Cats will get equal standing
CONCORD. N.H. — Nine lives notwithstanding, killing a cat in a hit-and-run soon could become illegal in New Hampshire. New Hampshire was ahead of the pack when it passed a law nearly 40 years ago that requires drivers who injure or kill dogs to notify police or the animals’ owners, or else face a $1,000 fine. It is unclear why cats and other pets were left out, but the state Legislature is currently considering an expansion that would give cats and canines equal standing. “It’s a cataclysmic bill. To not pass this would be catastrophic,” Sen. Tom Sherman, D-Rye, said Tuesday, drawing chuckles from fellow members of a Senate committee. “It’s a categorical imperative: You have to report,” chimed in Sen. David Watters, D-Dover. Republican Rep. Daryl Abbas sponsored the bill on behalf of his wife, who found their 5-year-old cat, Arrow, dead on the street near their Salem home in July 2019. The partially blind black and gray tabby had once again achieved his “daily goal” of escaping from the house and was hit by a car, Abbas said. “I remember telling my wife, ‘It’s an accident, we have to forgive the person,’ but I was more upset that the person didn’t stop,” he said. “Who doesn’t stop?” Abbas contacted an animal control officer, who told him there was no reporting requirement. When he expressed surprise, she suggested he contact his state representative. And so he drafted the bill himself.
Dismal year along Rio Grande
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — It has been 30 years or so since residents in New Mexico’s largest city last saw their stretch of the Rio Grande go dry. There’s a possibility it could happen again this summer. Federal water managers released their annual operating plan for the Rio Grande on Thursday, and it doesn’t look good. Flows have been meager so far this year because of below-average snowpack in the mountains along the Colorado-New Mexico border that feed the river. Spring precipitation has done little to fill the void. Reservoirs are at a fraction of their capacity and continue to shrink. There is no opportunity to replenish them because the provisions of a water-sharing agreement with Texas prevent New Mexico from storing water upstream. That means the drought-stricken state has no extra water in the bank to fall back on, as it has in pervious years. Matters are further complicated because of extremely low soil moisture levels. That, along with warm temperatures, means much of the melting snow will be absorbed or evaporate before it reaches the river.
Defense rests without Chauvin
MINNEAPOLIS — Former Officer Derek Chauvin chose not to take the stand as testimony at his murder trial ended Thursday, passing up the chance to explain to the jury and the public for the first time what he was thinking when he pressed his knee against George Floyd’s neck. Closing arguments are set to begin Monday, after which a racially diverse jury will begin deliberating at a barbed-wire-ringed courthouse in a city on edge — not just because of the Chauvin case but because of the deadly police shooting of a 20-year-old Black man in a Minneapolis suburb last weekend. Before the jury was brought in Thursday morning, Chauvin, his COVID-19 mask removed in a rare courtroom moment, ended weeks of speculation by informing the judge he would invoke his Fifth Amendment right not to testify. Shortly afterward, the defense rested its case, after a total of two days of testimony, compared with two weeks for the prosecution. Judge Peter Cahill reminded the jurors they will be sequestered starting Monday and said: “If I were you, I would plan for long and hope for short.”
Dems push to expand the court
WASHINGTON — A group of congressional Democrats introduced legislation Thursday to add four seats to the Supreme Court, a long-shot bid designed to counter the court’s rightward tilt during the Trump administration and criticized by Republicans as a potential power grab that would reduce the public’s trust in the judiciary. President Joe Biden last week created a commission to spend the next six months examining the politically incendiary issues of expanding the court and instituting term limits for justices. The fight over the composition of the nine-member court has become increasingly contentious over the past two decades, with fierce battles over nominees and acrimonious debates about the politicization of the judicial branch. But the bill’s introduction had an inauspicious start. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said she might not bring it up for a vote if it advanced out of committee and Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was noncommittal as well. Democratic lawmakers and groups supporting the court expansion bill gathered on the steps of the Supreme Court to make their case.
Weather delays divers in Gulf
PORT FOURCHON, La. — Families anxiously awaited news of the 12 people missing from a capsized oil industry vessel Thursday while stormy weather delayed divers from reaching the ship to search for survivors. Rescuers don’t know whether any of the missing might be caught inside the lift boat that flipped over Tuesday in hurricane-force winds and high seas about 8 miles off the coast of Louisiana, Coast Guard spokesmen said. “There is the potential they are still there, but we don’t know,” Petty Officer 2nd Class Jonathan Lally said early Thursday. “We’re still searching for 12 people because there are 12 still missing.” The Coast Guard said divers were on the scene Thursday afternoon but could not confirm whether they’d begun diving. Marion Cuyler, who is engaged to crane operator Chaz Morales, spoke to reporters Thursday outside the small fire station in Port Fourchon where a handful of family members have gathered.
Gucci heirs worry about film
MILAN — The great-grandchildren of Guccio Gucci, who founded the luxury fashion house that bears his name a century ago in Florence, are appealing to filmmaker Ridley Scott to respect their family’s legacy in a new film that focuses on a sensational murder. “The House of Gucci,” starring Lady Gaga and Adam Driver, is based on a book about the 1995 murder-for-hire of one of Gucci’s grandchildren, Maurizio, and the subsequent trial and conviction of his ex-wife. Patrizia Reggiani, portrayed by Lady Gaga, served 16 years in prison for contracting the murder. One of Maurizio’s second cousins, Patrizia Gucci, is worried that the film goes beyond the headline-grabbing true-crime story and pries into the private lives of the Guccio Gucci heirs. “We are truly disappointed. I speak on behalf of the family,” Gucci told The Associated Press on Wednesday. “They are stealing the identity of a family to make a profit, to increase the income of the Hollywood system….Our family has an identity, privacy. We can talk about everything. but there is a borderline that cannot be crossed.” Patrizia Gucci said she reached out to Ridley Scott’s wife, Giannina Facio, for clarification on the scope of the film, but has not received any reply. Facio met with members of the Gucci family in the early 2000s to discuss another project that was to have focused on the roles of Patrizia Gucci’s father, Paolo, and grandfather, Aldo, in expanding the brand into a global luxury player. The fact that the production company did not reach out for the new film only heightens the family’s concerns, she said.
Homes linked to drug lord seized
A U.S. judge on Thursday authorized the seizure of real estate in Mexico that prosecutors said was purchased by a notorious fugitive drug lord wanted for the killing of a federal agent. The forfeiture order against Rafael Caro Quintero was entered in federal court in Brooklyn. Court papers identify five homes — a combination of gated houses and condos in and around Guadalajara worth several million dollars — allegedly purchased with drug cartel money and put in the name of Quintero’s relatives. U.S. authorities said they were using diplomatic channels to try to get the order enforced. The U.S. has long sought the arrest and extradition of Quintero to the United States for the kidnapping and murder of DEA Special Agent Enrique Camarena in Mexico in 1985. After years behind bars in Mexico, Caro Quintero was freed in 2013. A Mexican federal court has issued a warrant for his re-arrest, but he remains at large.
Chicago releases video of shooting
CHICAGO — Body camera footage of a Chicago police officer fatally shooting a 13-year-old boy last month shows the officer yelling “Drop it!” at the teen right before he opens fire. A still frame taken from the jumpy nighttime footage appears to show that Adam Toledo wasn’t holding anything and had his hands up, or partially up, when the officer shot him in the chest. Police say the teen had a handgun on him that morning, and the bodycam footage shows the officer shining a light on a handgun on the ground near Toledo after he shot him. The footage shows that it took 19 seconds from which the officer exited his squad car to when he shot the teen. After getting out of the vehicle, the officer chases Toledo on foot down an alley for several seconds and yells “Police! Stop! Stop right (expletive) now!” As the teen slows down, the officer yells “Hands! Hands! Show me your (expletive) hands!” Toledo then turns toward the camera, the officer yells “Drop it!” and midway between repeating that command, he opens fire and the teen falls down. While approaching the wounded Toledo, the officer radios in for an ambulance. He can be heard imploring the boy to “stay awake,” and as other officers arrive, the officer who apparently fired the shot says he can’t feel a heartbeat and begins administering CPR. Other officers can be heard imploring Toledo to stay awake.
NASA leaves a mess on asteroid
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — A NASA spacecraft left a mess at an asteroid when it grabbed a load of rubble last year for return to Earth, new pictures revealed Thursday. The Osiris-Rex spacecraft made one final flyby of asteroid Bennu on April 7 to take photos of the disturbance left by October’s sample collection. A depression is visible where Osiris-Rex penetrated the asteroid’s surface. Boulders were hurled by the pressurized nitrogen gas that was fired at the ground to churn up material for vacuuming, and by the spacecraft’s getaway thruster. One 1-ton boulder was flung an estimated 40 feet. The Osiris-Rex team meticulously plotted the final flyover to ensure the best shots. The pictures were taken around noontime to avoid shadows and better see the changes on Bennu’s rocky surface. “These observations were not in the original mission plan, so we were excited to go back and document what we did,” the University of Arizona’s Dathon Golish said in a statement. Osiris-Rex will depart Bennu’s vicinity next month and head back toward Earth with its precious 2-pound sample load. It’s due to arrive in 2023. The solar-orbiting, carbon-rich asteroid is 182 million miles from Earth. By studying pieces of it, scientists hope to better understand how our solar system’s planets formed and how people should react if an asteroid endangers Earth.
Former VP Pence gets pacemaker
WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Mike Pence has undergone surgery to have a pacemaker implanted. His office says that Wednesday’s procedure went well and that Pence “is expected to fully recover and return to normal activity in the coming days.” The 61-year-old Pence, who recently launched a new advocacy group and signed a book deal, had previously been diagnosed with a heart condition called asymptomatic left bundle branch block. His office says that, over the past two weeks, he experienced symptoms associated with a slow heart rate and underwent the procedure in Virginia in response. Pence is considered a likely 2024 presidential candidate if former President Donald Trump declines to run again.
Longest server has term tossed
HOUSTON — An appeals court has overturned the sentence of Texas’ longest serving death row inmate, whose attorneys say has languished in prison for more than 45 years because he’s too mentally ill to be executed. Raymond Riles’ “death sentence can no longer stand” because the 70-year-old inmate’s history of mental illness was not properly considered by jurors, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled Wednesday. The decision means Riles’ case will be sent back to a Houston courtroom for resentencing. He was sent to death row in 1976 for fatally shooting John Thomas Henry in 1974 at a Houston car lot following a disagreement over a vehicle.
Man finds snake in lettuce
CANBERRA, Australia — Alex White thought he was watching a huge worm writhing in plastic-wrapped lettuce he’d just brought home from a Sydney supermarket — until a snake tongue flicked. “I kind of completely freaked out when I saw this little tongue come out of its mouth and start flicking around and realized it was a snake because worms don’t have tongues,” White said on Thursday. “I definitely kind of panicked a bit.” It was a venomous pale-headed snake that authorities say made a 540-mile journey to Sydney from a packing plant in the Australian city of Toowoomba wrapped in plastic with two heads of cos lettuce. The refrigerated supermarket supply chain likely lulled the cold-blooded juvenile into a stupor until White bought the lettuce at an inner-city ALDI supermarket on Monday evening.
J-Lo, A-Rod are quits
LOS ANGELES — J-Lo and A-Rod are no longer J-Rod — officially. Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez told the “Today” show Thursday in a joint statement that they are calling off their two-year engagement. “We have realized we are better as friends and look forward to remaining so. We will continue to work together and support each other on our shared businesses and projects,” it said. “We wish the best for each other and one another’s children. Out of respect for them, the only other comment we have to say is thank you to everyone who has sent kind words and support.” The couple started dating in early 2017.
US expels Russian diplomats
WASHINGTON — The Biden administration announced Thursday the U.S. is expelling 10 Russian diplomats and imposing sanctions against dozens of companies and people, holding the Kremlin accountable for interference in last year’s presidential election and the hacking of federal agencies. The sweeping measures are meant to punish Russia for actions that U.S. officials say cut to the core of American democracy and to deter future acts by imposing economic costs on Moscow, including by targeting its ability to borrow money. The sanctions are certain to exacerbate tensions with Russia, which promised a response, even as some experts said the measures appeared tailored to avoid an out-of-control escalation of retaliatory acts between the two countries. Sanctions against six Russian companies that support the country’s cyber efforts represent the first retaliatory measures against the Kremlin for the hack familiarly known as the SolarWinds breach, with the U.S. explicitly linking the intrusion to the SVR, a Russian intelligence agency. Though such intelligence-gathering missions are not uncommon, officials said they were determined to act because of the operation’s broad scope and the high cost of the intrusion on private companies. The U.S. also announced sanctions on 32 individuals and entities accused of attempting to interfere in last year’s presidential election, including by spreading disinformation. U.S. intelligence officials alleged in a declassified report last month that Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized influence operations to help Donald Trump in his unsuccessful bid for reelection as president, though there’s no evidence Russia or anyone else changed votes or manipulated the outcome. The actions, foreshadowed by the administration for weeks, signal a harder line against Putin, whom Trump was reluctant to criticize even as his administration pursued sanctions against Moscow.
US rebound gains momentum
WASHINGTON — A much-awaited economic boom coming off the pandemic recession appeared to edge closer to reality Thursday with fresh data showing the pace of layoffs dwindling, consumers spending freely and manufacturing rebounding. The latest barometers point to a U.S. economy that’s steadily regaining its health as vaccinations accelerate, business curbs are lifted in many states and more people are willing to travel, shop, eat out and otherwise resume their spending habits. Though many Americans who have lost jobs or income are still suffering, hopes are rising that the benefits of the recovery will spread further in the coming months to groups of people who have yet to benefit. The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits tumbled last week to 576,000, the Labor Department said Thursday, a post-COVID low and a sign that layoffs are easing. And sales at retail stores and restaurants jumped 9.8% in March, the biggest gain since last May, when the economy first started to rebound from the virus’ initial blow. With U.S. household savings high, economists are optimistic that the faster spending is sustainable. “We are really kicking into that next gear now,” said Adam Kamins, senior regional economist at Moody’s Analytics. “Things are moving more decisively in the right direction than at any time in the past year.”
US opens more distance in vax race
The United States opened more distance between itself and much of the rest of the world Thursday, nearing the 200 millionth vaccine administered in a monthslong race to protect the population against COVID-19, even as other countries, rich and poor, struggle with stubbornly high infection rates and deaths. Nearly half of American adults have gotten at least one dose of the vaccine, and about 30% of adults in the U.S. have been fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But the picture is still relentlessly grim in parts of Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia as variants of the virus fuel an increase in new cases and the worldwide death toll closes in on 3 million. France on Thursday passed 100,000 virus deaths, becoming only the the eighth country to do so. India’s two largest cities, New Delhi and Mumbai, imposed business shutdowns and stringent restrictions on movement as new infections shot past 200,000. Some hotels and banquet halls were ordered to convert their space into wards for treating virus patients, and the surge forced India — a major vaccine producer — to delay exports of doses to other countries. Japan also saw a rapid resurgence of infections just three months before it’s scheduled to host the Olympics. The country’s western metropolis of Osaka reported over 1,200 new infections Thursday, its highest since the pandemic began. A top ruling party official suggested the possibility of canceling the games if the infections make them impossible.
Arrested over $14 theft, she sues
DENVER — A 73-year-old woman with dementia is suing a Colorado city and members of its police department after she suffered a dislocated shoulder and bruises last year while being arrested after leaving a store without paying for about $14 worth of items. Police body camera video included as part of the federal lawsuit Karen Garner filed Wednesday against the city of Loveland and three of its police officers show an officer approaching her as she walked through a field along a road last summer where she had been picking wildflowers. She shrugs with her arms outstretched when he questions why she did not stop despite him following her in a patrol car with his lights and sirens on, the video shows. When she then turns her back to him and starts walking away, the video shows the officer quickly grab one of her arms, puts it behind her back and pushes her 80-pound body to the ground and puts her in handcuffs as she looks confused and repeatedly says “I am going home.” She initially holds on to the flowers in her restrained hands behind her back, the video shows. When the video shows her questioning what is happening, the officer says “I told you to stop. You don’t get to act this way.” The footage later shows Garner being held against the hood of the patrol car with her left arm bent up next to her head. The officer implies in the video that she is trying to kick him but her legs are not visible. Soon she starts to slide down toward the ground and the video shows another officer who had recently arrived yelling: “Stand up! We’re not going to hold you!” According to the lawsuit, Walmart employees asked Garner to return to the store when they saw her leave without paying and took the items back — a soda, a candy bar, a T-shirt, and some wipe refills, denying her request to pay for the items.
St Vincent fears virus outbreak
KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent — Officials in St. Vincent said Thursday that they were extremely worried about a COVID-19 outbreak given the lack of water and more positive cases being reported as thousands of evacuees fleeing the erupting volcano crowd into shelters and private homes. About a dozen cases have been reported in recent days, with at least five evacuees staying in two homes and one shelter testing positive, exposing at least 20 people to the virus, said Dr. Simone Keizer-Beache, chief medical officer on the Caribbean island. Keizer-Beache said officials are preparing to do massive testing as part of contact tracing, a complicated undertaking given that between 16,000 to 20,000 people were evacuated before La Soufriere’s explosive eruptions started on Friday. She also urged people to keep wearing masks and asked them to cooperate, noting that some who arrive at shelters do not want to be tested, which is voluntary.
Princes won’t walk side-by-side
LONDON — Prince William and Prince Harry won’t walk side-by-side Saturday as they follow their grandfather’s coffin into the church ahead of Prince Philip’s funeral, minimizing the chances of any awkward moments between the brothers who are grappling with strained relations since Harry’s decision to step away from royal duties last year. Buckingham Palace on Thursday released the broad outlines of the funeral program for Queen Elizabeth II’s husband, who died April 9 at 99. The palace revealed that William and Harry’s cousin, Peter Phillips, will walk between the princes as they escort the coffin to St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, west of London. Prince Charles, the heir to the throne and the father of the princes, together with his sister, Princess Anne, will lead the 15-member procession. The brothers had been closely watched as Saturday’s funeral will almost certainly remind the pair of their shared grief at another royal funeral more than two decades ago. As young boys, both walked behind their mother Princess Diana’s coffin in 1997 in London in a ceremony watched around the world. Palace officials refused to comment when asked whether the positioning of William and Harry was an effort to minimize family tensions, which have grown after Harry and his wife Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, gave an explosive interview to Oprah Winfrey that suggested an unnamed member of the royal family had made a racist comment to Harry before the birth of their child Archie.