AP News in Brief at 11:04 p.m. EDT

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will plead guilty in deal with US that will allow him to walk free

WASHINGTON (AP) — WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will plead guilty to a felony charge in a deal with the U.S. Justice Department that will allow him to walk free and resolve a long-running legal saga that spanned multiple continents and centered on the publication of a trove of classified documents.

Assange left a British prison on Monday and will appear later this week in the U.S. federal court in the Northern Mariana Islands, a U.S. commonwealth in the Western Pacific. He's expected to plead guilty to an Espionage Act charge of conspiring to unlawfully obtain and disseminate classified national defense information, the Justice Department said in a letter filed in court.

The guilty plea, which must be approved by a judge, brings an abrupt conclusion to a criminal case of international intrigue and to the U.S. government’s years-long pursuit of a publisher whose hugely popular secret-sharing website made him a cause célèbre among many press freedom advocates who said he acted as a journalist to expose U.S. military wrongdoing. Investigators, by contrast, have repeatedly asserted that his actions broke laws meant to protect sensitive information and put the country’s national security at risk.

He is expected to return to his home country of Australia after his plea and sentencing, which is scheduled for Wednesday morning, local time in Saipan, the largest island in the Northern Mariana Islands. The hearing is taking place there because of Assange’s opposition to traveling to the continental U.S. and the court’s proximity to Australia, prosecutors said.

Attorneys for Assange didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday.


Top Cats: Panthers win their 1st Stanley Cup, top Oilers 2-1 in Game 7

SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) — There was no collapse. The Florida Panthers are Stanley Cup champions for the first time, and they took about the hardest path possible to the title.

Sam Reinhart and Carter Verhaeghe scored goals, Sergei Bobrovsky made 23 saves and the Panthers beat the Edmonton Oilers 2-1 on Monday night in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. It was the third title-round appearance in Florida's 30-year history; it was swept in 1996 by Colorado and routed 4-1 by Vegas last season.

This time, they were on the right side of history — after avoiding what would have been a historic collapse. The Panthers won the first three games of the series, then lost the next three and needed a win on Monday to avoid joining the 1942 Detroit Red Wings as the only teams to lose the final after taking a 3-0 lead in the title round.

It wasn’t easy. Not even close. But it's done. It took until the very end for the Panthers to deny Connor McDavid his first title, and Edmonton what would have been its first Cup since 2006.

Mattias Janmark had the goal for Edmonton and Stuart Skinner stopped 19 shots for the Oilers. The Oilers also couldn’t snap Canada’s title drought; it’s been 1993 and counting since a team based in Canada won the Cup.


Netanyahu says he won't agree to a deal that ends the war in Gaza, testing the latest truce proposal

TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — The viability of a U.S.-backed proposal to wind down the 8-month-long war in Gaza has been cast into doubt after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would only be willing to agree to a “partial” cease-fire deal that would not end the war, comments that sparked an uproar from families of hostages held by Hamas.

In an interview broadcast late Sunday on Israeli Channel 14, a conservative, pro-Netanyahu station, the Israeli leader said he was “prepared to make a partial deal — this is no secret — that will return to us some of the people,” referring to the roughly 120 hostages still held in the Gaza Strip. “But we are committed to continuing the war after a pause, in order to complete the goal of eliminating Hamas. I’m not willing to give up on that.”

Netanyahu’s comments did not deviate dramatically from what he has said previously about his terms for a deal. But they come at a sensitive time, as Israel and Hamas appear to be moving further apart over the latest cease-fire proposal, and they could represent another setback for mediators trying to end the war.

Netanyahu's comments stood in sharp contrast to the outlines of the deal detailed late last month by U.S. President Joe Biden, who framed the plan as an Israeli one and which some in Israel refer to as “Netanyahu’s deal.” His remarks could further strain Israel's ties to the U.S., its top ally, which launched a major diplomatic push for the latest cease-fire proposal.

The three-phased plan would bring about the release of the remaining hostages in exchange for hundreds of Palestinians imprisoned by Israel. But disputes and mistrust persist between Israel and Hamas over how the deal plays out.


With another setback for cease-fire talks, worries of full-scale war for Israel and Lebanon escalate

BEIRUT (AP) — The prospect of a full-scale war between Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant group terrifies people on both sides of the border, but some see it as an inevitable fallout from Israel’s ongoing war against Hamas in Gaza, particularly as cease-fire negotiations have faltered.

Such a war could be the most destructive either side has ever experienced.

Israel and Hezbollah each have lessons from their last war, in 2006, a monthlong conflict that ended in a draw. They’ve also had nearly nine months to prepare for another war, even as the United States tries to prevent a widening of the conflict that could spark a confrontation with Iran and endanger U.S. forces in the region.

Here’s a look at each side’s preparedness, how war might unfold and what’s being done to prevent it.

The 2006 war, six years after Israeli forces that had occupied southern Lebanon withdrew, erupted after Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers and killed several others in a cross-border raid.


Missouri, Kansas judges temporarily halt much of President Biden's student debt forgiveness plan

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Federal judges in Kansas and Missouri on Monday together blocked much of a Biden administration student loan repayment plan that provides a faster path to cancellation and lower monthly payments for millions of borrowers.

The judges’ rulings prevent the U.S. Department of Education from helping many of the intended borrowers ease their loan repayment burdens going forward under a rule set to go into effect July 1. The decisions do not cancel assistance already provided to borrowers.

In Kansas, U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree ruled in a lawsuit filed by the state’s attorney general, Kris Kobach, on behalf of his state and 10 others. In his ruling, Crabtree allowed parts of the program that allow students who borrowed $12,000 or less to have the rest of their loans forgiven if they make 10 years’ worth of payments, instead of the standard 25.

But Crabtree said that the Department of Education won’t be allowed to implement parts of the program meant to help students who had larger loans and could have their monthly payments lowered and their required payment period reduced from 25 years to 20 years.

In Missouri, U.S. District Judge John Ross’ order applies to different parts of the program than Crabtree’s. His order says that the U.S. Department of Education cannot forgive loan balances going forward. He said the department still could lower monthly payments.


Is Trump shielded from criminal charges as an ex-president? A nation awaits word from Supreme Court

WASHINGTON (AP) — In the coming days, the Supreme Court will confront a perfect storm mostly of its own making: a trio of decisions stemming directly from the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Within days of each other, if not hours, the justices are expected to rule on whether Donald Trump has immunity from criminal charges over his efforts to overturn his 2020 election defeat and whether Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol can be prosecuted for obstructing an official proceeding.

The court also will decide whether former Trump adviser Steve Bannon can stay out of prison while he appeals his contempt of Congress conviction for defying a subpoena from the House committee that investigated the Capitol attack.

These cases are among the dozen or so major disputes dealing with abortion, homelessness, the power of federal regulators, the opioid epidemic and social media platforms that the justices have left to decide as the traditional end of their term’s work nears.

Taken together, the three cases connected to the Republican former president could feed narratives about the court and its conservative supermajority, which includes three justices appointed by Trump and two other justices, Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas, who have rejected calls to step away from the Jan. 6 cases because of questions about their impartiality.


Trump has spent months painting Biden as incompetent. Now he's changing his tone before the debate

NEW YORK (AP) — After months of casting President Joe Biden as a shell of a man incapable of putting two sentences together, Donald Trump has changed his tune days before their first debate.

“I assume he’s going to be somebody that will be a worthy debater,” the former president and presumptive Republican nominee said in an appearance on “The All-In” podcast last week.

“I don’t want to underestimate him," he added.

The changed rhetoric marks a dramatic shift from how Trump typically describes the man he will face in a rematch this November. At his rallies and in speeches, Trump typically casts the Democratic incumbent as a “low-IQ individual” who is “the worst, most incompetent, and most corrupt president” in the nation’s history, and often imitates Biden appearing lost on stage.

The effort to adjust expectations ahead of Thursday's matchup in Atlanta comes amid concerns from some in his party that Trump has set the bar so low for Biden that he is sure to exceed it. And it underscores the stakes for both men in a race that has appeared largely static for months.


Lawsuit challenges new Louisiana law requiring classrooms to display the Ten Commandments

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Civil liberties groups filed a lawsuit Monday to block Louisiana’s new law that requires the Ten Commandments to be displayed in every public school classroom, a measure they contend is unconstitutional.

Plaintiffs in the suit include parents of Louisiana public school children with various religious backgrounds, who are represented by attorneys with the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the Freedom From Religion Foundation and the New York City law firm Simpson, Thacher & Bartlett.

“This display sends a message to my children and other students that people of some religious dominations are superior to others,” said the Rev. Jeff Simms, a Presbyterian pastor who is a plaintiff in the suit and father of three children in Louisiana public schools. “This is religious favoritism.”

Under the legislation signed into law by Republican Gov. Jeff Landry last week, all public K-12 classrooms and state-funded universities will be required to display a poster-sized version of the Ten Commandments in “large, easily readable font” next year.

Opponents argue that the law is a violation of separation of church and state and that the display will isolate students, especially those who are not Christian. Proponents say the measure is not solely religious, but that it has historical significance. In the language of the law, the Ten Commandments are “foundational documents of our state and national government.”


What’s causing the devastating flooding in the Midwest?

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Hundreds of Iowa residents have needed rescue from record-setting flooding that has swamped parts of the state, covering buildings up to their rooftops, shutting down major roads, and disrupting basic services like electricity and drinking water.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said water in some areas rose above records from 1993, a flood many in the Midwest remember as the worst of their lives. The floods have hit parts of Iowa, South Dakota, Nebraska and Minnesota.

The water was so powerful that it pulled down a train bridge connecting North Sioux City, South Dakota, with Sioux City, Iowa. On the Blue Earth River in Minnesota, water forced its way around the Rapidan Dam and local officials warned of its possible failure.

The water is expected to be at its highest early this week — in some places it has already passed — and then the crest of the river will move south, eventually into the Missouri and Mississippi rivers.

“Businesses are shuttered, main streets have been impacted. Hospitals, nursing homes and other care facilities were evacuated,” Reynolds said at a news conference over the weekend, calling the expected damage “staggering.”


Music record labels sue AI song-generators Suno and Udio for copyright infringement

BOSTON (AP) — Big record companies are suing artificial intelligence song-generators Suno and Udio for copyright infringement, alleging that the AI music startups are exploiting the recorded works of artists from Chuck Berry to Mariah Carey.

The Recording Industry Association of America announced the lawsuits Monday brought by labels including Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group and Warner Records.

One case was filed in federal court in Boston against Suno AI, and the other in New York against Uncharted Labs, the developer of Udio AI.

Suno AI CEO Mikey Shulman said in an emailed statement that the technology is “designed to generate completely new outputs, not to memorize and regurgitate pre-existing content” and doesn't allow users to reference specific artists.

Shulman said his Cambridge, Massachusetts-based startup tried to explain this to labels “but instead of entertaining a good faith discussion, they’ve reverted to their old lawyer-led playbook.”

The Associated Press