran-backed militants, in Yemen and promised to lift sanctions if Tehran returns to the JCPOA terms. The administration has also reportedly made an offer to Iran to release $1 billion of Iranian money frozen in South Korea as part of the sanctions in exchange for ending its 20% uranium enrichment.

But a wary Iran, which was fully compliant with the agreement when Mr. Trump abandoned it and slapped back sanctions, has rejected the offer, seeking more concrete measures from the U.S. The challenge both sides are facing is a lack of time. Iran holds its presidential polls in June. If the U.S.’s best chance to address Iran’s nuclear programme is through the revival of the JCPOA, the best possibility of reviving the agreement is to do it (or at least agree on a road map) before the presidential election.

There are external dangers as well. Iran-backed Shia militias in Iraq continue to target U.S. forces and bases in Iraq. The Israel-Iran shadow conflict is now being fought inside Syria and on the seas. Last week, an Iranian ship was attacked in the Red Sea. If security tensions rise in the region involving Iran and its proxies, it could derail the diplomatic efforts.

The U.S. and Iran should exercise restraint, stay focused on talks and rebuild the lost trust, and take measures to get the deal back on track that would resolve the nuclear crisis in return for dismantling the sanctions regime.

Online: https://www.thehindu.com

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April 7

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on the investigation into Florida U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz:

Scandal has been brewing for a Florida congressman. U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., is under federal investigation. The central question hinges on whether Mr. Gaetz paid an underage girl for sexual favors, and whether he paid for her to travel with him across state lines, which could constitute trafficking under the federal crime codes.

The Justice Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation have been looking into the matter since 2020. As of yet, Mr. Gaetz has not been charged with any crimes, and he has denied all allegations of illicit behavior. He asserts that he and his family are being extorted. The FBI is examining Mr. Gaetz’s claims separately.

Like all citizens, the congressman deserves due process protections, which come with an assumption of innocence until proof of guilt emerges.

However, Mr. Gaetz currently sits on the House Armed Services Committee as well as the Judiciary Committee. The former isn’t an issue, but the Judiciary Committee oversees federal law enforcement entities, including those actively investigating Mr. Gaetz.

He should do the right thing and resign this committee position while the investigation is ongoing.

The conflict is obvious. Presidents accused of wrongdoing are investigated by special counsel to avoid the appearance of tampering with evidence or impeding the investigation’s progress. A congressman may not merit a special prosecutor, but Mr. Gaetz should take pains to separate himself from the judiciary process to avoid the risk of even the appearance of conflict.

If he will not, his Republican colleagues should take steps to remove him. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., has indicated that Mr. Gaetz would be removed from all committee assignments if charges against him are proven, but he has not said whether the House will remove him during the ongoing proceedings. Members should.

Such a move is not a punishment, and indeed Mr. Gaetz should not be penalized without proof of wrongdoing. However, someone undergoing investigation into his personal affairs should not have a hand at the tiller of the Justice Department during that investigation.

Rumors that Mr. Gaetz is considering resigning his seat amid the potential scandal appear to be incorrect; the congressman has stated publicly that he will not resign. That is his right, but if he wishes to best serve his constituents, he should step away from the Judiciary Committee to avoid whispers of misconduct that impact his credibility and the credibility of the entire system.

Online: https://www.post-gazette.com

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Mom suspected in children’s deaths pleads in carjacking case

A California woman suspected of killing her three children has pleaded not guilty to carjacking during an alleged escape

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — A California woman suspected of killing her three children pleaded not guilty Wednesday to carjacking during an alleged escape.

Liliana Carrillo, 30, entered pleas in a Kern County courtroom to four felony counts of carjacking, attempted carjacking and auto theft. Her bail was set at $2 million.

Carrillo’s three children were found dead Saturday by their maternal grandmother in her apartment in the Reseda neighborhood of Los Angeles. She was arrested later that day in Tulare County, nearly 200 miles (322 kilometers) north of the scene.

Kern County prosecutors alleged that Carrillo crashed a car near Bakersfield, carjacked a truck from someone who stopped to help her, and tried to steal another truck before she was arrested Saturday afternoon in the San Joaquin County community of Ponderosa.

The community is near Porterville, where Carrillo and her family lived until Feb. 25, according to court records .

Authorities say Carrillo is suspected in the deaths of 3-year-old Joanna Denton Carrillo, her 2-year-old brother, Terry, and 6-month-old sister, Sierra. She hasn’t been criminally charged in their deaths pending an ongoing investigation.

Autopsies are pending to determine the cause of the children’s deaths.

Police haven’t disclosed a motive for the killings. But court filings showed there was a bitter custody dispute between Carrillo and the children’s father, Erik Denton.

The children had been staying with Carrillo, his ex-girlfriend.

Fearful for their safety, Denton petitioned a court for custody March 1, alleging Carrillo was delusional and had taken the kids and refused to tell him where they were. Carrillo, in turn, filed a restraining order against him and claimed Denton was an alcoholic who may have sexually abused their eldest child.

Denton’s court filings tell of Carrillo’s post-partum depression following the birth of their middle child. She began therapy but quit. She self-medicated with marijuana, he claimed. In texts and social media posts, she said things like “I wish I never had kids” and threatened to kill herself.

Carrillo sought a temporary restraining order in Los Angeles County. Through the courts, Denton and Carrillo agreed to swap Denton’s days to see the children — a few hours every other Sunday.

Last Sunday was supposed to be just his second visit with the kids under the new schedule.

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Today in History – ABC News

Today in History

Today is Thursday, April 15, the 105th day of 2021. There are 260 days left in the year.

Today’s Highlight in History:

On April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson, baseball’s first Black major league player, made his official debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers on opening day at Ebbets Field. (The Dodgers defeated the Boston Braves, 5-3.)

On this date:

In 1452, artist and inventor Leonardo da Vinci was born in or near the Tuscan town of Vinci.

In 1850, the city of San Francisco was incorporated.

In 1865, President Abraham Lincoln died nine hours after being shot the night before by John Wilkes Booth at Ford’s Theater in Washington; Andrew Johnson became the nation’s 17th president.

In 1892, General Electric Co., formed by the merger of the Edison Electric Light Co. and other firms, was incorporated in Schenectady, New York.

In 1912, the British luxury liner RMS Titanic foundered in the North Atlantic off Newfoundland more than 2 1/2 hours after hitting an iceberg; 1,514 people died, while less than half as many survived.

In 1945, during World War II, British and Canadian troops liberated the Nazi concentration camp Bergen-Belsen. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who died on April 12, was buried at the Roosevelt family home in Hyde Park, New York.

In 1989, 96 people died in a crush of soccer fans at Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield, England. Students in Beijing launched a series of pro-democracy protests; the demonstrations culminated in a government crackdown at Tiananmen Square.

In 1990, legendary film star Greta Garbo died in New York at age 84. The comedy sketch show “In Living Color” premiered on Fox TV.

In 1998, Pol Pot, the notorious leader of the Khmer Rouge, died at age 72, evading prosecution for the deaths of two million Cambodians.

In 2009, whipped up by conservative commentators and bloggers, tens of thousands of protesters staged “tea parties” around the country to tap into the collective angst stirred up by a bad economy, government spending and bailouts.

In 2013, two bombs made from pressure cookers exploded at the Boston Marathon finish line, killing two women and an 8-year-old boy and injuring more than 260. Suspected bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev (TAM’-ehr-luhn tsahr-NEYE’-ehv) died in a shootout with police; his brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (joh-HAHR’ tsahr-NEYE’-ehv), was tried, convicted and sentenced to death.

In 2019, fire swept across the top of the Notre Dame Cathedral as the soaring Paris landmark underwent renovations; the blaze collapsed the cathedral’s spire and spread to one of its landmark rectangular towers, but fire officials said the church’s structure had been saved.

Ten years ago: The first of three days of tornadoes to strike the central and southern U.S. began; according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, there were an estimated 177 twisters and at least 38 fatalities.

Five years ago: House Republicans departed Washington, having missed a deadline to pass their long-stalled budget in an embarrassment for House Speaker Paul Ryan. A North Korea missile launch meant to celebrate the birthday of the country’s founder, Kim Il Sung, apparently ended in failure.

Today’s Birthdays: Actor Claudia Cardinale is 83. Author and politician Jeffrey Archer is 81. Rock singer-guitarist Dave Edmunds is 78. Actor Michael Tucci is 75. Actor Lois Chiles is 74. Writer-producer Linda Bloodworth-Thomason is 74. Actor Amy Wright is 71. Columnist Heloise is 70. Actor Sam McMurray is 69. Actor-screenwriter Emma Thompson is 62. Bluegrass musician Jeff Parker is 60. Singer Samantha Fox is 55. Olympic gold, silver and bronze medal swimmer Dara Torres is 54. Rock musician Ed O’Brien (Radiohead) is 53. Actor Flex Alexander is 51. Actor Danny Pino is 47. Actor Douglas Spain is 47. Country singer-songwriter Chris Stapleton is 43. Actor Luke Evans is 42. Rock musician Patrick Carney (The Black Keys) is 41. Rock musician Zach Carothers (Portugal. The Man) is 40. Actor-writer Seth Rogen is 39. Actor Alice Braga is 38. Americana singer-songwriter Margo Price is 38. Rock musician De’Mar Hamilton (Plain White T’s) is 37. Actor Samira Wiley is 34. Actor Leonie Elliott is 33. Actor Emma Watson is 31. Actor Maisie Williams is 24.

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Daunte Wright, slain by police, known as jokester, young dad

MINNEAPOLIS — A few years ago, Daunte Wright was talking to a high school mentor about what to do if he was pulled over by police.

“Make sure your hands are on top of the steering wheel, don’t reach for anything,” Jonathan Mason told him, given the long history of Black men shot by police during traffic stops.

“He would always say, ‘Man, why we gotta do all that just for people not to kill us?’” Mason recalled this week, days after the 20-year-old Wright was killed by a police officer in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center. He’d been pulled over for a minor traffic violation on a Sunday afternoon.

The killing set off days of protests and unrest in the little city, as civil rights activists and thousands of demonstrators demanded justice and police accountability. The suburb’s police station is now barricaded behind concrete barriers and tall metal fencing, watched over by police in riot gear and National Guard soldiers with armored vehicles and assault rifles.

Behind it all was the sudden death of a skinny, smiling young man who loved making people laugh and who, after becoming a father in his teens, relished the role of doting young dad, according to his family and friends.

A family photo shows a beaming Wright holding his son, Daunte Jr., at his first birthday party. Another shows Wright with a COVID-19 face mask, his son wearing a bib with the inscription, “ALWAYS HUNGRY.”

On Wednesday, some of his extended family came to the intersection where he was shot, carefully rearranging the lawn of flowers that had been left there in his memory or sobbing as they sat in the grass.

“His smile — oh, Lord — the most beautiful smile,’’ said his aunt, Naisha Wright, calling him “a lovable young man.”

An older cousin, Mario Greer, said he and Wright loved seeing each other on holidays, especially the Fourth of July, when they liked to shoot off Roman candles.

Mason, who worked as a youth development specialist and mentor at Edison High School in Minneapolis when Wright was a student there, said he was gregarious and popular.

“He was a charismatic kid. He would joke with you, and he was so witty,” Mason said in an interview. “He was one of those kids that everybody looked up to.”

Wright played on the freshman and junior varsity basketball teams, and was known for having a good left-handed shot, Mason said. As a freshman, he’d been voted class clown.

Wright would talk about what he hoped to do with his life, Mason said.

“He said, ‘I want to be an NBA player, I want to be a fashion designer, I want to be a business owner,’” Mason recalled. “I said, ‘If you grow up, you can be whatever you want to be.‘”

In 2018, Wright moved to Minneapolis’ Patrick Henry High School, where his sister is also a student. Principal Yusuf Abdullah said he left after one semester and then went to Stadium View School.

“We got to know Daunte really well through his sister. Many staff worked with him through the years, trying to build a relationship with him, connect with him,” Abdullah said.

He said Daunte wasn’t a difficult kid, but had some issues typical of teenagers: “A troubled life? No. I think just along the lines of a teenage life.” He wouldn’t elaborate.

“He was a good kid — excitable,” he said.

He said discussions among young Black men about dealing with police were “absolutely a part of life” for the students at Patrick Henry.

“It’s just the fear that comes along with being a Black male.”

Wright was pulled over Sunday as he drove through Brooklyn Center. Police say he was stopped for having expired registration tags but Wright’s mother said he called her just before he was shot and said he’d been pulled him over because he had air fresheners hanging from his rearview mirror — a traffic violation in Minnesota.

Police tried to arrest Wright after realizing he was wanted on an outstanding warrant. In the ensuing scuffle, officer Kim Potter shot him. The city’s police chief, who resigned Tuesday, said he believed Potter had meant to fire her Taser, not her service pistol.

Potter, who also resigned Tuesday, was charged Wednesday with second-degree manslaughter. She was released from jail after posting $100,000 bond.

According to court records, Wright was being sought after failing to appear in court on charges that he fled from officers and possessed a gun without a permit during an encounter with Minneapolis police in June.

A search of court records shows Wright had a minor criminal record, with petty misdemeanor convictions for possession/sale of a small amount of marijuana and disorderly conduct.

After Wright was killed, his family learned of a connection between him and George Floyd, the Black man whose death under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer nearly a year ago sparked nationwide protests. Floyd’s girlfriend, Courteney Ross, said she worked with Wright while he was a student at Edison High. Ross was a teacher’s assistant and counselor at the school, said Mason, who worked with Ross. She testified the week before last in the trial of the officer accused of killing Floyd, which continues this week.

”(I’m) crushed. It’s enough that Floyd is gone, but for one of my youths to be gone as well,” Ross said Tuesday during a protest against police brutality in Minneapolis.

“He was just a wonderful, beautiful boy,” Ross said.

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AP Writer Kat Stafford in Detroit and AP researcher Rhonda Shafner also contributed to this report.

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Find AP’s full coverage of the death of Daunte Wright at: https://apnews.com/hub/death-of-daunte-wright

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Former US official: Taiwan-US partnership stronger than ever

Taiwan’s president and an unofficial delegation of former senior U.S. government officials sent by President Joe Biden have reaffirmed “rock solid” U.S.-Taiwan ties

The U.S. has expressed a “rock solid support for Taiwan,” President Tsai Ing-wen said Thursday in opening remarks before the two sides met in Taipei, the island’s capital.

“I can see with confidence that the United States’ partnership with Taiwan is stronger than ever,” former U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd said. “We share deep economic ties and mutual commitment to democratic values, and critically important security partnership.”

Dodd, a Democratic senator from Connecticut from 1981 to 2011, was accompanied by two former deputy secretaries of state, James Steinberg from the Democratic Obama administration and Richard Armitage, who served under Republican President George W. Bush.

The delegation arrived Wednesday and met with Tsai Thursday and they’ll meet with other officials during their three-day visit, Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry said.

U.S. support for Taiwan is coming at a time of increased naval maneuvers and flybys by China’s military in the waters and airspace around the island.

China considers the island as its own territory, and has made reunification with Taiwan a long-term goal, although the island is self-ruled.

On Monday, China sent a record 25 fighter jets towards Taiwan, according to Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense.

Tsai said she was willing to work with like-minded countries, including the U.S. “to jointly safeguard the peace and stability of the Indo-Pacific and deter adventure maneuvers and provocations.”

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Chicago to release video of cop fatally shooting 13-year-old

The independent board that reviews Chicago police shootings says it will release body camera footage and other investigation materials Thursday pertaining to an officer’s fatal shooting last month of a 13-year-old boy

CHICAGO — Body camera footage of a Chicago police officer fatally shooting a 13-year-old boy last month will be released Thursday, the board that reviews such shootings said.

The Civilian Office of Police Accountability, or COPA, said in a news release Wednesday that among the materials it will release pertaining to the March 29 shooting death of Adam Toledo will be officer bodycam footage, video captured by a third party, arrest reports and recordings of shots being fired in the area that led police to respond.

The board didn’t say what the video shows or give any other information about the investigation.

According to police, officers responded to an area of the Little Village neighborhood on the city’s West Side before dawn on the morning of the shooting after learning that gun shots had been detected in the area by a police-operated technology. The teen and a 21-year-old man fled on foot when confronted by police, and an officer shot the teen once in the chest following a foot chase during what the department described as an armed confrontation. Police said a handgun the boy had been carrying was recovered at the scene. The 21-year-old man was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of resisting arrest.

The review board initially said it couldn’t release the video because it involved the shooting of a minor, but it changed course after the mayor and police superintendent called for the video’s release.

“COPA’s core values of integrity and transparency are essential to building public trust, particularly in incidents related to an officer involved shooting, and we are unwavering in our commitment to uphold these values,” the board said in its statement Wednesday.

The videos have been widely anticipated in the city and after other video of violent police encounters with the public around the country sparked civil unrest — including in Chicago in 2015 after the city made public video of the fatal police shooting of black teenager Laquan McDonald — the Toledo family urged people to “remain peaceful.”

“We have heard reports in the media that more protests are planned today, and while we have no direct knowledge of such events, we pray that for the sake of our city, people remain peaceful to honor Adam’s memory and work constructively to promote reform,” the family said in a statement.

The Chicago Police Department has a long history of brutality and racism that has fomented mistrust among the city’s many Black and Hispanic residents. Adding to that mistrust is the city’s history of suppressing damning police videos.

The city fought for months to keep the public from seeing the 2014 video of a white officer shoot a Black teenager, Laquan McDonald, 16 times, killing him. The officer was eventually convicted of murder. And the city tried to stop a TV news station from broadcasting video of a botched 2019 police raid in which an innocent, naked, Black woman wasn’t allowed to put on clothes until after she was handcuffed.