US downs Chinese balloon, drawing a threat from China
WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S.military on Saturday shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon off the Carolina coast after it traversed sensitive military sites across North America. China insisted the flyover was an accident involving a civilian aircraft and threatened repercussions.
President Joe Biden issued the order but had wanted the balloon downed even earlier, on Wednesday.He was advised that the best time for the operation would be when it was over water, U.S. officials said. Military officials determined that bringing it down over land from an altitude of 60,000 feet would pose an undue risk to people on the ground.
China responded that it reserved the right to «take further actions» and criticized the U.S.for «an obvious overreaction and a serious violation of international practice.»
In its statement Sunday, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that «China will resolutely uphold the relevant company´s legitimate rights and interests, and at the same time reserving the right to take further actions in response.»
The presence of the balloon in the skies above the U.S.this week dealt a severe blow to already strained U.S.-Chinese relations that have been in a downward spiral for years. It prompted Secretary of State Antony Blinken to abruptly cancel a high-stakes Beijing trip aimed at easing tensions.
State of the Union: Biden sees economic glow, GOP sees gloom
WASHINGTON (AP) — Going into Tuesday’s State of the Union address, President Joe Biden sees a nation with its future aglow.
Republicans take a far bleaker view — that the country is beset by crushing debt and that Biden is largely responsible for inflation. And the GOP now holds a House majority intent on blocking the president.
The harder reality is that the United States is on a tight rope, trying to balance efforts to reduce inflation with the need to stay upright and avoid falling into a recession. That’s with the seemingly inherent contradiction of the Federal Reserve’s interest rate increases and the unemployment rate falling to a near 54-year low.
Based on past speeches, Biden believes the policies adopted under his watch can fill the U.S.with new factories and protect against climate change. Roads, bridges, Fethiye Escort Bayan sewer systems, ports and internet service would be improved. The middle class would be more financially secure. So would America’s place in the global economy’s hierarchy.
On Friday, the president said the proof was in the January employment report.It showed 517,000 jobs were added as the unemployment rate fell to 3.4%, making it «crystal clear» that his «chorus of critics» were wrong.
‘Died suddenly’ posts twist tragedies to push vaccine lies
Results from 6-year-old Anastasia Weaver´s autopsy may take weeks.But online anti-vaccine activists needed only hours after her funeral this week to baselessly blame the COVID-19 vaccine.
A prolific Twitter account posted Anastasia´s name and smiling dance portrait in a tweet with a syringe emoji.A Facebook user messaged her mother, Jessica Day-Weaver, to call her a «murderer» for having her child vaccinated.
In reality, the Ohio kindergartner had experienced lifelong health problems since her premature birth, including epilepsy, asthma and frequent hospitalizations with respiratory viruses.»The doctors haven´t given us any information other than it was due to all of her chronic conditions. … There was never a thought that it could be from the vaccine,» Day-Weaver said of her daughter’s death.
But those facts didn´t matter online, where Anastasia was swiftly added to a growing list of hundreds of children, teens, athletes and celebrities whose unexpected deaths and injuries have been incorrectly blamed on COVID-19 shots.Using the hashtag #diedsuddenly, online conspiracy theorists have flooded social media with news reports, obituaries and GoFundMe pages in recent months, leaving grieving families to wrestle with the lies.
There´s the 37-year-old Brazilian television host who collapsed live on air because of a congenital heart problem.The 18-year-old unvaccinated bull rider who died from a rare disease. The 32-year-old actress who died from bacterial infection complications.
50-car train derailment causes big fire, evacuations in Ohio
EAST PALESTINE, Ohio (AP) — A freight train derailment in Ohio near the Pennsylvania state line left a mangled and charred mass of boxcars and flames Saturday as authorities launched a federal investigation and monitored air quality from the various hazardous chemicals in the train.
About 50 cars derailed in East Palestine at about 9 p.m.EST Friday as a train was carrying a variety of products from Madison, Illinois, to Conway, Pennsylvania, rail operator Norfolk Southern said Saturday. There was no immediate information about what caused the derailment. No injuries or damage to structures were reported.
«The post-derailment fire spanned about the length of the derailed train cars,» Michael Graham, a member of the National Transportation Safety Board, told reporters Saturday evening.»The fire has since reduced in intensity, but remains active and the two main tracks are still blocked.»
Norfolk Southern said 20 of the more than 100 cars were classified as carrying hazardous materials — defined as cargo that could pose any kind of danger «including flammables, combustibles, or environmental risks.» Graham said 14 cars carrying vinyl chloride were involved in the derailment «and have been exposed to fire,» and at least one «is intermittently releasing the contents of the car through a pressure release device as designed.»
«At this time we are working to verify which hazardous materials cars, if any, have been breached,» he said.The Environmental Protection Agency and Norfolk Southern were continuing to monitor air quality, and investigators would begin their on-scene work «once the scene is safe and secure,» he said.
In Tyre Nichols’ neighborhood, Black residents fear police
MEMPHIS (AP) — In a terrible way, the death of Tyre Nichols brings vindication to members of the Black community in Memphis who live in constant fear of the police.
Often, before, people didn’t believe them when told how bad it is.
The fatal beating of Nichols, 29, by five police officers tells the story many residents know by heart: that any encounter, including traffic stops, can be deadly if you’re Black.
Examples abound of Black residents, primarily young men, targeted by police.Some are in official reports. Anyone you talk to has a story. Even casual discussions in a coffee shop net multiple examples.
A homeowner who called the police because a young man who had been shot was on his front porch. The responding officers ignored the gunshot victim and entered the caller´s home.The caller was slammed to the ground and a chemical agent used on him as he was subdued. The officers then lied about the circumstances, but there was video.
Mount Washington experiences record-setting wind chill
BOSTON (AP) — The Arctic air that descended on the Northeast on Saturday brought dangerously cold sub-zero temperatures and wind chills to the region, including a record-setting wind chill of minus 108 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 78 C) on the summit of Mount Washington in New Hampshire.
Temperatures got so low that authorities in Massachusetts took the unusual step of keeping the South Station transit hub open overnight so homeless people had a safe place to sleep.Several cities in the Northeast set or tied record low temperatures for the date, while the high winds brought down a tree branch on a car in western Massachusetts killing an infant.
«I can´t remember it being this cold, not since 2015,» said Gin Koo, 36, wrapped up in three shirts and a down jacket, as well as a hat and a hood, as he walked his Boston terrier, Bee, in Boston on Saturday morning.Even Bee, wrapped in a doggie coat, shivered. «I wouldn´t go out if I didn´t have to.»
Paul Butler, 45, who has been homeless since he was evicted in December 2021, took shelter in South Station.
«This is the coldest I ever, ever remember, and I worked the door at a bunch of clubs for 15 years,» said the former Marine.
Dems reshuffle primaries to stress diversity over tradition
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The Democratic Party on Saturday approved reordering its 2024 presidential primary, replacing Iowa with South Carolina in the leadoff spot as part of a major shake-up meant to empower Black and other minority voters critical to its base of support.
Although more changes are possible later this year, the formal endorsement by the Democratic National Committee during its meeting in Philadelphia is an acknowledgement that the start of the 2024 primary will look very different from the one in 2020.Hundreds of party stalwarts climbed to their feet and cheered after the easy passage by voice vote.
States with early contests play a major role in determining the nominee because White House hopefuls struggling to raise money or gain political traction often drop out before visiting states outside the first five.Media attention and policy debates concentrate in those areas, too.
The new plan was championed by President Joe Biden, who is expected to formally announce his reelection campaign in the coming months. The reconfiguring would have South Carolina hold its primary on Feb.3, followed three days later by New Hampshire and Nevada, which is swapping the caucus it used to hold in favor of a primary.
Georgia would vote fourth on Feb. 13, followed by Michigan on Feb. 27, with much of the rest of the nation set to vote on Super Tuesday in early March.
Route to Super Bowl dangerous for Mexico’s avocado haulers
SANTA ANA ZIROSTO, Mexico (AP) — It is a long and sometimes dangerous journey for truckers transporting the avocados destined for guacamole on tables and tailgates in the United States during the Super Bowl.
It starts in villages like Santa Ana Zirosto, high in the misty, pine-clad mountains of the western Mexico state of Michoacan. The roads are so dangerous — beset by drug cartels, common criminals, and extortion and kidnap gangs — that state police provide escorts for the trucks brave enough to face the 40-mile (60-kilometer) trip to packing and shipping plants in the city of Uruapan.
Truck driver Jesús Quintero starts early in the morning, gathering crates of avocados picked the day before in orchards around Santa Ana, before he takes them to a weighing station. Then he joins up with other trucks waiting for a convoy of blue-and-white state police trucks — they recently changed their name to Civil Guard — to start out for Uruapan.
«It is more peaceful now with the patrol trucks accompanying us, because this is a very dangerous area,» Quintero said while waiting for the convoy to pull out.
With hundreds of 22-pound (10-kilogram) crates of the dark green fruit aboard his 10-ton truck, Quintero´s load represents a small fortune in these parts.Avocados sell for as much as $2.50 apiece in the United States, so a single crate holding 40 is worth $100, while an average truck load is worth as much as $80,000 to $100,000.
Dozens of soldiers freed in Russia-Ukraine prisoner swap
KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Dozens of Russian and Ukrainian prisoners of war have returned home following a prisoner swap, officials on both sides said Saturday.
Top Ukrainian presidential aide Andriy Yermak said in a Telegram post that 116 Ukrainians were freed.
He said the released POWs include troops who held out in Mariupol during Moscow´s monthslong siege that reduced the southern port city to ruins, as well as guerrilla fighters from the Kherson region and snipers captured during the ongoing fierce battles for the eastern city of Bakhmut.
Russian defense officials, meanwhile, announced that 63 Russian troops had returned from Ukraine following the swap, including some «special category» prisoners whose release was secured following mediation by the United Arab Emirates.
A statement issued Saturday by the Russian Defense Ministry did not provide details about these «special category» captives.
Chile wildfires spread amid heat wave as death toll rises
SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — Chile extended an emergency declaration to yet another region on Saturday as firefighters struggled to control dozens of raging wildfires that have claimed at least 22 lives amid a scorching heat wave that has broken records.
The government declared a state of catastrophe in the La Araucanía region, which is south of Ñuble and Biobío, two central-southern regions where the emergency declaration had already been issued.The measure allows for greater cooperation with the military.
At least 22 people have died in connection to the fires and 554 have been injured, including 16 in serious condition, according to Interior Minister Carolina Tohá.The death toll is likely to rise as Tohá said there are unconfirmed reports of at least 10 people missing.
Sixteen of the deaths took place in Biobío, five in La Araucanía and one in Ñuble.
The deaths included a Bolivian pilot who died when a helicopter that was helping combat the flames crashed in La Araucanía.A Chilean mechanic also died in the crash.
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