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

North Korea says deal between Putin and Kim requires immediate military assistance in event of war

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — The new agreement between Russia and North Korea reached by their leaders at a Pyongyang summit requires both countries to use all available means to provide immediate military assistance in the event of war, North Korean state media said Thursday.

Both North Korea's Kim Jong Un and Russia's Vladimir Putin had described the deal reached Wednesday as a major upgrade of bilateral relations, covering security, trade, investment, cultural and humanitarian ties. Outside observers said it could mark the strongest connection between Moscow and Pyongyang since the end of the Cold War.

The North’s official Korean Central News Agency on Thursday reported the language of the comprehensive strategic partnership agreement. The agency said Article 4 of the agreement states that if one of the countries gets invaded and is pushed into a state of war, the other must deploy “all means at its disposal without delay” to provide “military and other assistance.”

The summit between Kim and Putin came as the U.S. and its allies expressed growing concern over a possible arms arrangement in which Pyongyang provides Moscow with badly needed munitions for its war in Ukraine, in exchange for economic assistance and technology transfers that could enhance the threat posed by Kim’s nuclear weapons and missile program.

Following their summit, Kim said the two countries had a “fiery friendship,” and that the deal was their “strongest-ever treaty,” putting the relationship at the level of an alliance. He vowed full support for Russia’s war in Ukraine. Putin called it a “breakthrough document” reflecting shared desires to move relations to a higher level.


New law requires all Louisiana public school classrooms to display the Ten Commandments

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana has become the first state to require that the Ten Commandments be displayed in every public school classroom, the latest move from a GOP-dominated Legislature pushing a conservative agenda under a new governor.

The legislation that Republican Gov. Jeff Landry signed into law on Wednesday requires a poster-sized display of the Ten Commandments in “large, easily readable font” in all public classrooms, from kindergarten to state-funded universities.

“If you want to respect the rule of law, you've got to start from the original lawgiver, which was Moses” who got the commandments from God, Landry said.

Opponents questioned the law’s constitutionality and vowed to challenge it in court. Proponents said the 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.”

The posters, which will be paired with a four-paragraph “context statement” describing how the Ten Commandments “were a prominent part of American public education for almost three centuries,” must be in place in classrooms by the start of 2025.


New Mexico wildfire claims second life, while rain offers hope of relief

ROSWELL, N.M. (AP) — Heavy rain and hail fell Wednesday around an evacuated village in New Mexico threatened by wildfires that have killed at least two people and damaged more than 1,400 structures, offering the hope of some assistance for firefighters but adding the threat of high winds and flash floods.

Air tankers dropped water and red retardant earlier on the pair of fires growing in a mountainous part of the state where earlier in the week residents of the village of Ruidoso were forced to flee the larger of the two blazes with little notice.

New Mexico State Police spokesman Wilson Silver said Wednesday that officers discovered the skeletal remains of an unidentified second person in the driver seat of a burned vehicle. It's the second confirmed death in the blazes. The first fire victim was a badly burned 60-year-old man found by the side of the road near the popular Swiss Chalet Inn in Ruidoso.

Weather patterns were shifting Wednesday with moisture arriving from the Gulf of Mexico, said Bladen Breitreiter of the National Weather Service office in Albuquerque.

“It will be a challenging situation going into the late afternoon and evening,” said Breitreiter, who has been an incident meteorologist at past wildfires. “The potential for scattered to isolated thunderstorms could help, but it depends on where they hit. If the rain misses the fires, downward winds could cause problems for firefighters on the ground.”


Tropical Storm Alberto forms in southwest Gulf, 1st named storm of the hurricane season

TAMPICO, Mexico (AP) — Tropical Storm Alberto formed on Wednesday in the southwestern Gulf of Mexico, the first named storm of what is forecast to be a busy hurricane season.

Alberto, which is bringing strong winds, heavy rainfall and some flooding along the coasts of Texas and Mexico, is expected to make landfall in northern Mexico on Thursday.

“The heavy rainfall and the water, as usual, is the biggest story in tropical storms,” said Michael Brennan, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Hurricane Center.

The National Hurricane Center said Wednesday afternoon that Alberto was located about 150 miles (240 kilometers) east of Tampico, Mexico, and about 320 miles (515 kilometers) south-southeast of Brownsville, Texas, with maximum sustained winds of 40 mph (65 kph). The storm is moving west-southwest at 9 miles per hour.

The center of the storm was expected to reach the northeastern coast of Mexico south of the mouth of the Rio Grande by Thursday morning.


Rifts seem to appear between Israel's political and military leadership over conduct of the Gaza war

JERUSALEM (AP) — The Israeli army’s chief spokesman on Wednesday appeared to question the stated goal of destroying the Hamas militant group in Gaza in a rare public rift between the country’s political and military leadership.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has insisted Israel will pursue the fight against Hamas, the group running the besieged Gaza Strip, until its military and governing capabilities in the Palestinian territory are eliminated. But with the war now in its ninth month, frustration has been mounting with no clear end or postwar plan in sight.

“This business of destroying Hamas, making Hamas disappear — it’s simply throwing sand in the eyes of the public,” Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, the military spokesperson, told Israel’s Channel 13 TV. “Hamas is an idea, Hamas is a party. It’s rooted in the hearts of the people — whoever thinks we can eliminate Hamas is wrong.”

Netanyahu’s office responded by saying that the country's security Cabinet, chaired by the prime minister, "has defined the destruction of Hamas’ military and governing capabilities as one of the goals of the war. The Israeli military, of course, is committed to this.”

The military quickly issued a clarification, saying it was “committed to achieving the goals of the war as defined by the Cabinet" and that it has been working on this "throughout the war, day and night, and will continue to do so.”


Scorching temperatures, humidity making life miserable for millions from Midwest to Maine

BOSTON (AP) — A blistering heat wave Wednesday extended from the Midwest to New England, leaving millions of people sweltering through the Juneteenth holiday, including in places like northern Maine where they rarely experience such conditions this early in the year.

The city of Caribou, Maine, just 10 miles from the Canadian border, saw a record 103 degrees (39.4 C) on the heat index, which combines heat and humidity. The region was under a heat advisory until Wednesday evening and temperatures in Caribou were hotter than Miami: 94 degrees (34.4 C) compared with 89 (31.6 C), according to the National Weather Service.

Several residents said they were used to temperatures in the 70s and 80s in June and rarely this humid.

“I've seen this maybe one time before where it's been this hot in June,” said Hannah Embelton, 22, a server at an ice cream store in Caribou, adding that customers were staying away from the soft serve options because they melt took quickly.

“We usually never get the brunt of all this heat and humidity because we are so north. Just how hot it is, that is all everyone is talking about," she added.


Power outage leaves millions of Ecuadorians in the dark after transmission line fails

QUITO, Ecuador (AP) — A failure in an energy transmission line on Wednesday produced an unexpected blackout throughout Ecuador, the government said, days after announcing that there would be power outages in the country due to production problems.

Ecuador's Minister of Energy Roberto Luque said in a message posted on X, formerly Twitter, that the failure was reported by the country's National Electricity Operator and caused “a cascade disconnection," leaving the nation without energy service.

He added that efforts are being made to solve the problem and repair faulty power lines as soon as possible.

In some sectors of the country the outage lasted 20 minutes, but media outlets and social media users reported that the problem continued in most cities.

Emilia Cevallos, a waitress in a restaurant north of the capital, Quito, said the blackout was surprising.


Colombian family's genes offer new clue to delaying onset of Alzheimer's

WASHINGTON (AP) — Scientists studying a family plagued by early-in-life Alzheimer’s found some carry a genetic oddity that delays their initial symptoms by five years.

The finding points to novel ways of fighting the mind-robbing disease – if researchers can unravel how a single copy of that very rare gene variant offers at least a little protection.

“It opens new avenues,” said neuropsychologist Yakeel Quiroz of Massachusetts General Hospital, who helped lead the study published Wednesday. “There are definitely opportunities to copy or mimic the effects.”

The first hint of this genetic protection came a few years ago. Researchers were studying a huge family in Colombia that shares a devastating inherited form of Alzheimer’s when they discovered one woman who escaped her genetic fate. Aliria Piedrahita de Villegas should have developed Alzheimer’s symptoms in her 40s but instead made it to her 70s before suffering even mild cognitive trouble.

The big clue: She also harbored something incredibly rare, two copies of an unrelated gene named APOE3 that had a mutation dubbed Christchurch. That odd gene pair appeared to shield her, staving off her genetic predisposition for Alzheimer's.


Immigrant families rejoice over Biden's expansive move toward citizenship, while some are left out

HOUSTON (AP) — Hundreds of thousands of immigrants had reason to rejoice when President Joe Biden unveiled a highly expansive plan to extend legal status to spouses of U.S. citizens but, inevitably, some were left out.

Claudia Zúniga, 35, married in 2017, or 10 years after her husband came to the United States. He moved to Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, after they wed, knowing that, by law, he had to live outside the country for years to gain legal status. “Our lives took a 180-degree turn,” she said.

Biden announced Tuesday that his administration will, in coming months, allow U.S. citizens' spouses without legal status to apply for permanent residency and eventually citizenship without having to first depart the country for up to 10 years. About 500,000 immigrants may benefit, according to senior administration officials.

To qualify, an immigrant must have lived in the United States for 10 years and be married to a U.S. citizen, both as of Monday. Zúniga's husband is ineligible because he wasn't in the United States.

“Imagine, it would be a dream come true,” said Zúniga, who works part time in her father's transportation business in Houston. “My husband could be with us. We could focus on the well-being of our children.”


On Juneteenth, monument dedicated in Alabama to those who endured slavery

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Thousands of surnames grace the towering monument, representing the more than 4 million enslaved people who were freed after the Civil War.

The Equal Justice Initiative, a criminal justice reform nonprofit, invoked the Juneteenth holiday — the day that commemorates the end of slavery in the U.S. — on Wednesday as it dedicated its National Monument to Freedom.

The monument, which honors the people who endured and survived slavery, is the centerpiece of the new Freedom Monument Sculpture Park in Montgomery, Alabama, where art and historical artifacts tell the story of enslaved people in the United States.

During the dedication ceremony, Equal Justice Initiative founder Bryan Stevenson recounted how enslaved people endured unspeakable horrors, but also left a legacy of perseverance and strength.

“Enslaved people in this country did something remarkable that we need to acknowledge, that we need to recognize and that we need to celebrate. Enslaved people resisted. Enslaved people were resilient. Enslaved people found ways to make a way,” Stevenson said.

The Associated Press