Loughlin, husband to serve time
“Full House” actress Lori Loughlin and her fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli, agreed to serve prison time as part of a deal to plead guilty to cheating the college admissions process, according to court papers filed Thursday. Loughlin, 55, has agreed to serve two months behind bars and Giannulli, 56, has agreed to serve five months under the deal that must be approved by the judge. They are scheduled to plead guilty Friday via video conference. It’s a stunning reversal for the famous couple who insisted for the last year they were innocent and that investigators had fabricated evidence against them. Their decision comes about two weeks after the judge rejected their bid to dismiss the case over allegations of misconduct by federal authorities. “I think they made a calculated assessment that the risks were just too great” to bring the case to trial, said former federal prosecutor Bradley Simon. They were scheduled to go to trial in October on charges that they paid $500,000 in bribes to get their two daughters into the University of Southern California as crew team recruits, even though neither of them played the sport. They helped create fake athletic profiles for their daughters by sending the admitted ringleader of the scheme, admissions consultant Rick Singer, photos of the teens posing on rowing machines, authorities said. Lawyers for Loughlin and Giannulli had argued that the couple believed the payments were “legitimate donations” that would go directly to USC as a fundraising gift or support Singer’s charity. They also accused prosecutors of hiding crucial evidence that could prove the couple’s innocence because it would undermine their case.
Job market remains grim
WASHINGTON — Signs of renewed business activity are surfacing across the country as states gradually reopen economies and some businesses call a portion of their laid-off staffers back to work. Yet with millions more Americans seeking unemployment aid last week, the U.S. job market remains as bleak as it’s been in decades. More than 2.4 million laid-off workers filed for jobless benefits last week, the government said Thursday, the ninth straight week of outsize figures since the viral outbreak forced millions of businesses to closer their doors and shrink their workforces. And while the number of weekly applications has slowed for seven straight weeks, they remain immense by any historical standard — roughly 10 times the typical figure that prevailed before the virus struck. Nearly 39 million people have applied for benefits since mid-March. “There is little evidence that the reopening of the economy has, as yet, led to any sudden snap back in employment,” said Paul Ashworth, an economist at Capital Economics. Nearly half of Americans say that either their incomes have declined or they live with an adult who has lost pay through a job loss or reduced hours, the Census Bureau said in survey data released Wednesday. More than one-fifth of Americans had little or no confidence in their ability to pay the next month’s rent or mortgage on time, the survey found. Most economists and business leaders say the lifting of restrictions on business activity won’t likely be enough to spur significant hiring in the weeks and months ahead. Surveys suggest that consumers will remain wary of shopping, traveling, eating out or congregating in large groups until a vaccine is available or they’re otherwise confident they can avoid infection.
Michigan assesses flood damage
MIDLAND, Mich. — It could be days before the full scope of damage from flooding in Central Michigan that submerged houses, washed out roads and threatened a Superfund site is apparent, authorities warned Thursday, as Gov. Gretchen Whitmer expressed hope the president will soon sign a federal emergency declaration. Some of the floodwaters from heavy rains that overtook two dams retreated, but much remained underwater, including in Midland, the headquarters of Dow Chemical Co. And floodwaters continued to threaten downstream communities. “The damage is truly devastating to see how high the water levels are, to see roofs barely visible in parts of Midland, and to see a lake that has been drained in another part,” said Whitmer, who toured Midland County on Wednesday. The flooding forced about 11,000 people to evacuate their homes in the Midland area, about 140 miles north of Detroit, following what the National Weather Service called “catastrophic dam failures” at the Edenville Dam.
Hawaii’s hurricane forecast
HONOLULU — The Central Pacific basin including Hawaii should expect to see between two and six tropical storms or hurricanes this year. The annual National Weather Service prediction came as wary Hawaii residents begin to emerge from coronavirus isolation and face massive unemployment and economic uncertainty. The forecast means there is about a 75% chance of an average or below normal season, and a 25% chance of higher than average storm activity. Last year four tropical cyclones developed in the Central Pacific. None directly impacted Hawaii. In 2018, the massive and powerful Hurricane Lane made a last-minute turn and narrowly spared Oahu, Hawaii’s most populous island. The last major hurricane to strike the state was Hurricane Iniki in 1992, which hit Kauai and caused massive damage across the island.
Cyclone hits India, Bangladesh
NEW DELHI — Wide swaths of coastal India and Bangladesh were flooded and millions were without power Thursday as Cyclone Amphan, the most powerful storm to hit the region in more than a decade, killed over 80 people and cut a path of destruction that is still being assessed. Many parts of the Indian metropolis of Kolkata, home to more than 14 million people, were under water, and its airport was closed briefly by flooding. Roads were littered with uprooted trees and lamp posts, electricity and communication lines were down and centuries-old buildings were damaged. Officials in both countries said the full extent of the damage caused by the cyclone was not known because communications to many places were cut. Hundreds of thousands of people were evacuated ahead of the storm, a process complicated by the coronavirus pandemic. Amphan came ashore Wednesday with heavy rain, a battering storm surge and sustained winds of 105 mph and gusts up to 118 mph. It devastated coastal villages, knocking down mud houses, tearing down utility poles and uprooting trees. “I have never seen such a disaster before,” said West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, adding that the government would pay the equivalent of $3,310 to families who lost a relative in the storm. At least 74 people were killed in India, with most of the deaths in West Bengal state, which includes Kolkata. Broadcasters in Bangladesh reported 13 were killed in that country. About 10 million people in Bangladesh remained without electricity. A total of 1,100 kilometres (over 680 miles) of roads, 150 flood-protection embankments and nearly 200,000 shrimp farms have been damaged in 26 of 64 districts. Crops on 200,000 hectares (over 494,000 acres) have been damaged.
Actress arrested at street race
ATLANTA — An actress with credits from a 90s TV sitcom was among 44 people arrested in Atlanta after police disbanded what they described as an illegal street racing event. Maia Campbell, 43, was arrested Saturday and charged with being a pedestrian in the roadway. Atlanta police said they arrested 44 people and issued 114 tickets over the weekend for offenses related to illegal street racing. Racers have been particularly noticeable in Atlanta since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, with less traffic giving them more room to speed along Georgia’s roads and freeways. But the activities, including some widely circulated videos, drew the attention of police. Campbell played Tiffany Warren on the sitcom “In the House” with LL Cool J and Alfonso Ribeiro from 1995 to 1999. In recent years, Campbell was the subject of headlines regarding substance abuse and bipolar disorder. In 2012 she appeared on the OWN channel show “Iyanla: Fix My Life,” to discuss her issues. In 2017, LL Cool J, the rapper and actor also known as James Todd Smith, asked his social media followers to help find Campbell after a disturbing video surfaced that appeared to show Campbell asking a man at an Atlanta gas station for drugs. Campbell, who had been off the acting radar for some time, subsequently declined Smith’s help.
Shooter killed at naval station
CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — An armed person wounded a sailor at a Texas naval air station Thursday before being killed by security forces. The U.S. Navy said the security team “neutralized” an active shooter at the Naval Air Station-Corpus Christi at about 6:15 a.m. Thursday. The shooter was shot and killed by security personnel, according to a U.S. official. One sailor assigned to the security team was injured but was in good condition. The sailor was wearing body armor. The facility was on lockdown for about five hours Thursday morning, but that was lifted shortly before noon. One gate remained closed. The station had a similar lockdown last December. In another incident at the base last year, a man pleaded guilty to destruction of U.S. government property and possession of a stolen firearm for ramming his truck into a barricade at the Corpus Christi station.
‘Triple threat’ posed in Africa
KAMPALA, Uganda — Locusts, COVID-19 and deadly flooding pose a “triple threat” to millions of people across East Africa, officials warned Thursday, while the World Bank announced a $500 million program for countries affected by the historic desert locust swarms. A new and larger generation of the voracious insects, numbering in the billions, is on the move in East Africa, where some countries haven’t seen such an outbreak in 70 years. Climate change is in part to blame. The added threat of COVID-19 imperils a region that already was home to about 20% of the world’s population of food-insecure people, including millions in South Sudan and Somalia. Yemen in the nearby Arabian Peninsula is also threatened, and United Nations officials warn that if locusts are not brought under control there, the conflict-hit country will remain a reservoir for further infestations in the region. Lockdowns imposed for the COVID-19 pandemic have slowed efforts to combat the locusts, especially imports of the pesticides needed for aerial spraying that is called the only effective control. “We’re not in a plague, but if there are good rains in the summer and unsuccessful control operations, we could be in a plague by the end of this year,” said Keith Cressman, senior locust forecasting officer with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. Now there’s a risk that the locusts could make their way in the coming months into West Africa’s sprawling and arid Sahel region just south of the Sahara Desert, he said. Chad, Niger and Mauritania could be affected — another burden for a region under growing threat from extremist attacks.
Ratcliffe confirmed as intel chief
WASHINGTON — A sharply divided Senate confirmed John Ratcliffe as director of national intelligence on Thursday, with Democrats refusing to support the nomination over fears that he will politicize the intelligence community’s work under President Donald Trump. All Democrats opposed Ratcliffe, making him the first DNI to be installed on a partisan vote since the position was created in 2005. The tally was 49-44. Ratcliffe will take over the agency at a tumultuous time. The nation faces threats from Iran and North Korea, Russian disinformation campaigns to interfere in the U.S. elections and tensions with China over rising competition and the spread of the coronavirus. At the same time, Trump has viewed the intelligence agencies with distrust and ousted or fired multiple officials. The Texas Republican seemed unlikely to get the position when he was nominated in February, as he had already been nominated for the job last year and then withdrew after Republicans questioned his experience. But senators warmed to him as they grew concerned about the upheaval in the intelligence community and wanted a permanent, confirmed director. Ratcliffe will replace Richard Grenell, the current acting director who has overseen some of the personnel changes. Grenell, the U.S. ambassador to Germany, has a thin intelligence background and is seen as a loyalist to Trump. As acting director, he ordered a review of the DNI office that Trump’s critics feared was an attempt to clean house.
Couples say ‘I do’ in Vegas
LAS VEGAS — The bride wore a white beaded dress and a white cloth face mask that said “Mrs.” in curly black letters. Her new husband, dressed in black, wore one that said “Mr.” Vaughan Chambers and Alicia Funk put the face coverings on shortly after they exchanged vows and kissed in front of a neon-lit sign in a Las Vegas wedding chapel and posed for photos with an Elvis impersonator who officiated at their wedding. The Chicago couple had put their wedding plans on hold in March because of the coronavirus. But when they realized it would be a long time until they could gather friends and family for a celebration, they decided to go ahead.. In early May, they invited a handful of close friends who live near Las Vegas — the self-proclaimed “Wedding Capital of the World” — and bought cheeky face masks for the nuptials. “It’s really nice to have something good in the middle of all of this bad,” Funk said. For couples getting married in Sin City’s famous chapels, the vows they make to love each other “in sickness and in health” take on fresh meaning in the time of the coronavirus. Brides and grooms sanitize their hands and get their temperature checked before walking down the aisle. Guests are rare and typically don face masks. And drive-thru weddings are more popular than ever. The few guests who can attend ceremonies keep their distance. Other loved ones who can’t attend sometimes watch via videoconferencing. Funk and Chambers are among more than 1,500 couples who have been issued marriage licenses in Las Vegas since the county clerk’s office reopened on April 27 after closing for nearly six weeks to slow the spread of the virus.