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Hunter Biden to Plea Guilty To Illegal Weapons Charge & Tax Evasion

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Pride and pain for Biden as his son Hunter reaches a plea deal after 5 years of investigation

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden had just six words to offer after his 53-year-old son Hunter pleaded guilty to federal tax offenses in a deal that is also likely to spare him time behind bars on a weapons charge.

“I’m very proud of my son,” he said.

That pride has been accompanied by pain, and for the president’s family, both have been on public display. Republicans have worked to use Hunter Biden’s actions — and his acknowledged struggle with addiction — as an anchor to try to drag down his father.

As a parent, Joe Biden has tried to keep his son close; they speak almost every day. Hunter was at his father’s side on a recent trip to Ireland, on the lawn of the White House with other family members for the Easter egg roll and in the bleachers with his mom and dad as his daughter graduated from college last month.

But out of public view, a five-year criminal investigation was coming to a conclusion, with a plea deal announced Tuesday that resolves the probe into the taxes and foreign business dealings of the president’s second son. The agreement with the Justice Department means Hunter Biden will plead guilty to a misdemeanor tax offense, and he’ll avoid a more serious felony charge of illegally possessing a firearm as a drug user, as long as he adheres to conditions agreed to in court.

As a president, Joe Biden has made of point of keeping his distance from the federal investigation into his son’s dealings.

The most fatherly of things he could do — advise a son going through a hard time — isn’t exactly available for a man whose administration commands the office that was investigating his son and his political rival simultaneously.

“President Biden has always impressed me as someone who puts his family first,” said Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware, a close friend of the family. “In this case involving Hunter Biden, he has drawn a clear line. He has not been involved in or interfered in the Department of Justice in their five-year-long investigation, which is now coming to a close. I can only imagine the relief they may feel in being able to move forward.”

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But Republicans are hardly satisfied with the outcome, particularly as the Justice Department indicted former President Donald Trump in an unrelated case where he is accused of mishandling classified documents. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., compared the outcome of Hunter Biden’s case to the Trump documents case now heading toward federal court and said, “If you are the president’s son, you get a sweetheart deal.”

Though Hunter Biden is a private citizen, he factors heavily into notable political moments over the past five years: surfacing as a central character in the first impeachment case against Trump, who tried to get Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelenskyy to announce an investigation into the younger Biden related to his position on the board of a Ukrainian gas company.

Hunter Biden had joined the board in 2014, around the time his father, then Barack Obama’s vice president, was helping conduct U.S. foreign policy with Ukraine. Trump and his allies have long argued, without evidence, that Hunter Biden’s work in Ukraine influenced the Obama administration’s policies toward the East European nation.

Hunter Biden’s descent into drugs and alcohol following the 2015 death of his brother Beau Biden from cancer led to some troubling decisions and interventions that Republicans have seized on as proof of his shady tactics, but he also doesn’t always help himself.

In 2020, the contents of a laptop that he’d left at a Delaware repair shop and never retrieved made their way to Republicans and were publicly leaked, revealing personal messages about his work and his life.

Addiction is still very much seen as a moral failing instead of a disease, said Patrick Kennedy, a former congressman who is now a leading voice on mental health and addiction, was himself an addict and also the son of a famous lawmaker, the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass.

Kennedy said Biden could use this as a teachable moment for the nation to shift how addiction is viewed, even if Hunter is being used as a tool to attack his father.

“The benefit of this president is that his policies are the most progressive of any president to date in terms of treating them as the medical issues they are,” Kennedy said. “In a sense, he is like my father was, from an old school. They kept this under wraps, it was shameful. They didn’t talk about it. But you know, to his credit, his policies reflect an enlightened approach.”

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said of Hunter Biden’s situation that he “felt very sorry for him and for his family. I respect the president for saying he loves his son. That’s a good thing even if your son does embarrassing things.”

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There were questions as well about a White House arrangement in the early days of Biden’s presidency that allowed Hunter to sell his artwork without knowing the identity of the purchaser. Officials said it would avoid any potential ethical entanglements with the sales but Republicans have raised questions and are seeking an interview with the gallery owner.

Hunter Biden also has been tangled up in an ongoing child support dispute in Arkansas after a DNA test proved he was the father of a now 4-year-old. The Biden family hasn’t publicly acknowledged the child, and Hunter Biden initially objected to an effort by the woman to change the girl’s last name to Biden.

His recent trip to Ireland with his dad came up in court testimony when his lawyers said Hunter slept on a cot in his dad’s hotel room, part of an accounting of how he had been spending money.

And still, photos of Hunter Biden in the throes of addiction routinely circulate online. Biden said in his memoir he can shrug them off because he’s come out the other end thanks to the support of his family.

“I come from a family forged by tragedies and bound by a remarkable, unbreakable love,” he wrote in his 2021 memoir “Beautiful Things.”

In many ways the same could be said of President Biden’s political career, which was nearly cut short after the death of his wife and daughter in 1972 just days before Biden was sworn in to the Senate at age 30.

Sons Beau and Hunter, who were just about to turn 4 and 3 at the time, were seriously injured. The two brothers spent months together in the hospital, a bond that Hunter wrote was unbreakable. Even if they argued later in life, he wrote, they’d always close with an “I love you.”

Beau was the one who sought public life, a decorated Iraq war veteran and Delaware attorney general. The president has said many times that it should have been Beau on the stage as president rather than himself.

Hunter said he was content to have it be Beau in the spotlight. But when his brother died, Hunter came unglued. At one point, he wrote, he was living in a motel completely removed from his family in a haze of drug use.

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“Dad saved me,” he wrote. “Left on my own, I’m certain I would not have survived.”

___ Associated Press writers Zeke Miller, Kevin Freking and Lisa Mascaro contributed to this report.

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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.

___

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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