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Ukrainians plead for Mariupol rescue; Russian advance crawls

KHARKIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukrainian forces fought village by village Saturday to hold back a Russian advance through the country’s east, while the United Nations worked to broker a civilian evacuation from the last defensive stronghold in the bombed-out ruins of the port city of Mariupol.

An estimated 100,000 civilians remain in the city, and up to 1,000 are living beneath a sprawling Soviet-era steel plant, according to Ukrainian officials. Ukraine has not said how many fighters are also in the plant, the only part of Mariupol not occupied by Russian forces, but Russia put the number at about 2,000.

Russian state media outlets reported Saturday that 25 civilians had been evacuated from the Azovstal steelworks, though there was no confirmation from the U.N. Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency said 19 adults and six children were brought out, but gave no further details.

A top official with the Azov Regiment, the Ukrainian unit defending the plant, said 20 civilians were evacuated during a cease-fire, though it was not clear if he was referring to the same group as the Russian news reports.

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“These are women and children,” Sviatoslav Palamar said in a video posted on the regiment’s Telegram channel. He also called for the evacuation of the wounded: “We don’t know why they are not taken away and their evacuation to the territory controlled by Ukraine is not being discussed.”

Naomi Judd, of Grammy-winning duo The Judds, dies at 76

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Naomi Judd, whose family harmonies with daughter Wynonna turned them into the Grammy-winning country stars The Judds, has died. She was 76.

Her daughters, Wynonna and Ashley, announced her death on Saturday in a statement provided to The Associated Press.

“Today we sisters experienced a tragedy. We lost our beautiful mother to the disease of mental illness,” the statement said. “We are shattered. We are navigating profound grief and know that as we loved her, she was loved by her public. We are in unknown territory.”

Naomi Judd died near Nashville, Tennessee, said a statement on behalf of her husband and fellow singer, Larry Strickland. It said no further details about her death would be released and asked for privacy as the family grieves.

The Country Music Hall of Fame will continue with a planned induction ceremony for The Judds on Sunday.

Autopsy backlog plagues Mississippi, with worst delays in US

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — After Truitt Pace admitted to law enforcement that he beat and shot his wife, her family expected a swift conviction. The 34-year-old mother of three’s tiny frame was so bruised and traumatized that the funeral home suggested a closed casket. But as months went by, state prosecutors told Marsha Harbour’s family they were waiting on a key piece of evidence: the medical examiner’s autopsy report.

National standards recommend most autopsy reports be completed within 60 days. Prosecutors in Harbour’s case waited for a year.

Across Mississippi, many families wait even longer. An Associated Press analysis based on state data and documents, as well as dozens of interviews with officials and residents, found that Mississippi’s system has long operated in violation of national standards for death investigations, accruing a severe backlog of autopsies and reports.

Autopsies that should take days take weeks. Autopsy reports that should take months take a year or longer, as in Harbour’s case. Too few pathologists are doing too many autopsies. Some cases are transferred hundreds of miles to neighboring states for reports without their family’s knowledge.

The Mississippi State Medical Examiner’s Office was waiting for about 1,300 reports from as far back as 2011, records sent to AP in early April show. Around 800 of those involve homicides — meaning criminal cases are incomplete.

Biden order to boost mining may not have quick payoff

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden is turning to a Cold War-era law to boost production of lithium and other minerals used to power electric vehicles, but experts say the move by itself is unlikely to ensure the robust domestic mining Biden seeks as he promotes cleaner energy sources.

Biden’s action, part of his efforts to find alternatives to fossil fuels and combat climate change, does not waive or suspend existing environmental and labor standards, the White House said. Nor does it address the chief hurdle to increased domestic extraction of so-called critical minerals: the years-long process needed to obtain a federal permit for a new mine.

Even so, the mining industry and supporters in Congress cheered Biden’s use of the 1950 Defense Production Act to increase U.S. supplies of lithium, nickel and other minerals needed for electric-vehicles batteries and other clean-energy technology.

His March 31 executive order is a historic step by the White House to “recognize the critical importance of minerals and push to electrify the car industry,″ said Rich Nolan, president and CEO of the National Mining Association.

But “unless we continue to build on this action” and approve new hardrock mines, Nolan added, “we risk feeding the minerals dominance of geopolitical rivals” such as China and Russia.

Meadows says 1/6 panel has sought to publicly ‘vilify’ him

WASHINGTON (AP) — Former Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows accused the congressional committee investigating last year’s attack on the U.S. Capitol of leaking all of the text messages he provided to the panel in what he says was an effort to vilify him publicly.

The argument was made in a filing Friday in Washington’s federal court, where Meadows sued in December to invalidate subpoenas issued to him for his testimony and to Verizon for his cell phone records.

In the latest filing, lawyers for Meadows asked a judge to reject the committee’s request for a court ruling in its favor that could force Meadows to comply with the subpoenas. The committee requested an expedited briefing schedule Wednesday after filing its motion the previous week.

The lawyers say Meadows deserves a chance through the fact-gathering process known as discovery to gather information about questions that are still in dispute, such as the committee’s claims that former President Donald Trump did not properly invoke executive privilege over the items subpoenaed by the panel because he did not communicate that position directly to the committee.

“Mr. Meadows cannot possibly know whether that unsupported contention is true without discovery — or whether the Select Committee had awareness of former President Trump’s assertions,” the motion states. It adds that Meadows must have the ability to obtain any communications between the committee and Trump and possibly to take depositions of people familiar with those discussions.

Vegas water intake now visible at drought-stricken Lake Mead

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A massive drought-starved reservoir on the Colorado River has become so depleted that Las Vegas now is pumping water from deeper within Lake Mead where other states downstream don’t have access.

The Southern Nevada Water Authority announced this week that its Low Lake Level Pumping Station is operational, and released photos of the uppermost intake visible at 1,050 feet (320 meters) above sea level at the lake behind Hoover Dam.

“While this emphasizes the seriousness of the drought conditions, we have been preparing for this for more than a decade,” said Bronson Mack, water authority spokesman. The low-level intake allows Las Vegas “to maintain access to its primary water supply in Lake Mead, even if water levels continue to decline due to ongoing drought and climate change conditions,” he said.

The move to begin using what had been seen as an in-case-we-need-it hedge against taps running dry comes as water managers in several states that rely on the Colorado River take new steps to conserve water amid what has become perpetual drought.

“We don’t have enough water supplies right now to meet normal demand. The water is not there,” Metropolitan Water District of Southern California spokesperson Rebecca Kimitch said this week. The agency told some 6 million people in sprawling Los Angeles, Ventura and San Bernardino counties to cut their outdoor watering to one day a week, effective June 1, or face stiff fines.

Warren Buffett tells shareholders about spending $51 billion

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Warren Buffett gave Berkshire Hathaway investors a few details Saturday about how he spent more than $50 billion earlier this year and again reassured them that the company he built will endure long after the 91-year-old billionaire is gone.

Tens of thousands of investors packed an Omaha arena Saturday to listen to Buffett and Berkshire’s vice chairmen answer questions at Berkshire’s annual meeting that was back in person for the first time since the pandemic began, but the turnout was likely smaller than when it used to regularly attract more than 40,000.

Berkshire revealed in its earnings report Saturday morning that its mountain of cash shrank to $106 billion in the first quarter from $147 billion at the beginning of the year as Buffett invested $51 billion in stocks and repurchased $3.2 billion of its own shares.

Buffett told shareholders that right after he told them in his annual letter on Feb. 26 that he was having trouble finding anything to buy at attractive prices, Berkshire spent more than $40 billion on stocks over the next three weeks.

Buffett didn’t reveal everything he bought but did mention several highlights, including boosting Berkshire’s stake in oil giant Chevron to $26 billion, up from $4.5 billion at the beginning of the year to make it one of the conglomerate’s four biggest investments. Berkshire also spent billions buying up 14% of Occidental Petroleum’s shares in the first half of March, and added to its already massive investment in Apple stock.

Motorcycles rumble through Canadian capital under police eye

OTTAWA (AP) — Motorcycles rumbled through the streets of Canada’s capital city Saturday while a strong police presence kept a close eye on a couple of rallies during the “Rolling Thunder” protest.

Many of the protesters involved in a morning service at the National War Memorial and a later rally on Parliament Hill were also involved in the “Freedom Convoy” that shuttered downtown Ottawa for weeks in February.

Police made a handful of arrests Saturday, including a driver who allegedly tried to jump onto a sidewalk to get around officers. Police arrested the person for dangerous driving and found them in breach of their bail conditions related to the previous protest, when they were ordered not to return to Ottawa.

Ottawa By-law and Regulatory Services said more than 560 tickets have been handed out for parking violations, smoking, noise and encumbering a highway, and 39 vehicles have been towed since Friday morning.

Hundreds of demonstrators gathered at the National War Memorial which was a focal point during the early days of the February protests.

Bill Murray says his behavior led to complaint, film’s pause

Bill Murray on Saturday acknowledged that his behavior on set led to a complaint from a woman and the suspension of filming on his latest movie.

The actor and comedian, in his first comments about the shutdown of “Being Mortal,” described the incident as a “difference of opinion” but declined to provide specifics on what transpired, or who it involved.

“I did something I thought was funny and it wasn’t taken that way,” he told CNBC during an interview at the annual shareholders meeting for Berkshire Hathaway. “The movie studio wanted to do the right thing so they wanted to check it all out, investigate it and so they stopped the production.”

Murray said he and the unnamed woman are talking it through and “trying to make peace with each other.” He didn’t say when or if production would resume and whether he’d continue to take part in the film.

“We’re both professionals,” Murray said of the woman. “We like each other’s work. We like each other I think and if you can’t really get along and trust each other, there’s no point in going further working together or making a movie as well.”

Angelina Jolie makes surprise Ukraine visit, meets children

LVIV, Ukraine (AP) — Hollywood actress and U.N. humanitarian Angelina Jolie made a surprise visit to the western Ukrainian city of Lviv on Saturday, the Lviv regional governor said on Telegram.

According to Maksym Kozytskyy, Jolie — who has been a UNHCR Special Envoy for Refugees since 2011 — had come to speak with displaced people who have found refuge in Lviv, including children undergoing treatment for injuries sustained in the missile strike on the Kramatorsk railway station in early April.

The attack in the eastern Ukrainian city appeared to deliberately target a crowd of mostly women and children trying to flee a looming Russian offensive, killing at least 52 and wounding dozens more.

“She was very moved by (the children’s) stories,” Kozytskyy wrote. “One girl was even able to privately tell Ms. Jolie about a dream she’d had.”

He said Jolie also visited a boarding school, talk with students and took photos with them, adding “she promised she would come again.”

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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