US election conspiracies find fertile ground in conferences
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — On a quiet Saturday in an Omaha hotel, about 50 people gathered in a ballroom to learn about elections.
The subject wasn’t voter registration drives or poll worker volunteer training. Instead, they paid $25 each to listen to panelists lay out conspiracy theories about voting machines and rigged election results. In language that sometimes leaned into violent imagery, some panelists called on those attending to join what they framed as a battle between good and evil.
Among those in the audience was Melissa Sauder, who drove nearly 350 miles from the small western Nebraska town of Grant with her 13-year-old daughter. After years of combing internet sites, listening to podcasts and reading conservative media reports, Sauder wanted to learn more about what she believes are serious problems with the integrity of U.S. elections.
She can’t shake the belief that voting machines are being manipulated even in her home county, where then-President Donald Trump won 85% of the vote in 2020.
“I just don’t know the truth because it’s not open and apparent, and it’s not transparent to us,” said Sauder, 38. “We are trusting people who are trusting the wrong people.”
America’s secrets: Trump’s unprecedented disregard of norms
WASHINGTON (AP) — Donald Trump isn’t the first to face criticism for flouting rules and traditions around the safeguarding of sensitive government records, but national security experts say recent revelations point to an unprecedented disregard of post-presidency norms established after the Watergate era.
Document dramas have cropped up from time to time over the years.
Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson’s national security adviser held onto explosive records for years before turning them over to the Johnson presidential library. The records showed that the campaign of his successor, Richard Nixon, was secretly communicating in the final days of the 1968 presidential race with the South Vietnamese government in an effort to delay the opening of peace talks to end the Vietnam War.
A secretary in Ronald Reagan’s administration, Fawn Hall, testified that she altered and helped shred documents related to the Iran-Contra affair to protect Oliver North, her boss at the White House National Security Council.
Barack Obama’s CIA director, David Petraeus, was forced to resign and pleaded guilty to a federal misdemeanor for sharing classified material with a biographer with whom he was having an affair. Hillary Clinton, while Obama’s secretary of state, faced FBI scrutiny that extended into her 2016 presidential campaign against Trump for her handling of highly classified material in a private email account. The FBI director recommended no criminal charges but criticized Clinton for her “extremely careless” behavior.
Energy problems in Ukraine and Europe take center stage
KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Energy problems plagued Ukraine and Europe as much of the Russian-occupied region that’s home to a largely crippled nuclear power plant was reported temporarily in blackout Sunday.
Only one of six reactors at the Zaporizhzhia facility was connected to the electricity grid, and Russia’s main pipeline carrying natural gas to Germany remained shut down.
The fighting in Ukraine and related disputes over pipelines lie behind the electricity and natural gas shortfalls that have worsened as Russia’s war in Ukraine, which began on Feb. 24, grinds on for a seventh month.
Both issues will take center stage this week. U.N. nuclear agency inspectors are scheduled to brief the Security Council on Tuesday about their inspection and safeguard visit to the Zaporizhzhia power plant. European Union energy ministers were slated to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to discuss the bloc’s electricity market, which European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has said “is no longer operating.”
Much of the Zaporizhzhia region, including the key city of Melitopol, lost power Sunday.
Some states could tax Biden’s student loan debt relief
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — President Joe Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan could lift crushing debt burdens from millions of borrowers, but the tax man may demand a cut of the relief in some states.
That’s because some states tax forgiven debt as income, which means borrowers who are still paying down student loans could owe taxes on as much as $10,000 or even $20,000 that was taken off their bill. In Mississippi, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Arkansas and North Carolina, forgiven student loans will be subject to state income taxes unless they change their laws to conform with a federal tax exemption for student loans, according to a tally by the Tax Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank.
That dismays Cathy Newman, a Louisiana State University graduate who just took a job teaching freshman biology at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg. She figures she could end up owing a few hundred dollars of money that she could have kept had she stayed in Louisiana.
Newman said she can come up with the cash because she has a good job, but she knows of a lot of other borrowers who will still be stuck in difficult financial positions even with their loans forgiven.
“If they stay in the state, they could end up with a pretty hefty tax burden if things don’t change,” Newman said. “I won’t be happy if I have to do it. I can do it. But a lot of people can’t.”
California fire fight persists as many neighborhoods reopen
WEED, Calif. (AP) — About 1,000 people in the rural Northern California community of Weed were still being kept from their homes Sunday as firefighters worked to contain a blaze that had sparked out of control at the start of the holiday weekend.
Power outages, smoky skies and uncertainty about what the day would bring left a feeling of emptiness around the town the morning after evacuation orders were lifted for thousands of other residents.
“It’s eerily quiet,” said Susan Tavalero, a Weed city councilor, who was driving to a meeting with fire officials.
She was joined by Mayor Kim Greene, and the two hoped to get more details on how many homes had been lost. A total of 132 structures were destroyed or damaged, fire officials said Sunday, though it wasn’t clear whether they were homes, businesses, or other buildings.
Crews kept the flames, known as the Mill Fire, from growing overnight. As of Sunday morning, the fire covered about 6.6 square miles (17 square kilometers) and was 25% contained, numbers unchanged since Saturday night, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection’s morning report.
Chile votes on proposed constitution with big changes
SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — Chileans voted in a plebiscite Sunday on whether to adopt a far-reaching new constitution that would fundamentally change the South American country.
The proposed charter is intended to replace a constitution imposed by the military dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet 41 years ago.
For months, opinion polls have shown a clear advantage for the rejection camp, but the difference has been narrowing, giving hope to the charter’s supporters that they can pull out a victory.
“We are clearly in a situation in which the result will be close,” said Marta Lagos, head of MORI, a local pollster. “The Chilean is a political animal who decides at the last minute.”
Turnout appeared to be high and long lines formed at voting stations.
Pakistan’s hope as lake fills: Flood villages to save a city
ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistani engineers cut into an embankment for one of the country’s largest lakes on Sunday to release rising waters in the hopes of saving a nearby city and town from flooding as officials predicted more monsoon rain was on the way for the country’s already devastated south.
While officials hope the cut in the sides of Lake Manchar will protect about half a million people who live in the city of Sehwan and the town of Bhan Saeedabad, villages that are home to 150,000 people are in the path of the diverted waters. The hometown of Sindh province’s chief minister was among the affected villages, whose residents were warned to evacuate ahead of time, according to the provincial information minister.
More than 1,300 people have died and millions have lost their homes in flooding caused by unusually heavy monsoon rains in Pakistan this year that many experts have blamed on climate change. In response to the unfolding disaster, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres last week called on the world to stop “sleepwalking” through the crisis. He plans to visit flood-hit areas on Sept. 9.
Several countries have flown in supplies, but the Pakistani government has pleaded for even more help, faced with the enormous task of feeding and housing those affected, as well as protecting them from waterborne diseases.
While floods have touched much of the country, Sindh province has been the most affected.
Survivor of Holocaust, Munich attack heads back to Germany
BERGEN-BELSEN, Germany (AP) — They call him the ultimate survivor: Shaul Ladany lived through a Nazi concentration camp and escaped the massacre of 11 fellow Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich.
Decades later the 86-year-old is back in Germany to visit the two places where he narrowly avoided death.
On Saturday, Ladany, who was born in 1936 in Belgrade, in the former Yugoslavia, brought family members to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in northern Germany to show them the place where he was imprisoned by the Nazis as an 8-year-old boy.
After that the spry octogenarian will participate in a joint German-Israeli ceremony in Munich on Monday marking the 50th anniversary of the attack on the Olympians by Palestinian terrorists.
Ladany, who competed in the Munich games as a racewalker, strode briskly in lime-green sneakers and a beige sun hat as he led his granddaughter, his younger sister and her three children in Bergen-Belsen, which has been turned into a memorial site. He pointed at a plot of land, nowadays covered by blueberry and heather shrubs and tall birch and pine trees, where barracks No. 10 used to stand.
Mexico debates its no-bail policy for nonviolent suspects
MEXICO CITY (AP) — In Mexico, a long list of nonviolent crimes — such as home burglary and freight and fuel theft — bring automatic pretrial detention, with no bail or house arrest allowed.
Mexico’s Supreme Court is expected to rule soon on that “no-bail” policy, with some justices arguing it violates international treaties that say pretrial detention should be used only in “exceptional” cases to prevent suspects from fleeing justice.
Suspects accused of murder and other violent crimes seldom get released on bail anywhere in the world. But in Mexico, the list of charges that allow a suspect to be detained pending trial has grown to 16, among them abuse of authority, corruption and electoral crime.
Yet only about two of every 10 people accused of a crime in Mexico are ever found guilty. That means that of the estimated 92,000 suspects now in cells pending trial, often with hardened criminals, around 75,000 will spend years locked up in Mexico’s crowded, dangerous prisons, unlikely to be convicted.
Trials in Mexico can drag on for a surprisingly long time. Two men were recently released with ankle monitors after spending 17 years in prison while on trial for murder. Strangely, now that they have been convicted, they are both out while pursuing appeals.
Brendan Fraser celebrated for comeback role in ‘The Whale’
VENICE, Italy (AP) — Brendan Fraser is having a moment at the Venice International Film Festival.
The once ubiquitous movie star of “The Mummy” franchise and “George of the Jungle” had, in the last decade, backed away from the spotlight. But Fraser is charting what could be a major comeback starting with his transformative role in Darren Aronofsky’s “The Whale,” which has its world premiere Sunday night at the festival.
Fraser plays Charlie, a reclusive English teacher with a kind soul who weighs 600 pounds (270 kilograms). While the film already has pundits predicting Oscar nominations, Fraser is trying not to think about whether awards are in his future.
“I’m just trying to stay in today,” Fraser said before the film’s premiere.
Aronofsky has been trying to make “The Whale” for about 10 years. He vividly remembers reading The New York Times review of Samuel D. Hunter’s play, going out to see it, and knowing he had to meet the writer.
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