Alabama Supreme Court Rules Frozen Embryos Are ‘Children’ Under State Law

Montgomery, Alabama — The Alabama Supreme Court has ruled that frozen embryos can be considered children under state law, a ruling critics said could have sweeping implications for fertility treatments. 

The decision was issued in a pair of wrongful death cases brought by three couples who had frozen embryos destroyed in an accident at a fertility clinic. Justices, citing anti-abortion language in the Alabama Constitution, ruled that an 1872 state law allowing parents to sue over the death of a minor child “applies to all unborn children, regardless of their location.” 

“Unborn children are ‘children’ … without exception based on developmental stage, physical location, or any other ancillary characteristics,” Justice Jay Mitchell wrote in the majority ruling Friday from the all-Republican court. 

Mitchell said the court had previously ruled that fetuses killed while a woman is pregnant are covered under Alabama’s Wrongful Death of a Minor Act and nothing excludes “extrauterine children from the Act’s coverage.” 

The ruling brought a rush of warnings about the potential impact on fertility treatments and the freezing of embryos, which had previously been considered property by the courts. 

“This ruling is stating that a fertilized egg, which is a clump of cells, is now a person. It really puts into question the practice of IVF,” Barbara Collura, CEO of RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association, said in an interview Tuesday. The group called the decision a “terrifying development for the 1 in 6 people impacted by infertility” who need in-vitro fertilization. 

She said it raises questions for providers and patients, including if they can freeze future embryos created during fertility treatment or if patients could ever donate or destroy unused embryos. 

The plaintiffs in the Alabama case had undergone IVF treatments that led to the creation of several embryos, some of which were implanted and resulted in healthy births. The couples had paid to keep others frozen in a storage facility at the Mobile Infirmary Medical Center. A patient in 2020 wandered into the area and removed several embryos, dropping them on the floor and “killing them,” the ruling said. 

The justices ruled that wrongful death lawsuits by the couples could proceed. 

An anti-abortion group cheered the decision. “Each person, from the tiniest embryo to an elder nearing the end of his life, has incalculable value that deserves and is guaranteed legal protection,” Lila Rose, president and founder of Live Action said in a statement. 

Chief Justice Tom Parker issued a concurring opinion that quoted the Bible as he discussed the meaning of the phrase “the sanctity of unborn life” in the Alabama Constitution. 

“Even before birth, all human beings bear the image of God, and their lives cannot be destroyed without effacing his glory,” Parker said. 

Justice Greg Cook, who filed the only full dissent to the majority opinion, said the 1872 law did not define “minor child” and was being stretched from the original intent to cover frozen embryos. 

“Moreover, there are other significant reasons to be concerned about the main opinion’s holding. No court — anywhere in the country — has reached the conclusion the main opinion reaches,” he wrote, adding the ruling “almost certainly ends the creation of frozen embryos through in vitro fertilization (IVF) in Alabama.” 

The Alabama Supreme Court decision partly hinged on anti-abortion language added to the Alabama Constitution in 2018, stating that it is the “public policy of this state to ensure the protection of the rights of the unborn child.” 

Supporters at the time said it would “be a declaration of voters’ beliefs” and would have no impact unless states gain more control over abortion access. States gained control of abortion access in 2022. Critics at the time said it would have broad ramifications for civil and criminal law beyond abortion access and that it was essentially a “personhood” measure that would establish constitutional rights for fertilized eggs. 

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Two Charged With Murder Over Super Bowl Parade Shooting

Washington — Two men have been charged with murder over the shooting at the Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl parade which left one person dead and 22 wounded, officials said Tuesday. 

Dominic Miller and Lyndell Mays, both local residents, were charged with second-degree murder, armed criminal action and unlawful use of a weapon, Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker told reporters. 

Peters Baker said Mays got into a verbal altercation with other individuals at the parade that “very quickly escalated.”

She said Miller allegedly fired the shots that killed a local DJ, Lisa Lopez-Galvan.

Peters Baker said both men were being held on $1 million bond and face a potential sentence of life in prison on the murder charges.

The prosecutor said the arrests of Miller and Mays were in addition to those of two juveniles whose arrests were announced last week.

The pair, who were not identified because of their ages, are facing gun-related charges and are accused of resisting arrest.

The shooting took place on Wednesday at the victory parade which had attracted up to a million fans to downtown Kansas City.

The Chiefs were celebrating their third Super Bowl title in five seasons after beating the San Francisco 49ers in Las Vegas on Sunday.

Mass shootings are common in the United States, where there are more guns than people and about a third of adults own a firearm.

President Joe Biden deplored the shooting and issued a rallying call for Americans to back his pleas for Congress to enact gun reform. 

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Supreme Court Rejects Appeal From Trump-Allied Lawyers Over 2020 Election Lawsuit

Washington — The Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected an appeal from Sidney Powell and other lawyers allied with former President Donald Trump over $150,000 in sanctions they were ordered to pay for abusing the court system with a sham lawsuit challenging the 2020 election results in Michigan. 

The justices did not comment in leaving in place the sanctions against seven lawyers who were part of the lawsuit filed on behalf of six Republican voters after Joe Biden’s 154,000-vote victory over Trump in the state. 

Among the lawyers is L. Lin Wood, whose name was on the lawsuit. Wood has insisted he had no role other than to tell Powell he would be available if she needed a seasoned litigator. 

The money is owed to the state and Detroit, for their costs in defending the lawsuit. The sanctions initially totaled $175,000, but a federal appeals court reduced them by about $25,000. 

In October, Powell pleaded guilty to state criminal charges in Georgia over her efforts to overturn Trump’s loss in the state. She pleaded guilty to six misdemeanors accusing her of conspiring to intentionally interfere with the performance of election duties. 

Powell gained notoriety for saying in November 2020 that she would “release the Kraken,” invoking a mythical sea monster when talking about a lawsuit she planned to file to challenge the results of the presidential election.

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Britain, US, EU, Allies Take Down Lockbit Cybercrime Gang

LONDON — Lockbit, a notorious cybercrime gang that holds its victims’ data for ransom, has been disrupted in a rare international law enforcement operation by Britain’s National Crime Agency, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, Europol and a coalition of international police agencies, according to a post on the gang’s extortion website on Monday.

“This site is now under the control of the National Crime Agency of the UK, working in close cooperation with the FBI and the international law enforcement task force, ‘Operation Cronos,’” the post said.

An NCA spokesperson confirmed that the agency had disrupted the gang and said the operation was “ongoing and developing.”

A representative for Lockbit did not respond to messages from Reuters seeking comment but did post messages on an encrypted messaging app saying it had backup servers not affected by the law enforcement action.

The U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The post named other international police organizations from France, Japan, Switzerland, Canada, Australia, Sweden, the Netherlands, Finland and Germany.

Lockbit and its affiliates have hacked some of the world’s largest organizations in recent months. The gang makes money by stealing sensitive data and threatening to leak it if victims fail to pay an extortionate ransom. Its affiliates are like-minded criminal groups that are recruited by the group to wage attacks using Lockbit’s digital extortion tools.

Ransomware is malicious software that encrypts data. Lockbit makes money by coercing its targets into paying ransom to decrypt or unlock that data with a digital key.

Lockbit was discovered in 2020 when its eponymous malicious software was found on Russian-language cybercrime forums, leading some security analysts to believe the gang is based in Russia.

The gang has not professed support for any government, however, and no government has formally attributed it to a nation-state. On its now-defunct dark web site, the group said it was “located in the Netherlands, completely apolitical and only interested in money.”

“They are the Walmart of ransomware groups, they run it like a business — that’s what makes them different,” said Jon DiMaggio, chief security strategist at Analyst1, a U.S.-based cybersecurity firm. “They are arguably the biggest ransomware crew today.”

Officials in the United States, where Lockbit has hit more than 1,700 organizations in nearly every industry from financial services and food to schools, transportation and government departments, have described the group as the world’s top ransomware threat.

In November of last year, Lockbit published internal data from Boeing, one of the world’s largest defense and space contractors. In early 2023, Britain’s Royal Mail faced severe disruption after an attack by the group.

According to vx-underground, a cybersecurity research website, Lockbit said in a statement in Russian and shared on Tox, an encrypted messaging app, that the FBI hit its servers that run on the programming language PHP. The statement, which Reuters could not verify independently, added that it has backup servers without PHP that “are not touched.”

On X, formerly known as Twitter, vx-underground shared screenshots showing the control panel used by Lockbit’s affiliates to launch attacks had been replaced with a message from law enforcement: “We have source code, details of the victims you have attacked, the amount of money extorted, the data stolen, chats, and much, much more,” it said.

“We may be in touch with you very soon” it added. “Have a nice day.”

Before it was taken down, Lockbit’s website displayed an ever-growing gallery of victim organizations that was updated nearly daily. Next to their names were digital clocks that showed the number of days left to the deadline given to each organization to provide ransom payment.

On Monday, Lockbit’s site displayed a similar countdown, but from the law enforcement agencies who hacked the hackers: “Return here for more information at: 11:30 GMT on Tuesday 20th Feb.” the post said.

Don Smith, vice president of Secureworks, an arm of Dell Technologies, said Lockbit was the most prolific and dominant ransomware operator in a highly competitive underground market.

“To put today’s takedown into context, based on leak site data, Lockbit had a 25% share of the ransomware market. Their nearest rival was Blackcat at around 8.5%, and after that it really starts to fragment,” Smith said.

“Lockbit dwarfed all other groups and today’s action is highly significant.”

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Wet Winter Storm Closes Airport, Prompts Rescues in California

SAN FRANCISCO — Another wet winter storm swamped California with heavy rainfall on Monday, flooding the runways at a regional airport and leading to several rescues on swollen rivers and creeks.

The Santa Barbara airport, on the state’s central coast, closed Monday after as much as 25 centimeters of rain had fallen in the area by noon, covering the runways with water and closing the airport.

The National Weather Service had warned that California’s central coast was at risk of “significant flooding,” with up to 12 cm of rain predicted for many areas and isolated rain totals of 25 cm possible in the Santa Lucia and Santa Ynez mountain ranges as the storm headed toward greater Los Angeles.

The storm is expected to move through quicker than the devastating atmospheric river that parked itself over Southern California earlier this month, turning roads into rivers, causing hundreds of landslides and killing at least nine people.

Moderate showers were reported Monday afternoon, but more rain was expected to impact the state through the night and into Tuesday, forecasters said.

The storm has led to a number of rescues, including in San Luis Obispo County, where crews helped three people out of the rising Salinas River in the city of Paso Robles. Firefighters were getting ready to train on swift-water rescues when they received word that someone was stranded on an island in the river, Paso Robles Fire and Emergency Services Battalion Chief Scott Hallett told KSBY-TV.

Farther to the north, firefighters rescued two people from the top of their vehicle, which had stalled in flood waters in Sloughhouse, a community about 32 kilometers southeast of Sacramento, the Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District said.

Hours earlier, a man was rescued along a creek in El Dorado Hills, northeast of Sacramento. The man, who had been camping in the area, was trapped in a tree as floodwaters rose, El Dorado Hills Deputy Fire Chief Dave Brady told KCRA-TV.

Thunderstorms in valleys around the state capital on Monday could bring “brief tornadoes, large amounts of small hail, heavy rain, lightning, and gusty winds,” the weather service in Sacramento warned on X.

Residents in the region, including Sacramento, Chico, Yuba City, Stockton and Modesto, “are advised to pay close attention to the weather,” the office said later in a separate statement.

Kelly Curtis, a personal trainer in Long Beach, prepared by getting sandbags to protect her home.

“I don’t think it will be as bad as the last storm, but last time I got flooded and I kept the sandbags just in case,” she said.

Forecasters said the storm would be strong enough to cause problems including flash flooding and power outages. Flood watches and warnings were issued in coastal and mountain areas up and down the state.

Several feet of snow is possible at elevations above about 2,070 meters across the Sierra Nevada, the weather service said. Motorists were urged to avoid mountain routes.

“Consider completing Sierra travel during the day Sunday, or rescheduling to later next week,” said the weather service office in Reno, Nevada. The office issued a backcountry avalanche watch for the greater Lake Tahoe area and the eastern Sierra in Inyo and Mono counties.

The California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services activated its operations center Saturday and positioned personnel and equipment in areas most at risk.

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Blinken Heads to Brazil, Argentina as Lula Presides Over G20

state department — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken heads to Brazil and Argentina on Tuesday morning to hold talks and foster rapport with the independent-minded leaders from the two countries while also attending the Group of 20 foreign ministers’ meetings in Rio de Janeiro.

With Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also expected at the G20 meetings, there’s potential for a rare face-to-face interaction between the two.

Blinken’s visits to Brazil and Argentina will be his first as the top U.S. diplomat.

Blinken will meet with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in Brasilia and the newly inaugurated Argentine President Javier Milei in Buenos Aires to discuss bilateral and global issues.

The State Department said Blinken will emphasize U.S. support for Brazil’s G20 presidency, the U.S.-Brazil Partnership for Workers Rights, cooperation on the clean energy transition and commemorations for the bicentennial of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Blinken also plans to discuss the Multinational Security Support Mission in Haiti with G20 partners on the sidelines of the meetings, addressing the Haitian people’s call for help to restore security and stability.

Argentina boasts one of the largest Jewish populations in South America. Following Milei’s recent visit to Israel, a senior U.S. official said Blinken will engage in discussions with Milei regarding “the way forward between Israel and Gaza.” Other topics high on the agenda include critical minerals and sustainable economic growth.

No G20 joint statement expected on Gaza, Ukraine

The G20, comprising 19 countries including the G7, the European Union and the African Union, represents about 85% of global GDP, 75% of global trade and two-thirds of the global population.

The G7 comprises the world’s richest and most powerful countries.

Last week, G7 foreign ministers expressed outrage over the detention death of Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny and pledged unwavering support to Ukraine as the two-year mark of Russia’s invasion approaches.

The G7 foreign ministers’ joint statement also advocated for “prolonged and durable pauses in the hostilities leading to a sustainable cease-fire” in Gaza while expressing “deep concern” over the “devastating” impact of Israel’s planned military operations in Rafah, where more than a million civilians are taking refuge.

Ramin Toloui, assistant secretary of state for economic and business affairs, said the U.S. will underscore the damage caused by the “Kremlin’s war of aggression” and “encourage all G20 partners to redouble their calls for a just, peaceful and lasting end” to the war on Ukraine.

But Toloui said Brazil would not “attempt to mobilize a joint statement” during the upcoming G20 foreign ministers’ meetings.

Distinct foreign relations

Blinken’s diplomatic missions to Argentina and Brazil will navigate the countries’ distinct foreign relations concerning various countries and issues, such as Russia, Gaza and China.

Lula initially assured that Russian President Vladimir Putin, who faces an International Criminal Court arrest warrant, would not be arrested if he attended the G20 summit in November in Brazil. However, he later amended his stance, indicating that the decision would ultimately be in the hands of Brazil’s judiciary.

During his visit to Cairo, February 14 and 15, Lula strongly criticized Israel’s military actions in Gaza, advocating for a “definitive cease-fire.” He announced Brazil’s new contribution to the United Nations’ Palestinian refugee agency, or UNRWA, and supported Palestine’s recognition as a sovereign state with full U.N. membership.

Lula wrote on the social media platform X, “While Hamas militants’ attack on October 7 against Israeli civilians is indefensible and deserved strong condemnation from Brazil, Israel’s disproportionate and indiscriminate response is unacceptable.”

In contrast, during his visit to Israel in early February, Milei, a pro-Israel far-right leader, announced his intention to relocate Argentina’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a move previously made by only the United States and a few other countries.

Milei also announced his government’s intention to classify Hamas as a terrorist organization.

This visit marked his first bilateral trip since his inauguration in December.

Following his meeting with Blinken on Friday, Milei plans to visit Washington and speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, on February 24, a gathering expected to be filled with supporters of former U.S. President Donald Trump.

BRICS and China

In 2025, Brazil will lead the BRICS group (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) of emerging nations, in which China is a key player. During a state visit to Beijing last year, Lula called for BRICS countries to trade in their own currencies and end the U.S. dollar’s trade dominance. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran and the United Arab Emirates officially joined the bloc on January 1.

Last month, Lula held talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in which the two pledged to strengthen a comprehensive strategic partnership between the two countries.

In comparison, Milei has turned down an offer to join BRICS. During his presidential campaign, he said he would freeze relations with China.

Milei also chose to acquire secondhand American F-16 fighters from Denmark, favoring them over new Chinese JF-17 fighter aircraft.

“The United States is the largest source of foreign direct investment in Brazil, and we have a robust presence of U.S. companies in Brazil, as well as in Argentina, and we’re looking forward to deepening our economic ties between both of them,” Brian Nichols, the assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, told VOA in a recent phone briefing.

Nichols emphasized the importance of countries trading freely while understanding the trade-offs involved.

“The United States is offering up a comprehensive and powerful alternative to those who may not necessarily have others’ best interests at heart,” he said.

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US Stealth Jet Offer to Turkey Puts Future of Its Russian S-400 Missiles in Doubt

With Turkey-U.S. relations improving rapidly, Washington offered to allow Ankara to buy its advanced F-35 military jet if it removes to a third country the S-400 missiles it purchased from Russia. But as Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul, the missiles remain a potent symbol of deepening Turkish-Russian ties.

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Abortion Rights Could Complicate Republican Larry Hogan’s US Senate Bid

Annapolis, Maryland — Republicans hoping to pick up an open U.S. Senate seat in deep blue Maryland have the most competitive candidate they’ve fielded for decades. But former Gov. Larry Hogan will need more than GOP support to overcome sustained outrage about the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to strike down constitutional protections for abortion.

With Maryland voters set to decide whether to enshrine the right to abortion in the state constitution in November, it may be harder for Hogan to reassemble the bipartisan coalition that elected him to the governor’s office in 2014 and kept him there four years later.

His task was laid out vividly by Lynn Johnson Langer, a Democrat walking to lunch in downtown Annapolis several days after Hogan announced his Senate bid. Hogan is likable enough to have won her vote in his second campaign for governor, but the stakes are too high for her to support handing Republicans another win in a closely divided Senate.

“We need more Democrats, so, sorry Hogan,” Langer said. ”I don’t think he’s a bad guy. Like I said, I don’t always agree with him. In fact, a lot I don’t agree with him.”

Hogan’s decision to veto legislation to expand abortion access in Maryland in 2022 lingers with voters like Langer. She supports abortion rights unequivocally and said she probably will back a candidate who doesn’t hedge.

Hogan has said he does not support taking abortion rights away, even though he personally opposes abortion. However, as governor, he vetoed legislation to end a restriction that only physicians provide abortions. When his veto was overridden by Democrats who control the Legislature, he used the power of his office to block funding set aside to support training non-physicians to perform them.

Abortion already is protected in Maryland law, but Democrats who control the Legislature voted last year to put a state constitutional amendment before voters. In doing so they were following a proven political formula used successfully by several states in the aftermath of the Supreme Court decision.

“This is an issue the Democrats care about, and this is a big thing about Maryland: It doesn’t matter how popular you are with your base, and it doesn’t matter how popular you are among independents, the path to the Senate in Maryland goes through the Democratic Party,” said Mileah Kromer, an associate professor of political science at Goucher College, who has written a book about Hogan. “You need Democratic votes to win, and that’s just the math of the state.”

Hogan attracted national attention during his tenure as governor as one of the rare Republicans willing to criticize Donald Trump, who appointed three conservative justices that created the Supreme Court’s conservative majority that voted to overturn Roe v. Wade in 2022. Now, Hogan could be on the same ballot as the former president, who is favored to win the Republican nomination but is deeply unpopular in Maryland.

Mary Kfoury, a Democrat who lives in Edgewater, Maryland, praised Hogan for speaking out against Trump, though that’s not enough to get her vote.

“I really don’t think we can afford to have a Republican,” Kfoury said. “I want to keep Maryland as blue as possible, especially with things as close as they are, but I think if we had to have a Republican in the Senate he would be a terrific person to have, because he truly states what he thinks and he’s for more traditional Republican values and has bravely spoken against Trump.”

Hogan focused his governorship on pocketbook concerns, largely avoiding social issues and maintaining civility with the Legislature. In a video announcing his candidacy, he highlighted that aspect of his tenure.

“For eight years, we proved that the toxic politics that divide our nation need not divide our state,” Hogan said. “We overcame unprecedented challenges, cut taxes eight years in a row, balanced the budget, and created a record surplus. And we did it all by finding common ground for the common good.”

While Kromer describes Hogan’s Senate candidacy as “an uphill battle,” she said it would be wrong to dismiss a candidate who consistently maintained high approval ratings during his eight years as governor, despite the 2-1 advantage Democrats hold over Republicans in the state.

“For me, it’s not just that Hogan was popular, it was that Hogan was persistently popular for eight years,” said Kromer, who wrote “Blue State Republican: How Larry Hogan Won Where Republicans Lose and Lessons for a Future GOP.”

Democrats running to succeed retiring Sen. Ben Cardin pounced on concerns about abortion rights, after Hogan announced his surprise Senate bid just hours before the state’s filing deadline.

“We know what’s at stake in this election — our fundamental freedoms over our bodies,” said Angela Alsobrooks, the chief executive in Prince George’s County, the state’s second-largest jurisdiction in the suburbs of the nation’s capital.

Alsobrooks, who could make history as Maryland’s first Black U.S. senator, is running in the Democratic primary against U.S. Rep David Trone, the wealthy founder of Total Wine and More who has invested more than $23 million in his own campaign.

Hogan, speaking publicly for the first time since announcing his candidacy last week, told CNN on Wednesday that “I would not vote to support a national abortion ban.”

He also said that while he understands “why this is such an important and emotional issue for women across Maryland and across the country,” he doesn’t believe the constitutional amendment in Maryland is necessary, because abortion rights already are protected in state law.

The state approved legislation in 1991 to protect abortion rights if the Supreme Court were to allow abortion to be restricted. Voters showed their support for the law the following year, when 62% backed it in a referendum.

“I think Democrats put this on the ballot to try to make it a political issue, and voters can make their decision on whether they think it’s important or not, but it’s not going to change anything in our state,” Hogan told CNN.

Alsobrooks said Hogan’s comments echoed years of Republican rhetoric asserting that public policy on abortion had been “settled law.”

“That’s what they told us right up until the day they overturned Roe v. Wade and took away a 50-year precedent that had protected our rights,” Alsobrooks said in a statement.

The Maryland legislation approved in 2022 to expand abortion access was passed after supporters contended the measure was needed because the state didn’t have enough providers. They also said the state needed to be prepared to respond to a growing number of women coming to Maryland for abortions after bans in other states.

After his veto was overridden, Hogan, who is Catholic, refused to release $3.5 million in the state budget to help fund training. One of Democratic Gov. Wes Moore’s first actions as governor last year was to release the money that Hogan had withheld.

Hogan entered a GOP primary with seven other candidates, none as well known politically as the former governor. One of the candidates, Robin Ficker, garnered national attention years ago as an acid-tongued sports heckler at basketball games for Washington’s NBA team when it played in Landover, Maryland.

A Republican has not won a U.S. Senate election in Maryland since 1980.

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Minnesota Community Mourns 2 Officers, 1 Firefighter Killed at the Scene of Domestic Call

BURNSVILLE, Minn. — A suburban Minneapolis community was in mourning on Monday after authorities said two police officers and a firefighter were killed by a heavily armed man who shot at them from inside a home that was filled with children.

The shooting on Sunday in a tree-lined neighborhood of Burnsville, Minnesota, left a third officer wounded. The suspect, who officials said had multiple guns and large amounts of ammunition, also died.

Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension Superintendent Drew Evans said there was an exchange of gunfire, and authorities were still piecing together details of what he described as a “terrible day.”

The firefighter, who also works as a paramedic, was shot while providing aid to an injured officer, Evans said. He told reporters the paramedic was a part of a SWAT team that had been called to a domestic situation at the home. 

Inside, an armed man had barricaded himself with his family, including seven children ranging in age from 2 to 15, Evans said.

He said negotiations lasted for hours before the suspect opened fire. He wasn’t specific on the exact amount of time, but the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association said the standoff lasted four hours before a SWAT team entered the home.

Evans said the suspect had several guns and large amounts of ammunition and shot at the police officers from multiple positions within the home, including the upper and lower floors. Evans said at least one officer was shot inside the home.

“We still don’t know the exact exchange of gunfire that occurred,” Evans said. “Certainly several officers did return fire.”

He said that around 8 a.m. the suspect was found dead and the family and children were released from the home. None of them were hurt.

City officials identified the slain officers as Paul Elmstrand and Matthew Ruge, both 27. Adam Finseth, 40, a firefighter and paramedic for the city since 2019, also was killed.

Elmstrand, a member of the department’s mobile command staff, joined the department in 2017. Ruge was hired in 2020 and was part of the department’s crisis negotiations team and was a physical evidence officer.

Another police officer, Sgt. Adam Medlicott, was injured and being treated at a hospital with what are believed to be non-life-threatening injuries, the city said.

As the bodies of the dead left a hospital, officers saluted, before they were taken in a convoy to the medical examiner’s office. Medical staff watched in scrubs.

“We’re hurting,” said Police Chief Tanya Schwartz. “Today, three members of our team made the ultimate sacrifice for this community. They are heroes.” 

Neighbors were startled awake by loud pops about an hour before sunrise.

Alicia McCullum said she and her family dropped to the floor, uncertain whether the noise was gunshots. She and her husband peered out of their sunroom and saw squad cars and a phalanx of police officers.

“I didn’t think it was a gunshot at first, but then we opened the windows and we saw police everywhere and police hiding in our neighbors’ yards,” said McCullum, who lives two houses down from the source of the commotion.

“Then there were three more gunshots,” she said. “It was like a bunch of fireworks.” That’s when she and her husband and two children sought safety in a bathroom and dropped to the floor. They prayed.

McCullum said she was relieved to see a woman and children escorted out of their home. “We’re so thankful for those police officers that risked their lives to save those kids,” McCullum said. “And my heart goes out to that mother.”

Fire Chief BJ Jungmann said the community was grieving and asked for privacy for the families. None of the relatives of the officers or the firefighter immediately returned phone messages from The Associated Press seeking comment.

Evans said the medical examiner would identify the suspect and said autopsies were planned for Monday. There was no indication the home had been a source of troubles in the past.

“There have not been many calls for service at all,” Evans said.

As the investigation unfolded, the neighborhood was ringed with police cars to keep reporters and the public away. A police armored vehicle had bullet damage to its windshield, and Evans confirmed it sustained the damage in the gunfight.

Police scanner recordings on capture a rattled man saying, “I need any ambulance,” as he struggled to catch his breath. Someone later could be heard talking about three being loaded into ambulances, uttering the word “critical.”

As news spread, other law enforcement agencies immediately began posting messages of condolence on social media, including images of badges with blue bars through them. It is a mark of solidarity in mourning.

“In times like these, it is essential to come together as a community and support one another through the uncertainty and grief,” said Marty Kelly, the sheriff in neighboring Goodhue County.

Flags also were lowered to half-staff, with Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz urging those who walked past them to take a moment and think about the first responders who lost their lives.

“Minnesota mourns with you,” he said. “The state stands ready to assist in any way possible.”

Hundreds of people gathered in front of Burnsville City Hall on Sunday night for a candlelit vigil to remember the victims. Several uniformed officers from other departments also attended.

A fire truck and police car were in front of the building. The police vehicle had bouquets of flowers on the hood and handwritten signs tucked under the windshield wipers, one of which read: “We are praying for you.” Those gathered joined together in prayer and sang “Amazing Grace.”

“Right now is a time to grieve, to come together and grieve our community’s loss, and to support the families,” said U.S. Rep. Angie Craig.

“I can’t imagine the pain that you’re all going through,” Craig continued, “but what I can say is that to all our officers out there, the paramedics, our firefighters, thank you for what you do.” The crowd applauded.

“It’s an important community,” said area resident Kris Martin, “and we feel very saddened by what happened.”

Burnsville, a city of around 64,000, is located about 15 miles (24 kilometers) south of downtown Minneapolis. 

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Presidents Day: From George Washington’s Modest Birthdays to Big Sales, 3-Day Weekends

NORFOLK, Va. — Like the other Founding Fathers, George Washington was uneasy about the idea of publicly celebrating his life. He was the first leader of a new republic — not a tyrant.

And yet the nation will once again commemorate the first U.S. president on Monday, 292 years after he was born.

The meaning of Presidents Day has changed dramatically, from being mostly unremarkable and filled with work for Washington in the 1700s to the consumerism bonanza it has become today. For some historians the holiday has lost all discernible meaning. 

Historian Alexis Coe, author of “You Never Forget Your First: A Biography of George of Washington,” said she thinks about Presidents Day in much the same way as the towering monument in D.C. that bears his name. 

“It’s supposed to be about Washington, but can you really point to anything that looks or sounds like him?” she said. “Jefferson and Lincoln are presented as people with limbs and noses and words associated with their memorials. And he’s just a giant, granite point. He has been sanded down to have absolutely no identifiable features.” 

Here is a look at how things have evolved: 

Washington’s birthdays 

Washington was born Feb. 22, 1732, on Popes Creek Plantation near the Potomac River in Virginia. 

Technically, though, he was born Feb. 11 under the ancient Julian calendar, which was still in use for the first 20 years of his life. The Gregorian calendar, intended to more accurately mark the solar year, was adopted in 1752, adding 11 days. 

Either way, Washington paid little attention to his birthday according to, the website of the organization that manages his estate. Surviving records make no mention of observances at Mount Vernon, while his diary shows he was often hard at work. 

“If he had it his way, he would be at home with his family,” Coe said. “Maybe some beloved nieces and nephews (and friend) Marquis de Lafayette would be ideal. And Martha’s recipe for an indulgent cake. But that’s about it.” 

Washington’s birthday was celebrated by his peers in government when he was president — mostly. 

Congress voted during his first two terms to take a short commemorative break each year, with one exception, his last birthday in office, Coe said. By then Washington was less popular, partisanship was rampant and many members of his original Cabinet were gone, including Thomas Jefferson. 

“One way to show their disdain for his Federalist policies was to keep working through his birthday,” Coe said. 

The Library of Congress does note that a French military officer, the comte de Rochambeau, threw a ball celebrating Washington’s 50th birthday in 1782. 

After his death 

Washington was very aware of his inaugural role as president and its distinction from the British crown. He didn’t want to be honored like a king, said Seth Bruggeman, a history professor at Temple University in Philadelphia. 

Still, he said, a market for Washington memorabilia sprang up almost immediately after his death in 1799 at age 67, with people snapping up pottery and reproductions of etchings portraying him as a divine figure going off into heaven. 

“Even in that early moment, Americans kind of conflated consumerism with patriotic memory,” said Bruggeman, whose books include “Here, George Washington Was Born: Memory, Material Culture, and the Public History of a National Monument.” 

Making it official 

It wasn’t until 1832, the centennial of his birth, that Congress established a committee to arrange national “parades, orations and festivals,” according to the Congressional Research Service. 

And only in 1879 was his birthday formally made into a legal holiday for federal employees in the District of Columbia. 

The official designation is as Washington’s Birthday, although it has come to be known informally as Presidents Day. Arguments have been made to honor President Lincoln as well because his birthdate falls nearby, on Feb. 12. 

A small number of states, including Illinois, observe Lincoln’s birthday as a public holiday, according to the Library of Congress. And some commemorate both Lincoln and Washington on Presidents Day. 

But on the federal level, the day is still officially Washington’s Birthday. 

Shift to consumerism 

By the late 1960s, Washington’s Birthday was one of nine federal holidays that fell on specific dates on different days of the week, according to a 2004 article in the National Archives’ Prologue magazine. 

Congress voted to move some of those to Mondays, following concerns that were in part about absenteeism among government workers when a holiday fell midweek. But lawmakers also noted clear benefits to the economy, including boosts in retail sales and travel on three-day weekends. 

The Uniform Monday Holiday Act took effect in 1971, moving Presidents Day to the third Monday in February. Sales campaigns soared, historian C.L. Arbelbide wrote in Prologue. 

Bruggeman said Washington and the other Founding Fathers “would have been deeply worried” by how the holiday became taken over by commercial and private interests. 

“They were very nervous about corporations,” Bruggeman said. “It wasn’t that they forbade them. But they saw corporations as like little republics that potentially threatened the power of The Republic.” 

Coe, who is also a fellow at the Washington think tank New America, said by now the day is devoid of recognizable traditions. 

“There’s no moment of reflection,” Coe said. Given today’s widespread cynicism toward the office, she added, that sort of reflection “would probably be a good idea.”

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Flood Watches Issued, New Round of Wet Winter Storms Hits California

SAN FRANCISCO — The latest in a series of wet winter storms blew ashore in Northern California on Sunday, with forecasters warning of possible flooding, hail, strong winds and even brief tornadoes as the system moves south over the next few days.

Gusts topped 48 kph (30 mph) in Oakland and San Jose as a mild cold front late Saturday gave way to a more powerful storm that will gain strength into early Monday, said meteorologist Brayden Murdock with the National Weather Service office in San Francisco.

“The winds are here and getting stronger, and the rains will follow quickly,” he said Sunday afternoon.

California’s central coast is at risk of “significant flooding,” with up to 12 cm (5 inches) of rain predicted for many areas, according to the weather service. Isolated rain totals of 25 cm (10 inches) are possible in the Santa Lucia and Santa Ynez mountain ranges as the storm heads toward greater Los Angeles.

Thunderstorms in valleys around the state capital Monday could bring “brief tornadoes, large amounts of small hail, heavy rain, lightning, and gusty winds,” the weather service office in Sacramento warned on X, formerly Twitter.

The latest storm is expected to move through quicker than the devastating atmospheric river that parked itself over Southern California earlier this month, turning roads into rivers, causing hundreds of landslides and killing at least nine people.

“It’s not the ideal setup for an atmospheric river, but it does have some of the characteristics,” including a band of subtropical moisture bringing up the rear of the storm, Murdock said. “Otherwise, it’s just a cold front.”

But it’s a cold front strong enough to cause problems including flash flooding and power outages, forecasters said. Flood watches and warnings were issued in coastal and mountain areas up and down the state.

Rainfall will be widespread even in the mountains, but several feet of snow is possible at elevations above about 2,070 meters (6,800 feet)across the Sierra Nevada, the weather service said. Motorists are urged to avoid mountain routes.

“Consider completing Sierra travel during the day Sunday, or rescheduling [it] to later next week,” said the weather service office in Reno, Nevada. The office issued a backcountry avalanche watch for the greater Lake Tahoe area and the eastern Sierra in Inyo and Mono counties.

The California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services activated its operations center Saturday and positioned personnel and equipment in areas most at risk.

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‘Bob Marley: One Love’ Stirs Up $27.7 Million Weekend at Box Office

New York — Paramount Pictures’ Bob Marley biopic “Bob Marley: One Love” outperformed expectations to debut at No. 1 at the box office with a $27.7 million opening weekend, while Sony’s “Madame Web” flopped with one of the lowest debuts for a movie centered on a Marvel character.

Both films launched in theaters on Tuesday to rope in Valentine’s Day moviegoers. But on a weekend that was once expected to go to “Madame Web,” “One Love” emerged as the much-preferred option in theaters, despite largely poor reviews.

Instead, “One Love,” starring Kingsley Ben-Adir and produced with the involvement of the Marley estate, performed roughly on par with previous hit musical biopics like “Rocketman” and “Elvis.” Paramount is forecasting that “One Love” will gross $51 million over its first six days, including estimates for President’s Day on Monday. It added $29 million from 47 international territories.

Chris Aronson, distribution chief for Paramount, noted that pre-release projections forecast a six-day total closer to $30 million for “One Love.” But moviegoers from a wide range turned out for the first big-screen biopic of the Rastafarian legend.

“It was across all generations. It wasn’t just a movie for an older audience that grew up with Bob Marley’s music,” said Aronson. “Our highest quadrant was (age) 18 to 24. A third of the audience was under 25. That, to me, speaks volumes.”

Produced for about $70 million, “One Love,” directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green, chronicles Marley during the making of the 1977 album “Exodus” while leading up to a pivotal concert for his native Jamaica. Among the movie’s producers are Marley’s children, Ziggy and Cedella, and his wife, Rita.

Ziggy Marley, in a statement Sunday, said: “We thank the people for embracing this film and in so doing helping to highlight the message of one love.”

Though critics dinged the film (43% “fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes) for relying on biopic conventions, audiences gave it a much higher grade, with an “A” CinemaScore. That kind of audience response plus the strong opening should bode well for the film’s run.

“Madame Web,” however, was dead on arrival. Over six days, Sony is estimating a $15.2 million weekend and a six-day $25.8 million haul. Audiences (a “C+” CinemaScore) agreed with critics (13% “fresh”).

Such launches were once unfathomable for stand-alone superhero films. But the film, an extension of Sony’s universe of Spider-Man films, struggled to shed the bad buzz surrounding the $80 million project. In it, Dakota Johnson stars as a New York paramedic with clairvoyant powers.

“The entire superhero genre has had a really rough go of it over the past year,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for data firm Comscore. “Certain things are no longer a sure bet. Except maybe now, the musical biopic has become the go-to genre. It just shows how tastes can change.”

Sony’s Spider-Man spinoffs have been mostly hit and miss. Its two “Venom” films have together surpassed $1.3 billion worldwide. But 2022’s poorly received “Morbius” collected just $167.4 million globally. “Madame Web” still couldn’t come close to the $39 million domestic opening weekend for “Morbius.” In 61 overseas markets, “Madame Web” added $25.7 million.

The better news for Sony’s Spider-verse came Saturday night at the 51st Annie Awards, where “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” won best feature and collected seven prizes in total. “Across the Spider-Verse” is nominated for best animated feature at the Academy Awards — and the Annie Awards can often be a good predictor of winner.

The 2024 box office has gotten off to a sobering start for Hollywood, and the disappointing result for “Madame Web” won’t help. Moviegoing has slowed to a crawl in recent weeks, while 2023’s strikes have impacted this year’s release schedules. Even with the strong “One Love” opening, ticket sales were down 15% on the weekend compared to 2023, according to ComScore.

Expectations are high for “Dune: Part Two,” opening March 1. Until then, “Bob Marley: One Love” will be jammin’.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Comscore. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.

  1. “Bob Marley: One Love,” $27.7 million.

  2. “Madame Web,” $15.2 million.

  3. “Argylle,” $4.7 million.

  4. “Migration,” $3.8 million.

  5. “The Chosen,” Episodes 4-6, $3.4 million.

  6. “Wonka,” $3.4 million.

  7. “The Beekeeper,” $3.3 million.

  8. “Anyone But You,” $2.4 million.

  9. “Lisa Frankenstein,” $2 million.

  10. “Land of Bad,” $1.8 million.

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Hungary’s Government Declines Offer to Meet US Senators Seeking Approval for Sweden’s NATO Bid 

BUDAPEST — A bipartisan delegation of U.S. senators made an official visit to Hungary’s capital Sunday and called on the nationalist government to immediately approve Sweden’s request to join NATO. 

Hungary is the only one of NATO’s 31 existing members not to have ratified Sweden’s bid. The Hungarian government faces mounting pressure to act after delaying the move for more than 18 months since admitting a new country to the military alliance requires unanimous approval. 

The visiting senators announced they would submit a joint resolution to Congress condemning alleged democratic backsliding in Hungary and urging the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to lift its block on Sweden’s trans-Atlantic integration. 

“With accession, Hungary and your prime minister will be doing a great service to freedom-loving nations worldwide,” Sen. Thom Tillis, a North Carolina Republican, said during a news conference at the U.S. Embassy in Budapest. 

The resolution, first reported early Sunday by The Associated Press, was authored by Tillis and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a New Hampshire Democrat. Joining them in the delegation to Budapest was Sen. Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut. 

Earlier this month, U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, a Maryland Democrat and chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, raised the prospect of imposing sanctions on Hungary for its conduct, and called Orbán “the least reliable member of NATO.” 

In the resolution, obtained by the AP, the senators note “the important role Hungary can have in European and trans-Atlantic security,” but point out its failure to keep earlier promises not to be the last NATO ally to sign off on Sweden’s membership. 

Hungary, the resolution says, “has not joined all other NATO member states in approving the accession of Sweden to NATO, failing to fulfill a commitment not to be last to approve such accession and jeopardizing trans-Atlantic security at a key moment for peace and stability in Europe.” 

Orbán, a staunch nationalist who has led Hungary since 2010, has said that he favors making Sweden part of NATO but that lawmakers in his party remained unconvinced because of “blatant lies” from Swedish politicians on the state of Hungary’s democracy. 

But in a state of the nation speech in Budapest on Saturday, Orbán indicated that Hungary’s legislature might soon relent. 

“It’s good news that our dispute with Sweden is nearing a conclusion,” he said. “We are moving toward ratifying Sweden’s accession to NATO at the beginning of the spring session of Parliament.” 

On Sunday, Shaheen said it was “disappointing” that no members of the Hungarian government had accepted invitations to meet the delegation, but that she was “hopeful and optimistic” that Sweden’s accession would be submitted for ratification on Feb. 26 when Hungarian lawmakers reconvene. 

Murphy said Orbán’s government’s refusal to meet was “strange and concerning,” but that the onus was on the long-serving leader to push forward a vote. 

“We are wise enough about politics here to know that if Prime Minister Orbán wants this to happen, then the parliament can move forward,” he said. 

The senators’ resolution criticizes Orbán’s increasingly warm relations with Russia and China, and notes that while Hungary has opened its doors to Ukrainian refugees fleeing Moscow’s invasion, it has also “resisted and diluted European Union sanctions with respect to the Russian Federation.” 

Orbán, widely considered to be the Kremlin’s closest EU ally, has long been criticized for flouting the bloc’s standards on democracy and the rule of law. The EU has withheld billions in funding from Budapest over alleged breaches of its rules. 

Hungary’s government has also adopted an increasingly adversarial stance toward the administration of President Joe Biden, accusing the U.S. of attempting to influence Hungarian public life. 

Péter Szijjártó, Hungary’s foreign minister, said Friday that he welcomed the senators’ visit but that it was “not worth trying to exert pressure on us, because we are a sovereign country.” 

“We are glad they are coming here because they can see for themselves that everything they read about Hungary in the liberal American media is a blatant lie,” Szijjártó said. 

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Solemn Monument to Japanese American WWII Detainees Lists More Than 125,000 Names

Los Angeles — Samantha Sumiko Pinedo and her grandparents file into a dimly lit enclosure at the Japanese American National Museum and approach a massive book splayed open to reveal columns of names. Pinedo is hoping the list includes her great-grandparents, who were detained in Japanese American incarceration camps during World War II. 

“For a lot of people, it feels like so long ago because it was World War II. But I grew up with my Bompa (great-grandpa), who was in the internment camps,” Pinedo says.

A docent at the museum in Los Angeles gently flips to the middle of the book — called the Ireichō — and locates Kaneo Sakatani near the center of a page. This was Pinedo’s great-grandfather, and his family can now honor him.

On Feb. 19, 1942, following the attack by Imperial Japan on Pearl Harbor and the United States’ entry to WWII, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 authorizing the incarceration of people of Japanese ancestry who were considered potentially dangerous. 

From the extreme heat of the Gila River center in Arizona, to the biting winters of Heart Mountain in Wyoming, Japanese Americans were forced into hastily built barracks, with no insulation or privacy, and surrounded by barbed wire. They shared bathrooms and mess halls, and families of up to eight were squeezed into 20-by-25 foot (6-by-7.5 meter) rooms. Armed U.S. soldiers in guard towers ensured nobody tried to flee.


When the 75 holding facilities on U.S. soil closed in 1946, the government published Final Accountability Rosters listing the name, sex, date of birth and marital status of the Japanese Americans held at the 10 largest facilities. There was no clear consensus of who or how many had been detained nationwide.

Duncan Ryūken Williams, the director of the Shinso Ito Center for Japanese Religions and Culture at the University of Southern California, knew those rosters were incomplete and riddled with errors, so he and a team of researchers took on the mammoth task of identifying all the detainees and honoring them with a three-part monument called “Irei: National Monument for the WWII Japanese American Incarceration.”

“We wanted to repair that moment in American history by thinking of the fact that this is a group of people, Japanese Americans, that was targeted by the government. As long as you had one drop of Japanese blood in you, the government told you you didn’t belong,” Williams said.

The Irei project was inspired by stone Buddhist monuments called Ireitōs that were built by detainees at camps in Manzanar, California, and Amache, Colorado, to memorialize and console the spirits of internees who died.

The first part of the Irei monument is the Ireichō, the sacred book listing 125,284 verified names of Japanese American detainees.

“We felt like we needed to bring dignity and personhood and individuality back to all these people,” Williams said. “The best way we thought we could do that was to give them their names back.”

The second element, the Ireizō, is a website set to launch on Monday, the Day of Remembrance, which visitors can use to search for additional information about detainees. Ireihi is the final part: A collection of light installations at incarceration sites and the Japanese American National Museum.

Williams and his team spent more than three years reaching out to camp survivors and their relatives, correcting misspelled names and data errors and filling in the gaps. They analyzed records in the National Archives of detainee transfers, as well as Enemy Alien identification cards and directories created by detainees.

“We feel fairly confident that we’re at least 99% accurate with that list,” Williams said.

The team recorded every name in order of age, from the oldest person who entered the camps to the last baby born there.

Williams, who is a Buddhist priest, invited leaders from different faiths, Native American tribes and social justice groups to attend a ceremony introducing the Ireichō to the museum.

Crowds of people gathered in the Little Tokyo neighborhood to watch camp survivors and descendants of detainees file into the museum, one by one, holding wooden pillars, called sobata, bearing the names of each of the camps. At the end of the procession, the massive, weighty book of names was carried inside by multiple faith leaders. Williams read Buddhist scripture and led chants to honor the detainees.

Those sobata now line the walls of the serene enclosure where the Ireichō will remain until Dec. 1. Each bears the name — in English and Japanese — of the camp it represents. Suspended from each post is a jar containing soil from the named site.

Visitors are encouraged to look for their loved ones in the Ireichō and leave a mark under their names using a Japanese stamp called a hanko.

The first people to stamp it were some of the last surviving camp detainees.

So far, 40,000 visitors have made their mark. For Williams, that interaction is essential.

“To honor each person by placing a stamp in the book means that you are changing the monument every day,” Williams said.

Sharon Matsuura, who visited the Ireichō to commemorate her parents and husband who were incarcerated in Camp Amache, says the monument has an important role to play in raising awareness, especially for young people who may not know about this harsh chapter in America’s story.

“It was a very shameful part of history that the young men and women were good enough to fight and die for the country, but they had to live in terrible conditions and camps,” Matsuura says. “We want people to realize these things happened.”

Many survivors remain silent about what they endured, not wanting to relive it, Matsuura says.

Pinedo watches as her grandmother, Bernice Yoshi Pinedo, carefully stamps a blue dot beneath her father’s name. The family stands back in silence, taking in the moment, yellow light casting shadows from the jars of soil on the walls.

Kaneo Sakatani was only 14 when he was detained in Tule Lake, in far northern California.

“It’s sad,” Bernice says. “But I feel very proud that my parents’ names were in there.” 

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Domestic Pet Cloning Goes Mainstream

In the U.S. state of Texas, people are making clones of their beloved pets so the genetically identical animal can live after their pet dies. From the Texas capital, Austin, VOA’s Deana Mitchell has our story.

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Wreck of Ship That Sank in 1940 Found in Lake Superior

WHITEFISH POINT, Mich. — Shipwreck hunters have discovered a merchant ship that sank in Lake Superior in 1940, taking its captain with it, during a storm off Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

The Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society and shipwreck researcher Dan Fountain announced Monday the discovery of the 74-meter bulk carrier Arlington in about 200 meters of water some 60 kilometers north of Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula.

The Arlington left Port Arthur, Ontario, on April 30, 1940, fully loaded with wheat and headed to Owen Sound, Ontario, under the command of Captain Frederick “Tatey Bug” Burke, a veteran of the Great Lakes.

But as the Arlington and a larger freighter, the Collingwood, made their way across Lake Superior they encountered dense fog and then a storm after nightfall that battered both ships. The Arlington began to take on water.

The ship’s first mate ordered the Arlington onto a course to hug the Canadian North Shore, which would have provided some cover from wind and waves, but Burke countermanded and ordered his ship back onto a course across the open lake, the discoverers said.

Early on May 1, 1940, the Arlington began to sink, and the ship’s chief engineer sounded the alarm. The crew, “out of fear for their lives, and without orders from Captain Burke,” began to abandon ship, they said in a statement.

All crew made it safely to the Collingwood except for Burke, who went down with the Arlington. Reports indicate he was last seen near its pilothouse, waving at the Collingwood, minutes before his ship vanished into the lake.

The shipwreck society said in the statement that “no one will ever know the answer” as to why Burke acted as he did before his ship was lost.

“It’s exciting to solve just one more of Lake Superior’s many mysteries, finding Arlington so far out in the lake,” Fountain said in a statement. “I hope this final chapter in her story can provide some measure of closure to the family of Captain Burke.”

The Arlington was discovered thanks to Fountain, a resident of Negaunee, Michigan, who has been conducting remote sensing in Lake Superior in search of shipwrecks for about a decade, said Bruce Lynn, executive director of the Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society.

Fountain approached the group with “a potential target” near the northern tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula, and the Arlington was discovered last year. Lynn said.

“These targets don’t always amount to anything … but this time it absolutely was a shipwreck. A wreck with an interesting, and perhaps mysterious story,” he said in the statement. “Had Dan not reached out to us, we might never have located the Arlington.”

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2 US Soldiers Killed in Drone Attack Mourned at Funerals

WAYCROSS, Ga. — Two young citizen-soldiers who became close friends after enlisting in the Army Reserve were remembered at funerals in southeast Georgia on Saturday, nearly three weeks after they died in a drone attack while deployed to the Middle East.

A service for 24-year-old Sgt. Kennedy Sanders was held in the packed 1,200-seat auditorium of Ware County Middle School in Waycross.

Fellow soldiers recalled Sanders’ courage, her loving personality, and her willingness to volunteer for tasks few wanted to do, including learning to operate earth-moving equipment to help build roads and shelters, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

“Behind her smile was a fierce determination,” Col. Jeffrey Dulgarian said during the service, adding that she “tackled her responsibility with vigor and skill.”

Sanders’ former basketball coach, Mandy Lingenfelter, remembered Sanders as a point guard for Ware County High’s Lady Gators.

“It was hard for me to yell at her,” Lingenfelter said, “because she was always smiling. … She had pure joy. She put Jesus first, others second and herself last.”

A similar welcome marked the final homecoming for Sgt. Breonna Moffett, 23, in Savannah. Moffett’s funeral at a Baptist church was scheduled for the same time Saturday as Sanders’ service 161 kilometers away. Moffett’s family requested that media not be present.

The soldiers were among three members of their Army Reserve unit who died January 28 in a drone strike on a U.S. base in Jordan near the Syrian border. Also killed was Staff Sgt. William Jerome Rivers, 46, who was buried Tuesday following a church service in Carrollton. 

The military awarded all three soldiers promotions in rank after their deaths. They were assigned to the 926th Engineer Battalion, 926th Engineer Brigade, based at Fort Moore in west Georgia. 

According to the Army Reserve, Moffett and Sanders both enlisted in 2019 as construction engineers who use bulldozers and other heavy equipment to clear roads and construction sites. 

By the time they deployed to the Middle East last year, the two had become close friends. Moffett’s mother, Francine Moffett, said that whenever the family would call her daughter, they typically would hear from Sanders too. 

When she wasn’t serving in uniform, Moffett worked in Savannah for United Cerebral Palsy of Georgia, helping teach cooking and other skills to people with disabilities. She joined the Army Reserve after graduating from Windsor Forest High School, where she had been a drum major and JROTC cadet. She was killed just days after her 23rd birthday. 

Sanders came from Waycross on the edge of the Okefenokee Swamp and worked at a local pharmacy. The former high school athlete helped coach children’s basketball and soccer teams in her spare time. Her mother, Oneida Oliver-Sanders, said the last time they spoke, her daughter talked of wanting to buy a motorcycle when she came home. 

The deaths of the three Georgia reservists were the first U.S. fatalities blamed on Iran-backed militia groups after months of intensified attacks on American forces in the region since the Israel-Hamas war began in October. 

More than 40 troops were also injured in the drone attack at Tower 22, a secretive U.S. military desert outpost that enables U.S. forces to infiltrate and quietly leave Syria. 


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Media Creators Worry About New AI-Video Tool by Maker of ChatGPT

paris — A new artificial intelligence tool that promises to create short videos from simple text commands has raised concerns along with questions from artists and media professionals. 

OpenAI, the creator of ChatGPT and image generator DALL-E, said Thursday it was testing a text-to-video model called “Sora” that can allow users to create realistic videos with simple prompts. 

The San Francisco-based startup says Sora can “generate complex scenes with multiple characters, specific types of motion, and accurate details of the subject and background,” but admits it still has limitations, such as possibly “mixing up left and right.” 

Here are early reactions from industries that could be affected by the new generative artificial intelligence (AI) tool:   

Examples of Sora-created clips on OpenAI’s website range widely in style and subject, from seemingly real drone footage above a crowded market to an animated bunny-like creature bouncing through a forest. 

Thomas Bellenger, founder and art director of Cutback Productions, has been carefully watching the evolution of generative AI image generation.   

“There were those who felt that it was an unstoppable groundswell that was progressing at an astonishing rate, and those who just didn’t want to see it,” said Bellenger, whose France-based company has created large scale visual effects for such touring musicians as Stromae and Justice. 

He said the development of generative AI has “created a lot of debate internally” at the company and “a lot of sometimes visceral reactions.” 

Bellenger noted that Sora has yet to be released, so its capabilities have yet to be tested by the public. 

“What is certain is that no one expected such a technological leap forward in just a few weeks,” Bellenger said. “It’s unheard of.” 

He said whatever the future holds, they’ll “find ways to create differently.” 

Mixed reaction among creators

Video game creators are equally likely to be impacted by the new invention, with reaction among the sector divided between those open to embracing a new tool and those fearing it might replace them. 

French video game giant Ubisoft hailed the OpenAI announcement as a “quantum leap forward” with the potential to let players and development teams express their imaginations. 

“We’ve been exploring this potential for a long time,” a Ubisoft spokesperson told AFP. 

Alain Puget, chief of Nantes-based studio Alkemi, said he won’t replace any artists with AI tools, which “only reproduce things done by humans.” 

Nevertheless, Puget noted, this “visually impressive” tool could be used by small studios to produce more professionally rendered images. 

While video “cut scenes” that play out occasionally to advance game storylines are different from player-controlled action, Puget expects tools like Sora to eventually be able to replace “the way we do things.”   

‘A terrifying leap’

Basile Simon, a former journalist and current Stanford University researcher, thinks there has been “a terrifying leap forward in the last year” when it comes to generative AI allowing realistic-looking fabrications to be rapidly produced. 

He dreads the idea of how such tools will be abused during elections and fears the public will “no longer know what to believe”. 

Julien Pain of French TV channel France Info’s fact-checking program “Vrai ou Faux” (True or False) says he’s also worried about abuse of AI tools. 

“Until now, it was easy enough to spot fake images, for example by noticing the repetitive faces in the background,” Pain said. “What this new software does seems to be on another level.” 

While OpenAI and U.S. tech titans may promote safety tools, such as industry-wide watermarks that reveal AI-created imagery, “what about tomorrow’s competitors in China and Russia?” he posited. 

The Fred & Farid agency, which has collaborated with the Longchamp and Budweiser brands and where a studio dedicated to AI was opened in early January, anticipates that “80 percent of brand content will be generated by artificial intelligence.” 

“Creative genius” will no longer be limited by production skills thanks to generative AI tools, one enthusiast contended.   

Stephanie Laporte, chief executive and founder of the OTTA advertising and influencer agency, believes the technology will “force the industry to evolve.” 

She also anticipates ad companies with lean budgets will resort to AI tools to save money on workers. 

A possible exception, she believes, is the luxury segment, where brands are “very sensitive to authenticity” and “will probably use AI sparingly.” 

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House Explodes in US, Killing Firefighter, Injuring 11

sterling, virginia — One firefighter was killed, and nine others were injured when an explosion in a Washington, D.C., suburb Friday leveled a home where they were investigating a gas leak. Two other people were also injured. 

The firefighters were called to the home in Sterling, Virginia, by a report of a gas smell shortly after 7:30 p.m. and a fiery explosion took place about 30 minutes later, fire officials said. 

The blast and fire occurred while firefighters were inside the building, James Williams, assistant chief of operations for Loudon County Fire and Rescue, said at a news conference. 

“Soon after arrival, with firefighters inside, the house did explode,” Williams said. 

One firefighter was killed, while nine firefighters and two others were taken to hospitals with injuries ranging from limited to severe, Williams said. 

“We have all firefighters out of the building. The fire will continue to smolder,” Williams said. He described damage to the home as “total devastation.” 

“There’s a debris field well into the street and into the neighboring homes,” he said. 

Williams said the cause of the fire was under investigation. 

In a post on X, formerly Twitter, the Sterling Volunteer Fire Company said its crews had responded to a report of a gas leak before the blast. 

A neighbor, John Padgett, told ABC7 News that he had smelled gas while walking his dog earlier. The blast shook his home, he said. 

“It looked like an inferno,” and insulation from the burning home fell like ash, he added. “It was horrific; it looked like something out of a war zone.” 

Sterling is about 22 miles (35 kilometers) northwest of Washington, D.C. 

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