Here's what's happening across the United States and around the world today.
Gunmen attack university in eastern Kenya; attack bears hallmarks of al-Shabab
NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Gunmen attacked a college campus in northeast Kenya early Thursday, opening fire in dormitories and killing at least 15 people and wounding 29 others, witnesses said. The attack bore the hallmarks of a Somali Islamic extremist group.
Augustine Alanga, a 21-year-old student who survived the attack at Garissa University College, described a panicked scene as gunshots rang out outside their dormitory in the pre-dawn hours when most people were still fast asleep.
The shooting became more intense almost immediately, he told The Associated Press by phone. The heavy gunfire forced some students to stay indoors as others fled with gunmen firing at them.
He said he saw at least five heavily armed, masked gunmen.
"I am just now recovering from the pain as I injured myself while trying to escape. I was running barefoot," said Alanga, who was one of scores of students who managed to escape through barb-wire fencing.
Thailand, Indonesia, Myanmar probing labor abuses, slavery in seafood industry exposed by AP
BENJINA, Indonesia (AP) — Officials from three countries are traveling to remote islands in eastern Indonesia to investigate how thousands of foreign fishermen wound up there as slaves and were forced to catch seafood that could eventually end up being exported to the United States and elsewhere.
A week after The Associated Press published a yearlong investigation into the problem — including showing men locked in a company cage — delegations from Thailand and Indonesia visited the island village of Benjina. Officials from Myanmar are scheduled to visit the area next week to try to determine how many of their citizens are stuck there and what can be done to bring them home.
"No one seemed to be aware of the problem, and now that they are, they want to do something as quickly as possible," said Steve Hamilton, deputy chief of mission at the International Organization for Migration, or IOM, in Indonesia, which is working with authorities to assist the fishermen.
In Benjina, some officials saw a graveyard where dozens of fishermen are buried. Others talked to men who have been stranded there for months or even years after being brought to Indonesia from Thailand and forced to work under brutal conditions on boats with Thai captains.
One of the leaders of the Indonesian group, Ida Kusuma from the Fisheries Ministry, said she found the slavery reports very upsetting and that the government intends to take action.
Russian trawler with 132 crew sinks in Sea of Okhotsk, at least 54 dead and 63 rescued
MOSCOW (AP) — A Russian trawler sank in just 15 minutes in icy waters off Russia's Far Eastern coast early Thursday, killing at least 54 crew members, rescue workers said.
The massive trawler Dalny Vostok, with an international crew of 132, sank at about 4 a.m. local time (1800 GMT on Wednesday) in the Sea of Okhotsk off the Kamchatka Peninsula. It did not send distress signals prior to the sinking, the Interfax news agency said.
Emergency services in Kamchatka, citing the head of the rescue operation, said 63 crew members were rescued and the fate of the remaining 15 was unknown.
The crews of 26 fishing boats were helping the rescue operation that was scouring the water for survivors and bodies even after darkness fell in the region, Emergency Situations Minister Vladimir Puchkov said.
The fishing boats recovered 54 bodies. Some 1,300 people were involved in the rescue operation, emergency services said.
Iran sees progress but sides not yet there as talks resume after intense all-night session
LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — Eyes bleary from lack of sleep, senior diplomats from six countries Iran huddled Thursday in a morning strategy session meant to advance the pace of agonizingly slow nuclear negotiations with Iran. Iran's foreign minister said the sides were close to a preliminary agreement, but not yet there.
The talks resumed several hours after a flurry of marathon overnight sessions between Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, as well as other meetings among the six powers negotiating to curb Iranian nuclear programs that could be used to make weapons. Iran denies any interest in such arms and wants a deal that will quickly lift economic sanctions stifling its economy.
Two days after busting through a March 31 deadline, the negotiators hope to leave the Swiss city of Lausanne with at least a text outlining general political commitments to resolve concerns about Iran's nuclear program, and the pace of lifting sanctions. They are also trying to fashion more detailed documents on the steps they must take by June 30 to meet those goals.
As he headed to his own meeting Thursday, Zarif said the talks had made "significant progress." But he said drafts still had to be written. Reaching both agreement in Lausanne as well as a June final deal will be "a difficult job," he said.
NJ Sen. Bob Menendez vows to fight corruption charges; expected in court Thursday
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — A defiant New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez declared that he's "not going anywhere" after he was charged with accepting nearly $1 million in gifts and campaign contributions from a longtime friend in exchange for a stream of political favors.
Menendez is expected to appear in federal court in Newark Thursday in response to charges that he used the power of his Senate seat to benefit Dr. Salomon Melgen, a wealthy Florida eye doctor who prosecutors say provided the senator with luxury vacations, airline travel, golf trips and tens of thousands of dollars in contributions to a legal defense fund.
The indictment, which marks the latest development in a federal investigation that came into public view when federal authorities raided Melgen's medical offices in 2013, will almost certainly lead to a drawn-out legal fight between Menendez and a team of Justice Department prosecutors who have spent years investigating his ties to Melgen.
It will require prosecutors to prove that a close and longtime friendship between the men was used for criminal purposes and is likely to revive the legal debate about the constitutional protections afforded to members of Congress for acts they take in office, which Menendez has already signaled as a possible line of defense.
The criminal charges brought Wednesday cloud the political future of the top Democrat — and former chairman — of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who has played a leading role on Capitol Hill on matters involving Iran's nuclear program and U.S. efforts to improve ties with Cuba.
Social media, smartphone apps among online tools used to fuel anonymous threats in schools
WASHINGTON (AP) — Threats against schools don't just come written on bathroom walls these days. Spread using smartphone apps, social media and Internet phone services, anonymous reports of bombs or other threats of violence are forcing school evacuations and responses by police or other authorities.
In the vast majority of cases, such a threat turns out to be a hoax. Still, the use of the modern technologies has made it that much harder to determine if a threat is real and to find the culprit.
Just this week, a 16-year-old from Gateway High School in Kissimmee, Florida, was arrested for posting about a bomb threat on Twitter because "she was angry and did not want to go to school," according to the Osceola County Sheriff's Office.
School safety experts say the number of such incidents appears to be increasing — as are the complexity of the cases. The latest figures from the National Center for Education Statistics for the 2009-2010 school year show 5,700 such disruptions.
"They send a great deal of fear and panic throughout a community," said Kenneth Trump, a school safety consultant who is president of National School Safety and Security Services. His group reviewed more than 800 threats reported in the media during the first half of the 2014-2015 school year and found that about one-third were sent electronically using text message, social media, email or other online means.
AP Exclusive: Airbnb comes to Cuba in major expansion of US business on communist island
HAVANA (AP) — The popular online home-rental service Airbnb will allow American travelers to book lodging in Cuba starting Thursday in the most significant U.S. business expansion on the island since the declaration of detente between the two countries late last year.
For a half-century, the U.S. trade embargo has blocked such businesses from entering the Cuban market. In January, however, the Obama administration loosened a series of restrictions on U.S. business in an attempt to encourage the growth of the island's small private sector.
Airbnb searches for "Cuba" will now turn up more than 1,000 properties across the island, with 40 percent in Havana and the rest in tourist destinations such as Cienfuegos a few hours away on the southern coast. The company has been sending teams of representatives to Cuba for three months to sign up home owners, and plans to expand steadily in coming months.
"We believe that Cuba could become one of Airbnb's biggest markets in Latin America," said Kay Kuehne, regional director for Airbnb, the website and mobile app that allows users to book rooms in more than 1 million private homes around the world. "We are actually plugging into an existing culture of micro-enterprise in Cuba. The hosts in Cuba have been doing for decades what we just started doing seven years ago."
One of the most developed and important elements of Cuba's entrepreneurial sector is a network of thousands of privately owned rooms and houses for tourists. Starting in the post-Soviet economic crisis of the 1990s as homey, bed and breakfast-style alternatives to Cuba's generally grim state-run hotels, "casas particulares," or private homes, have expanded into an industry with options ranging from small apartments in central Havana to multi-room beach houses with top-notch food and maid service.
Arkansas, Indiana lawmakers race to update religious objection bills criticized as anti-gay
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Lawmakers in Arkansas and Indiana are scrambling to revise controversial religious objection measures as Republican governors in both states try to quell a growing backlash from businesses and other critics who have called the proposals anti-gay.
A day after Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson called on the Legislature to change the measure he had once said he'd sign into law, House leaders hoped to give final approval Thursday to a bill to address his concerns. Legislative leaders in Indiana were also working on efforts to change that state's similar recently enacted law.
Hutchinson asked lawmakers to recall the bill, which would prohibit state and local government from infringing upon someone's religious beliefs without a compelling reason, from his desk to amend it or pass a follow-up measure that would make the proposal more closely mirror a federal religious freedom law.
"How do we as a state communicate to the world that we are respectful of a diverse workplace and we want to be known as a state that does not discriminate but understands tolerance?" Hutchinson said to reporters at the Capitol Wednesday. "That is the challenge we face. Making this law like the federal law will aid us in that effort in communication, but also was my original objective from the beginning."
Hutchinson was the second governor in as many days to give ground to opponents of the law. After Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed a similar measure last week, Pence and fellow Republicans endured days of sharp criticism from around the country. Pence is now seeking follow-up legislation to address concerns that the law could allow businesses to discriminate based on sexual orientation.
Minority Leader Harry Reid's retirement sets off struggle in Senate Democratic ranks
WASHINGTON (AP) — A very public spat between the No. 2 and No. 3 Senate Democrats is dashing the party's hopes for a drama-free succession in the wake of Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid's retirement.
Dick Durbin of Illinois and Chuck Schumer of New York are longtime colleagues and former housemates in a group home on Capitol Hill who have clashed for power in the past.
This time, Durbin stood aside in the hours before Reid's retirement became public Friday morning, throwing his backing to Schumer and allowing the outspoken New Yorker to lock up support for the job of Democratic leader. Reid, D-Nev., publicly blessed Schumer, long seen as his likeliest successor, and Democrats hoped a messy leadership fight had been avoided.
The mess was still to come.
According to Durbin's version of events, in the same conversation where Durbin told Schumer he would not challenge him for leader, Schumer pledged his support for Durbin to hang onto the No. 2 job as Democratic whip.
Andrew Getty's death is latest tragedy to strike rich, prominent American family
LOS ANGELES (AP) — It's a family name that has long been associated with unimaginable wealth and sometimes unspeakable tragedy.
The mysterious death of J. Paul Getty's grandson Andrew Getty is just the latest example of the latter.
Andrew Getty, 47, was found dead Tuesday after authorities said his girlfriend called 911 to report discovering his bloodied body at his Hollywood Hills mansion.
He appeared to have died of natural causes, coroner's Assistant Chief Ed Winter said, but he added it could take more than two months to determine the exact cause.
The reclusive Getty had said in recent court documents that he was battling a "serious medical condition" that could endanger his life.
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