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US-UK relations enter new chapter as new PM, king settle in

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US-UK relations enter new chapter as new PM, king settle in

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden headed to the United Kingdom on Saturday to pay his respects to Queen Elizabeth II at a time of transition in US-UK relations, as both a new royal and a new prime minister are settling in.

The hawkish approach of Prime Minister Liz Truss to Russia and China puts her on the same page as Biden. But the rise of Truss, 47, who once called the US-UK relationship “special but not exclusive,” could mark a decidedly new chapter in the trans-Atlantic partnership on trade and more.

Of high concern for Biden officials in the early going of Truss’s premiership is her backing of legislation that would shred parts of the post-Brexit trading arrangements in Northern Ireland. Analysts say the move could cause deep strain between the UK and the European Union, and undermine peace in Northern Ireland. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the move “would not create a conducive environment” for crafting a long-awaited U.S.-UK trade deal coveted by Truss and her Conservative Party.

“She’s signaled that she’s willing to go to the mattresses on this and that’s going to cause a rift not just between the UK and EU, but the UK and the U.S.,” said Max Bergmann, director of the Europe program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington and a former senior State Department official in the Obama administration. “It’s one that’s going to keep the White House up at night.”

Biden and Truss had been set to meet Sunday, but the prime minister’s office said Saturday they would skip the weekend hello, opting instead for a meeting at the U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday, though Truss still planned to gather with other world leaders converging on London for the royal funeral. The White House confirmed the U.N. meeting just as the president boarded Air Force One.

The two close allies now find themselves in a period of political uncertainty on both sides of the Atlantic. Not unlike his fellow septuagenarian Biden, King Charles III faces questions from the public about whether his age will limit his ability to faithfully carry out the duties of the monarch.

Charles, 73, and Biden, 79, discussed global cooperation on the climate crisis last year while both attended a summit in Glasgow, Scotland. They also met at Buckingham Palace in June 2021 at a reception the queen hosted before a world leaders’ summit in Cornwall.

Truss finds herself, as Biden does, facing questions about whether she has what it takes to lift a country battered by stubborn inflation borne out of the coronavirus pandemic and exacerbated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine unleashing chaos on the global energy market.

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All the while, Britain — and the rest of Europe — is carefully watching to see what the upcoming U.S. midterm elections will bring for the Democratic American president after he vowed upon taking office that “America is back” to being a full partner in the international community after four years of Republican Donald Trump pushing his “America First” worldview.

“It certainly is a time of change and transformation in the UK,” said Barbara A. Perry, presidential studies director at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center. She added, “We don’t know what will happen in our midterms. We don’t know what will happen in 2024.”

Truss, a former accountant who was first elected to Parliament in 2010, hasn’t had much interaction with Biden. The U.S. president called her earlier this month to congratulate her. Truss, as foreign secretary, accompanied her predecessor, Boris Johnson, on a White House visit last year.

It’s been more than 75 years since Winston Churchill declared there was a “special relationship” between the two nations, a notion that leaders on both sides have repeatedly affirmed. Still, there have been bumps along the way.

Tony Blair was derisively branded by the British tabloids as George W. Bush’s “poodle” for backing the 2003 American-led invasion of Iraq. David Cameron and Barack Obama had a “bromance,” but Obama also had his frustrations with the Brits over defense spending and the UK’s handling of Libya following the 2011 ouster of Muammar Gaddafi.

Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan forged a close alliance in the midst of the Cold War, with the prime minister once telling students that the Republican president’s “really good sense of humor” helped their relationship. But there were difficulties too, such as when Thatcher and members of her Cabinet bristled at the Reagan administration’s initial neutrality in the Falklands War.

The White House wasn’t expecting Truss’s announcement in May, when she was foreign secretary, that the government would move forward with legislation that would rewrite parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol. The agreement was part of the UK’s 2020 Brexit withdrawal from the EU that was designed to avoid a hard north-south border with Ireland that might upset Northern Ireland’s fragile peace.

Now, in the first weeks of Truss’s premiership, Biden administration officials are carefully taking the measure of the new British leader. Analysts say there is some trepidation in the administration that undercutting the Northern Ireland protoco l could plunge Europe into trade turmoil at a moment when Biden is working mightily to keep the West unified in confronting Russia over its aggression against Ukraine.

“Brexit could once again become the issue — the issue that can make it difficult for all of Europe to work together at a time when it is critical for Europe to work together,” Bergmann said. “If you’re the Biden administration, this is not the time for the two of your closest partners getting into fights.”

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To be certain, there were areas of friction between Biden and Johnson, who had a warm rapport with former President Donald Trump.

Biden staunchly opposed Brexit as a candidate and had expressed great concern over the future of Northern Ireland. Biden once even derided Johnson as a “physical and emotional clone” of Trump.

Johnson worked hard to overcome that impression, stressing his common ground with Biden on climate change, support for international institutions and most notably by making certain Britain was an early and generous member of the U.S.-led alliance providing economic and military assistance to Ukraine in the aftermath of the Russian invasion.

The former prime minister also unsuccessfully pressed Biden starting days into his administration to begin negotiations on a new U.S.-UK trade deal just as the U.K. regained control over its national trade policy weeks before Biden took office and following the end of a post-Brexit transition period.

But Biden largely kept focus on his domestic to-do list in the early going of his presidency—passing trillions in spending on coronavirus relief, infrastructure, and more—and put negotiations on trade deals on the back burner.

Elliot Abrams, chairman of the conservative foreign policy group Vandenberg Coalition, said that Truss needs Biden to make a new U.S.-UK trade deal a priority. Queen Elizabeth’s funeral won’t be the setting for tough bilateral conversations, but it still marks a moment for the two leaders’ to begin taking stock of each other.

Truss, who succeeded Johnson after he was forced to resign in the face of a string of scandals, has lagged in the opinion polls. She also won her election with a smaller margin than her recent predecessors and is looking for an early win.

“I think if I were (Truss), I want recognition of the leading role Britain’s played, far more than any other country outside the United States in supporting Ukraine,” said Abrams, who served in senior national security and foreign policy roles in the Trump, George W. Bush and Reagan administrations. “And I think I’d want some positive economic message to give the British people, which could be that the free trade agreement negotiations are starting.”

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Remember last year’s Memorial Day travel jams? Chances are they will be much worse this year

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Remember last year’s Memorial Day travel jams? Chances are they will be much worse this year

The patience of Memorial Day weekend travelers was tested Thursday by widespread delays across the country, but there were relatively few canceled flights, raising hopes that airlines can handle bigger crowds expected Friday.

By early evening on the East Coast, more than 6,000 flights had been delayed Thursday, with the biggest backups at the three major airports in the New York City area and Dallas-Fort Worth International.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pasha Pidlubniak waits for a domestic flight at Miami International Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Miami. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

 

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Pasha Pidlubniak waits for a domestic flight at Miami International Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Miami. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

 

The Transportation Security Administration predicted that Friday will be the busiest day for air travel over the holiday weekend, with nearly 3 million people expected to pass through airport checkpoints. It could rival the record of 2.9 million, set on the Sunday after Thanksgiving last year.

“Airports are going to be more packed than we have seen in 20 years,” said Aixa Diaz, a spokesperson for AAA.

When they aren’t waiting out flight delays, travelers are reporting sticker shock at the prices.

At Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, Larisa Latimer of New Lenox, Illinois, said her airfare was reasonable but other expenses for a getaway to New Orleans were not.

 

 

 

 

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Motorists travel along Interstate 24 near the Interstate 40 interchange Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. A record number of Americans are expected to hit the pavement over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

 

Motorists travel along Interstate 24 near the Interstate 40 interchange Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. A record number of Americans are expected to hit the pavement over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

 

“I just have to make the accommodation,” she said. “The rental car is up … this year, the hotel accommodations were very unusually expensive.”

Kathy Larko of Fort Meyers, Florida, used frequent-flyer miles — and some flexible scheduling — to pay for her trip to Chicago.

“I’m really conscious of looking at the cost of the entire trip. We’re staying a little farther out than we normally would” to get a lower hotel rate, she said. “We’re also flying back a day later, because we could get cheaper miles.”

More travelers will be on the road. AAA estimates that 43.8 million people will venture at least 50 miles (80 kilometers) from home between Thursday and Monday, with 38 million of them taking vehicles.

 
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Travelers wait at a TSA checkpoint at the Los Angeles International Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Los Angeles. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/Ryan Sun)

 

Travelers wait at a TSA checkpoint at the Los Angeles International Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Los Angeles. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/Ryan Sun)

 

Airport unions are using the holiday weekend to highlight their demands.

About 100 workers who clean airplane cabins and drive trash trucks at the airport in Charlotte, North Carolina, started a 24-hour strike Thursday, demanding better pay and healthcare, according to the Service Employees International Union. About 15% of flights were delayed, but it was unclear whether the strike played any role.

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A planned strike at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York was averted, however. Teamsters Local 553, which represents about 300 workers who refuel passenger and cargo jets at JFK, said that it reached a settlement with Allied Aviation Services and called off a walkout planned for Friday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

George Ridley, 4, left, rides on a suitcase as he and his father Chris Ridley make their way through the Nashville international Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

 

George Ridley, 4, left, rides on a suitcase as he and his father Chris Ridley make their way through the Nashville international Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

 

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“We are happy an agreement has been reached, a need for a strike averted, and we are hopeful that the deal will be ratified by our members,” said Demos Demopoulos, the secretary-treasurer of the local.

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Associated Press video journalist Melissa Perez Winder in Chicago and Associated Press radio reporter Shelley Adler in Washington contributed to this report.

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Texas health department appoints anti-abortion OB-GYN to maternal mortality committee

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Texas health department appoints anti-abortion OB-GYN to maternal mortality committee

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas’ health department has appointed an outspoken anti-abortion OB-GYN to a committee that reviews pregnancy-related deaths as doctors have been warning that the state’s restrictive abortion ban puts women’s lives at risk.

Dr. Ingrid Skop was among the new appointees to the Texas Maternal Morality and Morbidity Review Committee announced last week by the Texas Department of State Health Services. Her term starts June 1.

The committee, which compiles data on pregnancy-related deaths, makes recommendations to the Legislature on best practices and policy changes and is expected to assess the impact of abortion laws on maternal mortality.

Skop, who has worked as an OB-GYN for over three decades, is vice president and director of medical affairs for the Charlotte Lozier Institute, an anti-abortion research group. Skop will be the committee’s rural representative.

Skop, who has worked in San Antonio for most of her career, told the Houston Chronicle that she has “often cared for women traveling long distances from rural Texas maternity deserts, including women suffering complications from abortions.”

Texas has one of the most restrictive abortion bans in the U.S., and doctors have sought clarity on the state’s medical exemption, which allows an abortion to save a woman’s life or prevent the impairment of a major bodily function. Doctors have said the exemption is too vague, making it difficult to offer life-saving care for fear of repercussions. A doctor convicted of providing an illegal abortion in Texas can face up to 99 years in prison and a $100,000 fine and lose their medical license.

Skop has said medical associations are not giving doctors the proper guidance on the matter. She has also shared more controversial views, saying during a congressional hearing in 2021 that rape or incest victims as young as 9 or 10 could carry pregnancies to term.

Texas’ abortion ban has no exemption for cases of rape or incest.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which says abortion is “inherently tied to maternal health,” said in a statement that members of the Texas committee should be “unbiased, free of conflicts of interest and focused on the appropriate standards of care.” The organization noted that bias against abortion has already led to “compromised” analyses, citing a research articles co-authored by Skop and others affiliated with the Charlotte Lozier Institute.

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Earlier this year a medical journal retracted studies supported by the Charlotte Lozier Institute claiming to show harms of the abortion pill mifepristone, citing conflicts of interests by the authors and flaws in their research. Two of the studies were cited in a pivotal Texas court ruling that has threatened access to the drug.

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Michigan farmworker diagnosed with bird flu, becoming 2nd US case tied to dairy cows

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Michigan farmworker diagnosed with bird flu, becoming 2nd US case tied to dairy cows

A Michigan dairy worker has been diagnosed with bird flu — the second human case associated with an outbreak in U.S. dairy cows.

The male worker had been in contact with cows at a farm with infected animals. He experienced mild eye symptoms and has recovered, U.S. and Michigan health officials said in announcing the case Wednesday.

A nasal swab from the person tested negative for the virus, but an eye swab tested Tuesday was positive for bird flu, “indicating an eye infection,” U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials said.

The worker developed a “gritty feeling” in his eye earlier this month but it was a “very mild case,” said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, Michigan’s chief medical executive. He was not treated with oseltamivir, a medication advised for treating bird flu, she said.

The risk to the public remains low, but farmworkers exposed to infected animals are at higher risk, health officials said. They said those workers should be offered protective equipment, especially for their eyes.

Health officials say they do not know if the Michigan farmworker was wearing protective eyewear, but an investigation is continuing.

In late March, a farmworker in Texas was diagnosed in what officials called the first known instance globally of a person catching this version of bird flu from a mammal. That patient reported only eye inflammation and recovered.

Since 2020, a bird flu virus has been spreading among more animal species — including dogs, cats, skunks, bears and even seals and porpoises — in scores of countries.

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The detection in U.S. livestock earlier this year was an unexpected twist that sparked questions about food safety and whether it would start spreading among humans.

That hasn’t happened, although there’s been a steady increase of reported infections in cows. As of Wednesday, the virus had been confirmed in 51 dairy herds in nine states, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department. Fifteen of the herds were in Michigan.

The CDC’s Dr. Nirav Shah said the case was “not unexpected” and it’s possible more infections could be diagnosed in people who work around infected cows.

U.S. officials said they had tested 40 people since the first cow cases were discovered in late March. Michigan has tested 35 of them, Bagdasarian told The Associated Press in an interview.

Shah praised Michigan officials for actively monitoring farmworkers. He said health officials there have been sending daily text messages to workers exposed to infected cows asking about possible symptoms, and that the effort helped officials catch this infection. He said no other workers had reported symptoms.

That’s encouraging news, said Michael Osterholm, a University of Minnesota epidemiologist who has studied bird flu for decades. There’s no sign to date that the virus is causing flu-like illness or that it is spreading among people.

“If we had four or five people seriously ill with respiratory illness, we would be picking that up,” he said.

The virus has been found in high levels in the raw milk of infected cows, but government officials say pasteurized products sold in grocery stores are safe because heat treatment has been confirmed to kill the virus.

The new case marks the third time a person in the United States has been diagnosed with what’s known as Type A H5N1 virus. In 2022, a prison inmate in a work program picked it up while killing infected birds at a poultry farm in Montrose County, Colorado. His only symptom was fatigue, and he recovered. That predated the virus’s appearance in cows.

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

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