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Senate panel advances Biden pick as WH science adviser

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate Commerce Committee has approved President Joe Biden’s nomination of Eric Lander to be chief science adviser. It’s one of the last unfilled Cabinet posts in the Biden administration. Lander, a geneticist and founding director of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, was the lead author of the first paper announcing the details of the human genome, the so-called “book of life.” He has been nominated as director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, a position that Biden has elevated to Cabinet rank. The Senate panel approved him Thursday by voice vote. That clears the nomination for an eventual Senate confirmation vote. 

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Justice delayed? In wealthy California town, officer kills 2

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DANVILLE, Calif. (AP) — Two fatal shootings by the same police officer in a wealthy San Francisco suburb have cast a spotlight on what criminal justice activists are calling a case of delayed justice and its deadly consequences. Felony charges were announced last month against Officer Andrew Hall, of the Danville Police Department, for fatally shooting an unarmed Filipino man in 2018, who was mentally ill. The charges came more than two years after the shooting. It also came six weeks after Hall shot and killed a Black homeless man in March, prompting questions about how police patrol the wealthy, mostly white suburb.

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Filing: Ex-Boston mayor knew of abuse claims against top cop

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BOSTON (AP) — Former Boston Police Commissioner William Gross says ex-Mayor Marty Walsh was aware of decades-old domestic violence allegations against the city’s now embattled top cop before picking him to lead the department. The statement this week came in a case brought by Police Commissioner Dennis White, who is urging a court to block the city from firing him after placing him on leave in February. Walsh, now secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor, denies having any knowledge of the allegations before picking White for the top job. A judge heard arguments in the White’s case on Thursday but didn’t immediately issue a ruling.

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An ailing Sahrawi leader shakes Spain and Morocco’s alliance

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LOGRONO, Spain (AP) — The leader of an Algeria-backed movement fighting for the independence of Africa’s Western Sahara was quietly admitted to a hospital in Spain last month. His presence there didn’t go unnoticed by the government of Morocco even though Brahim Ghali registered with a disguised identity. Morocco annexed Western Sahara nearly half a century ago and regards the leader of the Polisario Front as a terrorist. The diplomatic dispute arising from Ghali’s treatment in Spain has caused an unprecedented humanitarian crisis after Morocco relaxed controls at its borders with the Spanish city of Ceuta. Thousands of migrants, many of them children, climbed or swam across. Ghali’s future also is shrouded in uncertainty as he recovers from COVID-19. 

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Polish journalist wins legal battle against Bannon protege

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WARSAW, Poland (AP) — A Polish journalist who described a protégé of Steve Bannon as part of a global war against democracy by global right-wing actors with indirect ties to Russia has won a years-long legal battle with the conservative activist. Matthew Tyrmand, an American with Polish roots, has written for Breitbart and is a board member of the organization Project Veritas, which carries out undercover stings against liberal and mainstream media seeking to expose their alleged bias. Tyrmand sued Polish journalist Tomasz Piatek and Agora, publisher of the liberal newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza, over a 2016 article that described Tyrmand as “part of the global war by the right wing against democracy” and as a supporter of then-President Donald Trump.

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AP Interview: Hamas official says ‘no shortage of missiles’

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BEIRUT (AP) — A senior Hamas official says he expects a cease-fire between the group’s Gaza branch and Israel within a day. Osama Hamdan tells The Associated Press that Egypt and Qatar are mediating and that progress is being made. Still, he warned that Hamas has “no shortage of missiles” and is prepared to continue fighting. Hamdan is a member of Hamas’ decision-making political bureau. He says the group’s elusive commander in Gaza remains in charge of the fighting. That commander, Mohammed Deif, is rarely seen in public. He tops Israel’s most-wanted list after having survived multiple assassination attempts in the past. 

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Man accused of killing Yale grad student returned to Conn.

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A Connecticut judge has set $20 million bail for a man charged with fatally shooting a Yale graduate student and eluding authorities for three months before being arrested in Alabama. Qinxuan Pan was extradited to Connecticut on Wednesday night and arraigned Thursday in New Haven Superior Court. He is charged with murder in connection with the killing of 26-year-old Kevin Jiang on a New Haven street. Pan’s lawyer says Pan intends to plead not guilty. A motive for the shooting has not been disclosed. A prosecutor says Pan was caught in Montgomery, Alabama, living under a fake name and with $19,000 in cash.

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Africa’s vaccine campaigns hurt by India’s ban on exports

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JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Africa’s top health official says the continent’s vaccination campaigns to battle COVID-19 are facing significant delays because of the export ban imposed by India. The AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India was to be an integral part of the U.N.-backed COVAX initiative to distribute vaccines to low- and middle-income nations. John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said India’s decision to halt all exports of the vaccines it produces had badly affected Africa’s mass vaccination drive, which was already lagging behind many other parts of the world. 

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Israel unleashes strikes as expectations for truce rise

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GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Israel unleashed another wave of airstrikes across the Gaza Strip early Thursday, killing at least one Palestinian and wounding several, and Hamas fired more rockets, even as expectations rose that a cease-fire could be reached.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pushed back against calls from the U.S. to wind down the Gaza offensive, appearing determined to inflict maximum damage on Hamas in a war that could help save his political career. Still, officials close to the negotiations say they expect a truce to be announced in the next 24 hours.

In another possible sign of progress, Netanyahu scheduled a meeting later Thursday with his Security Cabinet, where the issue of a cease-fire was likely to be debated.

Explosions shook Gaza City and orange flares lit up the pre-dawn sky, with bombing raids also reported in the central town of Deir al-Balah and the southern town of Khan Younis. As the sun rose, residents surveyed the rubble from at least five family homes destroyed in Khan Younis. There were also heavy airstrikes on a commercial thoroughfare in Gaza City.

The Israeli military said it struck at least three homes of Hamas commanders in Khan Younis and another in Rafah, targeting “military infrastructure,” as well as a weapons storage unit at a home in Gaza City.

With hundreds already killed in the worst fighting since Israel and Hamas’ 2014 war, U.S. President Joe Biden told Israel on Wednesday that he expected “a significant de-escalation today on the path to a cease-fire” — but Netanyahu pushed back, saying he was “determined to continue this operation until its aim is met.” It marked the first public rift between the two close allies since the fighting began and poses a difficult test of the U.S.-Israel relationship early in Biden’s presidency.

Still, an Egyptian intelligence official said a cease-fire was likely late Thursday or early Friday, after the U.S. appeal bolstered Cairo’s own efforts to halt the fighting. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the delicate talks.

Khalid Okasha, director of the Egyptian Center for Strategic Studies, which has close ties to the government, also said a cease-fire was likely in that timeframe, as did Osama Hamdan, a senior Hamas official.

Visiting the region, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Israel has “the right to defend itself against such unacceptable attacks.” But he also expressed concern about the rising number of civilian victims and voiced support for truce efforts.

United Nations Mideast envoy Tor Wennesland was in the Gulf state of Qatar to help press forward with efforts to restore calm, a diplomatic official said. Energy-rich Qatar often helps mediate between Israel and Hamas and has donated hundreds of millions of dollars for development and humanitarian projects in Gaza in recent years to help maintain calm. The diplomat spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter with the media.

In New York, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged for an immediate cease-fire, speaking at the start of a U.N. General Assembly emergency meeting. He called on Israel and Hamas “to allow for mediation efforts to intensify in order to bring the fighting to an end.”

Even as the diplomatic efforts appeared to gather strength, an Israeli airstrike smashed into the Khawaldi family’s two-story house in Khan Younis, destroying it. The 11 residents, who were sleeping outside of the home out of fear, were all wounded and hospitalized, said Shaker al-Khozondar, a neighbor.

Shrapnel also hit his own home, killing his aunt and wounding her daughter and two other relatives, he said. Al-Khozondar spoke from his aunt Hoda’s bedroom where she had died. The windows were shattered and the bed pillows and rubble were stained with blood.

Weam Fares, a spokesman for a nearby hospital, confirmed the death and said at least 10 people were wounded in strikes overnight.

Heavy airstrikes also pummeled a street in the Jabaliya refugee camp in northern Gaza, destroying ramshackle homes with corrugated metal roofs nearby. The military said it struck two underground launchers in the camp used to fire rockets at Tel Aviv.

“Never in my life have I seen such destruction,” said Ibrahim Afana, 44. “We didn’t even have three minutes to put a slipper on our foot,” he said, describing his family’s panicked flight after they were awakened by the bombing. He said the army had called some residents to warn them about the impending strikes. There were no reports of casualties.

The current round of fighting between Israel and Hamas began May 10, when the militant group fired long-range rockets toward Jerusalem after days of clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli police at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, a flashpoint site sacred to Jews and Muslims. Heavy-handed police tactics at the compound and the threatened eviction of dozens of Palestinian families by Jewish settlers had inflamed tensions.

Since then, Israel has launched hundreds of airstrikes that it says have targeted Hamas’ infrastructure, including a vast tunnel network. Hamas and other militant groups embedded in residential areas have fired over 4,000 rockets at Israeli cities, with hundreds falling short and most of the rest intercepted.

At least 230 Palestinians have been killed, including 65 children and 39 women, with 1,710 people wounded, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, which does not break the numbers down into fighters and civilians. Hamas and militant group Islamic Jihad say at least 20 of their fighters have been killed, while Israel says the number is at least 130. Some 58,000 Palestinians have fled their homes.

Twelve people in Israel, including a 5-year-old boy, a 16-year-old girl and a soldier, have been killed. The military said an anti-tank missile fired from Gaza hit an empty bus near the frontier on Thursday, lightly wounding an Israeli soldier.

Since the fighting began, Gaza’s infrastructure, already weakened by a 14-year blockade, has rapidly deteriorated. Medical supplies, water and fuel for electricity are running low in the territory, on which Israel and Egypt imposed the blockade after Hamas seized power in 2007.

Israeli bombing has damaged over 50 schools across the territory, according to advocacy group Save the Children, completely destroying at least six. While repairs are done, education will be disrupted for nearly 42,000 children.

Israeli attacks have also damaged at least 18 hospitals and clinics and destroyed one health facility, the World Health Organization said. Nearly half of all essential drugs have run out.

NOAA forecasts another active Atlantic Hurricane Season

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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is calling for another busier-than-normal Atlantic Hurricane Season this year.

The organization predicts a 60% chance of an above-normal season, a 30% chance of a near-normal season, and a 10% chance of a below-normal season. However, they do not anticipate the level of activity that was seen in 2020.

Forecasters are calling for 13 to 20 named storms, with six to 10 of the storms being hurricanes. Forecasters also believe between three and five of the storms will be major hurricanes (a Category 3 storm or stronger.)

https://twitter.com/VivianGonzalez7/status/1395420972572946432

“Now is the time for communities along the coastline as well as inland to get prepared for the dangers that hurricanes can bring,” said Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo. “The experts at NOAA are poised to deliver life-saving early warnings and forecasts to communities, which will also help minimize the economic impacts of storms.”

“Although NOAA scientists don’t expect this season to be as busy as last year, it only takes one storm to devastate a community,” said Ben Friedman, acting NOAA administrator.

To read the full outlook, click here.