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World News

    Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison says tensions between his country and Turkey have eased after conciliatory comments from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's office on Wednesday. A diplomatic row flared in the wake of Friday's gun massacre at two mosques in New Zealand, when Erdogan warned Australians and New Zealanders going to Turkey with anti-Muslim views would return home in coffins, like their ancestors who fought at Gallipoli in World War I. Morrison slammed the comments as 'highly offensive,' but on Wednesday a spokesman for Erdogan said the president's words were 'taken out of context,' saying he'd framed them 'in a historical context' since he was speaking near commemorative sites near the Gallipoli. Morrison told reporters Thursday progress had been made over the row after a 'moderation of the president's views.
  • The leader of Thailand's oldest political party said if he becomes prime minister after Sunday's elections, he will make forceful but careful efforts to undo undemocratic provisions in the constitution imposed by the military government that seized power in 2014. Abhisit Vejjajiva, head of the Democrat Party and a former prime minister, said in an interview with The Associated Press that the polls, the first since the coup, give Thailand a chance to halt military interventions in politics and respond effectively to challenges such as technological disruptions, an aging society and high inequality. Sunday's general election is 'important for the whole country. It's a chance now to get the country out of the cycle of dictatorships and corrupt governments,' he told AP on Wednesday. The army toppled an elected government in 2014 after months of sometimes-violent street protests that paralyzed Bangkok's streets. The army said its goal was to restore stability but ruled with a heavy hand and for much longer than it had promised. It has cracked down on its critics while imposing a new constitution and election laws that give its allies a powerful advantage in the balloting and increase the chances of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, the coup leader, remaining in office. Abhisit noted 'irregularities' by Prayuth and the party backing him. Referring to campaign-like activities by Prayuth that are treated as official business, he said they are 'obviously not held to the same kind of rules and standards' as other parties. But with four days to go before the vote, he said he was hopeful the election would proceed smoothly. 'My appeal to the people involved is let's not make this an election that is unacceptable,' he said. 'Let's not make this election unfree or unfair. Not because one side would benefit over the other. But because we need to maintain the integrity of the system.' Many political parties have heavily criticized the 2016 constitution pushed through by the military government, with some saying it should be completely rewritten. Abhisit agreed there is much in the constitution that needs to be addressed but said battles should be carefully chosen. 'The way we go about it is, I think, we have to identify and be clear about what kind of issues that need to be amended, particularly the undemocratic aspects of the constitution,' he said. 'Build a consensus around it. Gain public support to put pressure on senators to accept that amendments are needed.' He warned that a call for wholesale change might be risky. 'If you say you rewrite or revamp the whole constitution, there continues to be a deep distrust that politicians might also use this to rid themselves of the various checks and balance mechanisms,' he said. A view of politicians as a corrupt element of society contributes to the cycle of elections followed by coups, Abhisit said, noting that 'one of the clearest conditions for previous coups has been rampant corruption.' The Democrat Party shares the conservative, royalist viewpoint of the military but also professes adherence to democratic principles, leading to sometimes uneasy alliances. Abhisit became prime minister in 2008 with the political backing of the army, and was forced to rely on it to put down violent protests in 2009 and 2010 against his government. He said he hopes to end the military's influence in politics by using the power of persuasion rather than antagonism. Several other parties contesting the polls have attracted attention with campaign promises to slash the military budget, an idea that has drawn scorn from military leaders. He said reducing the military budget can be done 'by talking to the military, using reasoning, looking at the fiscal situation, assessing the necessity of their proposed projects.' 'I don't see the value of being deliberately confrontational. I don't see the value of creating political controversy about these issues,' Abhisit said. 'My government was one that actually succeeded in reducing the defense budget. We didn't make any noise about it. We didn't make it a conflict with the military. We just have to work professionally.' 'I've learned from experience,' Abhisit said. 'The challenges facing the country have changed. We've now got many more new challenges. Technological disruptions, an aging or fast-aging society, a high degree of inequality — these need to be met head on.' ___ Associated Press writer Kaweewit Kaewjinda contributed to this report.
  • Thousands of people were expected to come together for an emotional Friday prayer service led by the imam of one of the two New Zealand mosques where 50 worshippers were killed in a white supremacist attack. Two more of the victims were being buried Thursday as authorities identify and release more of the dead. Imam Gamal Fouda said he is expecting 3,000 to 4,000 people at Friday's prayer service, including many who have come from abroad to be with members of Christchurch's Muslim community and to attend funerals. Fouda said he has been discussing plans for the prayer with city officials and lawmakers and expects it will take place in Hagley Park, a city landmark across from Al Noor mosque, where at least 42 people were killed. Members of the Linwood mosque, where the gunman killed at least seven people, also would attend the joint prayer, he said. Al Noor workers have been trying feverishly to repair the destruction at the mosque, Fouda said. 'They will bury the carpet,' he said. 'Because it is full of blood, and it's contaminated.' Fouda said that he expects the mosque to be ready to open again by next week and that some skilled workers had offered their services for free. 'The support we have been getting from New Zealand and the community has been amazing,' he said. During Friday prayers last week, Fouda had just finished the Khutbah, a sermon delivered in Arabic, and was translating it into English in when the gunman burst into the mosque and methodically gunned down worshippers. Fouda said his sermon had been about cooperating with each other, doing good and stopping evil. Two funerals on Thursday were for 14-year-old Sayyad Ahmad Milne, a Cashmere High School student known as an outgoing boy and the school's futsal goalkeeper; and Tariq Rashid Omar, 24, a recent graduate of the school and beloved soccer coach of several youth teams. He also played during the summer. In a post on Facebook, Christchurch United Football Club Academy Director Colin Williamson described Omar as 'a beautiful human being with a tremendous heart and love for coaching.' Families of those killed had been awaiting word on when they could bury their loved ones. Police Commissioner Mike Bush said authorities have formally identified and released the remains of 21 victims. Islamic tradition calls for bodies to be cleansed and buried as soon as possible. Police said Wednesday that they believe the gunman was on his way to a third mosque when officers ran him off the road and arrested him. Australian Brenton Harrison Tarrant, 28, livestreamed the attack on Facebook and said in his manifesto he planned to attack three mosques. Tarrant, 28, has been charged with murder and is next scheduled to appear in court on April 5. Police have said they are certain Tarrant was the only gunman but are still investigating whether he had support. Ardern has said changes to New Zealand's gun laws would be announced next week and an inquiry would look into intelligence and security services' failures to detect the risk from the attacker or his plans. New Zealand's international spy agency, the Government Communications Security Bureau, confirmed it had not received any relevant information or intelligence before the shootings.
  • A right-wing populist party in the Netherlands emerged from provincial elections that also determine the makeup of the national Senate positioned for a big win, according to exit poll released late Wednesday. The elections held Wednesday were for 570 legislators in provincial governments. The winners, in turn, will elect the members of the Dutch parliament's upper house in May. Results from an IPSOS exit poll published by national broadcaster NOS showed the euroskeptic, anti-immigration Forum for Democracy party winning 10 seats after fielding candidates in provincial races for the first time. Prime Minister Mark Rutte's People's Party for Freedom and Democracy dropped from 13 to 12 seats, the poll found. The Forum for Democracy, led by flamboyant populist Thierry Baudet, 36, is battling the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy to become the biggest party in the national Senate. The IPSOS poll had a one-seat margin of error. 'What a day,' said Theo Hiddema, who serves with Baudet as one of the two Forum lawmakers in the lower house of the national parliament. 'Tomorrow you will wake up to a new spring, a new sound.' The exit poll showed Rutte's four-party coalition losing its majority in the Senate, meaning he would have to seek support from opposition parties to push through legislation. Baudet's success came at the expense of major parties, but he also took votes from a rival populist party. The Party for Freedom of anti-Islam firebrand Geert Wilders, which was forecast to drop from nine seats to six. Wilders called it 'a limited loss' and added, 'Of course, we would have wanted more.' The voting came just days after a shooter opened fire on a tram in the central city of Utrecht, killing three passengers and seriously wounding three more. Police have arrested a 37-year-old man of Turkish descent and said they were investigating a possible extremist motive. While major political parties halted campaigning in the aftermath of the shootings, Baudet blamed years of what he called failing immigration policies for the attack.
  • A far-right party is making political waves in Spain by advocating looser gun control laws and recruiting retired military officers as candidates in a parliamentary election next month. Vox party leader Santiago Abascal said Spaniards should be allowed to keep firearms at home and to use them in 'real life-threatening situations' without fear of legal consequences. Spain currently allows civilians to possess guns only for sporting purposes. 'Our laws treat criminals like victims and honest citizens like criminals,' Abascal told armas.es, a website specializing in weapons, in an interview Wednesday. Abascal, 42, has bragged about carrying a handgun himself. The politician was born and raised in the northern Basque region, where his family was for years a target of separatist militant group ETA. He has a special gun license given on a case by case basis for professional or personal safety. Public opinion polls are predicting Vox will win a significant number of seats in the House of Deputies, the lower chamber in Spain's parliament. The party said this week it had enlisted at least five former army generals to run in the April 28 election. Two of the candidates signed a petition last year opposing moves by Spain's Socialist government to remove the body of Gen. Francisco Franco from a mausoleum where the 20th century dictator is honored. Those who fear the rise of the far right in Spain say Vox is trying to attract votes with fear-mongering and by reviving the ghosts of Franco's 1939-1975 dictatorship. The party's campaign message is high on Spanish nationalism and what are regarded as traditional values, while its positions include opposing unauthorized migration and the demands of feminists. But Vox faces an uphill battle to stir the arms debate in a country with lower homicide and burglary rates than most of its European neighbors. Some Vox members have linked violence against women and other crimes to the arrival in Spain of large numbers of migrants, though they haven't offered statistical evidence to back the claims. Laws in Spain are strict in requiring military staff to be politically neutral, but they face no limitations once they retire. The anti-austerity Podemos party had a former head of the armed forces, Julio Rodríguez, run for parliament in 2015, but he wasn't elected. One Vox candidate, Alberto Asarta, is a decorated general with a long career in international missions, including a two-year stint leading the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Lebanon. Last year, Asarta and another general who is now running under the Vox banner joined nearly 200 military reservists in signing a public petition defending Franco's legacy. Their manifesto justified the dictator's 1936 uprising, which triggered a bloody three-year Civil War. It also criticized Spain's center-left government for ordering Franco's remains to be exhumed and relocated from the glorifying Valley of the Fallen mausoleum to a more discrete location. The government has ordered the exhumation to be carried out on June 10. The Spanish Supreme Court is considering appeals filed by Franco's relatives and the abbot charged with guarding his tomb.
  • The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said Wednesday that two of its missionaries have returned to the U.S. after they were detained in Russia for more than two weeks in an alleged visa violation case. The men were treated well and permitted to stay in contact with their relatives and church officials during the detention, church spokesman Eric Hawkins said in a statement. The Utah-based faith had previously said it was 'troubled by the circumstances' of the young men's detention but declined to elaborate or discuss the case in more detail. Latter-day Saint missionaries have not been allowed to legally proselytize in Russia since 2016 and are called 'volunteers' while they perform missionary duty in the country. The change was triggered by an anti-terrorism law signed that year by Russian President Vladimir Putin that put restrictions on religious missionary practices and dictates that religious work can only be done in houses of worship and other related religious sites.   The church that year decreased its number of members serving as volunteers in Russia down to about 50, but Hawkins declined to specify how many are currently serving there. The church is 'closely monitoring conditions in Russia for all volunteers and will continue to fully comply with Russian law,' Hawkins said in the statement. Kole Brodowski, 20, and David Gaag, 19, were detained on March 1 in Novorossiisk, a Black Sea port city . A Russian court ordered their deportation after they were accused of working as English teachers without proper credentials. The two men were fined the equivalent of $470 each on charges of illegal missionary activities, according to details of court proceedings covered by Russian news agencies. Russian government officials have declined to comment about specifics of the case. U.S State Department spokesman Noel Clay said the agency cannot provide specifics about the case because of privacy considerations but that it has 'no higher priority than the protection of U.S. citizens abroad.' Serving a mission for the religion, widely known as the Mormon church, is considered a rite of passage for the faith's members. Men serve for two years and go on missions as young as 18. Women serve for 18 months and are allowed to start them at age 19. Brodowski was near the end of his service and will return home to Garden Grove, California, Hawkins said. Gaag, of Bothell, Washington, plans to stay in the U.S. for a short period and then serve the rest of his mission in a different location country, he said. Gaag's father, Udo Gaag, said in a statement to the church-owned Deseret News newspaper that the family is relieved. 'We spoke with David and he is healthy and in good spirits,' Udo Gaag said. 'He is happy that the detention is over but sad to leave his Russian friends. It is clear to us that he enjoyed his experience serving the Russian people and truly grew to love them.' ___ Vladimir Isachenkov contributed to this report from Moscow.
  • A U.N. court's decision Wednesday to uphold the genocide and war crimes convictions of ex-Bosnian Serb President Radovan Karadzic and sentence him to life behind bars was applauded by survivors of Bosnia's bloody '90s war — but blasted by the country's Serbs as biased. Gathered in a memorial center near this eastern Bosnian town that was the scene of Europe's worst carnage since World War II, many wept and applauded as United Nations appeals judges in the Hague, Netherlands, increased Karadzic's sentence from 40 years to life imprisonment on Wednesday. But while Bosnia's Muslims hailed the ruling as bringing at least some justice for Karadzic's victims, Serbs in Bosnia remained defiant, most of them stressing that the ruling is yet more proof that the United Nations judges are unfair. The contrasting reactions reflect persisting divisions in Bosnia, long after the country's 1992-95 war ended. The ruling was a 'complete injustice for Serbs, for our history,' declared Gradimir Miladinovic, from the Bosnian Serb town of Pale, the Bosnian Serb wartime stronghold outside Sarajevo. 'He (Karadzic) was our president and he remains our president.' Bosnian Serb Prime Minister Radovan Viskovic complained that 'no one has been held responsible for the crimes against Serbs,' while Karadzic's Serb Democratic Party said the Hague court's only goal was 'vilification of the Serb people.' The verdict, the party insisted, is 'baseless and scandalously unjust.' The Serb member of Bosnia's multi-ethnic presidency, Milorad Dodik, described Wednesday's ruling as 'arrogant and cynical.' Karadzic was one of the chief architects of the devastation of Bosnia's war. He and wartime commander Gen. Ratko Mladic were convicted of genocide in the Srebrenica massacre, when Serb forces slaughtered some 8,000 Muslim men and boys in 1995. He was also convicted of other war crimes committed during the 1992-95 war that killed some 100,000 people — including the years-long shelling and siege of Sarajevo. Relatives of the war's victims expressed relief. 'I am glad that I lasted long enough to see justice being served,' said Fazila Efendic, whose husband and son were among the 8,000 Muslim men and boys killed in Srebrenica. 'He (Karadzic) got what I expected, what he deserved, what is right.' Bosnia's war ended in a U.S.-brokered peace agreement that formed a Muslim-Croat and a Bosnian Serb entity in Bosnia, joined in a loose common government. International officials in Bosnia urged the former foes to respect the ruling from The Hague and move on along the path of reconciliation. ___ Niksic reported from Sarajevo. Jovana Gec contributed from Belgrade, Serbia.
  • The Latest on the dispute between the European Parliament's center-right EPP alliance and its Hungary's Fidesz party (all times local): 7:10 p.m. Manfred Weber, leader of center-right EPP alliance in European Parliament, says Viktor Orban's Fidesz party has been suspended from the grouping.  After daylong discussions among members in the European Parliament's biggest alliance, Weber said Fidesz 'can no longer propose candidates for posts' in the group and said they cannot vote on issues or join major group meetings.  'It was a very hard discussion,' said Weber, adding that Orban was at the meeting in person.  'The message was crystal clear,' he said 'The EPP was very clear and united ... that the suspension is needed.'  An evaluation commission led by former EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy will now follow developments within the Fidesz party.  ___ 12:40 p.m. A senior lawmaker from Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel's party says Hungary's ruling Fidesz party may be suspended from the main center-right bloc in the European Parliament. Prime Minister Viktor Orban's authoritarian style and anti-European Union, anti-migration policies have long put him at odds with many members of the European People's Party, whose delegates are meeting Wednesday to debate possible disciplinary measures against Fidesz. Inge Graessle, an EU parliament lawmaker from Merkel's Christian Democratic Union, told Germany's SWR2 radio that she believes the EPP will 'temporarily suspend his membership today — that is the step before expulsion — and then he can choose how he wants to continue.' Graessle said Orban, who had led Fidesz practically unchallenged since the early 1990s, 'has to show credibly that he will change.
  • Italy's Senate refused Wednesday to lift Interior Minister Matteo Salvini's immunity to face possible charges for refusing to allow migrants aboard an Italian coast guard ship to disembark at a Sicilian port. A judicial commission in Sicily triggered the vote when it rejected prosecutors' decision not to pursue kidnapping charges against Salvini for refusing to allow 177 migrants to disembark from the Diciotti last August. Salvini, in an emotional defense, said his refusal was aimed at forcing Italy's European partners to share the burden of migrant arrivals, which has disproportionately fallen on Italy as a primary destination for humanitarian ships rescuing migrants from smugglers' boats off Libya. Within days of the Diciotti's arrival in Catania, other European countries stepped forward to accept the migrants. Salvini said his job was to defend Italy's borders. 'I will never be the minister who allows a single person to die in the Mediterranean Sea without lifting a finger,' he said. Salvini has been widely criticized for his policy of not allowing humanitarian rescue boats to make port in Italy. That's provoked repeated standoffs with other European countries while migrants remain at sea. In the most recent case, an Italian-flagged rescue ship carrying nearly 50 migrants was allowed to make port in Lampedusa and disembark its passengers only after prosecutors ordered it seized. In the Diciotti case, the migrants were aboard an Italian coast guard vessel that had accepted the migrants at sea from humanitarian vessels. Salvini argues that the presence of the rescue ships off Libya encourages smugglers to attempt the dangerous journey in unseaworthy boats as they expect to be intercepted. Reacting to the Senate decision, Salvini said 'this morning I was busy trying to avoid 15 years in jail. I don't feel like I am a kidnapper.
  • A drama in which a submersible made an emergency ascent from 250 meters (820 feet) below the Indian Ocean was caused by condensation burning out a small motor in the cockpit, the director of the British-led Nekton Mission said on Wednesday. Oliver Steeds told The Associated Press that the burnout produced an acrid smell of smoke which triggered the pilot's emergency response. 'That's all now been fixed so we're confident now to undertake a dive,' Steeds said. The American pilot, Robert Carmichael, and the passenger, British scientist Molly Rivers, donned breathing apparatus as the vessel neared the surface. Neither was hurt in Tuesday's incident during a dive off the Seychelles. The two-person sub returned to the water on Wednesday for tests. With Carmichael and Steeds on board, it dived to 80 meters for roughly two hours and returned to the surface without incident. The submersible is a key part of the Nekton Mission, an unprecedented, years-long scientific exploration of the Indian Ocean to document changes taking place beneath the waves that could affect billions of people in the surrounding region over the coming decades. The mission's ship is gathering data in the Seychelles to help inform the government's plan to protect almost a third of its vast waters by 2020. Almost nothing is known about the marine life there below 30 meters, or scuba depth. The Associated Press is the only news agency working with British scientists from the research team. AP video coverage will include exploring the depths of up to 300 meters (985 feet) off the coast of the Seychelles, the search for submerged mountain ranges and previously undiscovered marine life, a behind-the-scenes look at life on board, interviews with researchers and aerial footage of the mission. The seven-week expedition is expected to run until April 19.

News

  • A new study on the effects of medication prescribed to those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder suggests that teens and young people could face an increased risk of psychosis with certain drugs. >> Read more trending news   The study, conducted by researchers at McLean Hospital and Harvard Medical School, looked at teens and young people who had recently begun taking two classes of drugs – amphetamines (marketed as Adderall and Vyvanse) and methylphenidates (marketed as Ritalin or Concerta) – used to treat ADHD. The study showed that while the chance of developing psychosis – a condition that affects the mind and causes a person to lose contact with reality – is low, there is an increased risk of developing the disorder in patients taking the amphetamines. “The findings are concerning because the use of amphetamines in adolescents and young adults has more than tripled in recent years. More and more patients are being treated with these medications,” said Dr. Lauren V. Moran, lead author of the paper. “There is not a lot of research comparing the safety profiles of amphetamines and methylphenidate, despite increasing use of these medications,” Moran said. Moran said that clinicians have long observed “patients without previous psychiatric history” developing psychosis “in the setting of stimulant use.” The study, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health, looked at insurance claims on more than 220,000 ADHD patients between the ages of 13 and 25 years old who had started taking amphetamines or methylphenidate between Jan. 1, 2004, and Sept. 30, 2015. According to the study, researchers found that one out of every 486 patients started on an amphetamine developed psychosis that required treatment with antipsychotic medication. One in 1,046 patients started on methylphenidate developed psychosis. The study showed that the development of psychosis appeared in people who had recently begun taking the amphetamines. Moran stressed that “people who have been on a drug like Adderall for a long time, who are taking the drug as prescribed and are tolerating it well, are not likely to experience this problem (psychosis).” The paper, “Psychosis with Amphetamine or Methylphenidate in Attention Deficit Disorder,” is set to be published on Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine. 
  • Do you like your tea served piping hot? Beware— you could be doubling your cancer risk, according to a new report.  >> Read more trending news  Researchers from Tehran University of Medical Sciences in Iran recently conducted a study, published in the International Journal of Cancer, to determine the association between drinking hot tea and esophageal cancer. To do so, they examined more than 50,000 people, aged 40-75, in Golestan, a province in northeastern Iran. They followed the participants for 10 years, tracking the temperature of the tea they drank as well as their overall health. During the follow-up, 317 new cases of esophageal cancer were identified.  Furthermore, they found those who drank tea warmer than 60 degrees Celsius or 140 degrees Fahrenheit and consumed more than 700 ml of tea daily were 90 percent more likely to develop esophageal cancer, compared to those who drank less tea and at temperatures below 60 degrees Celsius. >> Related: Drinking this type of tea could ruin your teeth, study says “Many people enjoy drinking tea, coffee, or other hot beverages. However, according to our report, drinking very hot tea can increase the risk of esophageal cancer, and it is therefore advisable to wait until hot beverages cool down before drinking,” lead author Farhad Islam said in a statement. Tea is rarely consumed at temperatures above 65 degrees Celsius in the United States or Europe. However, in places like Iran, Russia, Turkey and South America, it’s more common to serve tea at that temperature or hotter, Peter Goggi, president of the Tea Association of the USA, told CNN last year. The scientists do not know why drinking hot tea is linked with esophageal cancer, but this isn’t the first study of its kind.  A 2018 study, published in Annals of Internal Medicine, found that consuming “hot” or “burning hot” tea is linked with a two- to five-fold rise in esophageal cancer, but only among individuals who also smoke or drink alcohol. >> Related: Black tea helps you lose weight with gut bacteria, study says The analysts from that evaluation believe hot beverages may damage the tissue lining the esophagus, which could increase the risk of cancer from other factors, such as repeated irritation of the esophagus and the formation of inflammatory compounds.
  • Gov. Brian Kemp’s proposal to devise health care “waiver” programs that might ease insurance for some poor and middle-class Georgians passed a special House committee on Wednesday. The measure, Senate Bill 106, has already passed the state Senate. Its next step is to be seen by the House Rules Committee, the gateway to the House floor. Then, if passed without amendments, Kemp would have before him the legislation he first suggested word for word. “I’m very pleased with it,” said state Rep. Richard Smith, R-Columbus, who is chairman of the House Insurance Committee and led the Special Committee on Access to Quality Health Care, which heard SB 106 Wednesday. The committee voted for it 11-3, with at least one Democrat in favor and no Republicans opposed. The often positive testimony from witnesses reflected the findings of Atlanta Journal-Constitution polls expressing a desire to figure out how to insure the hundreds of thousands of Georgia poor who are currently not eligible for Medicaid. The legislation would give Kemp the authority to request federal “waivers” to Medicaid and Affordable Care Act rules in order to design programs tailored to the state. It is possible that the waiver programs could end up insuring hundreds of thousands of poor childless adult Georgians who are currently ineligible for Medicaid. Or it might do something much less. The choice would be Kemp’s. The near unity among witnesses in favor of a waiver broke down over what exactly such a waiver should do. A parade of advocates testified to Smith’s committee that they supported the effort to expand coverage. But several, including Democrats, said the measure didn’t go far enough, and they either spoke against it or wouldn’t urge a yes vote. Many are concerned that as Kemp decides how best to shape the state’s Medicaid program, the bill limits him to dealing only with the population up to 100 percent of the federal poverty level, or those who make about $12,000 a year for an individual. Federal law encouraged expansion of Medicaid to all poor people up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line, or about $16,000 for an individual. Several groups, including the American Heart Association and the American Lung Association, praised the possibility of expanding Medicaid and asked for it to go to 138 percent of the poverty level. Georgia Watch’s Laura Harker praised the benefits of Medicaid coverage to the poor and to the economy. “We are, however, struggling with consternation about the 200,000 or so just above the poverty line that may miss out,” Harker said. State Rep. Debbie Buckner, D-Junction City, is not on the committee but did testify. She said she was concerned not only that the bill stopped short at the number of poor people it would include, but also at the amount of power the bill gives the governor. There is no requirement for him to run his eventual decisions by the Legislature. One speaker, with the libertarian group Georgians for Prosperity, opposed the bill for the opposite reason, because he said insuring so many more poor people with Medicaid would encourage unemployment. Many said it was worth doing something rather than nothing. State Rep. Patty Bentley, a Democrat from Butler, was among them. “What we have on the table right now, my friends, I see as a way to help my area,” Bentley said. “So, my friends, I respect you, I honor you, but I’m voting for this bill.” Asked why they would restrict the governor to considering a smaller group of people, the committee chairman, Smith, and state Rep. Matt Hatchett, R-Dublin, who made the motion for the bill, both said that was simply what the governor requested. Stay on top of what’s happening in Georgia government and politics at ajc.com/news/georgia-government/.
  • The American Kennel Club's annual ranking of the most popular dog breeds found that the Labrador retriever once again is the nation's top dog for the 28th year in a row. >> Read more trending news The AKC released its 2018 rankings on Wednesday. After Labs, the top five breeds nationwide are German shepherds, golden retrievers, French bulldogs and bulldogs. Rounding out the top 10 are beagles, poodles, Rottweilers, German shorthaired pointers and Yorkshire terriers. All held their same positions on the top 10 with the exception of that German shorthaired pointer and Yorkshire terrier swapping the ninth and 10th position. Labs have been on top since 1991 when they unseated Cocker Spaniels from the number one slot and their reign is the longest of any breed since the AKC began the popularity ranking in the 1880s. At No. 9, the German shorthaired pointer notched its highest ranking since getting AKC recognition in 1930. These strikingly speckled hunting dogs are also versatile — some work as drug- and bomb-detectors — and active companions. “I think people are learning about how fun the breed is,” AKC spokeswoman Brandi Hunter said. The listings come from 2018 AKC registration data, and do not include mixed breeds. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • Wildlife officials in New Mexico are warning hikers and other visitors about a potential danger on a trail in the Sandria Mountains east of Albuquerque: mountain lions. >> Read more trending news  Although the chances of actually encountering a mountain lion are low, officials have fielded numerous calls recently over sightings of the big cat on the La Luz Trail, according to KOB-TV. Forest workers want people to take precautions, especially around dawn and dusk when jogging and running can trigger the big cats’ instincts to chase and attack. “We do not want to discourage people from visiting the forest,” wildlife biologist Esther Nelson told KOB, “but we do want to make people aware and offer some precautionary measures to keep visitors and their pets safe.” A few other tips include keeping children and pets close at all times and don’t hike alone. Although mountain lions are usually quiet and elusive animals, the National Park Service offers recommendations in case of an encounter. If you see a lion, stay calm, don’t approach it, don’t run from it, and don’t crouch down or bend over. >> Related: Jogger kills attacking mountain lion with bare hands If a mountain lion moves toward you or acts aggressively, do everything you can to appear intimidating. Speak in a loud voice and try and appear larger. If that doesn’t work, park officials suggest throwing stones or branches at the cat to try and scare it off. If it does attack, fight back however you can. Also don’t forget to report any attack to a forest ranger.    
  • A Wisconsin woman was arrested for handing out marijuana cookies at a St. Patrick’s Day parade, police said. >> Read more trending news  Cathleen Krause, 57, has been charged with delivering THC, possession of THC and three counts of possession of a controlled substance, WBAY-TV reported. A witness told sheriff’s deputies that while she was attending a St. Patrick’s Day parade on Saturday, a woman dressed in a leather coat and green hat gave her a cookie with marijuana in it, according to a Shawano County Sheriff's Office arrest affidavit. The witness turned the cookie over to the deputies. The deputies later tracked down Krause, who was 'visibly intoxicated' and smelled of alcohol and marijuana, according to the affidavit. When asked about the cookies, Krause pulled out a gallon-sized bag that contained cookie crumbs, WBAY-TV reported. The deputies then searched her and found a container with pills and some gummy candies, the news station reported. The Sheriff’s Office said the cookie and the gummies tested positive for marijuana. Krause appeared in court on March 18. As a condition of the $1,000 bond, she must remain sober, according to court records.