AP News in Brief at 11:04 p.m. EST

Hospitals have special protection under the rules of war. Why are they in the crosshairs in Gaza?

JERUSALEM (AP) — The head of surgery at Gaza’s largest and most advanced hospital held up his phone Saturday to the hammering of gunfire and artillery shelling. “Listen,” said Dr. Marwan Abu Sada as fighting raged around Shifa Hospital.

Shells hissed through the hospital courtyard and crashed into wards while Israeli soldiers and Hamas militants locked in close quarters combat. Doctors tried to help patients even as they ran for cover.

Abu Sada described Shifa as a deathtrap for thousands of war-wounded, medical staff and displaced civilians sheltering there. The Israeli military denied it launched direct strikes or placed Shifa under siege.

In this Israel-Hamas war, hospitals in the main combat zone of northern Gaza have increasingly ended up in the crosshairs as Israeli tanks crunch through the hollowed-out heart of Gaza City. They have also become flashpoints for warring narratives.

Israel says Hamas militants are using hospitals as shields for fighters but hasn't provided evidence of that, while Palestinians and rights groups accuse Israel of recklessly harming civilians seeking shelter.


Netanyahu rejects growing calls for a cease-fire as Israel battles Hamas outside main Gaza hospital

DEIR AL-BALAH, Gaza Strip (AP) — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pushed back Saturday against growing international calls for a cease-fire, saying Israel’s battle to crush Gaza’s ruling Hamas militants will continue with “full force.”

A cease-fire would be possible only if all 239 hostages held by militants in Gaza are released, Netanyahu said in a televised address.

The Israeli leader also insisted that after the war, now entering its sixth week, Gaza would be demilitarized and Israel would retain security control there. Asked what he meant by security control, Netanyahu said Israeli forces must be able to enter Gaza freely to hunt down militants.

He also rejected the idea that the Palestinian Authority, which currently administers autonomous areas in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, would at some stage control Gaza. Both positions run counter to post-war scenarios floated by Israel’s closest ally, the United States. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said the U.S. opposes an Israeli reoccupation of Gaza and envisions a unified Palestinian government in both Gaza and the West Bank at some stage as a step toward Palestinian statehood.

For now, Netanyahu said, “the war against (Hamas) is advancing with full force, and it has one goal, to win. There is no alternative to victory.”


More than 800 Sudanese reportedly killed in attack on Darfur town, UN says

CAIRO (AP) — Fighters from a paramilitary force and their allied Arab militias rampaged through a town in Sudan’s war-ravaged region of Darfur, reportedly killing more than 800 people in a multiday attack, doctors and the U.N. said.

The attack on Ardamata in West Darfur province earlier this month was the latest in a series of atrocities in Darfur that marked the monthslong war between the Sudanese military and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, RSF.

Sudan has been engulfed in chaos since in mid-April, when simmering tensions between military chief Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan and the commander of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, exploded into open warfare.

The war came 18 months after both generals removed a transitional government in a military coup. The military takeover ended Sudan's short-lived fragile transition to democracy following a popular uprising that forced the overthrow of longtime strongman Omar al-Bashir in April 2019.

In recent weeks the RSF advanced in Darfur, taking over entire cities and towns across the sprawling region, despite the warring parties’ return to the negotiating table in Saudi Arabia late last month. The first round of talks, brokered by the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, failed to establish a cease-fire.


Jim Biden's last name has helped open doors. It also has made him a target of House Republicans

ELLWOOD CITY, Pa. (AP) — When a health care startup dreamed of building a network of rural hospitals several years ago, it turned to Jim Biden.

Although he wasn’t a public health consultant or a medical expert, Jim Biden was the brother of Joe Biden, who had recently finished his term as vice president. The company's chief executive believed Jim Biden would help provide the enterprise with “serious horsepower."

But Jim Biden wasn’t the secret weapon that Americore Health Services was counting on. The company imploded in 2019, filing for bankruptcy amid a pile of lawsuits and a federal investigation into fraud allegations. Americore also accused Jim Biden of failing to repay $600,000 in loans.

Some of the Florida-based company’s hospitals closed, including one in Ellwood City, near the western edge of Pennsylvania, where medical equipment gathers dust and plywood covers broken windows. The only reminder of the bankrupt company’s brief tenure as the town’s biggest employer is a plaque honoring its donation to a nearby high school athletic field.

The fallout has extended to Washington, where Republicans are hunting for evidence that could be used to impeach Democratic President Joe Biden. It’s a playbook that they’ve already used on Joe Biden’s son Hunter, whose checkered history includes controversial overseas deal-making, accusations of tax evasion and a well-publicized struggle with addiction.


Pope Francis removes a leading US conservative critic as bishop of Tyler, Texas

ROME (AP) — Pope Francis on Saturday ordered the removal of the bishop of Tyler, Texas, a conservative prelate active on social media who has been a fierce critic of the pontiff and has come to symbolize the polarization within the U.S. Catholic hierarchy.

A one-line statement from the Vatican said Francis had “relieved” Bishop Joseph Strickland of the pastoral governance of Tyler and appointed the bishop of Austin as the temporary administrator.

Strickland, 65, has emerged as a leading critic of Francis, accusing him in a tweet earlier this year of “undermining the deposit of faith.” He has been particularly critical of Francis’ recent meeting on the future of the Catholic Church during which hot-button issues were discussed, including ways to better welcome LGBTQ+ Catholics.

Earlier this year, the Vatican sent in investigators to look into his governance of the diocese, amid reports that priests and laypeople in Tyler had complained and that he was making unorthodox claims.

The Vatican never released the findings and Strickland had insisted he wouldn’t resign voluntarily, saying in media interviews that he was given a mandate to serve as bishop in 2012 by the late Pope Benedict XVI and couldn’t abdicate that responsibility.


Trump joins media outlets in pushing for his federal election interference case to be televised

Donald Trump is pushing for his federal election interference trial in Washington to be televised, joining media outlets that say the American public should be able to watch the historic case unfold.

Federal court rules prohibit broadcasting proceedings, but The Associated Press and other news organizations say the unprecedented case of a former president standing trial on accusations that he tried to subvert the will of voters warrants making an exception.

The Justice Department is opposing the effort, arguing that the judge overseeing the case does not have the authority to ignore the long-standing nationwide policy against cameras in federal courtrooms. The trial is scheduled to begin on March 4.

``I want this trial to be seen by everybody in the world," Trump said Saturday during a presidential campaign event in New Hampshire. “The prosecution wishes to continue this travesty in darkness and I want sunlight.”

Lawyers for Trump wrote in court papers filed late Friday that all Americans should be able to observe what they characterize as a politically motivated prosecution of the Republican front-runner for his party’s 2024 nomination. The defense also suggested Trump will try to use the trial as a platform to repeat his unfounded claims that the 2020 election that he lost to Democrat Joe Biden was stolen from him. Trump has pleaded not guilty.


Dozens of Chinese ships chase Philippine vessels as US renews warning it will defend its treaty ally

ABOARD THE BRP CABRA (AP) — As a U.S. Navy surveillance plane flew in circles, keeping a close watch, dozens of Chinese coast guard and accompanying ships chased and encircled Philippine vessels in the latest confrontation in one of the most dangerous flashpoints in the South China Sea.

At the height of Friday’s four-hour faceoff in the high seas, a Chinese coast guard ship blasted a water cannon toward a Philippine motorboat delivering food and other supplies to Filipino forces on a marooned, rusting warship that serves as the country's fragile territorial outpost at Second Thomas Shoal.

China has steadfastly stood by its claim to virtually the entire strategic waterway, clashing with its smaller neighbors and drawing in the United States, Manila's treaty ally and China's main rival in the Asia-Pacific region. Washington and its allies have deployed navy ships and fighter aircraft to promote freedom of navigation and overflight, build up deterrence and reassure allies like the Philippines.

There are fears that the recurring confrontations at Second Thomas Shoal, which lies within the U.N.-sanctioned Philippine exclusive economic zone but is claimed by China and surrounded by its flotilla, could ignite an armed conflict pitting the U.S. against China. Philippine officials said Saturday they would never take any step that could ignite a larger conflict but would not be deterred in defending the country's sovereign rights in the South China Sea.

Despite the Chinese blockades and coercive maneuvers, the Philippine contingent managed to deliver supplies to the handful of Filipino marines aboard the BRP Sierra Madre and left without incident. The slightly listing Philippine warship, donated by the U.S., has been crumbling with age but is still actively commissioned, meaning an armed attack would be considered by Manila as an act of war.


Obesity drug Wegovy cut risk of serious heart problems by 20%, study finds

The popular weight-loss drug Wegovy reduced the risk of serious heart problems by 20% in a large, international study that experts say could change the way doctors treat certain heart patients.

The research is the first to document that an obesity medication can not only pare pounds, but also safely prevent a heart attack, stroke or a heart-related death in people who already have heart disease — but not diabetes.

The findings could shift perceptions that the new class of obesity drugs are cosmetic treatments and put pressure on health insurers to cover them.

“It moves from a kind of therapy that reduces body weight to a therapy that reduces cardiovascular events,” said Dr. Michael Lincoff, the study’s lead author and a heart expert at the Cleveland Clinic.

Wegovy is a high-dose version of the diabetes treatment Ozempic, which already has been shown to reduce the risk of serious heart problems in people who have diabetes. The new study looked to see if the same was true in those who don't have that disease.


Biden and Xi are set to meet next week at the APEC summit. No detail is too small to sweat

WASHINGTON (AP) — When President Joe Biden meets Chinese leader Xi Jinping on Wednesday, there will be no such thing as a small detail.

How they greet? If they eat? Where they sit? Will there be flowers? Bottled water or in a glass? “Pretty intense,” senior administration officials say of navigating delicate protocols.

Any encounter involving the president and a foreign leader means managing tricky logistics, political and cultural, and every occurrence or utterance can potentially jolt the world order. But few nations are more attuned to etiquette than the Chinese, and the often-conflicting interests between Washington and Beijing might mean the seemingly trivial becomes meaningful.

There’s probably "very detailed planning of the actual choreography of who enters a room where, if there will be pictures taken and all of that," said Bonny Lin, senior fellow for Asian security and director of the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Biden and Xi will meet while both attend next week's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in San Francisco. So far, even basic information has remained closely guarded. Statements Friday by China’s government didn’t mention the day or location. The White House, citing security concerns, says only that the meeting will be held “in the Bay area."


How researchers, farmers and brewers want to safeguard beer against climate change

MOUNT ANGEL, Ore. (AP) — On a bright day this fall, tractors crisscrossed Gayle Goschie's farm about an hour outside Portland, Oregon. Goschie is in the beer business — a fourth-generation hops farmer. Fall is the off-season, when the trellises are bare, but recently, her farming team has been adding winter barley, a relatively newer crop in the world of beer, to their rotation, preparing barley seeds by the bucketful.

In the face of human-caused climate change impacting water access and weather patterns in the Willamette Valley — a region known for hops growing — Goschie will need all the new strategies the farm can get to sustain what they produce and provide to local and larger breweries alike.

All of a sudden, climate change "was not coming any longer," Goschie said, “it was here.”

Climate change is anticipated to only further the challenges producers are already seeing in two key beer crops, hops and barley. Some hops and barley growers in the U.S. say they’ve already seen their crops impacted by extreme heat, drought and unpredictable growing seasons. Researchers are working with growers to help counter the effects of more volatile weather systems with improved hop varieties that can withstand drought and by adding winter barley to the mix.

Researchers have known for a while that beer production will be affected by climate change, said Mirek Trnka, a professor at the Global Change Research Institute. He and his team recently authored a study modeling the effect of climate change on hops, out last month in Nature Communications, that projected that yields in Europe will decrease between four to 18% by 2050. His first study on hops 15 years ago issued a similar warning to his latest paper.

The Associated Press