‘Our world is in peril’: At UN, leaders push for solutions
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The world’s problems seized the spotlight Tuesday as the U.N. General Assembly’s yearly meeting of world leaders opened with dire assessments of a planet beset by escalating crises and conflicts that an aging international order seems increasingly ill-equipped to tackle.
After two years when many leaders weighed in by video because of the coronavirus pandemic, now presidents, premiers, monarchs and foreign ministers have gathered almost entirely in person for diplomacy’s premier global event.
But the tone is far from celebratory. Instead, it’s the blare of a tense and worried world.
“We are gridlocked in colossal global dysfunction,” Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said, adding that “our world is in peril — and paralyzed.”
He and others pointed to conflicts ranging from Russia’s six-month-old war in Ukraine to the decades-long dispute between Israel and the Palestinians. Speakers worried about a changing climate, spiking fuel prices, food shortages, economic inequality, migration, disinformation, discrimination, hate speech, public health and more.
4 Ukrainian regions schedule votes this week to join Russia
KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian-controlled regions of eastern and southern Ukraine announced plans Tuesday to start voting this week to become integral parts of Russia. The Kremlin-backed efforts to swallow up four regions could set the stage for Moscow to escalate the war following Ukrainian successes on the battlefield.
The scheduling of referendums starting Friday in the Luhansk, Kherson and partly Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk regions came after a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin said the votes are needed and as Moscow is losing ground in the invasion it began nearly seven months ago.
Former President Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy head of Russia’s Security Council chaired by Putin, said referendums that fold regions into Russia itself would make redrawn frontiers “irreversible” and enable Moscow to use “any means” to defend them.
In 2014, Russia sent troops into Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and then held a referendum there that paved the way for its annexation by Moscow.
The upcoming votes, in territory Russia already controls, are all but certain to go Moscow’s way. But they were quickly dismissed as illegitimate by Western leaders who are backing Kyiv with military and other support that has helped its forces seize momentum on battlefields in the east and south.
Feds: 47 exploited pandemic to steal $250M from food program
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Federal authorities charged 47 people in Minnesota with conspiracy and other counts in what they said Tuesday was the largest fraud scheme yet to take advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic by stealing $250 million from a federal program that provides meals to low-income children.
Prosecutors say the defendants created companies that claimed to be offering food to tens of thousands of children across Minnesota, then sought reimbursement for those meals through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s food nutrition programs. Prosecutors say few meals were actually served, and the defendants used the money to buy luxury cars, property and jewelry.
“This $250 million is the floor,” Andy Luger, the U.S. attorney for Minnesota, said at a news conference. “Our investigation continues.”
Many of the companies that claimed to be serving food were sponsored by a nonprofit called Feeding Our Future, which submitted the companies’ claims for reimbursement. Feeding Our Future’s founder and executive director, Aimee Bock, was among those indicted, and authorities say she and others in her organization submitted the fraudulent claims for reimbursement and received kickbacks.
Bock’s attorney, Kenneth Udoibok, said the indictment “doesn’t indicate guilt or innocence.” He said he wouldn’t comment further until seeing the indictment.
Fiona swipes Turks and Caicos, Puerto Rico faces big cleanup
CAYEY, Puerto Rico (AP) — Hurricane Fiona blasted the Turks and Caicos Islands on Tuesday as a Category 3 storm after devastating Puerto Rico, where most people remained without electricity or running water and rescuers used heavy equipment to lift survivors to safety.
The storm’s eye passed close to Grand Turk, the small British territory’s capital island, on Tuesday morning after the government imposed a curfew and urged people to flee flood-prone areas. Storm surge could raise water levels there by as much as 5 to 8 feet above normal, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center.
Late Tuesday afternoon, the storm was centered about 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of North Caicos Island, with hurricane-force winds extending up to 30 miles (45 kilometers) from the center.
Premier Washington Misick urged people to evacuate. “Storms are unpredictable,” he said in a statement from London, where he had attended the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II. “You must therefore take every precaution to ensure your safety.”
Fiona had maximum sustained winds of 115 mph (185 kph) and was moving north-northwest at 8 mph (13 kph), according to the Hurricane Center, which said the storm was likely to strengthen into a Category 4 hurricane as it approaches Bermuda on Friday.
Arbiter in Trump docs probe signals intent to move quickly
WASHINGTON (AP) — The independent arbiter tasked with inspecting documents seized in an FBI search of former President Donald Trump’s Florida home said Tuesday he intends to push briskly though the review process and appeared skeptical of the Trump team’s reluctance to say whether it believed the records had been declassified.
“We’re going to proceed with what I call responsible dispatch,” Raymond Dearie, a veteran Brooklyn judge, told lawyers for Trump and the Justice Department in their first meeting since his appointment last week as a so-called special master.
The purpose of the meeting was to sort out next steps in a review process expected to slow by weeks, if not months, the criminal investigation into the retention of top-secret information at Mar-a-Lago after Trump left the White House. As special master, Dearie will be responsible for sifting through the thousands of documents recovered during the Aug. 8 FBI search and segregating those protected by claims of executive privilege or attorney-client privilege.
Though Trump’s lawyers had requested the appointment of a special master to ensure an independent review of the documents, one of the former president’s attorneys, James Trusty, made clear they were concerned that Dearie’s proposed deadlines were too ambitious.
The lawyers are also resisting Dearie’s request for information about whether the seized records had been declassified, as Trump has maintained. In a letter to Dearie on Monday night, the lawyers said that issue could be part of Trump’s defense in the event of an indictment.
‘Serial’ host: Evidence that freed Syed was long available
The creator of a true-crime podcast that helped free a Maryland man imprisoned for two decades said Tuesday that she feels a mix of emotions over how long it took authorities to act on evidence that’s long been available.
The judge’s order to release Adnan Syed and vacate his murder conviction Monday came after the local prosecutor started a unit to review sentencing and a new Maryland law relating to juvenile sentencing provided a mechanism for reexamining the case, all after the “Serial” podcast in 2014 turned the details of the case into an obsession for countless amateur sleuths.
Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby immediately applauded the judge’s decision as a victory for justice, but Syed’s win came as a bittersweet reminder to those who had been aware of the gaps in the case for years. In a new episode of “Serial” released Tuesday, host Sarah Koenig noted that most or all of the evidence cited in prosecutors’ motion to overturn the conviction was available since 1999.
“Yesterday, there was a lot of talk about fairness, but most of what the state put in that motion to vacate, all the actual evidence, was either known or knowable to cops and prosecutors back in 1999,” Koenig said. “So even on a day when the government publicly recognizes its own mistakes, it’s hard to feel cheered about a triumph of fairness. Because we’ve built a system that takes more than 20 years to self-correct. And that’s just this one case.”
Koenig argued that the case against Syed involved “just about every chronic problem” in the system, including unreliable witness testimony and evidence that was never shared with Syed’s defense team.
Stocks close lower ahead of Fed decision on interest rates
Stocks finished broadly lower Tuesday as Wall Street, increasingly anxious about the slowing economy, looks ahead to a widely expected interest rate hike by the Federal Reserve in its bid to squash the highest inflation in decades.
The S&P 500 index fell 1.1%, as more than 90% of stocks and every sector in the benchmark index lost ground. The Dow Jones Industrial Average and Nasdaq composite also fell 1%.
The selling came as traders waited to see how high the Fed will raise interest rates at its meeting that ends Wednesday. The central bank is widely expected to announce a hefty three-quarters of a point interest rate increase, its third such hike in a row. Investors also will be listening intently to Fed Chair Jerome Powell for any clues on how aggressively the Fed will move from here to tame inflation.
“The market is certainly bracing for the worst and you’re seeing a little bit of selling pressure coming in,” said Paul Kim, CEO of Simplify ETFs.
The S&P 500 fell 43.96 points to 3,855.93, while the Dow dropped 313.45 points to 30,706.23. The Nasdaq lost 109.97 points to close at 11,425.05.
Ad spending shows Dems hinging midterm hopes on abortion
WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats are pumping an unprecedented amount of money into advertising related to abortion rights, underscoring how central the message is to the party in the final weeks before the November midterm elections.
With the most intense period of campaigning only just beginning, Democrats have already invested more than an estimated $124 million this year in television advertising referencing abortion. That’s more than twice as much money as the Democrats’ next top issue this year, “character,” and almost 20 times more than Democrats spent on abortion-related ads in the 2018 midterms.
The estimated spending figures, based on an Associated Press analysis of data provided by the nonpartisan research firm AdImpact, reveal the extent to which Democrats are betting their majorities in Congress and key governorships on one issue. That’s even as large majorities of Americans think the country is heading in the wrong direction and the economy is in poor condition.
The advertising numbers also reveal just how sharply Republicans have shied away from abortion in their paid advertising in the weeks since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, a decades-long goal of the GOP. (The AdImpact data captures every single time a campaign ad is aired on TV, and estimates a cost associated with those airings.)
Since the high court’s decision in June to eliminate the constitutional right to abortion, roughly 1 in 3 television advertising dollars spent by Democrats and their allies have focused on abortion. Much of the spending is designed to attack Republicans on the ballot this fall who have long opposed abortion rights and are currently engaged in a state-by-state push to restrict abortion rights or outlaw the practice altogether.
Mexico’s earthquake coincidence drives anxiety for many
MEXICO CITY (AP) — As the parents of children killed when a school collapsed during Mexico’s 2017 earthquake celebrated a Mass in their memory, the ground began to shake again.
“No, not again! My God, not again!” they shouted when a magnitude 7.6 earthquake rattled the capital Monday, killing two people in the Pacific coast state of Colima.
Three powerful earthquakes have struck Mexico on Sept. 19 — in 1985, 2017 and now 2022. The unlucky coincidence has driven anxiety high for many. The last two quakes also came very shortly after the annual earthquake drill conducted every Sept. 19 to commemorate the devastating 1985 temblor.
Mexico’s national Civil Defense Coordinator Laura Velázquez said Tuesday that the two deaths in Colima were due to parts of buildings collapsing. Ten people were injured — nine in Colima and one in neighboring Michoacan.
More than 200 buildings were damaged, including dozens of schools and health centers, she said. Most of the damage was in those Pacific states, close to the Michoacan epicenter. Some 20 Mexico City buildings were damaged, but it was minor, she said.
Beyond Meat executive charged with biting man in fight
A top executive at plant-based food company Beyond Meat has been charged with felony battery after a fight outside a college football game in which he was accused of biting a man’s nose.
Doug Ramsey was also charged with making a terroristic threat after the attack Saturday in a parking garage outside a University of Arkansas football game in Fayetteville.
Beyond Meat said Tuesday it has suspended Ramsey indefinitely.
According to a police report, Ramsey was angered when another driver inched in front of him in a traffic lane and made contact with the front passenger wheel on Ramsey’s Ford Bronco SUV.
The police report alleges that Ramsey got out of his vehicle and punched through the back windshield of the other driver’s car. The driver told police he got out of his car and Ramsey pulled him close and began punching him. Ramsey also bit the tip of the other driver’s nose, ripping the flesh, according to the police report.
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