AP News in Brief at 12:04 a.m. EST

AP News in Brief at 12:04 a.m. EST

Updated: 2 months, 18 days, 17 hours, 55 minutes, 37 seconds ago

Garland names special counsel to lead Trump-related probes

WASHINGTON (AP) — Attorney General Merrick Garland named a special counsel on Friday to oversee the Justice Department’s investigation into the presence of classified documents at former President Donald Trump’s Florida estate as well as key aspects of a separate probe involving the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection and efforts to undo the 2020 election.

The appointment of veteran prosecutor Jack Smith, announced just three days after Trump formally launched his 2024 candidacy, is a recognition of the unmistakable political implications of two investigations that involve not only a former president but also a current White House hopeful. It installs a new chain of command over sensitive probes seen as likely to accelerate now that the midterm elections have concluded, with Garland citing Trump's entry into the race and President Joe Biden's stated intention to run again as reasons for Smith's sudden appointment.

“The Department of Justice has long recognized that in certain extraordinary cases, it is in the public’s interest to appoint a special prosecutor to independently manage an investigation and prosecution,” Garland said from the Justice Department’s podium.

Trump addressed the news Friday night at an America First Policy Institute gala at Mar-a-Lago, slamming what he described as the “appalling announcement today by the egregiously corrupt Biden administration and their weaponized Department of Justice.”

He called it a “horrendous abuse of power” and “the latest in a long series of witch hunts,” and insisted he’d “done nothing wrong,”

Elizabeth Holmes gets more than 11 years for Theranos scam

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — Disgraced Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes was sentenced Friday to more than 11 years in prison for duping investors in the failed startup that promised to revolutionize blood testing but instead made her a symbol of Silicon Valley ambition that veered into deceit.

The sentence imposed by U.S. District Judge Edward Davila was shorter than the 15-year penalty requested by federal prosecutors but far tougher than the leniency her legal team sought for the mother of a year-old son with another child on the way.

Holmes, 38, faced a maximum of 20 years in prison. Her legal team requested no more than 18 months, preferably served in home confinement.

“This is a very heavy sentence," said Rachel Fiset, a defense lawyer who has also been involved in health care cases.

Holmes, who was CEO throughout the company’s turbulent 15-year history, was convicted in January in the scheme, which revolved around the company’s claims to have developed a medical device that could detect a multitude of diseases and conditions from a few drops of blood. But the technology never worked, and the claims were false.

North Korea unveils Kim's daughter at missile launch site

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea has unveiled the little-known daughter of its leader Kim Jong Un at a missile launch site, attracting keen attention on a fourth-generation member of the dynastic family that has ruled North Korea for more than seven decades.

The North’s state media said Saturday that Kim had observed the launch of its new type of intercontinental ballistic missile with his wife Ri Sol Ju, their “beloved daughter” and other officials the previous day. Kim said the launch of the Hwasong-17 missile — the North’s longest-range, nuclear-capable missile — proved he has a reliable weapon to contain U.S.-led military threats.

The main Rodong Sinmun newspaper also released a slew of photos of Kim watching a soaring missile from a distance with his daughter. Other photos showed her with her hair pulled back, wearing a white coat and a pair of red shoes as she walked in hand-in-hand with her father by a huge missile atop a launch truck.

It’s the first time for North Korea’s state media to mention the daughter or publicize her photos. KCNA didn’t provide further details about her like her name and age.

Much of Kim’s private life is still unknown. But South Korean media reported Kim married Ri, a former singer, in 2009, and that the couple have three children who were born in 2010, 2013 and 2017.

Twitter risks fraying as engineers exit over Musk upheaval

Elon Musk’s managerial bomb-throwing at Twitter has so thinned the ranks of software engineers who keep the world’s de-facto public square up and running that industry insiders and programmers who were fired or resigned this week agree: Twitter may soon fray so badly it could actually crash.

Musk ended a very public argument with nearly two dozen coders over his retooling of the microblogging platform earlier this week by ordering them fired. Hundreds of engineers and other workers then quit after he demanded they pledge to “extremely hardcore” work by Thursday evening or resign with severance pay.

The newest departures mean the platform is losing workers just at it gears up for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, which opens Sunday. It's one of Twitter's busiest events, when tweet surges heavily stress its systems.

“It does look like he’s going to blow up Twitter,” said Robert Graham, a veteran cybersecurity entrepreneur. “I can’t see how the lights won’t go out at any moment” — although many recently departed Twitter employees predicted a more gradual demise.

Hundreds of employees signaled they were leaving ahead of Thursday's deadline, posting farewell messages, a salute emoji or other familiar symbols on the company’s internal Slack messaging board, according to employees who still have access. Dozens also took publicly to Twitter to announce their departure.

Alabama fails to complete lethal injection for 3rd time

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama's string of troubled lethal injections, which worsened late Thursday as prison workers aborted another execution because of a problem with intravenous lines, is unprecedented nationally, a group that tracks capital punishment said Friday.

The uncompleted execution of Kenneth Eugene Smith was the state's second such instance of being unable to kill an inmate in the past two months and its third since 2018. The state completed an execution in July, but only after a three-hour delay caused at least partly by the same problem with starting an IV line.

A leader at the Death Penalty Information Center, an anti-death penalty group with a large database on executions, said no state other than Alabama has had to halt an execution in progress since 2017, when Ohio halted Alva Campbell's lethal injection because workers couldn't find a vein.

According to Ngozi Ndulue, deputy director of the Washington-based group, the only other lethal injection stopped before an inmate died also was in Ohio, in 2009.

“So Alabama has more aborted lethal injections in the past few years than the rest of the country has overall,” she said.

Coroner: Idaho students were stabbed to death in their beds

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — Four University of Idaho students who were found dead in a rental house near campus were stabbed to death in their beds and likely were asleep when they were attacked, a county coroner told a cable news channel.

Latah County Coroner Cathy Mabbutt also told NewsNation on Thursday that each victim suffered multiple stab wounds from a “pretty large knife.”

“It has to be somebody pretty angry in order to stab four people to death,” Mabbutt told NewsNation. The victims were stabbed in the chest and upper body, the coroner said.

Efforts by The Associated Press to reach Mabbutt by telephone Friday were diverted to an Idaho State Police spokesperson, who did not immediately return messages.

In an evening statement, Moscow Police Department confirmed the coroner reported the victims were likely asleep and that some of the victims had defensive wounds. Police additionally said there were no signs of sexual assault.

Where's Putin? Leader leaves bad news on Ukraine to others

TALLINN, Estonia (AP) — When Russia's top military brass announced in a televised appearance that they were pulling troops out of the key city of Kherson in southern Ukraine, one man missing from the room was President Vladimir Putin.

As Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Gen. Sergei Surovikin, Russia’s chief commander in Ukraine, stiffly recited the reasons for the retreat in front of the cameras on Nov. 9, Putin was touring a neurological hospital in Moscow, watching a doctor perform brain surgery.

Later that day, Putin spoke at another event but made no mention of the pullout from Kherson -– arguably Russia’s most humiliating withdrawal in Ukraine. In the days that followed, he hasn't publicly commented on the topic.

Putin’s silence comes as Russia faces mounting setbacks in nearly nine months of fighting. The Russian leader appears to have delegated the delivery of bad news to others — a tactic he used during the coronavirus pandemic.

Kherson was the only regional capital Moscow’s forces had seized in Ukraine, falling into Russian hands in the first days of the invasion. Russia occupied the city and most of the outlying region, a key gateway to the Crimean Peninsula, for months.

Saudi prince's new title key to dodging lawsuit over killing

WASHINGTON (AP) — It raised eyebrows six weeks ago when Saudi Arabia’s aged king, Salman, named his son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, as prime minister. The kingdom’s laws designate the king as prime minister. King Salman had to declare a temporary exception to loan out the title, and at the same time made clear he retains key duties.

But that move reaped dividends Thursday, when the Biden administration declared that Prince Mohammed’s standing as prime minister shielded him from a U.S. lawsuit over what the U.S. intelligence community says was his role in Saudi officials’ 2018 killing of a U.S.-based journalist. A judge will now decide whether Prince Mohammed has immunity.

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby insisted Friday that the administration’s declaration of immunity for Saudi Arabia’s crown prince was purely a “legal determination” that “has absolutely nothing to do with the merits of the case itself.”

Many experts in international law agreed with the administration — but only because of the king's late September title boost for the crown prince, ahead of a scheduled U.S. decision.

“It would have been just as remarkable for the United States to deny MBS’s head-of-state immunity after his appointment as Prime Minister as it would have been for the United States to recognize MBS’s head-of-state immunity before his appointment,” William S. Dodge, a professor at the University of California-Davis School of Law, wrote, using the prince's initials.

'Viral jambalaya': Early flu adding to woes for US hospitals

As Americans head into the holiday season, a rapidly intensifying flu season is straining hospitals already overburdened with patients sick from other respiratory infections.

More than half the states have high or very high levels of flu, unusually high for this early in the season, the government reported Friday. Those 27 states are mostly in the South and Southwest but include a growing number in the Northeast, Midwest and West.

This is happening when children's hospitals already are dealing with a surge of illnesses from RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, a common cause of coldlike symptoms that can be serious for infants and the elderly. And COVID-19 is still contributing to more than 3,000 hospital admissions each day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In Atlanta, Dr. Mark Griffiths describes the mix as a “viral jambalaya.” He said the children’s hospitals in his area have at least 30% more patients than usual for this time of year, with many patients forced to wait in emergency rooms for beds to open up.

“I tell parents that COVID was the ultimate bully. It bullied every other virus for two years," said Griffiths, ER medical director of a Children's Health Care of Atlanta downtown hospital.

California governor set to release $1B for homelessness

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California Gov. Gavin Newsom agreed to release $1 billion in state homelessness funding he testily put on pause earlier this month, but only if local governments agree to step up the aggressiveness of their plans going forward to reduce the number of unhoused people in the state.

The Democratic governor said his afternoon meeting Friday with about 100 mayors and local officials in person and virtually was productive, with leaders getting on the same page about what needs to be done and willing to step up on their goals.

“It was nice to hear their progress. And it was nice to hear their recognition that we have to get to another level,” he said to reporters after the two-hour plus meeting. “What I want to see is what everybody wants to see: the streets of California cleaned up. We want to see encampments cleaned up, we want to see people housed."

Newsom, who coasted to reelection this month, is on the hook in his second term to show reductions in the growing number of unhoused individuals, some of whom camp out along city sidewalks and under highway underpasses, exasperating even the most politically liberal voters in the country’s most populous state.

He stunned the state when he announced two weeks ago that he would withhold $1 billion in spending until cities and counties came up with more robust plans, calling submitted plans “simply unacceptable” as they would collectively reduce the state’s homeless population by just 2% over the next four years.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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