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AP News in Brief at 6:04 a.m. EST

Iran threatens to 'decisively respond' to any US strikes as Biden weighs response to Jordan attack JERUSALEM (AP) — Iran threatened Wednesday to “decisively respond” to any U.S.

Iran threatens to 'decisively respond' to any US strikes as Biden weighs response to Jordan attack

JERUSALEM (AP) — Iran threatened Wednesday to “decisively respond” to any U.S. attack on the Islamic Republic following President Joe Biden's linking of Tehran to the killing of three U.S. soldiers at a military base in Jordan.

The U.S. has signaled it is preparing for retaliatory strikes in the Mideast in the wake of the Sunday drone attack that also injured at least 40 troops at Tower 22, a secretive base in northeastern Jordan that's been crucial to the American presence in neighboring Syria.

However, concerns remain that any additional American strikes could further inflame a region already roiled by Israel's ongoing war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip and the ongoing attacks by Yemen's Houthi rebels on shipping in the Red Sea.

A U.S. Navy destroyer in the waterway shot down an anti-ship cruise missile launched by the Houthis late Tuesday, the latest attack targeting American forces patrolling the key maritime trade route, officials said.

The Iranian warnings first came from Amir Saeid Iravani, Iran's ambassador to the United Nations in New York. He gave a briefing to Iranian journalists late Tuesday, according to the state-run IRNA news agency.


How to strike back after deadly drone attack? US has many options, but must weigh consequences

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden has made it clear the U.S. will strike back after a deadly drone attack killed three service members and wounded more than 40 at a small base in Jordan over the weekend. What isn't yet clear is who will be hit, where, and how hard.

Biden has a wide array of options, but the U.S. must walk a fine line: A weak response will do little to deter further attacks by Iran-backed militia groups, while a major assault risks expanding the turmoil in the Middle East and drawing America into a wider conflict.

On Tuesday, Biden bluntly said “yes” when asked if he'd decided how to respond to the attack. But he provided no details, and added that the U.S. wants to avoid triggering a broader Middle East war. “That’s not what I’m looking for,” he said.

Still, the three service members are the first to be killed in militia strikes since the start of Israel's war on Hamas in Gaza. And their deaths have triggered demands for a strong American response.

Target options range from inside Iran, including on the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' Quds Force, to Iranian ships at sea and Tehran-backed militia groups and key militant leaders in Iraq and Syria. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby raised the possibility that the U.S. will take a “tiered approach” with several actions over a period of time.


Israeli forces dressed as civilian women and medics kill 3 militants in a West Bank hospital

JENIN, West Bank (AP) — Israeli forces disguised as civilian women and medics stormed a hospital Tuesday in the occupied West Bank, killing three Palestinian militants in a dramatic raid that underscored how deadly violence has spilled into the territory from the war in Gaza.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, meanwhile, ruled out a military withdrawal from Gaza and the release of thousands of jailed militants — Hamas' main two demands for any cease-fire — casting doubt on the latest efforts to end a war that has destabilized the broader Middle East.

The Palestinian Health Ministry said Israeli forces opened fire inside the Ibn Sina Hospital in the West Bank town of Jenin. A hospital spokesperson said there was no exchange of fire, indicating it was a targeted killing.

Israel's military said the militants were using the hospital as a hideout, without providing evidence. It alleged that one of those targeted had transferred weapons and ammunition to others for a planned attack, purportedly inspired by Hamas' Oct. 7 assault on southern Israel that triggered the war in Gaza.

Security camera footage from the hospital shows about a dozen undercover forces, most of them armed, wearing Muslim headscarves, hospital scrubs or white doctor’s coats. One carried a rifle in one arm and a folded wheelchair in the other.


Trump will meet with the Teamsters in Washington as he tries to cut into Biden's union support

WASHINGTON (AP) — As he looks past the GOP primary and towards a likely general election rematch against President Joe Biden, Donald Trump will meet with members of the Teamsters Union in Washington Wednesday afternoon as he tries to cut into Biden's support.

The former president will participate in a roundtable with the group's executive board, its president and rank-and-file members as he targets the blue-collar workers who fueled his 2016 victory and who are expected to play a major role in November, particularly in critical Midwestern swing states like Wisconsin and Michigan.

Union voters tend to vote Democratic, with 56% of members and households backing Biden in 2020, according to AP VoteCast. And Biden has already received significant organized labor backing with early endorsements from the AFL-CIO and others. Trump is hoping to cut into that support as he casts himself as pro-worker and tries to exacerbate longstanding divisions between union leaders and rank-and-file members.

On Sunday, he called on members of the United Auto Workers to oust their president, Shawn Fain, after the group endorsed Biden.

“Shawn Fain doesn’t understand this or have a clue,” Trump wrote on his Truth Social network. “Get rid of this dope & vote for DJT. I will bring the Automobile Industry back to our Country.”


House GOP takes party-line vote toward Mayorkas impeachment as border becomes 2024 campaign issue

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Republicans voted along party lines after midnight Wednesday to move toward impeaching Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas for a “willful and systematic” refusal to enforce immigration laws as border security becomes a top 2024 election issue.

The Homeland Security Committee debated all day Tuesday and well into the night before recommending two articles of impeachment against Mayorkas to the full House, a rare charge against a Cabinet official unseen in nearly 150 years, as Republicans make GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump’s hard-line deportation approach to immigration their own.

The committee Republicans voted in favor, while the Democrats unified against, 18-15.

“We cannot allow this man to remain in office any longer,” said Chairman Mark Green, R-Tenn.

The impeachment articles charge that Mayorkas "refused to comply with Federal immigration laws” amid a record surge of migrants and that he has “breached the public trust” in his claims to Congress that the U.S.-Mexico border is secure.


Elon Musk cannot keep Tesla pay package worth more than $55 billion, judge rules

DOVER, Del. (AP) — Elon Musk is not entitled to landmark compensation package awarded by Tesla’s board of directors that is potentially worth more than $55 billion, a Delaware judge ruled Tuesday.

The ruling by Chancellor Kathaleen St. Jude McCormick comes more than five years after a shareholder lawsuit targeted Tesla CEO Musk and directors of the company. They were accused of breaching their duties to the maker of electric vehicles and solar panels, resulting in a waste of corporate assets and unjust enrichment for Musk.

The shareholder's lawyers argued that the compensation package should be voided because it was dictated by Musk and was the product of sham negotiations with directors who were not independent of him. They also said it was approved by shareholders who were given misleading and incomplete disclosures in a proxy statement.

Defense attorneys countered that the pay plan was fairly negotiated by a compensation committee whose members were independent, contained performance milestones so lofty that they were ridiculed by some Wall Street investors, and blessed by a shareholder vote that was not even required under Delaware law. They also argued that Musk was not a controlling shareholder because he owned less than one-third of the company at the time.

An attorney for Musk and other Tesla defendants did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.


Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan gets 14-year prison sentence in third conviction

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and his wife were sentenced on Wednesday to 14 years in prison each for corruption, his lawyer and prison officials said, a day after another special court convicted Khan of leaking state secrets and gave him a 10-year prison sentence.

The latest conviction and sentencing were Khan's third since 2022, when he was ousted from power, and came ahead of Pakistan’s Feb. 8 parliamentary elections. The sentences will be served concurrently.

Khan and his wife were accused in the most recent graft case of retaining and selling state gifts when he was in power. In Pakistan, government leaders are allowed to buy such gifts, but they aren’t usually then sold. If they are, individuals must declare the earnings as income. The prosecution said Khan did not correctly disclose his income after selling the gifts he had received from foreign dignitaries and heads of state.

The couple was also fined 787 million rupees ($2.8 million) each, and the court disqualified Khan for 10 years from holding any public office.

His lawyer, Babar Awan, said the former premier was convicted and sentenced in such a hurry that the judge did not wait for the arrival of his legal team.


Déjà vu? Electoral bans, arrests, attacks, threats again part of Venezuelan presidential race

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Déjà vu? Feels like it.

Assassination plots, arrest warrants for journalists and human rights defenders, attacks against adversaries – from the belittling kind to the judicial type – and other associated government actions have marked the start of 2024 for Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and his allies. Add international condemnation and economic sanctions, and the reality of a presidential election year in the South American country becomes clear.

And, once again, the question is: How democratic will the election be?

Venezuelans were promised a presidential election in the second half of 2024 after Maduro and the faction of the opposition backed by the United States government reached an agreement in October. The opposing sides also agreed to recognize and respect a party’s right to choose a candidate freely; take steps that would reverse government decisions blocking politicians from running for office; and invite international electoral observers.

The government over the past three months has shown it is willing to test the limits of the agreement, discrediting the opposition's presidential primary, arresting numerous perceived or actual adversaries, and repeatedly characterizing members of the opposition as hate-spewing criminals.


Utah is the latest state to ban diversity, equity and inclusion efforts on campus and in government

Utah's governor signed a bill into law Tuesday that makes the state the latest to prohibit diversity training, hiring and inclusion programs at universities and in state government.

The measure signed by Spencer Cox, a Republican who previously said he supported the idea, had cleared the state House and Senate by wide, party-line majorities.

Headed into the final year of his first term, Cox has shifted to the right on “diversity, equity and inclusion.” After vetoing a ban on transgender students playing in girls sports in 2022, Cox signed a bill in 2023 regulating discussion of race and religion in public schools to ban, for example, teaching that anybody can be racist merely because of their race.

He also signed a separate law Tuesday requiring people to use bathrooms and locker rooms in public schools and government-owned buildings that match the sex they were assigned at birth.

Cox previously called requiring employees to sign statements in support of workplace and campus diversity, equity and inclusion, or DEI, “awful, bordering on evil.”


Federal Reserve is likely to show little urgency to cut interest rates despite market's anticipation

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Reserve will likely move closer Wednesday to cutting its key interest rate after nearly two years of hikes that were intended to fight the worst inflation in decades. Yet it may not provide much of a hint about when — or how fast — it will do so.

Though Fed officials are expected to cut rates within the next few months, they’ll likely signal Wednesday that they expect to wait until they’re confident that inflation, which has tumbled from its peak, is reliably moving to their 2% target. The central bank's benchmark rate influences the cost of most consumer and business loans, and companies, investors and individuals have been eager for the central bank to ease the cost of borrowing.

The Fed is assessing the economy at a time when the intensifying presidential race is pivoting in no small part on voters' perceptions of President Joe Biden's economic stewardship. Republicans in Congress have tried to tie Biden to the high inflation that gripped the nation beginning in 2021. But the most recent surveys indicate rising confidence in the economy.

Most Fed watchers think the central bank's first rate reduction will occur in May or June. Late last year, Wall Street investors had bet that a rate cut in March was a near-certainty. But cautionary comments by a number of Fed officials have dispelled most expectations for a cut that soon.

Collectively, the policymakers likely feel little urgency to start cutting rates, a point that Chair Jerome Powell may stress in a news conference Wednesday. The economy remains healthy and doesn't appear to need the stimulative benefits of a rate cut, which can spur more borrowing and spending and could even re-ignite inflation.

The Associated Press