Warnock delivers 51-seat Senate for Democrats, and much more
WASHINGTON (AP) — For Senate Democrats, an oh-so-slim 51-49 majority never sounded so good.
Sen. Raphael Warnock’s victory in swing-state Georgia gives Democrats a welcome “lift,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Wednesday at the Capitol -- newly confident of sidelining Trump-inspired Republicans in Congress and reaching across the aisle to other GOP lawmakers to deliver on bipartisan priorities with President Joe Biden.
“If we can get some bipartisan things done, it will of course be better for the country. And it will be better for the Republican Party," he said.
Tuesday's election was for just one seat, but Warnock’s win in the tight runoff provides an unexpected capstone to the midterm election cycle for his party. It makes easier for Senate Democrats to organize and govern, and provides a crucial edge in a divided Congress as Republicans take hold of the House.
Gone is the especially intense political pressure of a 50-50 Senate that required all Democrats to toe the line -- and made it possible for a single senator, notably Joe Manchin, to buck party priorities.
FBI got earlier tip about Colorado Springs gay bar shooter
DENVER (AP) — Authorities said the person who would later kill five at a Colorado gay nightclub was on the FBI’s radar a day before being arrested for threatening to kill family members, but agents closed out the case just weeks later.
The FBI's disclosure about the tip, provided in a statement to The Associated Press, creates a new timeline for when law enforcement was first alerted to Anderson Lee Aldrich as a potential danger. The FBI did not say who gave the tip on June 17, 2021, or anything about the information that was provided.
The next day, law enforcement was alerted when Aldrich's grandparents ran from their Colorado Springs home and called 911, saying Aldrich was building a bomb in the basement and had threatened to kill them. Details of the case remain sealed, but an arrest affidavit verified by the AP detailed how Aldrich was upset the grandparents were moving to Florida because it would get in the way of Aldrich's plans to conduct a mass shooting and bombing.
The grandparents were concerned about Aldrich even before the 911 call, according to the document, with the grandmother telling authorities she and her husband had been “living in fear” because of Aldrich's “recent homicidal threats toward them and others.”
In a story Sunday, The Denver Gazette cited an unidentified family member saying the grandfather called the FBI the day before the bomb threat. The shooting is the latest crime to raise questions about whether the FBI moves too soon to close cases involving people who have shown violent tendencies.
Interracial marriages to get added protection under new law
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — One day in the 1970s, Paul Fleisher and his wife were walking through a department store parking lot when they noticed a group of people looking at them. Fleisher, who is white, and his wife, who is Black, were used to “the look.” But this time it was more intense.
“There was this white family who was just staring at us, just staring holes in us,” Fleisher recalled.
That fraught moment occurred even though any legal uncertainty about the validity of interracial marriage had ended a decade earlier — in 1967, when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down state laws banning marriages between people of different races.
In the more than half-century since, interracial marriage has become more common and far more accepted. So Fleisher was surprised that Congress felt the need to include an additional protection in the Respect for Marriage Act, which goes to the House for a final vote expected this week. It would ensure that not only same-sex marriages, but also interracial marriages, are enshrined in federal law.
The 74-year-old Fleisher, a retired teacher and children's book author, attended segregated public schools in the 1950s in the then-Jim Crow South, and later saw what he called “token desegregation” in high school, when four Black students were in his senior class of about 400 students.
Rapid fall from power, arrest for embattled Peru president
LIMA, Peru (AP) — In just three tumultuous hours, President Pedro Castillo went from decreeing the dissolution of Peru’s Congress to being replaced by his vice president, but the threats against his government had been building throughout his nearly 17-month presidency.
The former school teacher and center-left political novice, who won a runoff election in June 2021 by just 44,000 votes, stepped onto a no-holds-barred political battlefield in Peru, the South American country now on its sixth president in six years. By nightfall Wednesday, after a day of high political drama, prosecutors had announced Castillo was under arrest, facing charges of rebellion.
From the start, Castillo’s presidency seemed destined to be short-lived, said Flavia Freidenberg, a political scientist at the National Autonomous University of Mexico and a member of the university’s Latin America Political Reform Observatory.
“He is a president who took office with a very low level of support, he didn’t have a political party, he had a hard time putting together a Cabinet, the Cabinet has changed constantly and there has been a constant power struggle with Congress,” she said.
Castillo, a rural school teacher from an impoverished district high in the Andes, was considered a clear underdog when he joined the race to replace President Francisco Sagasti, who had been appointed by Congress in November 2020. Sagasti was the last of three heads of state Peru cycled through in one week that November.
Idaho police seek car seen near site where 4 students killed
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Police are asking for help finding the occupant of a car that was seen near where four University of Idaho students were stabbed to death last month, saying that person could have “critical information" about the case.
The Moscow Police Department issued a statement Wednesday afternoon asking for the public's help tracking down the person or people inside a white Hyundai Elantra made between 2011 and 2013 that was near the off-campus home in the early morning hours of Nov. 13. Investigators do not have the sedan’s license plate.
“Your information, whether you believe it is significant or not, might be the piece of the puzzle that helps investigators solve these murders,” the department wrote.
Relatively few details have been released about the slayings of Madison Mogen, Kaylee Goncalves, Xana Kernodle and Ethan Chapin. The police department has not yet named a suspect or made any arrests, and investigators have not yet found a weapon. Autopsies determined the four students were stabbed to death, the attack likely starting while they were sleeping.
“Tips and leads have led investigators to look for additional information about a vehicle being in the immediate area of the King Street residence during the early morning hours of November 13th. Investigators believe the occupant(s) of this vehicle may have critical information to share regarding this case," the department wrote in a news release. “If you know of or own a vehicle matching this description, or know of anyone who may have been driving this vehicle on the days preceding or the day of the murders, please forward that information to the Tip Line.”
Officials talk biodiversity as drought stunts Kenya wildlife
ARCHERS POST, Kenya (AP) — In Kenya's sweltering northern Samburu county, a destructive drought exacerbated by climate change is wreaking havoc on people and wildlife.
After four consecutive years of failed rains causing some of the worst conditions in 40 years, wild animals have become commonplace in the county's villages as they search for food. Many don't survive, providing herders an unfortunate lifeline as they cut chunks of meat from their carcasses.
“I have suffered from hunger for a long time,” said 37-year-old Samburu resident Frank Aule. “If I run into such a carcass I would not think twice about eating it as I have to eat to survive.”
Kenyan authorities count that the drought has killed over 200 elephants, nearly 400 common zebras and more than 500 wildebeests among several other species in the past nine months. Many of those that survive are starving, weak and frequently coming into contact with people.
How to better protect fragile ecosystems from a warming climate, including Kenya's savannah grasslands, will form part of discussions at this week’s United Nations biodiversity conference — known as COP15 — in Montreal in Canada. Governments are working to come up with a framework of how the world should protect nature and aim to set goals for the next decade. Conservation groups say current programs aren’t working.
Holmes' former partner gets nearly 13 years in Theranos case
SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — Former Theranos executive Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani was sentenced Wednesday to nearly 13 years in prison for his role in the company’s blood-testing hoax — a sentence slightly longer than that given to the CEO, who was his lover and accomplice in one of Silicon Valley’s biggest scandals.
Balwani was convicted in July of fraud and conspiracy connected to the company’s bogus medical technology that duped investors and endangered patients. His sentencing came less than three weeks after Elizabeth Holmes, the company's founder and CEO, received more than 11 years in prison for her part in the scheme, which has been dissected in a book, HBO documentary and award-winning TV series.
Balwani’s sentence was less than the 15 years sought by federal prosecutors, who depicted him as a ruthless, power-hungry figure. But it is substantially longer than the four to 10 months sought by his lawyers.
The scandal revolved around the company’s false claims to have developed a device that could scan for hundreds of diseases and other potential problems with just a few drops of blood taken with a finger prick.
After years of promoting the technology, Holmes and Balwani were warned that the blood tests were inaccurate, but they continued to raise money from investors, including from billionaires such as software magnate Larry Ellison and media magnate Rupert Murdoch, and deployed the technology in some Walgreens stores.
Emboldened athletes push back on old-school coaching methods
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Some of Geoff Bond’s rowers loved and appreciated his demanding style. They thrived on how the coach at the University of California-San Diego pushed them to the limit while preparing them to take on the real world.
But for others, Bond was a nightmare, with over-the-top intensity, an unpredictable temper and rage they abhorred. They say he regularly threatened to harm or kill team members. One heartbroken couple insists Bond's behavior was to blame for their son’s suicide.
Bond left his post earlier this year without any explanation from the school, and his employment status is unclear. In his wake, a debate now rages in college sports and athletics at every level: What constitutes bullying, and what is merely good, hard-nosed coaching that aims to get the most out of young adult athletes?
“There absolutely is a fine line between those two things, and it actually allows for somebody to behave in a more bullying manner under the guise of ‘I’m pushing you to be the best that you can be.’ And then the victim is kind of forced to accept that,” said Deidre Abrons, a licensed marriage and family psychotherapist in Oakland, California, with extensive trauma and PTSD experience.
Sports programs across the county are weighing whether such tough coaching styles have a place in a world where student-athletes demand more sensitive treatment and more individualized training. Athletes of this younger generation also wield greater personal power over their career paths, which can force coaches to accommodate them or risk losing top talent.
Suspected German coup plot spawns dozens of arrests
BERLIN (AP) — German police rounded up dozens of people including a self-styled prince, a retired paratrooper and a former judge Wednesday, accusing the suspects of discussing the violent overthrow of the government but leaving unclear how concrete the plans were.
A German official and a lawmaker said investigators may have detected real plotting, drunken fantasizing, or both. Regardless, Germany takes any right-wing threat seriously and thousands of police officers carried out pre-dawn raids across much of the country.
“We’re talking about a group that, according to what we know so far, planned to violently abolish our democratic state of law and an armed attack," on the German parliament building, government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit said.
Sara Nanni, a lawmaker with the Green party, part of the German government, suggested the group may not have been capable.
“More details keep coming to light that raise doubts about whether these people were even clever enough to plan and carry out such a coup,” Nanni said in a post on the social network Mastodon. “The fact is: no matter how crude their ideas are and how hopeless their plans, even the attempt is dangerous!”
Putin says Ukraine fight is taking longer than expected
KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin acknowledged Wednesday that his “special military operation” in Ukraine is taking longer than expected but said it has succeeded in seizing new territory and added that his country’s nuclear weapons are deterring escalation of the conflict.
“Of course, it could be a lengthy process,” Putin said of the more than 9-month-old war that began with Russia’s invasion Feb. 24 and has displaced millions from their homes, and killed and wounded tens of thousands. Despite its length, he showed no signs of letting up, vowing to “consistently fight for our interests" and to “protect ourselves using all means available.” He reiterated his claim that he had no choice but to send in troops, saying that for years, the West responded to Russia's security demands with “only spit in the face."
Speaking in a televised meeting in Russia with members of his Human Rights Council, Putin described the land gains as “a significant result for Russia,” noting that the Sea of Azov "has become Russia’s internal sea.” In one of his frequent historic references to a Russian leader he admires, he added that “Peter the Great fought to get access" to that body of water.
After failing to take Kyiv due to fierce Ukrainian resistance, Russia seized broad swaths of southern Ukraine at the start of the invasion and captured the key Sea of Azov port of Mariupol in May after a nearly three-month siege. In September, Putin illegally annexed four Ukrainian regions even though his forces didn't completely control them: Kherson and Zaporizhzhia in the south, and Donetsk and Luhansk in the east. In 2014, he had illegally annexed Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula.
In response to an increasing influx of advanced Western weapons, economic, political and humanitarian aid to Kyiv and what he saw as Western leaders' inflammatory statements, Putin has periodically hinted at his potential use of nuclear weapons. When a member of the Human Rights Council asked him Wednesday to pledge that Russia would not be the first to use such weapons, Putin demurred. He said Russia would not be able to use nuclear weapons at all if it agreed not to use them first and then came under a nuclear strike.
The Associated Press