AP News in Brief: 05-31-21

  • Yemina party leader Naftali Bennett speaks to the Israeli Parliament in Jerusalem on Sunday, May 30, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Pool via AP)

Netanyahu could lose PM job as rivals attempt to join forces

JERUSALEM — A former ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday said he would seek to form a coalition government with the Israeli leader’s opponents, taking a major step toward ending the rule of the longtime premier.

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The dramatic announcement by Naftali Bennett, leader of the small hardline Yamina party, set the stage for a series of steps that could push Netanyahu and his dominant Likud party into the opposition in the coming week.

While Bennett and his new partners, headed by opposition leader Yair Lapid, still face some obstacles, the sides appeared to be serious about reaching a deal and ending the deadlock that has plunged the country into four elections in the past two years.

“It’s my intention to do my utmost in order to form a national unity government along with my friend Yair Lapid, so that, God willing, together we can save the country from a tailspin and return Israel to its course,” Bennett said.

The pair have until Wednesday to complete a deal in which each is expected to serve two years as prime minister in a rotation deal, with Bennett holding the job first. Lapid’s Yesh Atid party said negotiating teams were to meet later Sunday.

Texas GOP’s strict voting bill on the verge of final vote

AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas Legislature was on the verge Sunday of signing off on some of the most restrictive voting measures in the U.S., putting the GOP on the brink of a major victory in their nationwide effort to tighten voting access following the 2020 election.

A vote in the state House expected later Sunday is the last barrier to sending Republican Gov. Greg Abbott a raft of election changes that would eliminate drive-thru voting, empower partisan poll watchers and impose new requirements in order to cast a ballot by mail in Texas, which already has some of toughest voting laws in the nation.

Democrats dug in for one last and longshot challenge on the House floor but had little means of stopping the bill. Hours earlier on Sunday, the Texas Senate muscled the bill through shortly after sunrise after bringing it up for a vote in the middle of the night on a Memorial Day weekend, when the state Capitol was all but empty.

Even before the final House vote, Democrats said they would try to block the measure in court.

“It’s an awful bill,” said Democratic state Rep. Jessica Gonzalez, the vice chairwoman of the House Elections Committee. ”But I’m hopeful that this underhanded behavior, the way they undercut the process, will help us when we litigate this.”

Tulsa pastors honor ‘holy ground’ 100 years after massacre

TULSA, Okla. — When white attackers destroyed the prosperous Black neighborhood of Greenwood 100 years ago this week, they bypassed the original sanctuary of the First Baptist Church of North Tulsa.

By the church’s own account, the attackers thought the brick veneer structure was too fine for a Black-owned church. The mob destroyed at least a half-dozen other churches while burning and leveling a 35-square-block neighborhood in one of the nation’s deadliest spasms of racist violence. Estimates of the death toll range from dozens to 300.

On Sunday, First Baptist’s current sanctuary throbbed with a high-decibel service as six congregations gathered to mark the centennial of the massacre and to honor the persistence of the Black church tradition in Greenwood, as shown in the pulsing worship, call-and-response preaching and heavy emphasis on social justice.

Greenwood is “holy ground,” said the Rev. John Faison of Nashville, Tennessee, who preached at the service and is assistant to the bishop of social action for the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship.

He said the centennial both honors the victims of the massacre and “celebrates the resilience and the resurgence of an amazing people of God.”

Judge: Blame in Italy cable car deaths rests with technician

ROME — The three suspects in Italy’s cable car disaster that killed 14 people were allowed to leave prison Sunday after a judge indicated that for now blame fell on just one: a service technician who intentionally disabled the car’s emergency brake because it kept locking spontaneously.

Judge Donatella Banci Buonamici said there wasn’t sufficient evidence suggesting the owner of the Mottarone cable car company, Luigi Nerini, or the maintenance chief, Enrico Perocchio, knew that the technician had deactivated the brake on several occasions even before the May 23 disaster.

After evaluating prosecutors’ request for continued detention of the three, Buonamici determined there was no flight risk, ordered the managers freed while allowing the technician, Gabriele Tadini, to leave under house arrest. The three men, who remain under investigation, left Verbania prison early Sunday, accompanied by their lawyers.

Fourteen people were killed when the lead cable of the Mottarone funicular overlooking Lake Maggiore in northern Italy snapped and the emergency brake failed to prevent the cable car from reeling at high speed backward down the support line. The cable car pulled off the line entirely after passing the support pylon, crashed to the ground and then rolled down the mountain until it was stopped by a stand of trees.

The lone survivor, 5-year-old Eitan Biran, remains hospitalized but conscious, with his aunt looking after him. Eitan’s Israeli-born parents, his younger brother and his great-grandparents were killed in the disaster and their remains were sent back to Israel.

Ex-‘Tarzan’ actor among seven plane crash victims

SMYRNA, Tenn. — Investigators on Sunday continued searching for the bodies of seven people believed killed in the crash a day earlier of a small jet into a Tennessee lake, including an actor who portrayed Tarzan in a 1990s television series.

Rutherford County Fire Rescue Capt. John Ingle said in a statement Sunday that recovery efforts were ongoing at Percy Priest Lake near Smyrna. He said efforts also were focused on examining a half mile-wide debris field in the lake.

County officials identified the victims in a news release late Saturday as Brandon Hannah, Gwen S. Lara, William J. Lara, David L. Martin, Jennifer J. Martin, Jessica Walters and Jonathan Walters, all of Brentwood, Tennessee. Their names were released after family members had been notified.

Gwen Shamblin Lara founded the Remnant Fellowship Church in Brentwood in 1999 and wrote a faith-based weight loss book. Her husband of nearly three years, known as Joe Lara, was an actor featured in the TV series “Tarzan: The Epic Adventures.”

The Federal Aviation Administration said the Cessna C501 plane was heading from nearby Smyrna Rutherford County Airport to Palm Beach International Airport when it crashed Saturday morning.

Risky, impatient climbers bring danger to U.S. peak

Rangers who keep an eye on North America’s highest mountain peak say impatient and inexperienced climbers are taking more risks and endangering themselves and other climbers after a year off because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Denali in southern Alaska is 20,310 feet above sea level and requires a level of expertise and acclimation to high altitudes not needed for climbing most peaks in the U.S.

“We have seen a disturbing amount of overconfidence paired with inexperience in the Alaska Range,” the National Park Service wrote in a statement issued Thursday. The remoteness and extreme weather in Alaska pose extra risks, even for climbers may have a good deal of experience at elevations up to 14,000 feet in the Lower 48.

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After reporting no deaths in 2018 and 2019, at least two people have already died on the mountain in 2021. Two others were seriously injured, authorities said.

By wire sources

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