Death toll rises to 359 in Sri Lanka bombings, more arrested
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — The death toll from the Easter suicide bombings in Sri Lanka rose to 359 and more suspects have been arrested, police said Wednesday.
The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility and released images that purported to show the seven bombers who blew themselves up at three churches and three hotels Sunday in the worst violence this South Asian island nation has seen since its civil war ended a decade ago.
The government has said the attacks were carried out by Islamic fundamentalists in apparent retaliation for the New Zealand mosque massacre last month but has said the seven bombers were all Sri Lankan. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said investigators were still working to determine the extent of the bombers’ foreign links.
Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekara said Wednesday morning that 18 suspects were arrested overnight, raising the total detained to 58. The prime minister had warned on Tuesday that several suspects armed with explosives were still at large.
The Islamic State group has lost all the territory it once held in Iraq and Syria and has made a series of unsupported claims of responsibility around the world.
The Comey firing, as retold by the Mueller report
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump was seething.
The FBI director, James Comey, had privately reassured him that he was not personally under investigation. But on May 3, 2017, when Comey was summoned to Capitol Hill to explain his handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation, he denied the president the public vindication he’d sought.
Facing curious lawmakers and a captivated American audience, Comey pointedly refused to say whether any members of the Trump campaign were or were not under criminal investigation — including the president himself.
“The Department of Justice has authorized me to confirm” the existence of a broader investigation into potential collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign, Comey said. “We’re not going to say another word about it until we’re done.”
And, indeed, he would not speak about it again, as FBI director.
North Korea’s Kim arrives in Russia before summit with Putin
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un arrived in Russia on Wednesday morning for his much-anticipated summit with President Vladimir Putin in the Pacific port city of Vladivostok.
North Korean media published photos of Kim saluting an honour guard and waving to people carrying flowers at a rail station before boarding his khaki-green armoured train for the lengthy journey. Russian news agency Tass quoted a local official as saying Kim was given flowers, bread and salt at the Hasan train station after crossing the border.
Kremlin adviser Yuri Ushakov told Russian media the summit on Thursday will focus on North Korea’s nuclear program, noting that Russia will seek to “consolidate the positive trends” stemming from President Donald Trump’s meetings with Kim.
Kim’s Russia trip comes about two months after his second summit with Trump failed because of disputes over U.S.-led sanctions on the North.
Kim will be the first North Korean leader to travel to Russia since his late father, Kim Jong Il, visited in 2011.
Looming wave of sex abuse cases poses threat to Boy Scouts
NEW YORK (AP) — The lawyers’ ads on the internet aggressively seeking clients to file sexual abuse lawsuits give a taste of what lies ahead this year for the Boy Scouts of America: potentially the most fateful chapter in its 109-year history.
Sexual abuse settlements have already strained the Boy Scouts’ finances to the point where the organization is exploring “all available options,” including Chapter 11 bankruptcy. But now the financial threats have intensified.
The reason: States have been moving in recent months to adjust their statute-of-limitations laws so that victims of long-ago sexual abuse can sue for damages. New York state has passed a law that will allow such lawsuits starting in August. A similar bill in New Jersey has reached the governor’s desk. Bills also are pending in Pennsylvania and California.
In New York and elsewhere, lawyers are hard at work recruiting clients to sue the Boy Scouts, alleging they were molested as youths by scoutmasters or other volunteers.
Plaintiffs’ lawyers “recognize that this is a very unique and lucrative opportunity,” said attorney Karen Bitar, who formerly handled sex-crime cases as a prosecutor in Brooklyn before going into private practice.
Dem donors swoon, and sometimes fight, over Pete Buttigieg
WASHINGTON (AP) — Pete Buttigieg is suddenly the hottest ticket for Democratic donors in the 2020 presidential contest.
Entertainment moguls are fighting over who will host Hollywood fundraisers for the 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Indiana. Democratic donors are showering him with praise. And he has been repeatedly selling out fundraisers across the U.S.
Whether the gay former military officer and Rhodes scholar will be able to capitalize on his improbable star turn and build out a campaign with staying power remains to be seen.
What is indisputable, however, is that donors are clamouring for more. That could help thaw a Democratic money game that’s been largely frozen during the early months of the primary, with many major financiers waiting for the crowded field to thin.
“He absolutely must be part of the conversation. I want to see him in the top tier,” said Susie Tompkins Buell, a top Hillary Clinton donor who recently held an event for Buttigieg at a San Francisco yacht club despite previously announcing her support for Sen. Kamala Harris of California. “I’m very much supporting Kamala. I also am extremely impressed with Mayor Pete.”
S&P 500, Nasdaq close at record highs as earnings roll in
The S&P 500 hit an all-time high Tuesday, marking the stock market’s complete recovery from a nosedive at the end of last year.
The benchmark index’s previous record was set last September, shortly before the market sank in the fourth quarter amid fears of a recession, an escalating trade war between the U.S. and China, and concern the Federal Reserve was moving too aggressively to raise interest rates.
Those concerns have eased or taken a back seat to more optimism among investors this year. Investors are more confident in the prospects for steady, if slower, growth. And they’ve been encouraged by an increasingly hands-off Federal Reserve, which has signalled this year that it may not raise interest rates at all in 2019 after seven increases the prior two years.
Traders are also feeling more optimistic about the global economy. In China, economic growth held steady at 6.4% in the first quarter of the year as increased government efforts to stem a slowdown gained traction. In the U.S., job growth rebounded in March following a surprisingly weak February.
And the uncertainty over the costly trade dispute between the U.S. and China has eased in recent weeks amid signs that both sides are making progress toward reaching a resolution.
Trump meets with Twitter CEO amid bias complaints
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump said he had a “great meeting” Tuesday with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, hours after bashing the company and accusing it of not treating him well because he’s a Republican.
Trump uses Twitter extensively to get his message out, particularly since the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, including more than 40 tweets and retweets in the last two days, and two criticizing Twitter itself. But Trump has also asserted that social media companies have been exhibiting bias against conservatives, something the companies have rejected as untrue.
Trump gave his readout of the meeting, of course, on Twitter.
“Lots of subjects discussed regarding their platform, and the world of social media in general. Look forward to keeping an open dialogue!” Trump tweeted to his nearly 60 million followers.
While some tech company executives may lean liberal, they have long asserted that their products are without political bias. Twitter described the meeting with Dorsey as constructive and said it came at the president’s invitation.
$768M Wisconsin Powerball winner ‘pretty much felt lucky’
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A 24-year-old Wisconsin man stepped forward Tuesday to claim a $768 million Powerball prize, the nation’s third-largest lottery jackpot, saying he “pretty much felt lucky” the day he bought his tickets and has been worried that people want to steal his ticket.
Manuel Franco, of West Allis, said he was sorting through $10 worth of quick-pick tickets after the March 27 drawing and thought he had checked all his tickets. Then he saw one last ticket stuck to another one, and recounted to reporters the feeling as he matched the first two numbers, then glanced at the Powerball to see it matched too.
“I was going insane,” Franco said. “I looked back at the three other numbers, they all matched. My heart started racing, my blood started pumping, I felt warm. I started screaming.”
Franco declined to reveal much about himself at a news conference conducted by Wisconsin Lottery officials, smiling often but deflecting questions such as what he did for a living and what kind of car he drives. Franco did say he quit work the second day after winning, saying he just couldn’t continue.
The $768 million prize refers to an annuity option paid over 29 years. The winner also can choose a $477 million cash option, which was the route Franco picked. The state will keep $36.4 million in taxes and the federal government will keep $114.6 million in taxes, leaving Franco with $326 million.
Migrants fearful after hundreds arrested in Mexico raid
TONALA, Mexico (AP) — Central American migrants travelling through southern Mexico toward the U.S. on Tuesday fearfully recalled their frantic escape from police the previous day, scuttling under barbed wire fences into pastures and then spending the night in the woods after hundreds were detained in a raid.
In the Chiapas state town of Tonala, migrants flocked to one of the few places they felt they could be safe — the local Roman Catholic church — only to start with fear at the sound of a passing ambulance’s siren.
“There are people still lost up in the woods. The woods are very dangerous,” said Arturo Hernández, a sinewy 59-year-old farmer from Comayagua, Honduras, who fled through the woods with his grandson. “They waited until we were resting and fell upon us, grabbing children and women.”
Mexican immigration authorities said 371 people were detained Monday in what was the largest single raid so far on a migrant caravan since the groups started moving through the country last year.
The once large caravan of about 3,000 people was essentially broken up by the raid, as migrants fled into the hills, took refuge at shelters and churches or hopped passing freight trains. A brave few groups straggled along the highways, but with dozens of police and immigration checkpoints, they were bound to be caught.
Review: ‘Avengers: Endgame’ is Marvel’s machine in high gear
Satisfaction is a complicated concept in Marvel Land. On the one hand, every morsel of pre-release information is obsessively poured over in feverish anticipation. But by the time the movie is coming out, a sudden hush comes over die-hard fans who, to avoid spoilers, have abandoned their phones, detached from the grid and found a quiet ditch to lay in until the coast is clear and the multiplex is open. It’s an anguished dance between wanting to know everything and nothing, at once. And it never ceases. No Marvel ending (usually) lasts past the credits.
Those fans won’t read this review, but “Avengers: Endgame” will, I suspect, offer them gratification and maybe a welcome moment of respite. “Endgame” not only answers the cliffhanger of its predecessor — that puny $300 million 156-minute “appetizer” better known as “Infinity War” — but ties together the entire 22-film arc of the Marvel “cinematic universe,” begun with 2008’s “Iron Man.”
Generous in humour, spirit and sentimentality, Anthony and Joe Russo’s “Endgame” is a surprisingly full feast of blockbuster-making that, through some time-travelling magic, looks back nostalgically at Marvel’s decade of world domination. This is the Marvel machine working at high gear, in full control of its myth-making powers and uncovering more emotion in its fictional cosmos than ever before.
It was Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark (Iron Man) who kicked things off for the MCU, and it’s him who opens “Endgame” and most often takes centre stage. Providing even the most basic of plot points in “Endgame” is a fool’s errand, but it’s fair to say that it takes place some time after the rapture caused by the megalomaniac boulder Thanos (Josh Brolin). Having obtained all six of the “infinity stones,” he wiped away 50 per cent of Earth’s creatures (and superheroes) at the end of “Infinity War” with the snap of his fingers.
Rather than bask in the extra parking spaces and uncrowded check-out aisles, the survivors have spent the ensuing time in a prolonged state of mourning. The remaining superheroes are also reeling, ashamed of their defeat. One has turned angry and vengeful, another has grown a beer belly. As nauseating as the aura of momentousness around “Endgame” has been for some, the movie — while certainly not lacking in ominous solemnity — is frequently funny, as the Russos, working from a script by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, arrange their heroes in fresh pairings and unlikely contexts.
The Associated Press