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Live updates: Queen Elizabeth has died at 96

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Live updates: Queen Elizabeth has died at 96

TORONTO — Elton John paid tribute to Queen Elizabeth II at his final concert in Toronto on Thursday night, saying he was inspired by her and is sad she is gone.

“She led the country through some of our greatest and darkest moments with grace and decency and genuine caring,” John said.

“I’m 75 and she been with with me all my life and I feel very sad that that she won’t be with me anymore, but I’m glad she’s at peace,” he said. “I’m glad she’s at rest and she deserves it. She worked bloody hard.”

The singer-songwriter then performed his 1974 track “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me.”

John was knighted by the queen in 1998, a year after the death of his friend Princess Diana. Prince Charles also anointed the musician and charity patron as a member of the Order of the Companions of Honor last year.

John’s concert was the second of two nights at Toronto’s Rogers Centre and part of his Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour, billed as his final tour.

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KEY DEVELOPMENTS:

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— Prince Charles became king immediately after his mother’s death

— Will Charles be loved by his subjects, like his mother was?

— Elizabeth has been the only monarch that most people in Britain have ever known

— Her death is being mourned by British politicians from across the political spectrum

— Fifteen prime ministers served during Elizabeth’s seven decades on the throne

— Here’s the order of succession after Charles became king

— Key milestones in the life of Queen Elizabeth II

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OTHER DEVELOPMENTS:

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SEOUL, South Korea — South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol tweeted his condolences on the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

“She had a strong belief in the cause of human freedom and left great legacies of dignity,” he said. He wrote that her kind heart and good deeds will remain in people’s memories.

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The foreign affairs minister for Myanmar’s National Unity Government, an underground parallel government spearheading the fight for democracy in Myanmar against its military-led government, posted her condolences on Twitter.

“I’m deeply saddened by the news of the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. On behalf of @NUGMyanmar and the people of Myanmar, I extend our deepest sympathies to the Royal Family and the people of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth,” wrote Zin Mar Aung.

Myanmar, then called Burma, gained independence from British colonial rule in 1948.

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CANBERRA, Australia — Malcolm Turnbull, the leader of a failed campaign to have an Australian president replace the British monarch as Australia’s head of state and who later became prime minister, came close to tears on Friday in paying tribute to Queen Elizabeth II.

Turnbull was chair of the Australian Republican Movement in 1999 when Australians voted at a referendum against the nation becoming a republic, severing its constitutional ties to the queen. He was prime minister between 2015 and 2018, during which time the queen gave him a photograph of herself with her husband Prince Philip.

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Turnbull’s voice trembled as he recalled looking at the photo on Thursday night before he and his wife Lucy Turnbull went to bed with a sense of dread because of news from Buckingham Palace of the queen’s failing health.

“I took the portrait of the queen out and set it up and we just thought, ‘What an amazing life. What amazing leadership,’” Turnbull told Australian Broadcasting Corp.

“It’s the end of an era and let’s hope that the future, after the queen’s passing, is one where we will have leadership as dedicated and selfless as she has shown,” Turnbull added.

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The king and crown prince of Saudi Arabia have offered their condolences over the death of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II.

Statements carried early Friday in Saudi state media quoted King Salman as saying that Queen Elizabeth was “a model of leadership that will be immortalized in the history.”

He added: “We recall with appreciation the efforts of the deceased in consolidating the friendship and cooperation relations between our two friendly countries, as well as the high international status that Her Majesty enjoyed throughout the decades during which she acceded to the throne of your friendly country.”

His young son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, similarly offered his condolences, saying that the queen was “an example of wisdom, love and peace.”

He added: “The world remembers today the great impact and deeds that she had throughout her reign.”

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KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said Queen Elizabeth was “the very heart and soul of the United Kingdom” and that her passing was greatly mourned by everyone in the city-state.

“She performed her duties with devotion, grace, and humility. Her contributions to the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth, and indeed to the world will be recorded in history, and she will always be remembered fondly as a great world leader,” Lee said in a post on Facebook. The post included a photo of Lee shaking hands with the queen in 2018 during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London.

Lee’s office said in a statement to local media that state flags at all government buildings will be flown at half-mast on the day of the funeral as a mark of respect. Parliament will also observe a minute of silence at the beginning of its sitting on Monday.

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TOKYO — Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida expressed his condolences on the death of Queen Elizabeth II via his official Twitter account, both in Japanese and in English.

“On the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, I extend my heartfelt condolences to the Royal Family, the government and the people of the United Kingdom,” he said. “The loss of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is a great loss not only to the British people but also to the international community. Japan’s thoughts are with the United Kingdom as the British people overcome this deepest sadness.”

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KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Minister Saifuddin Abdullah said Malaysia, a former colony before its independence from Britain in 1957, extended its sincere condolences to the queen’s family and the people of the United Kingdom.

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“Her Majesty was a towering figure and led a lifetime of dedication and service to the people of the UK and the Commonwealth,” he wrote on Facebook.

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NEW YORK — The U.S. Tennis Association held a moment of silence before the first U.S. Open women’s semifinal match Thursday night — won in straight sets by Ons Jabeur over Caroline Garcia.

“We would like to pause to remember Queen Elizabeth II,” the stadium announcer said. “Our thoughts are with the people today of the United Kingdom. Remember to be part of us in a second of silence.”

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told reporters she was awoken a little before 5 a.m. by a police officer shining a torch into her bedroom to tell her the news of Queen Elizabeth II’s death.

Under New Zealand’s constitutional arrangements, the queen was also New Zealand’s monarch and head of state.

“The last days of the queen’s life captures who she was in so many ways,” Ardern said. “Working until the very end on behalf of the people she loved.”

Ardern said the queen was an extraordinary woman who she’d remember for her laughter. Ardern said that like many other people, she was feeling not only deep sadness but also deep gratitude.

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“Here is a woman who gave her life, utterly, to the service of others. And regardless of what anyone thinks of the role of monarchies around the world, there is undeniably, I think here, a display of someone who gave everything on behalf of her people, and her people included the people of Aotearoa New Zealand.”

Ardern said New Zealand had moved into a period of official mourning, and would hold a state memorial service after the official funeral in Britain.

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ABUJA, Nigeria — President Muhammadu Buhari expressed “immense sadness” over the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

“Her late Majesty was the only British sovereign known to 90 percent of our population,” the Nigerian leader said, describing the late queen’s reign as “unique and wonderful.”

“The story of modern Nigeria will never be complete without a chapter on Queen Elizabeth ll, a towering global personality and an outstanding leader. She dedicated her life to making her nation, the Commonwealth and the entire world a better place,” Buhari added.

Nigeria gained independence from the British in 1960, four years after the late queen’s official visit to the West African nation. When Elizabeth last visited in 2003, she spoke of Nigeria’s critical role in the Commonwealth and applauded the country for its “leading part in the new partnership for Africa’s development.”

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SAO PAULO — Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro issued a decree for three days of national mourning in the South American nation for the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

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He also said on Twitter that Elizabeth “wasn’t the queen for the British only; she was a queen for all of us.”

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Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the death of Queen Elizabeth II is a time of mourning for the people in Britain, across the Commonwealth and around the world.

In a statement, he said she is the only reigning monarch most Australians have known and the only one to ever to visit their country.

“And over the course of a remarkable seven decades, Her Majesty was a rare and reassuring constant amidst rapid change,” he said. “Through the noise and turbulence of the years, she embodied and exhibited a timeless decency and an enduring calm.”

The British monarch is Australia’s official head of state, although these days the role is considered primarily ceremonial.

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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden went to the British Embassy on Thursday to offer condolences for the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

The U.S. leader sat at a desk and signed the condolence book at the embassy. His wife, Jill Biden, brought a bouquet of flowers. She stood next to him before she, too, wrote in the book.

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The president then spoke with embassy staff and could be overhead saying of the former British monarch, “We mourn for all of you. She was a great lady.”

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PARIS — Britain’s historic rival and contemporary ally France lowered flags at the presidential palace and public buildings to half-staff in honor of Queen Elizabeth II who died at the age of 96.

President Emmanuel Macron said no other foreign sovereign had visited the Elysee Palace more than Elizabeth, who knew all eight presidents of contemporary France.

He hailed her “immutable moral authority,” her intimate knowledge of French and the stability she brought “across the fluctuations and upheavals of politics, a permanence with the scent of eternity.”

“The woman who stood alongside the giants of the 20th century on the path of history has left to join them,” he said in a statement, sharing condolences to Britain from “the French Republic and the French people.”

At the British Embassy in Paris, a 20-year-old fashion student was among many who gathered, moist-eyed, with flowers and candles, to bid her adieu.

“When we learned the news we said to ourselves that Queen Elizabeth had followed us a good part of our lives,” said fashion student Theo Maillet. “We wanted to pay homage to her tonight, think of her family, and tell her one final goodbye.”

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Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness noted that ever since she was crowned in 1953, Queen Elizabeth II visited the island every decade until 2002.

“Undoubtedly, she formed a special bond with the people of Jamaica during her reign,” he said. “We are saddened that we will not see her light again, but we will remember her historic reign.”

In March, when Prince William and Kate visited Jamaica as part of an official trip to the Caribbean, Holness made an unexpected announcement in public that the British commonwealth intended to become fully independent.

Since then, Jamaica has established a Constitution Reform Committee and is scheduled to hold a referendum in 2025. If approved, it would join other republics in the region including Barbados, Dominica, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago.

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LONDON — Police in Scotland have removed barriers blocking the gates to Balmoral Castle to allow the public to lay flowers for Queen Elizabeth II.

The area had been blocked off as members of the royal family arrived earlier Thursday.

In London, the wrought iron gates at Buckingham Palace were brightened by dozens of colorful bouquets laid by mourners.

On the Mall, the main road leading to Buckingham Palace, around 50 black cabs lined up to pay tribute to the monarch. In nearby Green Park, hundreds of people streamed down the pavements winding through the park on their way to the palace.

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“As a young person, this is a really huge moment,” said Romy McCarthy, 20. “It marks the end of an era, particularly as a woman – we had a woman who was in power as someone to look up to.”

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LONDON — Several sporting events in Britain were called off as a mark of respect following the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

Organizers of the BMW PGA Championship golf event immediately suspended play, with many players still out on the course at Wentworth. The course and practice facilities will be closed Friday.

The England and Wales Cricket Board said Friday’s play in the second test between England and South Africa at the Oval would not take place.

Horse racing meetings in Britain were suspended on Thursday night and Friday, with the governing body wanting to “remember her extraordinary life and contribution to our sport and our nation.”

Domestic rugby matches in England and Scotland were called off on Thursday and games will not be played over the weekend, either.

Friday’s stage in cycling’s Tour of Britain was canceled, with a decision on the final two stages over the weekend to be taken in due course.

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LONDON — People grieved in the crowds outside Buckingham Palace when officials carried a notice confirming the Queen Elizabeth II’s death to the gates of her London home.

Thousands gathered in the pouring rain to mark their respects for the late monarch, who died Thursday at age 96.

Royal superfan John Loughrey, 67, wept outside the palace as he paid tribute to the “inspirational” queen. He compared her and the late Prince Philip to swans, which are said to die of broken hearts when they lose their mate. She and Philip were married for 73 years until his death in April of last year.

“She went downhill after the Duke of Edinburgh died,″ Loughrey said. “They were like two swans.

“God save the Queen.”

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Russian President Vladimir Putin was among the sea of world leaders who expressed their condolences to the British royal family over the death of Queen Elizabeth II on Thursday.

Despite the tensions between Russia and Britain over the war in Ukraine, Putin reached out to King Charles III in a telegram. He wrote: “The most important events in the recent history of the United Kingdom are inextricably linked with the name of Her Majesty. For many decades, Elizabeth II rightfully enjoyed the love and respect of her subjects, as well as authority on the world stage.

“I wish you courage and perseverance in the face of this heavy, irreparable loss. I ask you to convey the words of sincere sympathy and support to the members of the royal family and all the people of Great Britain.”

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Elizabeth died peacefully Thursday afternoon at Balmoral Castle in Scotland. All four of her children and other members of her family traveled there to be at her side.

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ROME — Pope Francis told King Charles III in a telegram that he is praying for “eternal rest” for Charles’ late mother, Queen Elizabeth II.

The pontiff said he was deeply saddened to learn of the queen’s death on Thursday at her Scotland estate, Balmoral Castle. He offered “heartfelt condolences to Your Majesty, the Members of the Royal Family, the People of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth.”

Francis, who met with the queen in 2014, said, “I willingly join all who mourn her loss in praying for the late Queen’s eternal rest, and in paying tribute to her unstinting service to the good of the Nation and the Commonwealth, her example of devotion to duty, her steadfast witness of faith in Jesus Christ and her firm hope in his promises.”

Elizabeth, who as queen was head of the Church of England, first visited the Vatican while a princess in 1951. The first pontiff she met at the Vatican as queen was John XXIII, in 1961.

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LONDON — Politicians from across the political spectrum in Britain united in sorrow at the death of Queen Elizabeth II, a passing that brought fractious everyday politics in the country to a halt.

Prime Minister Liz Truss said the country was “devastated” by the death of the monarch, calling her “the rock on which modern Britain was built.”

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“We are now a modern, thriving, dynamic nation,” Truss said outside 10 Downing St. in London. “Through thick and thin, Queen Elizabeth II provided us with the stability and the strength that we needed.

“She was the very spirit of Great Britain – and that spirit will endure,” ending on words no British leader has said for 70 years: “God save the king.”

Truss was appointed by the queen just two days ago, becoming the 15th prime minister to serve during Elizabeth’s reign.

Truss’ predecessor, Boris Johnson, said “this is our country’s saddest day.”

He said the death of the only monarch most Britons have ever known would provoke “a deep and personal sense of loss – far more intense, perhaps, than we expected.”

He said her heir, King Charles III, would “amply do justice to her legacy.”

Opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer also paid tribute.

“Above the clashes of politics, she stood not for what the nation fought over, but what it agreed upon. As Britain changed rapidly around her, this dedication became the still point of our turning world,” he said. “So as our great Elizabethan era comes to an end, we will honor the late Queen’s memory by keeping alive the values of public service she embodied.”

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LONDON — Royal officials have confirmed that Britain’s new monarch will be known as King Charles III, ending speculation about whether would use another name during his reign.

The former Prince of Wales has been known as Prince Charles since his birth in 1948, but British monarchs have in the past selected new names when they ascent to the throne.

The late Queen Elizabeth II said earlier this year that she hoped Charles’ wife, Camilla, would be know as queen consort.

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U.S. presidents past and present expressed their condolences over the death of Queen Elizabeth II on Thursday.

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden said in a statement that Elizabeth was “more than a monarch” and that “she defined an era.”

“Queen Elizabeth II was a stateswoman of unmatched dignity and constancy who deepened the bedrock Alliance between the United Kingdom and the United States,” the Bidens said. “She helped make our relationship special.”

Biden’s predecessor in the White House, Donald Trump, said in a statement that Elizabeth “will always be remembered for her faithfulness to her country and her unwavering devotion to her fellow countrymen and women.

“Melania and I will always cherish our time together with the Queen, and never forget Her Majesty’s generous friendship, great wisdom, and wonderful sense of humor. What a grand and beautiful lady she was — there was nobody like her!”

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Former President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle Obama, also recalled the queen fondly.

“Back when we were just beginning to navigate life as President and First Lady, she welcomed us to the world stage with open arms and extraordinary generosity,” the Obama’s said in a statement. “Time and again, we were struck by her warmth, the way she put people at ease, and how she brought her considerable humor and charm to moments of great pomp and circumstance.”

Former presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Jimmy Carter also issued statements expressing their condolences.

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LONDON — Prince Charles has been preparing to be king his entire life. Now his moment has arrived.

Following the death of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, on Thursday, Charles is now the oldest person to take the British throne.

No date has been set for his coronation. And it’s not immediately clear whether the new monarch would call himself Charles III or choose another name, as his grandfather did.

But Charles faces the enormous challenge of building the same sort of affection that characterized the relationship between his mother and the British public.

Will Charles be loved by his subjects, like his mother was? It’s a question that has overshadowed his entire life.

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LONDON — British Prime Minister Liz Truss says the country is “devastated” by the death of Queen Elizabeth II, calling her “the rock on which modern Britain was built.”

Truss said the news is “a huge shock to the nation and to the world” but that the queen’s spirit will endure.

Truss was appointed by the queen just two days ago, becoming the 15th prime minister to serve during Elizabeth’s reign.

The Union Jack flag atop the prime minister’s 10 Downing Street residence was lowered to half-staff after the monarch’s death was announced.

Elizabeth died peacefully Thursday afternoon at Balmoral Castle in Scotland. All four of her children and her grandson Prince William traveled there to be at her side.

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LONDON — Prince Charles says the death of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, “is a moment of the greatest sadness” for him and his family.

In a statement issued Thursday following the 96-year-old monarch’s death at her Balmoral Castle estate in Scotland, Charles said: “We mourn profoundly the passing of a cherished Sovereign and a much-loved Mother. I know her loss will be deeply felt throughout the country, the Realms and the Commonwealth, and by countless people around the world.”

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Charles, who became king upon his mother’s death, said, “During this period of mourning and change, my family and I will be comforted and sustained by our knowledge of the respect and deep affection in which The Queen was so widely held.”

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LONDON — Condolences are pouring in from around the world following the death of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II.

French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted Thursday that the queen “embodied continuity and the unity of the British nation over 70 years. I retain the memory of a friend of France, a queen of hearts who marked as never before her country and her century.”

Germany’s foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock, expressed sadness at the news, tweeting: “Germany remains forever grateful that she stretched out her hand to us in reconciliation after the terror of World War II.”

Italian Premier Mario Draghi in a condolence message hailed the queen as having been “the absolute protagonist of world history of the last 70 years.” Draghi, who is now acting in a caretaker role ahead of Italian parliamentary elections later this month, said Elizabeth had represented the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth “with equilibrium, wisdom, respect for institutions and for democracy.”

Elizabeth died peacefully Thursday afternoon at Balmoral Castle in Scotland. All four of her children and her grandson Prince William traveled to Balmoral to be at her side.

The Royal Family’s Twitter feed posted a black and white photograph of the queen smiling as they announced her death.

Outside Buckingham Palace, the news was posted on the railings as crowds gathered.

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LONDON — Buckingham Palace says Queen Elizabeth II has died.

The 96-year-old queen died peacefully at Balmoral Castle in Scotland. All four of her children and her grandson Prince William traveled to Balmoral to be at her side.

The palace says her son Charles, who is now king, and his wife Camilla, the Queen Consort, will stay at Balmoral overnight and travel to London on Friday.

Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, she marked 70 years on the throne this year.

Elizabeth sat on the throne as the U.K. rebuilt from war, lost an empire, transformed its economy and both entered and left the European Union.

She was a constant presence, the only monarch most Britons have ever known, and she guided the institution of the monarchy through choppy waters.

The BBC played the national anthem over a portrait of the queen in full regalia as the queen’s death was announced.

The flag over Buckingham Palace was lowered to half staff.

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For more AP coverage of Queen Elizabeth II: https://apnews.com/hub/queen-elizabeth-ii

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Remember last year’s Memorial Day travel jams? Chances are they will be much worse this year

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Remember last year’s Memorial Day travel jams? Chances are they will be much worse this year

The patience of Memorial Day weekend travelers was tested Thursday by widespread delays across the country, but there were relatively few canceled flights, raising hopes that airlines can handle bigger crowds expected Friday.

By early evening on the East Coast, more than 6,000 flights had been delayed Thursday, with the biggest backups at the three major airports in the New York City area and Dallas-Fort Worth International.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pasha Pidlubniak waits for a domestic flight at Miami International Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Miami. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

 

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Pasha Pidlubniak waits for a domestic flight at Miami International Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Miami. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

 

The Transportation Security Administration predicted that Friday will be the busiest day for air travel over the holiday weekend, with nearly 3 million people expected to pass through airport checkpoints. It could rival the record of 2.9 million, set on the Sunday after Thanksgiving last year.

“Airports are going to be more packed than we have seen in 20 years,” said Aixa Diaz, a spokesperson for AAA.

When they aren’t waiting out flight delays, travelers are reporting sticker shock at the prices.

At Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, Larisa Latimer of New Lenox, Illinois, said her airfare was reasonable but other expenses for a getaway to New Orleans were not.

 

 

 

 

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Motorists travel along Interstate 24 near the Interstate 40 interchange Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. A record number of Americans are expected to hit the pavement over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

 

Motorists travel along Interstate 24 near the Interstate 40 interchange Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. A record number of Americans are expected to hit the pavement over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

 

“I just have to make the accommodation,” she said. “The rental car is up … this year, the hotel accommodations were very unusually expensive.”

Kathy Larko of Fort Meyers, Florida, used frequent-flyer miles — and some flexible scheduling — to pay for her trip to Chicago.

“I’m really conscious of looking at the cost of the entire trip. We’re staying a little farther out than we normally would” to get a lower hotel rate, she said. “We’re also flying back a day later, because we could get cheaper miles.”

More travelers will be on the road. AAA estimates that 43.8 million people will venture at least 50 miles (80 kilometers) from home between Thursday and Monday, with 38 million of them taking vehicles.

 
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Travelers wait at a TSA checkpoint at the Los Angeles International Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Los Angeles. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/Ryan Sun)

 

Travelers wait at a TSA checkpoint at the Los Angeles International Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Los Angeles. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/Ryan Sun)

 

Airport unions are using the holiday weekend to highlight their demands.

About 100 workers who clean airplane cabins and drive trash trucks at the airport in Charlotte, North Carolina, started a 24-hour strike Thursday, demanding better pay and healthcare, according to the Service Employees International Union. About 15% of flights were delayed, but it was unclear whether the strike played any role.

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A planned strike at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York was averted, however. Teamsters Local 553, which represents about 300 workers who refuel passenger and cargo jets at JFK, said that it reached a settlement with Allied Aviation Services and called off a walkout planned for Friday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

George Ridley, 4, left, rides on a suitcase as he and his father Chris Ridley make their way through the Nashville international Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

 

George Ridley, 4, left, rides on a suitcase as he and his father Chris Ridley make their way through the Nashville international Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

 

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“We are happy an agreement has been reached, a need for a strike averted, and we are hopeful that the deal will be ratified by our members,” said Demos Demopoulos, the secretary-treasurer of the local.

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Associated Press video journalist Melissa Perez Winder in Chicago and Associated Press radio reporter Shelley Adler in Washington contributed to this report.

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Texas health department appoints anti-abortion OB-GYN to maternal mortality committee

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Texas health department appoints anti-abortion OB-GYN to maternal mortality committee

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas’ health department has appointed an outspoken anti-abortion OB-GYN to a committee that reviews pregnancy-related deaths as doctors have been warning that the state’s restrictive abortion ban puts women’s lives at risk.

Dr. Ingrid Skop was among the new appointees to the Texas Maternal Morality and Morbidity Review Committee announced last week by the Texas Department of State Health Services. Her term starts June 1.

The committee, which compiles data on pregnancy-related deaths, makes recommendations to the Legislature on best practices and policy changes and is expected to assess the impact of abortion laws on maternal mortality.

Skop, who has worked as an OB-GYN for over three decades, is vice president and director of medical affairs for the Charlotte Lozier Institute, an anti-abortion research group. Skop will be the committee’s rural representative.

Skop, who has worked in San Antonio for most of her career, told the Houston Chronicle that she has “often cared for women traveling long distances from rural Texas maternity deserts, including women suffering complications from abortions.”

Texas has one of the most restrictive abortion bans in the U.S., and doctors have sought clarity on the state’s medical exemption, which allows an abortion to save a woman’s life or prevent the impairment of a major bodily function. Doctors have said the exemption is too vague, making it difficult to offer life-saving care for fear of repercussions. A doctor convicted of providing an illegal abortion in Texas can face up to 99 years in prison and a $100,000 fine and lose their medical license.

Skop has said medical associations are not giving doctors the proper guidance on the matter. She has also shared more controversial views, saying during a congressional hearing in 2021 that rape or incest victims as young as 9 or 10 could carry pregnancies to term.

Texas’ abortion ban has no exemption for cases of rape or incest.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which says abortion is “inherently tied to maternal health,” said in a statement that members of the Texas committee should be “unbiased, free of conflicts of interest and focused on the appropriate standards of care.” The organization noted that bias against abortion has already led to “compromised” analyses, citing a research articles co-authored by Skop and others affiliated with the Charlotte Lozier Institute.

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Earlier this year a medical journal retracted studies supported by the Charlotte Lozier Institute claiming to show harms of the abortion pill mifepristone, citing conflicts of interests by the authors and flaws in their research. Two of the studies were cited in a pivotal Texas court ruling that has threatened access to the drug.

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Michigan farmworker diagnosed with bird flu, becoming 2nd US case tied to dairy cows

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Michigan farmworker diagnosed with bird flu, becoming 2nd US case tied to dairy cows

A Michigan dairy worker has been diagnosed with bird flu — the second human case associated with an outbreak in U.S. dairy cows.

The male worker had been in contact with cows at a farm with infected animals. He experienced mild eye symptoms and has recovered, U.S. and Michigan health officials said in announcing the case Wednesday.

A nasal swab from the person tested negative for the virus, but an eye swab tested Tuesday was positive for bird flu, “indicating an eye infection,” U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials said.

The worker developed a “gritty feeling” in his eye earlier this month but it was a “very mild case,” said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, Michigan’s chief medical executive. He was not treated with oseltamivir, a medication advised for treating bird flu, she said.

The risk to the public remains low, but farmworkers exposed to infected animals are at higher risk, health officials said. They said those workers should be offered protective equipment, especially for their eyes.

Health officials say they do not know if the Michigan farmworker was wearing protective eyewear, but an investigation is continuing.

In late March, a farmworker in Texas was diagnosed in what officials called the first known instance globally of a person catching this version of bird flu from a mammal. That patient reported only eye inflammation and recovered.

Since 2020, a bird flu virus has been spreading among more animal species — including dogs, cats, skunks, bears and even seals and porpoises — in scores of countries.

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The detection in U.S. livestock earlier this year was an unexpected twist that sparked questions about food safety and whether it would start spreading among humans.

That hasn’t happened, although there’s been a steady increase of reported infections in cows. As of Wednesday, the virus had been confirmed in 51 dairy herds in nine states, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department. Fifteen of the herds were in Michigan.

The CDC’s Dr. Nirav Shah said the case was “not unexpected” and it’s possible more infections could be diagnosed in people who work around infected cows.

U.S. officials said they had tested 40 people since the first cow cases were discovered in late March. Michigan has tested 35 of them, Bagdasarian told The Associated Press in an interview.

Shah praised Michigan officials for actively monitoring farmworkers. He said health officials there have been sending daily text messages to workers exposed to infected cows asking about possible symptoms, and that the effort helped officials catch this infection. He said no other workers had reported symptoms.

That’s encouraging news, said Michael Osterholm, a University of Minnesota epidemiologist who has studied bird flu for decades. There’s no sign to date that the virus is causing flu-like illness or that it is spreading among people.

“If we had four or five people seriously ill with respiratory illness, we would be picking that up,” he said.

The virus has been found in high levels in the raw milk of infected cows, but government officials say pasteurized products sold in grocery stores are safe because heat treatment has been confirmed to kill the virus.

The new case marks the third time a person in the United States has been diagnosed with what’s known as Type A H5N1 virus. In 2022, a prison inmate in a work program picked it up while killing infected birds at a poultry farm in Montrose County, Colorado. His only symptom was fatigue, and he recovered. That predated the virus’s appearance in cows.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Educational Media Group. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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