US strikes Iran-linked sites in Syria in retaliation for attacks on US troops
WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. military launched airstrikes early Friday on two locations in eastern Syria linked to Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps, the Pentagon said, in retaliation for a slew of drone and missile attacks against U.S. bases and personnel in the region that began early last week.
The U.S. strikes reflect the Biden administration's determination to maintain a delicate balance. The U.S. wants to hit Iranian-backed groups suspected of targeting the U.S. as strongly as possible to deter future aggression, possibly fueled by Israel's war against Hamas, while also working to avoid inflaming the region and provoking a wider conflict.
Information about the specific targets and other details were not yet provided.
According to the Pentagon, there have been at least 12 attacks on U.S. bases and personnel in Iraq and four in Syria since Oct. 17. Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said 21 U.S. personnel were injured in two of those assaults that used drones to target al-Asad Airbase in Iraq and al-Tanf Garrison in Syria.
In a statement, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the “precision self-defense strikes are a response to a series of ongoing and mostly unsuccessful attacks against U.S. personnel in Iraq and Syria by Iranian-backed militia groups that began on October 17.”
Heavily armed police surround home in search for suspect in the fatal shooting of 18 in Maine
LEWISTON, Maine (AP) — Heavily armed police surrounded a home Thursday as they searched for a U.S. Army reservist who authorities say killed 18 people and wounded 13 in a mass shooting at a bowling alley and a bar in Lewiston, Maine.
“You need to come outside now with nothing in your hands. Your hands in the air,” police shouted through a megaphone outside the home owned by suspect Robert Card’s relative near the town of Bowdoin.
Dozens of law enforcement officials had descended on the property, with extended announcements calling for Card and anyone in the home to come out into the driveway. In most instances when police execute warrants — even for suspects wanted for violent crimes — they move quickly to enter the home.
“The announcements that are being heard over a loudspeaker are standard search warrant announcements when executing a warrant to ensure the safety of all involved,” state police spokesperson Shannon Moss said. “It is unknown whether Robert Card is in any of the homes law enforcement will search.”
Hundreds of law enforcement agents, including dozens of FBI agents, have been hunting for Card, a 40-year-old reservist with a history of mental health issues, since Wednesday night's shootings at a bowling alley and a bar that sent panicked patrons scrambling under tables and behind bowling pins and gripped the entire state of Maine in fear.
Maine passed a law to try to prevent mass shootings. Some say more is needed after Lewiston killings
PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Barely four years before a gunman's deadly rampage in Maine, a state that is staunchly protective of gun rights, the governor signed a law aimed at preventing a mass shooting like the one Wednesday night that claimed at least 18 lives.
It was called a “yellow flag” law, different from the “red flag” laws cropping up in other states to seize weapons from gun owners viewed as a threat. In a sign of the pro-Second Amendment mindset in Maine, a gun-rights group helped write the law, and critics said that, while it was a first step toward stronger gun safety measures, the state could save more lives by doing more — like passing a red flag law.
The yellow flag law and permissive gun measures in Maine are coming under greater scrutiny in the aftermath of a massacre that authorities say was carried out by a man who was committed to a mental health facility for two weeks this past summer and had reported “hearing voices and threats to shoot up” a military base.
It was not clear whether anyone had used the yellow flag law in the suspect’s case, but gun-control advocates on Thursday blamed the killings on what one called Maine's “weak gun laws.”
Vice President Kamala Harris said gun violence is the leading cause of death for children in the U.S. and called on Congress to pass stronger laws, including making background checks universal, passing a red flag law and banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
Israeli troops briefly raid northern Gaza to 'prepare' for an expected full-scale incursion
RAFAH, Gaza Strip (AP) — Israeli troops and tanks briefly raided northern Gaza overnight, the military said Thursday, engaging with Hamas fighters and targeting anti-tank weapons in order to “prepare the battlefield” before an expected ground invasion.
The third Israeli raid since the war began came after more than two weeks of devastating airstrikes that have left thousands dead, and more than 1 million displaced from their homes, in the small, densely-populated territory.
The U.S. military, meanwhile, launched airstrikes early Friday on two locations in eastern Syria linked to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, the Pentagon said, in retaliation for drone and missile attacks against U.S. bases and personnel in the region that began early last week.
Arab leaders made a joint plea Thursday for a cease-fire to end civilian suffering and allow humanitarian aid into Gaza, where Israel has imposed a suffocating siege ever since Hamas’ rampage and hostage-taking in southern Israel ignited the war. Residents are running out of food, water and medicine, and U.N. workers have barely any fuel left to support relief missions.
The rising death toll in Gaza is unprecedented in the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Health Ministry in Hamas-ruled Gaza said Thursday more than 7,000 Palestinians have died in the fighting, a figure that could not be independently verified. Even greater loss of life could come if Israel launches a ground offensive aimed at crushing Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since 2007 and survived four previous wars with Israel.
EXPLAINER: What is Gaza's Ministry of Health and how does it calculate the war's death toll?
JERUSALEM (AP) — How many Palestinians have been killed in the Gaza Strip since the war between Israel and Hamas started?
With Israel besieging and bombing territory at a scale never seen before, arriving at a precise answer isn't easy. Cell service is spotty. Internet and power are out. Airstrikes have pulverized roads and leveled neighborhoods, slowing rescue work.
Doctors scribble on notepads in overflowing morgues and hospital halls, struggling to account for bodies trapped under rubble and tossed in hastily dug mass graves. The chaos has added to the likelihood of errors.
Yet the Gaza-based Ministry of Health — an agency in the Hamas-controlled government — continues to tally casualty numbers. It released its first detailed report on the casualties Thursday, giving names, ID numbers, ages and gender for Palestinians it says have been killed. The total toll is 7,028 Palestinians, including 2,913 minors, according to the ministry.
The ministry is the only official source for Gaza casualties. Israel has sealed Gaza’s borders, barring foreign journalists and humanitarian workers. The AP is among a small number of international news organizations with teams in Gaza. While those journalists cannot do a comprehensive count, they’ve viewed large numbers of bodies at the sites of airstrikes, morgues and funerals.
New US House speaker tried to help overturn the 2020 election, raising concerns about the next one
The new leader of one of the chambers of Congress that will certify the winner of next year's presidential election helped spearhead the attempt to overturn the last one, raising alarms that Republicans could try to subvert the will of the voters if they remain in power despite safeguards enacted after the 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Mike Johnson, the Louisiana congressman who was elected speaker of the House of Representatives on Wednesday after a three-week standoff among Republicans, took the lead in filing a brief in a lawsuit that sought to overturn Joe Biden's 2020 presidential election win. That claim, widely panned by legal scholars of all ideologies, was quickly thrown out by the U.S. Supreme Court.
After the 2020 election, Johnson also echoed some of the wilder conspiracy theories pushed by then-President Donald Trump to explain away his loss. Then Johnson voted against certifying Biden's win even after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
Johnson's role three years ago is relevant now not only because the speaker is second in the line of presidential succession, after the vice president. The House Johnson now leads also will have to certify the winner of the 2024 presidential election.
“You don't want people who falsely claim the last election was stolen to be in a position of deciding who won the next one,” said Rick Hasen, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. On Wednesday, he flagged another worry about Johnson, who is a constitutional lawyer.
Hurricane Otis survivors search for friends and necessities in devastated Acapulco
ACAPULCO, Mexico (AP) — Survivors of a Category 5 storm that killed at least 27 people as it devastated Mexico’s resort city of Acapulco spent Thursday searching for acquaintances and necessities and hoping that aid would come quickly in the wake of Hurricane Otis.
The Pacific storm had strengthened with shocking swiftness before slamming into the coast early Wednesday, and the Mexican government deployed around 10,000 troops to deal with the aftermath. But equipment to move tons of mud and fallen trees from the streets was slow in arriving.
Resentment grew Thursday in impoverished neighborhoods as residents worried that government attention would go to repairing infrastructure for the city's economic engine of tourism rather than helping the neediest.
Flora Contreras Santos, a housewife from a poor neighborhood on the outskirts of the city, sought help in looking for a 3-year-old girl who was swept away from her mother in a mudslide. She went from soldier to soldier trying to interest any one of them in the tragedy that occurred on her street at the height of the storm.
“The mountain came down on them. The mud took her from the mother’s arms,” Contreras said. “We need help, the mother is in bad shape and we can’t find the girl.”
Autoworkers reach a deal with Ford, a breakthrough toward ending strikes against Detroit automakers
DETROIT (AP) — The United Auto Workers union said Wednesday it has reached a tentative contract agreement with Ford that could be a breakthrough toward ending the nearly 6-week-old strikes against Detroit automakers.
The four-year deal, which still has to be approved by 57,000 union members at the company, could bring a close to the union’s series of strikes at targeted factories run by Ford, General Motors and Jeep maker Stellantis.
The Ford deal could set the pattern for agreements with the other two automakers, where workers will remain on strike. The UAW called on all workers at Ford to return to their jobs and said that will put pressure on GM and Stellantis to bargain. Announcements on how to do that will come later.
“We told Ford to pony up, and they did,” President Shawn Fain said in a video address to members. “We won things no one thought possible.” He added that Ford put 50% more money on the table than it did before the strike started on Sept. 15.
UAW Vice President Chuck Browning, the chief negotiator with Ford, said workers will get a 25% general wage increase, plus cost of living raises that will put the pay increase over 30%, to above $40 per hour for top-scale assembly plant workers by the end of the contract.
Judge says Georgia's congressional and legislative districts are discriminatory and must be redrawn
ATLANTA (AP) — A federal judge ruled Thursday that some of Georgia's congressional, state Senate and state House districts were drawn in a racially discriminatory manner, ordering the state to draw an additional Black-majority congressional district.
U.S. District Judge Steve Jones, in a 516-page order, also ordered the state to draw two new Black-majority districts in Georgia's 56-member state Senate and five new Black-majority districts in its 180-member state House.
Jones ordered Georgia’s Republican majority General Assembly and governor to fix the maps by Dec. 8, saying he would redaw districts if lawmakers did not. Hours after the ruling, Gov. Brian Kemp issued a call for a special session to begin Nov. 29 to redraw congressional and legislative districts, although a spokesperson for the governor said that is a scheduling decision and doesn't mean the Republican opposes an appeal.
Jones’ ruling follows an eight-day September trial in which the plaintiffs argued that Black voters are still fighting opposition from white voters and need federal help to get a fair shot, while the state argued court intervention on behalf of Black voters wasn’t needed.
“Georgia has made great strides since 1965 toward equality in voting,” Jones wrote. “However, the evidence before this court shows that Georgia has not reached the point where the political process has equal openness and equal opportunity for everyone.”
Former Premier Li Keqiang, China’s top economic official for a decade, dies at 68
BEIJING (AP) — Former Premier Li Keqiang, China’s top economic official for a decade, died Friday of a heart attack. He was 68.
Li was China’s No. 2 leader from 2013-23 and an advocate for private business but was left with little authority after President Xi Jinping made himself the most powerful Chinese leader in decades and tightened control over the economy and society.
CCTV said Li had been resting in Shanghai recently and had a heart attack on Thursday. He died at 12:10 a.m. Friday.
Li, an English-speaking economist, was considered a contender to succeed then-Communist Party leader Hu Jintao in 2013 but was passed over in favor of Xi. Reversing the Hu era’s consensus-oriented leadership, Xi centralized powers in his own hands, leaving Li and others on the party’s ruling seven-member Standing Committee with little influence.
As the top economic official, Li promised to improve conditions for entrepreneurs who generate jobs and wealth. But the ruling party under Xi increased the dominance of state industry and tightened control over tech and other industries. Foreign companies said they felt unwelcome after Xi and other leaders called for economic self-reliance, expanded an anti-spying law and raided offices of consulting firms.
The Associated Press