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AP News in Brief at 11:04 p.m. EDT

Israeli airstrikes surge in Gaza, killing dozens at a time in destroyed homes, witnesses say RAFAH, Gaza Strip (AP) — Israel escalated airstrikes across the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, crushing families in the rubble of residential buildings, as health of

Israeli airstrikes surge in Gaza, killing dozens at a time in destroyed homes, witnesses say

RAFAH, Gaza Strip (AP) — Israel escalated airstrikes across the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, crushing families in the rubble of residential buildings, as health officials said hundreds of Palestinians were killed in the past day and medical facilities were shut down because of bomb damage and lack of power.

The soaring death toll from the bombardment is unprecedented in the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It augurs an even greater loss of life in Gaza once Israeli forces backed by tanks and artillery launch an expected ground offensive aimed at crushing Hamas militants.

Gaza’s 2.3 million people have been running out of food, water and medicine since Israel sealed off the territory following the devastating Oct. 7 attack by Hamas on towns in southern Israel.

The Gaza Health Ministry, which is run by Hamas, said Israeli airstrikes killed at least 704 people over the past day, mostly women and children. The Associated Press could not independently verify the death tolls cited by Hamas, which says it tallies figures from hospital directors.

In Washington, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters that the U.S. also could not verify that one-day death toll.


US developing contingency plans to evacuate Americans from Mideast in case Israel-Hamas war spreads

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House said Tuesday that “prudent contingency planning” is underway to evacuate Americans from the Middle East in case the Israel-Hamas war spreads into a broad regional conflict.

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby stressed there are currently no “active efforts” to evacuate Americans from the region beyond charter flights the U.S government began operating earlier this month out of Israel.

“It would be imprudent and irresponsible if we didn’t have folks thinking through a broad range of contingencies and possibilities,” Kirby said. “And certainly evacuations are one of those things.”

The White House addressed the contingency plans amid growing concerns that the 18-day-old Israel-Hamas war could further escalate. The U.S. has advised Israel that postponing a possible ground invasion of Gaza could be helpful as the U.S. and other partners in the region try to secure the release of more than 200 hostages who were captured in the Oct. 7 attack on Hamas soil. The contingency planning was first reported by The Washington Post.

“The Israelis are making their own decisions,” Biden said Tuesday night when asked whether he has asked Israel to hold off on its expected ground offensive.


Republicans nominate Mike Johnson for House speaker after Emmer's withdrawal, desperate to end chaos

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans chose Rep. Mike Johnson as their latest nominee for House speaker late Tuesday, hours after an earlier pick, Rep. Tom Emmer, abruptly withdrew in the face of opposition from Donald Trump and hardline GOP lawmakers.

Johnson of Louisiana, a lower-ranked member of the House GOP leadership team, becomes the fourth Republican nominee after Emmer and the others fell short in what has become an almost absurd cycle of political infighting since Kevin McCarthy's ouster as GOP factions jockey for power.

Refusing to unify, far-right members won’t accept a more traditional speaker and moderate conservatives don’t want a hardliner. During private balloting, Johnson won a majority, but ahead of an expected House floor vote Wednesday the nominee will need almost all Republicans to win the gavel.

“Mike! Mike! Mike!” lawmakers chanted at a press conference afterward, surrounding Johnson and posing for selfies in a show of support.

Three weeks on, the Republicans have been frittering away their majority status — a maddening embarrassment to some, democracy in action to others, but not at all how the House is expected to function.


Off-duty pilot said 'I'm not OK' before trying to cut engines midflight, charging documents say

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — An off-duty airline pilot riding in an extra cockpit seat on a Horizon Air flight said “I’m not OK” just before trying to cut the engines midflight and later told police he had been struggling with depression, according to charging documents made public Tuesday.

State prosecutors in Oregon filed 83 counts of attempted murder against Alaska Airlines pilot Joseph David Emerson, 44, on Tuesday just before he appeared in court, with his attorney, Noah Horst, entering not guilty pleas on his behalf. Federal prosecutors meanwhile charged Emerson with interfering with a flight crew, which can carry up to 20 years in prison.

According to a probable cause statement filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court, Emerson told Port of Portland police following his arrest that he had been struggling with depression, that a friend had recently died and that he had taken psychedelic mushrooms about 48 hours before he attempted to cut the engines. He also said he had not slept in more than 40 hours, according to the document.

Police reported that Emerson did not appear to be intoxicated at the time of the interview, and in a statement Tuesday, Alaska Airlines, which owns Horizon, said neither the gate agents nor flight crew noticed any signs of impairment that might have barred him from the flight. An FBI agent wrote in a probable cause affidavit in support of the federal charge that Emerson “said it was his first-time taking mushrooms.”

While psilocybin is illegal in most of the country — Oregon legalized it for adults this year — the Food and Drug Administration in 2018 designated it a “breakthrough therapy” that might be used for mental health conditions or substance use disorders.


Jenna Ellis becomes latest Trump lawyer to plead guilty over efforts to overturn Georgia's election

ATLANTA (AP) — Attorney and prominent conservative media figure Jenna Ellis pleaded guilty Tuesday to a felony charge over efforts to overturn Donald Trump’s 2020 election loss in Georgia, tearfully telling the judge she looks back on that time with “deep remorse.”

Ellis, the fourth defendant in the case to enter into a plea deal with prosecutors, was a vocal part of Trump's reelection campaign in the last presidential cycle and was charged alongside the Republican former president and 17 others with violating the state’s anti-racketeering law.

Ellis pleaded guilty to one felony count of aiding and abetting false statements and writings. She had been facing charges of violating Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, known as RICO, and soliciting the violation of oath by a public officer, both felonies.

She rose to speak after pleading guilty, fighting back tears as she said she would not have represented Trump after the 2020 election if she knew then what she knows now, claiming that she relied on lawyers with much more experience than her and failed to verify the things they told her.

“What I did not do but should have done, Your Honor, was to make sure that the facts the other lawyers alleged to be true were in fact true,” the 38-year-old Ellis said.


Hurricane Otis rapidly grows into Category 4 storm off Mexico's Pacific coast heading for Acapulco

ACAPULCO, Mexico (AP) — Hurricane Otis strengthened from a tropical storm to a dangerous Category 4 hurricane in a matter of hours Tuesday as it approached Mexico’s southern Pacific coast, where it was forecast to make landfall near the resort of Acapulco early Wednesday possibly as a catastrophic Category 5 storm.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Otis has maximum sustained winds of 145 mph (230 kph) early Tuesday evening. It was centered about 85 miles (135 kilometers) south-southeast of Acapulco and moving north-northwest at 8 mph (13 kph).

The center warned that Otis would continue strengthening and could become a Category 5 hurricane with top winds above 157 mph (253 kph) before making landfall. A hurricane warning was in effect from Punta Maldonado to Zihuatanejo.

In Acapulco, people hurried home as rain began to pelt the resort and winds picked up, driving tourists from the beach.

The Guerrero state government said it was preparing 396 shelters in anticipation of families being driven from their homes by wind damage or surging waters.


In court faceoff, Michael Cohen testifies against Trump in fraud trial. Trump shrugs: 'Proven liar'

NEW YORK (AP) — In a courtroom showdown five years in the making, Donald Trump's fixer-turned-foe Michael Cohen testified Tuesday that he worked to boost the supposed value of the former president's assets to “whatever number Trump told us to."

Trump's lawyers — and outside court, Trump himself — by turn sought to portray Cohen as a serial deceiver who pleaded guilty to crimes that include tax evasion and telling falsehoods to Congress and a bank. During a fractious cross-examination, Cohen, a disbarred attorney, even floated his own lawyerly objections, responding to some queries with “asked and answered!”

It was a fraught face-to-face encounter between Trump and a man who once pledged to “take a bullet” for him. Cohen eventually ended up in prison and became a prominent witness against his former boss in venues from courthouses to Congress.

Now, Cohen is a key figure in New York Attorney General Letitia James’ lawsuit alleging that Trump and his company duped banks, insurers and others by giving them financial statements that inflated his wealth.

“I was tasked by Mr. Trump to increase the total assets, based upon a number that he arbitrarily elected,” Cohen testified, saying that he and former Trump finance chief Allen Weisselberg labored “to reverse-engineer the various different asset classes, increase those assets, in order to achieve a number that Mr. Trump had tasked us.”


States sue Meta claiming its social platforms are addictive and harm children's mental health

Dozens of U.S. states, including California and New York, are suing Meta Platforms Inc. for harming young people and contributing to the youth mental health crisis by knowingly and deliberately designing features on Instagram and Facebook that addict children to its platforms.

A lawsuit filed by 33 states in federal court in California, claims that Meta routinely collects data on children under 13 without their parents’ consent, in violation of federal law. In addition, nine attorneys general are filing lawsuits in their respective states, bringing the total number of states taking action to 41 and Washington, D.C.

“Meta has harnessed powerful and unprecedented technologies to entice, engage, and ultimately ensnare youth and teens. Its motive is profit, and in seeking to maximize its financial gains, Meta has repeatedly misled the public about the substantial dangers of its social media platforms,” the complaint says. “It has concealed the ways in which these platforms exploit and manipulate its most vulnerable consumers: teenagers and children.”

The suits seek financial damages and restitution and an end to Meta’s practices that are in violation of the law.

“Kids and teenagers are suffering from record levels of poor mental health and social media companies like Meta are to blame,” said New York Attorney General Letitia James in a statement. “Meta has profited from children’s pain by intentionally designing its platforms with manipulative features that make children addicted to their platforms while lowering their self-esteem.”


Toll rises to 8 dead, 63 hurt from Louisiana interstate pileup blamed on dense fog, marsh fire smoke

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The toll from a series of crashes on a Louisiana interstate rose to eight dead and 63 injured Tuesday evening, a day after a “super fog” of marsh fire smoke and dense fog snared more than 160 vehicles in the fiery pileup, authorities said.

Lance Scott was among the many drivers caught in the wreckage on Interstate 55 west of New Orleans. The 51-year-old had been driving his daughter to the airport Monday morning when the fog thickened like a “white-out on a ski slope.” He slammed on his brakes, narrowly avoiding the cars in front of him while hearing “the most horrendous clank of metal” behind him.

“It was, ’Bang. Bang. Bang.' It just went on... for probably 45 seconds,” Scott said. “As every second went by the clanking of the metal got a little bit fainter, which told me it was backing up — so I knew there was layers and layers of collisions.”

Scott turned to his 24-year-old daughter, an intensive care unit nurse, and said to her, “There’s going to be a lot of people who need help and I need you to go out and do what you do.”

Amid the ominous crackling of flames in the wreckage, the fog slowly lifted afterward to reveal the extent of the pileup. Scott and his daughter helped people out of their cars, some with noticeably broken collarbones. One had to wait for first responders to bring the Jaws of Life.


UAW strikes at General Motors plant in Texas as union goes after automakers' cash cows

DETROIT (AP) — First it was Ford, then Stellantis, and now a General Motors factory has been added to the growing list of highly profitable plants where the United Auto Workers union is on strike.

On Tuesday, about 5,000 workers walked out at GM's factory in Arlington, Texas, that makes big, high margin SUVs such as the Chevrolet Tahoe and Cadillac Escalade.

The strikes in Texas, as well as at the largest Ford factory in the world in Louisville, Kentucky, and a Stellantis plant that makes lucrative Ram pickups in Michigan, are aimed at getting the companies to capitulate to union demands for richer wages and benefits than the automakers so far have offered.

But judging from statements out of Detroit, the companies are at or near the limit on how much they're willing to budge to end a series of targeted strikes now involving 46,000 workers that began on Sept. 15. About 32% of the union's 146,000 members at the companies are on strike, and the automakers are laying off workers at other plants as parts shortages cascade through their systems.

In announcing the Arlington strike, UAW President Shawn Fain noted that GM posted big earnings on Tuesday, yet its offer to the union lags behind Ford, preserving a two-tier wage structure and offering the weakest 401(k) contribution of all three automakers.

The Associated Press