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World Briefing

12 dead in Alabama due to Claudette, including 10 children

ATLANTA (AP) — Tropical Depression Claudette claimed 12 lives in Alabama as the storm swept across the southeastern U.S., causing flash flooding and spurring tornadoes that destroyed dozens of homes.

Ten people, including nine children, were killed Saturday in a fiery multi-vehicle crash about 35 miles (55 kilometers) south of Montgomery on Interstate 65, according to Butler County Coroner Wayne Garlock.

He said the vehicles likely hydroplaned on wet roads, with eight children, ages 4 to 17, killed in a van belonging to a youth ranch for abused or neglected children operated by the Alabama Sheriffs Association. Two people died in separate vehicle, Garlock told local news outlets — 29-year-old Cody Fox and his 9-month-old daughter, Ariana, both of Marion County, Tennessee.

“He was a great guy and we’re really gonna miss him,” said Aaron Sanders, who worked with Fox at the emergency management agency in Marion County. He said Fox also ran a hot tub business with his father and doted on his daughter. “He just loved her to death and that was his life.”

Multiple people were also injured.

New leaders, new era: US-Israel relations reach crossroads

WASHINGTON (AP) — Their countries at crossroads, the new leaders of the United States and Israel have inherited a relationship that is at once imperiled by increasingly partisan domestic political considerations and deeply bound in history and an engrained recognition that they need each other.

How President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett manage that relationship will shape the prospects for peace and stability in the Middle East.

They are ushering in an era no longer defined by the powerful personality of long-serving Prime Minister Benjamin Netayahu, who repeatedly defied the Obama administration and then reaped the rewards of a warm relationship with President Donald Trump.

Bennett’s government says it wants to repair relations with the Democrats and restore bipartisan support in the U.S. for Israel. Biden, meanwhile, is pursuing a more balanced approach on the Palestinian conflict and Iran.

The relationship is critical to both countries. Israel has long regarded the United States as its closest ally and guarantor of its security and international standing while the U.S. counts on Israel’s military and intelligence prowess in a turbulent Middle East.

Diplomats: Progress made in Vienna at Iran nuclear talks

VIENNA (AP) — Top diplomats said Sunday that further progress had been made at talks between Iran and global powers to try to restore a landmark 2015 agreement to contain Iranian nuclear development that was abandoned by the Trump administration. They said it was now up to the governments involved in the negotiations to make political decisions.

It was the first official meeting since Iran’s hard-line judiciary chief won a landslide victory in the country’s presidential election last week.

Some diplomats expressed concern that Iran’s election of Ebrahim Raisi as president could complicate a possible return to the nuclear agreement.

Enrique Mora, the European Union official who chaired the final meeting of the sixth round of talks between Russia, China, Germany, France, Britain and Iran, told reporters that “we are closer to a deal, but we are not still there.”

“We have made progress on a number of technical issues,” Mora added. “We have now more clarity on technical documents — all of them quite complex — and that clarity allows us to have also a great idea of what the political problems are.”

Officials: Deadly Pride parade crash appears unintentional

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — A member of a men’s chorus group unintentionally slammed into fellow chorists at the start of a Pride parade in South Florida, killing one member of the group and seriously injuring another, the group’s director said Sunday, correcting initial speculation that it was a hate crime directed at the gay community.

Wilton Manors Vice Mayor Paul Rolli and Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis said the early investigation shows it was an accident. The 77-year-old driver was taken into custody, but police said no charges have been filed and the investigation is ongoing.

The elderly driver had ailments that prevented him from walking, according to a statement Sunday from Fort Lauderdale Police, who said he was cooperating with the investigation and there was no evidence drugs or alcohol was involved.

“The early investigation now indicates it looks like it was a tragic accident, but nobody’s saying finally what it is,” Rolli told The Associated Press in a phone interview.

The driver and the victims were a part of the Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus family, a small 25-member group of mostly older men.

Interview: Former president says US failed in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghanistan’s former president said Sunday the United States came to his country to fight extremism and bring stability to his war-tortured nation and is leaving nearly 20 years later having failed at both.

In an interview with The Associated Press just weeks before the last U.S. and NATO troops leave Afghanistan, ending their ‘forever war,’ Hamid Karzai said extremism is at its “highest point” and the departing troops are leaving behind a disaster.

“The international community came here 20 years ago with this clear objective of fighting extremism and bringing stability … but extremism is at the highest point today. So they have failed,” he said.

Their legacy is a war-ravaged nation in “total disgrace and disaster.”

“We recognize as Afghans all our failures, but what about the bigger forces and powers who came here for exactly that purpose? Where are they leaving us now?” he asked and answered: “In total disgrace and disaster.”

Iran’s sole nuclear power plant undergoes emergency shutdown

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran’s sole nuclear power plant has undergone an unexplained temporary emergency shutdown, state TV reported on Sunday.

An official from state electric company Tavanir, Gholamali Rakhshanimehr, said on a talk show that the Bushehr plant shutdown began on Saturday and would last “for three to four days.”

Without elaborating, he said that power outages could result. This is the first time Iran has reported an emergency shutdown of the plant, located in the southern port city of Bushehr. It went online in 2011 with help from Russia. Iran is required to send spent fuel rods from the reactor back to Russia as a nuclear nonproliferation measure.

Earlier on Sunday, Tavanir released a statement saying that the nuclear plant was being repaired, without offering further details. It said the repair work would take until Friday.

In March, nuclear official Mahmoud Jafari said the plant could stop working since Iran cannot procure parts and equipment for it from Russia due to banking sanctions imposed by the U.S. in 2018.

Witness tells of horror as truck rams into Arizona bike race

PHOENIX (AP) — Bicyclist Tony Quinones had only just shaken hands with a fellow cyclist and wished him good luck in this weekend’s community race in an Arizona mountain town when a truck sped into a crowd of bike riders.

Suddenly, Quinones said in an interview Sunday, he was “watching bodies going on top of the hood, bodies going to the left, bodies going to the right” about six minutes after the race had started.

The sounds of breaking and smashing as the truck plowed through the cyclists on Saturday was quickly replaced by their groans of pain — including those of the cyclist Quinones had just met.

Authorities in the small city of Show Low said the unidentified 35-year-old male suspect fled the crash scene in the pickup and was shot and wounded by officers a short time later.

Of the seven cyclists hospitalized, six were in critical condition, and one was in stable condition on Sunday, police said in a statement. The suspect, described as a local resident, was in stable condition, police said.

Far right falters as conservatives lead French regional vote

PARIS (AP) — Marine Le Pen’s far-right party stumbled, French President Emmanuel Macron’s centrists crashed and incumbent conservatives surged ahead in the first round of regional elections Sunday that were dominated by security issues and a record-low turnout.

What was meant to be a vote centered on local concerns like transportation, schools and infrastructure turned into a dress rehearsal for next year’s presidential vote, as would-be presidential hopefuls seized on the regional campaign to test ideas and win followers. Macron’s rivals on left and right notably denounced his government’s handling of the pandemic.

The wrangling appeared to turn off some voters, and less than 34% showed up, according to polling agencies. Politicians across the spectrum pleaded with the stay-at-home voters to wake up for the decisive second round June 17.

Le Pen called the low turnout “a civic disaster that deformed the electoral reality of the country, and produces a misleading vision of the current political forces.”

The result is a clear setback for Le Pen’s National Rally, though it came in second place in most regions, according to early official results and polling agency projections. It is hoping to win control of a region for the first time to boost her decade-long effort to legitimize a party long seen as an anti-democratic, anti-Semitic pariah.

Trump cowboy seeks 2nd act in politics after Capitol breach

TULAROSA, N.M. (AP) — He rodeoed in a Buffalo Bill-style Wild West show, carried his message on horseback from the Holy Land to Times Square and was invited to the White House to meet the president.

But luck may have run out for this cowboy pastor who rode to national political fame by embracing President Donald Trump with a series of horseback caravans and came crashing down with a defiant stand Jan. 6 against President Joe Biden’s election.

Today, Couy Griffin is divorced, disparaged by family and confronts a political recall drive, a state corruption investigation and federal charges.

And yet he remains determined. He sees himself as governor one day.

The first-term county commissioner forged a group of rodeo acquaintances in 2019 into a promotional Cowboys for Trump posse to spread his conservative message about gun rights, immigration controls and abortion restrictions.

‘It lessens my bills’: $500 payments tested in upstate NY

Annette Steele isn’t destitute or unemployed. But for a year she’ll be receiving $500 per month in no-strings-attached payments as part of an experimental universal basic income program in upstate New York.

Places from Compton, California, to Richmond, Virginia, are trying out guaranteed income programs, which gained more attention after the pandemic idled millions of workers.

Steele, a special education school aide, is getting her payments through a program in Ulster County, which covers parts of the Catskill Mountains and the Hudson River Valley.

During the pilot program, funded by private donations, 100 county residents making less than $46,900 annually will get $500 a month for a year. The income threshold was based on 80% of the county’s average median income, meaning it includes both the poor and a slice of the middle class — people who face financial stress but might not ordinarily qualify for government aid based on income.

For researchers, the pilot could give them a fuller picture of what happens when a range of people are sent payments that guarantee a basic living.

‘The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard’ hits top mark at box office

LOS ANGELES (AP) — “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” struck the top box office target.

The Lionsgate’s film starring Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson and Salma Hayek brought in $11.6 million domestically to claim the No. 1 spot in its debut. The action-comedy — which appeared in 3,331 locations — is the follow up the 2017 breakout hit “The Hitman’s Bodyguard.”

The “Hitman” sequel notched “A Quiet Place Part II,” which took hold of the second spot in its fourth weekend of release. The Paramount horror-thriller, which stars Emily Blunt and was directed by John Krasinski, earned $9.4 million. The film became the first of the pandemic era to reach $100 million domestically.

This weekend, “Godzilla vs. Kong” became the second movie of the pandemic to cross $100 million. The film has garnered more $442.5 million worldwide.

Meanwhile, the Jon M. Chu-directed “In the Heights” continued to struggle. The adaption of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Broadway musical dropped a few slots to sixth this weekend.

The Warner Bros. film earned more than $4.2 million, a 63% drop from the previous week. The critically-acclaimed musical film has recently been called out for its lack of dark-skinned, Black Latinos in leading roles.

However, Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for Comscore, believes the movie fell victim to lofty expectations. He said musicals often take a while to develop an audience.

“There were so many things going on with this film,” Dergarabedian said. “There were very high expectations when it opened last weekend. And because of the strong reviews, I think there were some overblown expectations. With the big projections, people were emotionally tied to the movie. The box office projections were overblown. That set unrealistic expectations.”

“Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway” placed third in the box office with $6.1 million, while “The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It” claimed the fourth spot with $5.15 million. It barely edged the Emma Stone-led “Cruella,” which came in fifth with $5.1 million.

“Spirit Untamed,” “12 Mighty Orphans,” “The House Next Door: Meet the Blacks 2” and “Wrath of Man” rounded out the top 10.

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