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

NCAA, leagues back $2.8 billion settlement, setting stage for dramatic change across college sports

The NCAA and the nation's five biggest conferences announced Thursday night that they have agreed to pay nearly $2.8 billion to settle a host of antitrust claims, a monumental decision that sets the stage for a groundbreaking revenue-sharing model that could start directing millions of dollars directly to athletes as soon as the 2025 fall semester.

NCAA President Charlie Baker along with the commissioners of the Atlantic Coast Conference, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and Southeastern Conference released a joint statement saying they had agreed to settlement terms. They called the move "an important step in the continuing reform of college sports that will provide benefits to student-athletes and provide clarity in college athletics across all divisions for years to come.”

The deal still must be approved by the federal judge overseeing the case and challenges could arise, but if the agreement stands it will mark the beginning of a new era in college sports where athletes are compensated more like professionals and schools can compete for talent using direct payments.

“There’s no question about it. It’s a huge quantum leap,” said Tom McMillen, the former Maryland basketball player and congressman who has led an association of collegiate athletic directors the past eight years.

Terms were not disclosed, though some details have emerged in the past few weeks. They signal the end of the NCAA’s bedrock amateurism model that dates to its founding in 1906. Indeed, the days of NCAA punishment for athletes driving booster-provided cars started vanishing three years ago when the organization lifted restrictions on endorsement deals backed by so-called name, image and likeness money.


How does this end? With Hamas holding firm and fighting back in Gaza, Israel faces only bad options

JERUSALEM (AP) — Diminished but not deterred, Hamas is still putting up a fight after seven brutal months of war with Israel, regrouping in some of the hardest-hit areas in northern Gaza and resuming rocket attacks into nearby Israeli communities.

Israel initially made tactical advances against Hamas after a devastating aerial bombardment paved the way for its ground troops. But those early gains have given way to a grinding struggle against an adaptable insurgency — and a growing feeling among many Israelis that their military faces only bad options, drawing comparisons with U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

This was the subtext of a rebellion in recent days by two members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's three-man War Cabinet — Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Benny Gantz, Netanyahu's main political rival — who demanded that he come up with detailed postwar plans.

They supported Israel's retaliation for Hamas' Oct. 7 attack, including one of the heaviest bombing campaigns in recent history, ground operations that obliterated entire neighborhoods and border restrictions that the U.N.'s World Food Program says pushed parts of the territory into famine.

But now the two retired generals fear a prolonged, costly re-occupation of Gaza, from which Israel withdrew soldiers and settlers in 2005. They are also opposed to a withdrawal that would leave Hamas in control or lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state.


Border bill fails Senate test vote as Democrats seek to underscore Republican resistance

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Republicans again blocked a bill meant to clamp down on the number of migrants allowed to claim asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer sought Thursday to underscore GOP resistance to the proposal.

The legislation, negotiated by a bipartisan group of senators, was already rejected by most Republicans in February when it was linked to a foreign aid package for Ukraine, Israel and other U.S. allies. But with immigration and border security becoming one of the top issues of this year's election, Democrats are looking for an answer to the barrage of GOP attacks, led by presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

“We gave Republicans a second chance to show where they stand,” Schumer, a New York Democrat, said after the vote. “Do they want to fix this so-called emergency or do they want to show blind allegiance to the former president even when they know he's wrong?”

Schumer is trying to defend a narrow Senate majority in this year's election and sees the Republican's rejection of the deal they negotiated as a political “gift” for Democrats. Seeking to highlight Republican resistance to popular measures, Schumer is also planning to push forward a bill in June that would protect access to contraception.

The Democratic leader said it would “show the public who’s on what side and in June we’re going to spend a significant amount of time talking about reproductive rights.”


Trump holds a rally in the South Bronx as he tries to woo his hometown

NEW YORK (AP) — Former President Donald Trump campaigned Thursday in one of the most Democratic counties in the nation, holding a rally in the South Bronx as he tries to woo minority voters days before a Manhattan jury will begin deliberations on whether to convict him of felony charges in his criminal hush money trial.

Trump addressed supporters in Crotona Park, a public green space in a neighborhood that is among the city's most diverse and its most impoverished, a change from the majority-white areas where he holds most of his rallies. While the crowd was not quite as diverse as the South Bronx as a whole, it included large numbers of Black and Hispanic voters; Spanish was heard throughout the crowd.

Trump, in his speech, cast himself as a better president for Black and Hispanic voters than President Joe Biden as he railed against Biden on immigration, an issue Trump has made central to his campaign. He insisted “the biggest negative impact” of the influx of migrants in New York is “against our Black population and our Hispanic population who are losing their jobs, losing their housing, losing everything they can lose."

Some in the crowd responded by chanting, “Build the wall,” a reference to Trump's push while in the White House to build a U.S.-Mexico border barrier.

With Trump confined to New York for much of the last six weeks because of his trial, the presumptive Republican nominee’s campaign has planned a series of local stops across his hometown before and after court. He visited a bodega in Harlem, dropped by a construction site and held a photo op at a local firehouse.


Taiwan tracks dozens of Chinese warplanes and navy vessels off its coast on 2nd day of drills

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Taiwan tracked dozens of Chinese warplanes and navy vessels off its coast Friday on the second day of a large exercise China's People’s Liberation Army held in response to the island’s new leadership.

The defense ministry said it tracked 49 warplanes and 19 navy vessels, as well as Chinese coast guard vessels, and that 35 of the planes flew across the median of the Taiwan Strait, the de facto boundary between the sides, over a 24-hour period from Thursday to Friday.

“Facing external challenges and threats, we will continue to maintain the values of freedom and democracy,” Taiwan’s new President Lai Ching-te told sailors and top security officials Thursday as he visited a marine base in Taoyuan, just south of the capital, Taipei.

In his inauguration speech Monday, Lai had called on Beijing to stop its military intimidation and said Taiwan was "a sovereign independent nation in which sovereignty lies in the hands of the people.”

China’s military said its two-day exercises around Taiwan were punishment for separatist forces seeking independence. It sends navy ships and warplanes into the Taiwan Strait and other areas around the island almost daily to wear down Taiwan’s defenses and seek to intimidate its people, who firmly back their de facto independence.


Government sues Ticketmaster owner and asks court to break up company's monopoly on live events

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department sued Ticketmaster and its parent company Thursday, accusing them of running an illegal monopoly over live events in America and asking a court to break up the system that squelches competition and drives up prices for fans.

Filed in federal court in Manhattan, the sweeping antitrust lawsuit was brought with 30 state and district attorneys general and seeks to dismantle the monopoly they say is squeezing out smaller promoters, hurting artists and drowning ticket buyers in fees. Ticketmaster and its owner, Live Nation Entertainment, have a long history of clashes with major artists and their fans, including Taylor Swift and Bruce Springsteen.

“It's time for fans and artists to stop paying the price for Live Nation’s monopoly,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said. “It is time to restore competition and innovation in the entertainment industry. It is time to break up Live Nation-Ticketmaster.”

The government accused Live Nation of tactics — including threats and retaliation — that Garland said have allowed the entertainment giant to “suffocate the competition” by controlling virtually every aspect of the industry, from concert promotion to ticketing. The impact is seen in an “endless list of fees on fans," the attorney general said.

“Live music should not be available only to those who can afford to pay the Ticketmaster tax,” said Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Kanter of the Justice Department's Antitrust Division.


Farmers in India are weary of politicians' lackluster response to their climate-driven water crisis

BEED, India (AP) — On a stifling hot day this May, farm worker Shobha Londhe is reminded of the desperate conditions that led her husband to take his own life. It's the hottest and driest summer in years, she said, and for farm workers that often means little to no income, rising debts and intolerable heat.

Londhe, a resident of Talegaon village in western India, knows well the toll these climate change-induced droughts can take on farmers. Three years ago, she said the family's financial situation was untenable as crops failed from too much heat and not enough water. Her husband Tatya went out to the fields one October day, and never returned.

“He was struggling because we were always in debt,” said Londhe, a framed picture of her husband beside her. She partly blames his death on the increasingly hot and dry weather in their home region of Marathwada in Maharashtra state. “We are completely dependent on rainwater for agriculture," she said.

Londhe is one of India's 120 million farmers who share fast-shrinking water resources as groundwater is pumped out faster than rain can replenish it. Drought-prone areas like Marathwada are at the sharp end of the shortage, making life unbearable for many. As the country continues to vote in its marathon six-week election, farmers are looking for longer-term solutions to the water problem, like building canal networks from distant rivers. But politicians have promised and done little to secure water for them, with activists saying that big businesses and large farms are being prioritized instead.



The 'Appeal to Heaven' flag evolves from Revolutionary War symbol to banner of the far right

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito is embroiled in a second flag controversy in as many weeks, this time over a banner that in recent years has come to symbolize sympathies with the Christian nationalist movement and the false claim that the 2020 presidential election was stolen.

An “Appeal to Heaven” flag was flown last summer outside Alito’s beach vacation home in New Jersey, according to The New York Times, which obtained several images showing it on different dates in July and September 2023. The Times previously reported that an upside down American flag — a sign of distress — had flown outside Alito's Alexandria, Virginia, home less than two weeks after the violent Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol by supporters of former President Donald Trump.

Some of the rioters carried the inverted American flag or the “Appeal to Heaven” flag, which shows a green pine tree on a white field. The revelations have escalated concerns over Alito's impartiality and his ability to objectively decide cases currently before the court that relate to the Jan. 6 attackers and Trump's attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Alito has not commented on the flag at his summer home.

Here is the history and current symbolism of the “Appeal to Heaven” flag.

Ted Kaye, secretary for the North American Vexillological Association, which studies flags and their meaning, said the “Appeal to Heaven” banner dates to the Revolutionary War.


Supreme Court finds no bias against Black voters in a South Carolina congressional district

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court 's conservative majority on Thursday preserved a Republican-held South Carolina congressional district, rejecting a lower-court ruling that said the district discriminated against Black voters.

In dissent, liberal justices warned that the court was insulating states from claims of unconstitutional racial gerrymandering.

In a 6-3 decision, the court held that South Carolina's Republican-controlled legislature did nothing wrong during redistricting when it strengthened Rep. Nancy Mace's hold on the coastal district by moving 30,000 Democratic-leaning Black residents of Charleston out of the district.

“I'm very disturbed about the outcome. It’s as if we don’t matter. But we do matter and our voices deserve to be heard,” said Taiwan Scott, a Black voter who sued over the redistricting.

President Joe Biden, whose administration backed Scott and the other plaintiffs at the Supreme Court, also criticized the ruling. “The Supreme Court’s decision today undermines the basic principle that voting practices should not discriminate on account of race and that is wrong,” Biden said in a statement.


Dangerous brew: Ocean heat and La Nina combo likely mean more Atlantic hurricanes this summer

WASHINGTON (AP) — Get ready for what nearly all the experts think will be one of the busiest Atlantic hurricane seasons on record, thanks to unprecedented ocean heat and a brewing La Nina.

There's an 85% chance that the Atlantic hurricane season that starts in June will be above average in storm activity, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Thursday in its annual outlook. The weather agency predicted between 17 and 25 named storms will brew up this summer and fall, with 8 to 13 achieving hurricane status (at least 75 mph sustained winds) and four to seven of them becoming major hurricanes, with at least 111 mph winds.

An average Atlantic hurricane season produces 14 named storms, seven of them hurricanes and three major hurricanes.

“This season is looking to be an extraordinary one in a number of ways,” NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad said. He said this forecast is the busiest in the 25 years that NOAA has been issuing in May. The agency updates its forecasts each August.

About 20 other groups — universities, other governments, private weather companies — also have made seasonal forecasts. All but two expect a busier, nastier summer and fall for hurricanes. The average of those other forecasts is about 11 hurricanes, or about 50% more than in a normal year.

The Associated Press