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AP News in Brief at 6:04 p.m. EDT

Tabloid publisher says he pledged to be Trump campaign's 'eyes and ears' during 2016 race NEW YORK (AP) — A veteran tabloid publisher testified Tuesday that he pledged to be Donald Trump 's “eyes and ears" during his 2016 presidential campaign, recou

Tabloid publisher says he pledged to be Trump campaign's 'eyes and ears' during 2016 race

NEW YORK (AP) — A veteran tabloid publisher testified Tuesday that he pledged to be Donald Trump 's “eyes and ears" during his 2016 presidential campaign, recounting how he promised the then-candidate that he would help suppress harmful stories and even arranged to purchase the silence of a doorman.

The testimony from David Pecker was designed to bolster the prosecution's premise of a decades-long friendship between Trump and the former publisher of the National Enquirer that culminated in an agreement to give the candidate's lawyer a heads-up on negative tips and stories so they could be quashed.

The effort to suppress unflattering information was designed to illegally influence the election, prosecutors have alleged in striving to elevate the gravity of the first trial of a former American president and the first of four criminal cases against Trump to reach a jury.

Pecker is the first witness against Trump, who faces 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in connection with hush money payments meant to prevent harmful stories from surfacing in the final days of the 2016 campaign.

With Trump sitting just feet away in the courtroom, Pecker detailed his intimate, behind-the-scenes involvement in Trump's rise from political novice to the Republican nomination and the White House. He explained how he and the National Enquirer parlayed rumor-mongering into splashy tabloid stories that smeared Trump's opponents and, just as crucially, leveraged his connections to suppress seamy stories about Trump, including a porn actor's claim of an extramarital sexual encounter a decade earlier.


It began with defiance at Columbia. Now students nationwide are upping their Gaza war protests

NEW YORK (AP) — What began last week when students at a New York Ivy League school refused to end their protest against Israel’s war with Hamas had turned into a much larger movement by Tuesday as students across the nation set up encampments, occupied buildings and ignored demands to leave.

Protests against the war had been bubbling for months but kicked into a higher gear after more than 100 pro-Palestinian demonstrators who had camped out on Columbia University's upper Manhattan campus were arrested Thursday. Dozens more protesters have been arrested at other campuses since, and many now face charges of trespassing or disorderly conduct.

With tensions at Columbia continuing to run high and some students afraid to set foot on the campus, officials said the university will switch to hybrid learning for the rest of the semester. Like many universities, Columbia is counting down until the end of the semester, with its final day of classes scheduled for Monday and exams finishing by the end of next week.

At nearby New York University, police said 133 protesters were taken into custody late Monday and all had been released with summonses to appear in court on disorderly conduct charges. New York City Mayor Eric Adams said police officers were hit with bottles and other objects at some of this week’s protests.

In Connecticut, police arrested 60 protesters — including 47 students — Monday at Yale University, after they refused to leave an encampment on Beinecke Plaza.


US government agrees to $138.7M settlement over FBI's botching of Larry Nassar assault allegations

DETROIT (AP) — The U.S. Justice Department announced a $138.7 million settlement Tuesday with more than 100 people who accused the FBI of grossly mishandling allegations of sexual assault against Larry Nassar in 2015 and 2016, a critical time gap that allowed the sports doctor to continue to prey on victims before his arrest.

When combined with other settlements, $1 billion now has been set aside by various organizations to compensate hundreds of women who said Nassar assaulted them under the guise of treatment for sports injuries.

Nassar worked at Michigan State University and also served as a team doctor at Indianapolis-based USA Gymnastics. He's now serving decades in prison for assaulting female athletes, including medal-winning Olympic gymnasts.

Acting Associate Attorney General Benjamin Mizer said Nassar betrayed the trust of those in his care for decades, and that the "allegations should have been taken seriously from the outset.”

“While these settlements won’t undo the harm Nassar inflicted, our hope is that they will help give the victims of his crimes some of the critical support they need to continue healing,” Mizer said of the agreement to settle 139 claims.


Aid for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan advances in Senate with big bipartisan vote

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to move ahead with $95 billion in war aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, bringing the bill to the brink of passage after months of delays and contentious internal debate over how involved the United States should be abroad.

The vote to end a filibuster drew the support of 80 senators — 10 more than supported the bill when the Senate first passed it in February -- virtually guaranteeing that the bill will soon reach President Biden’s desk. A final vote could come as soon as Tuesday evening.

The $61 billion for Ukraine comes as the war-torn country desperately needs new firepower and as Russian President Vladimir Putin has stepped up his attacks. Ukrainian soldiers have struggled to hold the front lines as Russia has seized the momentum on the battlefield and gained significant territory.

Bidentold Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Monday the U.S. will send badly needed air defense weaponry as soon as the legislation is passed. The House approved the package Saturday in a series of four votes, sending it back to the Senate for final approval.

“The President has assured me that the package will be approved quickly and that it will be powerful, strengthening our air defense as well as long-range and artillery capabilities,” Zelenskyy said in a post on X.


A Russian strike on Kharkiv's TV tower is part of an intimidation campaign, Ukraine's Zelenskyy says

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said a Russian missile strike that smashed a prominent skyline television tower in Kharkiv was part of the Kremlin’s effort to intimidate Ukraine’s second-largest city, which in recent weeks has come under increasingly frequent attack.

The strike sought to “make the terror visible to the whole city and to try to limit Kharkiv’s connection and access to information,” Zelenskyy said in a Monday evening address.

The northeastern Kharkiv region straddles the approximately 1,000-kilometer (600-mile) front line where Ukrainian and Russian forces have been locked in battle for more than two years since Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The front line has changed little during a war of attrition, focused mostly on artillery, drones and trenches.

Since late March, Russia has stepped up the pressure on Kharkiv, apparently aiming to exploit Ukraine’s shortage of air defense systems. It has pounded the local power grid and hit apartment blocks.

On Monday, a Russian Kh-59 missile struck Kharkiv’s 250-meter (820-foot) -high TV tower, breaking it roughly in half and halting transmissions.


What's EMTALA, the patient protection law at the center of Supreme Court abortion arguments?

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court will hear arguments Wednesday in a case that could determine whether doctors can provide abortions to pregnant women with medical emergencies in states that enact abortion bans.

The Justice Department has sued Idaho over its abortion law, which allows a woman to get an abortion only when her life — not her health — is at risk. The state law has raised questions about when a doctor is able to provide the stabilizing treatment that federal law requires.

The federal law, called the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, or EMTALA, requires doctors to stabilize or treat any patient who shows up at an emergency room.

Here’s a look at the history of EMTALA, what rights it provides patients and how a Supreme Court ruling might change that.

Simply put, EMTALA requires emergency rooms to offer a medical exam if you turn up at their facility. The law applies to nearly all emergency rooms — any that accept Medicare funding.


5 migrants die while crossing the English Channel hours after the UK approved a deportation bill

PARIS (AP) — Five people, including a child, died while trying to cross the English Channel from France to the U.K., French authorities said Tuesday, just hours after the British government approved a migrant bill to deport some of those who entered the country illegally to Rwanda.

The prefecture responsible for the north of France said in a statement authorities spotted several boats packed with migrants off the coast of Pas-de-Calais, attempting to depart in the early morning.

Several French navy ships, including assistance and rescue tug Abeille Normandie, intervened to rescue “a very overcrowded boat carrying more than one hundred people on board,” the statement emailed to The Associated Press said.

“They rescued several people, but unfortunately, five people have died,” it said.

The regional prefect Jacques Billant said a woman, three men and a 7-year-old girl died. He said the boat carrying 112 people attempted to sail off the beach in Wimereux.


Minnesota and other Democratic-led states lead pushback on censorship. They're banning the book ban

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A movement to ban book bans is gaining steam in Minnesota and several other states, in contrast to the trend playing out in more conservative states where book challenges have soared to their highest levels in decades.

The move to quash book bans is welcome to people like Shae Ross, a queer and out Minnesota high school senior who has fought on the local level against bans on books dealing with sexuality, gender and race. Ross, 18, said she is encouraged to see her governor and leaders of other states are taking the fight statewide.

“For a lot of teenagers, LGBT teenagers and teenagers who maybe just don’t feel like they have a ton of friends, or a ton of popularity in middle or high school ... literature becomes sort of an escape.” Ross said. “Especially when I was like sixth, seventh grade, I’d say reading books, especially books with gay characters ... was a way that I could feel seen and represented.”

Minnesota is one of several Democratic-leaning states where lawmakers are now pursuing bans on book bans. The Washington and Maryland legislatures have already passed them this year, while Illinois did so last year. It was a major flashpoint of Oregon's short session, where legislation passed the Senate but died without a House vote.

According to the American Library Association, over 4,200 works in school and public libraries were targeted in 2023, a jump from the old record of nearly 2,600 books in 2022. Many challenged books — 47% in 2023 — had LGBTQ+ and racial themes.


Tesla 1Q profit falls 55%, but stock jumps as company moves to speed production of cheaper vehicles

Tesla’s first-quarter net income plummeted 55%, but its stock price surged in after-hours trading Tuesday as the company said it would accelerate production of new, more affordable vehicles.

The Austin, Texas, company said it made $1.13 billion from January through March compared with $2.51 billion in the same period a year ago.

Investors and analysts were looking for some sign that Tesla will take steops to stem its stock's slide this year and grow sales. The company did that in a letter to investors Tuesday, saying that production of smaller, more affordable models will start ahead of previous guidance.

The smaller models, which apparently include the Model 2 small car that is expected to cost around $25,000, will use new generation vehicle underpinnings and some features of current models. The company said it would be built on the same manufacturing lines as its current products.

On a conference call with analysts, CEO Elon Musk said he expects production to start in the second half of next year “if not late this year.”


United Methodists open first top-level conference since breakup over LGBTQ inclusion

Thousands of United Methodists are gathering in Charlotte, North Carolina, for their big denominational meeting, known as General Conference.

It’s a much-anticipated gathering. Typically it is held every four years, but church leaders delayed the 2020 gathering until now due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This year, the 11-day gathering runs from April 23 to May 3. Among those assembling are hundreds of voting delegates — the United Methodists from across the globe who were elected to represent their regional church body — though as many as one-quarter of international delegates are not confirmed as able to attend. The delegates, half clergy and half lay Methodists, are the decision makers at General Conference.

General Conference — the only entity that can speak for the entire denomination — is a business meeting where delegates set policy, pass budgets and address other church-wide matters. It’s the only body that can amend the United Methodist Book of Discipline, which includes church law. It also includes Social Principles, which are non-binding declarations on social and ethical issues. There’s worship and fellowship, too.

Yes. This will be the first General Conference since more than 7,600 mostly conservative congregations left the United Methodist Church between 2019 and 2023 because the denomination essentially stopped enforcing its bans on same-sex marriage and having “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” serving as clergy and bishops.

The Associated Press