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‘A constant in my life’: World mourns Queen Elizabeth II

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‘A constant in my life’: World mourns Queen Elizabeth II

LONDON (AP) — Queen Elizabeth II was much more than Britain’s monarch. She was sovereign to another 14 nations and a rare figure on the world stage who was almost universally admired. Her reach cut through hemispheres, generations, social divisions and politics.

The widespread tributes that followed her death Thursday came not only from United States President Joe Biden but also from Russian President Vladimir Putin. They came from other monarchs, leaders, rock stars and thousands of admirers.

Elizabeth was Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, serving 70 years. She had been on the throne since 1952, when the nation was still rebuilding from the destruction of World War II. She became a global icon of calmness and fortitude through decades of political upheaval and social change.

During her reign, Elizabeth met more than a dozen American presidents. President Joe Biden said he was informed of her death by senior advisers during a meeting in the Oval Office.

She was a “stateswoman of unmatched dignity and constancy who deepened the bedrock alliance between the United Kingdom and the United States,” he and first lady Jill Biden said in a statement, saying she ”defined an era.”

The Bidens later went to the British Embassy to offer condolences. “We mourn for all of you. She was a great lady,” Biden could be heard telling embassy staff.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, meanwhile, sent a telegram to King Charles III, Elizabeth’s son who automatically became Britain’s new monarch.

“For many decades, Elizabeth II rightfully enjoyed the love and respect of her subjects, as well as authority on the world stage. I wish you courage and perseverance in the face of this heavy, irreparable loss,” Putin wrote.

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Elizabeth was mourned across Europe. In France, Britain’s historic rival and contemporary ally, officials ordered flags at the presidential palace and public buildings be lowered to half-staff on Friday.

President Emmanuel Macron hailed her “immutable moral authority” and her intimate knowledge of French.

He said no other foreign sovereign had visited the presidential palace more often than Elizabeth, who knew all eight presidents of contemporary France.

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“The woman who stood alongside the giants of the 20th century on the path of history has left to join them,” Macron said in a statement.

Mourners also gathered at the British Embassy in Paris.

“She’s been a constant in my life,” said 70-year-old Robert Miller, a London resident in Paris for a conference.

“Whilst I know she was very old, she was still doing her work until yesterday,” he said. “Like anybody’s mother, you know, even if you think things are going well, at some point the end of an era comes, and you’re very sad. “

Even in places where the relationship with British monarchy is complicated, the tributes flowed. In India, once a British colony, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called Elizabeth “a stalwart of our times.”

“She personified dignity and decency in public life,” Modi tweeted.

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The queen’s death came as a growing number of British territories in the Caribbean are seeking to replace the monarch with their own heads of state amid demands that Britain apologize for its colonial-era abuses and award its former colonies slavery reparations.

Still, Caribbean leaders from Jamaica to Bermuda and beyond mourned her death.

Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness said that for many years she visited the island every decade.

“Undoubtedly, she formed a special bond with the people of Jamaica,” he said. “We are saddened that we will not see her light again, but we will remember her historic reign.”

Bermuda Premier David Burt noted that her reign “has spanned decades of such immense change for the United Kingdom and the world.”

It was not only Britain that lost its queen. Elizabeth was also sovereign to 14 other countries including Jamaica, Canada, Australia, the Solomon Islands and New Zealand.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she was awoken a little before 5 a.m. by a police officer shining a torch into her bedroom to tell her the news.

Ardern said the queen was an extraordinary woman who she’d remember for her laughter. Like many other people, she was feeling not only deep sadness but also deep gratitude.

“Here is a woman who gave her life, utterly, to the service of others. And regardless of what anyone thinks of the role of monarchies around the world, there is undeniably, I think here, a display of someone who gave everything on behalf of her people,” Ardern said.

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In Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was having trouble believing he’d had his last sit-down chat with Elizabeth: “I will so miss those chats,” he said.

Elizabeth had visited Canada some 22 times as monarch.

“For most Canadians, we have known no other sovereign,” Trudeau said. He said she was a “constant presence in our lives — and her service to Canadians will forever remain an important part of our country’s history.”

Former Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, who led a failed campaign to have an Australian president replace the British monarch as Australia’s head of state, came close to tears in paying tribute to Elizabeth.

“It’s the end of an era and let’s hope that the future, after the queen’s passing, is one where we will have leadership as dedicated and selfless as she has shown,” Turnbull told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

Elizabeth’s death held people’s attention in China, where it was a top trending topic on social media.

“I feel quite sad,” said Bao Huifang, a lawyer in Beijing. “She played a very important role in stabilizing Britain and the world.”

Cao Xiufeng, a 76-year-old Beijing retiree, said she admired Elizabeth “very much.”

“Her style of dressing and her temperament were simply extraordinary,” Cao said.

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Chinese President Xi Jinping sent his condolences, noting Elizabeth was the first British monarch to visit China.

Elizabeth’s death comes amid increasingly tense relations between Britain and China. Xi said he was willing to work with King Charles III on promoting “healthy and stable” bilateral ties.

Elizabeth was mourned across the 54-nation Commonwealth, a group built around Britain and its former colonies.

In Ghana, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo recalled Elizabeth’s visits to his country and praised “the friendliness, elegance, style and sheer joy she brought to the performance of her duties.”

“We shall miss her inspiring presence, her calm, her steadiness, and, above all, her great love and belief in the higher purpose of the Commonwealth of Nations, and in its capacity to be a force for good in our world,” he said in a statement.

At the United Nations, the Security Council stood in silent tribute at the start of a meeting on Ukraine. France’s U.N. Ambassador Nicolas De Riviere, the council president, sent condolences on behalf of its 15 members.

Elizabeth presided “over a period of historic changes both for her country and the world,” he said. “Her life was devoted to the service of her country.”

Royalty across Europe also mourned Elizabeth’s death.

Her life “set an example for all of us and will remain as a solid and valuable legacy for future generations,” Spanish King Felipe VI said in a telegram to King Charles III.

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“We will miss Her dearly,” he wrote, speaking for himself and his wife.

King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden called her “a constant presence, not only in British society but internationally.”

In Norway, King Harald said that for “nearly a century, Her Majesty devoted her life to the service of the Commonwealth, following the British people through good days and bad, in times of happiness and sorrow.”

The king and crown prince of Saudi Arabia also offered their condolences. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said the queen was “an example of wisdom, love and peace.”

In the U.S., tributes came not only from the Bidens but also every living former president.

Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, said she made “the role of Queen her own — with a reign defined by grace, elegance, and a tireless work ethic.” George W. Bush called her “a woman of great intellect, charm, and wit,” and Jimmy Carter said Elizabeth’s “dignity, graciousness and sense of duty” were inspiring.

Rock star Elton John paid tribute at his Toronto concert, saying he was inspired by her and is sad she is gone. “She led the country through some of our greatest and darkest moments with grace and decency and genuine caring,” John said.

Praise even came from the fictional Paddington Bear, the beloved British children’s book character. The bear shared tea with the queen in a video shown in June during her Platinum Jubilee celebrations.

“Thank you Ma’am, for everything,” said a statement on the Paddington Bear Twitter feed.

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Lawyers for the US tell a UK court why WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange should face spying charges

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Lawyers for the US tell a UK court why WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange should face spying charges

LONDON (AP) — WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange won’t find out until next month at the earliest whether he can challenge extradition to the U.S. on spying charges, or if his long legal battle in Britain has run out of road.

Two High Court judges said Wednesday they would take time to consider their verdict after a two-day hearing in which Assange’s lawyers argued sending him to the United States would risk a “flagrant denial of justice.”

Attorneys for the U.S., where Assange has been indicted on espionage charges, said he put innocent lives at risk and went beyond journalism in his bid to solicit, steal and indiscriminately publish classified U.S. government documents.

Assange’s lawyers asked the High Court to grant him a new appeal — his last roll of the legal dice in the saga that has kept him in a British high-security prison for the past five years.

The judges overseeing the case reserved their decision, and a ruling on Assange’s future is not expected until March at the earliest.

If judges Victoria Sharp and Jeremy Johnson rule against Assange, he can ask the European Court of Human Rights to block his extradition — though supporters worry he could be put on a plane to the U.S. before that happens, because the British government has already signed an extradition order.

The 52-year-old Australian has been indicted on 17 charges of espionage and one charge of computer misuse over his website’s publication of a trove of classified U.S. documents almost 15 years ago. American prosecutors allege Assange encouraged and helped U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning steal diplomatic cables and military files that WikiLeaks published, putting lives at risk.

Lawyer Clair Dobbin, representing the U.S. government, said Wednesday that Assange damaged U.S. security and intelligence services and “created a grave and imminent risk” by releasing the hundreds of thousands of documents — risks that could harm and lead to the arbitrary detention of innocent people, many of whom lived in war zones or under repressive regimes.

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Dobbin added that in encouraging Manning and others to hack into government computers and steal from them, Assange was “going a very considerable way beyond” a journalist gathering information.

Assange was “not someone who has just set up an online box to which people can provide classified information,” she said. “The allegations are that he sought to encourage theft and hacking that would benefit WikiLeaks.”

Assange’s supporters maintain he is a secrecy-busting journalist who exposed U.S. military wrongdoing in Iraq and Afghanistan. They have long argued that the prosecution is politically motivated and he won’t get a fair trial in the U.S.

Assange’s lawyers argued on the first day of the hearing on Tuesday that American authorities are seeking to punish him for WikiLeaks’ “exposure of criminality on the part of the U.S. government on an unprecedented scale,” including torture and killings.

Lawyer Edward Fitzgerald said there is “a real risk he may suffer a flagrant denial of justice” if he is sent to the U.S.

Dobbin said the prosecution is based on law and evidence, and has remained consistent despite the changes of government in the U.S. during the legal battle.

She added that the First Amendment does not confer immunity on journalists who break the law. Media outlets that went through the process of redacting the documents before publishing them are not being prosecuted, she said.

Assange’s lawyers say he could face up to 175 years in prison if convicted, though American authorities have said the sentence is likely to be much shorter.

Assange was absent from court on both days because he is unwell, WikiLeaks said. Stella Assange, his wife, said he had wanted to attend, but was “not in good condition.”

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Assange’s family and supporters say his physical and mental health have suffered during more than a decade of legal battles, including seven years in self-exile in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.

“Julian is a political prisoner and he has to be released,” said Stella Assange, who married the WikiLeaks founder in prison in 2022.

“They’re putting Julian into the hands of the country and of the people who plotted his assassination,” she added, referring to unproven claims by Assange’s lawyers that he was a target of a CIA plot to kidnap or kill him while he was in the Ecuadorian Embassy.

Supporters holding “Free Julian Assange” signs and chanting “there is only one decision — no extradition” protested outside the High Court building for a second day.

Assange’s legal troubles began in 2010, when he was arrested in London at the request of Sweden, which wanted to question him about allegations of rape and sexual assault made by two women. In 2012, Assange jumped bail and sought refuge inside the Ecuadorian Embassy.

The relationship between Assange and his hosts eventually soured, and he was evicted from the embassy in April 2019. British police immediately arrested and imprisoned him for breaching bail in 2012. Sweden dropped the sex crimes investigations in November 2019 because so much time had elapsed.

A U.K. district court judge rejected the U.S. extradition request in 2021 on the grounds that Assange was likely to kill himself if held under harsh U.S. prison conditions. Higher courts overturned that decision after getting assurances from the U.S. about his treatment. The British government signed an extradition order in June 2022.

Meanwhile, the Australian parliament last week called for Assange to be allowed to return to his homeland.

Andrew Wilkie, an Australian lawmaker who attended the hearing, said he hoped that sent a strong message to the U.K. and U.S. governments to end the legal fight. “This has gone on long enough,” he said.

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Associated Press video journalists Kwiyeon Ha and Jo Kearney contributed to this report.

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Biden to create cybersecurity standards for nation’s ports as concerns grow over vulnerabilities

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Biden to create cybersecurity standards for nation’s ports as concerns grow over vulnerabilities

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden on Wednesday signed an executive order and created a federal rule aimed at better securing the nation’s ports from potential cyberattacks.

The administration is outlining a set of cybersecurity regulations that port operators must comply with across the country, not unlike standardized safety regulations that seek to prevent injury or damage to people and infrastructure.

“We want to ensure there are similar requirements for cyber, when a cyberattack can cause just as much if not more damage than a storm or another physical threat,” said Anne Neuberger, deputy national security adviser at the White House.

Nationwide, ports employ roughly 31 million people and contribute $5.4 trillion to the economy, and could be left vulnerable to a ransomware or other brand of cyberattack, Neuberger said. The standardized set of requirements is designed to help protect against that.

The new requirements are part of the federal government’s focus on modernizing how critical infrastructure like power grids, ports and pipelines are protected as they are increasingly managed and controlled online, often remotely. There is no set of nationwide standards that govern how operators should protect against potential attacks online.

The threat continues to grow. Hostile activity in cyberspace — from spying to the planting of malware to infect and disrupt a country’s infrastructure — has become a hallmark of modern geopolitical rivalry.

For example, in 2021, the operator of the nation’s largest fuel pipeline had to temporarily halt operations after it fell victim to a ransomware attack in which hackers hold a victim’s data or device hostage in exchange for money. The company, Colonial Pipeline, paid $4.4 million to a Russia-based hacker group, though Justice Department officials later recovered much of the money.

Ports, too, are vulnerable. In Australia last year, a cyber incident forced one of the country’s largest port operators to suspend operations for three days.

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In the U.S., roughly 80% of the giant cranes used to lift and haul cargo off ships onto U.S. docks come from China, and are controlled remotely, said Admiral John Vann, commander of the U.S. Coast Guard’s cyber command. That leaves them vulnerable to attack, he said.

Late last month, U.S. officials said they had disrupted a state-backed Chinese effort to plant malware that could be used to damage civilian infrastructure. Vann said this type of potential attack was a concern as officials pushed for new standards, but they are also worried about the possibility for criminal activity.

The new standards, which will be subject to a public comment period, will be required for any port operator and there will be enforcement actions for failing to comply with the standards, though the officials did not outline them. They require port operators to notify authorities when they have been victimized by a cyberattack. The actions also give the Coast Guard, which regulates the nation’s ports, the ability to respond to cyberattacks.

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Jill Biden is announcing $100 million in funding for research and development into women’s health

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Jill Biden is announcing $100 million in funding for research and development into women’s health

WASHINGTON (AP) — Jill Biden on Wednesday announced $100 million in federal funding for research and development into women’s health as part of a new White House initiative that she is heading up.

The money is the first major deliverable of the White House Initiative on Women’s Health Research, which was announced late last year. The money comes from the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health, or ARPA-H, which is under the federal Department of Health and Human Services.

The first lady announced the ARPA-H Sprint for Women’s Health during an appearance in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Biden has said women don’t know enough about their health because the research historically has been underfunded and lacking. The White House initiative aims to change the approach to and increase funding for women’s health research.

The $100 million will be used to invest early in “life-changing” work being done by women’s health researchers and startup companies that cannot get private support, Biden said.

“We will build a health care system that puts women and their lived experiences at its center,” she said. “Where no woman or girl has to hear that ‘it’s all in your head,’ or, ‘it’s just stress.’” Where women aren’t just an after-thought, but a first-thought. Where women don’t just survive with chronic conditions, but lead long and healthy lives.”

President Joe Biden created the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health in 2022 to work on advancing solutions to health issues. The agency is part of what he called his “ unity agenda.”

In the coming weeks, the agency will solicit ideas for groundbreaking research and development to address women’s health, according to the White House.

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The first lady said last year when the White House initiative was announced in November that it grew out of meeting she had had with Maria Shriver, a women’s health advocate and former California first lady. Shriver, Biden said, spoke of the need for a public-private effort to close the gaps in women’s health research. Shriver also participated in Wednesday’s announcement in Massachusetts.

The White House Initiative on Women’s Health Research is led by Jill Biden and the White House Gender Policy Council.

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