AP News in Brief at 6:04 p.m. EDT
Israel, Hamas trade deadly fire as confrontation escalates
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) – A confrontation between Israel and Hamas sparked by weeks of tensions in contested Jerusalem escalated Tuesday as Israel unleashed new airstrikes on Gaza while militants barraged Israel with hundreds of rockets.
The exchange killed a number of militants and civilians in Gaza and at least three people in Israel.
The barrage of rockets from the Gaza Strip and airstrikes into the territory continued almost nonstop throughout the day, in what appeared to be some of the most intense fighting between Israel and Hamas since their 2014 war.
The fire was so relentless that Israel´s Iron Dome rocket-defense system seemed to be overwhelmed. Columns of smoke rose from many places in Gaza.
By late Tuesday, the violence extended to Tel Aviv, which came under fire from a barrage of rockets launched from the Gaza Strip.
A 50-year-old woman was killed. The outgoing volleys set off air raid sirens across the city, and the main international airport closed temporarily.
Hamas said it launched a total of 130 rockets, its most intense strike so far, in response to Israel´s destruction of a high-rise building in Gaza earlier in the evening.
The sound of the outgoing rockets could be heard in Gaza. As the rockets rose into the skies, mosques across Gaza blared with chants of “God is great,” “victory to Islam” and “resistance.”
One rocket struck a bus in the central city of Holon, just south of Tel Aviv.
Medics said three people, including a 5-year-old girl, were wounded and the hire bus went up in flames.
Internal emails reveal WHO knew of sex abuse claims in Congo
BENI, Congo (AP) – When Shekinah was working as a nurse´s aide in northeastern Congo in January 2019, she said, a World Health Organization doctor offered her a job investigating Ebola cases at double her previous salary – with a catch.
“When he asked me to sleep with him, given the financial difficulties of my family …. I accepted,” said Shekinah, 25, who asked that only her first name be used for fear of repercussions.
She added that the doctor, Boubacar Diallo, who often bragged about his connections to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, also offered several of her friends jobs in return for sex.
A WHO staffer and three Ebola experts working in Congo during the outbreak separately told management about general sex abuse concerns around Diallo, The Associated Press has learned.
They said they were told not to take the matter further.
WHO has been facing widespread public allegations of systemic abuse of women by unnamed staffers, to which Tedros declared outrage and emergencies director Dr. Michael Ryan said, “We have no more information than you have.” But an AP investigation has now found that despite its public denial of knowledge, senior WHO management was not only informed of alleged sexual misconduct in 2019 but was asked how to handle it.
The AP has also for the first time tracked down the names of two doctors accused of sexual misconduct, Diallo and Dr.
Jean-Paul Ngandu, both of whom were reported to WHO.
Migrant children held in mass shelters with little oversight
The Biden administration is holding tens of thousands of asylum-seeking children in an opaque network of some 200 facilities that The Associated Press has learned spans two dozen states and includes five shelters with more than 1,000 children packed inside.
Confidential data obtained by the AP shows the number of migrant children in government custody more than doubled in the past two months, and this week the federal government was housing around 21,000 kids, from toddlers to teens.
A facility at Fort Bliss, a U.S. Army post in El Paso, Texas, had more than 4,500 children as of Monday. Attorneys, advocates and mental health experts say that while some shelters are safe and provide adequate care, others are endangering children´s health and safety.
“It´s almost like `Groundhog Day,´” said Southern Poverty Law Center attorney Luz Lopez, referring to the 1993 film in which events appear to be continually repeating.
“Here we are back to a point almost where we started, where the government is using taxpayer money to build large holding facilities … for children instead of using that money to find ways to more quickly reunite children with their sponsors.”
Department of Health and Human Services spokesman, Mark Weber, said the department’s staff and contractors are working hard to keep children in their custody safe and healthy.
A few of the current practices are the same as those that President Joe Biden and others criticized under the Trump administration, including not vetting some caregivers with full FBI fingerprint background checks.
At the same time, court records show the Biden administration is working to settle several multimillion-dollar lawsuits that claim migrant children were abused in shelters under President Donald Trump.
Poll: Most in US who remain unvaccinated need convincing
Fewer Americans are reluctant to get a COVID-19 vaccine than just a few months ago, but questions about side effects and how the shots were tested still hold some back, according to a new poll that highlights the challenges at a pivotal moment in the U.S.
Just 11% of people who remain unvaccinated say they definitely will get the shot, while 34% say they definitely won’t, according to the poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
That leaves a large swath of Americans in the middle who might still roll up their sleeves – including 27% who say they probably will and 27% who say they probably won’t – if someone credible addressed their concerns.
That’s where National Institutes of Health immunologist Kizzmekia Corbett comes in.
Corbett helped lead development of the Moderna shot, and she spends hours giving plain-spoken answers to questions from Americans – especially Black Americans like her – to counter misinformation about the three vaccines used in the U.S.
No, COVID-19 vaccines won´t cause infertility: “Whoever started that rumor, shame on you.”
Gas stations report shortages as pipeline shutdown drags on
(AP) – More than 1,000 gas stations in the Southeast reported running out of fuel, primarily because of what analysts say is unwarranted panic-buying among drivers, as the shutdown of a major pipeline by a gang of hackers entered its fifth day Tuesday.
Government officials acted swiftly to waive safety and environmental rules to speed the delivery of fuel by truck, ship or rail to motorists and airports, even as they sought to assure the public that there was no cause for alarm.
The Colonial Pipeline, the biggest fuel pipeline in the U.S., delivering about 45% of what is consumed on the East Coast, was hit on Friday with a cyberattack by hackers who lock up computer systems and demand a ransom to release them.
The attack raised concerns, once again, about the vulnerability of the nation´s critical infrastructure.
A large part of the pipeline resumed operations manually late Monday, and Colonial anticipates restarting most of its operations by the end of the week, U.S.
Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said.
Motorists may still feel a crunch because it takes a few days to ramp up operations, but she said there is no reason to hoard gasoline.
Judge dismisses NRA bankruptcy case in blow to gun group
DALLAS (AP) – A federal judge dismissed the National Rifle Association´s bankruptcy case Tuesday, leaving the powerful gun-rights group to face a New York state lawsuit that accuses it of financial abuses and aims to put it out of business.
The judge was tasked with deciding whether the NRA should be allowed to incorporate in Texas instead of New York, where the state is suing in an effort to disband the group.
Though headquartered in Virginia, the NRA was chartered as a nonprofit in New York in 1871 and is incorporated in the state.
Judge Harlin Hale said in a written order that he was dismissing the case because he found the bankruptcy was not filed in good faith.
“The Court believes the NRA´s purpose in filing bankruptcy is less like a traditional bankruptcy case in which a debtor is faced with financial difficulties or a judgment that it cannot satisfy and more like cases in which courts have found bankruptcy was filed to gain an unfair advantage in litigation or to avoid a regulatory scheme,” Hale wrote.
His decision followed 11 days of testimony and arguments.
Lawyers for New York and the NRA´s former advertising agency grilled the group´s embattled top executive, Wayne LaPierre, who acknowledged putting the NRA into Chapter 11 bankruptcy without the knowledge or assent of most of its board and other top officers.
Younger adolescents get ready to receive COVID-19 vaccine
MISSION, Kan. (AP) – Parents, schools and vaccine clinics rushed to begin inoculating younger adolescents Tuesday after U.S.
regulators endorsed Pfizer´s COVID-19 vaccine for children as young as 12, a decision seen as a breakthrough in allowing classroom instruction to resume safely around the country.
A handful of cities started offering shots to children ages 12 to 15 less than a day after the Food and Drug Administration gave the vaccine emergency use authorization for that age group.
Most communities were waiting for a federal advisory committee that meets Wednesday to sign off on the move, while anxious families called clinics and pharmacies to ask about the soonest appointments.
In Atlanta, 12-year-old Jane Ellen Norman got her first dose of the Pfizer vaccine at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Tuesday morning.
The girl said she looked forward to having “a little bit more freedom.”
Her mother, English Norman, said she also booked an appointment for her 14-year-old son immediately after learning that the FDA on Monday had declared the vaccine safe for the nearly 17 million 12- to 15-year-olds in the U.S.
Now, the entire family – including Norman’s husband, a physician, and their 17-year-old son – has begun the vaccination process.
“We´re five for five,” the 52-year-old artist said.
Pentagon chief during Jan. 6 riot defends military response
WASHINGTON (AP) – President Donald Trump’s acting defense secretary during the Jan. 6 Capitol riots plans to tell Congress that he was concerned in the days before the insurrection that sending troops to the building would fan fears of a military coup and could cause a repeat of the deadly Kent State shootings, according to a copy of prepared remarks obtained by The Associated Press.
Christopher Miller’s testimony is aimed at defending the Pentagon’s response to the chaos of the day and rebutting broad criticism that military forces were too slow to arrive even as pro-Trump rioters violently breached the building and stormed inside.
He casts himself as a deliberate leader who was determined that the military have only limited involvement, a perspective he says was shaped by criticism of the aggressive response to the civil unrest that roiled American cities months earlier, as well as decades-old episodes that ended in violence.
The Defense Department, he will tell members of the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday, has “an extremely poor record in supporting domestic law enforcement,” including during civil rights and anti-Vietnam War demonstrations in the 1960s and 1970s.
“And some 51 years ago, on May 4, 1970, Ohio National Guard troops fired at demonstrators at Kent State University and killed four American civilians,” Miller will say, adding, “I was committed to avoiding repeating these scenarios.”
He will also deny that Trump, criticized for failing to forcefully condemn the rioters, had any involvement in the Defense Department’s response and will say that Trump had even suggested that 10,000 troops might be needed for Jan. 6.
Scores of dead bodies found floating in India’s Ganges River
NEW DELHI (AP) – Scores of dead bodies have been found floating down the Ganges River in eastern India as the country battles a ferocious surge in coronavirus infections.
Authorities said Tuesday they haven’t yet determined the cause of death.
Health officials working through the night Monday retrieved 71 bodies, officials in Bihar state said.
Images on social media of the bodies floating in the river prompted outrage and speculation that they died from COVID-19.
Authorities performed post mortems on Tuesday but said they could not confirm the cause of death due to the decomposition of the bodies.
More corpses were found floating in the river on Tuesday, washing up in Ghazipur district in neighboring Uttar Pradesh state.
Police and villagers were at the site, about 50 kilometers (30 miles) from Monday´s incident.
“We are trying to find out where did these dead bodies come from? How did they get here?” said Mangla Prasad Singh, a local official.
Prosecutor plans to seek death penalty in spa shootings
ATLANTA (AP) – A man accused of killing eight people, six of them women of Asian descent, in shootings at three Atlanta-area massage businesses was indicted Tuesday on murder charges by two separate grand juries, and one prosecutor filed notice that she´ll also seek hate crime charges and the death penalty.
A Fulton County grand jury indicted Robert Aaron Long, 22, in the March 16 slayings of Suncha Kim, 69; Soon Chung Park, 74; Hyun Jung Grant, 51; and Yong Ae Yue, 63.
A separate grand jury in Cherokee County indicted Long for a separate shooting there that resulted in the killings of Xiaojie “Emily” Tan, 49; Daoyou Feng, 44; Delaina Yaun, 33; and Paul Michels, 54.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis also filed notice that she intends to seek hate crime charges and the death penalty against Long, who is white.
The hate crime charges are based on the actual or perceived race, national origin, sex and gender of the four women killed, the notice says.
There was no immediate filing in online court records in Cherokee County to indicate whether District Attorney Shannon Wallace intends to seek hate crimes charges or the death penalty.
Georgia´s new hate crimes law does not provide for a stand-alone hate crime.
After a person is convicted of an underlying crime, a jury must determine whether it´s a hate crime, which carries an additional penalty.