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A team searching a Mississippi courthouse basement for evidence about the lynching of Black teenager Emmett Till has found the unserved warrant charging a white woman in his 1955 kidnapping, and relatives of the victim want authorities to finally arrest her nearly 70 years later.

A warrant for the arrest of Carolyn Bryant Donham — identified as “Mrs. Roy Bryant” on the document — was discovered last week by searchers inside a file folder that had been placed in a box, Leflore County Circuit Clerk Elmus Stockstill told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Documents are kept inside boxes by decade, he said, but there was nothing else to indicate where the warrant, dated Aug. 29, 1955, might have been.

“They narrowed it down between the ’50s and ’60s and got lucky,” said Stockstill, who certified the warrant as genuine.

The search group included members of the Emmett Till Legacy Foundation and two Till relatives: cousin Deborah Watts, head of the foundation; and her daughter, Teri Watts. Relatives want authorities to use the warrant to arrest Donham, who at the time of the slaying was married to one of two white men tried and acquitted just weeks after Till was abducted from a relative’s home, tortured, killed and dumped into a river.

“Serve it and charge her,” Teri Watts told the AP in an interview.

Keith Beauchamp, whose documentary film The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till preceded a renewed Justice Department probe that ended without charges in 2007, was also part of the search. He said there’s enough new evidence to prosecute Donham.

Donham set off the case in August 1955 by accusing the 14-year-old Till of making improper advances at a family store in Money, Mississippi. A cousin of Till who was there has said Till whistled at the woman, an act that flew in the face of Mississippi’s racist social codes of the era.

Evidence indicates a woman, possibly Donham, identified Till to the men who later killed him. The arrest warrant against Donham was publicized at the time, but the Leflore County sheriff told reporters he did not want to “bother” the woman since she had two young children to care for.

Now in her 80s and most recently living in North Carolina, Donham has not commented publicly on calls for her prosecution. But Teri Watts said the Till family believes the warrant accusing Donham of kidnapping amounts to new evidence.

“This is what the state of Mississippi needs to go ahead,” she said.

District Attorney Dewayne Richardson, whose office would prosecute a case, declined comment on the warrant but cited a December report about the Till case from the Justice Department, which said no prosecution was possible.

Contacted by the AP on Wednesday, Leflore County Sheriff Ricky Banks said: “This is the first time I’ve known about a warrant.”

Banks, who was 7 years old when Till was killed, said “nothing was said about a warrant” when a former district attorney investigated the case five or six years ago.

“I will see if I can get a copy of the warrant and get with the DA and get their opinion on it,” Banks said. If the warrant can still be served, Banks said, he would have to talk to law enforcement officers in the state where Donham resides.

Arrest warrants can “go stale” due to the passage of time and changing circumstances, and one from 1955 almost certainly wouldn’t pass muster before a court, even if a sheriff agreed to serve it, said Ronald J. Rychlak, a law professor at the University of Mississippi.

But combined with any new evidence, the original arrest warrant “absolutely” could be an important stepping stone toward establishing probable cause for a new prosecution, he said.

“If you went in front of a judge you could say, ‘Once upon a time a judge determined there was probable cause, and much more information is available today,’” Rychlak said.

Till, who was from Chicago, was visiting relatives in Mississippi when he entered the store where Donham, then 21, was working on Aug. 24, 1955. A Till relative who was there, Wheeler Parker, told AP that Till whistled at the woman. Donham testified in court that Till also grabbed her and made a lewd comment.

Two nights later, Donham’s then-husband, Roy Bryant, and his half-brother, J.W. Milam, showed up armed at the rural Leflore County home of Till’s great-uncle, Mose Wright, looking for the youth. Till’s brutalized body, weighted down by a fan, was pulled from a river days later in another county. His mother’s decision to open the casket so mourners in Chicago could see what had happened helped galvanize the building civil rights movement of the time.

Bryant and Milam were acquitted of murder but later admitted the killing in a magazine interview. While both men were named in the same warrant that accused Donham of kidnapping, authorities did not pursue the case following their acquittal.

Wright testified during the murder trial that a person with a voice “lighter” than a man’s identified Till from inside a pickup truck and the abductors took him away. Other evidence in FBI files indicates that earlier that same night, Donham told her husband at least two other Black men were not the right person.

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Instagram is blocking posts that mention abortion from public view, in some cases requiring its users to confirm their age before letting them view posts that offer up information about the procedure. 

Over the last day, several Instagram accounts run by abortion rights advocacy groups have found their posts or stories hidden with a warning that described the posts as “sensitive content.” Instagram said it was working to fix the problem Tuesday, describing it as a bug. 

In one example, Instagram covered a post on a page with more than 25,000 followers that shared text reading: “Abortion in America How You Can Help.” The post went on to encourage followers to donate money to abortion organizations and to protest the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to strip constitutional protections for abortion. 

The post was covered with a warning from Instagram, reading “This photo may contain graphic or violent content.” 

Instagram’s latest snafu follows an Associated Press report that Facebook and Instagram were deleting posts that offered to mail abortion pills to women living in states that now ban abortion procedures. The tech platforms said they were deleting the posts because they violated policies against selling or gifting certain products, including pharmaceuticals, drugs and firearms. 

Yet, the AP’s review found that similar posts offering to mail a gun or marijuana were not removed by Facebook. The company did not respond to questions about the discrepancy. 

Berlin photographer Zoe Noble runs the Instagram page whose post referencing abortion was blocked for viewing. The page, which celebrates women who decide not to have children, has been live for over a year. Monday was the first time a post mentioning abortion was restricted by Instagram, although Noble has mentioned it many times before. 

“I was really confused because we’ve never had this happen before, and we’ve talked about abortion before,” Noble said. “I was really shocked that the word abortion seemed to be flagged.” 

The platform offers no way for users to dispute the restriction. 

The AP identified nearly a dozen other posts that mentioned the word “abortion” and were subsequently covered up by Instagram. All of the posts were informational in nature, and none of the posts featured photos of abortions. An Instagram post by an AP reporter that asked people if they were experiencing the problem was also covered by the company on Tuesday and required users to enter their age in order to view it. 

The AP inquired about the problem on Tuesday morning. Hours later, Instagram’s communication department acknowledged the problem on Twitter, describing it as a glitch. A spokesman for Instagram-owner Meta Platforms Inc. said in an email that the company does not place age restrictions around its abortion content. 

“We’re hearing that people around the world are seeing our ‘sensitivity screens,’ on many different types of content when they shouldn’t be. We’re looking into this bug and working on a fix now,” the company tweeted. 

Tech companies like Meta can hide details about how posts or keywords have been promoted or hidden from view, said Brooke Erin Duffy, a professor at Cornell University who studies social media. 

“This can all take place behind the scenes, and it can be attributed to a glitch,” Duffy said. “We don’t know what happened. That’s what’s chilling about this.

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In the chaotic minutes after dozens of migrants were found dead inside a semitrailer sweltering under the Texas sun, the driver tried to slip away by pretending to be one of the survivors, a Mexican immigration official said Wednesday. 

The driver and three other men remained in custody as the investigation continued into the tragedy that killed 53 people — the nation’s deadliest smuggling episode on the U.S.-Mexico border. Federal prosecutors said two of the suspects, including the driver, face charges that carry a potential sentence of life in prison or the death penalty if convicted. 

Two more people died Wednesday as the death toll slowly climbed since the discovery of 46 bodies Monday at the scene near auto salvage yards on the edge of San Antonio. 

The truck had been packed with 67 people. Among the dead were 27 people from Mexico, 14 from Honduras, seven from Guatemala and two from El Salvador, said Francisco Garduno, chief of Mexico’s National Immigration Institute. 

Officials had potential identifications on 37 of the victims as of Wednesday, pending verification with authorities in other countries, according to the Bexar County Medical Examiner’s Office. Forty of the victims were male, it said. 

Hard to identify

Identifying the dead has been challenging because some were found without identification documents and in one case a stolen ID.  Remote villages, where some of the migrants came from in Mexico and Central America, have no phone service to reach family members, and fingerprint data have to be shared and matched by the governments involved. 

Javier Flores Lopez’s family was waiting to find out whether he was on the truck. He had returned home to see his wife and three small children in southern Mexico and was going back to Ohio where his father and a brother live and where he worked in construction. He is now among the missing and his cousin Jose Luis Vasquez Guzman is hospitalized in San Antonio, the family said. 

The tragedy occurred at a time when huge numbers of migrants have been coming to the U.S., many of them taking perilous risks to cross swift rivers and canals and scorching desert landscapes. Migrants were stopped nearly 240,000 times in May, up by one-third from a year ago. 

While it’s not clear when or where the migrants boarded the truck bound for San Antonio, Department of Homeland Security investigators believe it was on U.S. soil, near or in Laredo, Texas, U.S. Representative Henry Cuellar told The Associated Press. 

The truck went through a Border Patrol checkpoint northeast of Laredo on Interstate 35 on Monday, Cuellar and Mexican officials confirmed. It was registered in Alamo, Texas, but had fake plates and logos, Garduno said. 

Officials in Mexico also released a surveillance photo showing the driver smiling at the checkpoint during the more than two-hour trip to San Antonio. 

Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott said Wednesday that state troopers would set up additional truck checkpoints on highways, but he did not say how many. In April, Abbott gridlocked the 1,200-mile Texas border for a week by requiring every truck entering the state to undergo additional inspections as part of his ongoing fight with the Biden administration over immigration policy. 

Authorities were looking into whether the truck had mechanical problems when it was left next to a railroad track. The driver was apprehended after trying to disguise himself as one of the migrants, Garduno said. 

Driver from suburban Houston

Federal prosecutors identified the driver as Homero Zamorano Jr., 45, who was charged with smuggling resulting in death. Zamorano lives in suburban Houston and is originally from the Texas border city of Brownsville, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Antonio. 

He faces the most serious charges along with Christian Martinez, 28, who is accused of conspiracy and allegedly communicated with Zamorano about transporting the migrants. 

Martinez was arrested in East Texas and will be transported to San Antonio. Zamorano was scheduled to have his first court appearance Thursday. It was not immediately known if either suspect had an attorney. 

Some of the more than a dozen people transported to hospitals were found suffering from brain damage and internal bleeding, according to Ruben Minutti, the Mexico consul general in San Antonio. 

Migrants typically pay $8,000 to $10,000 to be taken across the border, loaded into a semitrailer and driven to San Antonio, where they transfer to smaller vehicles for their final destinations across the United States, said Craig Larrabee, acting special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in San Antonio. 

The death count from Monday’s tragedy in San Antonio was the highest ever from a smuggling attempt in the U.S., he said. Ten people died in 2017 after being trapped inside a truck parked at a San Antonio Walmart. In 2003, the bodies of 19 migrants were found in a truck southeast of the city.

Temperatures in San Antonio on Monday approached 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius), and those taken to the hospital were hot to the touch and dehydrated, authorities said.

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The United States will strengthen its forces in Europe as NATO faces up to the threat from Russia following its invasion of Ukraine. President Joe Biden announced the deployments at the NATO summit in Madrid. Henry Ridgwell reports.

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U.S. President Joe Biden thanked Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday for dropping his objections to the bids by Sweden and Finland to join NATO, leading the way for the military alliance to expand even closer to Russia.

“I want to particularly thank you for what you did putting together the situation with regard to Finland and Sweden,” Biden told Erdogan during a one-on-one meeting on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Madrid. “You’re doing a great job.”

In response, speaking through an interpreter, Erdogan said that Biden’s “pioneering in this regard is going to be crucial in terms of strengthening NATO for the future, and it’s going to have a very positive contribution to the process between Ukraine and Russia.”

Turkey, Finland and Sweden on Tuesday signed a memorandum deepening their counterterrorism cooperation, addressing Ankara’s concerns that the two Nordic countries are not doing enough to crack down on the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is considered a terrorist organization by Turkey, the European Union, the U.S. and others.

Finland and Sweden also agreed not to support the Gulenist movement, led by U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, which Turkey blames for a failed 2016 coup attempt and other domestic problems.

Helsinki and Stockholm will also end support for the so-called Kurdish People’s Defense Units (YPG) in Syria, part of the U.S.-supported Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighting against the Islamic State group. Additionally, Sweden agreed to end an arms embargo against Turkey that dated to its 2019 incursion into Syria.

 

Invitation to join NATO

With Turkey withdrawing its veto, NATO formally invited Finland and Sweden to join the alliance earlier Wednesday.

“It sends a very clear message to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin. We are demonstrating that NATO’s doors are open,” Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said, characterizing the invitation process as “the quickest in history.”

Helsinki and Stockholm will bring great military capability and strategic outlook to the alliance, said Jim Townsend, a former U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense for European and NATO policy, now at the Atlantic Council.

“Both nations — because they were neutral — they had to spend a lot of money and make a lot of effort to be a very professional force because they weren’t in an alliance. They had to depend on themselves,” Townsend told VOA. “It took the wolf being at the door for those nations to come in.”

 

The two countries applied to join in May, but the process began months earlier during the initial phase of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with Biden reaching out to the leaders to discuss the possibility of joining NATO, a senior U.S. administration official told reporters Tuesday.

Since then, the U.S. has been “painstakingly working to try and help close the gaps between the Turks, the Finns and the Swedes,” the official said. “All the while trying, certainly in public, to have a lower-key approach to this so that it didn’t become about the U.S. or about particular demands on the U.S.,” he said, referring to Ankara’s long-standing request to purchase U.S. F-16 fighter jets.

Biden phone call

The official denied that Ankara made the warplane request a precondition to withdraw its objections. However, he noted that Biden conveyed Tuesday during a phone call to Erdogan his desire to “get this other issue resolved, and then you and I can sit down and really, really talk about significant strategic issues.”

The day after Ankara lifted its veto, the administration announced its support for the potential sale of the fighter jets.

Celeste Wallander, assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs at the Pentagon, told reporters that Washington supports Ankara’s effort to modernize its fighter fleet.

“That is a contribution to NATO security and, therefore, American security,” she said.

In 2017, despite American and NATO opposition, Turkey signed a deal to purchase the S-400 Russian missile defense system. In response, Washington issued sanctions and kicked Ankara out of its newest, most advanced F-35 jet program. Since then, Turkey has sought to purchase 40 modernized F-16s, which are older models of the American fighter jets, and modernization kits for another 80 F-16s.

Wallander said any F-16 sales “need to be worked through our contracting processes.” A deal would likely require approval from Congress.

Ukraine grain

In their meeting, Biden also thanked Erdogan for his “incredible work” to establish humanitarian corridors to enable the export of Ukrainian grain to the rest of the world amid the war.

“We are trying to solve the process with a balancing policy. Our hope is that this balance policy will lead to results and allow us the possibility to get grain to countries that are facing shortages right now through a corridor as soon as possible,” Erdogan said in response.

Turkey has played a central role in negotiations with Kyiv and Russia to increase the amount of grain that can get out of Ukraine. Tens of millions of people around the world are at risk of hunger as the conflict disrupted shipments of grain from Ukraine, one of the world’s leading producers.

Earlier this month, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu met his Russian counterpart to discuss unlocking the grain from Black Sea ports but failed to reach an agreement. Hurdles remain, including payment mechanisms and mines placed by both Moscow and Kyiv in the Black Sea.

Turkey has suggested that ships could be guided around sea mines by establishing safe corridors under a U.N. proposal to resume not only Ukrainian grain exports but also Russian food and fertilizer exports, which Moscow says are harmed by sanctions. The U.N. has been “working in close cooperation with the Turkish authorities on this issue,” said U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric.

VOA’s Henry Ridgwell contributed to this report.

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Hershel “Woody” Williams, the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient from World War II, died Wednesday at a hospital in Huntington, West Virginia. He was 98.

The Marine Corps veteran received the nation’s highest military award for valor for his actions in the Battle of Iwo Jima. The battle took the lives of 7,000 Marines and was one of the bloodiest of the war.

“Today, America lost not just a valiant Marine and a Medal of Honor recipient, but an important link to our nation’s fight against tyranny in the Second World War,” Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said. “I hope every American will pause to reflect on his service and that of an entire generation that sacrificed so much to defend the cause of freedom and democracy.”

On February 23, 1945, Williams, then a 21-year-old Marine corporal and flamethrower operator, single-handedly destroyed multiple Japanese pillboxes and other gun emplacements at great danger to himself.

According to his citation, on one occasion, he “daringly mounted a pillbox to insert the nozzle of his flamethrower through the air vent, killing the occupants, and silencing the gun; on another he grimly charged enemy riflemen who attempted to stop him with bayonets and destroyed them with a burst of flame from his weapon.”

His actions came on the same day as the iconic flag raising at Mount Suribachi, an image captured by an Associated Press reporter that has become a symbol of American military resilience during the war.

Williams was the last of the 473 American service members who received a Medal of Honor in World War II. 

His death was announced by the Woody Williams Foundation, a nonprofit organization that serves Gold Star military families. The cause was not immediately available.

The National Medal of Honor Museum tweeted Wednesday that “Woody exemplified a life of service through his bravery during the Battle of Iwo Jima, as an advocate for veterans & through the Woody Williams Foundation serving Gold Star Families.”

 

Williams grew up on a West Virginia dairy farm and joined the Marines when he was 19.

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Indirect talks between Tehran and Washington aimed at breaking an impasse about how to salvage Iran’s 2015 nuclear pact have ended without the progress “the EU team as coordinator had hoped-for,” EU’s envoy Enrique Mora tweeted Wednesday.

“We will keep working with even greater urgency to bring back on track a key deal for non-proliferation and regional stability,” Mora said.

The talks began Tuesday with Mora as the coordinator, shuttling between Iran’s Ali Bagheri Kani and Washington’s special Iran envoy Rob Malley.

“What prevented these negotiations from coming to fruition is the U.S. insistence on its proposed draft text in Vienna that excludes any guarantee for Iran’s economic benefits,” Iran’s semi-official Tasnim said, citing informed sources at the talks.

Then-U.S. President Donald Trump ditched the pact in 2018 and reimposed crippling sanctions on Iran’s economy. A year later, Tehran reacted by gradually breaching the nuclear limits of the deal.

More than 11 months of talks between Tehran and major powers to revive their nuclear deal stalled in March, chiefly over Tehran’s insistence that Washington remove the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), its elite security force, from the U.S. Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO) list.

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The lone survivor of a team of Islamic State extremists was convicted Wednesday of murder and other charges and sentenced to life in prison without parole in the 2015 bombings and shootings across Paris that killed 130 people in the deadliest peacetime attacks in French history.

The special court also convicted 19 other men involved in the assault following a nine-month trial.

Chief suspect Salah Abdeslam was found guilty of murder and attempted murder in relation to a terrorist enterprise. The court found that his explosives vest malfunctioned, dismissing his argument that he ditched the vest because he decided not to follow through with his attack on the night of Nov. 13, 2015.

Abdeslam, a 32-year-old Belgian with Moroccan roots, was given France’s most severe sentence possible.

Of the defendants besides Abdeslam, 18 were given various terrorism-related convictions, and one was convicted on a lesser fraud charge. They were given punishments ranging from suspended sentences to life in prison.

During the trial, Abdeslam proclaimed his radicalism, wept, apologized to victims and pleaded with judges to forgive his mistakes.

For victims’ families and survivors of the attacks, the trial has been excruciating yet crucial in their quest for justice and closure.

For months, the packed main chamber and 12 overflow rooms in the 13th century Justice Palace heard the harrowing accounts by the victims, along with testimony from Abdeslam. The other defendants are largely accused of helping with logistics or transportation. At least one is accused of a direct role in the deadly March 2016 attacks in Brussels, which also was claimed by the Islamic State group.

The trial was an opportunity for survivors and those mourning loved ones to recount the deeply personal horrors inflicted that night and to listen to details of countless acts of bravery, humanity and compassion among strangers. Some hoped for justice, but most just wanted tell the accused directly that they have been left irreparably scarred, but not broken.

“The assassins, these terrorists, thought they were firing into the crowd, into a mass of people,” said Dominique Kielemoes at the start of the trial in September 2021. Her son bled to death in one of the cafes. Hearing the testimony of victims was “crucial to both their own healing and that of the nation,” Kielemoes said.

“It wasn’t a mass — these were individuals who had a life, who loved, had hopes and expectations,” she said.

France was changed in the wake of the attacks: Authorities declared a state of emergency and armed officers now constantly patrol public spaces. The violence sparked soul-searching among the French and Europeans, since most of the attackers were born and raised in France or Belgium. And they transformed forever the lives of all those who suffered losses or bore witness.

Presiding judge Jean-Louis Peries said at the trial’s outset that it belongs to “international and national events of this century. ” France emerged from the state of emergency in 2017, after incorporating many of the harshest measures into law.

Fourteen of the defendants have been in court, including Abdeslam, the only survivor of the 10-member attacking team that terrorized Paris that Friday night. All but one of the six absent men are presumed to have been killed in Syria or Iraq; the other is in prison in Turkey.

Most of the suspects are accused of helping create false identities, transporting the attackers back to Europe from Syria or providing them with money, phones, explosives or weapons.

Abdeslam was the only defendant tried on several counts of murder and kidnapping as a member of a terrorist organization.

The sentence sought for Abdeslam of life in prison without parole has only been pronounced four times in France — for crimes related to rape and murder of minors.

Prosecutors are seeking life sentences for nine other defendants. The remaining suspects were tried on lesser terrorism charges and face sentences ranging from five to 30 years.

In closing arguments, prosecutors stressed that all 20 defendants, who had fanned out around the French capital, armed with semi-automatic rifles and explosives-packed vests to mount parallel attacks, are members of the Islamic State extremist group responsible for the massacres.

“Not everyone is a jihadi, but all of those you are judging accepted to take part in a terrorist group, either by conviction, cowardliness or greed,” prosecutor Nicolas Braconnay told the court this month.

Some defendants, including Abdeslam, said innocent civilians were targeted because of France’s policies in the Middle East and hundreds of civilian deaths in Western airstrikes in Islamic State-controlled areas of Syria and Iraq.

During his testimony, former President François Hollande dismissed claims that his government was at fault.

The Islamic State, “this pseudo-state, declared war with the weapons of war,” Hollande said. The Paris attackers did not terrorize, shoot, kill, maim and traumatize civilians because of religion, he said, adding it was “fanaticism and barbarism.”

During closing arguments Monday, Abdelslam’s lawyer Olivia Ronen told a panel of judges that her client is the only one in the group of attackers who didn’t set off explosives to kill others that night. He can’t be convicted for murder, she argued.

“If a life sentence without hope for ever experiencing freedom again is pronounced, I fear we have lost a sense of proportion,” Ronan said. She emphasized through the trial that she is “not providing legitimacy to the attacks” by defending her client in court.

Abdeslam apologized to the victims at his final court appearance Monday, saying his remorse and sorrow is heartfelt and sincere. Listening to victims’ accounts of “so much suffering” changed him, he said.

“I have made mistakes, it’s true, but I am not a murderer, I am not a killer,” he said.

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