AP News in Brief: 06-21-21

  • A flooded neighborhood is seen after Tropical Storm Claudette passed through in Slidell, La., on Saturday, June 19, 2021. The National Hurricane Center declared Claudette organized enough to qualify as a named storm early Saturday, well after the storm's center of circulation had come ashore southwest of New Orleans. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Eight kids in youth van among the 13 lives lost to Claudette

ATLANTA — Eight children in a van from a youth home for abused or neglected children were killed in a fiery multi-vehicle crash on a wet interstate that also killed a man and his baby in another vehicle, the most devastating blow from a tropical depression that claimed 13 lives in Alabama as it caused flash floods and spurred tornadoes that destroyed dozens of homes.

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The crash happened Saturday about 35 miles (55 kilometers) south of Montgomery on Interstate 65 after vehicles likely hydroplaned on wet roads, said Butler County Coroner Wayne Garlock.

The van, containing children ages 4 to 17, belonged to the Tallapoosa County Girls Ranch, a youth home operated by the Alabama Sheriffs Association. Michael Smith, the youth ranches CEO, said the van was heading back to the ranch near Camp Hill, northeast of Montgomery, after a week at the beach in Gulf Shores. It caught fire after the wreck and Candice Gulley, the ranch director, was the van’s only survivor — pulled from the flames by a bystander.

Gulley remained hospitalized Sunday in Montgomery in serious but stable condition. “She’s going to survive her physical injuries,” Smith said. Two of the dead in the van were Gulley’s children, ages 4 and 16. Four others were ranch residents and two were guests, Smith said.

New leaders, new era: U.S.-Israel relations reach a crossroads

WASHINGTON — Their countries at crossroads, the new leaders of the United States and Israel have inherited a relationship that is at once imperiled by increasingly partisan domestic political considerations and deeply bound in history and an engrained recognition that they need each other.

How President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett manage that relationship will shape the prospects for peace and stability in the Middle East.

They are ushering in an era no longer defined by the powerful personality of long-serving Prime Minister Benjamin Netayahu, who repeatedly defied the Obama administration and then reaped the rewards of a warm relationship with President Donald Trump.

Bennett’s government says it wants to repair relations with the Democrats and restore bipartisan support in the U.S. for Israel. Biden, meanwhile, is pursuing a more balanced approach on the Palestinian conflict and Iran.

The relationship is critical to both countries. Israel has long regarded the United States as its closest ally and guarantor of its security and international standing while the U.S. counts on Israel’s military and intelligence prowess in a turbulent Middle East.

Diplomats: Progress made in Vienna at Iran nuclear talks

VIENNA — Top diplomats said Sunday that further progress had been made at talks between Iran and global powers to try to restore a landmark 2015 agreement to contain Iranian nuclear development that was abandoned by the Trump administration. They said it was now up to the governments involved in the negotiations to make political decisions.

It was the first official meeting since Iran’s hard-line judiciary chief won a landslide victory in the country’s presidential election last week.

Some diplomats expressed concern that Iran’s election of Ebrahim Raisi as president could complicate a possible return to the nuclear agreement.

Enrique Mora, the European Union official who chaired the final meeting of the sixth round of talks between Russia, China, Germany, France, Britain and Iran, told reporters that “we are closer to a deal, but we are not still there.”

“We have made progress on a number of technical issues,” Mora added. ”We have now more clarity on technical documents — all of them quite complex — and that clarity allows us to have also a great idea of what the political problems are.”

AP Interview: Former president says U.S. failed in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghanistan’s former president said Sunday the United States came to his country to fight extremism and bring stability to his war-tortured nation and is leaving nearly 20 years later having failed at both.

In an interview with The Associated Press just weeks before the last U.S. and NATO troops leave Afghanistan, ending their ‘forever war,’ Hamid Karzai said extremism is at its “highest point” and the departing troops are leaving behind a disaster.

“The international community came here 20 years ago with this clear objective of fighting extremism and bringing stability … but extremism is at the highest point today. So they have failed,” he said.

Their legacy is a war-ravaged nation in “total disgrace and disaster.”

“We recognize as Afghans all our failures, but what about the bigger forces and powers who came here for exactly that purpose? Where are they leaving us now?” he asked and answered: “In total disgrace and disaster.”

Iran’s sole nuclear power plant undergoes an emergency shutdown

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s sole nuclear power plant has undergone an unexplained temporary emergency shutdown, state TV reported on Sunday.

An official from state electric company Tavanir, Gholamali Rakhshanimehr, said on a talk show that the Bushehr plant shutdown began on Saturday and would last “for three to four days.”

Without elaborating, he said that power outages could result. This is the first time Iran has reported an emergency shutdown of the plant, located in the southern port city of Bushehr. It went online in 2011 with help from Russia. Iran is required to send spent fuel rods from the reactor back to Russia as a nuclear nonproliferation measure.

Earlier on Sunday, Tavanir released a statement saying that the nuclear plant was being repaired, without offering further details. It said the repair work would take until Friday.

In March, nuclear official Mahmoud Jafari said the plant could stop working since Iran cannot procure parts and equipment for it from Russia due to banking sanctions imposed by the U.S. in 2018.

Witness tells of horror as truck rams into an Arizona bike race

PHOENIX — Bicyclist Tony Quinones had only just shaken hands with a fellow cyclist and wished him good luck in this weekend’s community race in an Arizona mountain town when a truck sped into a crowd of bike riders.

Suddenly, Quinones said in an interview Sunday, he was “watching bodies going on top of the hood, bodies going to the left, bodies going to the right” about six minutes after the race had started.

The sounds of breaking and smashing as the truck plowed through the cyclists on Saturday was quickly replaced by their groans of pain — including those of the cyclist Quinones had just met.

Authorities in the small city of Show Low said the unidentified 35-year-old male suspect fled the crash scene in the pickup and was shot and wounded by officers a short time later.

Of the seven cyclists hospitalized, six were in critical condition, and one was in stable condition on Sunday, police said in a statement. The suspect, described as a local resident, was in stable condition, police said.

Police: Oregon suspect forced woman to drive him 2K miles

NORTH BEND, Oregon — A man sought in the killings of his father and two other people in a small Oregon city forced a woman to drive him more than 2,000 miles to Wisconsin, where he surrendered to police, authorities said Sunday.

Oen Evan Nicholson approached Laura Johnson, 34, after she returned to her parking spot during a her lunch break on Friday in Springfield, Oregon, and forced her to drive him in her car, police said. Authorities were notified Sunday morning that Nicholson had surrendered to police peacefully in Milwaukee but did not release details about how he gave himself up.

Johnson was not hurt and was returning to Oregon, Springfield police said in a statement.

“He approached her in her vehicle with a gun,” Johnson’s father, Dennis Johnson, told KEZI-TV. “They said she was forced to drive 33 hours to where they’re at. She was able to talk him into turning himself in.”

Nicholson is suspected of killing his father, Charles Simms Nicholson, whose body was found in a trailer in an RV campground of The Mill Casino in the coastal city of North Bend, about 110 miles southwest of Springfield, on Friday.

Trump cowboy seeks second act in politics after Capitol breach

TULAROSA, N.M. — He rodeoed in a Buffalo Bill-style Wild West show, carried his message on horseback from the Holy Land to Times Square and was invited to the White House to meet the president.

But luck may have run out for this cowboy pastor who rode to national political fame by embracing President Donald Trump with a series of horseback caravans and came crashing down with a defiant stand Jan. 6 against President Joe Biden’s election.

Today, Couy Griffin is divorced, disparaged by family and confronts a political recall drive, a state corruption investigation and federal charges.

And yet he remains determined. He sees himself as governor one day.

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The first-term county commissioner forged a group of rodeo acquaintances in 2019 into a promotional Cowboys for Trump posse to spread his conservative message about gun rights, immigration controls and abortion restrictions.

By wire sources

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