AP News in Brief at 12:04 a.m. EDT News Staff

Georgia massage parlour shootings leave 8 dead; man captured

ATLANTA (AP) — Shootings at two massage parlours in Atlanta and one in the suburbs Tuesday evening left eight people dead, many of them women of Asian descent, authorities said. A 21-year-old man suspected in the shootings was taken into custody in southwest Georgia hours later after a manhunt, police said.

The attacks began around 5 p.m., when five people were shot at Youngs Asian Massage Parlor in a strip mall near a rural area in Acworth, about 30 miles (50 kilometres) north of Atlanta, Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Capt. Jay Baker said. Two people died at the scene and three were transported to a hospital where two of them also died, Baker said.

No one was arrested at the scene.

Around 5:50 p.m., police in the Buckhead neighbourhood of Atlanta, responding to a call of a robbery in progress, found three women dead from apparent gunshot wounds at Gold Spa. While they were at that scene, they learned of a call reporting shots fired at another spa across the street, Aromatherapy Spa, and found a woman who appeared to have been shot dead inside the business.

“It appears that they may be Asian,” Atlanta Police Chief Rodney Bryant said.

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In Pennsylvania, Biden showcases aid to small businesses

CHESTER, Pa. (AP) — President Joe Biden turned up at a minority-owned flooring business in suburban Philadelphia on Tuesday to highlight how his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package can help small businesses and to put a face on those who have struggled throughout the pandemic.

The visit to Smith Flooring, Inc. was Biden’s first stop in a cross-country administration roadshow — also involving his vice-president and his wife — designed to publicize, and take credit for, the virus relief package.

It “took some loud, strong voices to get this done,” Biden said, making a subtle dig at Republicans during his visit to the small union shop that will benefit from the relief. “And it’s not like it passed with 100 votes. It was close.”

While Biden was in Pennsylvania for his first stop on the “Help is Here” tour, Vice-President Kamala Harris and husband Doug Emhoff were reinforcing the small business theme Tuesday with stops in Colorado.

With Harris and Emhoff taking notes during a business roundtable in Denver, Lorena Cantarovici, who began making empanadas in her garage after emigrating from Argentina, told of how her small shop grew over the years into three Maria Empanada locations but then was forced to lay off workers when the coronavirus struck.

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McConnell vows ‘scorched earth’ if Senate ends filibuster

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell warned ominously Tuesday of a “scorched earth” landscape if Democrats use their new majority to bring an end to the Senate filibuster in hopes of muscling legislation supporting President Joe Biden’s agenda past GOP opposition.

McConnell unleashed the dire forecast of a Senate that would all but cease to function, implying that Republicans would grind business to a halt by refusing to give consent for routine operations — from the start time for sessions, to the reading of long legislative texts, to quorum call votes.

“Let me say this very clearly for all 99 of my colleagues: Nobody serving in this chamber can even begin — can even begin to imagine — what a completely scorched earth Senate would look like,” McConnell said in a Senate speech.

McConnell said the partisan gridlock of the Trump and Obama eras would look like “child’s play” compared to what’s to come.

The GOP leader’s stark remarks landed as the Biden administration is taking a victory lap over the just-passed $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, the big COVID-19 relief package that was approved by Congress without a single Republican vote. Republicans acknowledged privately they are struggling to pry attention away from the bill, which appears to be popular among Americans benefitting from $1,400 cash payments, vaccine distribution and other aid, as the GOP focuses on future battles.

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Biden: Cuomo should resign if investigation confirms claims

NEW YORK (AP) — The pressure against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo over sexual harassment allegations reached the White House on Tuesday, with President Joe Biden saying Cuomo should resign if the state attorney general’s investigation confirms the claims against him.

Biden made the remarks in an interview with ABC News that is scheduled to air Wednesday. When asked by anchor George Stephanopoulos whether Cuomo should resign if the investigation confirms the women’s claims, Biden said “yes” and added, “I think he’d probably end up being prosecuted, too.”

“It takes a lot of courage to come forward so the presumption is it should be taken seriously,” Biden said. “And it should be investigated, and that’s what’s underway now.”

Cuomo is facing allegations that he sexually harassed or behaved inappropriately toward multiple women, including several former staffers. The former staffers have accused Cuomo of workplace harassment, including demeaning them with pet nicknames or making objectifying remarks about their appearance, subjecting them to unwanted kisses and touches or asking them about their sex lives.

Cuomo also faces an allegation that he groped a female staff member under her shirt after summoning her to the governor’s mansion in Albany late last year. He has denied touching any women inappropriately.

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Child border crossings surging, straining US facilities

WASHINGTON (AP) — A surge of migrants on the Southwest border has the Biden administration on the defensive, with the head of Homeland Security acknowledging the depth of the problem Tuesday but insisting it’s under control and saying he won’t revive a Trump-era practice of immediately expelling teens and children.

The number of migrants being stopped at the U.S.-Mexico border has been rising since last April, and the administration is still rapidly expelling most single adults and families under a public health order issued by President Donald Trump at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. But it is allowing teens and children to stay, at least temporarily, and they have been coming in ever larger numbers.

More than 4,000 migrant children were being held by the Border Patrol as of Sunday, including at least 3,000 in custody longer than the 72-hour limit set by a court order, according to a U.S. official. The agency took in an additional 561 on Monday, twice the recent average, according to a second official. Both spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss figures not yet publicly released.

It has put President Joe Biden in a difficult spot, blasted by Republicans for what they view as encouragement to illegal border crossers and by some Democrats over the prolonged detention of minors. It’s also a challenge to his effort to overhaul the broader Trump policies that sought to curtail both legal and illegal immigration.

“The situation at the southwest border is difficult,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas conceded Tuesday in his most extensive remarks to date on the subject. “We are working around the clock to manage it and we will continue to do so. That is our job.”

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US: Putin approved operations to help Trump against Biden

WASHINGTON (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized influence operations to help Donald Trump in last November’s presidential election, according to a declassified intelligence assessment that found broad efforts by the Kremlin and Iran to shape the outcome of the race but ultimately no evidence that any foreign actor changed votes or otherwise disrupted the voting process.

The report released Tuesday from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence represents the most detailed assessment of the array of foreign threats to the 2020 election. These included efforts by Iran to undermine confidence in the vote and harm Trump’s re-election prospects as well as Moscow operations that relied on Trump’s allies to smear Joe Biden, the eventual winner.

Despite those threats, though, intelligence officials found “no indications that any foreign actor attempted to interfere in the 2020 US elections by altering any technical aspect of the voting process, including voter registration, ballot casting, vote tabulation, or reporting results.”

The report is the latest official affirmation of the integrity of the election, even as Trump supporters continue to make false claims of interference, from foreign or domestic actors, and refuse to accept Biden’s victory. Multiple courts and even Trump’s own Justice Department refuted claims of widespread fraud. The document makes clear that even while Trump has cried foul about the legitimacy of the election, intelligence officials believe Russia sought to influence people close to Trump as a way to tip the election in his favour.

The report wades into the politically charged task of ferreting out which foreign adversaries supported which candidates during the 2020 election, an issue that dominated headlines last year. Trump, whose 2016 campaign benefited from hacking by Russian intelligence officers and a covert social media effort, seized on an intelligence assessment from August that said China preferred a Biden presidency — even though the same assessment also said Russia was working to boost Trump’s own candidacy by disparaging Biden.

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EXPLAINER: What’s behind some Chauvin jury questions?

Potential jurors in the trial of a former Minneapolis police officer accused in George Floyd’s death have been asked many predictable questions. Attorneys from both sides have asked how they feel about the Black Lives Matter movement, and about police. They ask how they felt when they saw the video showing Derek Chauvin with his knee on Floyd’s neck.

But some questions are less pointed, and their reasoning more subtle: Have you ever had to resolve conflict? Have you ever been certain you were right only to find out you were wrong?

The Associated Press asked legal experts to decode some of those questions. The experts are former Ramsey County (Minnesota) Attorney Susan Gaertner, now with the law firm Lathrop GPM in Minneapolis; Ted Sampsell-Jones, professor at Mitchell Hamline School of Law in St. Paul, Minnesota; and Peter Joy, professor at the Washington University School of Law in St. Louis.

Defence QUESTION: HAVE YOU EVER BEEN CERTAIN YOU WERE RIGHT, ONLY TO LATER REALIZE YOU WERE WRONG?

Few cases in recent history have received as much attention as Floyd’s death. The experts agreed that Chauvin’s attorneys are trying to identify potential jurors who will be open to making a decision based on the evidence, not any preconceived beliefs.

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EU regulator ‘convinced’ AstraZeneca benefit outweighs risk

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union’s drug regulator insisted Tuesday that there is “no indication” the AstraZeneca vaccine causes blood clots as governments around the world faced the grimmest of dilemmas: push on with a vaccine known to save lives or suspend its use over reports of clotting in some recipients.

The European Medicines Agency urged governments not to halt use of the vaccine at a time when the pandemic is still taking thousands of lives each day. And already there are concerns that even brief suspensions could have disastrous effects on confidence in inoculation campaigns the world over, many of which are already struggling to overcome logistical hurdles and widespread hesitancy about vaccines.

“We are still firmly convinced that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine in preventing COVID-19 with its associated risk of hospitalization and death outweigh the risk of the side effects,” said Emer Cooke, the head of the agency.

Many scientists have argued that even the loss of a few days in vaccinating vulnerable people could be far costlier than the impact of any rare phenomenon.

But a cascading number of countries have taken a different view and locked away shots from the Anglo-Swedish company, awaiting the results of an EMA review, promised Thursday.

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Uber to give UK drivers minimum wage, pension, holiday pay

LONDON (AP) — Uber is giving its U.K. drivers the minimum wage, pensions and holiday pay, following a recent court ruling that said they should be classified as workers and entitled to such benefits.

The ride hailing giant’s announcement Tuesday comes after it lost an appeal last month at the U.K. Supreme Court following a yearslong court battle. The court’s decision holds wider implications for the country’s gig economy.

Uber said it’s extending the benefits immediately to its more than 70,000 drivers in the U.K. Drivers will earn at least the minimum wage, which currently stands at 8.72 pounds ($12.12), after accepting a trip request and expenses, and will still be able to earn more.

Drivers will also get holiday pay equal to about 12% of their earnings, paid every two weeks. And they’ll be enrolled in a pension plan that both they and the company will pay into.

“This is an important day for drivers in the U.K.,” Uber’s regional general manager for Northern and Eastern Europe, Jamie Heywood, said in a filing to the SEC. He noted that drivers will still be able to work on a flexible basis. “Uber is just one part of a larger private-hire industry, so we hope that all other operators will join us in improving the quality of work for these important workers who are an essential part of our everyday lives.”

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Gonzaga, Baylor dominate AP All-America teams

Gonzaga and Baylor spent almost the entire season holding down the top two spots in the Top 25.

Makes sense they’d hold down a bunch of spots on The Associated Press All-America teams.

The Bulldogs’ Corey Kispert and the Bears’ Jared Butler led the way with first-team nods Tuesday from the national panel of 63 media members that vote each week in the AP Top 25 poll. They were joined by unanimous pick Luka Garza of Iowa, a two-time selection, along with Ayo Dosunmu of Illinois and Cade Cunningham of Oklahoma State.

Kispert and Butler had plenty of company, though.

The Bulldogs also landed big man Drew Timme and freshman sensation Jalen Suggs on the second team while Joel Ayayi was an honourable mention pick. The Bears had Davion Mitchell on the third team and MaCio Teague as an honourable mention.

The Associated Press

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