Senate OKs landmark gun violence bill, House passage is next

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate has approved a bipartisan gun violence bill. The vote late Thursday clears the way for expected House passage Friday of what will be Congress’ most far-reaching response in decades to the nation’s run of brutal mass shootings. Republicans have long derailed Democratic efforts to curb firearms. But after last month's mass shootings in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas, Democrats and some Republicans decided that congressional inaction was untenable. It took nearly a month of closed-door talks but a group of senators from both parties emerged with a compromise embodying incremental but impactful movement.

Hearing: Trump told Justice Dept. to call election 'corrupt'

WASHINGTON (AP) — Former top Justice Department officials have testified to the Jan. 6 committee that President Donald Trump hounded the department to pursue his false election fraud claims. They say he contacted the agency’s leader “virtually every day” and strove in vain to enlist the government’s top law enforcement officials in his desperate bid to stay in power. The House panel investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol also revealed Thursday that several Republican loyalists in Congress who trumpeted the president’s claims later sought pardons from the White House after the effort failed.

COVID vaccines saved 20M lives in 1st year, scientists say

Scientists estimate that nearly 20 million lives were saved worldwide by COVID-19 vaccines during their first year. In a study published Thursday, they say even more deaths could have been prevented if global targets for vaccines had been reached. Scientists at Imperial College London used data from 185 countries to estimate how many deaths were prevented by the vaccination effort. They excluded China because of uncertainty around the pandemic’s effect on deaths there and its huge population. There are a lot of limitations in modeling studies, but independent experts agree that vaccines saved millions of lives.

After Supreme Court gun decision, what’s next?

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court issued its biggest gun rights ruling in more than a decade Thursday. The justices said that Americans have a right to carry firearms in public for self-defense. That’s important because about half a dozen states have conditioned getting a license to carry a gun in public on the person demonstrating an actual need — sometimes called “good cause” or “proper cause” — to carry the weapon. In its decision, the Supreme Court struck down New York’s “proper cause” requirement limiting who can carry a gun. Other states with similar laws acknowledged the decision would affect them. About one-quarter of the U.S. population lives in states expected to be affected by the ruling.

European Union makes Ukraine a candidate for EU membership

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union’s leaders have agreed to make Ukraine a candidate for EU membership, setting in motion a potentially yearslong process that could draw the embattled country further away from Russia’s influence and bind it more closely to the West. Ukraine applied for membership less than a week after Moscow invaded on Feb. 24. The decision by the 27-nation bloc to grant Ukraine candidate status Thursday was uncharacteristically rapid. But the war and Ukraine’s request for fast-track consideration lent urgency to its cause. The EU also granted candidate status to Moldova, which borders Ukraine. Gaining membership could take years or even decades. Countries must meet a host of economic and political conditions, including the embrace of certain democratic principles.

Afghans bury dead, dig for survivors of devastating quake

GAYAN, Afghanistan (AP) — Villagers rushed to bury the dead and dug by hand through the rubble of homes in search of survivors after a devastating earthquake in eastern Afghanistan. Residents appeared to be largely on their own Thursday to deal with the aftermath as their new Taliban-led government and the international aid community struggled to help. State media said Wednesday’s quake killed 1,000 people. An independent U.N. court said around 770 people had been killed in Paktika and Khost provinces. It's unclear how either sum was tallied given the difficulty of accessing or communicating with the affected areas, but the devastation was clear. Under a leaden sky, men dug several long trenches on a mountainside overlooking their village to bury the dead.

Uvalde victim's sister pleads for tougher gun laws in Texas

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The sister of a 9-year-old girl killed in the Uvalde school shooting rampage has tearfully pleaded with Texas lawmakers to pass tougher gun laws and questioned why so many security measures failed. Jazmin Cazares on Thursday begged lawmakers to do something. Her young sister Jacklyn was one of 19 children shot dead inside Robb Elementary School on May 24 before police stormed the classroom and killed the gunman. Two teachers also died. The gunman was a former student, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos. Cazares' testimony came as the U.S. Supreme Court announced a decision allowing a major expansion of gun rights, saying Americans have a right to carry firearms in public.

Hong Kongers reflect on Taiwan, an imperfect exile

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Coming to Taiwan was a logical step for Lam Wing-kee, a Hong Kong bookstore owner who was held by police in China for five months for selling sensitive books about the Communist Party. An island just 400 miles from Hong Kong, Taiwan is close not just geographically but also linguistically and culturally. It offered the freedoms that many Hong Kongers were used to and saw disappearing in their hometown since Beijing launched a crackdown on pro-democracy activists. While Taiwan has seemed an ideal hub, many Hong Kongers struggle trying to navigate the immigration system and suspicion by the self-ruled island's authorities who worry about a constant threat from mainland China. Some have gotten their residency permits but others went on to the U.K. and Canada.

Summer swelter: Persistent heat wave breaks records, spirits

A heat wave that's already lasted more than a week keeps on baking the US, Asia and even the Arctic. At least eight US states Thursday hit 100 degrees, that's after 12 did that on Wednesday. Records keep falling. A city in the Russian Arctic hit nearly 90 degrees. This early summer heat wave looks and feels more like August. Scientists say it has all the hallmarks of climate change. In Macon, Georgia, the temperature ramped from 64 to 105 degrees on Wednesday and then hit 104, a further record, on Thursday.

Magic take Banchero 1st, Holmgren, Smith follow in NBA draft

NEW YORK (AP) — The Orlando Magic selected Duke freshman Paolo Banchero with the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft. After leading the Blue Devils to the Final Four in coach Mike Krzyzewski’s final season, the 6-foot-10 forward was called first by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver to begin the draft, beating out fellow first-year forwards Jabari Smith Jr. and Chet Holmgren. Banchero, wearing a purple suit full of bling, received a loud ovation inside Barclays Center, where Duke lost in the ACC Tournament final.

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