Briefs: Senate report details failures around Jan. 6 attack

News for Tuesday includes FBI-encrypted app tricks organized crime, US pullout from Afghanistan half done, pipeline exec to face Congress, insurers covering  a new Alzheimer's drug, and more
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WASHINGTON (AP) — A Senate investigation of the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol has uncovered broad government, military and law enforcement missteps before the violent attack, including a breakdown within multiple intelligence agencies and a lack of training and preparation for Capitol Police officers who were quickly overwhelmed by the rioters. 

The Senate report released Tuesday is the first — and could be the last — bipartisan review of how hundreds of former President Donald Trump's supporters were able to violently push past security lines and break into the Capitol that day, interrupting the certification of President Joe Biden's victory. 

It includes new details about the police officers on the front lines who suffered chemical burns, brain injuries and broken bones and who told senators that they were left with no direction when command systems broke down. It recommends immediate changes to give the Capitol Police chief more authority, to provide better planning and equipment for law enforcement and to streamline intelligence gathering among federal agencies. 

As a bipartisan effort, the report does not delve into the root causes of the attack, including Trump's role as he called for his supporters to "fight like hell" to overturn his election defeat that day. It does not call the attack an insurrection, even though it was. And it comes two weeks after Republicans blocked a bipartisan, independent commission that would investigate the insurrection more broadly. 

"This report is important in the fact that it allows us to make some immediate improvements to the security situation here in the Capitol," said Michigan Sen. Gary Peters, the chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which conducted the probe along with the Senate Rules Committee. "But it does not answer some of the bigger questions that we need to face, quite frankly, as a country and as a democracy." 

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Global sting: FBI-encrypted app tricks organized crime

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — A global sting involving an encrypted communications platform developed by the FBI has sparked raids and arrests around the world, delivering "an unprecedented blow" to crime gangs, law enforcement authorities said Tuesday.

Operation Trojan Shield involved police swoops in 16 nations. More than 800 suspects were arrested and more than 32 tons of drugs — cocaine, cannabis, amphetamines and methamphetamines were seized along with 250 firearms, 55 luxury cars and more than $148 million in cash and cryptocurrencies.

"Operation Trojan Shield is a shining example of what can be accomplished when international law enforcement partners from around the world work together and develop state-of-the-art investigative tools to detect, disrupt and dismantle transnational criminal organizations," Calvin Shivers, assistant director of the FBI's Criminal Investigative Division, said at a news conference in The Hague.

It was, said Australian Federal Police Commander Jennifer Hearst, "a watershed moment in global law enforcement history."

Dutch National Police Chief Constable Jannine van den Berg said the operation dealt "an unprecedented blow to criminal networks, and this is worldwide."

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Tearful reunion after mom saw photo of daughter at US border

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Six years had passed since Glenda Valdez kissed her toddler goodbye and left for the United States — six years since she held Emely in her arms.

But here she was, at Texas' Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, tearfully embracing the little girl she left behind. And it happened only because she had glimpsed a televised photo of Emely, part of an Associated Press story on young people crossing the Mexican border alone.

"I love you so much," she whispered in Spanish in her 9-year-old daughter's ear. "My God, thank you."

It was a fairy tale ending — for the moment — to a complicated story, one that began in Honduras and with an unhappy relationship, according to Valdez, 26.

Emely's father, she said, was absent and did not provide for them. When Valdez emigrated in pursuit of a better life, the girl was left in the custody of Valdez's mother. But Emely's father took her back.

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After Manchin move, Democrats' voting long shot grows longer

Democrats and voting rights groups scrambled Monday to figure out their next move after a key senator's opposition seemed to doom a sweeping election overhaul bill and raise the prospect that no voting legislation would pass Congress amid what experts say is the greatest attack on voting rights in generations.

Sen. Joe Manchin's op-ed in a newspaper in his native West Virginia on Sunday regarding HR1 effectively neutralized his party's main weapon against a wave of Republican-backed laws tightening access to the ballot in numerous states. It left Democrats and voting rights groups grasping for an alternative.

Some said they'd follow Manchin's suggestions and prioritize a narrower piece of legislation known as HR4 that updates the Voting Rights Act to once again require federal approval of new voting laws and legislative districts in certain states. Others said they wanted to increase the pressure on Manchin, who is scheduled to meet with civil rights leaders Tuesday. Still others insisted that Democrats needed to bring HR1 to the Senate floor later this month, as the chamber's leadership planned to do before Manchin's op-ed.

"It's going to get messy," said Fred Wertheimer, the president of the good-government organization Democracy 21 who helped draft HR1 in 2017. "What Manchin said is not the final word, as far as we're concerned. I don't believe he is prepared to go down in history as the senator that denied millions of eligible citizens, and in particular people of color, the opportunity to vote."

The Rev. Al Sharpton, National Urban League President Marc Morial and other civil rights leaders will be meeting with Manchin in Washington to discuss voting rights and other pieces of the legislative agenda. President Joe Biden, who met with many of the civil rights leaders last week in Tulsa, urged them to meet with Manchin and keep the tone convivial and constructive, and to not pressure the senator — at least not yet, according to a person familiar with the discussion who was not authorized to speak about private conversations and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

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Canadian police say Muslim family targeted by deadly attack

TORONTO (AP) — A driver plowed a pickup truck into a family of five, killing four of them and seriously injuring the other in a deliberate attack that targeted the victims because they were Muslims, Canadian police said Monday. 

Authorities said a young man was arrested in the parking lot of a nearby mall after the incident Sunday night in the Ontario city of London. Police said a black pickup truck mounted a curb and struck the victims at an intersection. 

"This was an act of mass murder perpetuated against Muslims," Mayor Ed Holder said. "It was rooted in unspeakable hatred." 

The extended family issued a statement identifying the dead as Salman Afzal, 46; his wife Madiha, 44; their daughter Yumna, 15; and a 74-year-old grandmother whose name was withheld. The hospitalized boy was identified as Fayez.

"Everyone who knew Salman and the rest of the Afzal family know the model family they were as Muslims, Canadians and Pakistanis," the statement said. "They worked extremely hard in their fields and excelled. Their children were top students in their school and connected strongly with spiritual their identity."

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UN judges to rule on Ratko Mladic appeal against convictions

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — Former Bosnian Serb military chief Ratko Mladic will hear Tuesday if U.N. judges have upheld or overturned his convictions and life sentence for masterminding genocide and other atrocities throughout Bosnia's 1992-95 war.

Mladic, known as the "Butcher of Bosnia" for leading troops responsible for a string of deadly campaigns including the 1995 Srebrenica massacre and the siege of Sarajevo, was convicted in 2017 and sentenced to life imprisonment.

The verdicts in the appeal case will all but wrap up U.N. prosecutions of crimes committed in the war that killed more than 100,000 and left millions homeless. 

Mladic was found guilty of genocide for leading the 1995 massacre in the eastern enclave of Srebrenica of more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys. It was the worst massacre on European soil since World War II. Widows and mothers of victims will be in court to hear the judgment by a five-judge panel led by Zambian Presiding Judge Prisca Matimba Nyambe.

Mladic also was found guilty of other crimes including persecution, extermination, murder and terror. He was acquitted of a second genocide charge linked to a campaigns to drive non-Serbs out of several towns early in the war. Prosecutors appealed that acquittal.

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Mixed city of Arabs and Jews remains on edge after violence

LOD, Israel (AP) — Israeli security forces guard the streets of Lod, weeks after rioters torched patrol cars, synagogues and homes. Attackers who killed an Arab and a Jewish resident are still at large. And a mayor whom some blame for setting the stage for some of the worst domestic unrest in Israeli history remains in office.

Israel and Hamas reached a truce two weeks ago to end 11 days of fighting in the Gaza Strip. But the roots of the upheavals that wracked Israel's mixed Jewish-Arab cities during the war have not been addressed, leaving those communities on edge.

"It's hard for me to say what tomorrow will be like. To say that I will have the same trust, it's hard to say," said Rivi Abramowitz, a Jewish resident of Lod's predominantly Arab Ramat Eshkol neighborhood.

Lod, about 16 kilometers (10 miles) southeast of Tel Aviv, next to the main international airport, is home to 77,000 people. About a third are Arabs — many of them descendants of Palestinians who formed the majority of the city before a mass expulsion amid the 1948 war around Israel's creation.

An urban landscape of low-rise housing projects from the 1950s and '60s, the working-class city also is a bastion of hard-line Jewish politics. In the March 23 election, staunchly nationalist parties, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party, won more than 60 percent of the vote in Lod.

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US pullout from Afghanistan half done, but questions remain

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan is more than half done, and U.S. officials say that while it could be completed by July 4, the final exit of equipment and troops more likely will be later in the summer.

As early as this week, the top U.S. commander for the Middle East, Gen. Frank McKenzie, will give Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin a range of military options for securing the U.S. embassy in Afghanistan and providing counterterrorism support from outside the country once the withdrawal is complete, officials said. The number of American troops needed for the overall security missions inside Afghanistan will depend on a variety of requirements, and could range from roughly a couple hundred to a bit less than 1,000, officials said.

McKenzie's deliberations are a reminder that much about U.S. postwar support for Afghanistan remains uncertain, including how to protect Afghans who worked with the U.S. government from reprisals and how to avoid an intelligence void that could hamper U.S. early warning of extremist threats inside Afghanistan.

At stake is not just a political verdict on President Joe Biden's judgment about the risk posed by renewed instability in Afghanistan, but also the legacy of an American war that was launched 20 years ago in response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and that imperceptibly morphed into what Biden calls "this forever war."

McKenzie is expected to provide options on the amount of aerial surveillance and drones needed to keep an eye on any potential resurgence of al-Qaida, Islamic State or other militant groups. Those options will involve U.S. aircraft from ships at sea and air bases in the Gulf region, such as Al Dhafra air base in the United Arab Emirates. And they could range from persistent U.S. overwatch to a more minimal presence.

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Pipeline exec to face Congress as US recovers most of ransom

WASHINGTON (AP) — The chief executive of the massive fuel pipeline hit by ransomware last month is expected to detail his company's response to the cyberattack and to explain his decision to authorize a multimillion-dollar payment when he testifies before Congress this week.

Colonial Pipeline CEO Joseph Blount will face the Senate Homeland Security Committee on Tuesday, one day after the Justice Department revealed it had recovered the majority of the $4.4 million ransom payment the company made in hopes of getting its system back online. A second hearing is set for Wednesday before the House Homeland Security Committee.

Blount's testimony marks his first appearance before Congress since the May 7 ransomware attack that led Georgia-based Colonial Pipeline, which supplies roughly half the fuel consumed on the East Coast, to temporarily halt operations. The attack has been attributed to a Russia-based gang of cybercriminals using the DarkSide ransomware variant, one of more than 100 variants the FBI is currently investigating.

The company decided soon after the attack to pay ransom of 75 bitcoin, then valued at roughly $4.4 million. Though the FBI has historically discouraged ransomware payments for fear of encouraging cyberattacks, Colonial officials have said they saw the transaction as necessary to resume the vital fuel transport business as rapidly as possible.

The operation to seize cryptocurrency paid to the Russia-based hacker group is the first of its kind to be undertaken by a specialized ransomware task force created by the Biden administration Justice Department. It reflects a rare victory in the fight against ransomware as U.S. officials scramble to confront a rapidly accelerating threat targeting critical industries around the world.

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EXPLAINER: How will insurers cover a new Alzheimer's drug?

Federal regulators have approved the first new drug for Alzheimer's disease in nearly 20 years, leaving patients waiting to see how insurers will handle the pricey new treatment.

Health care experts expect broad coverage of the drug, which was approved Monday. But what that means for patients will vary widely depending on their insurance plan. In some cases, that could mean coming up with several thousand dollars to pay for what the insurer didn't cover.

And there's no guarantee that every case will be covered.  

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