Russia takes losses in failed river crossing, officials say
KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian forces suffered heavy losses in a Ukrainian attack that destroyed a pontoon bridge they were using to try to cross a river in the east, Ukrainian and British officials said in another sign of Moscow’s struggle to salvage a war gone awry.
Ukrainian authorities, meanwhile, opened the first war crimes trial of the conflict Friday. The defendant, a captured Russian soldier, stands accused of shooting to death a 62-year-old civilian in the early days of the war.
The trial got underway as Russia’s offensive in the Donbas, Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland, seemed to turn increasingly into a grinding war of attrition.
Ukraine’s airborne command released photos and video of what it said was a damaged Russian pontoon bridge over the Siversky Donets River and several destroyed or damaged Russian military vehicles nearby. The command said its troops “drowned the Russian occupiers.”
Britain’s Defense Ministry said Russia lost “significant armored maneuver elements” of at least one battalion tactical group in the attack earlier this week. A Russian battalion tactical group consists of about 1,000 troops.
Turkey’s leader opposes letting Finland, Sweden join NATO
HELSINKI (AP) — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday that his country is “not favorable” toward Finland and Sweden joining NATO, indicating Turkey could use its membership in the Western military alliance to veto moves to admit the two countries.
“We are following developments concerning Sweden and Finland, but we are not of a favorable opinion,” Erdogan told reporters.
The Turkish leader explained his opposition by citing Sweden and other Scandinavian countries’ alleged support for Kurdish militants and others whom Turkey considers to be terrorists.
He said he also did not want to repeat Turkey’s past “mistake” from when it agreed to readmit Greece into NATO’s military wing in 1980. He claimed the action had allowed Greece “to take an attitude against Turkey” with NATO’s backing.
Erdogan did not say outright that he would block any accession attempts by the two Nordic nations. However, NATO makes all its decisions by consensus, meaning that each of the 30 member countries has a potential veto over who can join.
Musk puts Twitter buy ‘on hold,’ casting doubt on $44B deal
DETROIT (AP) — Tesla billionaire Elon Musk has put his plan to buy Twitter on what he called a temporary “hold,” raising fresh doubts about whether he’ll proceed with the $44 billion acquisition.
Musk tweeted early Friday that he wanted to pinpoint the number of spam and fake accounts on the social media platform. He has been vocal about his desire to clean up Twitter’s problem with “spam bots” that mimic real people, and he appeared to question whether Twitter was underreporting them.
But the company has disclosed in regulatory filings that its bot estimates might be low for at least two years, leading some analysts to believe that Musk could be raising the issue as a reason to back out of the purchase.
“Twitter deal temporarily on hold pending details supporting calculation that spam/fake accounts do indeed represent less than 5% of users,” Musk tweeted Friday morning, indicating he’s skeptical that the number of inauthentic accounts is that low.
On Friday, Musk subsequently tweeted that he’s “still committed to acquisition.” Neither Twitter nor Musk responded Friday to requests for comment. Musk has conducted a long flirtation with Twitter that culminated in an April deal to acquire the social platform.
Israeli police beat pallbearers at journalist’s funeral
JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli riot police on Friday pushed and beat pallbearers at the funeral for slain Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, causing them to briefly drop the casket in a shocking start to a procession that turned into perhaps the largest display of Palestinian nationalism in Jerusalem in a generation.
The scenes of violence were likely to add to the sense of grief and outrage across the Arab world that has followed the death of Abu Akleh, who witnesses say was killed by Israeli troops Wednesday during a raid in the occupied West Bank. They also illustrated the deep sensitivities over east Jerusalem — which is claimed by both Israel and the Palestinians and has sparked repeated rounds of violence.
Abu Akleh, 51, was a household name across the Arab world, synonymous with Al Jazeera’s coverage of life under Israeli rule, which is well into its sixth decade with no end in sight. A 25-year veteran of the satellite channel, she was revered by Palestinians as a local hero.
Thousands of people, many waving Palestinian flags and chanting “Palestine! Palestine!” attended the funeral. It was believed to be the largest Palestinian funeral in Jerusalem since Faisal Husseini, a Palestinian leader and scion of a prominent family, died in 2001.
Ahead of the burial, a large crowd gathered to escort her casket from an east Jerusalem hospital to a Catholic church in the nearby Old City. Many of the mourners held Palestinian flags, and the crowd began shouting, “We sacrifice our soul and blood for you, Shireen.”
Fatal boat trip highlights Haitians fleeing violence
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Haitians are fleeing in greater numbers to the neighboring Dominican Republic, where they board rickety wooden boats painted sky blue to blend with the ocean to try to reach Puerto Rico — a trip in which 11 Haitian women drowned this week, with dozens of other migrants believed missing.
It was the latest fatal trip as U.S. authorities said they have detained twice the number of migrants in and around U.S. jurisdictions in the Caribbean in the past year compared with a year earlier.
“We’ve seen our Haitian numbers explode,” Scott Garrett, acting chief patrol agent for U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Puerto Rico, told The Associated Press.
Garrett and others say Haiti’s political instability, coupled with brutal gang violence and a crumbling economy, have prompted people to flee, with more doing so via the Dominican Republic. Both countries share the island of Hispaniola, which lies west of Puerto Rico, with a treacherous area known as the Mona Passage separating the two.
In the most recent capsizing, spotted on Thursday, 11 bodies of Haitian women were found and 38 people rescued — 36 of them Haitians and two from the Dominican Republic. Authorities say one of those rescued was charged with human smuggling. The boat capsized about 11 miles (18 kilometers) north of the uninhabited island of Desecheo, west of Puerto Rico. Dozens are believed missing.
House subpoenas its own, grave new norm after Jan. 6 attack
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Jan. 6 committee’s remarkable decision to subpoena House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and other congressional Republicans over the deadly insurrection at the Capitol is as rare as the deadly riot itself, deepening the acrimony and distrust among lawmakers and raising questions about what comes next.
The outcome is certain to reverberate beyond the immediate investigation of Donald Trump’s unfounded efforts to overturn Joe Biden’s presidential election victory. Fuming Republicans vow to use the same tools, weaponizing congressional subpoena powers if they wrest control of the House in November’s midterm elections to go after Democrats, even at the highest levels in Congress.
“It’s setting a very jarring and dangerous precedent,” said Rep. Peter Meijer of Michigan, who was among the handful of Republicans who voted to impeach Trump over the insurrection.
On Friday, the subpoenas for McCarthy and the five Republican lawmakers were served as the committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol is wrapping up its initial phase. Public hearings are expected to begin in June, and the panel is still determining whether to call Republican senators to testify.
While the summons for McCarthy and the other Republican lawmakers was not wholly unexpected, it amplified concerns over the new norm-setting in Congress.
Baby formula shortage fueling spike in milk bank interest
The U.S. baby formula shortage has sparked a surge of interest at milk banks around the U.S. with some mothers offering to donate breast milk and desperate parents calling to see if it’s a solution to keep their babies fed.
It’s a pathway that won’t work for every formula-fed baby, especially those with special dietary needs, and it comes with challenges because the country’s dozens of nonprofit milk banks prioritize feeding medically fragile infants. The organizations collect milk from mothers and process it, including through pasteurization, then work with hospitals to distribute it.
The shortage stemmed from a safety recall and supply disruptions and has captured national attention with panicked parents looking to swap and buy formula online and President Joe Biden urging manufacturers to increase production and discussing with retailers how they could restock shelves to meet regional disparities. Biden’s administration also said Friday that formula maker Abbott Laboratories committed to give rebates through August for a food stamp-like program that helps women, infants and children called WIC.
At the Mothers’ Milk Bank Northeast, based in Newton, Massachusetts, interest in donating and receiving milk because of the shortage has spiked. Typically, the milk bank gets about 30-50 calls a month from people looking to donate. On Thursday alone, 35 calls came in from potential donors, said Deborah Youngblood, the bank’s executive director.
“It’s interesting the first sort of response that we got was from potential donors — so people responding to the formula shortage with sort of an amazing, compassionate response of how can I be part of the solution?” she said.
‘From crisis to death’: Probing teen’s last, desperate hours
MISSION, Kan. (AP) — “Y’all here to protect me,” the youth asked the officers, beseechingly. “Right?”
The 17-year-old’s foster father, unable to deal with a teen who seemed to be in the throes of schizophrenia, had called Wichita police. When they arrived, Cedric “C.J.” Lofton refused to leave the porch and go with them; he was obstinate but afraid, meek but frantic.
After an hourlong stalemate, the police lost patience. It was time to take him away — by force, if necessary.
And so began the last two days of a life plagued by family dysfunction, brushes with the law, years in foster care and, finally, mental illness. The events leading to C.J.’s death, just a day short of his 18th birthday, would be captured on video; the result would be litigation, pleas for reform, cries that the system had failed yet another Black youth.
Authorities would decide against any prosecutions in connection with his death. But there were crucial errors, and vital holes in the safety net that had fatal consequences.
New York AG lawyer: Evidence could support action vs. Trump
NEW YORK (AP) — As a federal judge weighs Donald Trump’s lawsuit seeking to halt a civil investigation into his business practices, a lawyer for the New York attorney general’s office said Friday that evidence found throughout the three-year probe could support legal action against the former president, his company, or both.
The lawyer, Andrew Amer, said at a hearing in Trump’s lawsuit against Attorney General Letitia James that “there’s clearly been a substantial amount of evidence amassed that could support the filing of an enforcement proceeding,” although a final determination on filing such an action has not been made.
Amer, a special litigation counsel in James’ office, said the office is “nearing the end” of the civil investigation, which James has said uncovered evidence Trump’s company misstated the value of assets like skyscrapers and golf courses on financial statements for more than a decade.
James could decide to bring a lawsuit and seek financial penalties against Trump or his company, or even a ban on them being involved in certain types of businesses, as happened in January when a judge barred ex-drug company CEO Martin Shkreli from the pharmaceutical industry for life.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has said that a parallel criminal investigation into Trump is continuing, although the term of a grand jury hearing evidence in that matter expired last month.
Mickelson decides not to defend title at PGA Championship
Phil Mickelson withdrew Friday from the PGA Championship, electing to extend his hiatus from golf following his incendiary comments about a Saudi-funded rival league he supports and the PGA Tour he accused of greed.
Mickelson made history in the PGA last year when he won at Kiawah Island at age 50, making him the oldest champion in 161 years of the majors.
He has not played since Feb. 6 at the Saudi International and has been out of public view.
Mickelson met the deadline to sign up for the PGA Championship on April 25, though his manager said Lefty was unsure about playing but wanted to keep his options open.
The PGA of America announced his decision on social media.