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World Briefing

This photo provided by the Ocean City Fire Department shows the wreckage from a car accident on the Route 90 bridge in Ocean City, Md., on Sunday, May 2, 2021. A bystander jumped over a highway guard rail and into a Maryland bay Sunday to rescue a child who had been thrown from a car and into the water during the crash, according to authorities. The child was ejected from a car on the Route 90 bridge in Ocean City and landed in the Assawoman Bay, the Ocean City Fire Department said in a statement. At least eight people were injured in total, the agency said. (Ocean City Fire Department via AP)

Toddler pulled from bay

A 2-year-old girl rescued from a Maryland bay after a five-vehicle crash on a bridge has been released from a hospital and is expected to make a full recovery, according to authorities. The girl was thrown from a pickup truck on the Route 90 bridge in Ocean City on Sunday and landed in Assawoman Bay while still in her car seat. Authorities called to the scene discovered the truck hanging off the side of the bridge. Alayna Oertel, 14, said she saw the truck while out on the bay with her family. Her father, Joe Oertel, took the wheel of their boat and she pulled out life vests. They found a man in a red shirt in the water waving his hands and holding a child. Officials said the man had jumped over a highway guardrail to save the girl. Joe Oertel said he was surprised that the man wasn’t hurt since the water is only a few feet deep in the area where he jumped in. “He was jumping into the unknown as well, you know, he just saw a baby and went. That’s remarkable. That’s a hero there,” Joe Oertel said. He says the rescuer was in “tremendous shock.” Once the pair was onboard, the Oertels rushed them to paramedics on shore. “The little girl did not say anything, but she was coughing and she was crying, so that was a good sign,” Alayna Oertel said. The girl was flown to a Baltimore hospital and another seven people were treated at hospitals and released.

Maine rethinks vanity plates

PORTLAND, Maine — Based on crude license plate messages, one may be forgiven for assuming Maine doesn’t give two flips about obscenities. Secretary of State Shenna Bellows wants to change that. Bellows, a former director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, testified Tuesday in support of several bills to rein in the wild west that ensued when the state ended the vetting process for license plates in 2015. From Fort Kent to Kittery, there are now all matter of obscenities including straight-up f-bombs and references to anatomy and sex acts adorning license plates issued for cars and trucks. “The First Amendment protects your right to have any bumper sticker you want, but it doesn’t force the state to issue you a registration plate that subjects every child in your neighborhood to a message the government wouldn’t allow them to see in a movie theater,” she told the Legislature’s Transportation Committee. Bills before the committee would reestablish a review process, allow the secretary of state to reject vulgar license plates and allow the recall of offensive license plates that already have been issued. Before 2015, state law allowed Maine’s secretary of state to reject vanity plates that contained “obscene, contemptuous, profane or prejudicial” messages. Bellows said that any move to restore a vetting process would have to be narrowly tailored to pass legal muster. In her post at the ACLU of Maine, Bellows sought to ensure Mainers’ rights to freedom of expression, but she said license plates are state property and that the state can regulate them. The state has a compelling interest in protecting children from “obscene, sexual or violent material,” she said.

Tasting rooms part of Gallo plan

COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina will likely soon tweak its liquor laws to allow the biggest winemaker in the United States to spend $400 million on a new bottling and distribution center in the state. The House voted 98-11 on Tuesday to approve the bill that would allow California-based E& J Gallo Winery to open tasting rooms where people can sample their wines. The tasting rooms needed an exception to South Carolina’s quirky liquor laws. The proposal needs one last routine vote before it heads to South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster’s desk. He has said he likes the proposal. Gallo wants to open a site in Chester County to be the center of its East Coast operations and asked for the tasting rooms as part of the deal. They have promised to hire up to 500 people in the first phase of a plan that could eventually employ more than 1,000 workers. The proposal would allow Gallo to open three tasting rooms across the state, with no more than one per county. The bill requires the rooms to close by 5:30 p.m. and limits the number of bottles of wine the rooms could sell to six per person. Gallo also agreed to follow existing South Carolina liquor laws and buy the wine sampled and sold in its tasting rooms from the wholesalers that by law all liquor manufacturers must sell to and all outlets that sell liquor must buy from. Gallo executives told lawmakers they picked South Carolina over Georgia and North Carolina for their East Coast operations, a strategic move to cut costs since nearly two-thirds of its customers live east of the Mississippi River.

Man entitled to $546K in pay

RICHMOND, Va. — After a Black man with intellectual disabilities was enslaved, beaten and forced to work more than 100 hours a week without pay in a South Carolina restaurant, his manager was sentenced to prison and ordered to pay $273,000 in restitution. But a federal appeals court recently ruled the man is entitled to double that amount under federal labor laws. A three-judge panel of the Richmond-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that a U.S. District Court judge erred when he failed to include an additional $273,000 as “liquidated damages” in his order of restitution. Under the April 21 ruling, the court said John Christopher Smith is entitled to total restitution of $546,000. The appeals court sent the case back to the lower court to recalculate the restitution award. The ruling came in a case that alleged that Bobby Edwards, Smith’s manager at J&J Cafeteria in Conway, South Carolina, had physically and mentally abused him, and forced him to work more than 100 hours of week with no pay for more than five years, from 2009 to 2014. Smith, who had an intellectual disability and an IQ of about 70, had worked at the restaurant since he was about 12 years old. For the first 19 years of his employment, when the restaurant was owned and managed by different members of the Edwards family, Smith was always paid for his work. That changed in 2009 after Bobby Edwards took over management of the restaurant.

Rapper among a dozen charged

ATLANTA — Rapper YFN Lucci is among a dozen people charged in a wide-ranging indictment in Atlanta targeting alleged members of the Bloods gang. A Fulton County grand jury on Friday handed up the 105-count indictment that resulted from a six-month investigation. It includes racketeering, aggravated assault, murder, gun, armed robbery, property damage, theft and gang-related charges. The indictment alleges that each of the 12 people charged is associated with sub-groups of the national Bloods gang. It says they had connections and relationships to each other and accuses them of committing a wide variety of crimes to protect and enhance the gang’s reputation and to gain and maintain control of territory. YFN Lucci, whose given name is Rayshawn Bennett, is charged with racketeering, violating the state’s anti-gang law, felony murder, aggravated assault and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony. Atlanta police previously announced murder charges against Bennett in January, saying he was the driver in a December gang-related drive-by shooting.

Town’s sewage lagoon seeping

SMITHLAND, Ky. — A sewage lagoon above a small western Kentucky city is seeping through its embankment and is likely to fail, prompting the mayor to warn residents living downhill to prepare to evacuate if more rains increase the danger. The Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet notified city officials of the seepage at the Smithland Wastewater Treatment Lagoon along Highway 453. City workers were going door to door on Monday to notify people living downhill of the seriousness of the situation, “especially with more rain in the immediate forecast.” The mayor said the city has hired an engineering firm and is working hard “to remediate this very old system as fast as we can.” Smithland is a city of several hundred people along a bend where the Cumberland River feeds into the Ohio River.

OK to test evidence from 1992

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — Prosecutors in New York have consented to DNA testing of evidence from the 1992 trial of so-called “Fatal Attraction” killer Carolyn Warmus, who was paroled two years ago after serving 27 years in prison for the murder of her lover’s wife. Westchester County District Attorney Mimi Rocah consented on Monday to the testing of three pieces of evidence used to convict Warmus in the 1989 death of Betty Jeanne Solomon, who was shot nine times in her home in suburban Greenburgh. The new development in the case was first reported in the Journal News. Warmus and the victim’s husband, Paul Solomon, began an affair when both were teachers at a school in Scarsdale. Her first trial for the killing of Betty Jeanne Solomon ended in a hung jury in 1991, but she was found guilty of second-degree murder a year later. Warmus, now 57, has always maintained her innocence and has sought to have three pieces of evidence tested to determine if they can exonerate her by pointing to another suspect. Most significant is a glove found at the Solomons’ home that was a key piece of evidence in the second trial. Prosecutors said Warmus left the glove there at the time of the killing. Warmus’ lawyers have argued that testing of the glove could prove that someone other than Warmus was present when Solomon was killed. The other evidence is semen recovered from the victim and blood found in a tote bag belonging to Paul Solomon. The murder of Betty Jeanne Solomon attracted wide media attention and was dubbed the Fatal Attraction killing after the 1987 movie starring Glenn Close and Michael Douglas.

$40K in cocaine hidden in shoes

ATLANTA — A Georgia woman was caught trying to smuggle $40,000 worth of cocaine in multiple pairs of shoes through the Atlanta airport. Customs officers stopped the 21-year-old on Sunday after she arrived on a flight from Jamaica. Her bags were inspected, and seven pairs of shoes were found to have a powdery white substance concealed in their bottoms. The substance tested positive for cocaine. About 3 pounds (1.3 kilograms) of the drug were recovered. Customs and Border Protection says it seizes an average of nearly 3,700 pounds (1,700 kilograms) of drugs daily.

Overpass collapse kills at least 24

MEXICO CITY — The death toll from the collapse of an overpass on the Mexico City metro rose to 24 Tuesday as crews untangled train carriages from the steel and concrete wreckage that fell onto a roadway. Monday night’s accident was one of the deadliest in the history of the subway, and questions quickly arose about the structural integrity of the mass transit system, among the world’s busiest. Another 27 people remained hospitalized of the more than 70 injured when the support beams collapsed about 10:30 p.m. as a train passed along the elevated section, said Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum. On Tuesday, a crane carefully lowered a train car containing four bodies to the ground. Of the 24 killed, 21 died at the scene, while the others died at hospitals. Only five have been identified so far. Children were among the fatalities.

Philanthropy shakeup possible

As much as Bill and Melinda Gates might want to keep their pending divorce private, the split between the billionaire co-founders of the world’s largest private foundation is sure to have very public consequences, with the breakup having already sent a wave of anxious uncertainty through the worlds of philanthropy and community health. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, with an endowment of nearly $50 billion, donates about $5 billion annually to causes around the world. Last year, it donated $1 billion to combat COVID-19 through the administering of vaccines. In a statement after the Gateses’ announced their divorce on Twitter, the foundation said the two would remain co-chairs and trustees and that no changes in the organization were planned. Despite such assurances, some say they worry that the split could shake up the foundation’s plans. According to a filing in King County Superior Court Monday, the Gateses had no prenuptial agreement but have signed a separation contract. The couple pledged in 2010 to donate the vast bulk of their fortune — estimated by Forbes at around $133 billion — to the foundation. Divorce attorneys say the committed money would no longer be considered marital property. Yet it remains unclear how the divorce might affect future donations to the foundation.

Biden aims to vaccinate 70%

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Tuesday set a new vaccination goal to deliver at least one shot to 70% of adult Americans by July Fourth as he tackles the vexing problem of winning over the “doubters” and those unmotivated to get inoculated. Demand for vaccines has dropped off markedly nationwide, with some states leaving more than half their available doses unordered. Biden called for states to make vaccines available on a walk-in basis and he will direct many pharmacies to do likewise. His administration for the first time also is moving to shift doses from states with weaker demand to areas with stronger interest in the shots. “You do need to get vaccinated,” Biden said from the White House. “Even if your chance of getting seriously ill is low, why take the risk? It could save your life or the lives of somebody you love.” Biden’s goal equates to delivering at least the first shot to 181 million adults and fully vaccinating 160 million. It’s a tacit acknowledgment of the declining interest in shots.

Florida teen charged as adult

PENSACOLA, Fla. — A Florida teen accused of rigging a homecoming queen election with her mother is being charged as an adult, prosecutors said. Emily Rose Grover was still 17 when she was arrested in March. She turned 18 in April. Grover and her mother, Laura Rose Carroll, 50, face multiple felony charges stemming from the October homecoming vote at Tate High School in Pensacola. While employed as an assistant principal at Bellview Elementary School in the same county, Carroll accessed the school district’s internal system to cast fraudulent votes for her daughter so that she would win, officials said. The investigation began in November when the Escambia County School District reported unauthorized access into hundreds of student accounts, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Investigators found that in October, hundreds of votes for the school’s homecoming court were flagged as fraudulent. There were 117 votes from the same IP address within a short period of time. That’s when investigators found evidence of unauthorized access to the system linked to Carroll’s cellphone and computers at her home. The were 246 votes cast for homecoming court from those devices.

‘Horrible’ weeks ahead in India

NEW DELHI — COVID-19 infections and deaths are mounting with alarming speed in India with no end in sight to the crisis and a top expert warning that the coming weeks in the country of nearly 1.4 billion people will be “horrible.” India’s official count of coronavirus cases surpassed 20 million Tuesday, nearly doubling in the past three months, while deaths officially have passed 220,000. Staggering as those numbers are, the true figures are believed to be far higher, the undercount an apparent reflection of the troubles in the health care system. The country has witnessed scenes of people dying outside overwhelmed hospitals and funeral pyres lighting up the night sky. Infections have surged in India since February in a disastrous turn blamed on more contagious variants of the virus as well as government decisions to allow massive crowds to gather for Hindu religious festivals and political rallies before state elections. The reported caseload is second only to that of the U.S., which has one-fourth the population of India but has recorded over 32 million confirmed infections. The U.S. has also reported more than 2 1/2 times as many deaths as India, at close to 580,000.

Failings in Euro migration policy

CAIRO — As the waves pounded the gray rubber boat carrying more than 100 Africans hoping to reach Europe from Libya, those aboard dialed the number for migrants in distress frantically. In the series of calls to the Alarm Phone hotline, passengers explained that the dinghy had run out of fuel while trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea and was quickly filling up with water and panic. On the other end of the line, activists tried to keep the migrants calm as they relayed the boat’s GPS coordinates repeatedly to Italian, Maltese and Libyan authorities and later to Frontex, the European Union’s border and coast guard agency, hoping authorities would launch a rescue operation as required under international maritime law. An analysis of logs and emails from Alarm Phone and the NGO SOS Mediterranee as well as reports by the Libyan coast guard show that the national authorities contacted responded slowly, insufficiently or not at all to the pleas for help. In all, approximately 130 people are believed to have died between April 21 and April 22 as they waited in vain for someone to save them, roughly 45 kilometers (30 miles) from the Libyan coast. It was the deadliest wreck so far this year in the Mediterranean Sea, where more than 20,000 migrants or asylum seekers have perished since 2014, and has renewed accusations that European countries are failing to help migrant boats in trouble. Instead, human rights groups, the U.N.’s migration and refugee agencies and international law experts say European countries too often ignore their international obligations to rescue migrants at sea and outsource operations to the Libyan coast guard despite its limited capacity, reports of its ties to human traffickers, and the fact that those intercepted, including children, are placed in squalid, overcrowded detention centers where they face abuse, torture, rape and even death.

Netanyahu future in question

JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday failed to meet a midnight deadline to put together a new governing coalition, raising the possibility that his Likud party could be pushed into the opposition for the first time in 12 years. The deadline closed a four-week window granted to Netanyahu by Israel’s figurehead president. The matter now bounces back to President Reuven Rivlin, who announced just after midnight that he would contact on Wednesday the 13 parties with seats in parliament to discuss “the continuation of the process of forming a government.” Rivlin is expected in the coming days to give one of Netanyahu’s opponents a chance to form an alternative coalition government. He also could ask the parliament to select one of its own members as prime minister. If all else fails, the country would be forced into another election this fall — the fifth in just over two years. The turmoil does not mean that Netanyahu will immediately be forced out as prime minister. But he now faces a serious threat to his lengthy rule just as his corruption trial is kicking into high gear. His opponents, despite deep ideological differences, already have been holding informal talks in recent weeks in hopes of forging a power-sharing agreement. Netanyahu had struggled to secure a parliamentary majority since March 23 — when elections ended in deadlock for the fourth consecutive time in the past two years. Despite repeated meetings with many of his rivals and unprecedented outreach to the leader of a small Islamist Arab party, Netanyahu was unable to close a deal.

Sheldon Silver out on furlough

NEW YORK — Former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has been released from a federal prison on furlough while he awaits potential placement to home confinement, a person familiar with the matter told The Associated Press. Silver, 77, began serving his more than six-year sentence at a prison in Otisville, New York, in August, after years of fending off going behind bars in a corruption case. He has been released to his home while awaiting a final decision on whether he can serve the rest of his sentence there in home confinement, the person said. The person was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke to the AP on Tuesday on the condition of anonymity. The federal Bureau of Prisons didn’t provide details or a reason for the transfer, but Congress gave the Justice Department expanded powers during the coronavirus pandemic to release inmates on furlough and home confinement to prevent them from catching the virus behind bars. A spokesperson for the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan, which prosecuted Silver, said it sent an email to the Bureau of Prisons on Monday opposing his furlough.

National bail fund to expand

A national effort helping to bail poor and low-income people out of jail formally announced on Tuesday its expansion into the Deep South. ” Bail Out the South “ is the next phase of The Bail Project’s plans to secure freedom for thousands of people over the next few years, organizers told The Associated Press. Although larger criminal legal systems throughout the country have begun doing away with cash bail for certain low-level, nonviolent offenses, the South continues to have the highest jail incarceration rates and the starkest racial disparities among those imprisoned pretrial. “When I think about our work around social justice and racial justice, you simply can’t talk about those issues without dealing with what’s happening in the South,” said project CEO Robin Steinberg. The project expansion includes opening offices in Mississippi, Florida, South Carolina and Alabama this year, which doubles its reach in the region through partnerships with local organizations. The bail fund will work in concert with advocacy campaigns to ultimately end the imposition of cash bail, Steinberg said. “We, the bail fund, can’t put ourselves out of business fast enough,” Steinberg told the AP. “That is the ultimate goal here. But as we know, systems don’t go down without a hell of a fight.”

Soft on virus restrictions, she wins

MADRID — Madrid’s conservative leader, a champion of relaxed measures against the coronavirus and a scourge of the left-wing central government’s handling of the pandemic, scored a solid win in a regional election Tuesday. Isabel Diaz Ayuso, who had campaigned under the slogan of “Freedom,” was backed by 44% of voters, up from 22% in the last election two years ago, with 99% of the ballot counted. Three rival left-wing parties together had 41%. The biggest blow was to Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s Socialists and the national leader’s coalition’s junior partner, the anti-austerity United We Can whose leader, Pablo Iglesias, announced an end to a political career that in many ways shaped Spain’s politics for much of the past decade. Diaz Ayuso said that results backed her policies of keeping bars, restaurants and other businesses opened even in the thick of the coronavirus pandemic to keep the economy up and running. Speaking to hundreds of supporters waving Spanish flags outside of her Popular Party’s headquarters in central Madrid, the incumbent also said the result was a rebuke of Sanchez’s left-wing coalition.

Degree hotter than two decades ago

America’s new normal temperature is a degree hotter than it was just two decades ago. Scientists have long talked about climate change — hotter temperatures, changes in rain and snowfall and more extreme weather — being the “new normal.” Data released Tuesday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration put hard figures on the cliche. The new United States normal is not just hotter, but wetter in the eastern and central parts of the nation and considerably drier in the West than just a decade earlier. Meteorologists calculate climate normals based on 30 years of data to limit the random swings of daily weather. It’s a standard set by the World Meteorological Organization. Every 10 years, NOAA updates normal for the country as a whole, states and cities — by year, month and season. For the entire nation, the yearly normal temperature is now 53.3 degrees (11.8 degrees Celsius) based on weather station data from 1991 to 2020, nearly half a degree warmer than a decade ago. Twenty years ago, normal was 52.3 degrees (11.3 degrees Celsius) based on data from 1971 to 2000. The average U.S. temperature for the 20th century was 52 degrees (11.1 degrees Celsius).

Tech shares sink broader market

Technology companies dragged indexes lower on Wall Street Tuesday, pulling the market further from its recent all-time highs. The S&P 500 fell 0.7%, erasing its gains from last week. Big technology companies like Apple and Microsoft fell as the sector declined for the sixth straight day. Losses in communications stocks and companies that rely on consumer spending also weighed on the market, offsetting gains by financial, industrial and materials stocks. Treasury yields fell slightly. Investors continue to focus on corporate earnings and on gauging the economic recovery’s progress. Earnings and most economic indicators have been signaling a steady improvement, but investors remain concerned about the lingering threat from COVID-19, inflation and other factors that could crimp progress. A key concern has been the recovery in the employment market. Investors will get another update with this week’s jobs report. “The entire market is down, but the tech stuff is down way more,” said Ross Mayfield, investment strategist at Baird. “If you look at the broad picture, the earnings beats are strong and we’re expecting a big” jobs number on Friday, he said.

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