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

Cohen's credibility, campaigning at court and other takeaways from Trump trial's closing arguments

NEW YORK (AP) — Donald Trump’s lawyers and Manhattan prosecutors made their final pitches Tuesday to jurors who will decide whether the Republican will be the first former U.S. president convicted of a crime, squaring off over the strength of the evidence and credibility of the prosecution’s star witness as his hush money trial drew toward a close.

After listening to more than four weeks of testimony, the panel of New Yorkers sat attentively through a marathon of closing arguments — almost three hours from the defense and roughly five from the prosecution — that stretched from morning until dinner time.

The jury could begin deliberating as early as Wednesday to decide if Trump is guilty of falsifying business records to cover up hush money payments during the 2016 presidential campaign to a porn actor who claimed she had sex with him. Trump says Stormy Daniels’ story is a lie and that he’s innocent of the charges. The judge is expected to give jurors instructions on Wednesday before they begin deliberating.

Here are some takeaways from closing arguments:

Trump attorney Todd Blanche had a clear message for jurors: The prosecution's case rests on the testimony of Trump fixer-turned-foe Michael Cohen, and he can’t be believed. Cohen is a crucial witness because he made the $130,000 hush money payment to Daniels and the reimbursements to Cohen are what prosecutors say were falsely logged as legal expenses.


To recuse or refuse? A look at Supreme Court justices’ decisions on whether to step aside in cases

WASHINGTON (AP) — In declining to step aside from two high-profile Supreme Court cases, Justice Samuel Alito on Wednesday provided a rare window on the opaque process by which justices decide to step aside from cases.

Alito faced calls from Democrats to recuse from two cases involving former President Donald Trump and Jan. 6 defendants because of the controversy over flags that flew over his homes.

Both flags were like those carried by rioters who violently stormed the Capitol in January 2021 while echoing Trump’s false claims of election fraud.

Revelations about the flags came as the court is considering cases related to the Jan. 6 riot, including charges faced by the rioters and whether Trump has immunity from prosecution on election interference charges.

In letters to members of Congress, Alito said he had no involvement in flying an upside-down flag over his home in 2021 and an “Appeal to Heaven” flag at his New Jersey beach house last year. He said his wife, Martha-Ann, was responsible for both flags. His impartiality, he said, could not reasonably be questioned.


Israel says it's taken control of key area of Gaza's border with Egypt awash in smuggling tunnels

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel’s military said Wednesday it seized control of a strategic corridor along Gaza’s border with Egypt to cut off smuggling tunnels as it tries to destroy the militant Hamas group in a war now in its eighth month.

The capture of the Philadelphi Corridor could complicate Israel’s relations with Egypt, which has complained about Israel’s advance toward its border. Israel says the corridor is awash in tunnels that have funneled weapons and other goods for Hamas — despite a yearslong blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt.

Israel also deepened its incursion into the southern Gaza city of Rafah, where hundreds of thousands have been seeking shelter from fighting, and where intensifying violence in recent days has killed dozens of Palestinians. The military said that a fifth brigade — up to several thousand soldiers — joined troops operating in the city on Tuesday.

Egypt says any increase in troops in the strategic border area would violate the countries’ 1979 peace accord. It already has complained about Israel taking over the Rafah border crossing, the only crossing between Gaza and Egypt.

“The Philadelphi Corridor served as the oxygen line of Hamas through which Hamas carried out weapons smuggling into Gaza on a regular basis,” said Israel's military chief spokesperson, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari.


A nurse honored for compassion is fired after referring to Gaza 'genocide' in speech

NEW YORK (AP) — A nurse was fired by a New York City hospital after she referred to Israel's war in Gaza as a “genocide” during a speech accepting an award.

Labor and delivery nurse Hesen Jabr, who is Palestinian American, was being honored by NYU Langone Health for her compassion in caring for mothers who had lost babies when she drew a link between her work and the suffering of mothers in Gaza.

“It pains me to see the women from my country going through unimaginable losses themselves during the current genocide in Gaza,” Jabr said, according to a video of the May 7 speech that she posted on social media. “This award is deeply personal to me for those reasons.”

Jabr wrote on Instagram that she arrived at work on May 22 for her first shift back after receiving the award when she was summoned to a meeting with the hospital's president and vice president of nursing “to discuss how I ‘put others at risk’ and ‘ruined the ceremony’ and ‘offended people’ because a small part of my speech was a tribute towards the grieving mothers in my country.”

She wrote that after working most of her shift she was “dragged once again to an office” where she was read her termination letter and then escorted out of the building.


Hong Kong court convicts 14 pro-democracy activists in the city's biggest national security case

HONG KONG (AP) — A Hong Kong court Thursday convicted 14 pro-democracy activists in the city’s biggest national security case under a law imposed by Beijing that has all but wiped out public dissent.

Those who were found guilty included former lawmakers Leung Kwok-hung, Lam Cheuk-ting, Helena Wong and Raymond Chan. But the three judges approved by the government to oversee the case acquitted former district councilors Lee Yue-shun and Lawrence Lau. Those convicted could face up to life in prison.

They were among 47 democracy advocates who were prosecuted in 2021 for their involvement in an unofficial primary election. Prosecutors had accused them of attempting to paralyze Hong Kong’s government and topple the city’s leader by securing the legislative majority necessary to indiscriminately veto budgets.

Observers said their subversion case illustrates how the security law is being used to crush the political opposition following huge anti-government protests in 2019. But the Beijing and Hong Kong governments insist the law has helped bring back stability to the city and that judicial independence is being protected.

When Britain handed Hong Kong back to China in 1997, Beijing promised to retain the city's Western-style civil liberties for 50 years. However, since the introduction of the 2020 law, Hong Kong authorities have severely limited free speech and assembly under the rubric of maintaining national security. Many activists were arrested, silenced or forced into self-exile. Dozens of civil society groups disbanded.


When South Africa's election results are expected and why the president will be chosen later

CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) — South Africa held a national election Wednesday that could be the country's most hotly contested in 30 years, with the long-ruling African National Congress party facing a stern test to hold onto its majority.

The ANC has been the majority party and in government ever since the end of South Africa's apartheid system of white minority rule and the establishment of democracy in 1994 and has held the presidency since then.

Under the South African political system, people vote for parties and not directly for the president in their national elections. The two processes are separate, even though they are linked: Voters choose parties to decide the makeup of Parliament and lawmakers then elect the president.

Here's a guide to the main election in Africa's most advanced country and why it might be complicated this time for Parliament to choose the president.

The election took place on just one day, with polls opening at 7 a.m. and closing at 9 p.m. across the country of 62 million people, which has nine provinces. Nearly 28 million South Africans were registered to vote to decide the makeup of their national as well as provincial legislatures.


Harvey Weinstein may face new charges as more accusers come forward, New York prosecutors say

NEW YORK (AP) — Manhattan prosecutors told a judge Wednesday they are evaluating more claims of sexual misconduct made against Harvey Weinstein and could potentially seek a new indictment against him before his scheduled retrial on rape and sexual assault charges.

Assistant District Attorney Nicole Blumberg said during a court hearing that additional people have come forward with assault claims and prosecutors are currently assessing which fall under the statute of limitations.

She said some potential survivors that were not ready to step forward during Weinstein’s first New York trial may now be willing to testify.

When asked by Judge Curtis Farber whether there was a possibility of prosecutors filing a new indictment, Blumberg replied: “Yes, your honor.”

Blumberg said prosecutors would be in a better position to update the court on the direction of the case at the end of June.


On spelling's saddest day, hyped National Spelling Bee competitors see their hopes dashed

OXON HILL, Md. (AP) — When Achyut Ethiraj's final appearance in the Scripps National Spelling Bee ended far earlier than he anticipated, the 14-year-old grimaced at the microphone, walked off the stage quietly and exited the ballroom with his mother's arm draped around his back.

Achyut had plenty of company among the 140 spellers eliminated on Wednesday, spelling's saddest day.

“I didn't expect to get out, but I did, and I guess I have to accept the truth now,” said Achyut, an eighth-grader from Fort Wayne, Indiana. “I'm happy to do high school and do other things, but I'm kind of confused what to do now that I'm done with spelling."

“It's my last year, and I expected to do better, but I guess it is what it is," he said. "And I have to move on.”

The structure of the spelling bee has undergone plenty of changes over time, but over the past three years under executive director Corrie Loeffler, the competition has gotten very hard, very fast for spellers who make it past the preliminary rounds.


Violence clouds the last day of campaigning for Mexico's election

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico held the last day of campaigning Wednesday before Sunday’s nationwide election, but the closing rallies were darkened by attacks on candidates and the country's persistently high homicide rate.

Opposition candidate Xóchitl Gálvez started her last campaign rallies early Wednesday on the outskirts of Mexico City, and she focused her ire on President Andrés Manuel López Obrador's “hugs not bullets” policy of not confronting the drug cartels.

Gálvez is facing the candidate of López Obrador's Morena party, former Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum. Sheinbaum, who leads in the race, has promised to continue all of López Obrador’s policies.

“Are we going to continue with hugs, or are we going to apply the law to criminals?” Gálvez asked a cheering crowd. “Mexico wants peace, wants tranquility.”

López Obrador has withdrawn funding for police forces and directed it to the quasi-military National Guard, which critics say lacks the professional and investigative abilities needed to fight the drug gangs. Gálvez promised to return the funding to police forces and guarantee them wages of at least $1,200 per month.


Josh Gibson becomes MLB career and season batting leader as Negro Leagues statistics incorporated

NEW YORK (AP) — Josh Gibson became Major League Baseball’s career leader with a .372 batting average, surpassing Ty Cobb’s .367, when Negro Leagues records for more than 2,300 players were incorporated Tuesday after a three-year research project.

Gibson’s .466 average for the 1943 Homestead Grays became the season standard, followed by Charlie “Chino” Smith’s .451 for the 1929 New York Lincoln Giants. They overtook the .440 by Hugh Duffy for the National League’s Boston team in 1894.

Gibson also became the career leader in slugging percentage (.718) and OPS (1.177), moving ahead of Babe Ruth (.690 and 1.164).

“It’s a show of respect for great players who performed in the Negro Leagues due to circumstances beyond their control and once those circumstances changed demonstrated that they were truly major leaguers," baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said Wednesday in an interview with The Associated Press. “Maybe the single biggest factor was the success of players who played in the Negro Leagues and then came to the big leagues.”

A special committee on baseball records decided in 1969 to recognize six major leagues dating to 1876: the National (which launched in 1876), the American (1901), the American Association (1882-1891), Union Association (1884), Players’ League (1890) and Federal League (1914-1915). It excluded the National Association (1871-75), citing an “erratic schedule and procedures.”

The Associated Press