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New Mexico banishes Trump ally from office for insurrection…

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New Mexico banishes Trump ally from office for insurrection…

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A New Mexico state district court judge on Tuesday disqualified county commissioner and Cowboys for Trump cofounder Couy Griffin from holding public office for engaging in insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

The judgment from state District Court Judge Francis Mathew permanently bars Griffin from federal and local public office. It arrived amid a spate of lawsuits aimed at sidelining political candidates and elected officials linked to the Capitol riots.

Griffin was previously convicted in federal court of a misdemeanor for entering Capitol grounds on Jan. 6, without going inside the building. He was sentenced to 14 days and given credit for time served.

The new ruling immediately removes Griffin from his position as a commissioner in Otero County in southern New Mexico. He also is barred from serving as a presidential elector.

“Mr. Griffin aided the insurrection even though he did not personally engage in violence,” Mathew wrote. “By joining the mob and trespassing on restricted Capitol grounds, Mr. Griffin contributed to delaying Congress’s election-certification proceedings.”

Griffin said he was notified of his removal from office by Otero County staff, who prevented him from accessing his work computer and office space at a county building in Alamogordo.

Griffin, who served as his own legal counsel at a two-day bench trial in August, called the ruling a “total disgrace” that disenfranchises his constituents in Otero County.

“The actions that are being taken are, I believe, perfect evidence of the tyranny that we’re right now living under,” Griffin said. “The left continues to speak about democracy being under attack, but is this democracy? Whenever you’re removed from office by the civil courts by the opinion of a liberal judge.”

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A flurry of similar lawsuits around the country are seeking to punish politicians who took part in Jan. 6 under provisions of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which holds that anyone who has taken an oath to uphold the Constitution can be barred from office for engaging in insurrection or rebellion.

The provisions were put in place shortly after the Civil War.

“It was written to deal with former Confederates … and it’s basically been dormant ever since with one or two odd exceptions,” said Gerard Magliocca, a professor at the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law. “There was nothing else that could be described as an insurrection against the Constitution until Jan. 6.”

At trial, Griffin invoked free speech guarantees in his defense and argued that removing him from office would cut against the will of the people and set a “dangerous precedent.” Elected in 2018, Griffin withstood a recall vote last year but isn’t running for reelection or other office in November.

Mathew wrote that Griffin’s arguments “disregard that the Constitution itself reflects the will of the people.”

Griffin “overlooks that his own insurrectionary conduct on January 6 sought to subvert the results of a free and fair election, which would have disenfranchised millions of voters.”

The lawsuit against Griffin was brought by three plaintiffs in New Mexico with assistance from the Washington-based Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. Supportive briefs were filed by the NAACP and progressive watchdog group Common Cause. A federal court declined a recent request to take up the case.

Tuesday’s judgment is “a historic win for accountability for the January 6th insurrection and the efforts to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power in the United States,” Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics President Noah Bookbinder said in a statement.

Griffin, a Republican, forged a group of rodeo acquaintances in 2019 into the promotional group called Cowboys for Trump that staged horseback parades to spread President Donald Trump’s conservative message about gun rights, immigration controls and abortion restrictions.

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This year, Griffin voted twice as a county commissioner against certifying New Mexico’s June 7 primary election, in a standoff over election integrity fueled by conspiracy theories about the security of voting equipment in the Republican-dominated county.

Two other commissioners eventually agreed to certify, but Griffin cast the lone dissenting vote while acknowledging that he had no specific basis for questioning the results of the election — attributing his decision to “my gut feeling and my own intuition.”

Griffin is among a dozen people charged in the Jan. 6 riot that had either held public office or ran for a government leadership post in the two and a half years before the attack. Of those, seven have been convicted of crimes for their participation.

Unlike Griffin, the members of Congress targeted for disqualification were neither charged nor convicted of crimes associated with the Capitol riot.

In Georgia, a federal judge allowed a 14th Amendment challenge against Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green to advance, but a state administrative law judge found there wasn’t sufficient evidence to back voters’ claims that she had engaged in insurrection, and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said Greene was qualified to run.

Greene won her primary, and the Georgia Supreme Court upheld the decision last week to leave her on the ballot. The federal appeal is pending.

In North Carolina, a federal judge blocked the state elections board from formally examining whether U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn, who spoke at the rally that preceded the riot, should remain on the state’s May 17 primary ballot.

Cawthorn narrowly lost that election, and later in May a federal appeals court reversed the lower court decision. The panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the trial judge got it wrong when he ruled that an 1872 law that removed office-holding disqualifications from most ex-Confederates also exempted current members of Congress like Cawthorn. The lawsuit was ultimately dismissed as moot because Cawthorn isn’t on the November ballot.

Arizona state courts have kept U.S. Reps. Paul Gosar and Andy Biggs and a state legislator on the ballot amid efforts to disqualify them. A judge agreed in April with the lawmakers that Congress created no enforcement mechanism for the 14th Amendment, barring a criminal conviction.

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Gary D. Robertson in Raleigh, North Carolina, Mark Sherman in Washington, and Jacques Billeaud in Phoenix contributed to this report.

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This story has been corrected to show that Mathew is a New Mexico state district judge, not a U.S. federal judge.

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Israel hails ‘success’ after blocking unprecedented attack from Iran

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Israel hails ‘success’ after blocking unprecedented attack from Iran

TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — Israeli leaders on Sunday credited an international military coalition with helping thwart a direct Iranian attack involving hundreds of drones and missiles, calling the coordinated response a starting point for a “strategic alliance” of regional opposition to Tehran.

But Israel’s War Cabinet met without making a decision on next steps, an official said, as a nervous world waited for any sign of further escalation of the former shadow war.

The military coalition, led by the United States, Britain and France and appearing to include a number of Middle Eastern countries, gave Israel support at a time when it finds itself isolated over its war against Hamas in Gaza. The coalition also could serve as a model for regional relations when that war ends.

“This was the first time that such a coalition worked together against the threat of Iran and its proxies in the Middle East,” said the Israeli military spokesman, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari.

One unknown is which of Israel’s neighbors participated in the shooting down of the vast majority of about 350 drones and missiles Iran launched. Israeli military officials and a key War Cabinet member noted additional “partners” without naming them. When pressed, White House national security spokesman John Kirby would not name them either.

But one appeared to be Jordan, which described its action as self-defense.

“There was an assessment that there was a real danger of Iranian marches and missiles falling on Jordan, and the armed forces dealt with this danger. And if this danger came from Israel, Jordan would take the same action,” Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman al-Safadi said in an interview on Al-Mamlaka state television. U.S. President Joe Biden spoke with Jordan’s King Abdullah on Sunday.

The U.S. has long tried to forge a regionwide alliance against Iran as a way of integrating Israel and boosting ties with the Arab world. The effort has included the 2020 Abraham Accords, which established diplomatic relations between Israel and four Arab countries, and having Israel in the U.S. military’s Central Command, which oversees operations in the Middle East and works closely with the armies of moderate Arab states.

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The U.S. had been working to establish full relations between Israel and regional heavyweight Saudi Arabia before the Oct. 7 Hamas attack sparked Israel’s war in Gaza. The war, which has claimed over 33,700 Palestinian lives, has frozen those efforts due to widespread outrage across the Arab world. But it appears that some behind-the-scenes cooperation has continued, and the White House has held out hopes of forging Israel-Saudi ties as part of a postwar plan.

Just ahead of Iran’s attack, the commander of CENTCOM, Gen. Erik Kurilla, visited Israel to map out a strategy.

Israel’s military chief, Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, on Sunday thanked CENTCOM for the joint defensive effort. Both Jordan and Saudi Arabia are under the CENTCOM umbrella. While neither acknowledged involvement in intercepting Iran’s launches, the Israeli military released a map showing missiles traveling through the airspace of both nations.

“Arab countries came to the aid of Israel in stopping the attack because they understand that regional organizing is required against Iran, otherwise they will be next in line,” Amos Yadlin, a former head of Israel’s military intelligence, wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

Israel’s defense minister, Yoav Gallant, said he had spoken with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and that the cooperation “highlighted the opportunity to establish an international coalition and strategic alliance to counter the threat posed by Iran.”

The White House signaled that it hopes to build on the partnerships and urged Israel to think twice before striking Iran. U.S. officials said Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Washington would not participate in any offensive action against Iran.

Israel’s War Cabinet met late Sunday to discuss a possible response, but an Israeli official familiar with the talks said no decisions had been made. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was discussing confidential deliberations.

Asked about plans for retaliation, Hagari declined to comment directly. “We are at high readiness in all fronts,” he said.

“We will build a regional coalition and collect the price from Iran, in the way and at the time that suits us,” said a key War Cabinet member, Benny Gantz.

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Iran launched the attack in response to a strike widely blamed on Israel that hit an Iranian consular building in Syria this month and killed two Iranian generals.

By Sunday morning, Iran said the attack was over, and Israel reopened its airspace. Iran’s president, Ebrahim Raisi, claimed Iran had taught Israel a lesson and warned that “any new adventures against the interests of the Iranian nation would be met with a heavier and regretful response from the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

The foes have been engaged in a shadow war for years, but Sunday’s assault was the first time Iran launched a direct military assault on Israel, despite decades of enmity dating back to the country’s 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Iran said it targeted Israeli facilities involved in the Damascus strike, and that it told the White House early Sunday that the operation would be “minimalistic.”

But U.S. officials said Iran’s intent was to “destroy and cause casualties” and that if successful, the strikes would have caused an “uncontrollable” escalation. At one point, at least 100 ballistic missiles were in the air with just minutes of flight time to Israel, the officials said.

Israel said more than 99% of what Iran fired was intercepted, with just a few missiles getting through. An Israeli airbase sustained minor damage.

Israel has over the years established — often with the help of the U.S. — a multilayered air-defense network that includes systems capable of intercepting a variety of threats, including long-range missiles, cruise missiles, drones and short-range rockets.

That system, along with collaboration with the U.S. and others, helped thwart what could have been a far more devastating assault at a time when Israel is already deeply engaged in Gaza as well as low-level fighting on its northern border with Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia. Both Hamas and Hezbollah are backed by Iran.

While thwarting the Iranian onslaught could help restore Israel’s image after the Hamas attack in October, what the Middle East’s best-equipped army does next will be closely watched in the region and in Western capitals — especially as Israel seeks to develop the coalition it praised Sunday.

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In Washington, Biden pledged to convene allies to develop a unified response. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. would hold talks with allies. After an urgent meeting, the Group of Seven countries unanimously condemned Iran’s attack and said they stood ready to take “further measures.”

Israel and Iran have been on a collision course throughout Israel’s war in Gaza. In the Oct. 7 attack, militants from Hamas and Islamic Jihad, also backed by Iran, killed 1,200 people in Israel and kidnapped 250 others. Israel’s offensive in Gaza has killed over 33,000 people, according to local health officials.

Hamas welcomed Iran’s attack, saying it was “a natural right and a deserved response” to the strike in Syria. It urged the Iran-backed groups in the region to continue to support Hamas in the war.

Hezbollah also welcomed the attack. Almost immediately after the war in Gaza erupted, Hezbollah began attacking Israel’s northern border. The two sides have been involved in daily exchanges of fire, while Iranian-backed groups in Iraq, Syria and Yemen have launched rockets and missiles toward Israel.

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Federman reported from Jerusalem. Associated Press writers Zeke Miller and Michelle L. Price in Washington; Amir Vahdat in Tehran, Iran; Samy Magdy in Cairo; Omar Akour in Amman, Jordan; and Giada Zampano in Rome contributed to this report.

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How to get rid of NYC rats without brutality? Birth control is one idea

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How to get rid of NYC rats without brutality? Birth control is one idea

New York lawmakers are proposing rules to humanely drive down the population of rats and other rodents, eyeing contraception and a ban on glue traps as alternatives to poison or a slow, brutal death.

Politicians have long come up with creative ways to battle the rodents, but some lawmakers are now proposing city and statewide measures to do more.

In New York City, the idea to distribute rat contraceptives got fresh attention in city government Thursday following the death of an escaped zoo owl, known as Flaco, who was found dead with rat poison in his system.

City Council Member Shaun Abreu proposed a city ordinance Thursday that would establish a pilot program for controlling the millions of rats lurking in subway stations and empty lots by using birth control instead of lethal chemicals. Abreu, chair of the Committee on Sanitation and Solid Waste Management, said the contraceptives also are more ethical and humane than other methods.

The contraceptive, called ContraPest, is contained in salty, fatty pellets that are scattered in rat-infested areas as bait. It works by targeting ovarian function in female rats and disrupting sperm cell production in males, The New York Times reported.

New York exterminators currently kill rats using snap and glue traps, poisons that make them bleed internally, and carbon monoxide gas that can suffocate them in burrows. Some hobbyists have even trained their dogs to hunt them.

Rashad Edwards, a film and television actor who runs pest management company Scurry Inc. in New York City with his wife, said the best method he has found when dealing with rodents is carbon monoxide.

He tries to use the most humane method possible, and carbon monoxide euthanizes the rats slowly, putting them to sleep and killing them. Edwards avoids using rat poison whenever possible because it is dangerous and torturous to the rodents, he said.

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Some lawmakers in Albany are considering a statewide ban on glue boards under a bill moving through the Legislature. The traps, usually made from a slab of cardboard or plastic coated in a sticky material, can also ensnare small animals that land on its surface.

Edwards opposes a ban on sticky traps, because he uses them on other pests, such as ants, to reduce overall pesticide use. When ants get into a house, he uses sticky traps to figure out where they’re most often passing by. It helps him narrow zones of pesticide use “so that you don’t go spray the entire place.”

“This is not a problem we can kill our way out of,” said Jakob Shaw, a special project manager for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. “It’s time to embrace these more common sense and humane methods.”

Two cities in California have passed bans on glue traps in recent years. On the federal level, a bill currently in committee would ban the traps nationwide.

“It ends a really inhumane practice of managing rat populations,” said Jabari Brisport, the New York state senator who represents part of Brooklyn and sponsored the bill proposing the new guidelines. “There are more effective and more humane ways to deal with rats.”

Every generation of New Yorkers has struggled to control rat populations. Mayor Eric Adams hired a “rat czar” last year tasked with battling the detested rodents. Last month, New York City reduced the amount of food served up to rats by mandating all businesses to put trash out in boxes.

While the war on rats has no end in sight, the exterminator Edwards said we can learn a lot from their resilience. The rodents, he said, can never be eradicated, only managed.

“They’re very smart, and they’re very wise,” he said. “It’s very inspiring but just — not in my house.”

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Coachella: Earthquake shakes SoCal desert during music fest

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Coachella: Earthquake shakes SoCal desert during music fest

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (AP) — A small earthquake shook the Southern California desert Saturday near Coachella, where the famous music festival is being held this weekend. No damage or injuries were reported.

The quake, with a preliminary magnitude of 3.8, hit at 9:08 a.m. about 8 miles (13 kilometers) northeast of Borrego Springs in Riverside County, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The epicenter was about 20 miles (32 kilometers) southeast of Coachella. It struck at a depth of about 7 miles (11 kilometers), the USGS said.

A dispatcher with the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department said there were no calls reporting any problems from the quake.

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