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AP News in Brief at 11:04 p.m. EST | National

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US divided over Roe’s repeal as abortion foes gird for march

Anti-abortion activists will have multiple reasons to celebrate — and some reasons for unease — when they gather Friday in Washington for the annual March for Life.

The march, which includes a rally drawing abortion opponents from across the nation, has been held annually since January 1974 — a year after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision established a nationwide right to abortion.

This year’s gathering — 50 years after that decision — will be the first since the high court struck down Roe in a momentous ruling last June.

Since then, 12 Republican-governed states have implemented sweeping bans on abortion, and several others seek to do the same. But those moves have been offset by other developments. Abortion opponents were defeated in votes on ballot measures in Kansas, Michigan and Kentucky. State courts have blocked several bans from taking effect. And myriad efforts are underway to help women in abortion-ban states either get abortions out of state or use the abortion pill for self-managed abortions.

“It’s almost like the old wild, wild West … everything is still shaking out,” said Carol Tobias, president of the National Right to Life Committee.


New Zealand’s Ardern to leave office, sets October election

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, whose empathetic handling of the nation’s worst mass-shooting and health-driven response to the coronavirus pandemic led her to become an international icon but who faced mounting criticism at home, said Thursday she was leaving office.

Fighting back tears, Ardern told reporters in Napier that Feb. 7 will be her last day as prime minister.

“I am entering now my sixth year in office, and for each of those years, I have given my absolute all,” she said.

She also announced that New Zealand’s general elections would be held on Oct. 14, and that she would remain a lawmaker until then.

Her announcement came as a shock to people throughout the nation of 5 million people. Although there had been some chatter in political circles that Ardern might resign before the next election, she’d always firmly said she planned to run again.


Ukraine helicopter crash kills interior minister, others

BROVARY, Ukraine (AP) — A helicopter carrying Ukraine’s interior minister crashed into a kindergarten in a foggy residential suburb of Kyiv on Wednesday, killing him and about a dozen other people, including a child on the ground, authorities said.

Interior Minister Denys Monastyrskyi, who oversaw the country’s police and emergency services, is the most senior official killed since Russia invaded nearly 11 months ago. His death, along with the rest of his ministry’s leadership and the entire helicopter crew, was the second major calamity in four days to befall Ukraine, after a Russian missile struck an apartment building in the southeastern city of Dnipro, killing dozens of civilians.

There was no immediate word on whether the helicopter crash, which occurred on a foggy morning in the capital’s eastern suburb of Brovary, was an accident or related to the war. Ukrainian authorities immediately opened an investigation. No fighting has been reported recently in the capital region.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy — addressing the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, by video link — said the crash had a broad connection to the war.

“This is not an accident because it has been due to war and the war has many dimensions, not just on the battlefields,” he said after asking the Davos audience to join him in a standing minute of silence to honor those killed. “There are no accidents at wartime. These are all war results.”


New program lets private citizens sponsor refugees in US

WASHINGTON (AP) — Everyday Americans will be able to help refugees adjust to life in the U.S. in a program being launched by the State Department as a way to give private citizens a role in resettling the thousands of refugees who arrive every year.

The State Department plans to announce the program, dubbed the Welcome Corps, on Thursday. The agency aims to line up 10,000 Americans who can help 5,000 refugees during the first year of the program.

“By tapping into the goodwill of American communities, the Welcome Corps will expand our country’s capacity to provide a warm welcome to higher numbers of refugees,” according to the announcement.

The State Department has traditionally worked with nonprofit groups that specialize in refugee issues to help people from around the world when they first arrive in the country and face a dramatically different way of life. Under the program being announced Thursday, five or more Americans would be able to form a group and fill this role as well.

They would apply to privately sponsor refugees to resettle in America, and would be responsible for raising their own money to help the refugees during their first 90 days in the country. Assistance would include everything from finding a place to live to getting kids enrolled in school.


Cohen meets Trump prosecutors amid renewed hush money probe

NEW YORK (AP) — Donald Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, said he met for 2½ hours Tuesday with Manhattan prosecutors who have revived a years-old investigation into payments made to a porn star to keep her quiet about an alleged extramarital tryst.

Cohen said he had been “ordered not to disclose” any of the people present at the meeting or to discuss prosecutors’ area of interest in any detail.

“I have tremendous confidence in the team that I met with yesterday, as well as their depth and knowledge regarding this and other matters,” Cohen said.

Cohen pleaded guilty in 2018 to federal charges that he violated campaign finance law by arranging payouts to porn actor Stormy Daniels and model Karen McDougal to keep them from going public with claims of extramarital affairs with Trump. Trump has denied the affairs.

The U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan decided not to prosecute Trump personally over the hush-money payments. The Manhattan district attorney’s office then began investigating the payments to see if any state laws were broken.


Mother, 1-year-old son killed in Alaska polar bear attack

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A polar bear chased several residents around a tiny, isolated Alaska Native whaling village, killing a mother and her 1-year-old son in an extremely rare attack before another community member shot and killed the bear, authorities said.

The fatal mauling, the first in more than 30 years in Alaska, happened Tuesday next to the front entrance of the school in Wales, an isolated Bering Strait coastal community located on the westernmost tip of the North American mainland — about 50 miles (80 kilometers) from Russia — that is no stranger to coexisting with polar bears.

School officials rushed people into the building after the polar bear was spotted, Bering Strait School District chief administrator Susan Nedza told the Anchorage Daily News from her office in Unalakleet.

“The bear tried to enter with them,” Nedza said, but Principal Dawn Hendrickson “slammed the door” to keep it out.

“It’s terrifying. Not something you’re ever prepared for,” said Nedza, who didn’t return messages to The Associated Press on Wednesday.


Witness: Bribes helped Fox execs get soccer TV rights

NEW YORK (AP) — The U.S. government’s star witness in a corruption trial over the broadcasting rights to some of soccer’s biggest events testified Wednesday how he and two former Fox executives paid millions of dollars in bribes to undermine competing bids.

The trial in New York City is the latest development in a tangled corruption scandal that dates back nearly a decade and has ensnared more than three dozen executives and associates in the world’s most popular sport.

The witness, Alejandro Burzaco, alleges that he and former Fox executives Hernan Lopez and Carlos Martinez conspired to bribe South American soccer officials for the TV rights to the Southern Hemisphere’s biggest annual tournament, the Copa Libertadores, and help land broadcasting rights to the sport’s most lucrative competition, the World Cup.

“The bribes fulfilled that purpose extremely well,” Burzaco testified.

Lawyers for Lopez and Martinez have asserted that the former executives are being framed, with one defense lawyer accusing Burzaco of masterminding the bribes.


Job cuts in tech sector spread, Microsoft lays off 10,000

Microsoft is cutting 10,000 workers, almost 5% of its workforce, joining other tech companies that have scaled back their pandemic-era expansions.

The company said in a regulatory filing Wednesday that the layoffs were a response to “macroeconomic conditions and changing customer priorities.”

The Redmond, Washington-based software giant said it will also be making changes to its hardware portfolio and consolidating its leased office locations.

Microsoft is cutting far fewer jobs than it had added during the COVID-19 pandemic as it responded to a boom in demand for its workplace software and cloud computing services with so many people working and studying from home.

“A big part of this is just overexuberance in hiring,” said Joshua White, a finance professor at Vanderbilt University.


Wes Moore sworn in as Maryland’s first Black governor

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Maryland Gov. Wes Moore was sworn in as the state’s first Black governor on Wednesday, pledging to work for greater inclusion and economic equity while also focusing on improving education, fighting crime and climate change.

Moore, after being introduced by Oprah Winfrey in front of the Maryland State House, noted that the state is one of the wealthiest in the nation, but he also described it as “asset-rich and strategy poor.”

“It is time for our policies to be as bold as our aspirations — and to confront the fact that we have been offered false choices,” Moore said. “We do not have to choose between a competitive economy and an equitable one.”

The 44-year-old Democrat, who won in a landslide in November, also committed to fighting violent crime. Many Maryland residents have grown weary in their faith in government’s ability to keep them safe, he said.

In Baltimore, Maryland’s largest city, homicides surpassed 300 for the eighth year running last year. Gun violence remains high, despite repeated promises from elected officials and new anti-violence initiatives.


Shooter stood over California mom holding baby, killed both

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A shooter stood over a 16-year-old mother clutching her 10-month-old baby and shot and killed them in a brazen attack in a central California farming community that left six dead, a sheriff said Tuesday.

Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux said the teenager was fleeing the violence early Monday when the killers caught up to her outside the home in Goshen, a central California community of about 3,000 residents in the agricultural San Joaquin Valley, and shot the young mother and her child “assassination-style.”

The other four victims ranged from 19 to 72 years old, including a grandmother who was shot as she slept. Their autopsies are expected to be completed later in the week.

Authorities said they were searching for two suspects and offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to their arrests.

“None of this was by accident,” Boudreaux said during a news conference Tuesday. “It was deliberate, intentional and horrific.”


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