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

Biden's test: Can he show competence to avert banking chaos? WASHINGTON (AP) — In 2016, Vice President Joe Biden warned against efforts to unravel banking regulations that Democrats had fought to implement following the nation’s financial crisis, jus

Biden's test: Can he show competence to avert banking chaos?

WASHINGTON (AP) — In 2016, Vice President Joe Biden warned against efforts to unravel banking regulations that Democrats had fought to implement following the nation’s financial crisis, just as the emerging Trump administration was determined to loosen those strict banking rules.

Biden argued that without the far-reaching 2010 banking overhaul known as Dodd-Frank, financial institutions would continue to gamble with consumers' cash and ultimately hurt the middle class.

“We can’t go back to the days when financial companies take massive risks with the knowledge that a taxpayer bailout is around the corner when they fail,” Biden said in a speech at Georgetown University in the waning days of the Obama administration.

Now there's a banking crisis on his watch as president, and Biden is moving aggressively to assure the public that it is contained, bank executives will be fired, deposits are safe and taxpayers aren't on the hook — measures also designed to calm jittery financial markets.

As he contemplates an announcement for a second term, Biden's ability to avert a contagion among financial institutions will test his contention that his administration represents competence and stability in contrast to the the chaos of the Donald Trump years.


For Asian Americans, Yeoh, Quan's Oscar wins are theirs too

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Edward Dion Fariñas watches the Academy Awards every year but the Filipino American didn't expect to have such a visceral reaction when hearing Ke Huy Quan and Michelle Yeoh's awards announced.

“I had a squeal come out that I was not expecting,” said Fariñas, who was watching Sunday from his Austin, Texas, home, complete with “Everything Everywhere All at Once” themed pastries from a local Asian American-owned bakery.

“I was surprised by how heavily invested I got. It’s not even about the acting. It really just kind of lets us feel like we can accomplish things that normally are not in our lane.”

Quan's best supporting actor win and comeback story from childhood star of ‘80s flicks, coupled with Yeoh’s historic win as the first Asian best actress winner ever had viewers of Asian descent shedding tears of happiness — and grinning. The “Everything Everywhere All at Once” co-stars bring the total number of Asians who have earned acting Oscars to just six in the awards' 95-year history.

For many Asian Americans, the film's seven Oscars, including Best Picture, feel like a watershed moment — that Hollywood is moving past seeing them only in tropes. It represents an opportunity for optimism after three years of anti-Asian hate brought on by the pandemic.


McConnell released from hospital, headed to inpatient rehab

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell was released from the hospital Monday after treatment for a concussion and will continue to recover in an inpatient rehabilitation facility, a spokesman said.

McConnell's office said his doctors discovered over the weekend that he had also suffered a “minor rib fracture” after he tripped and fell at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in Washington on Wednesday evening.

“Leader McConnell’s concussion recovery is proceeding well and the Leader was discharged from the hospital today,” McConnell spokesman David Popp said in a statement. “At the advice of his physician, the next step will be a period of physical therapy at an inpatient rehabilitation facility before he returns home.”

The office did not give any additional detail on his condition or say how long McConnell will be out. Concussions can be serious injuries and take time for recovery, and even a single incident of concussion can limit a person’s abilities as they recover.

It is unclear how his extended absence will affect Senate proceedings. The Senate returns to Washington Tuesday evening after the weekend off and is scheduled to be in session for the rest of March.


North Korea launches 2 missiles to sea as allies hold drills

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea test-fired two short-range ballistic missiles in another show of force Tuesday, a day after the U.S. and South Korea began military drills that Pyongyang views as an invasion rehearsal.

The missiles launched from the southwestern coastal town of Jangyon flew across North Korea before landing in the sea off that country’s east coast, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement. It said both missiles travelled about 620 kilometers (385 miles).

The reported flight distances suggest the missiles target South Korea, which hosts about 28,000 U.S. troops. South Korea's military called the launches “a grave provocation” that undermines stability on the Korean Peninsula.

The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said Tuesday's launches don’t pose an immediate threat to its allies. But it said the North’s recent tests highlight the “destabilizing impact” of the North’s unlawful weapons programs and that the U.S. security commitment to South Korea and Japan remains “ironclad.”

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters that officials were still gathering details of the North Korean launches and there has been no immediate reports of damage in Japanese waters.


California court rules for Uber, Lyft in ride-hailing case

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — App-based ride hailing and delivery companies like Uber and Lyft can continue to treat their California drivers as independent contractors, a state appeals court ruled Monday, allowing the tech giants to bypass other state laws requiring worker protections and benefits.

The ruling mostly upholds a voter-approved law, called Proposition 22, that said drivers for companies like Uber and Lyft are independent contractors and are not entitled to benefits like paid sick leave and unemployment insurance. A lower court ruling in 2021 had said Proposition 22 was illegal, but Monday's ruling reversed that decision.

“Today’s ruling is a victory for app-based workers and the millions of Californians who voted for Prop 22," said Tony West, Uber’s chief legal officer. ”We’re pleased that the court respected the will of the people.”

The ruling is a defeat for labor unions and their allies in the state Legislature who passed a law in 2019 requiring companies like Uber and Lyft to treat their drivers as employees.

“Today the Appeals Court chose to stand with powerful corporations over working people, allowing companies to buy their way out of our state’s labor laws and undermine our state constitution,” said Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, leader of the California Labor Federation and a former state assemblywoman who authored the 2019 law. “Our system is broken. It would be an understatement to say we are disappointed by this decision.”


Biden announces nuclear-powered submarines for Australia

SAN DIEGO (AP) — President Joe Biden and the leaders of Australia and the United Kingdom on Monday announced that Australia will purchase nuclear-powered attack submarines from the U.S. to modernize its fleet amid growing concern about China’s influence in the Indo-Pacific.

Biden flew to San Diego to appear with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak as they hailed an 18-month-old nuclear partnership given the acronym AUKUS — for Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The partnership, announced in 2021, enables Australia to access nuclear-powered submarines, which are stealthier and more capable than conventionally powered vessels, as a counterweight to China's military buildup.

Biden, appearing sensitive to tensions with China and its criticism of the deal, stressed that the submarines are “nuclear powered, not nuclear armed.”

“These boats will not have any nuclear weapons of any kind of them,” he said at an outdoor ceremony at Naval Base Point Loma in San Diego, where he was flanked by Albanese and Sunak. Two submarines, the USS Missouri and the USS Charlotte, were tied up at the next pier in the Pacific Ocean behind the leaders.


Alaska's Willow oil project is controversial. Here's why.

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — The Biden administration is approving a major oil project on Alaska's petroleum-rich North Slope that supporters say represents an economic lifeline for Indigenous communities in the region but environmentalists say is counter to President Joe Biden's climate goals.

The decision on ConocoPhillips Alaska's Willow project, in a federal oil reserve roughly the size of Indiana, was revealed Monday.


The project could produce up to 180,000 barrels of oil a day, according to the company — about 1.5% of total U.S. oil production. Willow is currently the largest proposed oil project on U.S. public land. Alaska Republican U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan said the development could be “one of the biggest, most important resource development projects in our state’s history.”

So far this year, around 498,000 barrels of oil a day have flowed through the trans-Alaska pipeline, well below the late-1980s peak of 2.1 million barrels.


Illinois enacts mandatory paid leave 'for any reason'

CHICAGO (AP) — Illinois will become one of three states to require employers to offer paid time off for any reason after Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a law on Monday that will take effect next year.

Starting Jan. 1, Illinois employers must offer workers paid time off based on hours worked, with no need to explain the reason for their absence as long as they provide notice in accordance with reasonable employer standards.

Just Maine and Nevada mandate earned paid time time off and allot employees the freedom to decide how to use it, but Illinois’ law is further reaching, unencumbered by limits based on business size. Similarly structured regulations that require employers to offer paid sick leave exist in 14 states and Washington, D.C., but workers can only use that for health-related reasons.

Illinois employees will accrue one hour of paid leave for every 40 hours worked up to 40 hours total, although the employer may offer more. Employees can start using the time once they have worked for 90 days. Seasonal workers will be exempt, as will federal employees or college students who work non-full-time, temporary jobs for their university.

Pritzker signed the bill Monday in downtown Chicago, saying: “Too many people can't afford to miss even a day's pay ... together we continue to build a state that truly serves as a beacon for families, and businesses, and good paying jobs.”


Jurors see cellphone data of XXXTentacion's accused killers

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Jurors in the trial of three men accused of murdering rising rap star XXXTentacion concluded their fourth day of deliberations Monday by reviewing almost 1,200 text messages and several videos and photos seized from two of their cellphones.

Some of the videos and photos showed the defendants flashing fistfuls of $100 bills hours after the June 18, 2018, shooting of XXXTentacion outside a suburban Fort Lauderdale motorcycle dealership. He was killed by two armed robbers who stole $50,000 he was carrying in a Louis Vuitton bag.

There was also a photo of a story from a news website about the shooting, photos from shopping and dating apps, an apparently random photo of then-first lady Melania Trump, videos of one defendant in a pedicab with a woman and a Father's Day greeting.

The jurors made their request in the afternoon, asking to see the data from the phones of alleged shooter Michael Boatwright, 28, and the accused getaway driver and ringleader Dedrick Williams, 26, from the day before and day of the shooting.

Williams sent and received more than 950 text messages during that time and Boatwright had more than 200. Jurors had to crowd near a projection screen at the front of the courtroom to read them; they could not be read from the gallery.


HBO's 'The Last of Us' season finale draws in a series high

LOS ANGELES (AP) — “The Last of Us” fans set another rating record for the season one finale of the apocalyptic, mushroom-infected zombie video game adaptation. Despite airing against the Oscars Sunday night, HBO said the season finale drew in 8.2 million viewers.

Viewership for “The Last of Us” has consistently grown throughout the season. The series has not only won over gamers with high expectations but also critics and people who aren't familiar with the game.

The series premiere drew 4.7 million viewers in the U.S., based on Nielsen and HBO data, making for HBO’s second-largest debut, behind “House of the Dragon.” Outside of the U.S., “The Last of Us” is now the most-watched show in the history of HBO Max in both Europe and Latin America, HBO said.

As viewers watch episodes on the streaming platforms days after the episodes air, the numbers for the series will continue to increase. The series is now averaging 30.4 million viewers across its first six episodes, with the first episode approaching 40 million viewers in the U.S., HBO said.

HBO did concede to the ratings behemoth that is the Super Bowl, dropping the fifth episode of “The Last of Us” on HBO Max and HBO On Demand early last month on the Friday before the big game on Feb. 12. But the ratings for episode five were still strong, with 11.6 million viewers from Friday through Sunday.

The Associated Press