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Police arrest Memphis man in livestreamed shootings; 4 dead

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Police arrest Memphis man in livestreamed shootings; 4 dead

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — A gunman who livestreamed himself driving around Memphis shooting at people, killing four and wounding three others in seemingly random attacks, was finally arrested after crashing a stolen car, police said early Thursday.

The hours-long rampage had police warning people across the city to shelter in place, locking down a baseball stadium and university campuses and suspending public bus services as frightened residents wondered where the man might strike next.

Memphis Police Director Cerelyn “CJ” Davis said four people were killed and three others were wounded in seven shootings and at least two carjackings before Ezekiel Kelly was arrested without incident at around 9 p.m. Wednesday.

Kelly, 19, was released early from a prison sentence for aggravated assault, court records show, raising a sore point between the city’s mayor and the county’s top prosecutor that played out before the cameras at an early Thursday news conference.

“This is no way for us to live and it is not acceptable,” said Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland, who later pounded the podium as he demanded accountability. “If Mr. Kelly served his full three-year sentence, he would still be in prison today and four of our fellow citizens would still be alive,” he said.

The first killing was at 12:56 a.m. Wednesday, and officers responded to three more crime scenes before receiving a tip at 6:12 p.m. that the suspect was livestreaming himself threatening to cause harm to citizens, Davis said.

In one clip from the video, the suspect casually speaks to the camera before opening the door to an AutoZone store and shooting someone inside with what appeared to be a pistol. That man was taken to a hospital in critical condition. In another, a man narrates himself driving — “green light, green light” — and sings “no faking.” At one point, he fires two rapid bursts of gunfire out the driver’s window while driving. Referring to police, he says he’s going to “go down to the valley, shoot it out with them in the valley.”

Three more shootings and two carjackings followed after police sent out an alert warning people to be on the lookout for an armed and dangerous man responsible for multiple shootings and reportedly recording his actions on Facebook.

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Police said he killed a woman in Memphis as he took her grey Toyota SUV, which he left behind when he stole a man’s Dodge Challenger across the state line in Southaven, Mississippi.

Kelly was arrested without incident two hours after the initial police alert when he crashed the Challenger during a high speed chase, and two guns were found in the vehicle, Davis said.

As the shooter terrorized the city, buses stopped running, campuses closed and the Memphis Redbirds cleared the field during their minor-league baseball game. Friends and relatives frantically called and texted each other and TV stations cut into regular coverage with updates.

Facebook parent company Meta said Thursday that it detected and removed the suspected shooter’s livestream before Memphis police sent their initial alert, but the company declined to say for how long the live video was streaming. The company said it also removed the suspect’s Facebook account and has been continuously removing content such as copies of the video or messages praising the attack.

Police did not discuss a motive or release the identities of those killed or wounded. It was too early in the investigation to discuss how the suspect got the gun or guns used in the shootings, said Ali Roberts, acting assistant special agent in charge for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Memphis.

Memphis has been shaken by several high-profile killings in recent weeks, including the shooting of a pastor during a daylight carjacking in her driveway, the shooting of an activist during an argument over money, and the slaying of a jogger abducted during her pre-dawn run.

“I understand it feels like so much violence and evil to experience in such a short time,” Memphis City Council member Chase Carlisle said on Twitter. “We are SO much more than this.”

In February 2020, Kelly, then 17, was charged as an adult with attempted first-degree murder, aggravated assault, using a firearm to commit a dangerous felony and reckless endangerment with a deadly weapon, court records show.

Records show he pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and was sentenced in April 2021 to three years. Kelly was released from prison in March, 11 months after he was sentenced, the mayor said. Given the time he spent awaiting a resolution of his charges, he likely got credit for time served and spent more than two years behind bars.

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Strickland thanked legislators for closing what he called a revolving door by passing Tennessee’s so-called “truth in sentencing” law this year. The statute, which took effect after Kelly was freed, requires serving entire sentences for various felonies, including attempted first-degree murder, vehicular homicide resulting from the driver’s intoxication and carjacking.

“From now on, three years for aggravated assault means three years,” the mayor said. “We need the courts and additional state laws to stop this revolving door and I need the public to make their voices heard by those decision makers.”

Standing beside him was Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy, a fellow Democrat who was elected in August after arguing that the sentencing law drives up Tennessee’s prison budget without reducing crime or helping incarcerated people rehabilitate. Mulroy had no role in Kelly’s prior prosecution and sentence.

Republican Gov. Bill Lee, who favors criminal justice reform, allowed the measure to become law without his signature.

“I don’t want to get into a protracted policy debate tonight,” Mulroy said. “I think tonight is a night for grieving and coming together and expressing concern about this horrific week that we’ve had. I can say in general what I’ve been saying all along — that repeat violent offenders require a tough response.”

Mulroy then repeated his call for a holistic approach including rehabilitation as well as long sentences, so that people leave prison with the skills they need to avoid returning to lives of crime.

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Associated Press writers Kimberlee Kruesi, Jonathan Mattise and Travis Loller in Nashville, Tennessee; Jay Reeves in Birmingham, Alabama; Rebecca Reynolds in Louisville, Kentucky; Matt O’Brien in Providence, Rhode Island; and news researcher Rhonda Shafner in New York contributed to this story.

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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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