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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration announced Monday that it will expand flights to Cuba and lift Donald Trump-era restrictions on remittances that immigrants can send to people on the island.

The State Department said in a statement that it will remove the current $1,000-per-quarter limit on family remittances and will allow non-family remittances, which will support independent Cuban entrepreneurs. The U.S. will also allow scheduled and charter flights to locations beyond Havana, according to the State Department.

“With these actions, we aim to support Cubans’ aspirations for freedom and for greater economic opportunities so that they can lead successful lives at home,” the State Department added. “We continue to call on the Cuban government to immediately release political prisoners, to respect the Cuban people’s fundamental freedoms and to allow the Cuban people to determine their own futures.”

The policy changes come after a review that began soon after a series of widespread protests on the island last July.


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Federal prosecutors on Monday recommended a prison sentence of more than two months for a Virginia man who stormed the U.S. Capitol wearing a “Camp Auschwitz” sweatshirt.

Photographs of Robert Keith Packer wearing the sweatshirt with the antisemitic message went viral after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. When FBI agents asked him why he wore the sweatshirt, he “fatuously” replied “because I was cold,” prosecutors said in their sentencing memo.

“Without expressing any remorse for being part of the rioting that day, Packer continually said it was ‘hard to tell’ which side people were on,” prosecutors wrote.

More than 100 police officers were injured when a mob of Donald Trump supporters attacked the Capitol while Congress was holding a joint session to certify President Joe Biden’s 2020 electoral victory.

U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols is scheduled to sentence Packer on May 23. He faces a maximum sentence of six months imprisonment after pleading guilty in January to a misdemeanor count of parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building.

Prosecutors asked Nichols to sentence Packer to 75 days of incarceration followed by three years of probation and 60 hours of community service.

The words “Camp Auschwitz” were above an image of a human skull on Packer’s sweatshirt. It also bore the phrase “Work Brings Freedom,” a rough translation of the German words above the entrance gate to Auschwitz, the concentration camp in Poland where Nazis killed more than 1 million men, women and children.

Packer, 57, of Newport News, Virginia, is a self-employed pipe fitter and a nonlicensed plumber. Prosecutors say he has a lengthy criminal record, with approximately 21 convictions, mostly for drunken driving and other motor vehicle violations.

Packer told the FBI that he was about 10 to 12 feet away from a rioter, Ashli Babbitt, when a police officer fatally shot her.

“He told the agents he heard the shot and saw her fall back from the window she was trying to climb through,” prosecutors wrote.

FBI agents arrested Packer a week after the riot. He has remained free pending his sentencing hearing.

Packer was evasive and minimized his actions when FBI agents interviewed him, according to prosecutors.

“He was more interested in relaying how he received hate mail and how he was ‘hounded’ by the media for interviews,” they wrote.

More than 790 people have been charged with federal crimes related to the Capitol riot. Nearly 300 of them have pleaded guilty, mostly to misdemeanors. Over 170 of them have been sentenced.

Three months is the longest prison sentence so far among rioters who have pleaded guilty to misdemeanors, according to an Associated Press review of court records. More than a dozen defendants who pleaded guilty to riot-related felonies have been sentenced to prison terms ranging from six months to five years and three months.


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SAN DIEGO (AP) — U.S. authorities on Monday announced the discovery of an underground smuggling tunnel on Mexico’s border, running the length of a football field on U.S. soil to a warehouse in an industrial area.

Investigators discovered the tunnel last week about half a mile (0.8 km) from the Otay Mesa border crossing between Tijuana and San Diego, in an area where more than a dozen others have been discovered in the past two decades.

After staking out a home that had recently been used as drug stash house, agents began making traffic stops of vehicles that had been there or at a warehouse near the border, turning up boxes full of cocaine, according to a federal criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in San Diego.

They raided the properties — finding no other drugs at the warehouse, but a tunnel opening carved into the cement floor, federal prosecutors said.

Like many such tunnels, it had reinforced walls, electricity, ventilation and a rail system. It ran one-third of a mile (532 m) to Tijuana. It was 4 feet (1.2 m) in diameter and about six stories deep.

Agents seized 1,762 pounds (799 kg) of cocaine, 165 pounds (75 kg) of meth and 3.5 pounds (1.6 kg) of heroin from the vehicles and the residence, and they arrested six people on federal drug conspiracy charges.

The cross-border tunnel was built in one of the most fortified stretches of the border, illustrating the limitations of former President Donald Trump’s border wall. While considered effective against small, crudely built tunnels called “gopher holes,” walls are no match for more sophisticated passages that run deeper underground.

Authorities have found about 15 sophisticated tunnels on California’s border with Mexico since 2006.

Many tunnels, including the one announced Monday, are in San Diego’s Otay Mesa industrial area, where clay-like soil is conducive to digging and warehouses provide cover.

The cross-border passages date back to the early 1990s and have been used primarily to smuggle multi-ton loads of marijuana. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration said in 2020 that they are generally found in California and Arizona and associated with Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel.

By federal law, U.S. authorities must fill the U.S. side of tunnels with concrete after they are discovered.


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