AP News in Brief at 12:04 am EST

Ukraine: Zelenskyy seeks more sanctions, fighting grinds on

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KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Fighting is grinding on in Ukraine after the country marked the anniversary of Russia’s invasion, with Ukrainian authorities on Saturday reporting dozens of new Russian strikes and attacks on cities in the east and south.

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After a somber and defiant day of commemorations on Friday and a marathon news conference, Ukraine’s seemingly indefatigable president followed up with new video posts a day later in which he declared that “Russia must lose in Ukraine” and argued that its forces can be defeated this year.

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In a separate tweet, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy also pushed for more sanctions pressure on Russia after the U.K., U.S. and the European Union all announced new measures aimed at further choking off funding and support for Moscow.

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“The pressure on Russian aggressor must increase,” Zelenskyy tweeted in English.

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He said Ukraine wants to see “decisive steps” against Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom and the Russian nuclear industry as well as “more pressure on military and banking.”

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Justice Thomas wrote of ‘crushing weight’ of student loans

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court won’t have far to look if it wants a personal take on the “crushing weight” of student debt that underlies the Biden administration’s college loan forgiveness plan.

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Justice Clarence Thomas was in his mid-40s and in his third year on the nation’s highest court when he paid off the last of his debt from his time at Yale Law School.

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Thomas, the court’s longest-serving justice and staunchest conservative, has been skeptical of other Biden administration initiatives. And when the Supreme Court hears arguments Tuesday involving President Joe Biden’s debt relief plan that would wipe away up to $20,000 in outstanding student loans, Thomas is not likely to be a vote in the administration’s favor.

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But the justices’ own experiences can be relevant in how they approach a case, and alone among them, Thomas has written about the role student loans played in his financial struggles.

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A fellow law school student even suggested Thomas declare bankruptcy after graduating “to get out from under the crushing weight of all my student loans,” the justice wrote in his best-selling 2007 memoir, “My Grandfather’s Son.” He rejected the idea.

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Rights to ‘Crying Indian’ ad to go to Native American group

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Since its debut in 1971, an anti-pollution ad showing a man in Native American attire shed a single tear at the sight of smokestacks and litter taking over a once unblemished landscape has become an indelible piece of TV pop culture.

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It’s been referenced over the decades since on shows like “The Simpsons” and “South Park” and in internet memes. But now a Native American advocacy group that was given the rights to the long-parodied public service announcement is retiring it, saying it has always been inappropriate.

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The so-called “Crying Indian” with his buckskins and long braids made the late actor Iron Eyes Cody a recognizable face in households nationwide. But to many Native Americans, the public service announcement has been a painful reminder of the enduring stereotypes they face.

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The nonprofit that originally commissioned the advertisement, Keep America Beautiful, had long been considering how to retire the ad and announced this week that it’s doing so by transferring ownership of the rights to the National Congress of American Indians.

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“Keep America Beautiful wanted to be careful and deliberate about how we transitioned this iconic advertisement/public service announcement to appropriate owners,” Noah Ullman, a spokesperson for the nonprofit, said via e-mail. “We spoke to several Indigenous peoples’ organizations and were pleased to identify the National Congress of American Indians as a potential caretaker.”

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EPA orders ‘pause’ of derailment contaminated waste removal

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EAST PALESTINE, Ohio (AP) — Federal environmental authorities have ordered a temporary halt in the shipment of contaminated waste from the site of a fiery train derailment earlier this month in eastern Ohio near the Pennsylvania state line.

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Region 5 administrator Debra Shore of the Environmental Protection Agency said Saturday the agency ordered Norfolk Southern to “pause” shipments from the site of the Feb. 3 derailment in East Palestine but vowed that removal of the material would resume “very soon.”

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“Everyone wants this contamination gone from the community. They don’t want the worry, and they don’t want the smell, and we owe it to the people of East Palestine to move it out of the community as quickly as possible,” Shore said.

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Until Friday, Shore said, the rail company had been solely responsible for the disposal of the waste and supplied Ohio environmental officials with a list of selected and utilized disposal sites. Going forward, disposal plans including locations and transportation routes for contaminated waste will be subject to EPA review and approval, she said.

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“EPA will ensure that all waste is disposed of in a safe and lawful manner at EPA-certified facilities to prevent further release of hazardous substances and impacts to communities,” Shore said. She said officials had heard concerns from residents and others in a number of states and were reviewing “the transport of some of this waste over long distances and finding the appropriate permitted and certified sites to take the waste.”

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Los Angeles area still blanketed by snow in rare heavy storm

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — A powerful winter storm that swept down the West Coast with flooding and frigid temperatures shifted its focus to southern California on Saturday, swelling rivers to dangerous levels and dropping snow in even low-lying areas around Los Angeles.

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The National Weather Service said it was one of the strongest storms to ever hit southwest California and even as the volume of wind and rain dropped, it continued to have significant impact including snowfall down to elevations as low as 1,000 feet (305 meters). Hills around suburban Santa Clarita, north of Los Angeles, were blanketed in white, and snow also surprised inland suburbs to the east.

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Rare blizzard warnings for the mountains and widespread flood watches were ending late in the day as the storm tapered off in the region. Forecasters said there would be a one-day respite before the next storm arrives on Monday.

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After days of fierce winds, toppled trees and downed wires, more than 120,000 California utility customers remained without electricity, according to PowerOutage.us. And Interstate 5, the West Coast’s major north-south highway, remained closed due to heavy snow and ice in Tejon Pass through the mountains north of Los Angeles.

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Multiday precipitation totals as of Saturday morning included a staggering 81 inches (205 centimeters) of snow at the Mountain High resort in the San Gabriel Mountains northeast of Los Angeles and up to 64 inches (160 centimeters) farther east at Snow Valley in the San Bernardino Mountains.

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Bills would let transgender people seal name-change requests

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SEATTLE (AP) — You can change your name, but in many states you can’t completely shed your old one — something that’s of particular concern to transgender people and that legislators in at least two states are trying to change.

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A bill in Washington would allow gender expression and identity as reasons to seal, or keep out of the public record, a future petition for a name change. And a California bill would require the sealing of petitions by minors to change their name and gender on identity documents.

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In states where such petitions aren’t sealed, transgender people can be susceptible to cyberbullying or even physical violence because their previous names, and by extension their lives, are an open book in the public record, advocates warn. Students, for instance, can and do easily find and share such records when they are looking for background on a new kid in town, one advocate noted.

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Maia Xiao, a University of Washington graduate student, has changed her name in that state and said the publication of a transgender friend’s name-change records in an online forum led to relentless harassment, including hate mail. She wrote last summer to Democratic state Sen. Jamie Pedersen to urge reform.

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“It feels very close to me,” said Xiao, who would not disclose the name of her friend, citing privacy. “I don’t live a very online life, but it’s really scary to know that something so personal can be so easily accessed by transphobic trolls who want to cause harm.”

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5 dead, including patient, in medical flight crash in Nevada

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STAGECOACH, Nev. (AP) — All five people aboard a medical transport flight, including a patient, were killed in a plane crash Friday night in a mountainous area in northern Nevada.

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The Lyon County Sheriff’s office said authorities began receiving calls about the crash near Stagecoach, Nevada, around 9:15 p.m. and found the wreckage two hours later. Stagecoach, a rural community home to around 2,500 residents, is about 45 miles (72 kilometers) southeast of Reno.

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Care Flight, which provides ambulance service by plane and helicopter, said the dead included the pilot, a flight nurse, a flight paramedic, a patient and a patient’s family member.

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Barry Duplantis, president and CEO of the company, said Saturday afternoon that relatives of all five victims had been notified, the Reno Gazette Journal reported. “We send our deepest condolences to their families,” Duplantis said.

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The crash occurred amid a winter storm warning issued by the National Weather Service in Reno for large swaths of Nevada, including parts of Lyon County.

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Inadequate investigation? Takeaways at Murdaugh murder trial

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Investigators like to say the crime scene at a killing tells the story even if no one else does.

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In the double murder trial of disgraced South Carolina attorney Alex Murdaugh, his defense lawyers want jurors to believe the crime scene can’t tell them much about the deaths of his wife and son because state agents did a poor job investigating.

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Murdaugh, 54, is accused of killing his wife, Maggie, 52, and their 22-year-old son, Paul, at kennels near their home on June 7, 2021, as the once-prominent attorney’s career and finances were crumbling. Murdaugh has denied any role in the fatal shootings. He faces 30 years to life if convicted.

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Here are some key takeaways from the 61 prosecution and 11 defense witnesses called so far in the five-week trial, including Murdaugh himself.

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CRIME SCENE PROBLEMS

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Conley’s pitch clock violation leaves Braves-Red Sox tied

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Cal Conley of the Atlanta Braves thought he had just won the game with a two-out, full-count, bases-loaded walk-off walk on Saturday. He took a few steps toward first base, bat still in hand, when umpire John Libka jumped out from behind the plate and indicated strike three.

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Game over. Conley, apparently thinking he had been awarded an automatic ball four, couldn’t believe it. He pointed to himself and said, “Me?” His teammates couldn’t believe it, either. Fans booed.

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Welcome to 2023, where baseball’s new rules designed to improve pace of play are coming fast at everyone, particularly the players.

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The most dramatic moment of the new pitch clock era arrived on the first full day of spring games, and in the most dramatic scenario possible. Conley, facing reliever Robert Kwiatkowski of the Boston Red Sox, wasn’t set in the box and alert to the pitcher as the clock wound under eight seconds.

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The penalty is an automatic strike, which led to the game at North Port, Florida, finishing in a 6-6 tie. Kwiatkowski got the strikeout after throwing only two real strikes.

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AP-Week in Pictures: Global / Feb. 18-24, 2023

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Feb. 18-24, 2023

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From people marking the one-year anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, to carnival celebrations in Brazil, Spain and Lithuania, this photo gallery highlights some of the most compelling images from around the world made or published by The Associated Press in the past week.

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The selection was curated by AP photo editor Anita Baca in Mexico City.

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