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Michigan willing to spend millions to restore Flint properties ripped up by pipe replacement

DETROIT (AP) — The state of Michigan said it’s willing to step in and oversee property repairs at 1,900 homes in Flint where water pipes have been inspected or replaced but the grounds remain a mess.

The city in March was found in civil contempt by a judge after blowing past deadlines to get the work done, years after a water switch in Flint in 2014 caused lead to leach off old pipes, spoiling the drinking water system.

Between 10,000 and 11,000 lead or galvanized steel pipes have been replaced out of 30,000 water lines that were excavated and checked, under a lawsuit settlement between Flint and residents, the Natural Resources Defense Council said.

“But there are 1,900 homes where the city has not gone back to fix the property,” NRDC attorney Sarah Tallman said, noting broken driveways and sidewalks and ripped-up lawns.

In a court filing, the state asked U.S. District Judge David Lawson to allow it to step in.

“The state has agreed to assume responsibility for managing the work being conducted by the city’s contractors, including payment of additional funds required to complete that work,” the attorney general’s office said Wednesday.

Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley said the city is grateful for the help. The balance of the work will likely cost more than $4.75 million.

“We welcome the state’s involvement,” Tallman said. “Our goal is just to finish the job. It’s already years overdue, and the city has not lived up to its commitments.”

Nearly $100 million for the pipe replacement project came from state and federal governments. Flint returned to a Detroit-area water supplier in fall 2015.

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Follow Ed White at https://twitter.com/edwritez


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After nation’s 1st nitrogen gas execution, Alabama set to give man lethal injection for 2 slayings

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama is set to execute a man Thursday evening who was convicted of bludgeoning an elderly couple to death 20 years ago to steal prescription drugs and $140 from their home.

Jamie Ray Mills, 50, is scheduled to put to death Thursday evening at a south Alabama prison. It will be Alabama’s first execution since the state conducted the nation’s first execution using nitrogen gas in January. Lethal injection remains the state’s main execution method unless an inmate has requested nitrogen.

Mills was convicted of capital murder in the 2004 slayings of Floyd Hill, 87, and his 72-year-old wife Vera Hill in Guin, about 80 miles (130 kilometers) northwest of Birmingham. Prosecutors said Mills and his wife went to the couple’s home where he attacked the couple with a hammer, tire tool and machete.

Mills, who maintained his innocence at his 2007 trial, has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene. His attorneys argued newly obtained evidence shows the prosecution lied about having a plea agreement with Mills’ wife to spare her from the death penalty if she testified against her husband. Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall’s office asked the justices to let the execution proceed, arguing there’s no question about Mills’ guilt.

Floyd Hill was the primary caregiver for his wife, who was diabetic and in poor health. He kept her medications in a tacklebox in the couple’s kitchen. The Hills regularly held yard sales to supplement their income. When the couple’s granddaughter couldn’t reach them, responding officers found them in pools of blood in the backyard shed where they stored items for yard sales.

Floyd Hill died from blunt and sharp-force wounds to the head and neck and Vera Hill about 12 weeks later from complications of head trauma, the attorney general’s office wrote in a court filing. Vera Hill was largely unable to talk after the slayings other than to call out for her husband, according to court documents.

At the time, Mills had recently quit a job as an auto mechanic at a gas station where his boss described him as a “hard worker.” He was over $10,000 behind in child support for his two sons, was upset over his parents’ failing health and had relapsed into drug use, court documents added.

JoAnn Mills became the key witness against her common-law husband. She testified that after staying up all night smoking methamphetamine, her husband told her they were going to see a man about some money and she should follow his lead at the house. Once at the home, she testified, she saw her husband repeatedly strike the couple in the backyard shed, according to court documents.

A jury convicted Jamie Mills of capital murder and voted 11-1 for the death sentence, which a judge imposed. JoAnn Mills had also been charged with capital murder, but after testifying against her husband, she pleaded to a reduced charge of murder and received a life sentence with the possibility of parole. She remains incarcerated.

The final appeals before the U.S. Supreme Court focused on arguments that the prosecution failed to disclose a deal with JoAnn Mills and challenges to the state’s lethal injection protocol. JoAnn Mill’s trial attorney, Tony Glenn, wrote in a February affidavit that before the 2007 trial, he met with the district attorney, who agreed to let her plead guilty to a lesser charge if she testified. On the stand JoAnn Mills said she was only hoping to gain “some forgiveness from God” by testifying.

“The state of Alabama plans to execute Jamie Mills by lethal injection on May 30 despite new evidence that prosecutors obtained his conviction illegally by falsely telling the judge and jury they had not made a deal with the State’s star witness,” the Equal Justice Initiative, representing Mills, wrote on its website.

The state asked the court to let the execution proceed and argued that the district attorney and investigator maintain there was no plea deal. They said other evidence also connects him to the crime.

“The jury that decided Mills’s fate heard copious inculpatory evidence, including that the murder weapons were found in his trunk alongside a pair of pants with his name on them, covered in the blood of one of the victims,” the state wrote.

Attorneys for Mills argued the trunk was unlocked and that the items could have been put there by someone else. They noted the murder weapons had unidentified DNA on them. Without JoAnn Mills testimony, his attorneys wrote, the state’s case against Mills “was consistent with Mr. Mills’ theory of defense that he was framed” by a drug dealer arrested the night of the killings with the victims’ pills and a large amount of cash.


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At 100, this vet says the ‘greatest generation’ moniker fits ‘because we saved the world.’

HELEN, Ga. (AP) — A profile of Andrew “Andy” Negra Jr., of Helen, Georgia, one of a dwindling number of veterans took part in the Allies’ European war effort that led to the defeat of Nazi Germany.

BORN: May 28, 1924, near Avella, Pennsylvania.

SERVICE: Army’s 128th Armored Field Artillery Battalion, 6th Armored Division. Landed on Utah Beach in Normandy on July 18, 1944. Fought in the battle of Brest among other battles. Later served in the Occupation of Germany. He was honorably discharged on December 17, 1945.

“BECAUSE WE SAVED THE WORLD”

It was 1943, and Andrew “Andy” Negra Jr. had just finished high school. He was thinking of attending the University of Pittsburgh. “But Uncle Sam had that finger pointed at me. ‘I need you.’ And, I was drafted.”

The third of four children born to immigrants from Austria-Hungary, Negra expressed no qualms about entering the service. “There was a war going on, so I went along with everybody else. I just went into the service with an open mind.”

Now, he proudly lays claim to being part of “The Greatest Generation.”

“Because we saved the world,” he said.

He has made the trip back to France before but says his return this year for the 80th anniversary of D-Day is special for the people of Europe, and for himself.

“I’m talking about the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Belgium. All of them are coming to this and there’ll be 35 different countries,” he told The Associated Press ahead of his trip. “So it’s going to be a pretty big event. And at the same time, I’m saying to myself, they’re going to celebrate my birthday,” said Negra, who turned 100 on May 28.

He considers himself lucky to have survived uninjured. “I saw a lot of bad things. A lot of death,” he said.

But he also recounts meeting his wife at a dance while he was deployed there. “Second song they played was ”People Will Say We’re in Love.” And I told her, I said — at that time, I’m 19 — I told her, I said, this is going to be our song for the rest of our lives. And I only knew her ten minutes.”

As the D-Day anniversary approached Negra was making plans to visit the scene of one of his life’s most harrowing moments. He recalled being on the road with the 6th Armored Division, part of a push to retake the French port city of Brest, when his column was strafed by five German planes. He scrambled out of his half-track and hid behind a well.

“These five airplanes all dove for that well,” Negra recalled. “And I was behind that well. So, when they strafed, fortunately it was a brick one, and solid.”

His plans for his return to France include revisiting the scene. “They say the well’s not there, but the location is there. So, if possible, we’re going to we’re going to go see that.”


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VP Harris to address US Air Force Academy graduates

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — Vice President Kamala Harris will speak at the U.S. Air Force Academy graduation on Thursday in Colorado, her first address at the ceremony that launches cadets into the Air Force or Space Force with pomp and the roar of jets.

President Joe Biden spoke last year to graduates, who will become second lieutenants, thanking them for choosing “service over self,” and noting the challenges ahead for the country and the world, from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to America’s rivalry with China. After greeting graduates with salutes and handshakes, the president took a spill on stage, later saying he’d tripped over a sandbag. He was uninjured.

Harris will speak in Falcon Stadium, which can host upwards of 46,000 people, during an election year, as details of a debate between Harris and Donald Trump’s yet-to-be-chosen running mate are being negotiated.

The commencement in Colorado Springs, Colorado, about an hour’s drive south of Denver, will wrap with graduates pitching their caps into the air as the world-renowned U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron, the Thunderbirds, zip past overhead.

Former Vice President Mike Pence spoke at the ceremony in 2020, when the event was scaled down to account for the COVID-19 pandemic.


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From electric vehicles to deciding what to cook for dinner, John Podesta faces climate challenges

WASHINGTON (AP) — John Podesta was two months into his new role as President Joe Biden’s global climate envoy when he faced his first international crisis — what to serve for dinner.

He had invited his Chinese counterpart, Liu Zhenmin, over to his house but learned that his guest — perhaps not surprisingly — only likes Chinese food. Although Podesta is well known for his culinary skills, he usually sticks to cooking Italian.

“I thought, OK, well, this is a diplomatic challenge,” Podesta told The Associated Press in an interview.

So Podesta whipped up risotto with leeks and fennel, infusing a classic Italian dish with vegetables that can be found in Chinese recipes. It was a culinary compromise to smooth out an essential relationship between the world’s two superpowers.

Few other problems will be solved as simply as switching around some ingredients. Although Podesta has worked on climate issues for years, the complications and obstacles have only multiplied as scientists warn that global warming is reaching critical levels.

In the interview, Podesta said he saw opportunities to work with China to limit greenhouse gas emissions that are even more potent than carbon dioxide. However, trade disagreements between the U.S. and China have led to what he described as “a period of some friction and competition,” and Podesta said he would push China to contribute more money to the global fight against climate change.

International negotiations aren’t Podesta’s only responsibility. He’s also keeping his previous job of implementing Biden’s domestic clean energy initiatives. Podesta conceded that progress has been slower than expected on electric vehicles, but he believes there’s still momentum despite efforts by the political right to “demonize” zero-emission vehicles.

Looming over all of Podesta’s efforts is this year’s election and the threat that Donald Trump could be even more zealous in trying to undo climate progress if he returns to in the White House. Podesta warned of a “carte blanche to the polluters.”

“Those things matter,” he said. “Voters can make a judgment about whether they matter to them. They certainly matter to the planet.”

It’s high stakes for a 75-year-old veteran of Democratic politics who was recently considering retirement.

“I had one foot in the car on my way to California with my wife,” he joked.

Podesta’s plan to step away from public life changed when Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act two years ago, pumping $375 billion into the fight against climate change. Podesta had helped lay the political groundwork for the law by working with advocacy groups, and Biden asked him to oversee the implementation of financial incentives for clean technologies.

“There’s no one else in the United States that knows as many people in government and knows how to get as much done in government,” said Christy Goldfuss, who previously worked at the Center for American Progress, a Democratic-aligned think tank that Podesta founded two decades ago.

Podesta’s role expanded into international politics when John Kerry, Biden’s first global climate envoy and a former U.S. secretary of state, retired earlier this year. Kerry was known for his close relationship with his Chinese counterpart, Xie Zhenhua, who stepped down as well and was replaced by Liu.

Although neither Podesta nor Liu are new to climate diplomacy, “there’s more uncertainty in the bilateral climate relationship than there has been for the last three years,” said Li Shuo, an analyst at the Asia Society who previously worked with Greenpeace in Beijing.

Earlier this month, Podesta hosted Liu in Washington for their first official meeting since taking on their new roles.

“Personal relationships only go so far, but they are important in terms of building the level of trust that each side is telling the other what is possible,” Podesta said. “And I think we ended up having a good outcome of the meeting.”

Podesta described the conversations as a give and take: “He was pushing me, I was pushing him.” The U.S. and China have opportunities to improve their reductions in emissions of methane and hydrofluorocarbons, he said, and “the world is looking to us to find ways where we can work together.”

However, a sticking point will be an area known as climate finance.

Under the Paris agreement reached in 2015, wealthy countries are supposed to collectively provide $100 billion in annual assistance for developing nations to adopt clean technologies and cope with the impact of climate change. They reached the goal in 2022, two years behind schedule, according to a report released Wednesday by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Negotiators are supposed to set a new, more ambitious target during the November summit in Azerbaijan.

“We have a challenge where it’s not just billions or even hundreds of billions of dollars of need that’s out there,” Podesta said. “We need to mobilize trillions of dollars to transform the global economy from one that’s running on polluting fossil fuels to one that’s running on clean energy.”

China has resisted any requirements to put its own money into the pot, but Podesta emphasized that it’s the world’s top emitter of greenhouse gases “and it does have an obligation to the rest of the world to contribute.”

The United States is under pressure to increase its own financial commitments, something that has been challenging with Republicans in control of the House.

Joe Thwaites, an expert on the issue at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said Biden administration officials have made progress by scraping together funding from around the federal government and searching “behind the proverbial couch cushions.”

Trade concerns with China have become more prominent. Although China has boasted that its production capacity could help the world transition to a clean energy future, U.S. officials are worried about American workers being displaced if cheap Chinese electric vehicles and other green products flood U.S. markets.

“There’s no question that we’re now in a fierce competition, particularly in these clean technologies,” Podesta said. He suggested that China is supercharging some of its industries and ramping up exports to compensate for its pandemic slump and the collapse of its housing sector, an approach that he described as “anti-competitive.”

Biden recently announced higher tariffs on Chinese electric vehicles, batteries and other technologies. He’s also pushing U.S. automakers to increase production of zero-emission vehicles through regulations and financial incentives.

“We’re seeing continued momentum,” Podesta said. “It’s maybe not as quite as fast as people anticipated. But it’s very strong, very forward moving. And I think that companies are fully committed to that transition to electrification.”

Trump has criticized the focus on electric vehicles, and partisanship has colored drivers’ views of the issue, creating a political and cultural hurdle to lowering emissions from transportation.

“I think that the right has kind of demonized electric vehicles,” Podesta said.

Dave Cooke, senior vehicles analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said that while the rules have been eased for the next few years, automakers need to increase their efforts now to ensure they hit stricter goals down the line.

“We’ve given them such a cushy first few years,” he said. “If they don’t use that time to figure out their long-term strategy, that would be extremely problematic.”

Reports by independent analysts show that the U.S. is not on track to hit the emissions reduction target that Biden set for 2030, but Podesta said he was not concerned.

“I’m confident that we can do that,” he said. “We’ve done an enormous amount already.”

He added that clean energy policies tend to be more partisan in Washington than elsewhere in the country.

“The facts on the ground are changing,” Podesta said. “As people go to work in these industries, as they take advantage of the investments that are coming to their communities and see the results of lowering pollution across the board, I think they’re very hard to reverse.”


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Boeing reaches deadline for reporting how it will fix aircraft safety and quality problems

Boeing is due to tell federal regulators Thursday how it plans to fix the safety and quality problems that have plagued its aircraft-manufacturing work in recent years.

The Federal Aviation Administration required the company to produce a turnaround plan after one of its jetliners suffered a blowout of a fuselage panel during an Alaska Airlines flight in January.

Nobody was hurt during the midair incident. Accident investigators determined that bolts that helped secure the panel to the frame of the Boeing 737 Max 9 were missing before the piece blew off. The mishap has further battered Boeing’s reputation and led to multiple civil and criminal investigations.

Whistleblowers have accused the company of taking shortcuts that endanger passengers, a claim that Boeing disputes. A panel convened by the FAA found shortcomings in the aircraft maker’s safety culture.

In late February, FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker gave Boeing 90 days to come up with a plan to improve quality and ease the agency’s safety concerns. Whitaker described the plan as the beginning, not the end, of a process to improve Boeing.

“It’s going to be a long road to get Boeing back to where they need to be, making safe airplanes,” he told ABC News last week.

The FAA limited Boeing production of the 737 Max, its best-selling plane, although analysts believe the number the company is making has fallen even lower than the FAA cap.

Boeing’s recent problems could expose it to criminal prosecution related to the deadly crashes of two Max jetliners in 2018 and 2019. The Justice Department said two weeks ago that Boeing violated terms of a 2021 settlement that allowed it to avoid prosecution for fraud. The charge was based on the company allegedly deceiving regulators about a flight-control system that was implicated in the crashes.

Most of the recent problems have been related to the Max, however Boeing and key supplier Spirit AeroSystems have also struggled with manufacturing flaws on a larger plane, the 787 Dreamliner. Boeing has suffered setbacks on other programs including its Starliner space capsule, a military refueling tanker, and new Air Force One presidential jets.

Boeing officials have vowed to regain the trust of regulators and the flying public. Boeing has fallen behind rival Airbus, and production setbacks have hurt the company’s ability to generate cash.

The company says it is reducing “traveled work” — assembly tasks that are done out of their proper chronological order — and keeping closer tabs on Spirit AeroSystems.


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AP interview: Divisions among the world’s powerful nations are undermining UN efforts to end crises

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Deep divisions especially among the world’s most powerful nations have significantly undermined what the United Nations can do to help nations move from conflict to peace, the U.N. peacekeeping chief said.

Jean-Pierre Lacroix told The Associated Press in an interview that these divisions – most notably between the U.S. and the West on one side and Russia and often China on the other — don’t only affect peacekeeping but everything the United Nations does in trying to promote peace and security.

The result is that in some cases the rivalry can lead to the presence of U.N. peacekeepers being questioned by the parties to the conflict — or even asked to leave, as happened in Mali and is happening in Congo, he said.

Twenty years ago, Lacroix said, a united international community pushed in the same direction as the United Nations to restore peace to East Timor, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Cambodia.

“But we don’t have that anymore,” he said ahead of the International Day of U.N. Peacekeepers on Wednesday.

“Yes, we still have a U.N. presence in many different crisis situations, but we don’t have the same united, committed push of the membership to advance those political agreements between the parties,” he said. “And sometimes, those agreements just unravel or they stagnate and create frustration.”

Four years ago, the United Nations had approximately 110,000 peacekeepers deployed in 13 missions around the world. Today, there are about 80,000 military and civilians in 11 peacekeeping operations.

At the same time, as Switzerland’s U.N. ambassador told the Security Council last week, there are over 120 armed conflicts around the world and millions of people are suffering.

What actions could really make a difference? “It’s a million-dollar question,” Lacroix said.

In many situations today, he said, multiple foreign countries are intervening on behalf of their own interests.

He pointed to the Central African Republic, Somalia, Sudan, Libya and Mali as examples, adding “the list is long and expanding.”

Last July, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the post-Cold War period is over, and the world is moving toward a new multipolar era already marked by the highest level of geopolitical tensions and major power competition in decades.

He warned that these divisions are undermining the cornerstone of the United Nations – having all countries work together to solve global challenges. And he outlined his “New Agenda for Peace” to address the new threats facing the world, stressing the importance of multilateralism.

Lacroix said in many crises where peacekeepers are involved, the U.N. is seeing an increasing influence of the drivers of conflict that are not properly addressed — inequality, poverty, the impact of climate change and transnational criminal activities.

The undersecretary-general for peace operations said much more needs to be done to address the drivers of conflict as well as terrorism, and this can only be done multilaterally with countries working together.

“The more division we have, the more we’re incapable to address crises, then the more challenging it is to deal effectively with those pressing global challenges,” Lacroix said.

In outlining his “New Agenda for Peace” last year, Guterres said that while peacekeepers have saved millions of lives, “longstanding unresolved conflicts, driven by complex domestic, geopolitical and transnational factors, and a persistent mismatch between mandates and resources, have exposed its limitations.”

Put bluntly, he said, “peacekeeping operations cannot succeed when there is no peace to keep.”

The secretary-general’s proposed peace agenda urges nations to move toward “nimble, adaptable” peacekeeping models with exit strategies, and to support “peace enforcement action by regional and sub-regional organizations” that are mandated by the Security Council, paid for by U.N. member states, and backed by political efforts to promote peace.

It will be high on the agenda at the “Summit of the Future” Guterres has invited world leaders to at September’s annual gathering. The summit is aimed at trying to repair what Guterres has called “a great fracture” among nations and promote the United Nations’ founding objective after World War II – to bring nations together and save future generations from war.

Lacroix said there seems to be a consensus that the drivers of conflict are global threats, but other challenges also need to be on the table as the U.N. contemplates peace operations in the future.

“How do we deal with the new technologies that can be enablers of conflict?” he said, pointing to digital technology and artificial intelligence that promote fake news and disinformation.

The United Nations has no standing military force, and its peacekeepers who wear distinctive blue berets or helmets are contributed by member nations.

“We will never have a mandate to do peace enforcement, which is another name for war,” Lacroix said. “And we would never find troop contributing countries to do that because it’s a very different proposition.”

He stressed this doesn’t mean U.N. peacekeeping is being replaced. Rather, it means there should be other models like the arrangement the U.N. now has with the African Union. In December, the Security Council adopted a resolution to consider African Union requests for U.N. member nations to fund African-led peace support operations – a key AU goal.

Richard Gowan, U.N. director for the International Crisis Group, his colleague Daniel Forti and African legal scholar Solomon Dersso presented an assessment of U.N. peace operations to a U.N. police retreat in February which concluded they are “in a period of change with no clear end in sight.”

“In contrast to the early 2000s, when the Security Council treated blue helmet operations as a `go to’ response to many civil wars,” they said, “we have entered a period in which the Security Council, regional organizations and individual states are turning to a wide range of alternative security options to deal with new crises.”

The three analysts said the options range from regional peace enforcement missions, as the African Union has carried out in Somalia, to bilateral deployments by one country, like Russia in Mali, and mercenary forces such as Russia’s Wagner Group which is reportedly still operating in Mali, the Central African Republic and elsewhere in Africa.

“We need to have a greater variety of options to address crises,” Lacroix said.


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Jurors in Trump’s hush money trial zero in on testimony of key witnesses as deliberations resume

NEW YORK (AP) — The jury in Donald Trump’s hush money trial is to resume deliberations Thursday after asking to rehear potentially crucial testimony about the alleged hush money scheme at the heart of the history-making case.

The 12-person jury deliberated for about 4 1/2 hours on Wednesday without reaching a verdict.

Besides asking to rehear testimony from a tabloid publisher and Trump’s former lawyer and personal fixer, the jury also requested to revisit at least part of the judge’s hourlong instructions that were meant to guide them on the law.

It’s unclear how long the deliberations will last. A guilty verdict would deliver a stunning legal reckoning for the presumptive Republican presidential nominee as he seeks to reclaim the White House while an acquittal would represent a major win for Trump and embolden him on the campaign trail. Since verdicts must be unanimous, it’s also possible the case ends in a mistrial if the jury can’t reach a consensus after days of deliberations.

Trump struck a pessimistic tone after leaving the courtroom following the reading of jury instructions, repeating his assertions of a “very unfair trial” and saying: “Mother Teresa could not beat those charges, but we’ll see. We’ll see how we do.”

He remained inside the courthouse during deliberations, where he posted on his social media network complaints about the trial and quoted legal and political commentators who view the case in his favor. He did not testify in his own defense, a fact the judge told jurors they could not take into account.

Trump is charged with 34 counts of falsifying business records at his company in connection with an alleged scheme to hide potentially embarrassing stories about him during his 2016 Republican presidential election campaign.

The charge, a felony, arises from reimbursements paid to then-Trump lawyer Michael Cohen after he made a $130,000 hush money payment to porn actor Stormy Daniels to silence her claims that she and Trump had sex in 2006. Trump is accused of misrepresenting Cohen’s reimbursements as legal expenses to hide that they were tied to a hush money payment.

Trump has pleaded not guilty and contends the Cohen payments were for legitimate legal services. He has also denied the alleged extramarital sexual encounter with Daniels.

To convict Trump, the jury would have to find unanimously that he created a fraudulent entry in his company’s records, or caused someone else to do so, and that he did so with the intent of committing or concealing another crime.

The crime prosecutors say Trump committed or hid is a violation of a New York election law making it illegal for two or more conspirators “to promote or prevent the election of any person to a public office by unlawful means.”

While the jury must unanimously agree that something unlawful was done to promote Trump’s election campaign, they don’t have to be unanimous on what that unlawful thing was.

The jurors — a diverse cross-section of Manhattan residents and professional backgrounds — often appeared riveted by testimony in the trial, including from Cohen and Daniels. Many took notes and watched intently as witnesses answered questions from Manhattan prosecutors and Trump’s lawyers.

Jurors started deliberating after a marathon day of closing arguments in which a prosecutor spoke for more than five hours, underscoring the burden the district attorney’s office faces in needing to establish Trump’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

The Trump team need not establish his innocence to avoid a conviction but must instead bank on at least one juror finding that prosecutors have not sufficiently proved their case.

In their first burst of communication with the court, jurors asked to rehear testimony from Cohen and former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker about an August 2015 meeting with Trump at Trump Tower where the tabloid boss agreed to be the “eyes and ears” of his fledgling presidential campaign.

Pecker testified that the plan included identifying potentially damaging stories about Trump so they could be squashed before being published. That, prosecutors say, was the beginning of the catch-and-kill scheme at the heart of the case.

Jurors also want to hear Pecker’s account of a phone call he said he received from Trump in which they discussed a rumor that another outlet had offered to buy former Playboy model Karen McDougal’s alleged story that she had a yearlong affair with Trump in the mid-2000s. Trump has denied the affair.

Pecker testified that Trump told him, “Karen is a nice girl” and asked, “What do you think I should do?” Pecker said he replied: “I think you should buy the story and take it off the market.” He added that Trump told him he doesn’t buy stories because they always get out and that Cohen would be in touch.

The publisher said he came away from the conversation thinking Trump was aware of the specifics of McDougal’s claims. Pecker said he believed the story was true and would have been embarrassing to Trump and his campaign if it were made public.

The National Enquirer’s parent company, American Media Inc., eventually paid McDougal $150,000 for the rights to her story in an agreement that also included writing and other opportunities with its fitness magazine and other publications.

The fourth item jurors requested is Pecker’s testimony about his decision in October 2016 to back out of an agreement to sell the rights to McDougal’s story to Trump through a company Cohen had established for the transaction, known as an “assignment of rights.”

“I called Michael Cohen, and I said to him that the agreement, the assignment deal is off. I am not going forward. It is a bad idea, and I want you to rip up the agreement,” Pecker testified. “He was very, very, angry. Very upset. Screaming, basically, at me.”

Pecker testified that he reiterated to Cohen that he wasn’t going forward with the agreement.

He said that Cohen told him: “The boss is going to be very angry at you.”

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Follow the AP’s coverage of former President Donald Trump at https://apnews.com/hub/donald-trump


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US nears deal to fund Moderna’s bird flu vaccine trial, FT reports

(Reuters) – The U.S. government is nearing an agreement to fund a late-stage trial of Moderna’s mRNA pandemic bird flu vaccine, the Financial Times reported on Thursday, as an H5N1 outbreak spreads through egg farms and among cattle herds.

The federal funding from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) could come as soon as next month, and would also include a promise to procure doses if the phase-three trials turn out to be successful, the report said.

It is expected to total several tens of millions of dollars, and could be accompanied by a commitment to procure doses if the phase-three trials are successful, according to the report.

Moderna and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) did not immediately respond to Reuters’ requests for a comment.

The United States, Canada and Europe have been in active talks with firms such as CSL Seqirus and GSK to acquire or manufacture H5N1 bird flu vaccines, which could be used to protect at-risk poultry and dairy workers, veterinarians and lab technicians.

Last week, a second human case of bird flu was confirmed in the United States since the virus was first detected in dairy cattle late-March.

Bird flu has fueled concerns as the disease is increasingly spreading to mammals, with the first-ever outbreaks detected in dairy cows in the United States, raising concerns about it spreading to humans through the nation’s milk supply.

Since 2022, bird flu has infected more than 90 million chickens, 9,000 wild birds, 52 dairy herds and three people in the country.

(Reporting by Kanjyik Ghosh; Editing by Savio D’Souza and Sherry Jacob-Phillips)


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Hawaii judge orders a new environmental review of a wave pool that foes say is a waste of water

HONOLULU (AP) — A judge has halted plans for an artificial wave pool until developers can revise an environmental assessment to address concerns raised by Native Hawaiians and others who say the project is unnecessary in the birthplace of surfing and a waste of water.

In granting a temporary injunction Tuesday, Hawaii Environmental Court Judge Shirley Kawamura ordered a new review of concerns including impacts on water supply and anticipated growth in the area.

A group of Native Hawaiians and other residents filed a lawsuit last year challenging the Hawaii Community Development Authority’s approval of the 19-acre (7.6-hectare) Honokea Surf Village planned for west Oahu, which found that it will have no significant environmental impacts.

Opponents of the project say the wave pool, with a capacity of 7 million gallons (26 million liters), isn’t needed less than 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) from the ocean and another existing wave pool.

Project backer and renowned Native Hawaiian waterman Brian Keaulana has said artificial waves are useful for competitive surfers to train on perfect breaks that are sometimes elusive in the ocean. Customizable surf, he said, can also help create ideal conditions to teach surfing and lifesaving skills.

“Our goal of creating a place that combines cultural education with skill-based recreation must be done in a way that does not harm our natural resources,” he said Wednesday in a statement. “The court’s ruling allows us an opportunity to revisit the environmental concerns, especially our water resources.”

The judge said in her ruling that there was “insufficient evidence for the HCDA to determine whether there is a likelihood of irrevocable commitment of natural resources and whether secondary and cumulative impacts of water use, injection, land use changes, and wildlife mitigation would likely lead to a significant impact, thereby favoring an injunction.”

The current assessment is “ambiguous as to the specific manner, time frame, and actual daily water use implicated by the initial and periodic filling of the lagoon,” the ruling said.

However the development authority did make sufficient assessment of potential impact on historic preservation and burials, it added. The HCDA declined to comment Wednesday on the ruling.

Developers say the project would be drawing from a private water company separate from Oahu’s water utility, using a supply that was committed decades ago.

But the judge noted that they draw from the same underlying aquifer.

“Thus, additional analysis is needed to fully capture the potential cumulative impact of anticipated growth and subsequent increased competing water demand,” the ruling said.

The state attorney general’s office said it was reviewing the decision.

Healani Sonoda-Pale, one of the plaintiffs, called the ruling a “pono decision,” using a Hawaiian word that can mean “righteous.”

“Much has been made about Hawaiians being on both sides of the issue,” she said. “Building a wave pool is not a cultural practice. The threat of a wave pool … is so immense in terms of how many people it could affect.”


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