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NEW YORK (AP) — A New York jury convicted a former associate of Rudy Giuliani on Friday of charges that he made illegal campaign contributions to influence U.S. politicians and advance his business interests.

The verdict was returned in Manhattan federal court, where Lev Parnas was on trial for more than two weeks as prosecutors accused him of using other people’s money to pose as a powerful political broker and cozy up to some of the nation’s star Republican political figures.

One part of the case alleged that Parnas and an associate made illegal donations through a corporate entity to Republican political committees in 2018, including a $325,000 donation to America First Action, a super PAC supporting former President Donald Trump.

Another part said he used the wealth of a Russian financier, Andrey Muraviev, to make donations to U.S. politicians, ostensibly in support of an effort to launch a legal, recreational marijuana business.

Parnas, 49, was convicted on all counts after about five hours of jury deliberations.

The Soviet-born Florida businessman had insisted through his lawyer that he never used the Russian’s money for political donations. He briefly closed his eyes and shook his head as the verdict was read.

Outside the courtroom after the verdict, Parnas said, “I’ve never hid from nobody. I’ve always stood to tell the truth.”

A co-defendant, Ukraine-born investor Andrey Kukushkin, was convicted of being part of the effort to use Muraviev’s money for political contributions. He had also denied any wrongdoing.

The case had drawn interest because of the deep involvement of Parnas and a former co-defendant, Igor Fruman, in Giuliani’s efforts to get Ukrainian officials to investigate Joe Biden’s son during Biden’s campaign for president.

Giuliani's company and attorney didn't immediately respond to emails seeking comment on the verdict.

Giuliani remains under criminal investigation as authorities decide whether his interactions with Ukraine officials required him to register as a foreign agent, but he wasn’t alleged to have been involved in illegal campaign contributions and wasn’t part of the New York trial.

The case did, though, give an up-close look at how Parnas entered Republican circles in 2018 with a pattern of campaign donations big enough to get him meetings with the party’s stars.

“In order to gain influence with American politicians and candidates, they illegally funneled foreign money into the 2018 midterm elections with an eye toward making huge profits in the cannabis business," U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement following the verdict. “Campaign finance laws are designed to protect the integrity of our free and fair elections – unencumbered by foreign interests or influence – and safeguarding those laws is essential to preserving the freedoms that Americans hold sacred.”

In addition to the $325,000 donation to America First Action, made through an energy company, prosecutors said Parnas and Fruman orchestrated donations to U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions, of Texas, and to other committees supporting House Republicans.

Giuliani and Trump were sparsely mentioned during the trial, although a photograph featuring Parnas with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, was one of the first exhibits shown to jurors during closing arguments and a video of Giuliani with Parnas was among exhibits jurors could view during deliberations.

DeSantis was among those who received campaign contributions that prosecutors said were traced to $1 million that Parnas and Fruman received from Muraviev, who has been involved in several U.S. cannabis ventures.

About $100,000 of Muraviev’s money went toward campaign contributions in what Assistant U.S. Attorney Hagan Scotten called a conspiracy to secretly bring his “wealth and corruption into American politics” in violation of laws barring foreign donations to U.S. political candidates.

“The voters would never know whose money was pouring into our elections,” Scotten said.

Former Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt, now a candidate for U.S. Senate, testified during the trial that a blustering Parnas suggested he could raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for him in 2018. He eventually came through only with a $10,000 check that Laxalt’s lawyers told him to reject.

Joseph Bondy, a lawyer for Parnas, had called the allegations against his client “absurd.”

He insisted in his closing argument that Muraviev’s money went toward supporting legal marijuana businesses looking to expand.

Kukushkin’s lawyer, Gerald Lefcourt, sought to portray his client as an unknowing dupe in the scheme, who was mocked behind his back by other participants as mentally challenged.

Following the verdict, prosecutors asked for immediate incarceration of Parnas and Kukushkin, citing a risk of flight, but the judge allowed them to remain free on bail while awaiting sentencing.

The charges against Parnas collectively carry the potential for decades behind bars, but any prison sentence would likely be measured in years, rather than decades.

Fruman pleaded guilty earlier this year to a single count of solicitation of a contribution by a foreign national. He awaits sentencing.

Another co-defendant, David Correia, also pleaded guilty and has been sentenced to a year in prison for crimes including defrauding investors in an insurance company that had paid Giuliani a $500,000 consulting fee.

Parnas awaits a second trial in connection with that scheme.

Giuliani has insisted that he knew nothing about potentially illegal campaign contributions by either Parnas or Fruman. The former mayor says everything he did in Ukraine was done on Trump’s behalf and there is no reason he would have had to register as a foreign agent.

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Wall Street capped a choppy day of trading Friday with an uneven finish for the major stock indexes, as losses for several large technology companies weighed on the market.

The S&P 500 was little changed a day after it set an all-time high, but the 0.1% slip ended its seven-day winning streak. The Dow Jones Industrial Average notched a 0.2% gain, good enough to eclipse the blue-chip index's previous record high set on Aug. 16. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite fell 0.8%.

Some 65% of stocks in the S&P 500 closed higher, led mainly by financial and health care companies, but losses in communication and technology companies, which have an outsized weight on the benchmark index, held the S&P 500 down.

Despite the downbeat finish to the week, the three major indexes posted their third weekly gain in a row. Investors have been reviewing corporate earnings over the last two weeks and the mostly solid results have helped stocks generally grind higher.

Remarks Friday by Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell appeared to put traders in a selling mood. Powell said that the supply chain issues that have caused disruptions across the U.S. economy since this summer have gotten worse and will likely keep inflation elevated well into next year.

“This idea that inflation is transitory seems to be going out the window as you see inflation expectations start to rise,” said Willie Delwiche, investment strategist at All Star Charts.

The S&P 500 slipped 4.88 points to 4,544.90. The Dow gained 73.94 points to 35,677.02. The Nasdaq slid 125.50 points, or 0.8%, to 15,090.20.

Small company stocks also lost ground. The Russell 2000 index fell 4.92 points, or 0.2%, to 2,291.27.

Bond yields edged lower. The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 1.64% from 1.67%.

With corporate earnings reporting season in full swing, investors have been looking for clues as to how companies are navigating supply chain problems and rising costs for materials, transportation and other goods and services. Many companies have warned that the supply chain issues and overall higher costs will hurt operations.

Wall Street is monitoring what the Fed will do to tackle inflation. The central bank is widely expected to announce next month plans to begin reducing monthly bond purchases that the Fed began in the early days of the pandemic in a bid to lower longer-term interest rates and encourage borrowing and spending.

Powell said Friday that the Fed is not yet prepared to lift its benchmark interest rate from its current level near zero, though he suggested that the economy may be ready for a rate hike next year.

“If the Fed is going have to be more aggressive with raising rates or more aggressive with moving toward tapering to raising rates, then what's the impact, not on individual companies, but on whole sectors and the economy overall?” asked Delwiche.

Technology and communication companies, which tend to be among the most expensive stocks and have benefited from low interest rates, weighed most on the market Friday. Chipmaker Intel slumped 11.7% for the biggest decline in the index after reporting disappointing revenue.

Snapchat’s parent company, Snap, plunged 26.6% after reporting weak revenue and disclosing that its ad sales are being hurt by a privacy crackdown that rolled out on Apple’s iPhones earlier this year. The news weighed down several other social media companies. Facebook fell 5.1% and Twitter fell 4.8%. Google's parent, Alphabet, fell 3%.

Banks and other financial companies made solid gains. American Express jumped 5.4% after reporting solid third-quarter financial results. The company noted an increase in consumer spending and travel. Bank of America rose 1.6%.

Solid earnings helped several other companies gain ground. Hot Wheels and Barbie maker Mattel rose 0.6% after reporting solid financial results.

The company planning to make President Donald Trump’s new media venture a publicly traded company soared for a second straight day. Digital World Acquisition nearly tripled in the first minute of trading, then wound up with ending the day at $94.20, up 107%. It traded as high as $175.

The stock more than quadrupled the day before, surging to $45.50 from $9.96, after the company said it would merge with Trump Media & Technology Group, which aims to challenge Facebook, Twitter and even Disney’s streaming video service. Experts are split on the company’s prospects, but some investors are betting on it to be popular.

That’s despite the deal’s announcement being unusual in how few details it offered for investors.

European markets ended mostly higher. Markets in Asia closed mixed. State media in China said China Evergrande Group made an overdue bond payment on Friday. The property developer’s struggle to reduce its 2 trillion yuan ($310 billion) of debt to comply with tighter official curbs on borrowing has prompted fears a default might trigger a financial crisis.

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PARIS (AP) — France on Friday urged Iran to curb nuclear activities of “unprecedented gravity” as U.S. and European envoys met to discuss efforts aimed at reviving the troubled 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

U.S. envoy Robert Malley joined counterparts from France, Britain and Germany at the meetings in Paris, at what the French Foreign Ministry called a “critical time” in efforts to salvage the accord.

“It is urgent and crucial for Iran to end the activities of unprecedented gravity that it is conducting in violation of the (agreement) and to immediately resume full-fledged cooperation" with the International Atomic Energy Agency, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Anne-Claire Legendre said in an online briefing.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters the U.S. and its partners are “united in the belief that diplomacy continues to provide the most effective pathway to verifiably and permanently preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”

“And,” he said, "we are united in the belief that negotiations should resume in Vienna as soon as possible and that they should resume precisely where they left off in June.”

The IAEA is charged with monitoring the 2015 accord, which was aimed at curbing Iran's nuclear activity in exchange for the lifting of crippling sanctions. The U.S. pulled out of the accord under Donald Trump and re-imposed sanctions.

Since then Iran has stepped up nuclear activity and is now in violation of several aspects of the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA.

Iran’s nuclear activity includes enriching uranium which Western nations fear could be used to build an atomic bomb. Tehran denies any such ambitions.

The U.S. and European partners are ready to return immediately to negotiations with Iran “in order to swiftly conclude an agreement on Iran’s return to its commitments and the United States’ return to the JCPOA," Legendre said.

Iran’s new hardline government led by President Ebrahim Raisi, which took power in August, has hinted it will return to the nuclear talks in Vienna but has balked at setting a date.

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Peter Scolari, a versatile character actor whose television roles included a yuppie producer on “Newhart” and a closeted dad on “Girls” and who was on Broadway with longtime friend Tom Hanks in “Lucky Guy," has died. He was 66.

Scolari died Friday morning in New York after fighting cancer for two years, according to Ellen Lubin Sanitsky, his manager.

He first gained attention as the then-unknown Hanks’ co-star in the 1980-82 sitcom “Bosom Buddies,” in which their characters disguised themselves as women to live in affordable, females-only housing.

The two actors went on to work together in projects including Hanks’ 1996 movie directorial debut “That Thing You Do!” and in 2013's “Lucky Guy,” Nora Ephron's play about newspaper columnist Mike McAlary.

Scolari also performed on Broadway in “Wicked.” “Hairspray” and 2014's “Bronx Bombers,” in which he played baseball's Yogi Berra.

“We were friends and colleagues for over 40 years,” Newhart said in a statement to The Associated Press. He said the contributions of on-screen couple Scolari and Julia Duffy in “Newhart” were an “essential part” of the show's success.

“In life, he was a fantastic person, and it was a joy to work together. He will be sorely missed and his passing at 66 is much too early,” Newhart said.

Scolari's recent roles included Bishop Thomas Marx on the supernatural series “Evil." Series co-creator Robert King remembered him Tuesday as “just wonderful.”

He was “one of the funniest — sneakily funny — actors we’ve worked with. He always took a nothing scene and found different ways to twist it, and throw in odd pauses that made it jump,” King said on Twitter.

He received three Emmy nominations playing husband to Duffy's Stephanie and colleague to Newhart's inn owner and local TV host in the 1982-90 sitcom.

“No better partner,” Duffy posted on Twitter, along with a broken-heart emoji and a photo of a scene in which she and Scolari are dancing a tango.

In 2016, he won an Emmy Award for the role of Ted Horvath, father to Lena Dunham’s Hannah, in “Girls.” In the course of the dramedy created by Dunham, Ted comes out as gay and leaves his wife to find fulfillment.

In an Instagram post, Dunham said she "couldn't have been raised up by a better TV ‘papa.’ Thank you, Scolari, for every chat between set ups, every hug onscreen and off and every ‘Oh, Jeez.’ We will miss you so much.”

Harvey Fierstein, who starred in “Hairspray," tweeted there “wasn’t a sweeter man on the planet.”

Scolari's more than four-decade career included numerous guest roles on series including “ER,” “White Collar” and “Blue Bloods."

A New York native whose previous marriages ended in divorce, he's survived by his wife, actor Tracy Shayne, who played opposite him as Berra's wife in “Bronx Bombers." Other survivors include his children Nicholas, Joseph, Keaton, and Cali.

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MOMIRAK FIRING RANGE, Tajikistan (AP) — Russian and Tajik troops conducted joint drills Friday near Tajikistan's border with Afghanistan, as part of efforts to prepare for possible security threats issuing from Afghanistan.

The exercises at the Momirak firing range about 20 kilometers (12 miles) north of the Afghan border involved armored vehicles and helicopter gunships. It was part of weeklong war games that brought together about 5,000 troops and over 700 armored vehicles from Russia, Tajikistan and several other ex-Soviet nations, which are members of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a Moscow-dominated security pact.

Tajik Defense Minister Sherali Mirzo said the drills were decided amid the “catastrophic changes after the withdrawal of the international coalition” from Afghanistan.

“Terrorist groups operating in Afghanistan ... have obtained many modern weapons, significantly improved their positions and using the current situation create conditions for its transformation into a foothold for further destructive actions in the region,” Mirzo added.

Russian officials said they trusted the Taliban’s pledge that they wouldn’t threaten neighboring countries, but noted that the Islamic State group, al-Qaida and other militants in northern Afghanistan could try to destabilize the neighboring ex-Soviet Central Asian nations. They also said drug trafficking from Afghanistan will continue to present a challenge.

Moscow has vowed to provide military assistance to its ex-Soviet allies in Central Asia to help counter possible threats and held a series of joint drills in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, which neighbor Afghanistan.

Russia has a military base in Tajikistan, its largest military outpost in the former Soviet Union. It also maintains an air base in Kyrgyzstan, and jets based there took part in this week’s war games.

Lt. Gen. Yevgeniy Poplavsky, deputy commander of the Russian armed forces’ Central Military District who oversaw the drills, described them as part of training to counter possible security challenges.

The fighting between the Taliban and the Islamic State in northern Afghanistan raised fears of IS fighters and other militants flowing into Central Asian nations.

“(The Taliban) will try to push all pro-ISIS military groups out its territory or to destroy them and to become the only one (in power),” Poplavsky said. “That’s why we don’t exclude the option that they will push them to Tajikistan’s territory.”

The Soviet Union fought a 10-year war in Afghanistan that ended with its troops withdrawing in 1989. In recent years, Russia has made a strong diplomatic comeback as an influential power broker on Afghanistan, hosting several rounds of talks with various Afghan factions.

Russia had worked for years to establish contacts with the Taliban, even though it designated the group a terror organization in 2003 and never took it off the list, Unlike many other countries, it hasn’t evacuated its embassy in Kabul after they took over the Afghan capital in August.

On Wednesday, Russia hosted another round of talks that involved the Taliban along with senior diplomats from China, Pakistan, Iran, India and the former Soviet nations in Central Asia.

Speaking during a panel with international foreign policy experts on Thursday, Russian President Vladmir Putin said that the international community “is getting close” to officially recognizing the Taliban as the new rulers of Afghanistan, saying the decision must be made by the United Nations. He emphasized the need for the Taliban to recognize the interests of all Afghan ethnic groups and respect human rights, but noted its efforts to combat the Islamic State group and other militants.


Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow contributed to this report.

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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Northern California residents relieved that this week’s rain helped contain stubborn wildfires and soaked dry gardens were cleaning up Friday and preparing for a massive storm this weekend that could bring flash flooding to vast areas scorched by fire.

A flood warning was posted in part of Siskiyou County bordering Oregon, where “local law enforcement reported debris flow and flooding on (a) roadway from excessive runoff,” according to the National Weather Service's office in Medford, Oregon.

The NWS said elevations above 9,000 feet (2,745 meters) in the Sierra Nevada could get 18 inches of snow or more from Sunday until Monday morning and warned of possible power outages and road closures. The service also issued a flood watch for much of Northern California from Saturday night to 5 p.m. Monday.

Mike Pierre, owner of Mission Ace Hardware and Lumber in Santa Rosa in Sonoma County, said they sold out of tarps this week and expect to do so again in advance of Sunday's big storm.

But there is a feeling of relief that the area could escape wildfire this year, unlike last year when the Glass Fire broke out in late September and destroyed nearly 1,600 homes and other buildings. Customers had been stocking up on generators and power cords to prepare, Pierre said.

“People were bracing for that and it never happened,” he said, “and hopefully, this rain will keep it from happening.”

But burn areas remain a concern, as land devoid of vegetation can’t soak up heavy rainfall as quickly, increasing the likelihood of mud or debris slides and flash flooding that could trap people.

Paul Lowenthal, an assistant fire marshal with the Santa Rosa Fire Department, said the city is providing free sand and bags for residents who need to control rain run-off. They're also asking residents to clear gutters and on-site storm drains as the city prepares for up to 6 inches (15 centimeters) of rain.

“Given the volume of water we’re expecting, we want it to go where it needs to go,” he said.

Californians rejoiced when rain started falling this week for the first time in any measurable way since spring. NWS Bay Area tweeted that San Francisco International Airport set a record rainfall for Thursday, with 0.44 inches (1.1 centimeters) of rain tallied. The old record was 0.13 inches (0.3 centimeter) on the same day in 1970.

Rain and snow will continue soaking central and Northern California before spreading into Southern California on Monday.

The storms have helped contain some of the nation's largest wildfires this year, including one that threatened the popular Lake Tahoe resort region this summer. That wildfire is now 100% contained after snow blanketed the western side of the blaze and rain dropped on the eastern side.

But this week's storms won't end drought that's plaguing California and the western United States. California’s climate is hotter and drier now and that means the rain and snow that does fall is likely to evaporate or absorb into the soil.

California's 2021 water year, which ended Sept. 30, was the second driest on record and last year's was the fifth driest on record. Some of the state's most important reservoirs are at record low levels. Things are so bad in Lake Mendocino that state officials say it could be dry by next summer.

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Kid-size doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine appear safe and nearly 91% effective at preventing symptomatic infections in 5- to 11-year-olds, according to study details released Friday as the U.S. considers opening vaccinations to that age group.

The shots could begin in early November, with the first children in line fully protected by Christmas, if regulators give the go-ahead. That would represent a major expansion of the nation's vaccine drive, encompassing roughly 28 million elementary school-age youngsters.

Details of Pfizer's study were posted online. The Food and Drug Administration was expected to post its own review of the company's safety and effectiveness data later in the day.

Advisers to the FDA will publicly debate the evidence next week. If the agency itself authorizes the shots, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will make the final decision on who should receive them.

Full-strength Pfizer shots already are authorized for anyone 12 or older, but pediatricians and many parents are anxiously awaiting protection for younger children to stem rising infections and record hospitalizations among them from the extra-contagious delta variant and to help keep kids in school.

Dr. Sonja Rasmussen, a University of Florida professor of pediatrics and epidemiology, called Pfizer’s data “really reassuring’’ and predicted the FDA and CDC will sign off on the shots.

She said it was encouraging to see that the vaccine was effective with a one-third dose. That reduces the chance of sore arms, fever and other mild effects that can occur with any immunization, Rasmussen said.

“I don’t see any red flags here that would have people concerned,’’ said Rasmussen, who wasn't involved in the research. The results are good news for “so many families out there that are waiting to have the vaccine before the holidays.’’

The Biden administration has purchased enough kid-size doses — in special orange-capped vials to distinguish them from adult vaccine — for the nation’s 5- to 11-year-olds. If the vaccine is cleared, millions of doses will be promptly shipped around the country, along with kid-size needles.

More than 25,000 pediatricians and primary care providers already have signed up to get the shots into little arms.

The Pfizer study tracked 2,268 children in the 5-to-11 group who got two shots three weeks apart of either a placebo or the low-dose vaccine. Each dose was one-third the amount given to teens and adults.

Researchers calculated the low-dose vaccine was nearly 91% effective, based on 16 COVID-19 cases in youngsters given dummy shots versus three cases among vaccinated children. There were no severe illnesses reported among any of the youngsters, but the vaccinated ones had much milder symptoms than their unvaccinated counterparts.

Most of the study data was collected in the U.S. during August and September, when the delta variant had become the dominant COVID-19 strain.

In addition, young children given the low-dose shots developed coronavirus-fighting antibody levels just as strong as teens and young adults who got regular-strength vaccinations.

In another piece of encouraging news, the CDC reported earlier this week that even as the delta variant surged over the summer, Pfizer vaccinations were 93% effective at preventing hospitalizations among 12- to 18-year-olds.

Pfizer’s study of younger children found the low-dose shots proved safe, with similar or fewer temporary side effects such as sore arms, fever or achiness that teens experience.

The study isn’t large enough to detect any extremely rare side effects, such as the heart inflammation that occasionally occurs after the second dose, mostly in young men.

While children run a lower risk of severe illness or death than older people, COVID-19 has killed more than 630 Americans 18 and under, according to the CDC. Nearly 6.2 million children have been infected with the coronavirus, more than 1.1 million in the last six weeks as the delta variant surged, the American Academy of Pediatrics says.

Moderna also is studying its COVID-19 shots in elementary school-age youngsters. Pfizer and Moderna are studying even younger children as well, down to 6-month-olds. Results are expected later in the year.


AP Medical Writer Lindsey Tanner contributed to this story.


The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Now that the decomposed remains of Brian Laundrie have been found, where does the investigation into the strangling of his girlfriend, Gabby Petito, go from here?

Petito, 22, was discovered slain last month on the edge of Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, one of the places the young couple had visited during a cross-country van trip that ended with Laundrie mysteriously returning home alone to Florida in the vehicle.

Laundrie, named a “person of interest” in the case, was missing for a month before his skeletal remains were found Wednesday in a swampy wilderness park near his home.

The case has drawn worldwide interest and numerous theories online from amateur true-crime sleuths. It has also thrown a spotlight on the many missing-persons cases involving women of color who do not get a fraction of the attention given to Petito, who was white.

Here are some lingering questions:


It could take a DNA match to answer that. Both sets of remains were exposed to the elements and animals for weeks.

The FBI has not said whether there are any witnesses to Petito's killing or its immediate aftermath. One piece of evidence is Laundrie's use of a debit card that didn't belong to him after Petito was listed as missing.

“That would be circumstantial evidence that points to him,” said Alfredo Garcia, former dean at the St. Thomas University College of Law in Miami Gardens and a one-time Miami prosecutor. “It's a difficult proposition to establish but not impossible.”

The DNA matching effort and any use of fingerprints would be complicated by the fact that the couple were romantically involved and lived together in close quarters. But forensic experts have many techniques to solve crimes despite such obstacles.

“Reconstruction experts can do amazing things, so I would not be surprised if at some point we got a definitive, or near-definitive, conclusion that Laundrie was the killer,” said Bob Jarvis, a law professor at Florida's Nova Southeastern University.


Laundrie, 23, was reported missing from his home in North Port on Sept. 17, two days after he was named a person of interest in Petito's disappearance.

His family said Laundrie left home Sept. 13, telling parents Chris and Robert Laundrie he was going for a hike in the 25,000-acre (10,100-hectare) Carlton Reserve a few miles away.

Federal, state and local law enforcement officials spent weeks searching the reserve, where at one point 75% of the land had been under water. The area is home to alligators, bobcats, coyotes and snakes.

Although divers and cadaver dogs were brought in, it wasn't until the heavy late-summer rains stopped and the water receded that Laundrie's remains and a backpack and notebook belonging to him were found with his father's help.

Officials have not released the cause of death for Laundrie or said whether a note or other evidence about Petito was found.


Prosecutors could look into obstruction of justice charges against the parents if they hid their son, but it would not be an easy case to prove, legal experts said. Petito's body hadn't yet been found during the time he was home.

“That’s a steep hill to climb,” Garcia said. “How can you establish they knew he committed the crime? Did they intentionally help him avoid detection and arrest? You have to establish knowledge and intent.”

Laundrie's parents have not given any media interviews and initially referred law enforcement officials to their attorney, Steven Bertolino. He said the parents cooperated with investigators and are “heartbroken” over the entire situation.

Before he disappeared, Laundrie would not talk to police, on the advice of his lawyer.


The police department in Moab, Utah is conducting an internal review of officers' actions when Petito and Laundrie were stopped Aug. 12 after the two got into a scuffle.

Police body-camera video showed a distraught Petito describing a fight that escalated. A police report concluded she was the aggressor, but the only injuries consisted of a few scratches. Officers decided to separate them for the night rather than file any charges.

The question is whether the Moab officers followed policy and, if not, whether that led to further violence and possibly Petito's slaying.


Much was made in the media about the intense interest in Petito's case compared with the scant attention paid to numerous missing-persons cases involving women of color.

Native American women, in particular, generate little media coverage when they disappear.

In Wyoming, where Petito was found, just 18% of cases of missing indigenous women over the past decade had any media mentions, according to a state report released in January.

One sample of 247 missing teens in New York and California found 34% of white teens’ cases were covered by the media, compared with only 7% of Black teens and 14% of young Latinos, according to Carol Liebler, a communications professor at Syracuse University.

“What’s communicated is that white lives matter more than people of color,” she said.

Petito's father, Joseph Petito, said the Gabby Petito Foundation is in the formative stages and will seek to fill in any gaps that exist in the work of finding missing people.

“We need positive stuff to come from the tragedy that happened,” he said. “We can’t let her name be taken in vain.”

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SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Alec Baldwin said Friday that his killing of a cinematographer with a prop gun on a movie set was a “tragic accident” as authorities investigated the shooting, which also wounded the director.

Halyna Hutchins, the cinematographer on the Western “Rust,” and director Joel Souza were shot Thursday in the desert on the outskirts of Santa Fe.

A spokesperson for Baldwin said a prop gun with blanks misfired. A spokesman for the Santa Fe County sheriff said detectives were investigating what type of projectile was discharged and how. No immediate charges were filed.

Baldwin was performing at the time of the shooting, the sheriff's office said. It was unclear how many rounds were fired, and little was known about the weapon.

“There are no words to convey my shock and sadness regarding the tragic accident that took the life of Halyna Hutchins, a wife, mother and deeply admired colleague of ours. I’m fully cooperating with the police investigation,” Baldwin wrote on Twitter. “My heart is broken for her husband, their son, and all who knew and loved Halyna.”

Sheriff's spokesman Juan Rios said detectives were at the set Friday morning gathering evidence and information. Baldwin is permitted to travel, he said.

“He’s a free man,” Rios said.

Images of the 63-year-old actor — known for his roles in “30 Rock” and “The Hunt for Red October” and his impression of former President Donald Trump on “Saturday Night Live” — showed him distraught outside the sheriff’s office on Thursday.

Guns used in making movies are sometimes real weapons that can fire either bullets or blanks, which are gunpowder charges that produce a flash and a bang but no deadly projectile. However, even blanks can eject hot gases and paper or plastic wadding from the barrel that can be lethal at close range. That proved to be the case in the death of an actor in 1984.

In another on-set accident in 1993, the actor Brandon Lee was killed after a bullet was left in a prop gun, and similar shootings have occurred involving stage weapons that were loaded with live rounds.

Gun-safety protocol on sets in the United States has improved since then, said Steven Hall, a veteran director of photography in Britain. But he said one of the riskiest positions to be in is behind the camera because that person is in the line of fire in scenes where an actor appears to point a gun at the audience.

Hutchins, 42, was airlifted to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead. Souza, 48, who was wounded in the collarbone area, was taken by ambulance to a medical center.

Sheriff’s deputies responded about 2 p.m. to the movie set at the Bonanza Creek Ranch after 911 calls described a person being shot there, Rios said. The ranch has been used in dozens of films, including the recent Tom Hanks Western “News of the World.”

“This investigation remains open and active,” Rios said in a statement.

One of Hutchins’ final social media posts was a photo of the “Rust” actors standing together in solidarity with crew members. She belonged to the IATSE union that represents crew members. The union is to vote soon on a new contract with producers after threatening to strike in recent weeks over issues including long hours and on-set safety.

Hutchins, a 2015 graduate of the American Film Institute, worked as director of photography on the 2020 action film “Archenemy” starring Joe Manganiello. She was named a “rising star” by American Cinematographer in 2019.

“I’m so sad about losing Halyna. And so infuriated that this could happen on a set,” said “Archenemy” director Adam Egypt Mortimer on Twitter. “She was a brilliant talent who was absolutely committed to art and to film.”

Manganiello called Hutchins “an incredible talent” and “a great person” on his Instagram account. He said he was lucky to have worked with her.

Hutchins had Ukrainian citizenship, according to Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleh Nikolenko. The country's consulate in San Francisco was working with U.S. law enforcement officials.

Baldwin teamed up as a producer with Souza on the 2019 film “Crown Vic,” which starred Thomas Jane as a veteran Los Angeles police officer on a manhunt for two bank robbers. Souza's first credited film, 2010’s “Hanna’s Gold,” was a treasure hunt adventure featuring Luke Perry.

After the shooting, production was halted on “Rust.” The movie is about a 13-year-old boy who is left to fend for himself and his younger brother following the death of their parents in 1880s Kansas, according to the Internet Movie Database website. The teen goes on the run with his long-estranged grandfather (played by Baldwin) after the boy is sentenced to hang for the accidental killing of a local rancher.

Lee, son of martial arts star Bruce Lee, died in 1993 after being hit by a .44-caliber slug while filming a death scene for the movie “The Crow.” The gun was supposed to have fired a blank, but an autopsy turned up a bullet lodged near his spine.

A Twitter account run by Lee's sister Shannon said: “Our hearts go out to the family of Halyna Hutchins and to Joel Souza and all involved in the incident on ‘Rust.’ No one should ever be killed by a gun on a film set. Period.”

In 1984, actor Jon-Erik Hexum died after shooting himself in the head with a prop gun blank while pretending to play Russian roulette with a .44 Magnum on the set of the television series “Cover Up.”

Such shootings have also happened during historical reenactments. In 2015, an actor staging a historical gunfight in Tombstone, Arizona, was shot and wounded with a live round during a show that was supposed to use blanks.

In Hill City, South Dakota, a tourist town that recreates an Old West experience, three spectators were wounded in 2011 when a re-enactor fired real bullets instead of blanks.


Berry reported from Phoenix. Associated Press writers Jake Coyle and Jocelyn Noveck in New York, Lizzie Knight in London, Yuras Karmanau in Kyiv, Ukraine, and Ryan Pearson in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said Friday that the tangled supply chains and shortages that have bedeviled the U.S. economy since this summer have gotten worse and will likely keep inflation elevated well into next year.

The Fed is not yet prepared to lift its benchmark interest rate, he said, though he suggested that the economy may be ready for a rate hike next year.

There is now greater risk of "longer and more persistent bottlenecks and thus to higher inflation,” Powell said at a virtual conference hosted by the South African Reserve Bank.

Powell, echoing many economists, has previously said that shortages and higher prices are mostly a result of the pandemic's impact on supply lines, with factories in Asia temporarily closing amid COVID infections and dozens of cargo ships anchored offshore.

He said Friday that he still thinks those supply problems will be resolved over time, but the Fed will be vigilant and take steps to push inflation back down to its 2% goal if necessary.

“No one should doubt that we will use our tools to guide inflation back to 2%,” he said.

Consumer prices, according to the Fed's preferred gauge, jumped 4.3% in August from a year earlier, the fastest such increase in three decades.

The Fed chair said he is ready to taper, or reduce, the central bank's $120 billion in monthly bond purchases, which are intended to lower longer-term interest rates and encourage borrowing and spending. Powell is widely expected to announce the tapering after the Fed's next meeting, Nov. 2-3.

But he added that it would be “premature” to raise the Fed's short-term interest rate, because the job market needs more time to recover. Powell noted that there are still 5 million fewer jobs in the U.S. than before the pandemic.

“We think we can be patient and allow the recovery to take place and allow the labor market to heal,” he said.

That healing could pick up in the coming months, Powell said, as COVID's delta variant fades. Hiring could then accelerate, potentially back to the levels of this summer, when roughly 1 million jobs were added in June and July, he said.

“It’s very possible we will be at or near ... our full employment goal next year," he said. Fed officials estimate that maximum employment is roughly when the unemployment rate reaches 3.8%, though most central bank policymakers say they look at many other measures in making that determination.

Some officials have also said that the Fed's other goal — stable prices rising at an average of 2% over time — will also be met by next year. Those are the conditions that, under the Fed's policy framework, would support a rate hike.

In September, half the Fed's policymakers supported a rate hike late next year, while half preferred to wait until 2023 or later. But financial markets expect at least two rate hikes by the end of 2022, according to futures prices tracked by the CME Group.

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court is allowing the Texas law that bans most abortions to remain in place, but has agreed to hear arguments in the case in early November.

The justices said Friday they will decide whether the Justice Department and abortion providers can sue in federal court over a law that Justice Sonia Sotomayor said was “enacted in open disregard of the constitutional rights of women seeking abortion care in Texas.”

Answering that question will help determine whether the law should be blocked while legal challenges continue. The court is moving at an unusually fast pace that suggests it plans to make a decision quickly. Arguments are set for Nov. 1.

The court’s action leaves in place for the time being a law that clinics say has led to an 80% reduction in abortions in the nation’s second-largest state.

The justices said in their order that they were deferring action on a request from the Justice Department to put the law on hold. Sotomayor wrote that she would have blocked the law now.

“The promise of future adjudication offers cold comfort, however, for Texas women seeking abortion care, who are entitled to relief now,” Sotomayor wrote.

Sotomayor was the only justice to make her views clear, but it seems there were not five votes on the nine-member court to immediately block the law Friday. It takes just four justices to decide to hear a case.

The court first declined to block the law in September, in response to an emergency filing by the abortion providers. The vote was 5-4 vote, with the three appointees of former President Donald Trump joining two other conservatives in the majority. Chief Justice John Roberts joined Sotomayor and the other two liberal justices in voting to keep the law on hold while the legal fight goes on in lower courts.

Now, though, the justices, in a rare move, have decided to weigh in before lower courts definitively decide the issues.

Kimberlyn Schwartz, a spokeswoman for Texas Right to Life, said she was happy the law remains in effect. “This is a great development for the Pro-Life movement because the law will continue to save an estimated 100 babies per day, and because the justices will actually discuss whether these lawsuits are valid in the first place," Schwartz said in a statement.

Amy Hagstrom Miller, the chief executive of Whole Woman’s Health, said Friday's order means patients will continue to be denied care at the four Whole Woman's Health clinics in Texas, on top of the hundreds who already have been turned away.

“The legal limbo is excruciating for both patients and our clinic staff," Miller said in a statement.

The law has been in effect since September, aside from a district court-ordered pause that lasted just 48 hours, and bans abortions once cardiac activity is detected, usually around six weeks and before some women know they are pregnant.

That's well before the Supreme Court's major abortion decisions allow states to prohibit abortion, although the court has agreed to hear an appeal from Mississippi asking it to overrule those decisions, in Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

But the Texas law was written to evade early federal court review by putting enforcement of it into the hands of private citizens, rather than state officials.

The focus of the high court arguments will not be on the abortion ban, but whether the Justice Department and the providers can sue and obtain a court order that effectively prevents the law from being enforced, the Supreme Court said in its brief order.

If the law stays in effect, “no decision of this Court is safe. States need not comply with, or even challenge, precedents with which they disagree. They may simply outlaw the exercise of whatever rights they disfavor,” the Biden administration wrote in a brief filed earlier in the day.

Other state-enforced bans on abortion before the point at which a fetus can survive outside the womb, around 24 weeks, have been blocked by courts because they conflict with Supreme Court precedents.

“Texas should not obtain a different result simply by pairing its unconstitutional law with an unprecedented enforcement scheme designed to evade the traditional mechanisms for judicial review," the administration wrote.

A day earlier, the state urged the court to leave the law in place, saying the federal government lacked the authority to file its lawsuit challenging the Texas ban.

The Justice Department filed suit over the law after the Supreme Court rejected the earlier effort by abortion providers to put the measure on hold temporarily.

In early October, U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman ruled for the administration, putting the law on hold and allowing abortions to resume.

Two days later, a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals put the law back into effect.

The court already is hearing arguments on Dec. 1 in the Mississippi case in which that state is calling for the court to overrule the Roe and Casey decisions.

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OVIEDO, Fla. (AP) — Three sisters in Florida share the same birthday, but they're not twins or triplets.

Instead, the Lammert sisters — Sophia, Giuliana and Mia — were each born on Aug. 25, respectively, in 2015, 2018 and 2021. All three were delivered naturally.

Explaining the coincidence of their shared birthdays, their mother chalks it up to serendipity.

“Divine intervention, fate, loved ones up above,” Kristin Lammert told Orlando television station WKMG.

When Kristin Lammert found out that Mia’s due date was Sept. 8, 2021, she started thinking about the odds of the baby coming a little early.

“I thought she could absolutely be born two weeks early and share the same birthday with her two older sisters,” Kristin Lammert said.

Kristin Lammert and her husband, Nick, haven't ruled out having more children. But whether they get a fourth Aug. 25 birthday child is up to fate, with maybe a little nudge from Kristin.

“She’s really good at planning,” Nick Lammert said.

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DETROIT (AP) — For the first time in eight months, the global shortage of computer chips won’t force General Motors to close any North American factories.

The company said Friday that starting Nov. 1, all plants that had been closed on and off since February because of the shortage will be cranking out vehicles.

The nation's largest automaker and the rest of the global auto industry have been sporadically shutting down plants since late last year due to the semiconductor shortage, which has cut supplies on dealer lots and driven new vehicle prices to record levels.

To be sure, production still isn't back to normal because some of the factories will only run on one shift per day.

Phil Amsrud, senior principal analyst for IHS Markit who studies the chip market, said GM's move is a good sign, but doesn't signal the end of the chip shortage. “It's just not a sign that the patient is through all the rough spots and it's a matter of weeks before they're released from the hospital,” he said.

GM’s plants being open may be more of a sign that the company is getting better at dealing with shortages by getting rid of some optional features and diverting those chips to other uses, he said.

Chip supply shortages are easing a bit, he said, but there are still logjams with Asian “back end” companies that cut large silicon wafers into individual chips and test and package them for distribution.

Even as automakers get more wafers from big chip makers, the back end companies have limited capacity to deal with an overwhelming demand from personal electronics and other industries, Amsrud said.

Back end companies in Malaysia and elsewhere in Asia had been having trouble keeping factories open due to employees getting sick with the novel coronavirus, but that has eased a bit in some places, he said. “I wouldn't write COVID off until COVID is completely off the stage,” Amsrud said.

Currently it takes about 52 weeks after an order is placed for an automaker to get finished chips, Amsrud said. The lead times are continuing to grow, and “that means there's still uncertainty in the marketplace,” he said.

Under normal circumstances, automakers only had to wait 16 weeks from an order date to get chips, he said. Delivery times that plateau and start to improve will be “signs that we're really starting to see the supply chain getting healthy again,” Amsrud said.

He expects shortages to persist most, if not all, of next year. But Amsrud said there will be improvements through the year.

GM isn't calling an end to the chip shortage. It says in a statement that the situation remains “complex and very fluid,” but it's confident about finding creative ways to mitigate semiconductor shortages.

The company said Friday that a dozen North American assembly plants that have been touched by the chip shortage would all be running starting Nov. 1. Two other plants are closed while they're being outfitted to make electric vehicles, and another near Detroit is shut down while waiting for reworked Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicle batteries after a recall due to fires.

The average sales price of a new vehicle hit a record $42,802 last month, breaking the old record of $41,528 set in August, J.D. Power said. The average is up nearly 19% from a year ago, when it broke $36,000 for the first time. Auto price increases have helped to drive up U.S. inflation.

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The results are in and what happens now was inevitable.

The top 76 players in NBA history have been announced , with the full 75th anniversary team having been revealed by the league. Now the debate begins to decide who must have been No. 77.

Vince Carter, Chris Bosh, Dwight Howard, Bernard King all are solid candidates. So, too, are Klay Thompson, Kyrie Irving, Tracy McGrady, Pau Gasol and Tony Parker. And so on.

And so on.

And so on.

Fact is, no team was going to be perfect, even with the extra player that got on this one because of a tie in the voting — which included The Associated Press. There was no way to avoid arguments about who should have been on the list, or who shouldn't have been.

It wasn't perfect. But it's right.

“From where I come from I’m simply LOST FOR WORDS!! BEYOND HONORED & BLESSED!!” LeBron James tweeted in response to his selection.

Clearly, being part of the team meant a lot to those who were selected, and therefore it stands to reason that those who didn’t make the team are justifiably disappointed.

“Just looking at the list, and then thinking about the history of the NBA, how do you differentiate? I looked at it and it seems like there’s 50 or 60 guys who were kind of automatic,” Golden State coach Steve Kerr said after the final installment of the list was revealed. “And then, just pick one. You can’t go wrong or you can’t be right, depending on how you look at it.”

Kerr — who was one of the voters — said Thursday that there was a strong case for two of his players, Thompson and Draymond Green. Both were perfectly valid arguments, and Thompson has taken to Instagram since the team was announced to express his disappointment. But as Kerr said, voting is subjective. There were no rules. Pick 75 players, the order of which didn’t matter since there wasn’t a ranking.

One of the best things about the list is it pays tribute to the past, and not just the recent past. All 50 players who were selected a quarter-century ago as members of the Top 50 team were retained for this team.

And some who could have been on that Top 50 team — Dominique Wilkins and Bob McAdoo — were added this time around. Also on the list were some obvious contemporary players who were locks to be picked this year, players like James, Kobe Bryant, Stephen Curry and Dwyane Wade.

In 2046 or so, when the NBA picks the Top 100 team, some of the omissions — or snubs, depending on perspective — from this year’s group will likely be included as well.

“Being a part of an elite group is always special, and I’m thrilled and excited to be part of an elite group,” Wilkins said. “But it’d have been nice if I was part of it 20-something years ago.”

There will always be a “but."

Roughly half of the NBA players already enshrined the Basketball Hall of Fame didn’t make the Top 75 team, simply because there wasn’t enough space. Alex English is 20th all-time in scoring; hardly anybody even seemed to mention him as a candidate. Howard is about to move into 10th all-time in rebounding; he’s not on the list. Mark Jackson is fourth all-time in assists; he's not on this team.

Not being named to this team should hardly diminish what those players — and others not included — accomplished.

“Leading scoring of the 80s Not a top 75 NBA player?! Alex is in my book!” former NBA coach George Karl tweeted in English’s defense.

And Golden State’s Andre Iguodala said this on behalf of Irving, easily one of the top ballhandlers in NBA history: “Top 20 at least.”

It’s impossible to compare eras, which is part of the reason so many people might be puzzled that so many current players didn’t make the list. There wouldn’t have been tons of outrage if players from back in the day like Paul Arizin, Dave DeBusschere, Pete Maravich or Sam Jones were left off this time around.

Here’s why they belong, though: The league exists now because of what they did back then.

It's something to keep in mind while arguing over which players from today didn’t make a list.


Tim Reynolds is a national basketball writer for The Associated Press and was one of the 88 voters who participated in the NBA’s 75th anniversary team balloting. Write to him at treynolds(at)ap.org


More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports. Follow the AP’s coverage of the NBA’s 75th anniversary season: https://apnews.com/hub/nba-at-75

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NEW YORK (AP) — The company planning to bring President Donald Trump’s new media venture to the stock market soared further on Friday amid another frenzy of trading.

Digital World Acquisition Corp. nearly tripled in the first minute of trading before it was temporarily halted. It then gave up a chunk of those gains and was sitting on a 101.9% gain at $91.87, as of 3:30 p.m. Eastern time. In the morning, it climbed as high as $175.

A day before, the stock more than quadrupled to $45.50 from $9.96 after it said it would merge with Trump Media & Technology Group. The new venture, with Trump as its chairman, aims to challenge Facebook, Twitter and even Disney’s streaming video service.

Experts are split on the company’s prospects, and the deal announcing its merger with Digital World Acquisition was unusual in how few details it offered investors. The company has yet to publish an app, name its senior executives or offer details about pricing for its video-streaming and other services. All of that could give investors pause, but not enough to keep Digital World Acquisition Corp.'s stock from soaring.

Some investors appear to be believers in Trump's ideology, while others see a chance for the company to quickly gain a big audience. A big chunk of investors, though, appeared simply to be grabbing a chance for a quick buck.

Several threads on Reddit's WallStreetBets forum, where millions of traders share their successes and failures, had users bragging about how much money they made by jumping in and out of Digital World Acquisition Corp. Others were asking if they should listen to the fear they were feeling of missing out.

Trading in the stock was so furious, and swings in its price were so sharp, that it was temporarily halted at least 12 times through the morning.

Digital World Acquisition is a special-purpose acquisition company, something that's typically called a SPAC or “blank-check” company. It's sitting on a little less than $300 million of cash that it raised in its own initial public offering, before it went looking for a company to acquire.

SPACs can offer privately held companies a quicker and easier way to get their stocks on an exchange, by merging with them. They were wildly popular earlier this year, but activity had been receding as regulatory scrutiny on them and interest in them dimmed, at least until Wednesday's Trump-related announcement.

Ít can be difficult for skeptical investors to bet that a SPAC's price will fall, a move called “shorting,” said Michael Ohlrogge, an assistant professor of law at New York University who has researched SPACs. With few short sellers, that can remove a force pushing a stock's price down, allowing it to jump even higher than it would otherwise.

“Overall, I think it's a big difficulty because it leads to their prices being inflated,” Ohlrogge said.

All the action in Digital World Acquisition's stock is happening before investors have even had a chance to see a proxy statement, which will give details about the merger and possibly about how Trump Media & Technology Group will operate.

The last time Trump ran a publicly traded company, it didn’t end up well for investors. His casino company, Trump Entertainment Resorts, lost hundreds of millions of dollars over more than a dozen years and filed for bankruptcy several times, socking shareholders with big losses. Trump fared better. He took in $82 million in fees, salary and bonuses over the same period, according to Fortune magazine.


AP Writer Bernard Condon contributed.

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The FBI has identified “quite a few” sexual abuse victims of a former Connecticut girl's AAU basketball coach and authorities are seeking the public's help in finding others, an official said Friday.

Danny Lawhorn, 30, of Hartford, faces both state sexual assault and federal child enticement charges related to the alleged sexual abuse of three girls who played for the Bria Holmes Elite program between 2017 and this year.

The federal charges allege that in June he assaulted a player from overseas who was staying at the Hartford home that Lawhorn shared with Holmes, a former WNBA player, and the couple's child.

Two other former players in the Holmes Elite program have come forward to say they were abused by Lawhorn in 2017 and 2019, federal prosecutors said. All three girls, who were under the age of 18 at the time, said Lawhorn asked for a massage before he sexually assaulted them, according to court documents.

Aristos Papadacos, a special agent with the FBI’s New Haven office, said at a news conference Friday they are asking for any other victims to come forward and contact them through a special website.

He said because of the nature of the elite program, some victims may be out of state or even overseas.

“I don't know the exact number (of victims) and I don't want to get into the exact number,” Papadacos said. “But we have quite a few victims right now.”

Lawhorn was removed as a coach by Bria Holmes Elite after his arrest in June on state charges of second-degree sexual assault. He had coached multiple teams for the program founded by Holmes, a former Connecticut high school star who went on to play at West Virginia and in the WNBA.

Lawhorn's attorney, Jon Schoenhorn, argued that his client not be detained on the federal charges before trial. He said the player at the center of the case was not on a team coached by Lawhorn in June and was three weeks shy of her 18th birthday at the time of the incident.

However, prosecutors said Lawhorn told police that he knew the girl was 17 and admitted being her coach.

Messages were left Friday with Bria Holmes Elite and with Holmes' agent.

Lawhorn also faces federal drug charges stemming from Lawhorn’s Oct. 5 arrest by Hartford police, during which he possessed about 300 wax sleeves believed to contain the deadly narcotic fentanyl, according to the federal complaint.

A federal detention hearing was continued until Monday because of technical difficulties with the video conference. Lawhorn remains in state custody in lieu of a $250,000 bond.

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Vice President Kamala Harris will head next month to Paris for talks with French President Emmanuel Macron, according to the White House.

The White House announced Harris’ visit to France as President Joe Biden and Macron spoke by phone on Friday. The two presidents are scheduled to meet in Rome later this month on the margins of the Group of 20 summit.

Macron's office said in a statement that he and Biden discussed “the establishment of a stronger European defense, complementary to NATO and contributing to global security.”

In addition to meeting with Macron, Harris will deliver a speech on Nov. 11 at the annual Paris Peace Forum and participate the following day in the Paris Conference on Libya. She will be joined by her husband Douglas Emhoff for the visit.

The scheduled meeting comes amid an effort by the Biden administration to soothe its relationship with the French which became strained by a U.S. deal announced last month to sell nuclear-powered submarines to Australia. The move by the U.S. undercut a more than $60 billion deal by a French defense contractor to sell diesel-powered submarines to Australia.

“They will discuss the importance of the transatlantic relationship to global peace and security and underscore the importance of our partnership on global challenges from COVID-19 and the climate crisis to issues affecting the Sahel and the Indo-Pacific,” Harris senior adviser Symone Sanders said in a statement.

Harris and Emhoff’s visit coincides with Veterans Day in the U.S. and Armistice Day in France. The two plan to mark the solemn commemorations with a visit to Suresnes American Cemetery outside Paris, Sanders said.

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ST. LOUIS (AP) — A former pastor accused of sexually assaulting two women inside a suburban St. Louis Catholic supply store, then killing a third when she refused his sexual demands pleaded guilty Friday to first-degree murder and other charges.

Thomas Bruce's plea came days before jury selection was to begin in a trial scheduled to start Nov. 1 for the attacks in Ballwin, Missouri, on Nov. 19, 2018. He was sentenced to a mandatory sentence of life without parole, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

At Friday's hearing, Bruce appeared to be practicing reading from a piece of paper he had in his hand. But after the victims read their impact statements, Bruce told the judge he had nothing to say and started to weep, KSDK-TV reported.

Bruce, now 56, was on the run for two days before his arrest, prompting some schools, churches and businesses to close.

He pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, eight counts of armed criminal action, two counts of first-degree sodomy, three counts of first-degree kidnapping, burglary and attempted first-degree sodomy.

Authorities said that Bruce, armed with a handgun, forced the three women into a back room of the store, told them to strip, exposed himself and ordered them to “perform deviant sexual acts on him,” detectives wrote in a criminal complaint.

Two of the women complied but 53-year-old Jamie Schmidt of House Springs refused, so he shot her in the head, prosecutors said. He ordered the other women to continue performing the sexual acts on him, then fled, apparently able to blend in on a busy street in broad daylight.

The two women assaulted in the store read victim impact statements Friday describing what they went through that day and in the years that have followed.

Schmidt’s husband and family members also described the pain her death has caused them.

“In a way my kids lost two parents that day. I haven’t been same since,” Schmidt’s husband said.

After the hearing, St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell praised the two women for facing Bruce to read their statements.

"The courage that they showed, the strength, I don't know if I would have been able to do that under those set of circumstances," Bell said. "It's a blessing that they are still here, obviously, because it could have gone differently."

The prosecutor at the time of the crime, Bob McCulloch, said he did not believe the store was targeted because of its religious affiliation but simply that Bruce “saw an opportunity — three women in the store alone.”

St. Louis County’s police chief at the time, Jon Belmar, said the crime “shocked the senses.”

The Missouri secretary of state’s office identified Bruce as the operator of a nonprofit church formed in 2003 that was dissolved in 2007. Pastor David Fitzgerald at Calvary Chapel in Maryland Heights told The Post-Dispatch that Bruce was a pastor at Calvary Chapel of Cape Girardeau, in southeast Missouri, during that time.

Bruce also was a Navy veteran, according to his LinkedIn page.

Schmidt, of House Springs, was a married mother of three who worked as a secretarial assistant at a community college. She was active at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in High Ridge and friends have said she may have been at the store to buy supplies to make rosaries for parishioners.

As part of the plea, prosecutors in Jefferson County agreed to drop separate charges of kidnapping, sexual abuse, burglary and harassment for an attack on a then-77-year-old woman just weeks before the Catholic Supply attack.

The woman was attacked at her home near Hillsboro, another eastern Missouri town not far from where Bruce lived in Imperial. She later recognized Bruce from his photo after the Catholic store attack, which led to charges in January 2019.

Jefferson County Prosecutor Trisha Stefanski said in a news release Friday the woman agreed to dropping the charges and is ready to move on from the attack. Stefanski said her office and the victim agreed that that having a mandatory life sentence without parole is “a satisfactory resolution.”


Jim Salter in St. Louis contributed to this report.

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. budget deficit totaled $2.77 trillion for 2021, the second highest on record but an improvement from the all-time high of $3.13 trillion reached in 2020. The deficits in both years reflect trillions of dollars in government spending to counteract the devastating effects of a global pandemic.

The Biden administration said Friday that deficit for the budget year that ended Sept. 30 was $360 billion lower than 2020, as a recovering economy boosted revenues, helping to offset government spending from pandemic relief efforts.

Before the deficit ballooned during two years of a global pandemic, the biggest deficit had been a shortfall of $1.4 trillion in 2009. At that time, the U.S. was spending heavily to lift the country out of a severe recession following the 2008 financial crisis.

As a percentage of the overall economy, as measured by the gross domestic product, the 2021 deficit represents 12.4% of GDP, down from the 2020 deficit, which was 15% of GDP.

The 2020 deficit was the highest in relation to the overall economy since World War II, when it hit 29.6% of GDP in 1943 as the United States was borrowing heavily to finance the war effort. Those figures remained elevated at 22.2% of GDP in 1944 and 21% of GDP in 1945 before beginning to retreat once the war was won.

For 2021, the joint report from Treasury and the Office of Management and Budget said government spending increased 4.1% to $6.82 trillion. This was offset by an increase of 18.3% in government revenues to $4 trillion. The revenue gain reflected an improving economy as millions of people who had lost jobs at the start of the pandemic went back to work and corporate profits rebounded after a horrendous 2020.

“Under President Biden's leadership, the U.S. economy is getting back on track and Americans are getting back to work,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Shalanda Young, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, said in a joint statement.

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office expects the deficit will fall to $1.15 trillion in the current budget year, which began Oct. 1, and will dip below $1 trillion for three years from 2023 through 2025 before rising again above $1 trillion for each year through 2031.

That CBO forecast does not include the spending that will occur if Biden is able to get two pending measures through Congress: a $1 trillion proposal for traditional infrastructure projects such as roads and bridges, and his plan to bolster the social safety net and combat climate change.

The safety-net measure had a price tag of $3.5 trillion but is expected to be scaled back to around $2 trillion or less to meet the objections of moderate Democrats, including Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

In their comments Yellen and Young credited Biden's economic policies for contributing to a lower deficit, including Biden's “swift action to mount a historic vaccination effort” and his success in getting Congress to approve $1.9 trillion in extra spending in the stimulus bill passed in March.

“While the nation's economic recovery is stronger than those of other wealthy nations, it is still fragile,” Yellen said. “In order to build upon the progress that has been made ... Congress should pass President Biden's Build Back Better plan."

Yellen and other administration officials have argued that running large deficits now is an acceptable way to boost economic growth and address long-term problems facing the middle class, such as a lack of child care. Yellen has said efforts to address those issues will boost productivity over the long-term and are cost-effective at a time when the government's borrowing costs are so low.

For 2021, interest on the debt totaled $562 billion, up $40 billion from the previous year. However much of that increase is due to higher inflation, which required the government to pay holders of Treasury securities higher returns. Payments on overall debt have remained relatively stable because interest rates have stayed low, even though the debt levels have been surging. Total public debt now stands around 100% of total GDP.

The CBO projections are that the deficits over the next decade will add another $12.1 trillion to the national debt.

Congress earlier this month approved a short-term increase in the debt limit to $28.88 trillion that will allow Yellen to keep employing extraordinary measures to avoid the first-ever default on the debt, something she has warned would be catastrophic and likely push the country into another recession.

Yellen has said her maneuvering room will run out in December if Congress does not either enact a sizable increase in the borrowing limit or suspend it altogether. Congress must also enact a budget plan for this year or approve another stop-gap spending bill by Dec. 3 to avoid a government shutdown.

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NEW YORK (AP) — Halyna Hutchins, the cinematographer who was fatally shot with a prop gun by Alec Baldwin on a movie set, grew up on a Soviet military base and worked as an investigative reporter in Europe before studying film in Los Angeles and embarking on a promising movie-making career.

Hutchins, 42, was shot Thursday on the set of the Western “Rust.” A spokesperson for Baldwin said there was an accident involving a prop gun with blanks. Detectives were investigating.

On her Instagram page, Hutchins identified herself as a “restless dreamer” and “adrenaline junkie.” In recent days, she posted several images from the set of “Rust” on the outskirts of Santa Fe, New Mexico, including an early morning shot of a cloudy desert sky, a video of herself riding horseback during a day off and a photo of the crew gathered to express solidarity with union members. The members of the IATSE union were seeking a new contract and threatened to strike before a settlement was reached last weekend.

According to her website, she grew up on the Soviet base in the Arctic Circle and was “surrounded by reindeer and nuclear submarines.” She received a graduate degree in international journalism from Kyiv National University in Ukraine, worked on British documentary productions in Europe and graduated from the American Film Institute Conservatory in 2015. She is survived by her husband, Matthew Hutchins, with whom she had a son.

“She had an interesting background, and I think that made for a unique perspective on the world,” said one of her AFI teachers, Bill Dill. “She brought a wealth of experience to the movie-making process.”

Her other credits include the crime drama “Blindfire” and the horror film “Darlin,” whose director, Pollyanna McIntosh, posted on Instagram that she was “the most talented, in the trenches, committed wonderful artist and team mate.”

Director Adam Egypt Mortimer, who worked with her on the 2020 thriller “Archenemy,” said she had a powerful sense of confidence and an inspiring sense of adventure. He remembered a day on the set when an actor had to leave and the rest of the crew had to work around him.

“Halyna was excited,” said Mortimer, who recalled her asking if they would shoot the scenes "European style,” meaning that they would improvise.

Cinematographer Andriy Semenyuk, a fellow Ukrainian who met Hutchins a few years ago through friends, remembered how she welcomed him and brought him to some of her assignments. He called her a mentor with a “magnetizing” personality who stood out for her willingness to help others.

“I think the big deal about her in general, beyond being extremely talented — which is a given — is just her generous and really open personality,” he said. “In the film industry, which is super competitive, it’s not enough to have talent. It’s good to have this human, appealing personality.”

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BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — Doctor Petruta Filip is working 100-hour weeks at a Bucharest hospital which, like hospitals throughout Romania, is struggling under an onslaught of COVID-19 patients in a country with worryingly low vaccination rates.

The European Union country of around 19 million has only 35% of its adults fully inoculated against COVID-19 compared to an EU average of 74%, and is the second-least vaccinated nation in the 27-nation bloc in front of Bulgaria. That's crippling Romania's creaking health care system, which is also facing record-high death and infection numbers.

In an attempt Friday to curb the deadly surge and relieve pressure on hospitals, authorities approved tighter restrictions set to take effect on Monday. Vaccination certificates will be required for many day-to-day activities, such as going to the gym, the cinema, or a shopping mall.

For everyone, there will be a 10 p.m. curfew, shops will be shuttered at 9 p.m., bars and clubs will close for 30 days, and schools will close for an additional week over half-term starting Monday. Masks will be mandatory for everyone in public.

“I would bring people (who don’t believe in the virus or vaccines) here for a day, and maybe they’ll change their opinion,” Filip told The Associated Press Friday. She works at the capital's Bucharest University Emergency Hospital in a COVID-19 ward packed with patients receiving oxygen treatment.

Romania on Tuesday registered record highs of nearly 19,000 infections and 574 deaths. More than 1,800 coronavirus patients are currently receiving intensive care treatment. Data from Romania's health authorities indicate that more than 90% of those dying of COVID-19 are unvaccinated.

“All the stories on TV are about morgues filled with dead people and relatives crying outside," said Filip, on a day that Romania registered 16,110 new COVID-19 infections and 448 deaths.

It was a week in which dark scenes emerged of ambulances queued for hours outside hospitals waiting for beds to be made available. Romanian President Klaus Iohannis called it a “national drama of terrible proportions” and said there has been a “lack of concrete action” by authorities on preparing for the latest surge.

“A real catastrophe has been triggered in Romania and unfortunately until people convince themselves to get vaccinated, measures are needed,” he said Wednesday.

Earlier this month, Romanian doctors issued an open letter to Romanians titled “a cry of despair” to highlight the plight they face and urged people to get vaccinated.

The rapidly deteriorating situation in Romania, which now has one of the worst COVID-19 death rates in the EU, prompted the World Health Organization to send a senior expert, Dr. Heather Papowitz, to assist in strengthening its pandemic response.

Papowitz attended on Friday the opening of a three-day round-the-clock vaccination ‘marathon’ in Bucharest, which authorities hope will stimulate jab uptake. In the first eight hours more than 13,000 people received a vaccine, authorities said.

“It's really exciting that we see so many people here," Papowitz told a press conference. “We've heard that a lot of people are getting vaccinated, that more are getting vaccinated.”

For 51-year-old Emilia, who got inoculated at the vaccination marathon in Bucharest Friday, the population was not well-informed about vaccines — for which she blames the authorities.

“There was a great deal of ignorance, people were not well informed,” she said.

Vaccination uptake in Romania has risen since the end of September, from around just 10,000 doses a day to a record high Friday of 128,000. But the WHO estimates that, at the current rate, it could take Romania nearly three years to pass the key 70% threshold of vaccination coverage.

“Romania has failed at vaccinating its population,” Dr. Marius-Ionut Ungureanu, director of the Center for Health Workforce Research and Policy at Babes-Bolyai University, told the AP.

Ungureanu says that, while the new restrictions starting Monday are “vital” the response by the authorities during this latest deadly wave is “too little, too late.”

“The vaccination campaign, almost flawlessly organized and coordinated from a logistical perspective, has failed from a communication standpoint,” he said.


Stephen McGrath in Bucharest contributed to this story.


Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic

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