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AP News in Brief at 6:04 a.m. EDT

May 17, 2022

Ukraine mounts effort to rescue last fighters at steel mill

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Efforts were underway Tuesday to rescue the last of the defenders inside the Azovstal steel plant in the ruined city of Mariupol after Ukrainian officials said the fighters had “completed their mission” and there was no way to free the plant by military means.

The Ukrainian military avoided using the term “surrender” to describe the effort to pull out of the steel plant to save as many lives as possible. Officials planned to keep trying to save an unknown number of fighters who stayed behind. It was unclear if soldiers evacuated to Russian-controlled areas would be considered prisoners of war.

Ukraine's deputy defense minister said more than 260 fighters, including some badly wounded, were evacuated from the plant Monday and taken to areas under Russia’s control.

“The work to bring the guys home continues, and it requires delicacy and time,” said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

He said the evacuation to separatist-controlled territory was done to save the fighters who endured weeks of Russian assaults in the maze of underground passages below the plant.

War Crimes Watch: Targeting schools, Russia bombs the future

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — As she lay buried under the rubble, her legs broken and eyes blinded by blood and thick clouds of dust, all Inna Levchenko could hear was screams. It was 12:15 p.m. on March 3, and moments earlier a blast had pulverized the school where she’d taught for 30 years.

Amid relentless bombing, she’d opened School 21 in Chernihiv as a shelter to frightened families. They painted the word “children” in big, bold letters on the windows, hoping that Russian forces would see it and spare them. The bombs fell anyway.

Though she didn’t know it yet, 70 children she’d ordered to shelter in the basement would survive the blast. But at least nine people, including one of her students — a 13-year-old boy — would not.

“Why schools? I cannot comprehend their motivation,” she said. “It is painful to realize how many friends of mine died … and how many children who remained alone without parents, got traumatized. They will remember it all their life and will pass their stories to the next generation.”

'Like every other day:' 10 lives lost on a trip to the store

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — They were caregivers and protectors and helpers, running an errand or doing a favor or finishing out a shift, when their paths crossed with a young man driven by racism and hatred and inane theories.

In a flash, the ordinariness of their day was broken at Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo, where in and around the supermarket's aisles, a symbol of the mundane was transformed to a scene of mass murder.

Carts lay abandoned. Bodies littered the tile floor. Police radios crackled with calls for help.

Investigators will try, for days to come, to piece together the massacre that killed 10 people, all Black and apparently hunted for the color of their skin.

Those who loved them are left with their memories of the lost, who suffered death amid the simple task of buying groceries.

Livestreamed carnage: Tech's hard lessons from mass killings

These days, mass shooters like the one now held in the Buffalo, N.Y., supermarket attack don’t stop with planning out their brutal attacks. They also create marketing plans while arranging to livestream their massacres on social platforms in hopes of fomenting more violence.

Sites like Twitter, Facebook and now the game-streaming platform Twitch have learned painful lessons from dealing with the violent videos that now often accompany such shootings. But experts are calling for a broader discussion around livestreams, including whether they should exist at all, since once such videos go online, they're almost impossible to erase completely.

The self-described white supremacist gunman who police say killed 10 people, most of them Black, at a Buffalo supermarket Saturday had mounted a GoPro camera to his helmet to stream his assault live on Twitch, the video game streaming platform used by another shooter in 2019 who killed two people at a synagogue in Halle, Germany.

He had previously outlined his plan in a detailed but rambling set of online diary entries that were apparently posted publicly ahead of the attack, although it's not clear how may people might have seen them. His goal: to inspire copycats and spread his racist beliefs. After all, he was a copycat himself.

He decided against streaming on Facebook, as yet another mass shooter did when he killed 51 people at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, three years ago. Unlike Twitch, Facebook requires users to sign up for an account in order to watch livestreams.

Musk: Doubt about spam accounts could scuttle Twitter deal

LONDON (AP) — Tesla CEO Elon Musk says his deal to buy Twitter can't move forward unless the company shows public proof that less than 5% of the accounts on the social media platform are fake or spam.

Musk made the comment in a reply to another user on Twitter early Tuesday. He spent much of the previous day in a back-and-forth with Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal, who posted a series of tweets explaining his company’s effort to fight bots and how it has consistently estimated that less than 5% of Twitter accounts are fake.

In his tweet Tuesday, Musk said that “20% fake/spam accounts, while 4 times what Twitter claims, could be much higher. My offer was based on Twitter’s SEC filings being accurate.”

He added: “Yesterday, Twitter’s CEO publicly refused to show proof of 5%. This deal cannot move forward until he does.”

It’s Musk's latest salvo over inauthentic accounts, a problem he has said he wants to rid Twitter of.

Election 2022: Trump's influence over GOP faces fresh tests

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Former President Donald Trump on Tuesday faces the strongest test yet of his ability to shape a new generation of Republicans as GOP primary voters in Pennsylvania and North Carolina decide whether to rally around his hand-picked choices for critical U.S. Senate seats.

As this year's midterm primary season enters its busiest stretch with races also unfolding in Kentucky, Oregon and Idaho, Trump is poised to notch several easy wins. In North Carolina, U.S. Rep. Ted Budd, is expected to best a packed field of GOP rivals, including a former governor. And in Pennsylvania's GOP race for governor, far-right contender Doug Mastriano was already leading before Trump backed him over the weekend.

But Trump's preferred Senate candidate in Pennsylvania, Mehmet Oz, has divided conservatives who are typically in lockstep with Trump. Some are suspicious of the ideological leanings of the celebrity heart surgeon who gained fame as a frequent guest on Oprah Winfrey's talk show, but has been attacked by millions of dollars of TV ads from another rival, former hedge fund CEO David McCormick. That's benefited Kathy Barnette, a conservative commentator who faced little scrutiny for most of the campaign before resonating in the final stretch with a fierce message opposing abortion in all circumstances.

Trump, who has held campaign-style rallies with Oz, insists he is the best candidate to keep the Senate seat in Republican hands in the fall. Given his level of involvement in the race — including a virtual event on Oz's behalf late Monday — a loss would be a notable setback for the former president, who is wielding endorsements as a way to prove his dominance over the GOP ahead of a potential 2024 presidential run.

Democrats, meanwhile, have their own high-profile primaries. In Pennsylvania, progressive Lt. Gov. John Fetterman has dominated the Senate race but was forced off the campaign trail by a stroke. The 52-year-old Fetterman remains hospitalized, though he said he is expected to make a full recovery.

AP Exclusive: Black Lives Matter has $42 million in assets

NEW YORK (AP) — The foundation started by organizers of the Black Lives Matter movement is still worth tens of millions of dollars, after spending more than $37 million on grants, real estate, consultants, and other expenses, according to tax documents filed with the IRS.

In a new, 63-page Form 990 shared exclusively with The Associated Press, the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation Inc. reports that it invested $32 million in stocks from the $90 million it received as donations amid racial justice protests in 2020. That investment is expected to become an endowment to ensure the foundation’s work continues in the future, organizers say.

It ended its last fiscal year – from July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021 – with nearly $42 million in net assets. The foundation had an operating budget of about $4 million, according to a board member.

The tax filing shows that nearly $6 million was spent on a Los Angeles-area compound. The Studio City property, which includes a home with six bedrooms and bathrooms, a swimming pool, a soundstage and office space, was intended as a campus for a Black artists fellowship and is currently used for that purpose, the board member said.

This is the BLM foundation’s first public accounting of its finances since incorporating in 2017. As a fledgling nonprofit, it had been under the fiscal sponsorship of a well-established charity, and wasn’t required to publicly disclose its financials until it became an independent, 501(c)(3) nonprofit in December 2020.

Man killed in California church shooting called a hero

LAGUNA WOODS, Calif. (AP) — A gunman motivated by hatred against Taiwan chained shut the doors of a California church and hid firebombs before shooting at a gathering of mostly elderly Taiwanese parishioners, killing a man who tackled him, authorities said.

David Chou, 68, of Las Vegas — a U.S. citizen whom authorities say grew up in Taiwan — drove to Orange County on Saturday and the next day attended a lunch held by Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church, which worships at Geneva Presbyterian Church in the community of Laguna Woods. Though he knew no one there, he spent about an hour mingling with about 40 attendees and then executed his plot, authorities said at a news conference.

He chained the doors and put super glue in the keyholes. He had two 9 mm handguns — legally purchased years ago in Las Vegas — and three bags, containing among other things four Molotov-cocktail-type incendiary devices and extra ammunition. He opened fire and in the ensuing chaos Dr. John Cheng, 52, tackled him, allowing other parishioners to subdue him and tie him up with extension cords.

Cheng died and five people were wounded, the oldest 92. Sheriff Don Barnes called Cheng’s heroism “a meeting of good versus evil” that probably saved the lives “of upwards of dozens of people.”

Chou was booked on suspicion of murder and attempted murder and jailed on $1 million bail. He was expected to appear in state court Tuesday. It was not immediately clear whether he had an attorney who could speak on his behalf. A federal hate crimes investigation is also ongoing.

N. Korea's Kim faces 'huge dilemma' on aid as virus surges

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — During more than a decade as North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Un has made “self-reliance” his governing lynchpin, shunning international help and striving instead for domestic strategies to fix his battered economy.

But as an illness suspected to be COVID-19 sickens hundreds of thousands of his people, Kim stands at a critical crossroad: Either swallow his pride and receive foreign help to fight the disease, or go it alone, enduring potential huge fatalities that may undermine his leadership.

“Kim Jong Un is in a dilemma, a really huge dilemma,” said Lim Eul-chul, a professor at Kyungnam University’s Institute for Far Eastern Studies in Seoul. “If he accepts U.S. or Western assistance, that can shake the self-reliance stance that he has steadfastly maintained and public confidence in him could be weakened.”

Doing nothing, however, could be calamitous.

Since acknowledging a COVID-19 outbreak last week, North Korea has said “an explosively spreading fever” has killed 56 people and sickened about 1.5 million others. Outside observers suspect most of those cases were caused by the coronavirus.

Massacre video reopens wounds for missing Syrians' families

BEIRUT (AP) — For years, the Siyam family clung to hope they would one day be reunited with their son Wassim, who they believed was being held in a Syrian government prison after he went missing at a checkpoint nearly a decade ago.

That hope evaporated the moment they saw him in a newly leaked video: He was among dozens of blindfolded, bound men who, one by one, were shot and thrown into a trench by Syrian security agents.

“It shocked us to our core,” Siham Siyam said of the gruesome video, which was taken in 2013 and emerged late last month.

“They killed him in cold blood ... No mother can accept to see her child being harmed this way,” Siham told The Associated Press from Germany, where she now lives with her family.

The video has set off a wave of grief and fear rippling through the families of the tens of thousands of Syrians who disappeared during their country’s long-running civil war. After the video went online, thousands rushed to painstakingly scan through the footage online for traces of vanished relatives.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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