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Biden is 13th and final US president to meet Queen Elizabeth

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Biden is 13th and final US president to meet Queen Elizabeth

WASHINGTON (AP) — With the death of Queen Elizabeth II, Joe Biden gained the distinction of being the 13th and final U.S. president to meet the woman whose reign spanned seven decades.

The queen, who died Thursday at her summer residence in Scotland at age 96, had met every American president since Dwight Eisenhower, with the exception of Lyndon Johnson, who did not visit Britain during his presidency.

She was still a princess when she met President Harry Truman in Washington.

Every living former U.S. president — Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump — joined Biden in mourning her passing and sending condolences to her family.

Biden and first lady Jill Biden said the queen’s “legacy will loom large in the pages of British history, and in the story of our world.”

Obama and his wife, Michelle, recalled the queen welcoming them, America’s first Black president and first lady, to the world stage “with open arms and extraordinary generosity.”

Biden first met the queen in 1982 as a U.S. senator traveling in the U.K. with a delegation from Congress. He last saw her in 2021, several months after he became president, when he attended a world leaders’ summit in southwestern England.

She mingled with Group of Seven leaders at a reception that she and other royals hosted at an indoor rainforest. After the summit, the Bidens traveled to Windsor Castle, near London, at the queen’s invitation for a private audience.

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The queen was a 25-year-old princess when she came to Washington in 1951 and stayed with Truman and his family. She met Herbert Hoover in 1957, more than 20 years after he left office.

Here are highlights of some of her meetings, on both sides of the pond, with past American presidents:

JOE BIDEN

Biden and his trademark aviator sunglasses met the queen at Windsor Castle on a sweltering afternoon in June 2021.

Biden emerged from a black car wearing his shades, stepped onto a covered dais where the queen waited, and, with his wife, posed with the queen as the two countries’ national anthems played.

After walking around the courtyard to inspect the honor guard, he entered the castle for tea.

Back at the airport, Biden told journalists that the queen was “very gracious” and had asked him about the leaders of China and Russia.

While it’s generally frowned upon to discuss one’s private talks with the queen, Biden continued.

“I don’t think she’ll be insulted, but she reminded me of my mother,” he said.

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Biden said he also had invited the queen to visit the White House.

DONALD TRUMP

Trump and the queen met in July 2018 at the castle during a visit to Britain that drew large anti-Trump protests to downtown London, including the hoisting of a balloon depicting Trump in a diaper.

He was criticized for breaking protocol by briefly walking in front of the queen — instead of alongside her — and turning his back on her as they reviewed an honor guard.

Trump later said he thought of his late mother, Mary Anne, who was born in Scotland and who loved the royal family, when he and his wife, Melania, sipped tea with the queen.

Trump’s subsequent comment that the queen told him that Brexit — Britain’s break from the European Union — was complex also created a stir. Most heads of state don’t reveal their private conversations with the queen. She also doesn’t discuss political matters.

The Trumps and the royals met again during the D-Day commemoration in 2019.

BARACK OBAMA

Obama and the queen had their first of three meetings in April 2009 at a reception for world leaders attending the Group of 20 nations summit in London.

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It was there that first lady Michelle Obama broke protocol by briefly putting an arm around the queen’s back as they commiserated about their achy feet. It’s generally a no-no to touch the queen, but she returned Mrs. Obama’s gesture.

The queen invited the Obamas for a state visit in 2011 that included a two-night stay at Buckingham Palace and a lavish banquet in the president’s honor.

As Obama delivered a toast to the queen, he didn’t miss a beat when the band assumed that a pause in his remarks meant he had concluded and launched into a rendition of “God Save the Queen.” Obama kept talking over the music until the band quieted down.

The couples saw each other again in 2016 when Obama visited the queen at Windsor Castle a day after her 90th birthday during another swing through Europe.

GEORGE W. BUSH

Bush detested stuffy, formal affairs, but he donned a white tie-and-tails tuxedo after the queen pulled out all the stops for a state dinner in his honor at Buckingham Palace in November 2003.

A few years later, Bush’s slip of the tongue generated ripples of laughter at a White House welcoming ceremony for the queen, who was touring the U.S. in May 2007.

Stumbling on a line in his speech, Bush said the queen had dined with several of his predecessors and had helped the United States “celebrate its bicentennial in 17- …” Bush caught himself and corrected the date to 1976, and paused to see if she had taken offense.

“She gave me a look that only a mother could give a child,” Bush said with a smile.

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The queen later turned the tables on Bush with her toast at a dinner she hosted for the president at the British Embassy in Washington.

“I wondered whether I should start this toast by saying, ‘When I was here in 1776,’” she said to laughter.

BILL CLINTON

The queen hosted Clinton and his wife, Hillary, aboard her royal yacht, Britannia, in June 1994.

The ship, 412 feet (125 meters) long and 55 feet (17 meters) wide, was docked at the Portsmouth Naval Base and was home base for the Clintons as they attended the queen’s dinner at Guildhall for leaders of Allied nations whose troops participated in the D-Day invasion of Normandy 50 years earlier.

The Clintons spent one night aboard the boat. The next day, the Britannia ferried Clinton to the USS George Washington aircraft carrier as it prepared to sail across the English Channel, from Portsmouth to Normandy, for D-Day anniversary celebrations.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH

One of the more memorable images from the monarch’s third state visit to the U.S. came in 1991 when only her white-striped purple hat could be seen above the microphones when she spoke at an arrival ceremony on the White House grounds.

Someone forgot to adjust the lectern after the much taller Bush spoke.

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The queen stayed strong and carried on, later making light of the incident as she opened an address to a joint meeting of Congress.

“I do hope you can see me today from where you are,” she deadpanned. Bush later apologized and said he felt badly for not pulling out a step for her to stand on.

RONALD REAGAN

Reagan and the queen bonded over a mutual love of horseback riding.

They rode side by side on an 8-mile (13-kilometers), hourlong tour on the grounds of Windsor Castle when Reagan visited her there in June 1982. Reagan was the first president to sleep over at the British royal family’s historic home, an 11th-century estate overlook the River Thames.

While in the U.S. in 1983, the monarch and Philip stayed with the president and first lady Nancy Reagan at their ranch in Santa Barbara, California. She wanted to ride horses again, but a rainstorm wouldn’t allow it. The Reagans served a lunch of regional staples, including enchiladas, chiles rellenos, refried beans, tacos, rice and guacamole.

They also hosted a state dinner for the queen in San Francisco at the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum.

JIMMY CARTER

The queen hosted Carter in May 1977 on his first overseas trip at a dinner for NATO leaders at Buckingham Palace. At one point, as Carter stood with the queen and other guests, he noticed the arrival of the queen mother.

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Ever the Southern gentleman, Carter broke away, took her by the hand and escorted her to the assembled line of guests.

The no-frills Georgia peanut farmer-turned-president ate chicken mousse off a gold plate and seemed excited by his dinner seating between the queen and her sister, Princess Margaret, and across from her son, Prince Charles, Prince Philip and the queen mother.

GERALD FORD

Ford threw a gala state dinner for the Brits in 1976 to mark the bicentennial of the American Revolution. The queen was resplendent in a diamond-studded tiara that sparkled for a crowd that included diplomats, star athletes and celebrities such as Cary Grant and Julie Harris.

The mood evaporated when Ford led the queen to the dance floor while the song “The Lady Is a Tramp” echoed throughout the State Dining Room.

___

Associated Press writers Danica Kirka in London and Nancy Benac in Washington and AP news researcher Jennifer Farrar in New York contributed to this report.

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Israel hails ‘success’ after blocking unprecedented attack from Iran

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Israel hails ‘success’ after blocking unprecedented attack from Iran

TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — Israeli leaders on Sunday credited an international military coalition with helping thwart a direct Iranian attack involving hundreds of drones and missiles, calling the coordinated response a starting point for a “strategic alliance” of regional opposition to Tehran.

But Israel’s War Cabinet met without making a decision on next steps, an official said, as a nervous world waited for any sign of further escalation of the former shadow war.

The military coalition, led by the United States, Britain and France and appearing to include a number of Middle Eastern countries, gave Israel support at a time when it finds itself isolated over its war against Hamas in Gaza. The coalition also could serve as a model for regional relations when that war ends.

“This was the first time that such a coalition worked together against the threat of Iran and its proxies in the Middle East,” said the Israeli military spokesman, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari.

One unknown is which of Israel’s neighbors participated in the shooting down of the vast majority of about 350 drones and missiles Iran launched. Israeli military officials and a key War Cabinet member noted additional “partners” without naming them. When pressed, White House national security spokesman John Kirby would not name them either.

But one appeared to be Jordan, which described its action as self-defense.

“There was an assessment that there was a real danger of Iranian marches and missiles falling on Jordan, and the armed forces dealt with this danger. And if this danger came from Israel, Jordan would take the same action,” Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman al-Safadi said in an interview on Al-Mamlaka state television. U.S. President Joe Biden spoke with Jordan’s King Abdullah on Sunday.

The U.S. has long tried to forge a regionwide alliance against Iran as a way of integrating Israel and boosting ties with the Arab world. The effort has included the 2020 Abraham Accords, which established diplomatic relations between Israel and four Arab countries, and having Israel in the U.S. military’s Central Command, which oversees operations in the Middle East and works closely with the armies of moderate Arab states.

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The U.S. had been working to establish full relations between Israel and regional heavyweight Saudi Arabia before the Oct. 7 Hamas attack sparked Israel’s war in Gaza. The war, which has claimed over 33,700 Palestinian lives, has frozen those efforts due to widespread outrage across the Arab world. But it appears that some behind-the-scenes cooperation has continued, and the White House has held out hopes of forging Israel-Saudi ties as part of a postwar plan.

Just ahead of Iran’s attack, the commander of CENTCOM, Gen. Erik Kurilla, visited Israel to map out a strategy.

Israel’s military chief, Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, on Sunday thanked CENTCOM for the joint defensive effort. Both Jordan and Saudi Arabia are under the CENTCOM umbrella. While neither acknowledged involvement in intercepting Iran’s launches, the Israeli military released a map showing missiles traveling through the airspace of both nations.

“Arab countries came to the aid of Israel in stopping the attack because they understand that regional organizing is required against Iran, otherwise they will be next in line,” Amos Yadlin, a former head of Israel’s military intelligence, wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

Israel’s defense minister, Yoav Gallant, said he had spoken with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and that the cooperation “highlighted the opportunity to establish an international coalition and strategic alliance to counter the threat posed by Iran.”

The White House signaled that it hopes to build on the partnerships and urged Israel to think twice before striking Iran. U.S. officials said Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Washington would not participate in any offensive action against Iran.

Israel’s War Cabinet met late Sunday to discuss a possible response, but an Israeli official familiar with the talks said no decisions had been made. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was discussing confidential deliberations.

Asked about plans for retaliation, Hagari declined to comment directly. “We are at high readiness in all fronts,” he said.

“We will build a regional coalition and collect the price from Iran, in the way and at the time that suits us,” said a key War Cabinet member, Benny Gantz.

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Iran launched the attack in response to a strike widely blamed on Israel that hit an Iranian consular building in Syria this month and killed two Iranian generals.

By Sunday morning, Iran said the attack was over, and Israel reopened its airspace. Iran’s president, Ebrahim Raisi, claimed Iran had taught Israel a lesson and warned that “any new adventures against the interests of the Iranian nation would be met with a heavier and regretful response from the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

The foes have been engaged in a shadow war for years, but Sunday’s assault was the first time Iran launched a direct military assault on Israel, despite decades of enmity dating back to the country’s 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Iran said it targeted Israeli facilities involved in the Damascus strike, and that it told the White House early Sunday that the operation would be “minimalistic.”

But U.S. officials said Iran’s intent was to “destroy and cause casualties” and that if successful, the strikes would have caused an “uncontrollable” escalation. At one point, at least 100 ballistic missiles were in the air with just minutes of flight time to Israel, the officials said.

Israel said more than 99% of what Iran fired was intercepted, with just a few missiles getting through. An Israeli airbase sustained minor damage.

Israel has over the years established — often with the help of the U.S. — a multilayered air-defense network that includes systems capable of intercepting a variety of threats, including long-range missiles, cruise missiles, drones and short-range rockets.

That system, along with collaboration with the U.S. and others, helped thwart what could have been a far more devastating assault at a time when Israel is already deeply engaged in Gaza as well as low-level fighting on its northern border with Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia. Both Hamas and Hezbollah are backed by Iran.

While thwarting the Iranian onslaught could help restore Israel’s image after the Hamas attack in October, what the Middle East’s best-equipped army does next will be closely watched in the region and in Western capitals — especially as Israel seeks to develop the coalition it praised Sunday.

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In Washington, Biden pledged to convene allies to develop a unified response. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. would hold talks with allies. After an urgent meeting, the Group of Seven countries unanimously condemned Iran’s attack and said they stood ready to take “further measures.”

Israel and Iran have been on a collision course throughout Israel’s war in Gaza. In the Oct. 7 attack, militants from Hamas and Islamic Jihad, also backed by Iran, killed 1,200 people in Israel and kidnapped 250 others. Israel’s offensive in Gaza has killed over 33,000 people, according to local health officials.

Hamas welcomed Iran’s attack, saying it was “a natural right and a deserved response” to the strike in Syria. It urged the Iran-backed groups in the region to continue to support Hamas in the war.

Hezbollah also welcomed the attack. Almost immediately after the war in Gaza erupted, Hezbollah began attacking Israel’s northern border. The two sides have been involved in daily exchanges of fire, while Iranian-backed groups in Iraq, Syria and Yemen have launched rockets and missiles toward Israel.

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Federman reported from Jerusalem. Associated Press writers Zeke Miller and Michelle L. Price in Washington; Amir Vahdat in Tehran, Iran; Samy Magdy in Cairo; Omar Akour in Amman, Jordan; and Giada Zampano in Rome contributed to this report.

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How to get rid of NYC rats without brutality? Birth control is one idea

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How to get rid of NYC rats without brutality? Birth control is one idea

New York lawmakers are proposing rules to humanely drive down the population of rats and other rodents, eyeing contraception and a ban on glue traps as alternatives to poison or a slow, brutal death.

Politicians have long come up with creative ways to battle the rodents, but some lawmakers are now proposing city and statewide measures to do more.

In New York City, the idea to distribute rat contraceptives got fresh attention in city government Thursday following the death of an escaped zoo owl, known as Flaco, who was found dead with rat poison in his system.

City Council Member Shaun Abreu proposed a city ordinance Thursday that would establish a pilot program for controlling the millions of rats lurking in subway stations and empty lots by using birth control instead of lethal chemicals. Abreu, chair of the Committee on Sanitation and Solid Waste Management, said the contraceptives also are more ethical and humane than other methods.

The contraceptive, called ContraPest, is contained in salty, fatty pellets that are scattered in rat-infested areas as bait. It works by targeting ovarian function in female rats and disrupting sperm cell production in males, The New York Times reported.

New York exterminators currently kill rats using snap and glue traps, poisons that make them bleed internally, and carbon monoxide gas that can suffocate them in burrows. Some hobbyists have even trained their dogs to hunt them.

Rashad Edwards, a film and television actor who runs pest management company Scurry Inc. in New York City with his wife, said the best method he has found when dealing with rodents is carbon monoxide.

He tries to use the most humane method possible, and carbon monoxide euthanizes the rats slowly, putting them to sleep and killing them. Edwards avoids using rat poison whenever possible because it is dangerous and torturous to the rodents, he said.

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Some lawmakers in Albany are considering a statewide ban on glue boards under a bill moving through the Legislature. The traps, usually made from a slab of cardboard or plastic coated in a sticky material, can also ensnare small animals that land on its surface.

Edwards opposes a ban on sticky traps, because he uses them on other pests, such as ants, to reduce overall pesticide use. When ants get into a house, he uses sticky traps to figure out where they’re most often passing by. It helps him narrow zones of pesticide use “so that you don’t go spray the entire place.”

“This is not a problem we can kill our way out of,” said Jakob Shaw, a special project manager for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. “It’s time to embrace these more common sense and humane methods.”

Two cities in California have passed bans on glue traps in recent years. On the federal level, a bill currently in committee would ban the traps nationwide.

“It ends a really inhumane practice of managing rat populations,” said Jabari Brisport, the New York state senator who represents part of Brooklyn and sponsored the bill proposing the new guidelines. “There are more effective and more humane ways to deal with rats.”

Every generation of New Yorkers has struggled to control rat populations. Mayor Eric Adams hired a “rat czar” last year tasked with battling the detested rodents. Last month, New York City reduced the amount of food served up to rats by mandating all businesses to put trash out in boxes.

While the war on rats has no end in sight, the exterminator Edwards said we can learn a lot from their resilience. The rodents, he said, can never be eradicated, only managed.

“They’re very smart, and they’re very wise,” he said. “It’s very inspiring but just — not in my house.”

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Coachella: Earthquake shakes SoCal desert during music fest

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Coachella: Earthquake shakes SoCal desert during music fest

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (AP) — A small earthquake shook the Southern California desert Saturday near Coachella, where the famous music festival is being held this weekend. No damage or injuries were reported.

The quake, with a preliminary magnitude of 3.8, hit at 9:08 a.m. about 8 miles (13 kilometers) northeast of Borrego Springs in Riverside County, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The epicenter was about 20 miles (32 kilometers) southeast of Coachella. It struck at a depth of about 7 miles (11 kilometers), the USGS said.

A dispatcher with the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department said there were no calls reporting any problems from the quake.

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