Netanyahu appears to edge toward re-election in Israeli vote
JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared to be headed toward re-election early Wednesday, as exit polls and partial results showed him edging ahead of his main competitor in a tight race that was seen as a referendum on the long-serving leader.
Both Netanyahu and former military chief Benny Gantz, leader of the rival Blue and White party, declared victory in speeches to boisterous gatherings of supporters. But as the night went on, there were growing signs that Netanyahu’s Likud was pulling ahead.
With a victory, Netanyahu would capture a fourth consecutive term and fifth overall, which this summer will make him Israel’s longest-ever serving leader. Perhaps more crucially, re-election will give him an important boost as he braces for the likelihood of criminal charges in a series of corruption scandals.
The 69-year-old prime minister has been the dominant force in Israeli politics for the past two decades and its face to the world. His campaign has focused heavily on his friendship with President Donald Trump and his success in cultivating new allies, such as China, India and Brazil.
But the corruption scandals created some voter fatigue. Along with two other former military chiefs on his ticket, Gantz was able to challenge Netanyahu on security issues, normally the prime minister’s strong suit, while also taking aim at the prime minister’s alleged ethical lapses.
Loughlin, husband, others hit with money laundering charge
BOSTON (AP) — Federal prosecutors added money laundering to the list of accusations against actress Lori Loughlin, her fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli, and 14 other prominent parents Tuesday in the college admissions bribery case, increasing the pressure on them to plead guilty as other parents have agreed to do.
Loughlin, who starred in the sitcom “Full House,” and Giannulli are among 33 wealthy parents accused of participating in a scheme that involved rigging college entrance exams and bribing coaches at top universities. The new charges come a day after “Desperate Housewives” actress Felicity Huffman, 12 other parents and a coach agreed to plead guilty.
The parents were arrested last month on a single charge of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. An indictment brought Tuesday adds a charge of money laundering conspiracy against the couple and the 14 other parents.
Other parents indicted on the new charge Tuesday include Michelle Janavs, whose family developed the microwave snack line Hot Pockets before selling their company, and William McGlashan, who co-founded an investment fund with U2’s Bono in 2017.
McGlashan’s attorney John Hueston said Tuesday the case against him “is deeply flawed.”
Feds charge 2 dozen in billion dollar Medicare brace scam
WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal agents on Tuesday broke up a billion dollar Medicare scam that peddled unneeded orthopedic braces to hundreds of thousands of seniors. Two dozen people were charged, including doctors accused of writing bogus prescriptions.
The Justice Department said the scheme relied on overseas call centres to pry Medicare numbers from beneficiaries. Authorities also announced charges against owners of call centres, telemedicine firms and medical equipment companies that shipped unneeded back, shoulder, wrist and knee braces.
Profits from the scheme were laundered through offshore shell companies and then used to buy high-end cars, yachts and luxury homes here and abroad, officials said.
Medicare’s anti-fraud unit said it’s taking action against 130 medical equipment companies implicated. The companies billed the program a total of $1.7 billion, but not all of it was paid out.
The loss to Medicare was estimated at more than $1.2 billion.
NYC orders mandatory vaccines for some amid measles outbreak
NEW YORK (AP) — Health officials Tuesday ordered nearly everyone in a heavily Orthodox Jewish New York City neighbourhood to be vaccinated for measles or face fines, reviving a public-health strategy that experts say hasn’t been used in the U.S. in recent memory.
The emergency order came as the city, a suburban New York county and some other parts of the nation grapple with a spurt in a disease the U.S. declared eradicated almost two decades ago.
“This is an unusual action,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio acknowledged, “and it’s because of the sheer extent of the crisis.”
Meanwhile, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention elevated its response to measles, establishing a larger team to focus on outbreaks that have sickened 465 people nationwide this year — the second-greatest number of cases reported in the U.S. since measles was eliminated domestically in 2000.
The nation’s biggest city is in the midst of its biggest measles outbreak since 1991, with 285 cases diagnosed since last fall — compared to two in all of 2017, officials said. They blamed the spike partly on anti-vaccine campaigns spreading misinformation that immunizations are dangerous.
Nielsen to face odd dynamics of post-Trump job market
WASHINGTON (AP) — As she heads out the door, departing Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen will confront the odd dynamics of the post-Trump job market.
Sure, opportunities await — but also perhaps some closed doors.
Outgoing top administration officials typically have a wide array of options in both the public and private sector — including speaking engagements, TV contracts, book deals, academic posts and corporate gigs. But some former Trump aides have found their options more limited than did their predecessors, in part due to controversy surrounding President Donald Trump’s policies on issues such as the environment and immigration, as well as his record of racially-charged language.
Nielsen, who resigned Sunday, has a resume offering expertise in managing a massive cabinet agency. But she also may face scrutiny as the public face of the administration’s family separation policy.
“It’s a totally different environment than a normal cabinet secretary leaving a normal administration, especially with her overseeing a lot of very controversial policies that have upset a lot of people,” said Matt Lattimer, who served under President George W. Bush and is co-founder of the Javelin literary agency. “She’s going to have to answer questions about those policies.”
Cop’s attorney: ‘Perfect storm’ led to unarmed woman’s death
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A Minneapolis police officer who shot and killed an unarmed woman as she approached his squad car after calling 911 was reacting to a loud noise and feared an ambush, his attorney said Tuesday, calling the shooting “a perfect storm with tragic consequences.”
Mohamed Noor and his partner were rolling down a dark alley in response to a call from Justine Ruszczyk Damond, a dual citizen of the U.S. and Australia, who contacted police about a possible sexual assault. That’s when a bicyclist appeared in front of them and they heard “a bang,” defence attorney Peter Wold said.
“It is the next split second that this case is all about,” Wold said in his opening statement at Noor’s trial on murder and manslaughter charges.
The officer fired a single shot, killing Damond, whose death rocked both countries and led to changes in the Minneapolis Police Department. The shooting in July 2017 came just two weeks after an officer in New York was ambushed and killed in a parked vehicle.
Attorneys for Noor, who was fired after being charged in the case and never talked to investigators, argue that he used reasonable force to defend himself and his partner from a perceived threat. But prosecutors say there is no evidence of any threat to justify deadly force.
Indian bishop charged with repeatedly raping nun
NEW DELHI (AP) — Indian authorities charged a Roman Catholic bishop on Tuesday with repeatedly raping a nun in her rural convent, a case that helped make the sexual abuse of nuns a major issue in the church.
Bishop Franco Mulakkal was charged with rape, illegal confinement and intimidation, said Hari Sankar, a district police chief in the southern state of Kerala, India’s Catholic heartland.
The nun who made the accusations, who has not been publicly identified, said she went to police last year only after complaining repeatedly to church authorities. Eventually, a group of fellow nuns launched unprecedented public protests to demand Mulakkal’s arrest. He was arrested but released after a few weeks.
Mulakkal was the official patron of the nun’s community, the Missionaries of Jesus, and wielded immense influence over its budgets and job assignments. The nun said the rapes occurred between 2014 and 2016.
Mulakkal has denied the accusations, calling them “baseless and concocted” and saying the accusing nun was trying to pressure him to get a better job.
Border chaos forces truckers to wait hours, sometimes days
CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico (AP) — To deal with a surge of migrating Central American families, the Trump administration has reassigned so many inspectors from U.S.-Mexico border crossings that truckers are waiting in line for hours and sometimes days to get shipments to the United States.
Truckers have been sleeping in their vehicles to hold spots in line in Ciudad Juarez, across the border from El Paso, Texas. The city brought in portable toilets, and an engine oil company hired models in skin-tight clothing to hand out burritos and bottled water to idled drivers.
“My family doesn’t recognize me at home anymore,” Jaime Monroy, a trucker who lives in Ciudad Juarez, said after sleeping overnight in his truck hauling a load of wooden furniture. “I leave at 3 in the morning and come back at 10 at night.”
The waits are a reminder that even though President Donald Trump walked back his threat to close the border, the administration has created significant impediments for truckers and travellers with its redeployment of customs agents.
Business leaders are starting to lose patience as they struggle to get products to American grocery stores, manufacturers and construction sites.
US forces: 3 Marines killed, Afghan contractor wounded
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — U.S. forces in Afghanistan revised on Tuesday the death toll from a Taliban attack the previous day near the main American base in the country, saying three service members were killed but not a contractor who was initially reported among the fatalities.
The U.S. and NATO Resolute Support mission issued a statement “to clarify initial reporting” about Monday’s roadside bombing of an American convoy near the main U.S. base. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.
The Pentagon said later that all three service members killed were Marines.
The mission said a roadside bomb hit the convoy near the Bagram Airfield, killing three American service members, and said “the contractor who was reported as killed, is alive.”
The statement said “the contractor, an Afghan citizen, was initially treated along with other injured civilians, later identified as a contractor and treated at Bagram Airfield.”
Red Cross visits to Venezuela jails include military prisons
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — The International Committee of the Red Cross has regained access to prisons in Venezuela, including highly guarded military facilities where dozens of inmates considered political prisoners are being held, as President Nicolas Maduro seeks to counter mounting criticism of his government’s human rights record.
The fact that the visits include military prisons, which hadn’t been previously reported, was confirmed to The Associated Press by a human rights lawyer and family members of those detained.
International Red Cross President Peter Maurer on Wednesday wraps up a five-day visit to Venezuela, where the Geneva-based group is among international organizations trying to carve out a space to deliver badly needed humanitarian aid and technical assistance free of the winner-take-all politics contributing to the country’s turmoil.
Red Cross representatives visit prisons every year in more than 100 countries, following an established protocol allowing it to verify conditions of confinement and hold private conversations with inmates in which they can voice complaints and send messages to loved ones.
But the group had been denied access in Venezuela at least since 2012.
The Associated Press