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A former Border Patrol agent who confessed to killing four sex workers in 2018 has been convicted of capital murder. Juan David Ortiz receives an automatic sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole after prosecutors decided against seeking the death penalty. A jury in San Antonio convicted the 39-year-old Ortiz on Wednesday. Jurors heard a recording of Ortiz telling investigators that he killed the women because he wanted to “clean up the streets” of his South Texas hometown. The women’s bodies were found along roads on the outskirts of Laredo in September 2018. Ortiz expressed disdain for sex workers in his confession.

    The coronavirus pandemic interrupted efforts to control malaria, resulting in 63,000 additional deaths and 13 million more infections. That's according to a World Health Organization report released Thursday. Malaria cases went up in 2020 and continued to increase in 2021 — the year covered by the report. About 95% of the world’s 247 million malaria infections and 619,000 deaths last year were in Africa. A top WHO official says the wider rollout of the world's first vaccine against the disease should reduce severe illness and death. Officials are also worried about a new invasive mosquito species that could undo years of progress against malaria.

      Janet Yellen is set to unveil the first U.S. currency bearing her signature, marking the first time that U.S. bank notes will bear the name of a female treasury secretary. It’s one more milestone for the pathbreaking economist who's now presiding over what may be the most important role of her career. She's serving as a leading strategist in the Western world’s economic warfare against Russia over the invasion of Ukraine. Now, at the halfway point of President Joe Biden’s term, Yellen has put to rest rumors she might be ready to leave the administration early and is strapping in for more economic and political battles ahead.

        Donald Trump’s attacks on fellow Republican David McCormick contributed to the former hedge fund manager’s loss in Pennsylvania’s Senate primary in May. Now, as McCormick considers running again for the Senate in 2024, Trump’s derision may not be such a liability. McCormick hasn't said whether he'll challenge Democratic Sen. Bob Casey, but he's taking steps signaling a campaign may be in the works. Trump dominated the GOP primaries this year, wielding the power of his endorsement to lift his preferred candidates. But many lost in the general election, and now Trump is facing blame for contributing to the party’s midterm shortcomings. That could open room for McCormick and others without worrying about blowback from the former president.

        People across China are reacting with relief and caution to the dramatic government decision to loosen some of the world’s most severe COVID-19 restrictions. For the first time in months, Jenny Jian hit the gym in the southern metropolis of Guangzhou without being required to scan the “health code” on her smartphone. That's part of a nationwide system that tracks where hundreds of millions of people go. Elsewhere, virus tests no longer were required to enter many public places under changes announced Wednesday. They followed nationwide protests against restrictions that have confined millions of families to their homes. While it’s not clear if the new rules are a direct response to the protests, they address some of the most pressing issues that drove people on the streets.

        Hundreds of journalists and other employees at The New York Times began a 24-hour walkout Thursday, the first strike of its kind at the newspaper in more than 40 years. Newsroom employees and other members of The NewsGuild of New York say they are fed up with bargaining that has dragged on since their last contract expired in March 2021. The union announced last week that more than 1,100 employees would stage a 24-hour work stoppage starting at 12:01 a.m. Thursday unless a deal could be struck. A Times spokesperson said the paper has contingency plans to continue operating with minimal disruptions.

        Electronic cigarette maker Juul Labs has reached settlements covering more than 8,000 cases brought by about 10,000 plaintiffs related to its vaping products. Financial terms of the settlement were not disclosed, but Juul said that it has secured an equity investment to fund it. The company has been buffeted by lawsuits and chances that it would seek bankruptcy protection, or a buyer, were elevated last month as Juul announced hundreds of layoffs and secured new financing to continue operations.

        President Joe Biden is announcing the infusion of nearly $36 billion to shore up a financially troubled union pension plan. The federal aid is intended to stop severe cuts to the retirement incomes of more than 350,000 Teamsters workers and retirees. The Biden administration says it's the largest-ever federal payment to a union pension fund. The money for the Central States Pension Fund is part of a broader $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package that Biden signed into law in 2021. Retirement plans have been under financial pressure because of underfunding and other issues. Without the federal assistance, Teamster members could have seen their benefits reduced by roughly 60%.

        China has begun implementing a more relaxed version of its strict “zero COVID” policy amid steps to restore normal life, but also trepidation over a possible broader outbreak once controls are eased. The National Health Commission announced relaxed anti-pandemic regulations on Wednesday, including a loosening of lockdowns and the elimination of a requirement that a recent negative COVID-19 test be shown to enter most public places.  Also among the changes is a renewed commitment to vaccinate vulnerable groups and the elderly, whose levels of immunization are far lower than the population as a whole. China has administered 3.4 billion doses to its 1.4 billion people, or about 2.4 doses per person, indicating that large numbers have not received the recommended three shots.

        Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist party looks set to retain control in his home state of Gujarat following a record state legislature win, but it is trailing behind its rival Congress party in northern Himachal Pradesh state. The landslide win in Modi’s home state is expected to be a big boost to the party ahead of national elections due in 2024. The BJP has not lost state assembly elections in the western industrial state since 1995. Modi was Gujarat’s top elected official for 13 years before becoming prime minister in 2014. Modi’s party remains popular despite criticism of rising inflation, unemployment and religious polarization. Results are expected later Thursday.


        Need gift ideas to help with the ladies in your life? This list will surely help you make the grade.

        South Korea’s government has expanded its back-to-work orders against thousands of cargo truck drivers who are staging a nationwide walkout over freight fare issues. The government says a prolonged strike could inflict “deep scars” on the country’s economy. The orders were initially issued on some 2,500 cement truckers last week. But they were expanded Thursday to about 6,000 drivers transporting steel and 4,500 transporting fuel and chemicals. Police are also clamping down on unionists who threaten or disrupt colleagues who choose to work. The strike’s impact has so far been mostly limited to domestic industries like construction.

        Authorities say the leader of a small polygamous group near the Arizona-Utah border had taken at least 20 wives and punished followers who didn't treat him as a prophet. An FBI affidavit released last Friday alleges that Samuel Bateman orchestrated sexual acts with followers and traded wives. It was filed in a case that charges three of his female followers with kidnapping children from state custody in Arizona and impeding a foreseeable prosecution. Two of the women appeared in federal court in Flagstaff on Wednesday and were ordered held. Bateman is facing state and federal charges of child abuse and tampering with evidence.

        The Palestinian Health Ministry says Israeli forces have killed three Palestinians during a raid in the occupied West Bank. The Israeli military said it was carrying out an arrest raid in the flashpoint city of Jenin Thursday when forces came under fire and then responded with live fire. Israel has been carrying out nightly raids in the West Bank since the spring in response to a wave of Palestinian attacks. More than 140 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli-Palestinian fighting in the West Bank and east Jerusalem this year, making it the deadliest year since 2006. At least 30 Israelis have been killed in the violence.

        In a move that caught many by surprise, China announced a potentially major easing of its rigid “zero-COVID" restrictions. But it didn't abandon the policy altogether. The move follows the widest-spread protests against the ruling Communist Party in more than 30 years. Many protesters were fed up with constant testing, rolling lockdowns and business closures. One major change allows people who test positive for COVID-19, but show no or only mild symptoms, to recuperate at home. The old policy would have required admission to one of the government field hospitals that have become notorious for overcrowding and poor food and hygiene. Considerable ambiguity remains, however, and it's not clear if the new rules entirely override earlier mandates.

        2022's most notable quotations include a tart retort by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to a U.S. offer of help. That's according to a list compiled each year by Yale Law School librarian Fred Shapiro as a supplement to The New Yale Book of Quotations. Zelenskyy had the No. 1 quote, “I need ammunition, not a ride,” responding to a U.S. offer to transport him to safety days after Russia invaded Ukraine. Former U.S. President Donald Trump was No. 2, for repeating his lies about the 2020 election being stolen and calling for the “termination” of parts of the Constitution. Comedian Chris Rock also made the list, for describing how actor Will Smith slapped him during the Academy Awards ceremony.

        One of the world's most ruthless pirates hid in plain sight in the American colonies, according to new evidence. A historian and metal detectorist in Rhode Island says that he’s unearthed 26 silver coins with Arabic inscriptions that notorious English pirate Henry Every once seized from an armed Indian ship. The 1695 heist made Every the target of the first worldwide manhunt. Detectorists say that before he fled to the Bahamas and then vanished, Every first hid out in New England.

        A Pennsylvania government panel is considering adding extensive definitions of sex, religious creed and race to nondiscrimination regulations. The proposal being voted on Thursday is a change some Republican lawmakers see as an overreach on a subject they think should not be addressed without legislation. It would clarify and enshrine into writing a set of definitions regarding the types of employment, housing, education and public accommodations discrimination complaints that can be brought before the Human Relations Commission. Advocacy groups say greater clarity about the terms sex, religious creed and race would be helpful and a step forward.

        The Oregon Supreme Court late Wednesday declined to overturn a lower court judge’s decision and allow a tough new voter-approved gun law to take effect this week. The measure, which includes a ban on the sale and transfer of high-capacity magazines, was due to take effect Thursday. But Harney County Judge Robert Raschio blocked it on Tuesday, just hours after a federal court ruled in favor of the law. The Oregon Department of Justice argues in an urgent filing Wednesday that Raschio got it wrong. Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum says in a statement that the federal and state constitutions allow such reasonable regulations.

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