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Cancer claims 4-time Iditarod champion Lance Mackey

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Cancer claims 4-time Iditarod champion Lance Mackey

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Lance Mackey, one of mushing’s most colorful and accomplished champions who also suffered from health and drug issues, has died.

The four-time Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race winner died Wednesday from cancer, his father and kennel announced on Facebook. He was 52.

Officials with the world’s most famous sled dog race said Iditarod Nation was in mourning.

“Lance embodied the spirit of the race, the tenacity of an Alaskan musher, displayed the ultimate show of perseverance and was loved by his fans,” officials said in a statement.

The son of 1978 Iditarod champion Dick Mackey and brother of 1983 champion Rick Mackey, Lance Mackey overcame throat cancer in 2001 to win an unprecedented four straight Iditarod championships, from 2007 through 2010.

It wasn’t just the 1,000-mile (1,609-kilometer) race across Alaska where he excelled. During his Iditarod run, twice he also won the 1,000-mile (1,609-kilometer) Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race between Canada and Alaska with only two weeks’ rest between races.

But after the string of wins, he was beset by personal problems, health scares and drug issues that prevented him from ever again reaching the top of the sport.

The treatment for his throat cancer cost him his saliva glands and ultimately disintegrated his teeth.

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He was then diagnosed with Raynaud’s syndrome, which limits circulation to the hands and feet and is exacerbated by the cold weather that every musher must contend with in the wilds of Alaska.

In the 2015 race, he couldn’t manipulate his fingers to do simple tasks, like putting booties on his dogs’ paws to protect them from the snow, ice and cold. His brother and fellow competitor Jason Mackey agreed to stay with him at the back of the pack to help him care for the dogs.

It was a life-changing blow for Lance Mackey, who knew no other lifestyle.

“I love this sport,” he told an Iditarod TV crew during that race while choking back tears. “I can’t do it no more.”

Documentary filmmaker Greg Kohs spent two weeks with Mackey during the 2013 Iditarod, filming “The Great Alone.” He was waiting in the tiny, remote village of Takotna for Mackey to arrive, and he was encouraged to go there because village residents make amazing pies to serve the mushers as they come through the race checkpoint.

“I realized Lance Mackey was a lot like a piece of pie. Once you got a taste of his story and personality, you wanted to share it with others,” he said in a statement issued after learning of Mackey’s death.

“And like a homemade pie, the tin is often dinged up, and the crust might not look perfect, but inside is a delicious recipe richened by time, wisdom and soul,” Kohs wrote.

Whether he won or lost, or when talking about problems, Mackey was always transparent.

“That honesty is what allowed him to be fearless,” five-time champion Dallas Seavey told The Associated Press on Thursday. “He didn’t have to see himself in a different light than he actually was.”

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Seavey said Mackey gave it everything, racing to the limit.

“If it didn’t work, it didn’t work, and that was fine by him,” Seavey said. “It made him a heck of a competitor.”

Another musher, four-time Iditarod champion Jeff King, said Mackey was a fabulous competitor.

“He will be missed and always remembered as a great dog man,” King said.

After his string of first place finishes, Mackey dropped back in the standings, finishing a career-worst 43rd in 2015. The next year he scratched and didn’t race the Iditarod again until 2019, when he placed 26th.

In the 2020 race, his last, he carried his mother’s ashes in his sled to the finish line in Nome to honor her, but he was later disqualified after testing positive for methamphetamine. He entered rehab on the East Coast.

Before the Iditarod began drug testing in 2010, Mackey also acknowledged using marijuana on the trail.

Months after the 2020 race finished, his partner Jenne Smith died in an all-terrain vehicle accident. They had two children.

Last month, he told the Iditarod website that an examination after a car accident discovered more cancer, and he thought treatment had taken care of it. “But came up with some other issues that aren’t gone and seem to have moved rapidly and left me in the position I’m in at the moment,” he said, noting he was on oxygen and had lost 30 pounds.

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When asked if he was fearful, Mackey responded: “I’m not fearing nothing. You know, it is what it is, but I’m not any different than the rest of the people on the planet. When it’s my bus stop, I’ll get off.”

He also used the opportunity to apologize to his fans for his past problems.

“I’m still, like never before, embarrassed and ashamed and disappointed,” he said following his disqualification.

He said he knew he had lost fans and wasn’t looking to change their opinion of him.

“I am truly sorry for the many embarrassing moments, but I’m also grateful for the support that I also received from a lot of the same people,” he said.

DeeDee Jonrowe, a retired musher who had known Lance since he was a junior musher, went through cancer treatments about the same time as Mackey.

“I admire him for what he fought through, but I’m really sad for the fact he wasn’t able to survive the dysfunction of it all,” she said, noting the loss of mother, partner and the substance abuse, which didn’t help the cancer treatments.

“He’s a legend,” Jonrowe said. “But I don’t think he would want anybody to follow his lifestyle footsteps. He would wish that they would learn from the stumbles that he made.”

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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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