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World news in brief for March 28

Migrants start fire at Mexico detention center, killing 40

MEXICO CITY — Migrants fearing deportation set mattresses ablaze at an immigration detention center in northern Mexico, starting a fire that killed at least 40 people. That’s according to the Mexican president. It was one of the deadliest events ever at a Mexican immigration lockup. Hours after the fire broke out late Monday, rows of bodies were laid out under sheets outside the facility in Ciudad Juarez, which is across from El Paso, Texas, and a major crossing point for migrants. Ambulances, firefighters and vans from the morgue swarmed the scene. Twenty-nine people were injured. At the time of the blaze, 68 men from Central and South America were being held at the facility.

Russia convicts father of teen who drew antiwar pictures

TALLINN, Estonia — Officials say a Russian court has convicted a single father over social media posts criticizing the war in Ukraine and sentenced him to two years in prison. His lawyer and activists say the case was brought to the attention of authorities by his daughter’s antiwar drawings at school. The case of Alexei Moskalyov in the town of Yefremov, south of Moscow, has drawn international attention. But court officials say the 54-year-old Moskalyov fled house arrest overnight and wasn’t present for verdict. The case is a grim indication the Kremlin is intensifying its crackdown on dissent, targeting more people and handing out harsh punishments for any expression of criticism of the war.

Minnesota youth vaping trial of e-cigarette maker Juul opens

MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison plans to lead the opening statements Tuesday in his state’s lawsuit against Juul Labs. He says the state is seeking more than $100 million in damages. It’s the first of thousands of cases against the e-cigarette maker to reach trial. Minnesota accuses Juul of unlawfully targeting young people with vaping products to get a new generation addicted to nicotine. Most of the thousands of lawsuits Juul has faced nationwide have been settled, including 39 with other states and territories, and Juul says the state is depriving its citizens of money that could reduce smoking and vaping. Minnesota added tobacco giant Altria as a co-defendant.

Pirates board oil tanker with 16 crew in Gulf of Guinea

DAKAR, Senegal — Pirates have boarded a Liberian-flagged tanker oil tanker with 16 crew members in the Gulf of Guinea. The incident took place south of the area off the coast of West Africa known for being a pirate hotspot. The Danish vessel owner said Tuesday that the Monjasa Reformer “experienced an emergency situation” late Saturday and that the crew sought a safe area on board. The nationalities of the crew members were not immediately known. It also was unknown whether anyone had been injured or the exact location of the tanker. The Gulf of Guinea is the world’s top hotspot for attacks on ships. However, the hijacking took place further south in an area that is not typically attacked by pirates.

Fed official: Bank rules under review in wake of SVB failure

WASHINGTON — The Federal Reserve’s bank supervisors informed Silicon Valley Bank’s management as early as the fall of 2021 of risks stemming from its unusual business model, a top Fed official said, but the bank’s managers failed to take the steps necessary to fix its problems. The Fed official, Michael Barr, the nation’s top banking regulator, said during a Senate Banking Committee hearing that the Fed is considering whether stronger bank rules are needed to prevent a similar bank failure in the future. The timeline that Barr laid out for when the Fed had alerted Silicon Valley Bank’s management to the risks it faced is earlier than the central bank has previously said the bank was on its radar.

Small businesses weigh banking options amid bank turmoil

NEW YORK — The recent banking turmoil has been a jolt for small businesses of all stripes, spurring many to scrutinize their banking services and mull whether or not they should make changes. The turmoil added to the uncertainty already caused by stubborn inflation and higher interest rates. Experts say it’s probably a good idea for small businesses to diversify funds and make sure they’re in close contact with their banker, but emphasized that in the short term their bank accounts are safe because regulators have shown they’re willing to step in when needed.

French authorities search 5 banks in Paris in tax fraud case

PARIS — French prosecutors say authorities have raided the Paris offices of five banks on suspicion of tax fraud. Prosecutors say the raids Tuesday are part of five preliminary investigations opened in December 2021 on allegations of money laundering and tax fraud linked to dividend payments. They didn’t specify which banks were raided. French media said the banks searched included HSBC, BNP Paribas, Exane – a subsidiary of BNP – Societe Generale, and Natixis. Societe Generale has confirmed the investigation at its office but declined to comment further. Messages seeking comment from the other banks weren’t immediately returned.

McCarthy calls on Biden to schedule meeting on debt ceiling

WASHINGTON — Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy says he’s growing increasingly concerned about President Joe Biden’s unwillingness to negotiate on lifting the nation’s borrowing authority. He says in a letter to the president dated Tuesday that the White House position “could prevent America from meeting its obligations and hold dire ramifications for the entire nation.” The White House says it’s McCarthy and the Republicans who are to blame, refusing to put forward their own budget plan before formal negotiations. the Treasury Department has resorted to “extraordinary measures” to avoid default on the nation’s $31.4 trillion borrowing authority. But those measures will run out, possibly as early as June.

Push in states for $20 minimum wage as inflation persists

ALBANY, N.Y. — Just years after labor activists persuaded a handful of states to raise their minimum wage to $15 per hour, workers initially thrilled with the pay bump are finding their hard-won gains erased by inflation. New York, California, and Massachusetts are among states where legislation has been filed to boost minimum wages to $20 or more. But opponents to hikes in wages say it can be detrimental to small businesses who already operate on thin margins. Barry Nicholson, a businessowner in Corning, a city by the Finger Lakes in New York, said a big wage increase would be “a smack in the face to small businesses.”

U.S. makes corporate transparency commitment with 20 nations

WASHINGTON — Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen announced America’s commitment to enhancing corporate transparency along with some 20 other countries participating in this week’s Summit for Democracy. While the Biden administration is already pursuing regulations to establish a new database on small business ownership, the commitment announced Tuesday promises to maintain that database and ensure that law enforcement will have access to the registry, and that individuals’ personal data will be protected. The registry will contain personal information on the owners of at least 32 million U.S. businesses in an effort to combat corruption. The U.S. is making the push in part in an effort to more easily identify wealthy Russians who are accused of hiding stolen money and assets in the United States.