Nation and world briefs for Thursday, Jan. 4, 2024

Jon Roger Letzkus, who was arrested for firing a gun from a high rise on New Year's Eve morning, appears in court during a hearing at the Regional Justice Center, Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2024, in Las Vegas. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal via AP)

Protesters calling for a cease-fire in Gaza gather in the rotunda of the Capitol during the first day of the California legislative session in Sacramento, Calif., Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2024. The Assembly session was just just getting started when protesters wearing matching black t-shirts stood up in the gallery and started singing "Cease-fire now" and "Let Gaza Live." The Assembly adjourned the session.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Investigators focus on air traffic communication after fatal Tokyo runway crash

TOKYO (AP) — A transcript of communication between traffic control and two aircraft that collided and burst into flames at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport showed that only the larger Japan Airlines passenger flight was given permission to use the runway where a coast guard plane was preparing for takeoff.


An orange fireball erupted from both aircraft on Tuesday evening as the JAL flight 516 continued down the runway covered in flames and spewing gray smoke. Within 20 minutes, all 379 passengers and crew members slid down emergency chutes and survived. The pilot of the coast guard plane — a Bombardier Dash-8 — evacuated with injuries but five crew members were killed.

The Transport Ministry on Wednesday released a transcript of air traffic control communication of about 4 minutes and 25 seconds just before the crash. It showed no clear takeoff approval was given to the coast guard plane. According to the text, the Tokyo air control gave the JAL Airbus A350 permission to land on Runway C, noting that there is a departing plane, with the JAL pilot repeating the instruction.

The coast guard plane said it was taxiing to the same runway, and the traffic control instructs it to proceed to the stop line ahead of the runway. The controller noted the coast guard gets the departure priority, and the pilot said he was moving to the stop line.

Their communication in the script ends there. Two minutes later, there was a three-second pause, apparently indicating the time of the collision.

Jewish protesters disrupt first day of California legislative session

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Hundreds of protesters calling for a cease-fire in Gaza interrupted the first day of California’s legislative session on Wednesday, forcing the state Assembly to adjourn just moments after convening.

Lawmakers had just listened to the opening prayer and said the Pledge of Allegiance when protesters wearing matching black t-shirts stood from their seats and started singing “Cease-fire now” and “Let Gaza live.”

A few people unfurled banners from the chamber’s gallery that read: “Jews say never again for anyone.”

At first, Jim Wood, a Democratic assemblymember from Healdsburg who was presiding over the session, tried to continue the session despite the singing. Eventually though he called for a recess and adjourned a few minutes later.

Wednesday’s protest was organized by groups including Jewish Voice for Peace, IfNotNow and the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network. In addition to singing, protesters engaged in a lengthy call-and-response chant from the gallery.

Protesters did not disrupt the state Senate, which held its session as scheduled and included lawmakers giving speeches in memory of former U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who died in September.

Mother and uncle of US serviceman are rescued from Gaza in a secret operation

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. coordinated with Israel, Egypt and others in rescuing the mother of a U.S. serviceman and her American brother-in-law who were pinned down during heavy fighting in Gaza City, a U.S. official told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

It is the only known operation of its kind to extract American citizens and their close family members during the months of devastating ground fighting and Israeli airstrikes in Gaza. The vast majority of people who have made it out of northern and central Gaza through the Rafah crossing into Egypt fled south in the initial weeks of the war. An escape from the heart of the Palestinian territory through intense combat has become far more perilous and difficult since.

Zahra Sckak, 44, made it out of Gaza on New Year’s Eve, along with her brother-in-law, Farid Sukaik, an American citizen, a U.S. official told The Associated Press. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to confirm the rescue, which had been kept quiet for security reasons.

Sckak’s husband, Abedalla Sckak, was shot earlier in the Israel-Hamas war as the family fled from a building hit by an airstrike. He died days later. One of her three American sons, Spec. Ragi A. Sckak, 24, serves as an infantryman in the U.S. military.

The extraction involved the Israeli military and local Israeli officials who oversee Gaza and the Israeli-occupied West Bank, the U.S. official said. There was no indication that American officials were on the ground in Gaza.

Mental health concern raised about man held in weekend gunfire near Vegas Strip

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A California man accused of firing dozens of gunshots from upper floors of a condominium-hotel near the Las Vegas Strip the morning before New Year’s Eve had his bail set at $500,000 on Wednesday.

Jon Roger Letzkus appears to be mentally unstable and “what he is alleged to have done in our community is incredibly dangerous,” Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Melissa Saragosa said, citing reports to the court following his arrest.

Police said no one was found injured by gunfire but nearby buildings were damaged a little before 6 a.m. Sunday at Signature Towers — a three-building complex that is part of the MGM Grand resort east of Las Vegas Boulevard. Police said Letzkus was found and arrested almost five hours later.

The judge rejected a bid by Letzkus’ court-appointed lawyer, Dallas Anselmo, to set a minimal bail of $5,000 with electronic location monitoring. Anselmo declined to comment later outside the courtroom.

Thousands of doctors in Britain walk off the job in their longest-ever strike

LONDON (AP) — Patients faced canceled treatments after thousands of British doctors walked off the job on Wednesday, the start of a six-day strike over pay that was set to be the longest in the history of the state-funded National Health Service.

Managers said tens of thousands of appointments and operations will be postponed because of the walkout across England by junior doctors, those in the first years of their careers. The doctors, who form the backbone of hospital and clinic care, plan to stay off the job until 7 a.m. on Tuesday.

Senior doctors and other medics have been drafted to cover for emergency services, critical care and maternity services.

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