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Hunter Biden to Plea Guilty To Illegal Weapons Charge & Tax Evasion

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Pride and pain for Biden as his son Hunter reaches a plea deal after 5 years of investigation

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden had just six words to offer after his 53-year-old son Hunter pleaded guilty to federal tax offenses in a deal that is also likely to spare him time behind bars on a weapons charge.

“I’m very proud of my son,” he said.

That pride has been accompanied by pain, and for the president’s family, both have been on public display. Republicans have worked to use Hunter Biden’s actions — and his acknowledged struggle with addiction — as an anchor to try to drag down his father.

As a parent, Joe Biden has tried to keep his son close; they speak almost every day. Hunter was at his father’s side on a recent trip to Ireland, on the lawn of the White House with other family members for the Easter egg roll and in the bleachers with his mom and dad as his daughter graduated from college last month.

But out of public view, a five-year criminal investigation was coming to a conclusion, with a plea deal announced Tuesday that resolves the probe into the taxes and foreign business dealings of the president’s second son. The agreement with the Justice Department means Hunter Biden will plead guilty to a misdemeanor tax offense, and he’ll avoid a more serious felony charge of illegally possessing a firearm as a drug user, as long as he adheres to conditions agreed to in court.

As a president, Joe Biden has made of point of keeping his distance from the federal investigation into his son’s dealings.

The most fatherly of things he could do — advise a son going through a hard time — isn’t exactly available for a man whose administration commands the office that was investigating his son and his political rival simultaneously.

“President Biden has always impressed me as someone who puts his family first,” said Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware, a close friend of the family. “In this case involving Hunter Biden, he has drawn a clear line. He has not been involved in or interfered in the Department of Justice in their five-year-long investigation, which is now coming to a close. I can only imagine the relief they may feel in being able to move forward.”

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But Republicans are hardly satisfied with the outcome, particularly as the Justice Department indicted former President Donald Trump in an unrelated case where he is accused of mishandling classified documents. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., compared the outcome of Hunter Biden’s case to the Trump documents case now heading toward federal court and said, “If you are the president’s son, you get a sweetheart deal.”

Though Hunter Biden is a private citizen, he factors heavily into notable political moments over the past five years: surfacing as a central character in the first impeachment case against Trump, who tried to get Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelenskyy to announce an investigation into the younger Biden related to his position on the board of a Ukrainian gas company.

Hunter Biden had joined the board in 2014, around the time his father, then Barack Obama’s vice president, was helping conduct U.S. foreign policy with Ukraine. Trump and his allies have long argued, without evidence, that Hunter Biden’s work in Ukraine influenced the Obama administration’s policies toward the East European nation.

Hunter Biden’s descent into drugs and alcohol following the 2015 death of his brother Beau Biden from cancer led to some troubling decisions and interventions that Republicans have seized on as proof of his shady tactics, but he also doesn’t always help himself.

In 2020, the contents of a laptop that he’d left at a Delaware repair shop and never retrieved made their way to Republicans and were publicly leaked, revealing personal messages about his work and his life.

Addiction is still very much seen as a moral failing instead of a disease, said Patrick Kennedy, a former congressman who is now a leading voice on mental health and addiction, was himself an addict and also the son of a famous lawmaker, the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass.

Kennedy said Biden could use this as a teachable moment for the nation to shift how addiction is viewed, even if Hunter is being used as a tool to attack his father.

“The benefit of this president is that his policies are the most progressive of any president to date in terms of treating them as the medical issues they are,” Kennedy said. “In a sense, he is like my father was, from an old school. They kept this under wraps, it was shameful. They didn’t talk about it. But you know, to his credit, his policies reflect an enlightened approach.”

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said of Hunter Biden’s situation that he “felt very sorry for him and for his family. I respect the president for saying he loves his son. That’s a good thing even if your son does embarrassing things.”

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There were questions as well about a White House arrangement in the early days of Biden’s presidency that allowed Hunter to sell his artwork without knowing the identity of the purchaser. Officials said it would avoid any potential ethical entanglements with the sales but Republicans have raised questions and are seeking an interview with the gallery owner.

Hunter Biden also has been tangled up in an ongoing child support dispute in Arkansas after a DNA test proved he was the father of a now 4-year-old. The Biden family hasn’t publicly acknowledged the child, and Hunter Biden initially objected to an effort by the woman to change the girl’s last name to Biden.

His recent trip to Ireland with his dad came up in court testimony when his lawyers said Hunter slept on a cot in his dad’s hotel room, part of an accounting of how he had been spending money.

And still, photos of Hunter Biden in the throes of addiction routinely circulate online. Biden said in his memoir he can shrug them off because he’s come out the other end thanks to the support of his family.

“I come from a family forged by tragedies and bound by a remarkable, unbreakable love,” he wrote in his 2021 memoir “Beautiful Things.”

In many ways the same could be said of President Biden’s political career, which was nearly cut short after the death of his wife and daughter in 1972 just days before Biden was sworn in to the Senate at age 30.

Sons Beau and Hunter, who were just about to turn 4 and 3 at the time, were seriously injured. The two brothers spent months together in the hospital, a bond that Hunter wrote was unbreakable. Even if they argued later in life, he wrote, they’d always close with an “I love you.”

Beau was the one who sought public life, a decorated Iraq war veteran and Delaware attorney general. The president has said many times that it should have been Beau on the stage as president rather than himself.

Hunter said he was content to have it be Beau in the spotlight. But when his brother died, Hunter came unglued. At one point, he wrote, he was living in a motel completely removed from his family in a haze of drug use.

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“Dad saved me,” he wrote. “Left on my own, I’m certain I would not have survived.”

___ Associated Press writers Zeke Miller, Kevin Freking and Lisa Mascaro contributed to this report.

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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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