Ukraine: Russians shift elite units to the new battleground
KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russia shifted a dozen crack military units from the shattered port of Mariupol to eastern Ukraine and pounded away at cities across the region, Ukrainian authorities said Friday, as the two sides hurtled toward what could be an epic battle for control of the country’s industrial heartland.
Meanwhile, Russia reported that one serviceman was killed and 27 others were left missing after the fire on board the warship Moskva, which sank a week ago following what the Ukrainians boasted was a missile attack. Moscow previously reported everyone aboard had been rescued.
The Russian Defense Ministry did not acknowledge an attack on the ship. It continued to say a fire broke out after ammunition detonated, without explaining how that happened. The loss of the guided missile cruiser — the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet — was a humiliating setback for Moscow.
In Mariupol, reduced largely to smoking rubble by weeks of bombardment, Russian state TV showed the flag of the pro-Moscow Donetsk separatists raised on what it said was the city’s highest point, its TV tower. It also showed what it said was the main building at Mariupol’s besieged Azovstal steel plant in flames.
The Kremlin has thrown over 100,000 troops and mercenaries from Syria and Libya into the fight in Ukraine and is deploying more forces in the country every day, said Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council.
McCarthy, Trump have ‘positive’ call despite Jan. 6 audio
WASHINGTON (AP) — House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy had a “positive” call with Donald Trump and appeared to be suffering little political blowback Friday from the release of audio in which he suggested the president should resign shortly after the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol insurrection.
McCarthy worked swiftly to shore up support among Republicans, calling and texting many lawmakers about his conversation with Trump as he rushed to contain the fallout. Trump himself told The Wall Street Journal that he has had “a very good relationship” with McCarthy.
In the audio, first posted Thursday by The New York Times and aired on Rachel Maddow’s MSNBC show, McCarthy is heard discussing with House Republicans the Democratic effort to remove Trump from office after the president’s supporters stormed the Capitol.
In the recording of a Jan. 10, 2021, discussion, McCarthy says he would tell Trump, “I think it will pass, and it would be my recommendation you should resign.”
McCarthy released a statement Thursday calling the report “totally false and wrong.” His spokesman, Mark Bednar, told the newspaper, “McCarthy never said he’d call Trump to say he should resign.”
Climate progress remains elusive for Biden on Earth Day
SEATTLE (AP) — With a backdrop of flowering trees, it was a setting fit for the signing of major environmental legislation. Even Seattle’s notorious clouds parted as President Joe Biden stepped up to speak Friday.
But when he sat down at a small desk with the presidential seal that had been set up for the occasion, there was no new law to sign, just an executive order directing federal officials to keep better track of trees in national forests.
The gap between the scale of the global warming crisis and the president’s initiatives seemed wider than ever on Earth Day. Although last year’s infrastructure legislation had some climate policies, such as building more charging stations for electric cars, many of Biden’s most ambitious proposals remain stalled in Congress.
Biden seemed eager to be signing something other than his executive order.
“My pen is ready,” Biden said in Seattle’s Seward Park. “Get some of these bills to my desk.”
Disney government dissolution bill signed by DeSantis
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill on Friday to dissolve the private government Walt Disney World controls on its property in the state, punishing the entertainment giant for opposing a new law that critics call “Don’t Say Gay.”
The move is expected to have huge tax implications for Disney and further sour the relationship between the Republican-led government and a major political player whose theme parks have transformed Orlando into one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations.
For DeSantis, the attack on Disney is the latest front in a culture war waged over policies involving race, gender and the coronavirus, battles he has harnessed to make himself one of the most popular Republicans in the country and a likely 2024 presidential candidate.
The law would eliminate the Reedy Creek Improvement District, as the 55-year-old Disney government is known, as well as a handful of other similar districts by June 2023. The measure does allow for the districts to be reestablished, leaving an avenue to renegotiate the future of the deal that allows the company to provide services such as zoning, fire protection, utilities and infrastructure.
DeSantis said Friday that the company would end up paying more taxes than it currently does and that the law isn’t expected to cause tax increases for residents around Disney. He gave no additional details.
Sharpton demands name of officer who killed Patrick Lyoya
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — The Rev. Al Sharpton demanded that authorities publicly identify the Michigan officer who killed Patrick Lyoya, a Black man and native of Congo who was fatally shot in the back of the head after a struggle, saying at Lyoya’s funeral Friday: “We want his name!”
Sharpton’s comments renewed demands by Lyoya’s family members and activists. He told the roughly 1,000 people gathered that authorities cannot set a precedent of withholding the names of officers who kill people. Police in Grand Rapids have said they would withhold the officer’s name unless he is charged with a crime, which they describe as a long-standing practice that applies to the public as well as city employees.
“Every time a young Black man or woman is arrested in this town, you put their name all over the news. Every time we’re suspected of something, you put our name out there,” Sharpton said. “How dare you hold the name of a man that killed this man? We want his name!”
Mourners at Renaissance Church of God in Christ, many wearing T-shirts or sweatshirts bearing Lyoya’s picture, stood and applauded.
In a statement Friday, City Manager Mark Washington acknowledged the demands and said he would discuss the matter with the police chief and human resources officials.
Looking to deepen pain for Putin, West studying oil and gas
WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States unleashed some of its toughest actions against Russian President Vladimir Putin right after he rolled his troops into Ukraine. Polls in the U.S. find that people want Washington to do more. So what’s left, financially, diplomatically and militarily, to step up the pressure?
The U.S. could get strong results from any number of next steps, economists and current and former U.S. officials say. It could simply persist in pouring cash and potent weaponry into Ukraine — a likely course. It could even commit to shutting down some of the inroads the Kremlin has made into U.S. political and financial systems, also conceivable.
But the mightiest trigger the West can pull now on Russia, many experts agree, is the one on a gas pump nozzle. Cutting off Russian profits from oil and natural gas sales has become a main topic among world leaders looking at what else they can do to force Putin to end his invasion.
“It would be very useful to try to devise a way to reduce proceeds from those sales and that really is the proper objective, I think, of a ban,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told a meeting of world finance leaders Thursday.
“But if we can think of a way to do that without harming the entire world from higher energy prices, that would be ideal,” Yellen said.
Voting groups sue over Florida congressional map
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Voting rights groups sued Florida on Friday over a congressional map drawn by Gov. Ron DeSantis and passed by the GOP-controlled Legislature, saying it will diminish the state’s Black representation and benefit Republicans.
Florida lawmakers approved the map Thursday as part of a contentious three-day special legislative session during which Black and Democratic representatives staged a sit-in on the House floor, prayed and sang “We Shall Overcome” in protest.
DeSantis, who is considered a top tier presidential candidate in 2024, signed the measure into law Friday.
The League of Women Voters of Florida, the Black Voters Matter Capacity Building Institute, Equal Ground Education Fund and others filed the suit in a state court in Tallahassee. The case alleges the new map violates provisions of the Florida Constitution that prohibit districts from diluting the electoral power of minorities and from being drawn to benefit one political party over another.
“He wants to rig the state and he wants to do that by drawing lines that unfairly represent the state and our voting population,” said Equal Ground founder Jasmine Burney-Clark in a phone interview. “We also know that he has ambitions to become president of the United States, and creating a Congress that is more favorable to the issues he presumably would push in his administration makes it easier for him to do so.”
Marjorie Taylor Greene hostile in testimony over eligibility
ATLANTA (AP) — U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene was hostile during testimony Friday in a hearing on her eligibility to run for reelection, saying she did not remember liking and making various social media posts surrounding the attack on the U.S. Capitol last year and accusing an opposing lawyer of using chopped videos and twisting her words.
Voters in the Georgia congresswoman’s district have said Greene helped facilitate the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection that disrupted certification of President Joe Biden’s victory, making her ineligible for reelection under a rarely cited section of the 14th Amendment dealing with “insurrection or rebellion.”
But Greene — who, the day before the Capitol riot, proclaimed on TV that this is “our 1776 moment” — testified that she’s never endorsed violence.
Greene is set to appear on the Republican ballot for Georgia’s May 24 primary and has been endorsed by former President Donald Trump. The administrative law judge who oversaw the hearing must present his findings to Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who will then make the ultimate determination over whether Greene is qualified.
Greene has repeatedly denied aiding or engaging in an insurrection and has filed a lawsuit alleging that the law the voters are using to challenge her eligibility is itself unconstitutional.
The Edsel, Quibi and CNN+? New addition to business failures
NEW YORK (AP) — The Edsel. Quibi. New Coke. The Segway. DeLorean sports cars. The pantheon of colossal business failures has a new member in the CNN+ streaming service.
The news network’s subscription offering hadn’t even been operating for a month before Warner Bros. Discovery announced this week that it would be shutting down on April 30.
“It’s going to be in the Top 10,” said Steve Rosenbaum, executive director of the NYC Media Lab and an expert in business innovation, surveying the lengthy history of products that went belly-up.
While “CNN minus” comments quickly proliferated, it’s no joke to the more than 300 people hired for CNN+, which was in development for two years. CNN is expected to absorb some of those jobs but there will be layoffs — a clear picture on those numbers is still emerging.
The company spent hundreds of millions of dollars on the project and no one knew when, or if, losses would be replaced by profits.
Heat-Hawks delayed by suspicious package outside arena
ATLANTA (AP) — The NBA playoff game between the Miami Heat and Atlanta Hawks was delayed Friday night after a suspicious package was found outside State Farm Arena.
The tipoff was pushed back nearly an hour while police investigated the package. Three gates were closed while security personnel made sure there was no danger.
The package was found near the stairwell that provides access to a MARTA subway station at the arena.
The game finally began shortly before 8 p.m., but many fans in the sellout crowd were still in long lines outside the arena, plodding through security checkpoints that are in place for all games.
“Out of an abundance of caution, Gates 1, 2 and 3 were temporarily closed by the Atlanta Police Department while the police department, K-9 units and arena security worked to clear the arena and investigate the contents,” the arena said in a statement. “The contents of the package were found not to be explosive, and the package was removed safely by the Atlanta Bomb Squad.”
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