National Politics

Russian forces begin assault on two eastern Ukraine cities

Russian forces have began an assault on two key cities in Ukraine's eastern Donetsk region. They also kept up rocket and shelling attacks Saturday on other Ukrainian cities, including one close to Europe’s largest nuclear power plant. That's according to Ukraine’s military and local officials. Both cities of Bakhmut and Avdiivka had been considered key targets of Russia’s offensive across Ukraine’s east. Russian shelling also killed five civilians and injured 14 others in the Donetsk region. Local officials said three civilians were also injured after Russian rockets fell on homes in Nikopol, a city across the river from the Europe's largest nuclear power station. The head of the International Atomic Agency has warned that the fighting seriously endangers safety at the plant.

Some South Carolina Republicans pause at abortion ban brink

Some South Carolina lawmakers who oppose abortion are being cautious when it comes to tightening the state's already restrictive laws even further. The U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, paving the way for states to enact total bans if they choose to do so. South Carolina currently has a law banning abortion after cardiac activity is detected, at about six weeks of pregnancy. Lawmakers called a special session after the high court's decision in June to discuss the issue. But some are hesitating after seeing voters in conservative Kansas overwhelmingly reject a measure that would allow the legislature to tighten restrictions or enact a total ban.

Antitrust trial puts book publishing industry in the dock

The Justice Department’s legal effort to block the merger of book publishing giants Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster is more than just a showcase for the Biden administration’s tougher approach to corporate consolidation. The trial going on in federal court in Washington is also a rare moment for the publishing industry itself to be placed in the dock. Through the trial's opening week, industry executives, along with agents and authors such as Stephen King have shared opinions, relived disappointments and revealed financial figures they would otherwise have preferred to discuss privately or confide on background with reporters.

Taiwan says China military drills appear to simulate attack

Taiwan says China’s military drills appear to simulate an attack on the self-ruled island after Chinese warships and aircraft crossed the median line of the Taiwan Strait following U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taipei. Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense said Saturday that its armed forces issued an alert, dispatched air and naval patrols around the island and activated land-based missile systems in response to the situation. Taiwan’s army also detected four unmanned aerial vehicles flying in the vicinity of the offshore county of Kinmen close to mainland China and responded with warning flares. Pelosi’s trip to Taipei infuriated Beijing, which cut defense and climate talks with the U.S. Taiwan also reported massive cyberattacks on its official websites.

Blinken: China should not hold global concerns 'hostage'

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken says China should not hold talks on important global matters such as the climate crisis “hostage,” after Beijing cut off contacts with Washington in retaliation for U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan earlier this week. Blinken also said in a news conference Saturday in Manila that the U.S. aims to deescalate tensions, which have flared after China launched war drills just off Taiwan and took other retaliatory steps. Pelosi’s trip to the self-governed island outraged China, which claims Taiwan as its own territory to be annexed by force if necessary. Blinken says China's shutting down cooperation on climate change “doesn’t punish the United States — it punishes the world.”

Ukraine grain shipments offer hope, not fix to food crisis

A ship bringing corn to Lebanon is offering hope after becoming the first to depart a Ukrainian Black Sea port since Russia invaded. The war has threatened food supplies in countries like Lebanon, which has the world’s highest rate of food inflation and depends on the Black Sea region for nearly all of its wheat. The shipment is a key first step to get food trapped in Ukraine to Africa, the Middle East and parts of Asia where people are going hungry. But the small scale means the initial shipments won't draw down food prices or ease a global food crisis soon. Experts also say most of the trapped grain is for animal feed, not for people to eat.

Pinal County names new recorder amid election woes reshuffle

The Pinal County Board of Supervisors has named a replacement for the elected recorder as it continues to address a series of primary election problems. The five-member board voted unanimously Friday to name Assistant Recorder Dana Lewis to the position that handles early ballot mailing, voter rolls and recording of deeds and other documents. Lewis replaces former Recorder Virginia Ross, who stepped down Thursday to take over as elections director. Members of the public who spoke at an emergency meeting Friday praised the board's action, saying it would restore trust in the elections. Many voters complained about Tuesday's primary election. About 20 of the county’s 95 polling sites ran out of ballots.

Ukrainian unit digs in for Russian assault on eastern city

Ukrainian military personnel are fortifying their positions around the eastern city of Sloviansk in expectation of a fresh Russian attempt to seize the strategic point in the fiercely fought-over Donetsk region. As heavy ground fighting continues on the front line only miles to the east, southeast and north of Sloviansk, members of the Dnipro-1 Regiment are digging in after a week of relative calm. The last Russian strike on the city occurred on July 30. While the lull provided Sloviansk’s remaining residents a reprieve after regular shellings between April and July, some unit members say it could be a prelude to renewed attacks.

Dems change some tax provisions as they ready economic bill

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer says Democrats have made changes in their giant economic bill that include paring part of their proposed minimum tax on huge corporations. Schumer described some of the revisions Friday as Democrats lined up the votes needed to deliver a campaign-season victory to President Joe Biden on his domestic agenda. Schumer also said bargainers dropped a proposed tax boost on hedge fund executives after pivotal centrist Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona said she would otherwise vote “no.” Schumer said the package would instead levy new taxes on companies that buy back their own stock.

ASEAN special envoy to Myanmar warns on further executions

Cambodia’s foreign minister says efforts by Myanmar’s neighbors to help restore peace and normalcy to the strife-torn Southeast Asian nation were hindered by the country’s recent executions of four political activists. Prak Sokhonn, speaking in his capacity as special envoy to Myanmar of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, warned Saturday that further executions would force the regional grouping to reconsider how it engages with fellow member Myanmar. His remarks suggest that ASEAN is prepared to downgrade its engagement with Myanmar’s military government, whose top members are already not welcome at ASEAN meetings because of their failure to cooperate with a plan agreed upon last year to work toward restoring peace.

Progressive and centrist Dems battle for Vermont House seat

Vermont Lt. Gov. Molly Gray and Senate President Pro Tempore Becca Balint are the leading candidates in a Democratic U.S. House primary that could make either of them the first female member of the state's congressional delegation. Gray has the backing of the centrist lane of the party, with endorsements from two former governors and a campaign donation from retiring U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy. Balint has been endorsed by an all-star list of progressive leaders, including the state’s other U.S. senator, Bernie Sanders, and the founders of Vermont’s famously progressive ice cream company, Ben & Jerry’s. The winner of Tuesday’s primary is expected to cruise to victory in November in deep-blue Vermont.

Indiana governor signs relief bill alongside abortion ban

Indiana’s governor signed a relief bill Friday night that will provide $200 rebate payments from the state’s surging budget surplus. Though below his initially proposed $225 refunds, Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb said the measure “fulfills what I set out to accomplish when calling the General Assembly into special session” and establishes “long overdue increased funding” for families and young children. The bill, which passed earlier that day 37-9, represented a concession from GOP senators who were initially wary that the rebates would further fuel inflation.

Indiana becomes 1st state to approve abortion ban post Roe

Indiana has become the first state in the nation to pass new legislation restricting access to abortions since the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in June that overturned Roe v. Wade. Indiana lawmakers on Friday approved the near-total abortion ban with some exceptions, including in cases of rape, incest, and to protect the life and physical health of the mother. Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb immediately signed the bill. Indiana was among the first Republican-run state legislatures to debate tighter abortion laws after the Supreme Court ruling that removed constitutional protections for the procedure.

Record floods strand 1K people in Death Valley National Park

Record rainfall triggered flash flooding at Death Valley National Park that buried cars, forced officials to close all roads in and out the park and stranded about 1,000 people. Park officials say about three-quarters as much rain typically is recorded in an entire year fell in a single day on Friday. About 60 vehicles were buried in debris and about 500 visitors and 500 park workers were stranded. There were no immediate reports of injuries. California transportation officials estimated it would take into the night to open a road that would allow park visitors to leave. The park service says 1.46 inches of rain fell Friday. The annual average is 1.9 inches.

North Korea calls Pelosi 'destroyer of international peace'

North Korea has called U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi “the worst destroyer of international peace and stability,” accusing her of inciting anti-North Korea sentiment and enraging China during her Asian tour earlier this week. On Saturday, Jo Yong Sam, director general at the North Korean Foreign Ministry’s press and information affairs department, said Pelosi’s behavior in South Korea clearly showed the Biden administration’s hostile policy toward North Korea. A statement carried by state media quoted Jo saying Pelosi came “under a volley of due criticism from China for destroying regional peace and stability by visiting Taiwan” and that she stirred up an "atmosphere of confrontation.”

Hiroshima vows nuke ban at 77th memorial amid Russia threat

Hiroshima is remembering the 77th anniversary of the atomic bombing as officials including the United Nations chief warn against nuclear weapons buildup and the world fears another attack amid Russia’s war on Ukraine. U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres said Saturday that nuclear weapons “guarantee no safety — only death and destruction.” Hiroshima Mayor Kazimi Matsui criticized nuclear powers for not taking more concrete steps toward a nuclear-free world. The Aug. 6, 1945 U.S. atomic bombing on Hiroshima killed 140,000. Another nuclear attack on Nagasaki killed 70,000 more.

Trump ally takes on Walker protégé in Wis. governor's race

Republican hopes to reclaim a crucial governor’s seat in swing-state Wisconsin this year long appeared to rest on Rebecca Kleefisch. She's a former TV news anchor who spent eight years as former Gov. Scott Walker’s heir apparent and vowed to continue his sharply conservative policies. Then a wealthy construction company owner jumped in, dumped $12 million of his own money into the race and won Donald Trump’s backing. Now Tim Michels is in a dead heat with Kleefisch heading into Tuesday’s primary to decide who will face Democratic Gov. Tony Evers in November. The race also shaped up as another proxy fight between Trump and his estranged former vice president, with Mike Pence throwing his support to Kleefisch.

Judge: Green Party candidate belongs on N. Carolina ballot

A federal judge has ordered elections officials to place the North Carolina Green Party’s U.S. Senate candidate on the November ballot despite Democrats’ repeated attempts to block the progressive party from spoiling one of their best shots at flipping a seat in the narrowly divided chamber. U.S. District Judge James Dever III on Friday prohibited the elections board from enforcing a July 1 candidate filing deadline to keep the Green Party’s Senate nominee, Matthew Hoh, off the ballot in North Carolina. Democrats have warned Hoh’s appearance on the ballot could divide progressive voters and lead to a GOP victory in the tight Senate race between Democrat Cheri Beasley and Republican Rep. Tedd Budd.

GOP Rep who voted to impeach advances in Washington primary

Republican Rep. Dan Newhouse, who voted to impeach Donald Trump, advanced to the general election following days of vote counts in Washington state’s primary. But fellow Republican Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler saw her advantage against an opponent endorsed by Trump rapidly shrink to within recount territory. Both drew interparty challenges due to their vote to impeach Trump following the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Newhouse, the four-term incumbent in the 4th Congressional District in central Washington and Democrat Doug White were essentially tied, with each capturing about 25% of the vote on a crowded ballot. White also advanced to the fall ballot.

Lightning strike near White House leaves 3 dead, 1 injured

A husband and wife from Wisconsin celebrating more than five decades of marriage were killed in a lightning strike outside the White House. The couple, 76-year-old James Mueller and 75-year-old Donna Mueller, of Janesville, Wisconsin, died after the Thursday night lightning strike in Lafayette Park. A third victim, a 29 year-old adult male, was pronounced dead Friday. One other is hospitalized with life-threatening injuries. Secret Service and Park Police officers saw the lightning strike and rendered first aid. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre says, “Our hearts are with the families who lost loved ones, and we are praying for those still fighting for their lives.”

Ex-officer sentenced in rough arrest of woman with dementia

A former Colorado police officer who did not stop another officer from being rough with a 73-year-old woman with dementia has been sentenced to 45 days in jail and three years of probation. Daria Jalali was sentenced Friday in Fort Collins. She earlier pleaded guilty to failure to intervene in the arrest of Karen Garner in Loveland. The arresting officer was sentenced to five years in prison in May. Police video shows the officer grabbing, pushing and handcuffing Garner. Her family says her condition deteriorated because of the arrest. Jalali apologized to Garner and her family in court. The judge said she should have known Garner was a “delicate” woman suffering from a mental health issue.

Senate to hold hearing on crisis-plagued federal prisons

The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee says he plans to hold an oversight hearing on the crisis-plagued federal Bureau of Prisons after The Associated Press reported that the agency is keeping its embattled ex-director on the payroll as an adviser to his successor. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who demanded Michael Carvajal be fired last November amid myriad failings, told the AP in a statement Friday that he was dismayed by continuing misconduct within the agency and by its unwillingness to completely cut ties with the former director. Carvajal submitted his resignation in January but remained in charge of the Bureau of Prisons until the new director, Colette Peters, was sworn in Tuesday.

FACT FOCUS: Why final election results take days, not hours

As election workers spend long hours tallying ballots in Arizona and elsewhere in the days after Tuesday’s primary elections, some critics are arguing they should be finished counting by now. Widely shared Twitter posts this week called the delayed results “corrupt” and “unacceptable. And Arizona Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake said at a Wednesday news conference that the state's voters should know the winner “when they go to bed on election night.” These complaints ignore the realities of modern-day ballot processing. Election officials and experts say vote counting requires extensive time and labor. In fact, experts say states have never reported official election results on election night.