Great Wall of Lights: China’s sea power on Darwin’s doorstep
ABOARD THE OCEAN WARRIOR in the eastern Pacific Ocean (AP) — It’s 3 a.m., and after five days plying through the high seas, the Ocean Warrior is surrounded by an atoll of blazing lights that overtakes the nighttime sky.
“Welcome to the party!" says third officer Filippo Marini as the spectacle floods the ship’s bridge and interrupts his overnight watch.
It’s the conservationists’ first glimpse of the world’s largest fishing fleet: an armada of nearly 300 Chinese vessels that have sailed halfway across the globe to lure the elusive Humboldt squid from the Pacific Ocean’s inky depths.
As Italian hip hop blares across the bridge, Marini furiously scribbles the electronic IDs of 37 fishing vessels that pop up as green triangles on the Ocean Warrior’s radar onto a sheet of paper, before they disappear.
Immediately he detects a number of red flags: two of the boats have gone ‘dark,’ their mandatory tracking device that gives a ship’s position switched off. Still others are broadcasting two different radio numbers — a sign of possible tampering.
Texas migrant camp empty, Haitians await word on their fate
DEL RIO, Texas (AP) — No migrants are left at a Texas border encampment, about a week after nearly 15,000 people — most of them Haitians — huddled in makeshift shelters hoping for the chance to seek asylum.
Some will get that chance, while the others will be expelled to their homeland. The Department of Homeland Security planned to continue flights to Haiti throughout the weekend, ignoring criticism from Democratic lawmakers and human rights groups who say Haitian migrants are being sent back to a troubled country that some left more than a decade ago.
Meanwhile, Bruno Lozano, the mayor of Del Rio, Texas, where the camp was located, said officials would search the brush along the Rio Grande to ensure nobody was hiding and finish cleaning the site before reopening the international bridge. He said that would happen Sunday night at the earliest.
Officials also want to be sure no other large groups of migrants are making their way to the Del Rio area who might decide to set up a similar camp, he said.
Lozano said there were no deaths during the time the camp was occupied and that 10 babies were born to migrant mothers, either at the camp or in Del Rio’s hospital.
Biden: Budget talks hit 'stalemate,' $3.5T may take a while
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden said Friday that talks over his $3.5 trillion rebuilding plan have hit a “stalemate" in Congress as he made the case for his expansive effort to recast the nation's tax and spending programs and make what he sees as sweeping, overdue investments.
Biden spoke at the White House as Democrats in the House and Senate are laboring to finish drafts and overcome differences between the party's centrist and moderate factions. Despite efforts by the president and congressional leaders to show progress, Biden cast the road ahead as long and potentially cumbersome, even with upcoming deadlines.
“We’re getting down to the hard spot here,” Biden told reporters at the White House. “We’re at this stalemate at the moment."
Biden said the process is “going to be up and down” but ”hopefully at the end of the day I'll be able to deliver on what I said I would do."
The president's acknowledgment of Democrats' disagreements — and they have serious differences over taxes, health, climate change and the ultimate price tag — contrasted with congressional leaders' more upbeat tone in recent days. Using carefully chosen words, top Democrats have seemed to be trying to create a sense of momentum as House votes approach.
EXPLAINER: Who's eligible for Pfizer booster shots in US?
Millions of Americans are now eligible to receive a Pfizer booster shot to help increase their protection against the worst effects of the coronavirus.
A look at the nuts and bolts of this new phase of the vaccination campaign:
WHO SHOULD GET THE PFIZER BOOSTER?
People who got two Pfizer shots at least six months ago and who fall into one of these groups should get the booster:
— People 65 and older, nursing home residents and assisted living residents.
Imran Khan paints Pakistan as victim of US ungratefulness
NEW YORK (AP) — Prime Minister Imran Khan sought to cast Pakistan as the victim of American ungratefulness and an international double standard in his address to the United Nations General Assembly on Friday.
In a prerecorded speech aired during the evening, the Pakistani prime minister touched on a range of topics that included climate change, global Islamophobia and “the plunder of the developing world by their corrupt elites” — the latter of which he likened to what the East India Company did to India.
It was for India's government that Khan reserved his harshest words, once again labeling Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist government “fascist.” But the cricketer turned posh international celebrity turned politician was in turn indignant and plaintive as he painted the United States as an abandoner of both Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan.
“For the current situation in Afghanistan, for some reason, Pakistan has been blamed for the turn of events, by politicians in the United States and some politicians in Europe,” Khan said. “From this platform, I want them all to know, the country that suffered the most, apart from Afghanistan, was Pakistan when we joined the U.S. war on terror after 9/11.”
He launched into a narrative that began with the United States and Pakistan training mujahedeen — regarded as heroes by the likes of then-President Ronald Reagan, he said — during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. But Pakistan was left to pick up the pieces — millions of refugees and new sectarian militant groups — when the Soviets and the Americans left in 1989.
AP FACT CHECK: Pro-Trump auditors spin election falsehoods
A group hired by Trump-friendly Republicans to examine the results of the 2020 election in Arizona’s largest county spun falsehoods about deleted data, double voting and other malfeasance in a report that ignored basic facts about how elections are run.
The report released Friday by the Cyber Ninjas, the firm hired by Republican lawmakers in Arizona to look for 2020 election fraud, came up with nothing that throws the election won by President Joe Biden into legitimate question. Instead it tried to paint routine election practices in Maricopa County as errors, irregularities or sinister efforts to deny Donald Trump another term.
Even with its skewed analysis, the report actually came up with more votes for Biden than he was certified to have won in the county last year.
Here's a look at some of the claims by Doug Logan, CEO of Cyber Ninjas, in a hearing to present its report on Friday:
LOGAN, claiming election results were deleted from Maricopa County’s election management system: “So some individual went into an application, and they chose specifically to run something that would clear all records in the system that was used to generate the official results, the day before an audit started.”
Oregon school board ban on anti-racist, LGBT signs draws ire
NEWBERG, Ore. (AP) — An Oregon school board has banned educators from displaying Black Lives Matter and gay pride symbols, prompting a torrent of recriminations and threats to boycott the town and its businesses.
Newberg, a town of 25,000 residents situated 25 miles (40 kilometers) southwest of Portland in gorgeous wine country, has become an unlikely focal point of a battle between the left and right across the nation over schooling.
The City Council has condemned the action by the Newberg School Board. So did members of color of the Oregon Legislature and House and Senate Democrats. The American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon is threatening to sue. The Oregon State Board of Education called on the school board to reverse course, saying student identities should be welcomed and affirmed.
But the four conservative members of the seven-member board are digging in their heels. Member Brian Shannon, who proposed the ban, said lawmakers from Portland should keep out of the school district's business and instead focus on Portland, where homelessness is an issue.
Opponents say the board has emboldened racists. On Sept. 17, a special education staffer at a Newberg elementary school showed up for work in blackface, saying she was portraying anti-segregation icon Rosa Parks in order to protest a statewide vaccine mandate for educators. She was immediately placed on administrative leave.
Canadians released after Huawei CFO resolves US charges
NEW YORK (AP) — Two Canadians detained in China on spying charges were released from prison and flown out of the country on Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, just after a top executive of Chinese communications giant Huawei Technologies reached a deal with the U.S. Justice Department over fraud charges and flew to China.
The frenetic chain of events involving the global powers brought an abrupt end to legal and geopolitical wrangling that for the past three years has roiled relations between Washington, Beijing and Ottawa. The three-way deal enabled China and Canada to each bring home their own detained citizens while the U.S. wrapped up a criminal case against a prominent tech executive that for months had been mired in an extradition fight.
The first activity came Friday afternoon when Meng Wanzhou, 49, Huawei's chief finance officer and the daughter of the company's founder, reached an agreement with federal prosecutors that called for fraud charges against her to be dismissed next year and allowed for her to return to China immediately. As part of the deal, known as a deferred prosecution agreement, she accepted responsibility for misrepresenting the company's business dealings in Iran.
About an hour after Meng's plane left Canada for China, Trudeau revealed that Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were also on their way home. The men were arrested in China in December 2018, shortly after Canada arrested Meng on a U.S. extradition request. Many countries labeled China's action “hostage politics.”
"These two men have been through an unbelievably difficult ordeal. For the past 1,000 days, they have shown strength, perseverance and grace and we are all inspired by that,” Trudeau said.
EXPLAINER: Medication abortion becomes latest GOP target
Medication abortion accounts for about 40% of all abortions in the U.S. The increasingly common method relies on pills rather than surgery, opening the possibility for abortions to be done in a woman's home rather than a clinic. It's an option that has become important during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As Republican states move to restrict access to abortion generally, many of them also are limiting access to medication-induced abortions.
Providers say medication abortion is safe and essential, especially as access to clinics in Republican-controlled states becomes more difficult.
HOW DOES MEDICATION ABORTION WORK?
Medication abortion has been available in the U.S. since 2000, when the Food and Drug Administration approved the use of mifepristone.
COVID at the UN: One topic, used to make many points
For the United States, COVID-19 was about leadership and “a dose of hope.” For Iran, it was about the inhumanity of sanctions. Tiny Palau, largely virus-free, used its precious speech minutes to praise Taiwan for its support during the pandemic — and, not incidentally, to urge the United Nations to re-admit the island as a member state.
Unsurprisingly, the coronavirus pandemic was THE talking point at the United Nations General Assembly this week — serving as projection, promotional tool and proxy for other pressing issues put forward by world leaders in their signature annual addresses.
Through the lenses of vaccine inequality, economic disaster, scientific misinformation and social isolation, just about every president, king, foreign minister and head of state talked about the pandemic as a sweeping global catastrophe. Yet each made it into a distinctive political message that said as much about a nation and its leader as it did about the virus itself.
As the world at large has done for many months now, leaders struggled to connect the pandemic with the ways they wish to govern — and with the threats that face their attempts to do so.
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