Sri Lanka identifies group suspected in Easter bombings
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — The coordinated Easter Sunday bombings that ripped through Sri Lankan churches and luxury hotels, killing more than 200 people, were carried out by seven suicide bombers from a domestic militant group named National Thowfeek Jamaath, a government official said Monday.
All of the bombers were Sri Lankan citizens, but authorities suspect foreign links, Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne said at a news conference.
Earlier, Ariyananda Welianga, a government forensic crime investigator, said an analysis of the attackers' body parts made clear that they were suicide bombers. He said most of the attacks were carried out by a single bomber, with two at Colombo's Shangri-La Hotel.
The bombings, Sri Lanka's deadliest violence since a devastating civil war ended a decade ago on the island nation, killed at least 290 people with more than 500 wounded, Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekara said Monday.
Meanwhile, Sri Lankan police investigating the bombings are examining reports that intelligence agencies had warnings of possible attacks, officials said Monday.
Sri Lanka blocks social media after Easter Sunday bombings
Sri Lankan authorities flicked the off switch on most social media after Easter Sunday attacks on churches and hotels killed hundreds of people, a dramatic reaction that reflects distrust in the capability of American internet companies to control harmful content.
The block on social media including Facebook and its WhatsApp and Instagram services was announced by the government's official news portal, which cited the spread of "false news reports" online. The NetBlocks observatory said it detected an intentional blackout of the popular platforms as well as YouTube, Snapchat and Viber. Twitter appeared unaffected.
Officials likely feared that the spread of inflammatory content could provoke more bloodshed in Sri Lanka, a Buddhist-majority island nation that has large Hindu, Muslim and Christian minorities and a long history of ethnic and sectarian conflict. At least 290 people were killed in the bombings.
Ivan Sigal, head of the internet and journalism advocacy organization Global Voices, said the country's rapid action was a "telling moment."
"A few years ago we'd be using these platforms to help each other and coordinating assistance. Now we view them as a threat," he wrote on Twitter.
US increasing pressure on use of Iranian oil
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration is poised to tell five nations, including allies Japan, South Korea and Turkey, that they will no longer be exempt from U.S. sanctions if they continue to import oil from Iran, officials said Sunday.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo plans to announce on Monday that the administration will not renew sanctions waivers for the five countries when they expire on May 2, three U.S. officials said. The others are China and India.
It was not immediately clear if any of the five would be given additional time to wind down their purchases or if they would be subject to U.S. sanctions on May 3 if they do not immediately halt imports of Iranian oil.
The officials were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of Pompeo's announcement.
The decision not to extend the waivers, which was first reported by The Washington Post, was finalized on Friday by President Donald Trump, according to the officials. They said it is intended to further ramp up pressure on Iran by strangling the revenue it gets from oil exports.
Nothing wrong with help from Russians, Trump lawyer says
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani insisted there was "nothing wrong" with the president's 2016 campaign taking information from the Russians, as House Democrats pledged stepped-up investigations into campaign misconduct and possible crimes of obstruction detailed in special counsel Robert Mueller's report .
Giuliani called the Trump campaign's effort to get political help from representatives of the Russian government possibly ill-advised but not illegal.
"There's nothing wrong with taking information from Russians," Giuliani said Sunday, referring to a June 2016 Trump Tower meeting involving Trump's son Donald Jr., son-in-law Jared Kushner and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and a lawyer linked to Russia. The Trump campaign was seeking harmful information on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
The Sunday news shows offered the latest back and forth following the long-anticipated release on Thursday of Mueller's 448-page redacted report on his two-year investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Mueller found no evidence of a conspiracy between Russia and the Trump campaign and made no decision on obstruction of justice.
Giuliani rebutted Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, who said in a statement on Twitter Friday he was "sickened" by the findings in Mueller's report that cited details on how the Trump campaign welcomed political dirt from Russia.
Notre Dame fire was a warning bell. But will Europe listen?
PARIS (AP) — It's a thin line where the patina of age on Europe's countless monuments gives way to the onset of neglect. Like with so many loved ones, all is assumed to be fine, until suddenly it's not.
In the wake of the fire last week that gutted Notre Dame, questions are being raised about the state of thousands of other cathedrals, palaces and village spires that have turned France — as well as Italy, Britain and Spain — into open air museums of Western civilization.
If even an iconic building like Notre Dame could not be protected from devastation, if such a potent symbol of France had to scramble for maintenance funds, that lays bare a culture of apathy that can undermine a shared history as well as the multibillion-dollar tourism industry upon which much of Europe depends.
"We are so used to our outstanding cultural heritage in Europe that we tend to forget that it needs constant care and attention," Tibor Navracsics, the European Union's top culture official, told The Associated Press.
Some say the wake-up call, not just for Europe but the whole world, rang in Paris.
Buttigieg scrambles to turn 2020 buzz into momentum
MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) — There are no policy positions on his website. He has virtually no paid presence in the states that matter most. And his campaign manager is a high school friend with no experience in presidential politics.
Welcome to the campaign of Pete Buttigieg , the 37-year-old Indiana mayor who has suddenly become one of the hottest names in the Democrats' presidential primary season. Yet there is an increasing urgency, inside and outside of the campaign, that his moment may pass if he doesn't take swift action to build a national organization capable of harnessing the energy he'll need to sustain his surge in the nine months or so before the first votes are cast.
"I get more inquiries on how to reach him or his campaign than anyone else," New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley said, adding that he's aware of just one part-time Buttigieg staffer in the state to help coordinate the requests.
"This is what it's like when you're having your moment," Buckley said. "Whether he can capitalize — that's his challenge."
Indeed, it's far from certain that Buttigieg, a gay former military officer, will continue to stand out in a contest that features political heavyweights like Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former Vice President Joe Biden, who is expected to launch his candidacy later this week. Aware of the daunting road ahead, Buttigieg's team is plowing forward with an ambitious push to expand his operation, attract new campaign cash and pound the airwaves with virtually every media opportunity available.
TV actor wins Ukraine presidential vote in a landslide
KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — With nearly all the votes counted in Ukraine, TV star Volodymyr Zelenskiy is projected to win the country's presidential runoff vote in a landslide.
The Central Election Commission says Monday that Zelenskiy has won 73% of the vote while the incumbent President Petro Poroshenko got just 24% support with more than 96% of the ballots counted.
Unlike in most of the elections in Ukraine's post-Soviet history, Zelenskiy appears to have won both in Ukraine's west and east, areas that have been traditionally polarized. One of the campaign slogans of the popular television comedian who has no previous political experience was to unify Ukraine, which has been torn by bitter debates over its identity as well as the separatist conflict in the east that is fueled by neighboring Russia.
Even with a landslide to give him a powerful mandate for change, Zelenskiy has daunting challenges ahead.
The simmering, deadly conflict in eastern Ukraine and the conundrum over Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea are likely to dominate the agenda of the man who up until now has only played the president in a TV sitcom. Zelenskiy, a Russian speaker from central Ukraine has promised to step up efforts to re-integrate the east back into Ukraine's fold but has offered no details on how he is going to do that.
Stop & Shop, workers reach tentative contract agreement
BOSTON (AP) — Stop & Shop supermarket workers and company officials reached a tentative contract agreement Sunday that includes wage increases for all associates and maintains health coverage, according to news releases from both parties.
The company said the agreement ends employee strikes that started April 11 at 240 Stop & Shop stores in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut.
The tentative three-year agreement with the United Food and Commercial Workers union is subject to ratification votes by members of each of the union locals, the company said.
"Our associates' top priority will be restocking our stores so we can return to taking care of our customers and communities and providing them with the service they deserve," the company said. "We deeply appreciate the patience and understanding of our customers during this time, and we look forward to welcoming them back to Stop & Shop."
The union said "today is a powerful victory for the 31,000 hardworking men and women of Stop & Shop who courageously stood up to fight for what all New Englanders want." It said workers were on strike to protest the company's proposed cuts to health care, take-home pay and other benefits.
Trump called on spy chiefs for help as Mueller probe began
WASHINGTON (AP) — Two months before special counsel Robert Mueller was appointed in the spring of 2017, President Donald Trump picked up the phone and called the head of the largest U.S. intelligence agency. Trump told Mike Rogers, director of the National Security Agency, that news stories alleging that Trump's 2016 White House campaign had ties to Russia were false and the president asked whether Rogers could do anything to counter them.
Rogers and his deputy Richard Ledgett, who was present for the call, were taken aback.
Afterward, Ledgett wrote a memo about the conversation and Trump's request. He and Rogers signed it and stashed it in a safe. Ledgett said it was the "most unusual thing he had experienced in 40 years of government service."
Trump's outreach to Rogers, who retired last year, and other top intelligence officials stands in sharp contrast to his public, combative stance toward his intelligence agencies. At the time of the call, Trump was just some 60 days into his presidency, but he already had managed to alienate large parts of the intelligence apparatus with comments denigrating the profession.
Since then, Trump only has dug in. He said at a news conference in Helsinki after his 2017 summit with Russian leader Vladimir Putin that he gave weight to Putin's denial that Russia meddled in the 2016 election, despite the firm conclusion of U.S. intelligence agencies that it had. "I don't see any reason why it would be" Russia, Trump said. And earlier this year, Trump called national security assessments "naive," tweeting "perhaps intelligence should go back to school."
Tesla gears up for fully self-driving cars amid skepticism
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Tesla CEO Elon Musk appears poised to transform the company's electric cars into driverless vehicles in a risky bid to realize a bold vision that he has been floating for years.
The technology required to make that quantum leap is scheduled to be shown off to Tesla investors Monday at the company's Palo Alto, California, headquarters.
Musk, known for his swagger as well as his smarts, is so certain that Tesla will win the race toward full autonomy that he indicated in an interview earlier this month that his company's cars should be able to navigate congested highways and city streets without a human behind the wheel by no later than next year.
"I could be wrong, but it appears to be the case that Tesla is vastly ahead of everyone," Musk told Lex Fridman, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology research scientist specializing in autonomous vehicles.
But experts say they're skeptical whether Tesla's technology has advanced anywhere close to the point where its cars will be capable of being driven solely by a robot, without a human in position to take control if something goes awry.