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A gunman in New Zealand kills 2 people hours ahead of first game in Women’s World Cup

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A gunman in New Zealand kills 2 people hours ahead of first game in Women’s World Cup

AUCKLAND, New Zealand (AP) — A gunman opened fire on terrified workers on a construction site in downtown Auckland early Thursday, killing two people hours before New Zealand hosted the first game of the Women’s World Cup. The man was found dead, and authorities said his motive appeared to be connected to his previous work at the site.

New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said the shooting was an isolated act, and the FIFA tournament opened as scheduled with a game between the home team and Norway, though with tighter security and many jarred in a country where such attacks are rare. A large crowd, including the prime minister, still showed up at the stadium, and a moment of silence was held for the victims of the shooting, which also left a police officer and four civilians injured.

“I want to reiterate that there is no wider national security threat,” said Hipkins. “This appears to be the action of one individual.”

Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said the gunman was a 24-year-old who had a history of family violence and was serving a sentence of home detention but had previously worked at the building site and had an exemption to do so. He said the man’s motive appeared to be connected to that work.

The shooting began early in the morning, as the man, armed with a shotgun, moved through the unfinished building, firing at people as many fled or hid, Coster said. The man then barricaded himself in an elevator shaft, and a SWAT-type team moved in.

“The offender fired at police, injuring an officer,” Coster said. “Shots were exchanged and the offender was later found deceased.”

Coster said it wasn’t yet clear whether police had shot the man or he had killed himself. He said the man didn’t have a gun license and so shouldn’t have been in possession of a firearm, though the shotgun used is not on a list of banned weapons.

 

 

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Armed New Zealand police officers stand at a road block in the central business district following a shooting in Auckland, New Zealand, Thursday, July 20, 2023. New Zealand police are responding to reports that a gunman has fired shots in a building in downtown Auckland. (AP Photo/Abbie Parr)

Armed New Zealand police officers stand at a road block in the central business district following a shooting in Auckland, New Zealand. (AP Photo/Abbie Parr)

Hipkins praised police for arriving within minutes of the first emergency call.

“These kinds of situations move fast, and the actions of those who risk their lives to save others are nothing short of heroic,” Hipkins said.

The shooting happened near hotels where soccer teams have been staying ahead of the opening of the Women’s World Cup, which New Zealand is jointly hosting with Australia.

Armed police officers placed an area in Auckland’s downtown on heavy lockdown, with streets cordoned off surrounding the harbor ferry terminal, which is popular with tourists. Police ordered bystanders to disperse and told people inside office buildings to shelter in place.

Norway captain Maren Mjelde said her teammates were woken up abruptly when a helicopter began hovering outside the hotel window.

 

Armed New Zealand police officers stand outside a hotel housing a team from the FIFA Women's World Cup in the central business district following a shooting in Auckland, New Zealand, Thursday, July 20, 2023. New Zealand police are responding to reports that a gunman has fired shots in a building in downtown Auckland. (AP Photo/Abbie Parr)

Armed New Zealand police officers stand outside a hotel housing a team from the FIFA Women’s World Cup in the central business district following a shooting in Auckland, New Zealand. (AP Photo/Abbie Parr)

“We felt safe the whole time,” she said in a statement. “FIFA has a good security system at the hotel, and we have our own security officer in the squad. Everyone seems calm and we are preparing as normal for the game tonight.”

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Team USA said all its players and staff were safe and accounted for. It said the team was in contact with local authorities and proceeding with its daily schedule.

New Zealand has tight gun laws, imposed in 2019 after the country’s worst mass shooting prompted a sea change in attitudes toward guns. In that attack, a shooter killed 51 Muslim worshippers at two Christchurch mosques during Friday prayers.

The prime minister at the time, Jacinda Ardern, vowed to ban most semiautomatic weapons within a month and she succeeded, with only a single member of Parliament voting against the ban.

A subsequent buyback scheme saw gun owners hand over more than 50,000 of the newly banned weapons to police in exchange for cash.

 

 

Members of the Philippines Women's World Cup team walk to their team bus following a shooting near their hotel in the central business district in Auckland, New Zealand, Thursday, July 20, 2023. A gunman killed two people before he died Thursday at a construction site in Auckland, as the nation prepared to host games in the FIFA Women's World Cup soccer tournament.(AP Photo/Abbie Parr)

Members of the Philippines Women’s World Cup team walk to their team bus following a shooting near their hotel in the central business district in Auckland, New Zealand. (AP Photo/Abbie Parr)

Jennifer Deering, a tourist from Orlando, Florida, said she was initially shocked to learn of the shooting after a tour guide had previously assured her that Auckland “was very safe here, other than some petty thieves.”

Then she went about her day.

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“It’s sad that it’s normal for us (Americans) to see something like this on the news,” she added.

Coster said the officer who was shot was taken to a nearby hospital in critical condition, had stabilized, and was expected to undergo surgery. He said the others had injuries ranging from moderate to critical. It wasn’t immediately clear if all those injured had been shot.

“I want to acknowledge that this has been a shocking and traumatic event for those people who came to work and found themselves in the middle of an armed emergency,” Coster said. “Thankfully, many people were able to escape the building, but I know for those who hid or remained trapped, this was a terrifying experience.”

FIFA President Gianni Infantino said that he and Secretary-General Fatma Samoura had met with New Zealand Sports Minister Grant Robertson following the shooting to discuss security arrangements for the tournament.

Tourism New Zealand canceled a media welcome party that was to have been held Thursday afternoon at a location within the cordoned-off area downtown.

___

Perry reported from Wellington, New Zealand.

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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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