Killer of 8 in California had talked of workplace attacks

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — An employee who gunned down eight people at a California rail yard and then killed himself as law enforcement rushed in had talked about killing people at work more than a decade ago, his ex-wife said.

"I never believed him, and it never happened. Until now," a tearful Cecilia Nelms told The Associated Press on Wednesday following the 6:30 a.m. attack at a light rail facility for the Valley Transportation Authority.

"When our deputies went through the door, initially he was still firing rounds. When our deputy saw him, he took his life," Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith told reporters. 

The sheriff's office is next door to the rail yard, which serves the county of more than 1 million people in the heart of the Silicon Valley.

The attacker was identified as 57-year-old Samuel Cassidy, according to two law enforcement officials. Investigators offered no immediate word on a possible motive but his ex-wife said he used to come home from work resentful and angry over what he perceived as unfair assignments.

___

GOP set to block 1/6 panel, stoking Senate filibuster fight

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Republicans are ready to deploy the filibuster to block a commission on the Jan. 6 insurrection, shattering hopes for a bipartisan probe of the deadly assault on the U.S. Capitol and reviving pressure on Democrats to do away with the procedural tactic that critics say has lost its purpose.

The vote expected Thursday would be the first successful use of a filibuster this year to halt Senate legislative action. Most Republicans oppose the bill, which would establish a commission to investigate the attack by Donald Trump supporters over the election. With Democrats in support but the Senate evenly split, 50-50, the tally is likely to fall short of the 60-vote threshold to launch debate.

"We have a mob overtake the Capitol, and we can't get the Republicans to join us in making historic record of that event? That is sad," said Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the assistant Democratic leader.

"That tells you what's wrong with the Senate and what's wrong with the filibuster," he said. 

Congress is at an inflection point as lawmakers and the country try to move past the horror of Jan. 6, when the former president's supporters laid siege to the Capitol in a failed effort to overturn Joe Biden's election. The House already approved the commission bill with some Republican support, but a potential filibuster by GOP senators is sparking fresh debate over whether the time has come for Democrats to change the rules and lower the threshold to 51 votes to prevent such brazen acts of obstruction.

___

Deep-rooted racism, discrimination permeate US military

For Stephanie Davis, who grew up with little, the military was a path to the American dream, a realm where everyone would receive equal treatment. She joined the service in 1988 after finishing high school in Thomasville, Georgia, a small town said to be named for a soldier who fought in the War of 1812.

Over the course of decades, she steadily advanced, becoming a flight surgeon, commander of flight medicine at Fairchild Air Force Base and, eventually, a lieutenant colonel.

But many of her service colleagues, Davis says, saw her only as a Black woman. Or for the white resident colleagues who gave her the call sign of ABW – it was a joke, they insisted – an "angry black woman," a classic racist trope.

White subordinates often refused to salute her or seemed uncomfortable taking orders from her, she says. Some patients refused to call her by her proper rank or even acknowledge her. She was attacked with racial slurs. And during her residency, she was the sole Black resident in a program with no Black faculty, staff or ancillary personnel.

"For Blacks and minorities, when we initially experience racism or discrimination in the military, we feel blindsided," Davis said. "We're taught to believe that it's the one place where everybody has a level playing field and that we can make it to the top with work that's based on merit."

___

Biden orders more intel investigation of COVID-19 origin

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden ordered U.S. intelligence officials to "redouble" their efforts to investigate the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, including any possibility the trail might lead to a Chinese laboratory. 

After months of minimizing that possibility as a fringe theory, the Biden administration is joining worldwide pressure for China to be more open about the outbreak, aiming to head off GOP complaints the president has not been tough enough as well as to use the opportunity to press China on alleged obstruction.

Biden on Wednesday asked U.S. intelligence agencies to report back within 90 days. He directed U.S. national laboratories to assist with the investigation and the intelligence community to prepare a list of specific queries for the Chinese government. He called on China to cooperate with international probes into the origins of the pandemic. 

Republicans, including former President Donald Trump, have promoted the theory that the virus emerged from a laboratory accident rather than naturally through human contact with an infected animal in Wuhan, China.

Biden in a statement said the majority of the intelligence community had "coalesced" around those two scenarios but "do not believe there is sufficient information to assess one to be more likely than the other." He revealed that two agencies lean toward the animal link and "one leans more toward" the lab theory, "each with low or moderate confidence."

___

Taiwan struggles with testing backlog amid largest outbreak

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Facing Taiwan's largest outbreak of the pandemic and looking for rapid virus test kits, the mayor of the island's capital did what anyone might do: He Googled it.

"If you don't know, and you try to know something, please check Google," Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je quipped.

Praised for its success at keeping the virus away for more than a year, Taiwan had until May recorded just 1,128 cases and 12 deaths. But the number of locally transmitted cases started growing this month and it soon became clear that the central government was ill prepared not only to contain the virus, but to even detect it on a large scale due to a lack of investment in rapid testing.

That left officials like Ko scrambling to catch up as the number of new infections climbed to some 300 a day. Ko's search put him in contact with six local companies who make rapid tests and his government was soon able to set up four rapid testing sites in a district that had emerged as a virus hotspot.

Rapid tests, experts say, are a critical tool in catching the virus in its early days. The alternative that Taiwan has been relying on — tests that have to be sent out to a lab for processing — has led to backlogs that may be obscuring the true extent of the outbreak.

___

Afghan forces struggle, demoralized, rife with corruption

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Abdullah Mohammadi lost his two legs and an arm below the elbow in a ferocious battle with the Taliban. As a young Afghan soldier, he had been eager to fight for his country, but now he's furious at a government he says ignores him and hasn't paid his veteran's pension for nearly a year.

Afghanistan's National Defense and Security Forces, meant to be the bulwark against advancing Taliban insurgents, are rife with corruption, demoralized and struggling to keep territory. The government says the army can hold its own, but military experts warn of a tough fight ahead for poorly trained, ill-equipped troops whose loyalties waver between their country and local warlords.

By Sept. 11 at the latest, the remaining 2,300-3,500 U.S. troops and roughly 7,000 allied NATO forces will have left Afghanistan, ending nearly 20 years of military engagement. Also leaving is the American air support that the Afghan military has relied on to stave off potentially game-changing Taliban assaults, ever since it took command of the war from the U.S. and NATO in 2014. 

"Without U.S. military support, it is a matter of time before the Taliban consolidates its gains, particularly in the south, east and west," said Bill Roggio, senior fellow at the American Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and editor of its Long War Journal, which tracks militant movements.

At least half the country is believed to be contested ground, often with the government holding only the main towns and cities in local districts and the Taliban dominating the countryside. 

___

Belarusians who fled crackdown fearful after diverted flight

VILNIUS, Lithuania (AP) — Viachka Krasulin said he was arrested and brutally beaten all over his body by police in Belarus for attending a rally in August 2020 that challenged the results of an election keeping authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko in power.

Krasulin said security forces threatened to sodomize him with a truncheon for joining the protest. After he complained to authorities about the police actions, they opened a criminal case against him — rather than the security forces — and he decided to flee to neighboring Lithuania.

Until this week, he and other Lukashenko opponents had thought they were safe from the sweeping government crackdown by moving to nearby European Union countries.

Now they are not so sure. On Sunday, Belarus diverted a jetliner carrying dissident journalist Raman Pratasevich to land in Minsk, where he was arrested. And Lukashenko has vowed to hunt down those who oppose him, even if they move abroad.

"I was a hostage of Lukashenko's regime, but now the entire European Union is in the same situation," said Krasulin, a 32-year-old ethnographer and musician. "Torture, brutal repressions and a hunt for journalists have spilled out of Belarusian borders and become a problem for all of Europe." 

___

For Native Americans, Harvard and other colleges fall short

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) — When Samantha Maltais steps onto Harvard's campus this fall, she'll become the first member of the Aquinnah Wampanoag tribe to attend its prestigious law school. It's a "full-circle moment" for the university and the Martha's Vineyard tribe, she says.

More than 350 years ago, Caleb Cheeshahteaumuck, an Aquinnah Wampanoag man, became the first Native American to graduate from the Cambridge, Massachusetts, university — the product of its 1650 charter calling for the education of "English and Indian youth of this country."

"Coming from a tribal community in its backyard, I'm hyper aware of Harvard's impact," said Maltais, the 24-year-old daughter of her tribe's chairwoman. "It's a symbol of New England's colonial past, this tool of assimilation that pushed Native Americans into the background in their own homelands."

Maltais will arrive on campus at a time when Native American tribes, students and faculty are pushing the Ivy League institution and other colleges to do more for Indigenous communities to atone for past wrongs, much in the way states, municipalities and universities are weighing and, in some cases, already providing reparations for slavery and discrimination against Black people.

In Minnesota, 11 tribes have called on the state university system to return some of the lands taken from tribes, provide tuition waivers to Native American students and increase the number of Native American faculty, among other demands.

___

Forecast: 40 percent chance Earth to be hotter than Paris goal soon

There's a 40 percent chance that the world will get so hot in the next five years that it will temporarily push past the temperature limit the Paris climate agreement is trying to prevent, meteorologists said. 

A new World Meteorological Organization forecast for the next several years also predicts a 90 percent chance that the world will set yet another record for the hottest year by the end of 2025 and that the Atlantic will continue to brew more potentially dangerous hurricanes than it used to. 

For this year, the meteorologists say large parts of land in the Northern Hemisphere will be 1.4 degrees warmer than recent decades and that the U.S. Southwest's drought will continue.

The 2015 Paris climate accord set a goal of keeping warming to a few tenths of a degree warmer from now. The report said there is a 40 percent chance that at least one of the next five years will be 1.5 degrees Celsius higher than pre-industrial times — the more stringent of two Paris goals. The world is already 1.2 degrees Celsius warmer than pre-industrial times.

Last year, the same group forecasted a 20 percent chance of it happening. 

___

Physician warns Tokyo Olympics could spread variants

TOKYO (AP) — A physician representing a Japanese medical body warned Thursday that holding the postponed Tokyo Olympics in two months could lead to the spread of variants of the coronavirus.

Dr. Naoto Ueyama, chairman of the Japan Doctors Union, said the International Olympic Committee and the Japanese government had underestimated the risks of bringing 15,000 Olympic and Paralympic athletes into the country, joined by tens of thousands of officials, judges, media and broadcasters from more than 200 countries and territories.

"Since the emergence of COVID-19 there has not been such a dangerous gathering of people coming together in one place from so many different places around the world," he said, speaking in Tokyo at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan. "It's very difficult to predict what this could lead to."

Ueyama continually likened the virus to a "conventional war" situation, and said he was speaking from his own experience as a hospital physician who works just outside Tokyo. He has not been involved in any of the Olympic planning.

"I think the key here is if a new mutant strain of the virus were to arise as a result of this, the Olympics," he said.

AP Logo little