AP News in Brief at 11:04 p.m. EST

By The Associated Press

Israel orders evacuations as it widens offensive, but Palestinians are running out of places to go

KHAN YOUNIS, Gaza Strip (AP) — Israeli warplanes heavily bombarded an area around Khan Younis in southern Gaza on Monday as the military ordered mass evacuations from the town in the face of a widening ground offensive that is pushing Palestinians into a progressively shrinking portion of the besieged territory.

The expanded assault posed a deadly choice for hundreds of thousands of Palestinians — either stay in the path of Israeli forces or flee within the confines of southern Gaza with no guarantee of safety. Aid workers warned that the mass movement would worsen the already dire humanitarian catastrophe in the territory.

“Another wave of displacement is underway, and the humanitarian situation worsens by the hour,” the Gaza chief of the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, Thomas White, said in a post on X.

Adding to the chaos, phone and internet networks across Gaza collapsed again Monday evening, the Palestinian telecom provider PalTel reported. The network has broken down multiple times during the war, making it largely impossible for residents to communicate with each other or the outside world for hours or sometimes several days until it is repaired.

Israel has vowed to eliminate Gaza’s Hamas rulers, whose Oct. 7 attack into Israel killed some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and triggered the deadliest Israeli-Palestinian violence in decades. The war has already killed thousands of Palestinians and displaced over three-fourths of the territory’s population of 2.3 million people. Palestinian health officials say bombardment has killed several hundred civilians since a weeklong truce ended Friday.


Former career US diplomat charged with secretly spying for Cuban intelligence for decades

MIAMI (AP) — A former career American diplomat was charged with serving as a secret agent for communist Cuba going back decades in what prosecutors portrayed as one of the most brazen and long-running betrayals in the history of the U.S. foreign service.

Manuel Rocha wept as he sat handcuffed in Miami federal court on charges that he engaged in “clandestine activity” on Cuba’s behalf since at least 1981 — the year he joined the U.S. foreign service — including by meeting with Cuban intelligence operatives and providing false information to U.S. government officials about his contacts.

The complaint unsealed Monday is short on specifics of how Rocha may have assisted Cuba. But it provides a vivid case study of what American officials say are long-standing efforts by Cuba and its notoriously sophisticated intelligence services to target U.S. government officials who can be flipped.

“This action exposes one of the highest-reaching and longest-lasting infiltrations of the United States government by a foreign agent,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement. “To betray that trust by falsely pledging loyalty to the United States while serving a foreign power is a crime that will be met with the full force of the Justice Department.”

The 73-year-old Rocha, whose two-decade career as a U.S. diplomat included top posts in Bolivia, Argentina and the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, was arrested by the FBI at his Miami home Friday. He was ordered held following Monday’s brief court appearance pending a bond hearing Wednesday. His attorney declined to comment.


Recordings show how the Mormon church protects itself from child sex abuse claims

HAILEY, Idaho (AP) — Paul Rytting listened as a woman, voice quavering, told him her story.

When she was a child, her father, a former bishop in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, had routinely slipped into bed with her while he was aroused, she said.

It was March 2017 and Rytting offered his sympathies as 31-year-old Chelsea Goodrich spoke. A Utah attorney and head of the church’s Risk Management Division, Rytting had spent about 15 years protecting the organization, widely known as the Mormon church, from costly claims, including sexual abuse lawsuits.

Rytting had flown into Hailey, Idaho, that morning from Salt Lake City, where the church is based, to meet in person with Chelsea and her mother, Lorraine.

After a quick prayer, he introduced himself and said he was there “to look into” Chelsea’s “tragic and horrendous” story.


The Supreme Court wrestles with OxyContin maker’s bankruptcy deal, with billions of dollars at stake

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court on Monday wrestled with a nationwide settlement with OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma that would shield members of the Sackler family who own the company from civil lawsuits over the toll of opioids.

The justices seemed by turns reluctant to break up an exhaustively negotiated agreement, but also leery of somehow rewarding the Sacklers.

The agreement hammered out with state and local governments and victims would provide billions of dollars to combat the opioid epidemic. The Sacklers would contribute up to $6 billion and give up ownership of the company, but retain billions more. The company would emerge from bankruptcy as a different entity, with its profits used for treatment and prevention.

The high court put the settlement on hold during the summer, in response to objections from the Biden administration.

Justice Elena Kagan seemed to sum up the questions that were nagging at some of the justices.


Gore blasts COP28 climate chief and oil companies’ emissions pledges at UN summit

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Don’t trust the oil and gas industry to report their actual carbon pollution, said former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, who added that the man leading the United Nations climate talks runs one of the “dirtiest” oil companies out there.

“They’re much better at capturing politicians than they are at capturing emissions,” Gore told The Associated Press in a sit-down interview.

The Nobel Prize-winning climate activist, author and filmmaker blasted Sultan al-Jaber, the president of the United Nations climate talks, who is also president of the national oil company of the host nation, United Arab Emirates. Gore said al-Jaber’s Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. is “one of the largest and one of the dirtiest, by many measures, oil companies in the world.”

Gore can make these claims because he just released a massive update of the Climate TRACE database of emissions that he helped create. It tracks carbon pollution from every nation and city across the globe with 352 million pieces of information.

Looking at the data released Sunday, Gore said, “the No. 1 surprise was how far off the reporting from the oil and gas industry is. And we see it here in the United Arab Emirates, you know, nice folks. But the numbers they put out are just not right. And we can prove they’re not right.”


Virginia police investigate explosion at house where officers were trying to serve a search warrant

ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) — Police in a Virginia suburb of the nation’s capital are investigating a massive explosion at a house where police were investigating reports of shots fired and attempted to serve a search warrant Monday.

Some officers received minor injuries in the explosion, but no one was transported to the hospital, said Arlington County police spokesperson Ashley Savage. No fatalities have yet been confirmed and the status of the suspect, who was in the home when it exploded, is not known, she said.

The incident began at about 4:45 p.m. when police responded to reports of shots fired, which they later determined came from a flare gun, Savage said. While police investigated, they obtained a search warrant for the home, Savage said.

When police attempted to execute the warrant several hours after they initially responded, the suspect fired several rounds inside the home, police said on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. It was then that the house — a duplex — exploded and burst into flames shortly before 8:30 p.m.

Savage said it is unclear whether the rounds were fired from a flare gun or a different firearm.


Jonathan Majors assault trial starts with competing versions of a backseat confrontation

NEW YORK (AP) — Jonathan Majors listened silently, head-cocked and eyes down, as a Manhattan prosecutor and his defense attorney offered competing accounts of a violent confrontation in the backseat of a car that led to assault charges against the film star and put his rapid Hollywood ascent on pause.

The opening statements Monday in the trial against Majors centered on whether the actor assaulted his former girlfriend, Grace Jabbari, after she read a romantic text message sent to his phone by another woman.

Prosecutors say Majors grabbed the woman’s hand so hard he fractured her middle finger, then twisted her arm behind her back and struck her on the side of the head – the latest outburst in an alleged pattern of physical and emotional abuse. An attorney for Majors argued that her client was the true victim, claiming he was left bloodied by the attack, while she spent the rest of the night clubbing.

That the competing versions of the struggle were presented to a jury was itself unusual, a rare instance of a misdemeanor assault case going to trial. For Majors, a 34-year-old rising star, the stakes may be higher than the one year in prison he could face if convicted.

In her opening statements, the actor’s attorney, Priya Chaudhry, described the allegations as a revenge plot to “ruin Jonathan Majors and take away everything he has spent his whole life working for.”


Biden’s allies in Senate demand that Israel limit civilian deaths in Gaza as Congress debates US aid

WASHINGTON (AP) — As a cease-fire ticked down last week and Israel prepared to resume its round-the-clock airstrikes, Sen. Bernie Sanders and a robust group of Democratic senators had a message for their president: They were done “asking nicely” for Israel to do more to reduce civilian casualties in Gaza.

Lawmakers warned President Joe Biden’s national security team that planned U.S. aid to Israel must be met with assurances of concrete steps from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hard-right government.

“The truth is that if asking nicely worked, we wouldn’t be in the position we are today,” Sanders said in a floor speech. It was time for the United States to use its “substantial leverage” with its ally, the Vermont senator said.

“And we all know what that leverage is,” he said, adding, “the blank-check approach must end.”

With Biden’s request for a nearly $106 billion aid package for Ukraine, Israel and other national security needs hanging in the balance, the senators’ tougher line on Israel has gotten the White House’s attention, and that of Israel.


Heisman finalists: LSU QB Daniels, Oregon QB Nix, Washington QB Penix Jr., Ohio St WR Harrison Jr.

LSU’s Jayden Daniels, Oregon’s Bo Nix and Washington’s Michael Penix Jr., transfer quarterbacks who have all played at least five college seasons, and Ohio State receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. were announced as the Heisman Trophy finalists on Monday night.

The Heisman has been given to the nation’s most outstanding college football player since 1935. This year’s winner will be announced Saturday in New York. The top four vote-getters determined by more than 870 voters, which include members of the media and former Heisman winners, are selected as finalists.

With Nix and Penix, the Pac-12 has two Heisman finalists for the first time since 2010 when Stanford’s Andrew Luck was the runner-up to Auburn’s Cam Newton, and Oregon running back LaMichael James finished third in the balloting.

The Pac-12 is in its final season with its current membership before 10 schools depart, including Oregon and Washington to the Big Ten.

A look at each finalist’s road to Manhattan.


AP’s top songs of 2023: ‘On My Mama,’ ‘Flowers,’ ‘Monaco’ and more

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Ten of the best songs of the year, as determined by Associated Press Music Writer Maria Sherman, in no particular order. Dive in.

Buckle up for some positive affirmations! The 10-time Grammy-nominated Victoria Monét, once best known as a hit-maker for Ariana Grande, Fifth Harmony and Chloe x Halle, is getting her flowers these days as a soloist — and passing them right along to the mothers listening. Her blockbuster single “On My Mama” is a loving tribute to her mom and her daughter, with Monét’s buttery voice and bright brass production carrying throughout. It may very well be the best R&B track of the year — with one of the best samples, utilizing Chalie Boy’s 2009 banger “I Look Good.” It takes a real talent to borrow from such a recognizable sound. Monét doesn’t just manage to do that — she makes it her own.

Bad Bunny’s 2023 album, “Nadie Sabe Lo Que Va a Pasar Mañana,” is a reclamation of his past sound, the hard-hitting rap that preceded his mainstream superstardom. Perhaps it’s an exercise in getting back to the basics while unraveling the complications of fame, the source material for most of the album’s lyrics. At any rate, the combination makes for a more restrained, pointed listen: a true success on the stellar “Monaco,” a Latin trap song with a need for speed that wouldn’t feel too far removed on his debut album, 2018’s “X 100PRE.” Benito’s smooth, somber baritone carries the track, as does the rush sound of a Formula One car that bleeds into baroque production.

There’s a thin line between courageous and corny when it comes to uplifting pop records. Far too often, an empowering song with an ascendant chorus loses all tension and hits the ear like a too-sweet dessert. But on Miley Cyrus’ Grammy-nominated “Flowers,” her first No. 1 hit in a decade, the pop superstar makes magic happen. It’s a summery, retro-pop single teeming with optimism born out of divorce. “No remorse, no regret / I forget every word you said,” she sings — the musical equivalent of someone saying, “I’m bored with this conversation” — before launching into a self-help mantra. Then, she finds an emotional solution and musical resolve in her chorus: “I can love me better than you can.”

It is the song of the summer — heck, the year — and it came out in January. The dream team of Bronx rapper Ice Spice and hyperpop-punk hero PinkPantheress made “Boy’s a Liar Pt. 2” an examination of modern dating with an undeniable hook. It is so space-y as to take flight; a lackadaisical remix for the current moment. Plus, the pronunciation of “Liar” like “Leo” in the song’s chorus is “It’s Gonna Be May”-level creativity. What’s not to love?

The Associated Press

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