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U.S. Coast Guard/Digital/TNS

'I can't buy food': As Cuba's economy worsens, desperate rafters risk their lives at sea

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Marisol Monteagudo's son gave her a kiss goodbye as he headed out the door to spend a night out with friends in Cuba's Isla de la Juventud.

What he didn't tell her: that instead of grabbing a drink or watching a movie, they were planning to board a flimsy raft en route to Mexico.

That was three months ago. She hasn't heard from him since.

"...Read more

Chris Boswell/Dreamstime/TNS

SC Republican files bill to allow Donald Trump to be buried on State House grounds

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COLUMBIA, S.C. — A Republican state legislator wants to give former President Donald Trump the option of making the State House grounds his final resting place.

A bill from GOP state Rep. R.J. May would require the South Carolina Department of Administration to offer any president acquitted of impeachment twice to be buried on State House ...Read more

Mike Albans/TNS

Gambino family boss Peter Gotti, brother and successor to 'Dapper Don' John, dies in prison at age 81

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NEW YORK — One-time Gambino crime family boss Peter Gotti, the successor and older brother to John “Dapper Don” Gotti, died behind bars Thursday after losing two bids for early release, his lawyer confirmed. He was 81.

The former sanitation worker-turned-mob don was convicted in 2004 of racketeering conspiracy, including charges of ...Read more

Nelvin C. Cepeda/The San Diego Union-Tribune/TNS

Have a case of a COVID-19 variant? No one is going to tell you

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COVID-19 infections from variant strains are quickly spreading across the U.S., but there’s one big problem: Lab officials say they can’t tell patients or their doctors whether someone has been infected by a variant.

Federal rules around who can be told about the variant cases are so confusing that public health officials may merely know ...Read more

Juan Figueroa/Staff Photographer/The Dallas Morning News/TNS

CDC's eviction moratorium is blocked by federal judge in Texas

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s eviction moratorium was blocked by a Texas judge who said the federal government overstepped its authority in stopping landlords from throwing out tenants.

U.S. District Judge J. Campbell Barker, who was nominated by President Donald Trump, said that while states have the authority to regulate ...Read more

Francine Orr/Los Angeles Times/TNS

As COVID-19 vaccine in Kansas City remains scarce, Missouri town of 69 gets 2,000 doses

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A mass vaccination event on Wednesday in Leopold — population 69 — had 2,000 doses available, enough for anyone who showed up at the Knights of Columbus facility in the small southeast Missouri town.

"ANYONE can go get the COVID vaccine at the Knights of Columbus. The health department has opened it up to anyone to avoid wasting the vaccine...Read more

Nearly 3 years after bridge collapse, FIU transfers money to state to build new pedestrian bridge

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MIAMI — Nearly three years after a pedestrian bridge over Southwest Eighth Street in West Miami-Dade County collapsed because of a flawed design, killing six people, the construction of a new bridge in the same location is officially moving forward.

The bridge will connect Florida International University's Modesto A. Maidique Campus to ...Read more

Balkis Press/TNS

Saudi crown prince implicated in Khashoggi murder, US finds

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A U.S. intelligence report expected to be declassified as soon as Friday implicates Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in approving the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, according to a person familiar with the findings.

The report builds on classified intelligence from the CIA and other intelligence agencies ...Read more

Bob Daemmrich/ZUMA Wire/TNS

Texas cities fret as power bills mount in wake of blackouts

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The power supply shortages that slammed Texas last week drove spot electricity prices sky-high for some locally owned utilities, with one town on the hook for more than $200 million and other municipalities anxiously awaiting their bills.

Denton, northwest of Dallas, racked up at least $207 million in power purchases over the span of a few days...Read more

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images North America/TNS

North Korea using prison labor to defy sanctions, group says

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North Korea has stepped up its use of forced labor from prison camps to mine coal for export so it can procure cash for its nuclear weapons program in defiance of United Nations sanctions, according to a human rights group.

Satellite imagery shows an expansion of some prison camps near mines that has coincided with global sanctions being ...Read more

JAY JANNER/Austin American-Statesman/TNS

Biden to visit Texans battered by deadly winter storm, upset with state leaders

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HOUSTON — When President Joe Biden visits Texas’ largest city on Friday, epicenter for the state’s most deadly winter storm in modern history, he will be welcomed by many Texans who blame state leaders for failing to quickly respond to the disaster.

“He’s coming for all Texans, for people like myself who were without power,” said ...Read more

Drew Angerer/Getty Images North America/TNS

Harris coaxes Black communities to get vaccines, but distrust remains high

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WASHINGTON — Vice President Kamala Harris stood by the pharmacy counter of a Giant grocery store in a largely Black neighborhood here Thursday, talking an older customer through her booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“It will feel, when you get the shot, the same way the first one felt,” Harris told her, recounting her own experience. ...Read more

Scott Olson/Getty Images North America/TNS

Michigan attorney general will close inquiry into Larry Nassar unless MSU releases 6,000 documents

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DETROIT — Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel will close her office's investigation into who at Michigan State University was aware of former university doctor Larry Nassar's sexual assaults of patients unless the university releases roughly 6,000 withheld documents.

Nessel acknowledged Thursday that she sent a letter to the college's Board...Read more

Coronavirus spreads readily in gyms when people don't wear masks

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is urging stricter precautions for gym-goers after tracing coronavirus outbreaks to fitness centers in Hawaii and Chicago that left dozens of patrons with COVID-19.

The findings, detailed in two papers published this week in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, highlight the risks of ...Read more

News briefs

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Pelosi slams Republicans for watering down Capitol probe

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi slammed Republicans on Thursday for trying to distract attention from the role of right-wing radicals in the Capitol siege.

The California Democrat trashed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., for insisting that the commission study not just include ...Read more

Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times/TNS

Lawsuit looks to block dismantlement of Southern California's San Onofre nuclear plant

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SAN DIEGO — An advocacy group based in Del Mar is taking the California Coastal Commission to court, looking to stop the dismantlement work underway at the now-shuttered San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

Officials with the Samuel Lawrence Foundation say the commission should not have granted a permit to Southern California Edison, the ...Read more

Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times/TNS

Senate parliamentarian nixes minimum wage boost in aid package

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WASHINGTON — Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough has told senators that the federal minimum wage increase President Joe Biden and Democrats have been seeking would violate the chamber's rules for inclusion in a filibuster-proof budget reconciliation bill.

Two sources familiar with the discussions confirmed the ruling, which emerged ...Read more

Drew Angerer/Getty Images North America/TNS

Trump's tax returns arrive at Manhattan prosecutor's office

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New York prosecutors have received eight years of Donald Trump’s individual and corporate tax returns from the former president’s accounting firm, according to a spokesman for Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.

The voluminous records, which cover the years from 2011 to 2018, were turned over to Vance’s office by Mazars USA on ...Read more

JUHAN NOH/Netflix/JEON1591/TNS

Zombies are everywhere in South Korea, feeding on fears and anxieties

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SEOUL, South Korea — Kim Hyeong-seek knows what he would do in a zombie apocalypse.

He has a supply of canned and dried food, and has seen enough zombie movies to realize his best chance of survival is to hop on a bicycle rather than get into a car. Zombies have a thing for cars, and then there's the inevitable gridlock. When the time comes, ...Read more

Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images North America/TNS

At conservative gathering, just one litmus test: Loyalty to Trump

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WASHINGTON — Among GOP elected officials and operatives, intense disagreements rage over the future of their party. But no sign of dissent will be visible this weekend when conservatives gather for an annual conference that has long showcased Republicans’ internal debates.

Instead, one theme will rule them all — fealty to Trump.

The ...Read more