Palestinian election officials have invited the European Union to send observers to monitor upcoming elections planned for the Palestinian legislature and presidency. The elections are seen as an important step toward ending a rift that has left the Palestinians divided between rival governments since the Islamic militant group Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip from the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority in 2007. Past attempts at reconciliation have repeatedly failed. But Sunday’s invitation to the European Union was a sign that the Palestinians are serious about holding what will be their first elections in over 15 years. An EU official confirmed the bloc’s readiness to “provide everything possible for the success of the electoral process.”
NEW YORK (AP) — A British socialite criminally charged with aiding Jeffrey Epstein in his sexual abuse of teenage girls testified in 2016 that she had no memory of anything amiss on his properties, but eventually had a falling out with him. That’s according to the public portion of a heavily redacted transcript of the deposition of Ghislaine Maxwell taken for a defamation lawsuit by one of Epstein’s accusers. The transcript was released Wednesday along with other documents pursued by the Miami Herald after the lawsuit was settled. Maxwell has been held without bail since pleading not guilty in July to recruiting girls for Epstein to abuse in the mid-1990s. Epstein killed himself in a Manhattan federal lockup in August 2019 as he awaited a sex trafficking trial.
O’FALLON, Mo. (AP) — Killings rose dramatically across the U.S. last year, and a study suggests that the coronavirus pandemic and racial injustice unrest were factors. The study released Monday by the National Commission on COVID-19 and Criminal Justice, along with Arnold Ventures, looked at crime rates in 34 cities. It found a 30% spike in homicides in 2020 compared to 2019. Study leaders called for urgent action to improve relations with police and expand anti-violence initiatives. A study author says many officers were forced to quarantine last year, and maintaining social distancing kept them from the sort of community outreach needed to help stop violence before it happens.
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Crews are working to determine when they can rebuild a section of scenic roadway near Big Sur, California, after it collapsed in torrential rain last week. But officials say the damage isn’t as bad as from a 2017 landslide that cut off the tourist destination for over a year. Crews are clearing debris piles and stabilizing damaged sections of roadway. The winding highway is a popular driving route renowned for its ocean views. The head of the Big Sur Chamber of Commerce says the damage will force those traveling from Southern California to take a two-hour detour. But he said the majority of visitors come from Northern California.
BERLIN (AP) — A commission in Germany has ruled that a painting by expressionist Erich Heckel that is in a German art museum was likely unlawfully obtained under the Nazis and should be returned to the heirs of a Jewish historian who once owned it. The commission said Heckel’s “Geschwister,” or “Siblings,” was owned by Jewish historian Max Fischer until 1934, the year before he fled Germany. The 1913 painting ended up back with Heckel, and the artist donated it to the Kunsthalle Karlsruhe museum in 1967. The commission said Tuesday that it had to assume Fischer lost possession of the painting due to Nazi persecution. His heirs have said they plan on donating the piece to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.