US abruptly endorses Israel's Golan sovereignty in big shift

JERUSALEM (AP) — President Donald Trump abruptly declared Thursday the U.S. will recognize Israel's sovereignty over the disputed Golan Heights, a major shift in American policy that gives Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a political boost a month before what is expected to be a close election.

The administration has been considering recognizing Israel's sovereignty over the strategic highlands, which Israel captured from Syria in 1967, for some time and Netanyahu had pressed the matter with visiting Secretary of State Mike Pompeo just a day earlier.

U.S. and Israeli officials said Wednesday they had not expected a decision until next week, when Netanyahu is to visit the U.S.

But in a tweet that appeared to catch many by surprise, Trump said the time had come for the United States to take the step, which Netanyahu warmly welcomed as a "miracle" on the Jewish holiday of Purim.

"After 52 years it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel's Sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which is of critical strategic and security importance to the State of Israel and Regional Stability!" Trump tweeted.

___

Boeing to make safety feature standard on troubled Max jets

Boeing will make standard on its troubled new airliner a safety feature that might have helped the crew of a jet that crashed shortly after takeoff last year in Indonesia, killing everyone on board.

The equipment, which had been offered as an option, alerts pilots of faulty information from key sensors. It will now be included on every 737 Max as part of changes that Boeing is rushing to complete on the jets by early next week, according to two people familiar with the changes.

The people spoke on condition of anonymity because Boeing and federal regulators are still discussing details of the upgrade to the Max fleet, which was grounded worldwide after a second deadly crash this month in Ethiopia.

The cause of the accidents has not been determined, but investigators probing the crash of a Lion Air Max jet have focused on an automated system designed to use information from two sensors to help prevent a dangerous aerodynamic stall.

The sensors measure whether the plane is pointed up, down or level in relation to the direction of onrushing air. Software on the Max can push the plane's nose down if data from one of the sensors indicates the plane is tilted up so sharply that it could stall and fall from the sky.

___

Florida man pleads guilty to mailing bombs to Trump foes

NEW YORK (AP) — A Florida man pleaded guilty Thursday to sending pipe bombs to CNN and prominent critics of President Donald Trump in a wave of attacks that harmed no one but spread fear of political violence across the U.S. for days leading up to last fall's midterm elections.

Cesar Sayoc, 57, sobbed as he entered the plea before a federal judge in New York.

"I'm extremely sorry," he said, adding that he never intended for the devices to explode.

He could get life in prison at sentencing Sept. 12 on 65 counts, including using weapons of mass destruction and mailing explosives with intent to kill. In exchange for his guilty plea, prosecutors dropped a charge that carried a mandatory life sentence.

Sayoc sent rudimentary bombs — none of which detonated — to 16 targets, including Bill and Hillary Clinton, former Vice President Joe Biden, several members of Congress, former President Barack Obama and actor Robert De Niro. Devices were also mailed to CNN offices in New York and Atlanta.

___

Waiting for the final Mueller report and what happens next

WASHINGTON (AP) — America is waiting for special counsel Robert Mueller's report. But anyone looking for a grand narrative on President Donald Trump, Russian election interference and all the juicy details uncovered over the past 22 months could end up disappointed.

The exact timing of Mueller's endgame is unclear. Attorney General William Barr, who oversees the investigation, has said he wants to release as much information as he can about the inquiry into possible coordination between Trump associates and Russia's efforts to sway the 2016 election. But during his confirmation hearing last month, Barr said he ultimately will decide what the public sees, and that any report will be in his words, not Mueller's.

Some key questions:

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THE INVESTIGATION ENDS?

Mueller will have to turn in a report of some kind when he's done. It could be pretty bare-bones.

___

Death toll from cyclone surpasses 500 in southern Africa

BEIRA, Mozambique (AP) — A week after Cyclone Idai lashed southern Africa, flooding still raged as torrential rains caused a dam to overflow in Zimbabwe, threatening riverside populations. The confirmed death toll in Zimbabwe, neighboring Mozambique and Malawi surpassed 500 on Thursday, with hundreds more feared dead in towns and villages that were completely submerged.

Aid agencies and several governments continued to step up their deployments, with helicopters in short supply for hundreds of thousands of people displaced by the cyclone.

Spokesman Herve Verhoosel of the World Food Program told reporters in Geneva of the "alarming news" that the Marowanyati dam in Zimbabwe was hit by heavy rains overnight, putting populations in the region at risk.

Zimbabwe's defense minister said more than 120 bodies had been washed into neighboring Mozambique, where residents there buried them, and more bodies were still being recovered in rivers, raising the official death toll in the country to at least 259.

"Most of the bodies were washed into Mozambique and because they were in a really bad state, they could not keep the bodies," Defense Minister Oppah Muchinguri said, speaking in the eastern city of Mutare. "So they ended up burying them."

___

Ferry packed with Iraqis celebrating holiday sinks; 94 die

MOSUL, Iraq (AP) — A ferry overloaded with people celebrating the Kurdish new year and Mother's Day capsized in the Tigris River near the Iraqi city of Mosul on Thursday, killing nearly 100 people, including families, officials said.

Many of the dead were women and children who could be seen struggling to swim against a strong current, their heads bobbing in the water opposite restaurants and an amusement park where people had been celebrating minutes earlier.

An Interior Ministry official said 94 people were killed in the accident, which residents said was the worst in recent memory. The official spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

Col. Hussam Khalil, head of the Civil Defense in Iraq's northern Nineveh province, told The Associated Press the accident occurred as scores of people were out in the tourist area, known as Ghabat, celebrating Nowruz, which marks the Kurdish new year and the arrival of spring.

The boat had been ferrying people to a small island nearby.

___

Facebook left millions of passwords readable by employees

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Facebook left millions of user passwords readable by its employees for years, the company acknowledged Thursday after a security researcher exposed the lapse .

By storing passwords in readable plain text, Facebook violated fundamental computer-security practices. Those call for organizations and websites to save passwords in a scrambled form that makes it almost impossible to recover the original text.

"There is no valid reason why anyone in an organization, especially the size of Facebook, needs to have access to users' passwords in plain text," said cybersecurity expert Andrei Barysevich of Recorded Future.

Facebook said there is no evidence its employees abused access to this data. But thousands of employees could have searched them. The company said the passwords were stored on internal company servers, where no outsiders could access them.

The incident reveals yet another huge and basic oversight at a company that insists it is a responsible guardian for the personal data of its 2.2 billion users worldwide.

___

Venezuelan opposition aide is seized, US and allies protest

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido's top aide was taken away in the middle of the night by masked intelligence agents who broke down his door early Thursday, drawing condemnation from the United States and other countries pushing to oust President Nicolas Maduro.

Washington demanded the immediate release of Guaido chief of staff Roberto Marrero, whose whereabouts after the raid on his Caracas home were not immediately disclosed.

Marrero was detained as part of an operation against a "terrorist" cell conspiring against the Venezuelan government, Interior Minister Nestor Luis Reverol said on national television. Weapons were confiscated from Marrero and a bodyguard was also arrested, according to Reverol.

The arrest represented a sharp increase in police pressure on the opposition after a period of relative calm. Guaido, however, characterized the operation as a sign that Maduro is losing his grip on power in a country suffering from years of economic hardship and political polarization.

"Either he doesn't dare to jail me, or he's not in charge," Guaido, the leader of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, said during an appearance at a school. He also said some Venezuelan intelligence chiefs called him to say they weren't involved, in what would suggest a split in their ranks.

___

Trump again knocks McCain as Republicans urge end to attacks

WASHINGTON (AP) — More Republicans are urging President Donald Trump to halt his attacks on the late Sen. John McCain. But Trump is continuing to complain about the Arizona senator's health care vote seven months after McCain died of brain cancer.

"I'm not a fan of John McCain," Trump said again Thursday in an interview taped for Fox Business Network's "Mornings With Maria."

Two Republicans on Thursday added their voices to a growing chorus calling for Trump to knock it off.

"I do not appreciate his tweets. John McCain was a dear friend of mine," Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa, a member of the Republican leadership and a veteran, said at a town hall meeting Thursday, according to video posted by the Des Moines Register. "No, I don't agree with President Trump. And he does need to stop that."

Added Rep. Dan Crenshaw of Texas, a former Navy SEAL: "Mr. President, seriously, stop talking about Senator McCain."

___

Monkey birth a step to saving fertility of boys with cancer

WASHINGTON (AP) — Scientists are closing in on a way to help young boys undergoing cancer treatment preserve their future fertility — and the proof is the first monkey born from the experimental technology.

More and more people are surviving childhood cancer, but nearly 1 in 3 will be left infertile from the chemotherapy or radiation that helped save their life.

When young adults are diagnosed with cancer, they can freeze sperm, eggs or embryos ahead of treatment. But children diagnosed before puberty can't do that because they're not yet producing mature eggs or sperm.

"Fertility issues for kids with cancer were ignored" for years, said University of Pittsburgh reproductive scientist Kyle Orwig. "Many of us dream of growing up and having our own families. We hope our research will help these young patients to do that."

Orwig's team reported a key advance Thursday: First, they froze a bit of testicular tissue from a monkey that hadn't yet reached puberty. Later, they used it to produce sperm that, through a monkey version of IVF, led to the birth of a healthy female monkey named Grady.