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BIDEN-CRIME

Biden grappling with ‘perfect storm’ of rising gun violence

WASHINGTON (AP) — Gun violence was already on the rise during the pandemic, and now it’s spiking anew, and cities are struggling with how to manage it. President Joe Biden visits one those cities Thursday as he tries to dispel criticism from the right that he hasn’t been tough enough on crime. In New York, Biden will showcase federal, state and local efforts to get guns and repeat shooters off the streets. But there’s no appetite in Congress to pass gun legislation. Recent polls show Republicans have an advantage over Democrats as the party that would do a better job dealing with it.

AP-US-WINTER-WEATHER

Winter storm packing snow, freezing rain moves across US

CHICAGO (AP) — A winter storm is bringing a mix of rain, freezing rain and snow to the central U.S. Airlines canceled thousands of flights, officials are urging people to stay off roads and schools are closed. Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and Michigan are seeing freezing rain, sleet and snow. The heaviest snow is expected in Indiana and Illinois. The central Illinois town of Lewiston has already gotten more than a foot of snow and the northeastern Missouri city of Hannibal has nearly a foot. Significant ice accumulation is expected in an area from Louisville, Kentucky, to Memphis, Tennessee.

2008 VS 2022

Another Beijing Olympics with human rights still major issue

BEIJING (AP) — The 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics are opening with the same concerns that loomed over the 2008 Beijing Olympics: China’s record on human rights and its treatment of Tibetans and Uyghur Muslims in western China. Beijing was awarded the 2008 Games under the assumption it would improve human rights. There is no such talk now. The Olympics are opening under heavy security and warnings from officials that athletes or others could face legal action if they speak out on human rights or other touchy issues. The Games are a reminder of both China’s rise and its disregard for civil liberties, which has prompted a diplomatic boycott led by the United States.

AP-US-VIRUS-OUTBREAK-ARMY-DISCHARGES

Army to immediately start discharging vaccine refusers

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Army says it will immediately begin discharging soldiers who have refused to get the mandatory COVID-19 vaccine, putting more than 3,300 service members at risk of being thrown out soon. The Army’s announcement makes it the final military service to lay out its discharge policy for vaccine refusers. The Marine Corps, Air Force and Navy have already discharged active-duty troops or entry-level personnel at boot camps for refusing the shots. So far, the Army has not discharged any. Roughly 97% of all Army soldiers have gotten at least one shot. More than 3,000 have requested medical or religious exemptions.

NAVY BRIBERY SCANDAL

Ex-Navy captain pleads guilty in massive bribery case

SAN DIEGO (AP) — A former U.S. Navy captain has pleaded guilty to bribery for accepting nearly $68,000 worth of dinners, hotels, parties and prostitute services from a Malaysian defense contractor. Prosecutors say Donald Hornbeck of Indiana entered the plea Wednesday in San Diego federal court. Authorities say Hornbeck acknowledged that in 2007 and 2008 he took bribes from Leonard Francis to provide classified Navy information and steer ships to Western Pacific ports where the contractor’s company offered services. Hornbeck is one of 34 Navy officials and defense contractors charged in a massive fraud and birbery case involving the Navy’s 7th Fleet. Authorities say the scheme cost the Navy some $35 million. 

ARGENTINA-ADULTERATED COCAINE

Adulterated cocaine kills 20, sickens 74 in Argentina

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Apparently adulterated cocaine has killed 20 people and seriously sickened 74 others in Buenos Aires, sending Argentine authorities on a frantic search for the remainder of the deadly batch before it is consumed. Experts are still analyzing the drug to determine what was in it that caused the deaths. Judicial officials said Wednesday that one hypothesis is that the cocaine was intentionally adulterated as part of a settling of scores between traffickers. An Argentine prosecutor says the event is “absolutely exceptional; we have no precedent.” Police say that the cocaine was sold in the poor neighborhood “Puerta 8” in a northern suburb of Buenos Aires and that a dozen people have been arrested. 

SUPREME COURT-VACANCY

Senate Dem leader meets with Biden to talk Supreme Court

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden had Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer over to the White House on Wednesday to talk about how to fill an upcoming vacancy on the Supreme Court. That’s according to a person familiar with the negotiations who spoke on condition of anonymity. Biden has promised to nominate the first Black woman to the high court as he fills the spot being vacated by Justice Stephen Breyer, who is retiring at the end of this term. The president has already amassed a list of potential candidates that includes women with a range of professional expertise, from federal defenders to longtime judges and academics. 

PERSIAN-GULF-TENSIONS

UAE says ‘hostile’ drones intercepted in 4th such attack

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The United Arab Emirates military says it intercepted several drones fired at the country in the fourth such recent attack on the federation. It didn’t specify who launched the drones. A little-known group called “The True Promise Brigades” that previously claimed a January 2021 attack targeting a palace in Saudi Arabia said it was responsible. The Emirati Defense Ministry said said the interception Wednesday morning occurred “away from populated areas,” without elaborating. The Iran-backed Houthis fighting the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen have claimed a string of missile and drone attacks on the capital of Abu Dhabi in recent weeks.

AP-UKRAINE-TENSIONS

Biden orders forces to Europe amid stalled Ukraine talks

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden is ordering 2,000 U.S. troops to Poland and Germany amid the stalled talks with Russia over the Kremlin’s military buildup on Ukraine’s borders. The U.S. is also moving roughly 1,000 troops to Romania from an infantry squadron based in Germany. U.S. officials from Biden on down say no American forces will be sent to Ukraine itself to fight, even with the threat of a Russian invasion. Still, Russia reacted angrily to the latest troop announcement, calling it “destructive.” The United States says the new military movements are meant to reassure allies — and remind Russia — of America’s commitment to NATO’s eastern flank in the region.

AUSTRALIA-HISTORIC SHIP

Aussies say James Cook’s ship was found, US says not so fast

SYDNEY (AP) — Australian maritime experts believe the wreck of one of the most important ships in the history of the South Pacific has been found, but archaeologists in the U.S. quickly countered by saying the findings were premature. British explorer James Cook sailed the HMS Endeavour around the South Pacific and charted the New Zealand coast before landing in Australia in 1770. The ship later was deliberately sunk by British forces during the American Revolution. Maritime archaeologists investigated ancient shipwrecks in Newport Harbor, Rhode Island, to try to identify the ship. The chief executive of the Australian National Maritime Museum says structural details and the shape of what remains of the ship matched. The Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project says there’s no indisputable proof.

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