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Queen Elizabeth II, a monarch bound by duty, dies at 96

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Queen Elizabeth II, a monarch bound by duty, dies at 96

By JILL LAWLESS

September 8, 2022 GMT

LONDON (AP) — On her 21st birthday in 1947, Princess Elizabeth went on the radio and made a promise to Britain and its Commonwealth nations: She pledged that “my whole life, whether it be short or long, will be devoted to your service.”

Over her very long life, Queen Elizabeth II fulfilled that vow.

Through 15 prime ministers, from Winston Churchill to Liz Truss. Through Britain’s postwar deprivations, crippling labor unrest and Brexit. Through the messy divorces, embarrassments and scandals of her family. She endured through it all — a reassuring anchor in a fast-changing world.

The longest-reigning monarch that Britain has ever known, Elizabeth died Thursday at 96 at Balmoral Castle, her beloved summer home in Scotland, after having steadied and modernized the royal institution through seven decades of huge social change.

Truss pronounced the country “devastated” and called Elizabeth “the rock on which modern Britain was built.”

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Her passing ends an era, the modern Elizabethan age. Her 73-year-old son, Charles, automatically became king upon her death. He will be known as King Charles III, although his coronation might not take place for months.

Through countless public events in her 70 years as monarch, Elizabeth likely met more people than anyone in history. Her image — on stamps, coins and bank notes — was among the most reproduced in the world.

But her inner life and opinions remained mostly an enigma. The public saw only glimpses of her personality: her joy watching horse racing at Royal Ascot or being with her beloved Welsh corgi dogs.

Yet Elizabeth had an intuitive bond with many of her subjects that seemed to strengthen over time, keeping a sense of perspective that served her well in most instances, said royal historian Robert Lacey.

“A lot of it comes from her modesty, the fact that she’s very conscious that she’s not important, that she’s there to do a job, that it’s the institution that matters,” he said.

The impact of her loss will be huge and unpredictable, both for the nation and for the monarchy, an institution whose relevance in the 21st century has often been called into question.

World leaders paid tribute to her long reign. U.S. President Joe Biden called her a “stateswoman of unmatched dignity and constancy.”

She strongly felt the burden of her role as queen, though she was not destined for the crown from birth.

Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor was born in London on April 21, 1926, the first child of the Duke and Duchess of York. Her father’s elder brother, Prince Edward, was first in line for the throne, to be followed by any children he had.

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But in 1936, when she was 10, King Edward VIII abdicated to marry twice-divorced American Wallis Simpson, and Elizabeth’s father became King George VI.

Her younger sister, Princess Margaret, recalled asking Elizabeth whether this meant that she would one day be queen. “Yes, I suppose it does,” Margaret quoted Elizabeth as saying. “She didn’t mention it again.”

Like many of her generation, Elizabeth was shaped by World War II.

She was barely in her teens when Britain went to war with Germany in 1939. While the king and queen stayed at Buckingham Palace during the Blitz and toured the bombed-out neighborhoods of London, Elizabeth and Margaret stayed for most of the war at Windsor Castle, west of the capital. Even there, 300 bombs fell in an adjacent park, and the princesses spent many nights in an underground shelter.

Her first public broadcast, made in 1940 when she was 14, was a wartime message to children evacuated to the countryside or overseas.

“We children at home are full of cheerfulness and courage,” she said with a blend of stoicism and hope that would echo throughout her reign. “We are trying to do all we can to help out gallant soldiers, sailors and airmen. And we are trying, too, to bear our own share of the danger and sadness of war. We know, every one of us, that in the end all will be well.”

In 1945, after months of urging her parents to let her do something for the war effort, the heir to the throne became Second Subaltern Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor in the Auxiliary Territorial Service. She enthusiastically learned how to drive and service heavy vehicles.

On the night the war ended in Europe, May 8, 1945, she and Margaret managed to mingle, unrecognized, with celebrating crowds in London — “swept along on a tide of happiness and relief,” as she told the BBC decades later. She described it as “one of the most memorable nights of my life.”

Two years later, at Westminster Abbey in November 1947, she married Royal Navy officer Philip Mountbatten, a prince of Greece and Denmark whom she had first met in 1939 when she was 13 and he 18. Postwar Britain was experiencing austerity and rationing, and so street decorations were limited, and no public holiday was declared. But the bride was allowed 100 extra ration coupons for her trousseau.

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The marriage lasted more than 73 years, until Philip’s death in 2021 at age 99.

The first of their four children, Prince Charles, was born on Nov. 14, 1948. He was followed by Princess Anne on Aug. 15, 1950, Prince Andrew on Feb. 19, 1960, and Prince Edward on March 10, 1964. Besides them, the queen is survived by eight grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.

Elizabeth and Philip lived for a time in Malta, where he was stationed and Elizabeth enjoyed an almost-normal life as a navy wife.

Then in February 1952, George VI died in his sleep at age 56 after years of ill health. Elizabeth, on a visit to Kenya, was told she was now queen.

“In a way, I didn’t have an apprenticeship,” Elizabeth told a BBC documentary in 1992 that gave a rare view into her emotions. “My father died much too young, and so it was all a very sudden kind of taking on and making the best job you can.”

Her coronation took place more than a year later at Westminster Abbey, a grand spectacle viewed by millions through the new medium of television.

Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s first reaction to the king’s death was to complain that the new queen was “only a child,” but he was won over within days and became an ardent admirer.

“All the film people in the world, if they had scoured the globe, could not have found anyone so suited to the part,” Churchill’s biographer, Lord Moran, reported the prime minister gushing about the young monarch.

In Britain’s constitutional monarchy, the queen is head of state but has little direct power; in her official actions, she does what the government orders. However, she was not without influence. She once reportedly commented that there was nothing she could do legally to block the appointment of a bishop, “but I can always say that I should like more information. That is an indication that the prime minister will not miss.”

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The extent of the monarch’s political influence sparked occasional speculation, but not much criticism. The views of Charles, who has expressed strong opinions on everything from architecture to the environment, might prove more contentious.

The queen was obliged to meet weekly with the prime minister, and they generally found her well-informed, inquisitive and up to date. The one possible exception was Margaret Thatcher, with whom her relations were said to be cool, if not frosty, though neither ever commented.

The queen’s views in those private meetings became a subject of intense speculation and fertile grounds for dramatists like Peter Morgan, author of the play “The Audience” and hit TV series “The Crown.” Those semi-fictionalized accounts were the product of an era of declining deference and rising celebrity, when the royal troubles became public property.

And there were plenty of troubles in the royal family, an institution known within the palace as “The Firm.” In Elizabeth’s first years on the throne, Princess Margaret provoked a national controversy through her romance with a divorced man.

In what the queen called the “annus horribilis” of 1992, her daughter, Princess Anne, got divorced, Prince Charles and Princess Diana separated, and so did Prince Andrew and his wife, Sarah. That was also the year Windsor Castle, a residence she far preferred to Buckingham Palace, was seriously damaged by fire.

The public split of Charles and Diana — “There were three of us in that marriage,” Diana said of her husband’s relationship with Camilla Parker Bowles — was followed by the shock of Diana’s death in a Paris car crash in 1997. For once, the queen appeared out of step with her people. Amid unprecedented national mourning, Elizabeth’s failure to make a public show of grief appeared to many to be unfeeling. After several days, she made a televised address to the nation.

The dent in her popularity was brief. She was by now a sort of national grandmother, with a stern gaze, a kind smile and an inexhaustible repertoire of brightly colored outfits with matching hats.

She took the monarchy from the black-and-white era to the digital age and was a cautious modernizer: She ended the presentation of debutantes at court and instituted garden parties with a cross section of her subjects; her children were sent to school, rather than being privately tutored as she was; she was the first monarch to give the annual royal Christmas speech on television, and the first to send an email and post a tweet.

Financial pressures led to staff reductions, cutbacks in repairs and maintenance at some of her palaces, and the removal of the royal yacht from active service. In the 1990s, she voluntarily but prudently agreed to pay taxes, and her dignity survived the necessity of topping up her income by opening a souvenir shop at Buckingham Palace.

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Despite being one of the world’s wealthiest people, Elizabeth had a reputation for frugality and common sense. She was known as a monarch who took care to turn off lights in empty rooms, a country woman who didn’t flinch from strangling pheasants.

A newspaper reporter who went undercover to work as a palace footman reinforced that down-to-earth image, taking photos of the royal Tupperware on the breakfast table and a rubber duck in the bath.

“Dogs and horses, courtesy, kindliness and community service, count with her,” biographer Giles Brandreth wrote.

Her sangfroid was not dented when a young man aimed a pistol at her and fired six blanks as she rode by on a horse in 1981, nor when she discovered an intruder sitting on her bed in Buckingham Palace in 1982.

The image of the queen as an exemplar of ordinary British decency was satirized by the magazine Private Eye, which called her Brenda. Anti-monarchists dubbed her “Mrs. Windsor.” But the republican cause gained limited traction.

On her Golden Jubilee in 2002, she said the country could “look back with measured pride on the history of the last 50 years.”

“It has been a pretty remarkable 50 years by any standards,” she said in a speech. “There have been ups and downs, but anyone who can remember what things were like after those six long years of war appreciates what immense changes have been achieved since then.”

A reassuring presence at home, she was also an emblem of Britain abroad — a form of soft power, consistently respected whatever the vagaries of the country’s political leaders on the world stage. It felt only fitting that she attended the opening of the 2012 London Olympics alongside another icon, James Bond, as portrayed by Daniel Craig. Through some movie magic, she appeared to parachute into the Olympic Stadium.

Despite Britain’s complex and often fraught ties with its former colonies, Elizabeth was widely respected and remained head of state of more than a dozen countries, from Canada to Tuvalu. She headed the 54-nation Commonwealth, built around the U.K. and its former British colonies.

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In 2015, she overtook Queen Victoria, her great-great-grandmother, as the longest-serving monarch in British history, and in 2022 she became the second longest-reigning monarch in world history, behind 17th century French King Louis XIV, who took the throne at age 4.

She kept working well into her 10th decade, though Prince Charles and his elder son, Prince William, took over most of the visits, ribbon-cuttings and investitures that form the bulk of royal duties. The loss of Philip in 2021 was a heavy blow, as she poignantly sat alone at his funeral in the chapel at Windsor Castle.

The family troubles kept coming. Her son, Prince Andrew, was entangled in the sordid tale of sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, an American businessman who had been a friend. Andrew denies accusations that he had sex with one of the women who said she was trafficked by Epstein.

The queen’s grandson, Prince Harry, walked away from Britain and his royal duties after marrying American actress Meghan Markle in 2018. He alleged in an interview that some in the family -– but pointedly not the queen -– had been less than welcoming to his wife.

She enjoyed robust health well into her 90s, though frailty eventually caught up with her. In October 2021, she spent a night in a London hospital for tests, and was later said by the palace to be experiencing “episodic mobility issues.”

She kept up virtual meetings with diplomats and politicians from Windsor Castle, but public duties grew rarer, though she made several appearances as the U.K. celebrated her Platinum Jubilee in June 2022.

Pragmatic to the end, she began to prepare the country for the transition to come. She let it be known that she wanted Charles’ wife Camilla to be known as “Queen Consort” when her son became king. It removed a question mark over the future role of the woman some blamed for the breakup of Charles’ marriage to Princess Diana in the 1990s.

In May 2022, she asked Charles to stand in for her and read the Queen’s Speech at the State Opening of Parliament, one of the monarch’s most central constitutional duties.

But she remained firmly in control of the monarchy and at the center of national life as Britain marked her Platinum Jubilee with parties and pageants. Just 48 hours before her death, she presided at a ceremony at Balmoral Castle to appoint Truss as the 15th prime minister of her reign.

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Seven decades after World War II, Elizabeth was again at the center of the national mood amid the uncertainty and loss of COVID 19 — a disease she came through herself in February 2022.

In April 2020 — with the country in lockdown and Prime Minister Boris Johnson hospitalized with the virus — she made a rare video address, urging people to stick together.

She summoned the spirit of World War II, that vital time in her life, and the nation’s, by echoing Vera Lynn’s wartime anthem “We’ll Meet Again.”

“We should take comfort that while we may have more still to endure, better days will return. We will be with our friends again. We will be with our families again. We will meet again,” she said.

At Queen Square in London’s Bloomsbury neighborhood stands an urn erected to commemorate Elizabeth’s Silver Jubilee. Etched on the ground around it are the words of poet Philip Larkin, written for that event in 1977, but which remained true decades later:

“In times when nothing stood

But worsened or grew strange,

There was one constant good

She did not change.”

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Associated Press writers Gregory Katz and Robert Barr contributed material before their deaths.

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Follow all AP stories on the British royals at https://apnews.com/hub/queen-elizabeth-ii.

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Israel hails ‘success’ after blocking unprecedented attack from Iran

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Israel hails ‘success’ after blocking unprecedented attack from Iran

TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — Israeli leaders on Sunday credited an international military coalition with helping thwart a direct Iranian attack involving hundreds of drones and missiles, calling the coordinated response a starting point for a “strategic alliance” of regional opposition to Tehran.

But Israel’s War Cabinet met without making a decision on next steps, an official said, as a nervous world waited for any sign of further escalation of the former shadow war.

The military coalition, led by the United States, Britain and France and appearing to include a number of Middle Eastern countries, gave Israel support at a time when it finds itself isolated over its war against Hamas in Gaza. The coalition also could serve as a model for regional relations when that war ends.

“This was the first time that such a coalition worked together against the threat of Iran and its proxies in the Middle East,” said the Israeli military spokesman, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari.

One unknown is which of Israel’s neighbors participated in the shooting down of the vast majority of about 350 drones and missiles Iran launched. Israeli military officials and a key War Cabinet member noted additional “partners” without naming them. When pressed, White House national security spokesman John Kirby would not name them either.

But one appeared to be Jordan, which described its action as self-defense.

“There was an assessment that there was a real danger of Iranian marches and missiles falling on Jordan, and the armed forces dealt with this danger. And if this danger came from Israel, Jordan would take the same action,” Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman al-Safadi said in an interview on Al-Mamlaka state television. U.S. President Joe Biden spoke with Jordan’s King Abdullah on Sunday.

The U.S. has long tried to forge a regionwide alliance against Iran as a way of integrating Israel and boosting ties with the Arab world. The effort has included the 2020 Abraham Accords, which established diplomatic relations between Israel and four Arab countries, and having Israel in the U.S. military’s Central Command, which oversees operations in the Middle East and works closely with the armies of moderate Arab states.

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The U.S. had been working to establish full relations between Israel and regional heavyweight Saudi Arabia before the Oct. 7 Hamas attack sparked Israel’s war in Gaza. The war, which has claimed over 33,700 Palestinian lives, has frozen those efforts due to widespread outrage across the Arab world. But it appears that some behind-the-scenes cooperation has continued, and the White House has held out hopes of forging Israel-Saudi ties as part of a postwar plan.

Just ahead of Iran’s attack, the commander of CENTCOM, Gen. Erik Kurilla, visited Israel to map out a strategy.

Israel’s military chief, Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, on Sunday thanked CENTCOM for the joint defensive effort. Both Jordan and Saudi Arabia are under the CENTCOM umbrella. While neither acknowledged involvement in intercepting Iran’s launches, the Israeli military released a map showing missiles traveling through the airspace of both nations.

“Arab countries came to the aid of Israel in stopping the attack because they understand that regional organizing is required against Iran, otherwise they will be next in line,” Amos Yadlin, a former head of Israel’s military intelligence, wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

Israel’s defense minister, Yoav Gallant, said he had spoken with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and that the cooperation “highlighted the opportunity to establish an international coalition and strategic alliance to counter the threat posed by Iran.”

The White House signaled that it hopes to build on the partnerships and urged Israel to think twice before striking Iran. U.S. officials said Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Washington would not participate in any offensive action against Iran.

Israel’s War Cabinet met late Sunday to discuss a possible response, but an Israeli official familiar with the talks said no decisions had been made. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was discussing confidential deliberations.

Asked about plans for retaliation, Hagari declined to comment directly. “We are at high readiness in all fronts,” he said.

“We will build a regional coalition and collect the price from Iran, in the way and at the time that suits us,” said a key War Cabinet member, Benny Gantz.

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Iran launched the attack in response to a strike widely blamed on Israel that hit an Iranian consular building in Syria this month and killed two Iranian generals.

By Sunday morning, Iran said the attack was over, and Israel reopened its airspace. Iran’s president, Ebrahim Raisi, claimed Iran had taught Israel a lesson and warned that “any new adventures against the interests of the Iranian nation would be met with a heavier and regretful response from the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

The foes have been engaged in a shadow war for years, but Sunday’s assault was the first time Iran launched a direct military assault on Israel, despite decades of enmity dating back to the country’s 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Iran said it targeted Israeli facilities involved in the Damascus strike, and that it told the White House early Sunday that the operation would be “minimalistic.”

But U.S. officials said Iran’s intent was to “destroy and cause casualties” and that if successful, the strikes would have caused an “uncontrollable” escalation. At one point, at least 100 ballistic missiles were in the air with just minutes of flight time to Israel, the officials said.

Israel said more than 99% of what Iran fired was intercepted, with just a few missiles getting through. An Israeli airbase sustained minor damage.

Israel has over the years established — often with the help of the U.S. — a multilayered air-defense network that includes systems capable of intercepting a variety of threats, including long-range missiles, cruise missiles, drones and short-range rockets.

That system, along with collaboration with the U.S. and others, helped thwart what could have been a far more devastating assault at a time when Israel is already deeply engaged in Gaza as well as low-level fighting on its northern border with Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia. Both Hamas and Hezbollah are backed by Iran.

While thwarting the Iranian onslaught could help restore Israel’s image after the Hamas attack in October, what the Middle East’s best-equipped army does next will be closely watched in the region and in Western capitals — especially as Israel seeks to develop the coalition it praised Sunday.

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In Washington, Biden pledged to convene allies to develop a unified response. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. would hold talks with allies. After an urgent meeting, the Group of Seven countries unanimously condemned Iran’s attack and said they stood ready to take “further measures.”

Israel and Iran have been on a collision course throughout Israel’s war in Gaza. In the Oct. 7 attack, militants from Hamas and Islamic Jihad, also backed by Iran, killed 1,200 people in Israel and kidnapped 250 others. Israel’s offensive in Gaza has killed over 33,000 people, according to local health officials.

Hamas welcomed Iran’s attack, saying it was “a natural right and a deserved response” to the strike in Syria. It urged the Iran-backed groups in the region to continue to support Hamas in the war.

Hezbollah also welcomed the attack. Almost immediately after the war in Gaza erupted, Hezbollah began attacking Israel’s northern border. The two sides have been involved in daily exchanges of fire, while Iranian-backed groups in Iraq, Syria and Yemen have launched rockets and missiles toward Israel.

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Federman reported from Jerusalem. Associated Press writers Zeke Miller and Michelle L. Price in Washington; Amir Vahdat in Tehran, Iran; Samy Magdy in Cairo; Omar Akour in Amman, Jordan; and Giada Zampano in Rome contributed to this report.

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How to get rid of NYC rats without brutality? Birth control is one idea

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How to get rid of NYC rats without brutality? Birth control is one idea

New York lawmakers are proposing rules to humanely drive down the population of rats and other rodents, eyeing contraception and a ban on glue traps as alternatives to poison or a slow, brutal death.

Politicians have long come up with creative ways to battle the rodents, but some lawmakers are now proposing city and statewide measures to do more.

In New York City, the idea to distribute rat contraceptives got fresh attention in city government Thursday following the death of an escaped zoo owl, known as Flaco, who was found dead with rat poison in his system.

City Council Member Shaun Abreu proposed a city ordinance Thursday that would establish a pilot program for controlling the millions of rats lurking in subway stations and empty lots by using birth control instead of lethal chemicals. Abreu, chair of the Committee on Sanitation and Solid Waste Management, said the contraceptives also are more ethical and humane than other methods.

The contraceptive, called ContraPest, is contained in salty, fatty pellets that are scattered in rat-infested areas as bait. It works by targeting ovarian function in female rats and disrupting sperm cell production in males, The New York Times reported.

New York exterminators currently kill rats using snap and glue traps, poisons that make them bleed internally, and carbon monoxide gas that can suffocate them in burrows. Some hobbyists have even trained their dogs to hunt them.

Rashad Edwards, a film and television actor who runs pest management company Scurry Inc. in New York City with his wife, said the best method he has found when dealing with rodents is carbon monoxide.

He tries to use the most humane method possible, and carbon monoxide euthanizes the rats slowly, putting them to sleep and killing them. Edwards avoids using rat poison whenever possible because it is dangerous and torturous to the rodents, he said.

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Some lawmakers in Albany are considering a statewide ban on glue boards under a bill moving through the Legislature. The traps, usually made from a slab of cardboard or plastic coated in a sticky material, can also ensnare small animals that land on its surface.

Edwards opposes a ban on sticky traps, because he uses them on other pests, such as ants, to reduce overall pesticide use. When ants get into a house, he uses sticky traps to figure out where they’re most often passing by. It helps him narrow zones of pesticide use “so that you don’t go spray the entire place.”

“This is not a problem we can kill our way out of,” said Jakob Shaw, a special project manager for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. “It’s time to embrace these more common sense and humane methods.”

Two cities in California have passed bans on glue traps in recent years. On the federal level, a bill currently in committee would ban the traps nationwide.

“It ends a really inhumane practice of managing rat populations,” said Jabari Brisport, the New York state senator who represents part of Brooklyn and sponsored the bill proposing the new guidelines. “There are more effective and more humane ways to deal with rats.”

Every generation of New Yorkers has struggled to control rat populations. Mayor Eric Adams hired a “rat czar” last year tasked with battling the detested rodents. Last month, New York City reduced the amount of food served up to rats by mandating all businesses to put trash out in boxes.

While the war on rats has no end in sight, the exterminator Edwards said we can learn a lot from their resilience. The rodents, he said, can never be eradicated, only managed.

“They’re very smart, and they’re very wise,” he said. “It’s very inspiring but just — not in my house.”

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Coachella: Earthquake shakes SoCal desert during music fest

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Coachella: Earthquake shakes SoCal desert during music fest

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (AP) — A small earthquake shook the Southern California desert Saturday near Coachella, where the famous music festival is being held this weekend. No damage or injuries were reported.

The quake, with a preliminary magnitude of 3.8, hit at 9:08 a.m. about 8 miles (13 kilometers) northeast of Borrego Springs in Riverside County, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The epicenter was about 20 miles (32 kilometers) southeast of Coachella. It struck at a depth of about 7 miles (11 kilometers), the USGS said.

A dispatcher with the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department said there were no calls reporting any problems from the quake.

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