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In a stark repudiation of Donald Trump's legal arguments, a federal appeals court on Wednesday permitted the Justice Department to resume its use of classified records seized from the former president's Florida estate as part of its ongoing criminal investigation.
The ruling from a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit amounts to an overwhelming victory for the Justice Department, clearing the way for investigators to continue scrutinizing the documents as they consider whether to bring criminal charges over the storage of of top-secret records at Mar-a-Lago after Trump left the White House. In lifting a hold on a core aspect of the department's probe, the court removed an obstacle that could have delayed the investigation by weeks, if not months.
The appeals court also pointedly noted that Trump had presented no evidence that he had declassified the sensitive records, as he has repeatedly maintained, and rejected the possibility that Trump could have an “individual interest in or need for” the roughly 100 documents with classification markings that were seized by the FBI in its Aug. 8 search of the Palm Beach property.
The government had argued that its investigation had been impeded, and national security concerns swept aside, by an order from U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon that temporarily barred investigators from continuing to use the documents in its inquiry. Cannon, a Trump appointee, had said the hold would remain in place pending a separate review by an independent arbiter she had appointed at the Trump team’s request to review the records.
The appeals panel agreed with the Justice Department's concerns.
"It is self-evident that the public has a strong interest in ensuring that the storage of the classified records did not result in ‘exceptionally grave damage to the national security,’” they wrote. “Ascertaining that,” they added, “necessarily involves reviewing the documents, determining who had access to them and when, and deciding which (if any) sources or methods are compromised.”
An injunction that delayed or prevented the criminal investigation “from using classified materials risks imposing real and significant harm on the United States and the public,” they wrote.
Two of the three judges who issued Wednesday’s ruling — Britt Grant and Andrew Brasher — were nominated to the 11th Circuit by Trump. Judge Robin Rosenbaum was nominated by former President Barack Obama.
Lawyers for Trump did not return an email seeking comment on whether they would appeal the ruling. The Justice Department did not have an immediate comment.
The FBI last month seized roughly 11,000 documents, including about 100 with classification markings, during a court-authorized search of the Palm Beach club. It has launched a criminal investigation into whether the records were mishandled or compromised, though is not clear whether Trump or anyone else will be charged.
Cannon ruled on Sept. 5 that she would name an independent arbiter, or special master, to do an independent review of those records and segregate any that may be covered by claims of attorney-client privilege or executive privilege and to determine whether any of the materials should be returned to Trump. Raymond Dearie, the former chief judge of the federal court based in Brooklyn, has been named to the role and held his first meeting on Tuesday with lawyers for both sides.
The Justice Department had argued that a special master review of the classified documents was not necessary. It said Trump had no plausible basis to invoke executive privilege over the documents, nor could the records be covered by attorney-client privilege because they do not involve communications between Trump and his lawyers.
It had also contested Cannon's order requiring it to provide Dearie and Trump's lawyers with access to the classified material. The court sided with the Justice Department on Wednesday, saying “courts should order review of such materials in only the most extraordinary circumstances. The record does not allow for the conclusion that this is such a circumstance.”
Trump’s lawyers had argued that an independent review of the records was essential given the unprecedented nature of the investigation. The lawyers have also said the department had not yet proven that the seized documents were classified, though they have notably stopped short of asserting — as Trump repeatedly has — that the records were previously declassified.
The Trump team this week resisted providing Dearie with any information to support the idea that the records might have been declassified, signaling the issue could be part of their defense in the event of an indictment.
But the appeals court appeared to scoff at that argument.
“Plaintiff suggests that he may have declassified these documents when he was President. But the record contains no evidence that any of these records were declassified,” they wrote. “In any event, at least for these purposes, the declassification argument is a red herring because declassifying an official document would not change its content or render it personal.”
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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy suggested Wednesday that Russia’s decision to mobilize some reservists showed that Moscow isn’t serious about negotiating an end to its nearly seven-month-long war.
Speaking by video to the U.N. General Assembly meeting of world leaders hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announcement, Zelenskyy insisted his country would prevail in repelling Russia’s attack and forcing its troops out.
“We can return the Ukrainian flag to our entire territory. We can do it with the force of arms,” the president said. “But we need time.”
Putin’s decree Wednesday about the mobilization was sparse on details. Officials said as many as 300,000 reservists could be tapped. It was apparently an effort to seize momentum after a Ukrainian counteroffensive this month retook swaths of territory that Russians had held.
But the first such call-up in Russia since World War II also brings the fighting home in a new way for Russians and risks fanning domestic anxiety and antipathy toward the war. Shortly after Putin’s announcement, flights out of the country rapidly filled up, and hundreds of people were arrested at antiwar demonstrations across the country.
A day earlier, Russian-controlled parts of eastern and southern Ukraine announced plans for referendums on becoming parts of Russia. Ukrainian leaders and their Western allies consider the votes illegitimate.
Zelenskyy didn’t discuss the developments in detail. But he suggested any Russian talk of negotiations is only a delaying tactic, and that Moscow’s actions speak louder than its words.
“They talk about the talks but announce military mobilization. They talk about the talks but announce pseudo-referendums in the occupied territories of Ukraine,” he said.
Russia hasn’t yet had its turn to speak at the gathering.
Putin, who is not attending the event, has said he sent his armed forces into Ukraine because of risks to his country’s security from what he considers a hostile government in Kyiv; to liberate Russians living in Ukraine — especially its eastern Donbas region — from what he views as the Ukrainian government’s oppression; and to restore what he considers to be Russia’s historical territorial claims on the country.
Zelenskyy’s speech was striking not only for its contents but also its context. It took place after the extraordinary mobilization announcement. It was the first time he addressed the world’s leaders gathered together since Russia invaded in February.
It wasn't delivered at the august rostrum where other presidents, prime ministers and monarchs speak — but instead by video from a nation at war after Zelenskyy was granted special permission to not come in person.
He appeared as he has in many previous video appearances — in an olive green T-shirt. He sat at a table with a Ukrainian flag behind his right shoulder and large image of the U.N. flag and Ukraine's behind his left shoulder.
The leader opined that Moscow wants to spend the winter preparing its forces in Ukraine for a new offensive, or at least preparing fortifications while mobilizing more troops in the largest military conflict in Europe since World War II.
“Russia wants war. It’s true. But Russia will not be able to stop the course of history,” he said, declaring that “mankind and the international law are stronger” than what he called a “terrorist state.”
Laying out various “preconditions for peace” in Ukraine that sometimes reached into broader prescriptions for improving the global order, he urged world leaders to strip Russia of its vote in international institutions and U.N. Security Council veto, saying that aggressors need to be punished and isolated.
The fighting has already prompted some moves against Russia in U.N. bodies, after Moscow was able to veto a demand that to stop its attack on Ukraine days after it began.
The veto particularly galled a number of other countries and led to action in the broader General Assembly, where resolutions aren’t binding but there are no vetoes.
The assembly voted overwhelmingly in March to deplore Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, call for an immediate cease-fire and withdrawal of all Russian forces, and urge protection for millions of civilians. The next month, a smaller but still commanding number of members voted to suspend Russia from the U.N. Human Rights Council.
Zelenskyy’s speech was one of the most keenly anticipated at a gathering that has dwelled this year on the war in his country. But it wasn’t the first time the first-term president has found himself in the spotlight at the assembly’s annual meeting.
At last year’s General Assembly, Zelenskyy memorably compared the U.N. to “a retired superhero who’s long forgotten how great they once were” as he repeated appeals for action to confront Russia over its 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula and its support for the separatists.
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NASA's new moon rocket sprouted another fuel leak Wednesday as engineers tested the plumbing ahead of a launch attempt as early as next week.
The daylong demo had barely begun when hazardous hydrogen fuel began escaping at the same place and same time as before, despite new seals and other repairs. Engineers halted the flow and warmed the lines in hopes of plugging the leak, and proceeded with the test. But the leak persisted.
Wednesday's results will determine whether the 322-foot (98-meter) rocket is ready for its first test flight, a lunar-orbiting mission with mannequins instead of astronauts.
Hydrogen leaks spoiled the first two launch attempts, as well as earlier countdown tests. So much hydrogen escaped during the countdown earlier this month that it exceeded NASA’s limit by more than double. Wednesday's leak came close to the limit, but the launch team managed to get the leak down to acceptable levels as the test continued.
After the previous delay, NASA replaced two seals. One had a tiny indentation; it measured a mere one-hundredth of an inch.
“Now that doesn’t sound like a lot, but again we’re dealing with hydrogen," the smallest element on the periodic table, said mission manager Mike Sarafin.
Wednesday’s objective: pumping nearly 1 million gallons (4 million liters) into the rocket, with minimum leakage. That would put NASA on course for a possible launch attempt Tuesday, provided the U.S. Space Force extends the certification of batteries on board that are part of the flight safety system.
Besides replacing seals, NASA altered the fueling process, easing more slowly into the loading of the super-cold liquid hydrogen and oxygen. After Wednesday's leak appeared, the launch team moved even more slowly to subject the plumbing to even less stress.
Once launched, the crew capsule atop the rocket will be the first to orbit the moon in 50 years. The $4.1 billion mission should last more than five weeks, ending with a splashdown in the Pacific. Astronauts would climb aboard for the second test flight, dashing around the moon in 2024. The third mission, targeted for 2025, would see a pair of astronauts actually landing on the moon.
NASA's Space Launch System rocket is more powerful than the Saturn V rocket that sent Apollo astronauts to the moon during the late 1960s and early 1970s. The engines and boosters are carryovers from the now retired space shuttles. Just like now, NASA struggled with elusive hydrogen leaks during the shuttle era, especially during the early 1990s.
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A former Minneapolis police officer who pleaded guilty to a state charge of aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter in the killing of George Floyd was sentenced Wednesday to three years.
Thomas Lane is already serving a 2 1/2-year federal sentence for violating Floyd’s civil rights. When it comes to the state’s case, prosecutors and Lane’s attorneys had agreed to a recommended sentence of three years — which is below the sentencing guidelines — and prosecutors agreed to allow him to serve that penalty at the same time as his federal sentence, and in a federal prison.
Judge Peter Cahill accepted the plea agreement, saying he would sentence lane below the guidelines because he accepted responsibility.
“I think it was a very wise decision for you to accept responsibility and move on with your life,” Cahill said, while acknowledging that the Floyd family has not been able to move on with theirs.
Under Minnesota rules, it's presumed Lane would serve two years of his state sentence in prison, and the rest on supervised release, commonly known as parole.
Floyd, 46, died in May 2020 after Officer Derek Chauvin, who is white, pinned him to the ground with a knee on Floyd’s neck as the Black man repeatedly said he couldn’t breathe. Lane, who is white, held down Floyd’s legs. J. Alexander Kueng, who is Black, knelt on Floyd’s back, and Tou Thao, who is Hmong American, kept bystanders from intervening during the 9 1/2-minute restraint.
The killing, captured on widely viewed bystander video, sparked protests in Minneapolis and around the globe as part of a reckoning over racial injustice.
Wednesday’s sentencing hearing was held remotely. Lane appeared via video from the Federal Correctional Institution Englewood, the low-security federal prison camp in Littleton, Colorado. He made no statement to the court prior to sentencing. But after the hearing was adjourned, Lane complained to his attorney that the judge had said he would have to register as a predatory offender “if required.”
“I gotta register as a predatory offender? What the (expletive) is that?” Lane said. And he added: “That’s what Chauvin has to do. If I have a minimal role, why the (expletive) do I have to do that?”
Gray told him he’d look into it.
Chauvin was convicted of murder and manslaughter and was given a 22 1/2-year state sentence in 2021. He also pleaded guilty to a federal count of violating Floyd's civil rights, and his state and federal sentences are being served at the same time.
Kueng and Thao were also convicted on federal civil rights charges and were sentenced to three and 3 1/2 years respectively. They have not yet reported to federal prison, and are scheduled to go to trial on state charges of aiding and abetting both murder and manslaughter in October.
When Lane pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter earlier this year, he admitted that he intentionally helped restrain Floyd in a way that created an unreasonable risk and caused his death. As part of the plea agreement, a more serious count of aiding and abetting second-degree unintentional murder was dismissed.
In his plea agreement, Lane admitted that he knew from his training that restraining Floyd in that way created a serious risk of death, and that he heard Floyd say he couldn’t breathe, knew Floyd fell silent, had no pulse and appeared to have lost consciousness.
The plea agreement says Lane knew Floyd should have been rolled onto his side — and evidence shows he asked twice if that should be done — but he continued to assist in the restraint despite the risk. Lane agreed the restraint was “unreasonable under the circumstances and constituted an unlawful use of force.”
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Iran’s president said Wednesday his country was serious about reviving a deal to put curbs on its nuclear program but questioned whether it could trust America's commitment to any eventual accord.
In 2018, former U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from a deal brokered by the Obama administration. That has led Tehran to abandon over time every limitation the accord imposed on its nuclear enrichment.
Ebrahim Raisi addressed the U.N. General Assembly as talks to revive the nuclear deal approached a take-it-or-leave-it moment.
“Our wish is only one thing: observance of commitments,” Raisi said, noting it was the U.S. that pulled out of the accord.
He asked whether Iran can “truly trust without guarantees and assurances” that the U.S. will live up to its commitments this time.
European Union officials have warned the window for securing a deal is about to close. The 2015 agreement placed curbs on Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for billions of dollars in sanctions relief, which Tehran insists it has never received.
“America trampled upon the nuclear accord," said Raisi, who was sworn in as president only a year ago. His speech marks the first time he has taken the podium at the U.N. in his role as president. Last year, he delivered remarks to the assembly virtually due to COVID-19 restrictions.
He also blasted what he said was lopsided scrutiny of Iran’s nuclear activities while other nations’ nuclear programs remain secret, a reference to Israel.
Wearing a traditional black turban identified with Shiite clerics, Raisi also told the gathered leaders that Iran wants to have "extensive relations with all our neighbors” — an apparent reference to foe Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries in the region.
Saudi Arabia and Iran have held a number of direct talks since U.S. President Joe Biden took office, though tensions remain high between the two. Meanwhile, the United Arab Emirates recent reopened its embassy in Tehran and sent an ambassador there.
Raisi also deplored sanctions imposed on Iran, calling them a “punishment on the people of Iran.”
Western sanctions have eaten away at Iran’s reserves and exacerbated inflation in the country, which hit 40% last year. Over the summer, Iran’s currency hit its lowest level ever against the U.S. dollar.
Raisi's speech comes a politically sensitive time in Iran. Protesters have clashed with police in recent days in cities across the country, including the capital, over the death of a 22-year-old woman who was being held by the morality police for allegedly violating the Islamic Republic’s strictly-enforced dress code.
Raisi has offered condolences to the woman’s family and promised an investigation, while other Iranian officials have accused unnamed foreign countries of seizing on the incident to foment unrest. Her death has ignited long-simmering anger among many Iranians, particularly young people, at the country’s ruling clerics.
Raisi, who was elected last year in a vote that saw low turnout and several candidates disqualified, has been described as a protege of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
In 2019, Raisi was sanctioned by the United States in part over his involvement in the mass execution of thousands of political prisoners in 1988, a little over a decade after the 1979 Islamic Revolution overthrew the country’s shah and ushered in its current theocratic-led system.
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President Joe Biden declared at the United Nations Wednesday that Russia has “shamelessly violated the core tenets" of the U.N with its "brutal, needless war” in Ukraine. He said the war is an affront to the heart of what the international body stands for as he looked to rally allies to stand firm in backing the Ukrainian resistance.
Delivering a forceful condemnation of Russia's seven-month invasion, Biden said reports of Russian abuses against civilians in Ukraine “should make your blood run cold." And he said President Vladimir Putin’s new nuclear threats against Europe showed “reckless disregard” for Russia's responsibilities as a signer of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
He criticized Russia for scheduling “sham referenda” this week in territory it has forcibly seized in Ukraine.
“A permanent member of the U..N Security Council invaded its neighbor, attempted to erase a sovereign state from the map. Russia has shamelessly violated the core tenets of the U.N. charter," he told his U.N. audience.
Biden called on all nations, whether democracies or autocracies, to speak out against Russia's invasion and to bolster's Ukraine effort to defend itself.
“We will stand in solidarity against Russia’s aggression, period," Biden said.
Biden also highlighted consequences of the invasion for the world's food supply, pledging $2.9 billion in global food security aid to address shortages caused by the war and the effects of climate change. He praised a U.N.-brokered effort to create a corridor for Ukrainian grain to be exported by sea, and called on the agreement to be continued despite the ongoing conflict.
Biden, during his time at the U.N. General Assembly, also planned to meet Wednesday with new British Prime Minister Liz Truss and press allies to meet an $18 billion target to replenish the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.
But the heart of the president's visit to the U.N. this year was his full-throated censure of Russia as its war nears the seven-month mark.
The address came as Russian-controlled regions of eastern and southern Ukraine have announced plans to hold Kremllin-backed referendums in days ahead on becoming part of Russia and as Moscow is losing ground in the invasion. Russian President Putin on Wednesday announced a partial mobilization to call up 300,000 reservists and accused the West of engaging in “nuclear blackmail.”
The White House said the global food security funding includes $2 billion in direct humanitarian assistance through the United States Agency for International Development. The balance of the money will go to global development projects meant to boost the efficiency and resilience of the global food supply.
“This new announcement of $2.9 billion will save lives through emergency interventions and invest in medium- to long-term food security assistance in order to protect the world’s most vulnerable populations from the escalating global food security crisis,” the White House said.
Biden was confronting no shortage of difficult issues as leaders gather this year.
In addition to the Russian war in Ukraine, European fears that a recession could be just around the corner are heightened. Administration concerns grow by the day that time is running short to revive the Iran nuclear deal and over China's saber-rattling on Taiwan.
When he addressed last year’s General Assembly, Biden focused on broad themes of global partnership, urging world leaders to act with haste against the coronavirus, climate change and human rights abuses. And he offered assurances that his presidency marked a return of American leadership to international institutions following Donald Trump’s “America First” foreign policy.
But one year later, global dynamics have dramatically changed.
Stewart Patrick, senior fellow and director of the Global Order and Institutions Program at the Washington think tank Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, wrote in an analysis that Biden’s task this year is “immense” compared to his first address to the U.N. as president.
“Last year, the U.S. leader won easy plaudits as the ‘anti-Trump,’ pledging that ‘America was back,’” Patrick said. “This year demands more. The liberal, rules-based international system is reeling, battered by Russian aggression, Chinese ambitions, authoritarian assaults, a halting pandemic recovery, quickening climate change, skepticism of the U.N.’s relevance, and gnawing doubts about American staying power.”
Beyond diplomacy, the president is also doing some politicking. This year's gathering comes less than seven weeks before pivotal midterm elections in the United States. Shortly after arriving in Manhattan on Tuesday night, Biden spoke at a Democratic National Committee fundraiser for about 100 participants that raised nearly $2 million, and he's set to hold another fundraiser on Thursday before heading back to Washington.
His Wednesday address comes on the heels of Ukrainian forces retaking control of large stretches of territory near Kharkiv. But even as Ukrainian forces have racked up battlefield wins, much of Europe is feeling painful blowback from economic sanctions levied against Russia. A vast reduction in Russian oil and gas has led to a sharp jump in energy prices, skyrocketing inflation and growing risk of Europe slipping into a recession.
Biden's visit to the U.N. also comes as his administration's efforts to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal appears stalled.
The deal brokered by the Obama administration — and scrapped by Trump in 2018 — provided billions of dollars in sanctions relief in exchange for Iran’s agreement to dismantle much of its nuclear program and open its facilities to extensive international inspection.
Sullivan said no breakthrough with Iran is expected during the General Assembly but Biden would make clear in his speech that a deal can still be done "if Iran is prepared to be serious about its obligations." He added that administration officials would be consulting with fellow signatories of the 2015 deal on the sidelines of this week's meetings.
This year's U.N. gathering is back to being a full-scale, in-person event after two years of curtailed activity due to the pandemic. In 2020, the in-person gathering was canceled and leaders instead delivered prerecorded speeches; last year was a mix of in-person and prerecorded speeches. Biden and first lady Jill Biden were set to host a leaders' reception on Wednesday evening.
China's President Xi Jinping opted not to attend this year's U.N. gathering, but his country's conduct and intentions will loom large during the leaders' talks.
Last month, the U.N. human rights office raised concerns about possible “crimes against humanity” in China's western region against Uyghurs and other largely Muslim ethnic groups. Beijing has vowed to suspend cooperation with the office and blasted what it described as a Western plot to undermine China’s rise.
Meanwhile, China’s government on Monday said Biden’s statement in a CBS “60 Minutes” interview that American forces would defend Taiwan if Beijing tried to invade the self-ruled island was a violation of U.S. commitments on the matter, but it gave no indication of possible retaliation.
The White House said after the interview that there has been no change in U.S. policy on Taiwan, which China claims as its own. That policy says Washington wants to see Taiwan’s status resolved peacefully but doesn’t say whether U.S. forces might be sent in response to a Chinese attack.
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Two people who wish to remain anonymous have claimed a $1.337 billion Mega Millions jackpot after a single ticket to the late July drawing was sold in a Chicago suburb, opting to take a lump sum payment of $780.5 million, lottery officials said Wednesday.
The Illinois Lottery said the prize for the July 29 drawing, which was the nation’s third-largest lottery prize, was claimed by two individuals who had agreed to split the prize if they won.
The winners wish to remain anonymous, and the Illinois Lottery said it was unable to share any information about the winners except to say that they must be absolutely “over the moon” with their Mega Millions win. Whether a winner can remain anonymous varies by state.
Lottery officials said the two people have spent the past few weeks working with professional legal and financial advisors to support the claim process.
“These winners are now in the enviable position of deciding what to do with their newfound fortune,” said Illinois Lottery Director Harold Mays.
According to megamillions.com, one jackpot-winning ticket was bought at a Speedway gas station and convenience store in Des Plaines.
The winning numbers were: 13-36-45-57-67, Mega Ball: 14.
The jackpot grew so large because no one had matched the game’s six selected numbers since April 15. That’s 29 consecutive draws without a jackpot winner.
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A man set himself on fire near the Japanese prime minister's office in Tokyo early Wednesday in apparent protest against the state funeral planned next week for former leader Shinzo Abe, officials and media reports said.
The man, believed to be in his 70s, sustained burns on large parts of his body but was conscious and told police that he set himself on fire after pouring oil over himself, Kyodo News agency reported.
A note apparently written by the man was found with him that said, “Personally, I am absolutely against” Abe’s funeral, Kyodo reported.
A Tokyo Fire Department official confirmed a man set himself afire on the street in Tokyo's Kasumigaseki government district and that he was alive when he was taken to a hospital by ambulance, but declined to give further details, including the man’s identity, motive or condition, citing the sensitivity of what was a police matter.
Tokyo police refused to comment, including on a report that a police officer was caught in the fire.
The suspected immolation underscores a growing wave of protests against the funeral for Abe, who was one of the most divisive leaders in postwar Japanese politics because of his revisionist view of wartime history, security policies and his high-handed approach and cronyism, which were often criticized as autocratic. More protests are expected in coming days, including the day of the funeral next week.
The incident also is an embarrassment for Japanese police, who have stepped up security for an event expected to be attended by about 6,000 people, including U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris and other dignitaries.
Japanese police were also partly blamed for insufficient protection of Abe, who was shot to death by a gunman who approached him from behind as he was giving a campaign speech outdoors in July.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is in New York for the annual U.N. General Assembly meeting of world leaders. He gave a speech Tuesday expressing disappointment over the Security Council's failure to respond to the Russian invasion of Ukraine because of Russia’s permanent veto and called for reforms that would allow the U.N. to better defend global peace and order.
The planned state funeral for Abe has become increasingly unpopular among Japanese as more details emerge about the ruling party's and Abe's links to the Unification Church, which built close ties with Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers over their shared interests in conservative causes.
The suspect in Abe’s assassination reportedly believed his mother’s donations to the church ruined his family. The LDP has said nearly half its lawmakers have ties to the church, but party officials have denied ties between the party as an organization and the church.
Kishida has said Abe deserves the honor of a state funeral as Japan’s longest-serving post-World War II leader and for his diplomatic and economic achievements.
Critics have said it was decided undemocratically and is an inappropriate and costly use of taxpayers’ money. They say Kishida in deciding to hold a state funeral aimed to please Abe’s party faction and buttress his own power. Support ratings for Kishida's government have weakened amid public dissatisfaction over his handling of the party's church ties and the funeral plans.
A family funeral for Abe was held at a Buddhist temple in July. The state funeral is scheduled for next Tuesday at the Budokan martial arts arena in Tokyo.
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Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a partial mobilization of reservists in Russia on Wednesday, risking a deeply unpopular step that follows a string of humiliating setbacks for his troops nearly seven months after invading Ukraine.
It’s the first call-up in Russia since World War II and is sure to further fuel tensions with the Western backers of Ukraine, who derided the move as an act of weakness. The move also sent Russians scrambling to buy plane tickets out of the country.
It comes after Russian authorities tried to recruit more fighters into volunteer battalions and amid reports of widespread recruitment in prisons, as the Kremlin has struggled to replenish its troops.
The Russian leader, in a seven-minute televised address to the nation aired Wednesday morning, also warned the West that he isn't bluffing over using all the means at his disposal to protect Russia's territory, in what appeared to be a veiled reference to Russia’s nuclear capability. Putin has previously warned the West not to back Russia against the wall and has rebuked NATO countries for supplying weapons to help Ukraine.
The total number of reservists to be called up could be as high as 300,000, officials said.
Even a partial mobilization is likely to increase dismay, or sow doubt, among Russians about the war in Ukraine. Shortly after Putin’s address, Russian media reported a sharp spike in demand for plane tickets abroad amid an apparent scramble to leave despite exorbitant prices for flights.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, who was asked what had changed since he and others previously said no mobilization was planned, argued that Russia is effectively fighting against NATO because the alliance’s members have been supplying weapons to Kyiv.
The partial mobilization order came a day after Russian-controlled regions in eastern and southern Ukraine announced plans to hold votes on becoming integral parts of Russia — a move that could set the stage for Moscow to escalate the war. The referendums will start Friday in the Luhansk, Kherson and partly Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk regions.
The ballots are all but certain to go Moscow’s way. Foreign leaders have described the ballots as illegitimate and nonbinding. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said they were a “sham” and “noise” to distract public attention.
Putin’s speech is “definitely a sign that he’s struggling, and we know that,” U.S. national security council spokesperson John Kirby said.
Putin has suffered tens of thousands of casualties, has command and control issues, terrible troop morale, desertion problems and is “forcing the wounded back (into) the fight,” Kirby said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
Only those with relevant combat and service experience will be mobilized, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said. He added about 25 million people fit this criteria but only around 1% of them will be mobilized.
Another key clause in the decree prevents most professional soldiers from terminating their contracts and leaving service until the partial mobilization is no longer in place.
Putin's announcement came as the U.N. General Assembly was taking place in New York. Moscow's invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24 has been the target of broad international criticism at the assembly that has kept up intense diplomatic pressure on Moscow.
Zelenskky is due to address the gathering in a prerecorded address on Wednesday. Putin didn't travel to New York.
Putin's gambit has a strong element of risk — it could backfire by making the Ukraine war unpopular at home and hurting his own standing. It also concedes that Russia has underlying military shortcomings.
A Ukraine counteroffensive launched this month has snatched the military initiative away from Russia, as well as capturing large areas in Ukraine that the Russians once held. The swiftness of the counteroffensive saw Russian forces abandon armored vehicles and other weapons as they beat hasty retreats.
A spokesman for Zelenskyy called the mobilization a “big tragedy” for the Russian people.
In a statement to The Associated Press, Sergii Nikiforov said conscripts sent to the front line in Ukraine would face a similar fate as ill-prepared Russian forces who were repelled in an attack on Kyiv in the first days of the war.
“This is a recognition of the incapacity of the Russian professional army, which has failed in all its tasks,” Nikiforov said.
The Russian mobilization is unlikely to produce any consequences on the battlefield for months because of a lack of training facilities and equipment.
The U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Bridget Brink, tweeted that the mobilization is a sign "of weakness, of Russian failure.” British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace echoed that assessment, describing Putin’s move as “an admission that his invasion is failing.”
Russian political analyst Dmitry Oreshkin said Putin’s announcement smacked of “an act of desperation.” He predicted that Russians will resist the mobilization through “passive sabotage.”
“People will evade this mobilization in every possible way, bribe their way out of this mobilization, leave the country,” Oreshkin told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
The announcement won’t go down well with the general public, Oreshkin said, describing it as “a huge personal blow to Russian citizens, who until recently (took part in the hostilities) with pleasure, sitting on their couches, (watching) TV. And now the war has come into their home.”
The war in Ukraine, which has killed thousands of people, has driven up food prices worldwide and caused energy costs to soar. It has also brought fears of a potential nuclear catastrophe at Europe’s largest nuclear plant in Ukraine’s now Russia-occupied southeast. Investigations are also underway into possible war crimes atrocities committed by Russian forces in Ukraine.
In his address, which was far shorter than previous speeches about the Ukraine war, Putin accused the West of engaging in “nuclear blackmail” and noted “statements of some high-ranking representatives of the leading NATO states about the possibility of using nuclear weapons of mass destruction against Russia.”
He didn't identify who had made such comments.
“To those who allow themselves such statements regarding Russia, I want to remind you that our country also has various means of destruction … and when the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, to protect Russia and our people, we will certainly use all the means at our disposal,” Putin said.
He added: “It’s not a bluff.”
Putin said he has already signed the decree for partial mobilization, which starts immediately, and stressed its limited scale.
“We are talking about partial mobilization, that is, only citizens who are currently in the reserve will be subject to conscription, and above all, those who served in the armed forces who have a certain military specialty and relevant experience,” Putin said.
Shoigu also said Wednesday that 5,937 Russian soldiers have died in the Ukraine conflict, far lower than Western estimates that Russia has lost tens of thousands.
The Vesna opposition movement called for nationwide protests on Wednesday.
“Thousands of Russian men — our fathers, brothers and husbands — will be thrown into the meat grinder of the war. What will they be dying for? What will mothers and children be crying for?" the group said.
Yet it was unclear how many would protest given Russia's harsh laws against criticizing the military.
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About 230 whales have been stranded on Tasmania’s west coast, just days after 14 sperm whales were found beached on an island off the Australian state’s northwestern coast.
The pod stranded on Ocean Beach in Macquarie Harbour appears to be pilot whales and at least half are presumed to still be alive, the Department of Natural Resources and Environment Tasmania said Wednesday.
A team from the Marine Conservation Program was assembling whale rescue gear and heading to the area, the department said.
The whales beached two years to the day after the largest mass-stranding in Australia’s history was discovered in the same harbor.
About 470 long-finned pilot whales were found on Sept. 21, 2020, stuck on sandbars. After a weeklong effort, 111 of those whales were rescued but the rest died.
The entrance to the harbor is a notoriously shallow and dangerous channel known as Hell’s Gate.
Local salmon farmer Linton Kringle helped in the 2020 rescue effort and said the latest challenge would be more difficult.
“Last time they were actually in the harbor and it’s quite calm and we could, sort of, deal with them in there and we could get the boats up to them,” Kringle told Australian Broadcasting Corp.
“But just on the beach, you just can’t get a boat in there, it’s too shallow, way too rough. My thoughts would be try to get them onto a vehicle if we can’t swim them out,” Kringle added.
Vanessa Pirotta, a wildlife scientist specializing in marine mammals, said it was too early to explain why the stranding had occurred.
“The fact that we’ve seen similar species, the same time, in the same location, reoccurring in terms of stranding at that same spot might provide some sort of indication that there might be something environmental here,” Pirotta said.
David Midson, general manager of the West Coast Council municipality, urged people to stay clear.
“Whales are a protected species, even once deceased, and it is an offense to interfere with a carcass,” the environment department said.
Fourteen sperm whales were discovered Monday afternoon on King Island, part of the state of Tasmania in the Bass Strait between Melbourne and Tasmania’s northern coast.
Griffith University marine scientist Olaf Meynecke said it’s unusual for sperm whales to wash ashore. He said that warmer temperatures could also be changing the ocean currents and moving the whales’ traditional food.
“They will be going to different areas and searching for different food sources,” Meynecke said. “When they do this, they are not in the best physical condition because they might be starving so this can lead them to take more risks and maybe go closer to shore.”
The pilot whale is notorious for stranding in mass numbers, for reasons that are not entirely understood.
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Security cameras, which are already ubiquitous on New York's streets, will soon be installed in all of the city's nearly 6,400 subway cars as officials work to rebuild riders' faith in the system's safety.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority plans to put two cameras in each train car in a project expected to take three years to complete, Gov. Kathy Hochul said Tuesday as she announced the effort at a rail yard in Queens.
“You think Big Brother’s watching you on the subways? You’re absolutely right,” said Hochul, a Democrat. “That is our intent — to get the message out that we’re going to be having surveillance of activities on the subway trains and that is going to give people great peace of mind.”
Anticipating possible privacy or civil liberties concerns, Hochul said: “If you’re concerned about this, the best answer is don’t commit any crimes on the subway.”
Daniel Schwarz, the New York Civil Liberties Union’s technology and privacy strategist, said expanding subway camera surveillance is worrying given the MTA’s lack of transparency around its camera and software systems.
“Living in a sweeping surveillance state shouldn’t be the price we pay to be safe. Real public safety comes from investing in our communities, not from omnipresent government surveillance,” he said in a statement.
New York City’s subway system already has more than 10,000 existing security cameras in its 472 stations that have played a role in solving major crimes, though the system doesn’t work flawlessly.
Security camera footage was crucial in helping investigators identify a suspect after a man shot 10 people on a subway train in Brooklyn in April, but the MTA’s system failed to record footage from cameras on the platform where the alleged gunman made his escape from a smoke-filled train.
Like most security cameras now found throughout New York City, the ones being installed in subway cars won't be monitored live. But Hochul said they would still be valuable as a deterrent, since people will know they are being recorded, and that the footage could be valuable to investigators trying to solve crimes.
Even now, police routinely use footage from privately owned cameras mounted on buildings to document a suspect's movements after a crime — though they often lose the trail if someone gets on a train.
The MTA received about $5.5 million in state and federal funding to purchase and install the cameras. About 200 cameras will be installed each month, with the project wrapping sometime in 2025.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, New York City's subway system had largely shaken its 1980s reputation as being filthy and crime-ridden, though complaints about overcrowding and reliability persisted. But after the pandemic emptied the system of riders, many New Yorkers began feeling unsafe underground again.
In an MTA survey of riders released this week, nearly 70% said there were too few police officers in the subway system; barely more than 50% said they felt safe or very safe in stations and on trains.
Hochul’s Republican opponent in the governor’s race, U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin, has assailed her during his campaign of being too soft on crime.
Ridership on the subway system remains down over its pre-pandemic peak, but passengers have been returning in greater numbers recently, with some days exceeding more than 70% of the volume before COVID-19 struck.
So far this year, the number of crimes reported on public transit in the city is averaging slightly below the levels before the pandemic.
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Leaders from Europe, the Americas and Africa called Tuesday for urgent action and funding to ease a growing global food security crisis that has been exacerbated by Russia’s war with Ukraine and, thanks to climate change, threatens to get worse in coming years.
Speaking at a Global Food Security Summit on the sidelines of the annual U.N. General Assembly, the leaders demanded an end to the war, with each calling it a needless “aggression” and Spain’s prime minister accusing Russian President Vladimir Putin of trying to “blackmail” the world with hunger by causing severe disruptions in the export of Ukrainian grain.
The leaders also took Russia to task for spreading misinformation about the destination of Ukrainian grain that has been shipped out of the Black Sea under a U.N.-brokered agreement mediated by Turkey.
“Russia must end its illegal war against Ukraine, which has certainly been an essential source of the world’s food supply,” Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez told the gathering. “The truth is that Putin is trying to blackmail the international community with a large part of the world’s food needs. We cannot combat hunger without peace. The world is expecting much from us. Let’s act together, and let’s act now.”
Last week, the U.N. food chief warned the world is facing “a global emergency of unprecedented magnitude,” with up to 345 million people marching toward starvation — and 70 million pushed closer to starvation by the war in Ukraine. David Beasley, executive director of the U.N. World Food Program, told the U.N. Security Council that the number is 2 1/2 times the number of acutely food-insecure people before the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020 and that there is a real risk of “multiple famines” this year.
“This is not acceptable. This is not sustainable,” said European Commission President Charles Michel. “Russia’s war against the people of Ukraine is a test — a test of our international rules-based order.”
Along with Sanchez, the event featured Senegalese President Macky Sall, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Colombian President Gustavo Petro and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken filling in for President Joe Biden. Michel opened the event by calling out what he said were Russia’s lies about Ukrainian grain not getting to countries that need it most.
“Contrary to Russian disinformation, this food is getting to Africa, the Middle East and Asia,” he said.
“We must not believe Russia’s disinformation,” Scholz echoed. “Data clearly shows that the majority of grain exports facilitated goes to developing and emerging countries and has global impacts on grain availability and prices.”
He said next year may be even more difficult as the food shortage will be compounded by a lack of fertilizer, something Sall said was particularly worrisome for African nations.
Blinken called the numbers “staggering” and said Biden would be announcing additional U.S. contributions to fight the crisis on Wednesday. Blinken called on other countries to follow suit.
“Some countries with the capacity to do more are among those doing the least,” he said. “That needs to change. No matter what countries have done so far, every country is called upon to do more.”
Blinken also called for the renewal of the July agreement on the shipments of Ukrainian grain.
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