AP Top News at 10:53 p.m. EDT
WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats started pushing their election-year economic bill through the Senate on Saturday, starting the sprawling collection of President Joe Biden’s priorities on climate, energy, health and taxes on a pathway through Congress that the party hopes will end in victory by the end of this week. In a preview of the sharply partisan votes that are expected on a mountain of amendments, the evenly divided Senate voted to begin debate on the legislation 51-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking the tie and overcoming unanimous Republican opposition. The package, a dwindled version of earlier multitrillion-dollar measures that Democrats failed to advance, has become a partisan battleground over inflation, gasoline prices and other issues that polls show are driving voters.
Alex Jones is facing a hefty price tag for his lies about the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre — $49.3 million in damages, and counting, for claiming the nation’s deadliest school shooting was a hoax — a punishing salvo in a fledgling war on harmful misinformation. But what does this week’s verdict, the first of three Sandy Hook-related cases against Jones to be decided, mean for the larger misinformation ecosystem, a social media-fueled world of election denial, COVID-19 skepticism and other dubious claims that the Infowars conspiracy theorist helped build? “I think a lot of people are thinking of this as sort of a blow against fake news, and it’s important to realize that libel law deals with a very particular kind of fake news,” said Eugene Volokh, a First Amendment professor at the UCLA School of Law.
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Israeli airstrikes flattened homes in Gaza on Saturday and Palestinian rocket barrages into southern Israel persisted for a second day, raising fears of another major escalation in the Mideast conflict. Gaza’s health ministry said 24 people had been killed so far in the coastal strip, including six children. The fighting began with Israel’s killing of a senior commander of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group in a wave of strikes Friday that Israel said were meant to prevent an imminent attack. So far, Hamas, the larger militant group that rules Gaza, appeared to stay on the sidelines of the conflict, keeping its intensity somewhat contained.
Elon Musk said Saturday his planned $44 billion takeover of Twitter should move forward if the company can confirm some details about how it measures whether user accounts are ‘spam bots’ or real people. The billionaire and Tesla CEO has been trying to back out of his April agreement to buy the social media company, leading Twitter to sue him last month to complete the acquisition. Musk countersued, accusing Twitter of misleading his team about the true size of its user base and other problems he said amounted to fraud and breach of contract. Both sides are headed toward an October trial in a Delaware court.
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The administration of President Joe Biden and one of Indiana’s largest employers have condemned the state’s new ban on abortions, with the White House calling it another extreme attempt by Republicans to trample women’s rights. Indiana on Friday became the first state in the nation to approve such legislation since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a 1973 landmark case that had protected the right to abortion nationwide. “The Indiana Legislature took a devastating step as a result of the Supreme Court’s extreme decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and eliminate women’s constitutionally protected right to abortion,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement Saturday.
HAVANA (AP) — A fire set off by a lightning strike at an oil storage facility raged uncontrolled in the Cuban city of Matanzas, where four explosions and flames injured 121 people and left 17 firefighters missing. Cuban authorities said a unidentified body had been found late Saturday. Firefighters and other specialists were still trying to quell the blaze at the Matanzas Supertanker Base, where the fire began during a thunderstorm Friday night, the Ministry of Energy and Mines tweeted. Authorities said about 800 people were evacuated from the Dubrocq neighborhood closest to the fire, The government said it had asked for help from international experts in “friendly countries” with experience in the oil sector.
FANCY FARM, Ky. (AP) — While Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear was consoling families displaced by historic flooding in the mountains of eastern Kentucky, Republicans at the state’s premier political event on the other side of the state were campaigning to oust him from office in 2023. GOP candidates speaking at the Fancy Farm picnic in western Kentucky bashed the Democratic governor’s record earlier in this term, especially his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. But they also offered support for recovery efforts that Beshear is leading in the wake of historic flooding and tornadoes. While his challengers aimed zingers at him, Beshear spent the day meeting with families displaced by flash flooding that swamped the Appalachian region more than a week ago, killing 37.
BEIJING (AP) — Taiwan said Saturday that China’s military drills appear to simulate an attack on the self-ruled island, after multiple Chinese warships and aircraft crossed the median line of the Taiwan Strait following U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taipei that infuriated Beijing. Taiwan’s armed forces issued an alert, dispatched air and naval patrols around the island, and activated land-based missile systems in response to the Chinese exercises, the Ministry of National Defense said. As of 5 p.m., 20 Chinese aircraft and 14 ships continued to carry out sea and air exercises around the Taiwan Strait, it said.
KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian forces began an assault Saturday on two key cities in the eastern Donetsk region and kept up rocket and shelling attacks on other Ukrainian cities, including one close to Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, Ukraine’s military and local officials said. Both cities of Bakhmut and Avdiivka have been considered key targets of Russia’s ongoing offensive across Ukraine’s east, with analysts saying Moscow needs to take Bakhmut if it is to advance on the regional hubs of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk. “In the Donetsk direction, the enemy is conducting an offensive operation, concentrating its main efforts on the Bakhmut and Avdiivka directions.
CANTON, Ohio (AP) — Tony Boselli looked out at all the teal-colored jerseys in the crowd and screamed: “Duuuuval!” Finally, the Jacksonville Jaguars have a player in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Boselli, the first pick in Jaguars history, was among eight members of the Class of 2022 enshrined Saturday at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium. “I thank God for football and I thank God for the people of Jacksonville,” Boselli said before shouting the fans’ rallying cry, the name of their county. The Jaguars played the Las Vegas Raiders in the NFL preseason opener Thursday night, so No.