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Tear gas fired at Liverpool fans amid CL final stadium chaos

Tear gas fired at fans

Riot police fired tear gas and pepper spray at Liverpool supporters forced to endure lengthy waits to get into the Champions League final which was delayed for 37 minutes as security struggled with frustrated crowds at the Stade de France on Saturday.

As Liverpool lost the showpiece game of the European season to Real Madrid 1-0, UEFA put the blame for blocked turnstiles on thousands of fans who purchased fake tickets. The competition organizers did not identity where they were from and Liverpool said it was “hugely disappointed” with the security issues experienced by its fans.

Angry Liverpool fans held in the lines were seen hanging onto railings and heard shouting: “Let us in. We’ve got tickets.”

There were many instances of fans breaking through security and attempting to get into the stadium. The Associated Press saw two fans — one was wearing Liverpool attire — wrestled to the ground by stewards and bundled out of the gates.

Three more fans were seen evading stewards and sprinting through the concourse and into the bottom level of the stadium. Other people, wearing no obvious club attire, climbed the fences instead as Liverpool fans shouted at them to get down.

The final kicked off despite fans still trying to get through ticket checks. Fresh rounds of tear gas were fired by riot police from inside the security perimeter at people outside the fences. Police and stewards were seen falling to the ground, impacted by the eye-irritating substances.

Supporter Colm Lacey saw “children crying, people trapped” outside the entrances.

“People started jumping the queue, then they ripped the gate open and then there was a push,” Lacey said.

About 15 minutes before the scheduled kickoff of 9 p.m. local time, an announcement was made that there would be a delay, blaming the late arrival of fans to the stadium. It was greeted by jeers inside the stadium, given those fans had already endured long queues. The game eventually started at 9.37 p.m.

“We’ve been stood at this gate since 6:15,” Liverpool fan Angela Murphy told the AP through a fence. "I’ve got really bad asthma and I’ve been tear gassed twice. I’m really struggling.”

Asked what provoked the tear gassing, Murphy replied: “Nothing, we’re stood here. There was nothing. It’s just been horrendous. We have been well behaved.”

Police officers with batons and riot shields ran from gate to gate to prevent pockets of fans forcing their way into the stadium without showing tickets. One policeman collapsed to the ground and had to be helped by other officers. Officers used tear gas on Liverpool fans on repeated occasions.

One Liverpool fan kissed his ticket and looked to the sky after finally getting through security.

Liverpool supporter Joe Moorcroft complained about being treated like animals.

“It’s a disgrace. We’ve seen this before, it’s a risk to health,” he said. “We’ve seen this and it’s going to happen all again. I feel it now. They threw tear gas in the fans.”

UEFA said it was “sympathetic to those affected” and it announced an urgent review by French police and authorities along with the French Football Federation.

“In the lead-up to the game, the turnstiles at the Liverpool end became blocked by thousands of fans who purchased fake tickets which did not work in the turnstiles,” UEFA said in a statement.

“This created a buildup of fans trying to get in. As a result, the kickoff was delayed by 35 minutes to allow as many fans as possible with genuine tickets to gain access. As numbers outside the stadium continued to build up after kickoff, the police dispersed them with tear gas and forced them away from the stadium.”

Liverpool wants a formal investigation.

“We are hugely disappointed at the stadium entry issues and breakdown of the security perimeter that Liverpool fans faced,” the club said in a statement. “This is the greatest match in European football and supporters should not have to experience the scenes we have witnessed tonight.”

The scenes were reminiscent of the chaos outside Wembley Stadium before the European Championship final last year. That was largely due to England fans aggressively trying to get into their home stadium for the game that Italy won.





Police: 31 dead in church fair stampede in southern Nigeria

31 killed in stampede

A stampede Saturday at a church charity event in southern Nigeria left 31 people dead and seven injured, police told The Associated Press, a shocking development at a program that organizers said aimed to "offer hope" to the needy.

The stampede at the program organized by the Kings Assembly pentecostal church in Rivers state involved many people who were seeking assistance, according to Grace Iringe-Koko, a police spokeswoman in the state.

Many of the victims came to an annual “Shop for Free” charity program organized by the church. Such events are common in Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, where more than 80 million people live in poverty, according to government statistics.

Saturday’s charity program was supposed to begin at 9 a.m. but dozens arrived as early as 5 a.m. to secure their place in line, Iringe-Koko said. Somehow they broke open the locked gate, she said, adding that the seven injured were “responding to treatment.”

Videos from the scene showed the clothing, shoes and other items meant for the beneficiaries. Doctors and emergency workers treated some of the injured as they lay in the open field.

The “Shop for Free” event was suspended while authorities investigated how the stampede occurred.



Iran seizes 2 Greek tankers in Persian Gulf as tensions rise

Iran seizes 2 Greek tankers

Iran's paramilitary Revolutionary Guard seized two Greek oil tankers Friday in helicopter-launched raids in the Persian Gulf, officials said. The action appeared to be retaliation for Athens' assistance in the U.S. seizure of crude oil from an Iranian-flagged tanker this week in the Mediterranean Sea over violating Washington's crushing sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

The raid marks the first major incident at sea in months as tensions remain high between Iran and the West over its tattered nuclear deal with world powers. As Tehran enriches more uranium, closer to weapons-grade levels than ever before, worries mount that negotiators won't find a way back to the accord — raising the risk of a wider war.

The Guard issued a statement announcing the seizures, accusing the tankers of unspecified violations. Nour News, a website close to Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, warned a short time earlier that Tehran planned to take "punitive action" over Greece assisting the U.S. in seizing oil days earlier from the Iranian-flagged tanker Lana.

Greece's Foreign Ministry said it made a strong demarche to the Iranian ambassador in Athens over the “violent taking over of two Greek-flagged ships” in the Persian Gulf. “These acts effectively amount to acts of piracy,” a ministry statement said.

The ministry called for the immediate release of the vessels and their crews, warning the seizure would have “particularly negative consequences” in bilateral relations and in Iran’s relations with the European Union, of which Greece is a member.

An Iranian helicopter landed on the Greek-flagged Delta Poseidon in international waters, some 22 nautical miles off the coast of Iran, the ministry said.

“Armed men then took the crew captive,” it said, adding that two Greek nationals were among the crew.

“A similar incident has been reported on another Greek-flagged vessel, that was carrying seven Greek citizens, close to the coast of Iran,” the ministry said.

A Greek official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss details of the attack with a journalist, identified the second ship as the Prudent Warrior. Its manager, Polembros Shipping in Greece, earlier said the company was “cooperating with the authorities and making every possible effort to address the situation effectively.”

Greek officials did not identify the nationalities of the other crew on board the vessels.

Both vessels had come from Iraq's Basra oil terminal, loaded with crude, according to tracking data from MarineTraffic.com. Prudent Warrior just before had been off Qatar and likely loaded oil there as well, the data showed.

A U.S. defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters, said it appeared the two ships had come close to — but not into — Iranian territorial waters Friday. After the hijacking, they drifted into Iranian waters. The ships also had turned off their tracking devices — another red flag, the official said. However, neither had issued a mayday or a call for help, the official said.

Iran’s seizure on Friday was the latest in a string of hijackings and explosions to roil a region that includes the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which a fifth of all traded oil passes. The incidents began after then-President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the U.S. from Iran's nuclear deal with world powers, which saw Tehran drastically limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.

The U.S. Navy blamed Iran for a series of limpet mine attacks on vessels that damaged tankers in 2019, as well as for a fatal drone attack on an Israeli-linked oil tanker that killed two European crew members in 2021.

Iranian hijackers also stormed and briefly captured a Panama-flagged asphalt tanker off the United Arab Emirates last year, and briefly seized and held a Vietnamese tanker in November.

Tehran denies carrying out the attacks, but a wider shadow war between Iran and the West has played out in the region’s volatile waters. Tanker seizures have been a part of it since 2019, when Iran seized the British-flagged Stena Impero after the United Kingdom detained an Iranian oil tanker off Gibraltar. Iran released the tanker months later as London also released the Iranian vessel.

Iran last year also seized and held a South Korean-flagged tanker for months amid a dispute over billions of dollars of frozen assets Seoul holds.

“This incident is assessed to be a retaliatory action in line with a history of Iranian forces detaining vessels in a tit-for-tat manner,” maritime intelligence firm Dryad Global warned. “As a result, Greek-flagged vessels operating within the vicinity of Iran in the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman are currently assessed to be at a heightened risk of interception and it is advised to avoid this area until further notice.”

Underlining that threat, Iran's semiofficial Tasnim news agency warned in a tweet: “There are still 17 other Greek ships in the Persian Gulf that could be seized.”

Meanwhile, the Guard is building a massive new support ship near the Strait of Hormuz as it tries to expand its naval presence in waters vital to international energy supplies and beyond, according to satellite photos obtained by The Associated Press.

Talks in Vienna over Iran's tattered nuclear deal have been stalled since April. Since the deal's collapse, Iran runs advanced centrifuges and has a rapidly growing stockpile of enriched uranium. Nonproliferation experts warn Iran has enriched enough up to 60% purity — a short technical step from weapons-grade levels of 90% — to make one nuclear weapon if it choose.

Iran insists its program is for peaceful purposes, though United Nations experts and Western intelligence agencies say Iran had an organized military nuclear program through 2003.

Building a nuclear bomb would still take Iran more time if it pursued a weapon, analysts say, though they warn Tehran's advances make the program more dangerous. Israel has threatened in the past it will carry out a preemptive strike to stop Iran — and already is suspected in a series of recent killings targeting Iranian officials.





Florida condo collapse settlement reached, tops $1 billion

$1B collapse settlement

Attorneys for the families who lost relatives in last year's collapse of a Florida condominium tower that killed 98 people reached a $1.02 billion settlement Friday, providing a speedy resolution to lawsuits that could have dragged on for years.

The agreement to end litigation over the Champlain Towers South tragedy awaits approval by Circuit Judge Michael Hanzman, but that should just be a formality.

Lawyers previously had announced in court a tentative agreement that almost $1 billion would be split by the families whose relatives died or were harmed in the collapse of the 12-story tower in Surfside, and parties on both sides of the lawsuit filed a motion Friday committing to a $1.02 billion settlement fund. Additionally, nearly $100 million will be split by those who lost their property in the collapse.

Families of victims will have to file claims, as the money will not be split evenly. The goal is to begin distributing money by September.

The money comes from several sources, including insurance companies, engineering companies and a luxury condominium that had recently been built next door. None of the parties are admitting wrongdoing. A billionaire developer from Dubai i s set to purchase the 1.8-acre (1-hectare) beachside site for $120 million, contributing to the settlement.

The judge will determine the attorneys fees, but it is expected to be a fraction of the third lawyers would normally earn. Cases like this typically take three years or more to reach a settlement, let alone get to trial.

In their motion for “preliminary approval of class action settlement," attorneys for plaintiffs and defendants described the collapse in Surfside as a “ ‘black swan’ event that devastated this community," and said they were “proud to have met this Court’s challenge to provide relief to the class of victims before the one-year anniversary of the collapse.”

Most of Champlain Towers South collapsed suddenly around 1:20 a.m. last June 24 as most of its residents slept. Only three people survived the initial collapse.

No other survivors were found despite around-the-clock efforts by rescuers who dug through a 40-foot (12-meter) high pile of rubble for two weeks. Another three dozen people were able to escape from the portion of the building that remained standing. All 135 units were ultimately demolished, leaving a gaping hole along Surfside's beachfront.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology is investigating the cause of the collapse, a process expected to take years. Champlain South had a long history of maintenance problems and questions have been raised about the quality of its original construction and inspections in the early 1980s.

The collapse drew new scrutiny to high-rise safety statewide, especially in vulnerable coastal areas. At the time, Miami-Dade and neighboring Broward counties were the only ones of Florida’s 67 counties requiring buildings to recertify their safety after 40 years.

New legislation passed by the Legislature this week in a special session and signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis will require those certifications statewide, significantly earlier in the building’s lifespan.

Recertification will be required after 30 years, or 25 years if the building is within 3 miles (5 kilometers) of the coast, and every 10 years thereafter. The Champlain Towers South was 40 years old and its condominium association had been struggling with compliance at the time of the collapse.



Children called 911 during siege: 'Please send the police'

Kids: 'Please send police'

Nearly 20 officers stood in a hallway outside of the classrooms during this week's attack on a Texas elementary school for more than 45 minutes before agents used a master key to open a door and confront a gunman, authorities said Friday.

The on-site commander believed the gunman, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, was barricaded in a classroom at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde during Tuesday's attack and that the children were not at risk, Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steven McCraw said at a news conference.

“He was convinced at the time that there was no more threat to the children and that the subject was barricaded and that they had time to organize” to get into the classroom, McCraw said.

“Of course it was not the right decision. It was the wrong decision,” he said.

McCraw said U.S. Border Patrol agents eventually used a master key to open the locked door of the classroom where they confronted and killed Ramos, who killed 19 students and two teachers.

McCraw said there was a barrage of gunfire shortly after Ramos entered the classroom where they killed Ramos but that shots were “sporadic” for much of the 48 minutes while officers waited outside the hallway. He said investigators do not know if or how many children died during those 48 minutes.

Throughout the attack, teachers and children repeatedly called 911 asking for help, including a girl who pleaded: “Please send the police now,” McCraw said.

Questions have mounted over the amount of time it took officers to enter the school to confront the gunman.

It was 11:28 a.m. Tuesday when Ramos' Ford pickup slammed into a ditch behind the low-slung Texas school and the driver jumped out carrying an AR-15-style rifle.

Twelve minutes after that, authorities say, the 18-year-old Ramos entered the halls of Robb Elementary School and found his way to a fourth-grade classroom, where he killed 19 students and two teachers in a still-unexplained spasm of violence.

But it wasn't until 12:58 p.m. that law enforcement radio chatter said Ramos had been killed and the siege was over.

What happened in those 90 minutes, in a working-class neighborhood near the edge of the town of Uvalde, has fueled mounting public anger and scrutiny over law enforcement's response to Tuesday's rampage.

"They say they rushed in," said Javier Cazares, whose fourth-grade daughter, Jacklyn Cazares, was killed in the attack, and who raced to the school as the massacre unfolded. “We didn’t see that.”

Friday's update on the attack's timeline came only after authorities declined to explain why officers had not been able to stop the shooter sooner, with Victor Escalon, regional director for the Texas Department of Public Safety, telling reporters Thursday that he had “taken all those questions into consideration,” but was not ready to answer them.

The Thursday briefing, called by Texas safety officials to clarify the timeline of the attack, provided bits of previously unknown information. But by the time it ended, it had added to the troubling questions surrounding the attack, including about the time it took police to reach the scene and confront the gunman, and the apparent failure to lock a school door he entered.

After two days of providing often conflicting information, investigators said that a school district police officer was not inside the school when Ramos arrived, and, contrary to their previous reports, the officer had not confronted Ramos outside the building.

Instead, they sketched out a timeline notable for unexplained delays by law enforcement.

After crashing his truck, Ramos fired on two people coming out of a nearby funeral home, Escalon said. He then entered the school ”unobstructed” through an apparently unlocked door at about 11:40 a.m.

But the first police officers did not arrive on the scene until 12 minutes after the crash and did not enter the school to pursue the shooter until four minutes after that. Inside, they were driven back by gunfire from Ramos and took cover, Escalon said.

The gunman was still inside at 12:10 p.m. when the first U.S. Marshals Service deputies arrived. They had raced to the school from nearly 70 miles (113 kilometers) away in the border town of Del Rio, the agency said in a tweet Friday.

The crisis came to an end after a group of Border Patrol tactical officers entered the school at 12:45 p.m., said Texas Department of Public Safety spokesperson Travis Considine. They engaged in a shootout with the gunman, who was holed up in the fourth-grade classroom. Moments before 1 p.m., he was dead.

Escalon said that during that time, the officers called for backup, negotiators and tactical teams, while evacuating students and teachers.

Ken Trump, president of the consulting firm National School Safety and Security Services, said the length of the timeline raised questions.

“Based on best practices, it’s very difficult to understand why there were any types of delays, particularly when you get into reports of 40 minutes and up of going in to neutralize that shooter,” he said.

Many other details of the case and the response remained murky. The motive for the massacre — the nation's deadliest school shooting since Newtown, Connecticut, almost a decade ago — remained under investigation, with authorities saying Ramos had no known criminal or mental health history.

During the siege, frustrated onlookers urged police officers to charge into the school, according to witnesses.

“Go in there! Go in there!” women shouted at the officers soon after the attack began, said Juan Carranza, 24, who watched the scene from outside a house across the street.

Carranza said the officers should have entered the school sooner: “There were more of them. There was just one of him."

Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz did not give a timeline but said repeatedly that the tactical officers from his agency who arrived at the school did not hesitate. He said they moved rapidly to enter the building, lining up in a “stack" behind an agent holding up a shield.

“What we wanted to make sure is to act quickly, act swiftly, and that's exactly what those agents did,” Ortiz told Fox News.

But a law enforcement official said that once in the building, the agents had trouble breaching the classroom door and had to get a staff member to open the room with a key. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk publicly about the investigation.

Department of Public Safety spokesman Lt. Christopher Olivarez told CNN that investigators were trying to establish whether the classroom was, in fact, locked or barricaded in some way.

Cazares said that when he arrived, he saw two officers outside the school and about five others escorting students out of the building. But 15 or 20 minutes passed before the arrival of officers with shields, equipped to confront the gunman, he said.

As more parents flocked to the school, he and others pressed police to act, Cazares said. He heard about four gunshots before he and the others were ordered back to a parking lot.

“A lot of us were arguing with the police, ‘You all need to go in there. You all need to do your jobs.’ Their response was, ‘We can’t do our jobs because you guys are interfering,’” Cazares said.

As for the armed school officer, he was driving nearby but was not on campus when Ramos crashed his truck, according to a law enforcement official who was not authorized to discuss the case and spoke of condition of anonymity.

Investigators have concluded that school officer was not positioned between the school and Ramos, leaving him unable to confront the shooter before he entered the building, the law enforcement official said.

Michael Dorn, executive director of Safe Havens International, which works to make schools safer, cautioned that it’s hard to get a clear understanding of the facts soon after a shooting.

“The information we have a couple of weeks after an event is usually quite different than what we get in the first day or two. And even that is usually quite inaccurate,” Dorn said. For catastrophic events, “you’re usually eight to 12 months out before you really have a decent picture.”



WHO: Nearly 200 cases of monkeypox in more than 20 countries

Monkeypox in 20 countries

The World Health Organization says nearly 200 cases of monkeypox have been reported in more than 20 countries not usually known to have outbreaks of the unusual disease, but described the epidemic as “containable” and proposed creating a stockpile to equitably share the limited vaccines and drugs available worldwide.

During a public briefing on Friday, the U.N. health agency said there are still many unanswered questions about what triggered the unprecedented outbreak of monkeypox outside of Africa, but there is no evidence that any genetic changes in the virus are responsible.

“The first sequencing of the virus shows that the strain is not different from the strains we can find in endemic countries and (this outbreak) is probably due more to a change in human behaviour,” said Dr. Sylvie Briand, WHO’s director of pandemic and epidemic diseases.

Earlier this week, a top adviser to WHO said the outbreak in Europe, U.S., Israel, Australia and beyond was likely linked to sex at two recent raves in Spain and Belgium. That marks a significant departure from the disease’s typical pattern of spread in central and western Africa, where people are mainly infected by animals like wild rodents and primates, and outbreaks haven't spilled across borders.

Although WHO said nearly 200 monkeypox cases have been reported, that seemed a likely undercount. On Friday, Spanish authorities said the number of cases there had risen to 98, including one woman, whose infection is “directly related” to a chain of transmission that had been previously limited to men, according to officials in the region of Madrid.

U.K. officials added 16 more cases to their monkeypox tally, making Britain's total 106, while Portugal said its caseload jumped to 74 cases. And authorities in Argentina on Friday reported a monkeypox case in a man from Buenos Aires, marking Latin America's first infection. Officials said the man had traveled recently to Spain and now had symptoms consistent with monkeypox, including lesions and a fever.

Doctors in Britain, Spain, Portugal, Canada, the U.S. and elsewhere have noted that the majority of infections to date have been in gay and bisexual men, or men who have sex with men. The disease is no more likely to affect people because of their sexual orientation and scientists warn the virus could infect others if transmission isn't curbed.

WHO's Briand said that based on how past outbreaks of the disease in Africa have evolved, the current situation appeared “containable."

Still, she said WHO expected to see more cases reported in the future, noting “we don’t know if we are just seeing the peak of the iceberg (or) if there are many more cases that are undetected in communities," she said.

As countries including Britain, Germany, Canada and the U.S. begin evaluating how smallpox vaccines might be used to stem the outbreak, WHO said its expert group was assessing the evidence and would provide guidance soon.

Dr. Rosamund Lewis, head of WHO's smallpox department, said that “there is no need for mass vaccination,” explaining that monkeypox does not spread easily and typically requires skin-to-skin contact for transmission. No vaccines have been specifically developed against monkeypox, but WHO estimates that smallpox vaccines are about 85% effective.

She said countries with vaccine supplies could consider them for those at high risk of the disease, like close contacts of patients or health workers, but that monkeypox could mostly be controlled by isolating contacts and continued epidemiological investigations.

Given the limited global supply of smallpox vaccines, WHO's emergencies chief Dr. Mike Ryan said the agency would be working with its member countries to potentially develop a centrally controlled stockpile, similar to the ones it has helped manage to distribute during outbreaks of yellow fever, meningitis, and cholera in countries that can't afford them.

“We’re talking about providing vaccines for a targeted vaccination campaign, for targeted therapeutics," Ryan said. "So the volumes don’t necessarily need to be big, but every country may need access to a small amount of vaccine.”

Most monkeypox patients experience only fever, body aches, chills and fatigue. People with more serious illness may develop a rash and lesions on the face and hands that can spread to other parts of the body.



Judge dismisses Trump's lawsuit, allowing NY probe to go on

Trump lawsuit dismissed

A federal judge on Friday dismissed Donald Trump’s lawsuit against New York Attorney General Letitia James, allowing her civil investigation into his business practices to continue.

In a 43-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Brenda Sannes said she based her decision on case law that, in most cases, bars federal judges from interfering in state-level investigations.

Sannes’ ruling came a day after a New York appeals court ruled that Trump must answer questions under oath in James’ probe, upholding a lower-court ruling requiring him to sit for a deposition.

“In a big victory, a federal court has dismissed Donald Trump’s baseless lawsuit to stop my office’s investigation into his and the Trump Organization’s financial dealings,” James said in a tweet. “Frivolous lawsuits won’t stop us from completing our lawful, legitimate investigation.”

A message seeking comment was left with Trump's lawyers.

Trump sued James in December, just after she issued a subpoena for his testimony, resorting to a familiar but seldom successful strategy in an attempt to end the three-year investigation.

Through his lawyers, the Republican former president alleged that the probe was political in nature and that James, a Democrat, had violated his constitutional rights in a “thinly-veiled effort to publicly malign Trump and his associates.”

James responded that Trump’s lawsuit was a sudden “collateral attack” on her investigation and that there was no legal basis for it and no evidence to support his claim that the probe is purely political.

At a May 13 hearing that precipitated Sannes' ruling Friday, a lawyer for James' office said the probe is winding down and that evidence from it could support legal action against the former president, his company, or both.

The lawyer, Andrew Amer, said “there’s clearly been a substantial amount of evidence amassed that could support the filing of an enforcement proceeding,” although a final determination on filing such an action has not been made.

Amer, a special litigation counsel in James’ office, said the office is “nearing the end” of the civil investigation, which James has said uncovered evidence Trump’s company misstated the value of assets like skyscrapers and golf courses on financial statements for more than a decade.



Argentina reports case of monkeypox; man traveled from Spain

Argentina reports pox case

Argentina reported Latin America's first confirmed case of the monkeypox virus on Friday in a man who recently traveled to Spain.

The man, who is from the province of Buenos Aires, has monkeypox but health authorities are waiting to finish sequencing the virus before making the official announcement, said an official in Argentina’s Health Ministry. The official requested anonymity until the official announcement.

It is the first time the presence of the virus has been confirmed in Latin America.

Authorities have revealed little about the patient beyond saying he traveled to Spain from April 28 through May 16 and had symptoms compatible with monkeypox, including lesions and a fever, on Sunday.

Nearly 200 cases of monkeypox have been reported in more than 20 countries not usually known to have outbreaks of the disease, the World Health Organization said on Friday.



Russia squeezes Ukrainian strongholds in east as nation pleads for weapons

Russia squeezes strongholds

Russia-backed separatists claimed they captured a railway hub city in eastern Ukraine as Moscow’s forces strived to gain more ground Friday by pounding another Ukrainian-held area where authorities say 1,500 people have died since the start of the war.

With Russia’s offensive in Ukraine’s industrial Donbas region showing incremental progress, Ukrainian officials characterized the battle there in grave terms and renewed their appeals for more sophisticated Western-supplied weaponry.

Ukraine’s foreign minister pleaded for “weapons, weapons and weapons again,” warning that without a new injection of foreign arms, Ukrainian forces would not be able to stop Russia’s advance on the east.

The fighting Friday focused on two key cities: Sievierodonetsk and nearby Lysychansk. They are the last areas under Ukrainian control in Luhansk, one of two provinces that make up the Donbas and where Moscow-backed separatists have controlled some territory for eight years.

“There are battles on the outskirts of the city. Massive artillery shelling does not stop, day and night,” Sievierodonetsk Mayor Oleksandr Stryuk told The Associated Press. “The city is being systematically destroyed - 90% of the buildings in the city are damaged.”

An assault was underway in the city’s northeastern quarter, where Russian reconnaissance and sabotage groups tried to capture the Mir Hotel and the area around it Friday, Stryuk said.

At least 1,500 people have died in Sievierodonetsk because of the war since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, he said.

The figure includes people killed by shelling or in fires caused by Russian missile strikes, as well as those who died from shrapnel wounds, untreated diseases, a lack of medicine or while trapped under rubble, according to the mayor.

“For a month and a half, because of the shelling, it has not been possible to provide people with full-fledged medical care,” Struuk said.

About 12,000 to 13,000 people remain in the city – down from a pre-war population of about 100,000, he said.

Russian shelling killed four people in Sievierodonetsk over the past 24 hours, regional governor Serhiy Haidai wrote in a Telegram post Friday.

In Donetsk, the Donbas region’s other province, the Russia-backed rebels said Friday they took control of Lyman, a large railway hub north of two more key cities that remain under Ukrainian control.

Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovich acknowledged that “we lost Lyman” Thursday night. However, a Ukrainian Defense Ministry spokesperson reported Friday that its soldiers countered Russian attempts to push them completely out of the city.

Near the city of Dnipro in central Ukraine, 10 people were killed and about 35 wounded in Russian missile strikes against a National Guard base, according to the head of the Dnipro territorial defense forces.

As Ukraine’s hopes of stopping the Russian advance faded, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba pleaded with Western nations to provide his country with more weapons.

“We need heavy weapons. The only position where Russia is better than us, it’s the amount of heavy weapons they have. Without artillery, without multiple launch rocket systems we won’t be able to push them back,” Kuleba said in a video posted Thursday night on Twitter.

In his nightly address to the nation, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had some harsh words for the European Union, which has not agreed on a sixth round of sanctions that includes an embargo on Russian oil.

Zelenskyy said Russia’s offensive in the Donbas could leave its communities in ashes and uninhabitable. He accused Moscow of pursuing “an obvious policy of genocide” through mass deportations and killings of civilians.

On Thursday, Russian shelling of Kharkiv, a northeastern city that has been under assault while Ukrainian forces keep the invading troops out, killed nine people, including a father and his 5-month-old baby, the president said.

Associated Press reporters saw the bodies of at least two dead men and four wounded at a central subway station, where the victims were taken as shelling continued outside.

Zelenskyy also spoke bluntly about what’s at stake in the battle for eastern Ukraine.

“Pressure on Russia is literally a matter of saving lives,” he said. “And every day of delay, weakness, various disputes or proposals to ‘appease’ the aggressor at the expense of the victim is new killed Ukrainians. And new threats to everyone on our continent.”

Germany’s development minister traveled to Ukraine on Friday to pledge further civilian support and to discuss the country’s rebuilding. Austria’s chancellor, meanwhile, was set to talk to Russian President Vladimir Putin about possible prisoner exchanges.

Moscow pressed the West on Thursday to lift sanctions already imposed over the war, seeking to shift the blame for a growing global food crisis that has been worsened by Kyiv’s inability to ship millions of tons of grain and other agricultural products while under attack.



Gunman's final 90 minutes fuel questions about police delays

Heat over police delays

It was 11:28 a.m. when the Ford pickup slammed into a ditch behind the low-slung Texas school and the driver jumped out carrying an AR-15-style rifle.

Twelve minutes after that, authorities say, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos was in the hallways of Robb Elementary School. Soon he entered a fourth-grade classroom. And there, he killed 19 schoolchildren and two teachers in a still-unexplained spasm of violence.

At 12:58 p.m., law enforcement radio chatter said Ramos had been killed and the siege was over.

What happened in those 90 minutes, in a working-class neighborhood near the edge of the little town of Uvalde, has fueled mounting public anger and scrutiny over law enforcement's response to Tuesday's rampage.

"They say they rushed in," said Javier Cazares, whose fourth-grade daughter, Jacklyn Cazares, was killed in the attack, and who raced to the school as the massacre unfolded. “We didn’t see that.”

On Thursday, authorities largely ignored questions about why officers had not been able to stop the shooter sooner, with Victor Escalon, regional director for the Texas Department of Public Safety, telling reporters he had “taken all those questions into consideration” and would offer updates later.

The media briefing, called by Texas safety officials to clarify the timeline of the attack, provided bits of previously unknown information. But by the time it ended, it had added to the troubling questions surrounding the attack, including about the time it took police to reach the scene and confront the gunman, and the apparent failure to lock a school door he entered.

After two days of providing often conflicting information, investigators said that a school district police officer was not inside the school when Ramos arrived, and, contrary to their previous reports, the officer had not confronted Ramos outside the building.

Instead, they sketched out a timeline notable for unexplained delays by law enforcement.

After crashing his truck, Ramos fired on two people coming out of a nearby funeral home, Escalon said. He then entered the school ”unobstructed” through an apparently unlocked door at about 11:40 a.m.

But the first police officers did not arrive on the scene until 12 minutes after the crash and did not enter the school to pursue the shooter until four minutes after that. Inside, they were driven back by gunfire from Ramos and took cover, Escalon said.

The crisis came to an end after a group of Border Patrol tactical officers entered the school roughly an hour later, at 12:45 p.m., said Texas Department of Public Safety spokesperson Travis Considine. They engaged in a shootout with the gunman, who was holed up in the fourth-grade classroom. Moments before 1 p.m., he was dead.

Escalon said that during that time, the officers called for backup, negotiators and tactical teams, while evacuating students and teachers.

Ken Trump, president of the consulting firm National School Safety and Security Services, said the length of the timeline raised questions.

“Based on best practices, it’s very difficult to understand why there were any types of delays, particularly when you get into reports of 40 minutes and up of going in to neutralize that shooter,” he said.

Many other details of the case and the response remained murky. The motive for the massacre — the nation's deadliest school shooting since Newtown, Connecticut, almost a decade ago — remained under investigation, with authorities saying Ramos had no known criminal or mental health history.

During the siege, frustrated onlookers urged police officers to charge into the school, according to witnesses.

“Go in there! Go in there!” women shouted at the officers soon after the attack began, said Juan Carranza, 24, who watched the scene from outside a house across the street.

Carranza said the officers should have entered the school sooner: “There were more of them. There was just one of him."

Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz did not give a timeline but said repeatedly that the tactical officers from his agency who arrived at the school did not hesitate. He said they moved rapidly to enter the building, lining up in a “stack" behind an agent holding up a shield.

“What we wanted to make sure is to act quickly, act swiftly, and that's exactly what those agents did,” Ortiz told Fox News.

But a law enforcement official said that once in the building, the agents had trouble breaching the classroom door and had to get a staff member to open the room with a key. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk publicly about the investigation.

Department of Public Safety spokesman Lt. Christopher Olivarez told CNN that investigators were trying to establish whether the classroom was, in fact, locked or barricaded in some way.

Cazares said that when he arrived, he saw two officers outside the school and about five others escorting students out of the building. But 15 or 20 minutes passed before the arrival of officers with shields, equipped to confront the gunman, he said.

As more parents flocked to the school, he and others pressed police to act, Cazares said. He heard about four gunshots before he and the others were ordered back to a parking lot.

“A lot of us were arguing with the police, ‘You all need to go in there. You all need to do your jobs.’ Their response was, ‘We can’t do our jobs because you guys are interfering,’” Cazares said.

As for the armed school officer, he was driving nearby but was not on campus when Ramos crashed his truck, according to a law enforcement official who was not authorized to discuss the case and spoke of condition of anonymity.

Investigators have concluded that school officer was not positioned between the school and Ramos, leaving him unable to confront the shooter before he entered the building, the law enforcement official said.

Michael Dorn, executive director of Safe Havens International, which works to make schools safer, cautioned that it’s hard to get a clear understanding of the facts soon after a shooting.

“The information we have a couple of weeks after an event is usually quite different than what we get in the first day or two. And even that is usually quite inaccurate,” Dorn said. For catastrophic events, “you’re usually eight to 12 months out before you really have a decent picture.”



Man convicted of 1st-degree murder in beheading case

Convicted in beheading

A jury on Thursday convicted a New Hampshire man of first-degree murder for killing his wife’s coworker after he discovered they were texting, and then forcing her to behead him.

Armando Barron, 32, faces a life sentence without parole. He also was convicted of assaulting his wife, Britany Barron, the night he discovered she had been texting with her coworker, 25-year-old Jonathan Amerault. Prosecutors said he used her cellphone to lure him to a park just north of the Massachusetts state line in September 2020. Barron also was convicted of beating and kicking Amerault, forcing him into his own car and shooting him.

Amerault's mother was in the courtroom and started crying as the verdict was read. The jury had the case for a little under two hours.

“The defendant had all the motive to kill Jonathan, because for him, Jonathan was a man who had just started seeing his wife,” prosecutor Benjamin Agati said during closing arguments. “A man who his wife thought looked like an Abercrombie model, a man who was at her workplace that he now knew was talking to his wife behind his back. The man that he instantly saw as a rival.”

In closing arguments, Barron's lawyer said Britany's testimony was contradicted by physical evidence and she had a motive to lie, while a prosecutor said she told the truth and had feared for her life.

Barron had pleaded not guilty to the charges. His lawyers argue that his wife shot Amerault, which she denies.

His lawyer, Meredith Lugo, said the “primary example” of Britany's testimony not being supported by the evidence was her description of how Armando shot that last bullet in the hatchback vehicle. She said he was turned around in the passenger's seat, with Amerault in the back and his head up against the door of the hatchback.

Lugo said the shot couldn't have been inflicted that way, noting that the state's chief medical examiner testified the bullet was fired at close range.

“If Britany isn't being honest with you about that, what else isn't she telling you?” Lugo said.

Agati said that Amerault died trying to save himself, moving toward Armando as the shot was fired. He had tried to protect himself when a prior bullet went through his arm and had other defensive wounds on his arms and hands. His feet were close to a machete that was on the floor, and to the car door handles.

“To believe that during that shooting that Jonathan just sat there is not reasonable,” Agati said.

Britany, 33, testified that after Amerault was shot, she was forced to drive the car 200 miles (322 kilometers) north to a remote campsite, with Armando driving right behind her and talking to her on the phone most of the way. There, she said, she was forced to behead Amerault. Her husband eventually left her at the site, telling her to dispose of the body, she testified.

Lugo said Britany is “very capable of lying when she wants to,” noting that when she was approached at the campsite by state Fish and Game Department officers, she told them she was there “clearing her head” following a fight with a girlfriend at a party.

Eventually, the officers noticed something covered by a tarp that turned out to be Amerault's car. She was detained and brought to police.

“But of course she cooperated at that point,” Lugo said. “She had a story she was selling and she needed them to believe it,” framing herself as the victim.

Agati said the balance that Britany must have had to make, “believing that her own life was forfeit, juxtaposed with her need to get back home to the girls that she had almost literally been dragged away from, the relationship she had been in for 14 years of marriage,” should be considered by the jurors.

Britany Barron pleaded guilty last year to three counts of falsifying evidence and was released from jail on parole last month.

The Associated Press had not been naming the couple in order not to identify Britany Barron, who said she suffered extreme abuse. Through her lawyer, she recently agreed to the use of her name.



Biden to console families in Uvalde, press for action

Biden to console families

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden will travel to Uvalde, Texas, on Sunday to console families and honor victims of Tuesday’s mass school shooting in which 19 children and two teachers were killed.

The White House said the Bidens would “grieve with the community that lost 21 lives in the horrific” shooting at Robb Elementary School. Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the president would meet with the community and religious leaders and victims' families.

Jean-Pierre, the parent of an elementary school student, delivered an impassioned plea at the White House for lawmakers to come together to address gun violence.

“These were elementary school kids, they should be losing their first teeth not losing their lives,” she said.

Asked about the propriety of the National Rifle Association going ahead with its planned conference in Houston this weekend, Jean-Pierre, said, “What is inappropriate is that the leadership of the National Rifle Association has proven time and time again, that they are contributing to the problem of gun violence, not trying to solve it."

“It’s shameful that the NRA and their allies have stood in the way of every attempt to advance measures that we all know will save lives,” she said.

Jean-Pierre echoed Biden, who in remarks Tuesday evening, spoke from personal experience about the pain of losing a child, and called on the country to tighten gun laws in response to the shooting.

’“When in God’s name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby?” he said. “Why are we willing to live with this carnage? Why do we keep letting this happen?”



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