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Air Force instructor pilot killed when ejection seat activated on the ground

WASHINGTON (AP) — An Air Force instructor pilot was killed when the ejection seat activated while the turboprop aircraft was still on the ground at a Texas military base, the Air Force said Tuesday.

The instructor pilot was in a T-6A Texan II at Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas, when the seat activated during ground operations on Monday. The pilot was taken to a hospital and died Tuesday, the Air Force said. The pilot’s name was being withheld pending notification of next of kin.

The T-6A Texan II is a single-engine two-seater aircraft that serves as a primary trainer for Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps pilots. In a training flight an instructor can sit in the front or back seat; both have lightweight Martin-Baker ejection seats that are activated by a handle on the seat.

In 2022, the T-6 fleet and hundreds of other Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps aircraft were grounded after inspections revealed a potential defect with one component of the ejection seat’s cartridge actuated devices, or CADs. The fleet was inspected and in some instances the CADs were replaced.

When activated the cartridge explodes and starts the ejection sequence.

Ejection seats have been credited with saving pilots’ lives, but they also have failed at critical moments in aircraft accidents. Investigators identified ejection seat failure as a partial cause of an F-16 crash that killed 1st Lt. David Schmitz, 32, in June 2020.

In 2018, four members of a B-1 bomber crew earned the Distinguished Flying Cross when, with their aircraft on fire, they discovered one of the four ejection seats was indicating failure. Instead of bailing out, all of the crew decided to remain in the burning aircraft and land it so they all would have the best chance of surviving. All of the crew survived.


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Dying ex-doctor serving life for murder may soon be free after a conditional pardon and 2-year wait

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — On paper, Vince Gilmer was granted freedom more than two years ago. Later this week, he may actually leave prison.

The former small-town North Carolina doctor and convicted murderer whose medical mystery captured widespread attention after being documented in a popular radio program and a book, was conditionally pardoned in January 2022. But because of the strict terms attached to the pardon and what his advocates describe as delay or indifference from government officials and health care institutions, he’s remained behind bars in a southwest Virginia prison as his health deteriorated.

Gilmer, 61, has Huntington’s disease, a rare, devastating and incurable disorder that attacks the brain and affects patients’ cognition and physical abilities. His diagnosis — unraveled after his conviction by the physician who took over his practice and oddly enough shares his last name — was the basis of the pardon, which was granted after many years of advocacy.

Vince Gilmer admitted to killing his father, whom he accused at trial of committing horrific acts of sexual abuse against him as a child, and he received a life sentence. Though no one claims Gilmer is innocent, his supporters argue that the outcome of his 2005 trial, where he insisted on representing himself and jurors rejected his insanity defense, would likely have been different if he had been properly diagnosed at the time. They argued that mercy, in the form of admission to a treatment center, was the more appropriate outcome.

With the help of a North Carolina lawmaker, Gilmer’s medical practice successor and now advocate and legal guardian, Dr. Benjamin Gilmer, has found a hospital willing to accept Vince Gilmer as a long-term patient, in line with the pardon terms. He received confirmation from Virginia officials that Vince Gilmer will be released Thursday, he said in an interview.

“It’s such a beautiful moment. But at the same time, we’re all stressed and anxious because, you know, you never know what could happen in between … the door to the prison,” Benjamin Gilmer said.

The Virginia Department of Corrections did not directly address a question about when Gilmer would be released but confirmed in a written statement that it was working through “logistics” to establish a release date “as soon as possible.”

Benjamin Gilmer, who granted a series of interviews to discuss the case, recently visited the Marion Correctional Treatment Center where Vince Gilmer is in custody, to share the news. The two men are not related.

“He had a moment of joy and expressed that as best he could. But it was a little anti-climactic in a way because he’s in such bad shape,” Benjamin Gilmer said.

Vince Gilmer is in the “terminal phases” of his illness, confined to a wheelchair and fairly close to being bedbound, struggling to eat, losing his cognitive abilities and at high risk for aspiration pneumonia, Benjamin Gilmer said.

The hospital setting will provide more robust treatment and allow Vince Gilmer to “experience a little bit of life and dignity,” including more regular visits from his mother, said Benjamin Gilmer, who has arranged secure transportation for the transfer.

“I’m praying I can get there and just hold him again,” said Vince Gilmer’s 80-year-old mother, Gloria Hitt.

Benjamin Gilmer wrote in his book, “The Other Dr. Gilmer,” that he became fascinated with Vince Gilmer’s case after he joined the family medicine clinic just outside of Asheville, where Vince Gilmer used to work. Patients and former colleagues described Vince Gilmer as a beloved community member and dedicated clinician who made house calls, remembered birthdays and cared for patients regardless of their ability to pay.

Benjamin Gilmer eventually wrote to Vince Gilmer and began the effort to try to square his reputation with the horrific crime for which he’d been convicted. His quest was documented by journalist Sarah Koenig, later the host of the wildly popular podcast “Serial,” on an episode of “This American Life” titled “Dr. Gilmer and Mr. Hyde.”

Vince Gilmer’s father, Dalton Gilmer, was found dead in southwest Virginia near the North Carolina border in 2004, shortly after Vince Gilmer checked him out of a psychiatric hospital. He had been strangled and his fingers were severed. Vince Gilmer claimed at trial that his father made a sexual advance toward him and he snapped at a time when he was also hearing voices, the Richmond Times-Dispatch previously reported, citing trial transcripts.

Two prosecutors involved in the trial could not be reached for comment. The judge who presided over it said through a spokeswoman at the firm where he now works that he is unable to comment on prior cases.

Benjamin Gilmer’s sleuthing eventually led to a Huntington’s diagnosis confirmed by lab work. He began to connect with lawyers and other advocates who would assemble a strategy to free Vince Gilmer from prison by pursuing a clemency petition.

Former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, denied the request. Then Gov. Ralph Northam, his Democratic successor, did too. But Northam, a physician, reconsidered and issued a conditional pardon on one of his final days in office. The terms said Vince Gilmer had to be accepted to a medical or psychiatric facility, remain on probation and parole as directed by the Virginia Parole Board and provide his own “secure” transportation.

Efforts got underway to find Vince Gilmer a placement. Benjamin Gilmer wrote that he unsuccessfully petitioned every Virginia public mental health hospital, as well as appropriate public mental health facilities in North Carolina, “but they required that Vince first be in a Virginia hospital for a state-to-state transfer. Vince was stuck in a bizarre no-man’s-land,” he wrote.

“Nobody cares that they have a man dying in their prison,” Benjamin Gilmer said in an interview before he’d received confirmation of a release date, adding that many private facilities were also reluctant to take in a convicted murderer.

Efforts by North Carolina state Sen. Julie Mayfield led to a breakthrough. Mayfield said in an interview she found a western North Carolina hospital that by mid-2023 had agreed to take Vince Gilmer.

If all goes according to plan, a welcome brigade along with a film crew working on a documentary about Vince Gilmer’s story plans to meet him Thursday in Marion, with a special meal in hand: a Coke, Twinkies and a Whopper.

Benjamin Gilmer said his advocacy for Vince Gilmer, which has now stretched over a decade, has convinced him that the United States incarcerates far too many mentally ill individuals in a way that’s “not compatible with ethics or humanity or the Hippocratic oath.”

“We haven’t had any trust in the Virginia carceral system over the years,” he said. “We’re not going to celebrate until Thursday.”


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Biden releasing 1 million barrels of gasoline from NE reserve in bid to lower prices at pump

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration said Tuesday it is releasing 1 million barrels of gasoline from a Northeast reserve established after Superstorm Sandy in a bid to lower prices at the pump this summer.

The sale, from storage sites in New Jersey and Maine, will be allocated in increments of 100,000 barrels at a time. The approach will create a competitive bidding process that ensures gasoline can flow into local retailers ahead of the July 4 holiday and sold at competitive prices, the Energy Department said.

The move, which the department said is intended to help “lower costs for American families and consumers,″ follows a mandate from Congress to sell off the 10-year-old Northeast reserve and then close it. The language was included in a spending deal Congress approved in March to avert a partial government shutdown.

The Energy Department said the sale was timed to provide relief for motorists as the summer driving season begins.

Gasoline prices average about $3.60 per gallon nationwide, up 6 cents from a year ago, according to AAA. Tapping gasoline reserves is one of the few actions a president can take by himself to try to control inflation, an election year liability for the party in control of the White House.

“The Biden-Harris administration is laser-focused on lowering prices at the pump for American families, especially as drivers hit the road for summer driving season,” Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said in a statement. “By strategically releasing this reserve in between Memorial Day and July 4th, we are ensuring sufficient supply flows to the tri-state and Northeast at a time hardworking Americans need it the most.”

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said release of gas from the Northeast reserve builds on actions by President Joe Biden, a Democrat, “to lower gas and energy costs — including historic releases from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and the largest-ever investment in clean energy.″

Biden significantly drained the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in 2022 following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, dropping the stockpile to its lowest level since the 1980s. The election year move helped stabilize gasoline prices that had been rising in the wake of the war in Europe but drew complaints from Republicans that the Democratic president was playing politics with a reserve meant for national emergencies.

The Biden administration has since begun refilling the oil reserve, which had more than 367 million barrels of crude oil as of last week. The total is lower than levels before the Russia-Ukraine war but still the world’s largest emergency crude oil supply.

The Northeast sale will require that fuel is transferred or delivered no later than June 30, the Energy Department said.

Congressional Republicans have long criticized the Northeast reserve, which was established by former President Barack Obama, saying any such stockpile should have been created by Congress. A 2022 report by the Government Accountability Office said the gasoline reserve, which has never been tapped, would provide minimal relief during a severe shortage. The reserve costs about $19 million a year to maintain.


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US FDIC needs ‘fresh start’ with new chair, White House official says

By Nandita Bose and Pete Schroeder

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The White House believes the U.S. Federal Deposit Insurance Corp needs a “fresh start” with a new chair who is not part of the leadership that presided over its long-running cultural problems, a White House official told Reuters on Tuesday.

The administration is “very conscious” of the tight Senate calendar and wants to put a nominee in front of the Senate Banking Committee, which oversees the FDIC, as soon as possible, said the official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

FDIC Chair Martin Gruenberg finally succumbed on Monday to a months-long scandal over sexual harassment and other misconduct at the agency, announcing that he would step down once the Senate has confirmed a successor. Gruenberg, a Democrat, had clung to his job since the scandal erupted in November, despite growing calls from Republicans and a handful of Democrats for his ouster.

A top U.S. bank regulator, the FDIC oversees lenders and insures Americans against the loss of their deposits. The agency faces a critical moment as regional banks remain under stress following last year’s turmoil, and as it finalizes capital hikes and other major new rules for Wall Street banks just six months ahead of the U.S. presidential election.

Under the law, the only way for the Democratic administration to replace Gruenberg without losing control of the agency to Republicans is to confirm a new pick, putting the White House under unusual pressure.

Many Washington analysts believe Gruenberg may struggle to hold onto his job much longer, as Republicans continue to pile pressure on President Joe Biden to fire him.

An damning independent review this month found widespread misconduct at the FDIC went unaddressed for years, and cited instances in which Gruenberg – who has spent nearly two decades in leadership at the agency – lost his temper with subordinates.

“I don’t know who they’re going to find who can get the number of votes quickly and even if they find the perfect person, I wonder if that perfect person would be interested,” said Isaac Boltansky, director of policy research for brokerage BTIG.

Gruenberg, 71, had been at the FDIC since 2005 and is the longest-serving FDIC board member in the agency’s 89-year history. During that time he served as its chair twice – once under President Barack Obama and the second time under Biden.

While Gruenberg was not found to be directly responsible for the broad cultural issues at the agency, he apologized for misconduct that emerged under his leadership and for his own transgressions.

Should he leave the agency without a confirmed replacement, leadership of the FDIC would fall to Travis Hill, the agency’s vice chair and a Republican who has voted against some of the proposed new rules. The agency would then be deadlocked 2-2.

Speaking to reporters earlier on Tuesday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said “the president is taking this very seriously.”

(Reporting by Nandita Bose and Pete Schroeder in Washington; Additional reporting by Douglas Gillison in WashingtonWriting by Michelle PriceEditing by Franklin Paul and Matthew Lewis)


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New York-Dublin video portal reopens with ‘bad behaviour’ fix

DUBLIN (Reuters) – A live video portal linking New York with Dublin has reopened after being fitted with sensors that organisers hope will block out inappropriate behaviour by passers-by – including exposing body parts – that led to its shut-down a week ago.

The Portal sculpture opened earlier this month linking a street in New York’s Flatiron district to central Dublin. A large circular screen at each location displays a live video feed from the other.

Within days of its opening, some late-night revellers in Dublin took to exposing body parts and holding up pornographic images to the camera. At least one New York woman exposed her breasts.

“There is only a handful of people that have misbehaved,” a programme manager for Dublin City Council Culture Company Nollaig Fahy told RTE radio. “Unfortunately, that’s going to happen in the public realm.”

In a bid to block “bad behaviour”, a system of sensors has been added to blur the portal at both ends if people get too close to the camera, Fahy said.

The portal, whose feed was restored on Monday, will operate with limited hours and with physical barriers at both locations to stop people from getting too close, Dublin City Council said in a statement.

(Writing by Dublin Bureau; Editing by Mark Potter)


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Connecticut’s top public defender could be fired as panel mulls punishment for alleged misconduct

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut’s top public defender could be fired on Tuesday, when an oversight panel is expected to decide a punishment for what it calls serious misconduct.

Chief Public Defender TaShun Bowden-Lewis faces 16 misconduct allegations. They range from making unfounded racism and discrimination allegations against people who disagree with her, to improperly accessing the emails of legal staff and the commission chairman when they were considering disciplining her.

Bowden-Lewis, the state’s first Black chief public defender who has held the post for less than two years, says she has been micromanaged and scrutinized more than her predecessors. She denies all of the misconduct allegations lodged against her by the Public Defender Services Commission.

The commission is scheduled to meet at the state Capitol complex late Tuesday afternoon and decide whether to oust Bowden-Lewis or take other action.

The meeting comes a month after the commission held a public hearing into potential discipline. Dozens of Bowden-Lewis’ supporters attended the meeting and said she should not be fired.

Bowden-Lewis has said the commission has unduly questioned the authority she has under state law and regulations as she sought to improve public defender services. She said she has aimed to create awareness about injustice and “shake the foundation of the criminal justice system” to include more diversity, equity and inclusion.

“This isn’t personal. This is all business,” she said at an April 25 commission meeting. “Therefore it is inconceivable to me that anyone believes that I have made any decision within this agency with impermissible intent, or with a desire to hurt, offend, or marginalize.”

She also noted her 30 years of service in the public defenders’ office and its clients.

The commission reprimanded Bowden-Lewis in October for alleged “inappropriate and unacceptable” conduct and placed her on paid administrative leave in February, the same day the public defenders’ union voted 121-9 to express no confidence in her leadership. The reprimand included nine directives to Bowden-Lewis, some of which she failed to follow, the panel said.

Bowden-Lewis is accused of refusing to acknowledge the commission’s authority and disregarding its directives. She is also accused of reprimanding her office’s legal counsel for no valid reason, in apparent retaliation for the counsel’s cooperation with the commission and disloyalty toward her. The reprimand against the counsel was later retracted by the commission.

In one of the first public signs of the acrimony between Bowden-Lewis and the commission, four of the panel’s five members resigned early last year after Bowden-Lewis made allegations of racism and threated a lawsuit over the commission’s rejection of her choice for human resources director, The Hartford Courant reported.

The public defenders’ office has more than 400 employees, including lawyers, investigators, social workers and other staff who serve lower-income people who cannot afford lawyers in criminal and other cases.


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Storms have dropped large hail, buckets of rain and tornados across the Midwest. And more is coming.

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Residents in Omaha, Nebraska, awoke to weather sirens blaring and widespread power outages early Tuesday morning as torrential rain, high winds and large hail pummeled the area and began moving east to threaten more of the Midwest.

More than 10,000 customers were without power in and around Omaha, and the deluge of more than 5 inches (12.7 centimeters) of rain in less than two hours saw basements flooded and cars submerged in low-lying areas.

Television station KETV showed video of several vehicles overtaken by rushing water on a low-lying street in north-central Omaha and firefighters arriving to rescue people inside.

While officials had not confirmed tornadoes in the area, there were confirmed reports of hurricane-force winds, said National Weather Service meteorologist Becky Kern.

“We have a 90 mph (145 kph) gust measured at Columbus,” Kern said. Columbus is about 87 miles (140 kilometers) west of Omaha.

Iowa was in the storms’ crosshairs, with the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center giving most of the state a high chance of seeing severe thunderstorms with the potential for strong tornadoes later in the afternoon and into the evening.

The storms follow days of extreme weather that have ravaged much of the middle section of the country. Strong winds, large hail and tornadoes swept parts of Oklahoma and Kansas late Sunday damaging homes and injuring two in Oklahoma. Another round of storms Monday night raked Colorado and western Nebraska and saw the city of Yuma, Colorado, blanketed in hail, turning streets into rivers of water and ice.

Last week, deadly storms hit the Houston area in Texas, killing at least seven. Those storms Thursday knocked out power to hundreds of thousands for days, leaving those Texans in the dark and without air conditioning during hot and humid weather, and the hurricane-force winds reduced businesses and other structures to debris and shattered glass in downtown skyscrapers.

The storms continued their march across the Midwest on Tuesday and were expected to bring much of the same high winds, heavy rain and large hail to Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois and part of northern Missouri, said Bob Oravec, lead forecaster with the National Weather Service.

“The best chance of severe weather is going to be large hail and high wind, but there’s also a lesser chance of tornadoes,” Oravec said.

He said the system is expected to turn south on Wednesday, bring more severe weather to parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and southern Missouri.


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Gov. Moore celebrates ship’s removal, but says he won’t be satisfied until Key Bridge stands again

BALTIMORE (AP) — Maryland Gov. Wes Moore celebrated the removal of a hulking container ship just under eight weeks after the deadly collapse of a Baltimore bridge, but emphasized Tuesday that the work is not done.

“I’m very moved by the fact that I can now look out over the Patapsco River and not see the Dali anymore. It’s a beautiful sight,” Moore said during a news conference, gesturing to the collapse site behind him. “But I will not be satisfied until I can look over the same site and see the Francis Scott Key Bridge standing again. That’s mission completion.”

Tugboats escorted the damaged Dali back to the Port of Baltimore on Monday, nearly two months after the ship lost power and crashed into one of the bridge’s supporting columns, killing six construction workers and halting most maritime traffic through the port. Crews have already cleared thousands of tons of mangled steel from the water.

The Dali experienced electrical blackouts about 10 hours before leaving the port on its way to Sri Lanka and yet again shortly before it slammed into the bridge, investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board said in their preliminary report. The FBI has launched a criminal investigation into the circumstances leading up to the crash.

More than 500 commercial vessels have already moved through alternate channels to the Port of Baltimore in recent weeks, but on Tuesday a 400-foot-wide (120-meter-wide) channel with a depth of 50 feet (15 meters) will open to 24/7 operations, U.S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral Shannon Gilreath said. Officials are aiming to reach a width of 700 feet (213 meters) by the end of the month, he said. Work will continue to remove the rest of the debris beneath the water in the channel, he said.

Moore thanked members of the Unified Command, noting that it was not preordained that they would be able to move so quickly and safely, recover all six victims’ bodies and swiftly launch support programs.

“These milestones did not just happen,” Moore said. “Change does not just happen. Change is made to happen. And this team made it happen.”


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Book Review: ‘Ascent to Power’ studies how Harry Truman overcame lack of preparation in transition

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Harry Truman’s ascension to the presidency after Franklin Roosevelt’s death was a rocky one, and it came at a pivotal time in the nation’s history.

Once a senator who complained that the 32nd president treated him like “an office boy,” Truman left the White House in 1953 as one of the most accomplished presidents. Those events are the focus of David L. Roll’s “Ascent to Power: How Truman Emerged from Roosevelt’s Shadow and Remade the World.”

Roll’s book is an essential read for those who want to understand a presidency that, as he puts it, “spawned the most consequential and productive events since the Civil War.”

The book begins during the final months of Roosevelt’s time in office, chronicling his failing health and decision to choose Truman as his running mate in the 1944 election. Through meticulous research, Roll illustrates how Truman overcame a lack of preparation to lead the country through the end of World War II and shepherd in a host of domestic and foreign policy reforms.

The liveliest moments of the book come, fittingly, from the time Truman emerges from under Roosevelt’s shadow during his bid for his first full term in the 1948 election.

Roll portrays Truman as a master at populist campaigning who was able to close the gap with Thomas Dewey by focusing on workers, veterans, farmers and Black voters. But he also credits figures like adviser Clark Clifford, as Truman ran against the Republican Party’s record in Congress rather than his opponent.

Roll’s meticulous research and ability to balance multiple voices throughout provides readers with an illuminating portrait of Truman’s rise to the presidency and his time in the office.

___

AP book reviews: https://apnews.com/hub/book-reviews


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Blinken says he’ll work with US Congress to respond to ICC move on Gaza

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday said the Biden administration would be happy to work with Congress to formulate an appropriate response to the International Criminal Court prosecutor seeking to issue arrest warrants on Israeli leaders over the Gaza war.

Speaking at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, Blinken called the move “a profoundly wrong-headed” decision which would complicate the prospects of reaching a hostage deal and a ceasefire in Israel’s conflict with the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

ICC prosecutor Karim Khan said on Monday he had reasonable grounds to believe that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s defense chief and three Hamas leaders “bear criminal responsibility” for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity.”

Washington roundly criticized Khan’s announcement, arguing the court does not have jurisdiction over the Gaza conflict and raising concerns over process.

The United States is not a member of the court, but has supported past prosecutions, including the ICC’s decision last year to issue an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin over the war in Ukraine.

“We’ll be happy to work with Congress, with this committee, on an appropriate response” to the ICC move, Blinken said on Tuesday.

He did not say what a response to the ICC move might include.

Republican members of Congress have threatened legislation to impose sanctions on the ICC, but a measure cannot become law without support from President Joe Biden and his fellow Democrats, who control the Senate.

In 2020, then-President Donald Trump’s administration accused the ICC of infringing on U.S. national sovereignty when it authorized an investigation into war crimes committed in Afghanistan. The U.S. targeted court staff, including then-prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, with asset freezes and travel bans.

(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk, Patricia Zengerle and Simon Lewis; editing by Jonathan Oatis)


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