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ATLANTA (AP) — Shootings at two massage parlors in Atlanta and one in the suburbs Tuesday evening left eight people dead, many of them women of Asian descent, authorities said. A 21-year-old man suspected in the shootings was taken into custody in southwest Georgia hours later after a manhunt, police said.

The attacks began around 5 p.m., when five people were shot at Youngs Asian Massage Parlor in a strip mall near a rural area in Acworth, about 30 miles north of Atlanta, Cherokee County Sheriff's Office spokesman Capt. Jay Baker said. Two people died at the scene and three were transported to a hospital where two of them also died, Baker said.

No one was arrested at the scene.

Around 5:50 p.m., police in the Buckhead neighborhood of Atlanta, responding to a call of a robbery in progress, found three women dead from apparent gunshot wounds at Gold Spa. While they were at that scene, they learned of a call reporting shots fired at another spa across the street, Aromatherapy Spa, and found a woman who appeared to have been shot dead inside the business.

"It appears that they may be Asian," Atlanta Police Chief Rodney Bryant said.

White supremacist propaganda surged in 2020, report says

NEW YORK (AP) — White supremacist propaganda reached alarming levels across the U.S. in 2020, according to a new report that the Anti-Defamation League provided to The Associated Press.

There were 5,125 cases of racist, anti-Semitic, anti-LGBTQ and other hateful messages spread through physical flyers, stickers, banners and posters, according to Wednesday's report. That's nearly double the 2,724 instances reported in 2019. Online propaganda is much harder to quantify, and it's likely those cases reached into the millions, the anti-hate organization said.

The ADL, which was founded more than a century ago, said that last year marked the highest level of white supremacist propaganda seen in at least a decade. Its report comes as federal authorities investigate and prosecute those who stormed the U.S. Capitol in January, some of whom are accused of having ties to or expressing support for hate groups and anti-government militias.

"As we try to understand and put in perspective the past four years, we will always have these bookends of Charlottesville and Capitol Hill," group CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said.

"The reality is there's a lot of things that happened in between those moments that set the stage," he said.

Biden to mark St. Patrick's Day, praise Good Friday accord

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden is marking St. Patrick's Day as he recommits the U.S. to the Good Friday Agreement, which has come under increasing stress following the United Kingdom's exit from the European Union.

Biden, the latest president of Irish descent, is set for a virtual meeting Wednesday with Ireland's prime minister, Taoiseach Micheál Martin.

The president is expected to attend Mass near his family home in Wilmington, Delaware, before returning to the White House to partake in St. Patrick's Day celebrations toned down due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Biden and Martin's virtual bilateral meeting — Biden's third with a foreign leader since he took office eight weeks ago — will be followed by the presentation of an engraved bowl of shamrock, which has been sent ahead to Washington. It ensures that a tradition that began in 1952 will continue uninterrupted, if modified by COVID-19 concerns.

The White House says Biden will also drop in on Vice President Kamala Harris' meeting with Northern Ireland's First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill in a show of support for the Good Friday Agreement.

In war-torn Syria, uprising birthplace seethes 10 years on

BEIRUT (AP) — Daraa was an impoverished, neglected provincial city in the farmlands of Syria's south, an overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim backwater far from the more cosmopolitan cities of the country's heartland.

But in March 2011 it became the first to explode against the rule of President Bashar Assad. Assad's decision to crush the initially peaceful protests propelled Syria into a civil war that has killed more than a half million people, driven half the population from their homes and sucked in foreign military interventions that have carved up the country.

On the 10th anniversary of the protests, The Associated Press spoke to activists from Daraa who set aside their lives to join the marches in the streets, then paid the price in torture and exile. Unable to return home, they continue from abroad to support a cause that they hope can still prevail, despite Assad's military victories.

After a decade of bloodshed, Daraa is back under Assad's rule, but only tenuously.

Boiling with resentments, battered by an economic crisis and rife with armed groups caught between Russia, Iran and the government, the uprising's birthplace still feels perched on the rim of an active volcano.

Child border crossings surging, straining US facilities

WASHINGTON (AP) — A surge of migrants on the Southwest border has the Biden administration on the defensive, with the head of Homeland Security acknowledging the depth of the problem but insisting it's under control and saying he won't revive a Trump-era practice of immediately expelling teens and children.

The number of migrants being stopped at the U.S.-Mexico border has been rising since last April, and the administration is still rapidly expelling most single adults and families under a public health order issued by President Donald Trump at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. But it is allowing teens and children to stay, at least temporarily, and they have been coming in ever larger numbers.

More than 4,000 migrant children were being held by the Border Patrol as of Sunday, including at least 3,000 in custody longer than the 72-hour limit set by a court order, according to a U.S. official. The agency took in an additional 561 on Monday, twice the recent average, according to a second official. Both spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss figures not yet publicly released.

It has put President Joe Biden in a difficult spot, blasted by Republicans for what they view as encouragement to illegal border crossers and by some Democrats over the prolonged detention of minors. It's also a challenge to his effort to overhaul the broader Trump policies that sought to curtail both legal and illegal immigration.

"The situation at the southwest border is difficult," Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas conceded Tuesday in his most extensive remarks to date on the subject. "We are working around the clock to manage it and we will continue to do so. That is our job."

Top US officials weigh North Korea options in talks in Seoul

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Fresh off a stop in Tokyo, President Joe Biden's top diplomat and defense chief traveled to South Korea on Wednesday, a day after North Korea made sure it had their attention by warning the United States to "refrain from causing a stink" amid deadlocked nuclear negotiations.

How to get North Korea to return to talks will be a major focus when Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin meet South Korean officials this week.

It has been more than two years since nuclear talks stalled, and some experts say the United States and its allies should settle for a deal that would freeze North Korea's nuclear program in return for relaxing sanctions — and possibly leave Pyongyang's already manufactured nuclear weapons in place.

Austin and Blinken will meet their South Korean counterparts for separate talks Wednesday and a joint "two plus two" meeting Thursday, the first such contact between the two countries in five years.

South Korea is the second leg of their regional tour aimed at boosting America's Asian alliances to better deal with growing challenges from China and North Korea. While in Tokyo on Tuesday, they joined forces with Japanese officials to criticize China's "coercion and aggression" and reaffirm their commitment to ridding North Korea of all its nuclear bombs.

Court says Japan's ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional

TOKYO (AP) — A Japanese court ruled Wednesday the government's ban on same-sex marriages is unconstitutional, recognizing the rights of same-sex couples for the first time in the only Group of Seven country that doesn't acknowledge their legal partnership.

Even though the court dismissed the plaintiffs' demand for government compensation, the precedent is a major victory for same-sex people and could affect similar lawsuits pending around the country.

The Sapporo District Court said sexuality, like race and gender, is not a matter of individual preference, therefore prohibiting same-sex couples from receiving benefits given to heterosexual couples cannot be justified.

"Legal benefits stemming from marriages should equally benefit both homosexuals and heterosexuals,(asterisk) the court said, according to a copy of the summary of the ruling.

Judge Tomoko Takebe said in the ruling that not allowing same-sex marriages violates Article 14 of the Japanese Constitution prohibiting discrimination "because of race, creed, sex, social status or family origin."

McConnell vows 'scorched earth' if Senate ends filibuster

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell warned ominously of a "scorched earth" landscape if Democrats use their new majority to bring an end to the Senate filibuster in hopes of muscling legislation supporting President Joe Biden's agenda past GOP opposition.

McConnell unleashed the dire forecast of a Senate that would all but cease to function, implying that Republicans would grind business to a halt by refusing to give consent for routine operations — from the start time for sessions, to the reading of long legislative texts, to quorum call votes.

"Let me say this very clearly for all 99 of my colleagues: Nobody serving in this chamber can even begin — can even begin to imagine — what a completely scorched earth Senate would look like," McConnell said Tuesday in a Senate speech.

McConnell said the partisan gridlock of the Trump and Obama eras would look like "child's play" compared to what's to come.

The GOP leader's stark remarks landed as the Biden administration is taking a victory lap over the just-passed $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, the big COVID-19 relief package that was approved by Congress without a single Republican vote. Republicans acknowledged privately they are struggling to pry attention away from the bill, which appears to be popular among Americans benefiting from $1,400 cash payments, vaccine distribution and other aid, as the GOP focuses on future battles.

EXPLAINER: What's behind some Chauvin jury questions?

Potential jurors in the trial of a former Minneapolis police officer accused in George Floyd's death have been asked many predictable questions. Attorneys from both sides have asked how they feel about the Black Lives Matter movement, and about police. They ask how they felt when they saw the video showing Derek Chauvin with his knee on Floyd's neck.

But some questions are less pointed, and their reasoning more subtle: Have you ever had to resolve conflict? Have you ever been certain you were right only to find out you were wrong?

The Associated Press asked legal experts to decode some of those questions. The experts are former Ramsey County (Minnesota) Attorney Susan Gaertner, now with the law firm Lathrop GPM in Minneapolis; Ted Sampsell-Jones, professor at Mitchell Hamline School of Law in St. Paul, Minnesota; and Peter Joy, professor at the Washington University School of Law in St. Louis.

DEFENSE QUESTION: HAVE YOU EVER BEEN CERTAIN YOU WERE RIGHT, ONLY TO LATER REALIZE YOU WERE WRONG?

Few cases in recent history have received as much attention as Floyd's death. The experts agreed that Chauvin's attorneys are trying to identify potential jurors who will be open to making a decision based on the evidence, not any preconceived beliefs.

Multilingual team helps Berlin immigrants fight coronavirus

BERLIN (AP) — Three times a week, Aliye Tuerkyilmaz hits the markets and busy shopping streets of Neukoelln to hand out informational flyers on the coronavirus pandemic to residents of the German capital's crowded immigrant neighborhood that's studded with minarets, kebab stores and hookah lounges.

The 48-year-old Turkish immigrant who speaks four languages is part of a team of five street workers enlisted to explain the dangers of COVID-19 to people often not reached through traditional channels in an area where infection numbers have regularly been among the highest in the city.

"Especially the older immigrants don't understand German, some are illiterate, and some are still not aware of the health risks and regulations regarding the pandemic," Tuerkyilmaz says as she roams through a Turkish market along the Landwehr canal where many had come to pick up fresh vegetables, chicken and bread.

There are a combination of factors that have made Neukoelln a virus hotspot in Berlin, where low incomes mean that living quarters are often cramped, public transport is frequently the only option, and jobs are commonly in high-risk areas such as the food service industry.

But it was the lack of information making it to the residents that prompted the formation of Tuerkyilmaz's "intercultural educational team," or IKAT, in September by the Berlin NGO Chance BJS in coordination with district officials. 

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