Russia grinds on in eastern Ukraine; Bakhmut ‘destroyed’
KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian forces have turned the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut into ruins, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said, while Ukraine’s military on Saturday reported missile, rocket and air strikes in multiple parts of the country that Moscow is trying to conquer after months of resistance.
The latest battles of Russia’s 9 1/2 month war in Ukraine have centered on four provinces that Russian President Vladimir Putin triumphantly — and illegally — claimed to have annexed in late September. The fighting indicates Russia’s struggle to establish control of those regions and Ukraine’s persistence to reclaim them.
Zelenskyy said the situation “remains very difficult” in several frontline cities in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk provinces. Together, the provinces make up the Donbas, an expansive industrial region bordering Russia that Putin identified as a focus from the war’s outset and where Moscow-backed separatists have fought since 2014.
“Bakhmut, Soledar, Maryinka, Kreminna. For a long time, there is no living place left on the land of these areas that have not been damaged by shells and fire,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address, naming cities that have again found themselves in the crosshairs. “The occupiers actually destroyed Bakhmut, another Donbas city that the Russian army turned into burnt ruins.”
Some buildings remain standing in Bakhmut, and the remaining residents still mill about the streets. But like Mariupol and other contested cities, it endured a long siege and spent weeks without water and power even before Moscow launched massive strikes to take out public utilities across Ukraine.
Free for a month, Kherson still toils to clear Russian traps
KHERSON, Ukraine (AP) — A hand grenade jerry-rigged into the detergent tray of a Kherson home’s washing machine. A street sign maliciously directing passers-by toward a deadly minefield. A police station that allegedly housed a torture chamber but remains so booby-trapped that demining crews can’t even start to hunt for evidence.
Sunday marks exactly one month since Russia’s troops withdrew from Kherson and its vicinity after an eight-month occupation, sparking jubilation across Ukraine. But life in the southern city is still very far from normal.
The departing Russians left behind all sorts of ugly surprises, and their artillery continues to batter the city from new, dug-in positions across the Dnieper River. The regional administration said Saturday that shelling over the past month has killed 41 people, including a child, in Kherson, and 96 were hospitalized.
Residents’ access to electricity still comes and goes, although water is largely connected, and indoor heating has only very recently been restored — and only to about 70-80% of the city — after the Russians last month blew up a giant central heating station that served much of the city.
For authorities and citizens, sifting through the countless headaches and hazards left behind by the Russians, and bracing for new ones, is a daily chore.
Japanese company’s lander rockets toward moon with UAE rover
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — A Tokyo company aimed for the moon with its own private lander Sunday, blasting off atop a SpaceX rocket with the United Arab Emirates’ first lunar rover and a toylike robot from Japan that’s designed to roll around up there in the gray dust.
It will take nearly five months for the lander and its experiments to reach the moon.
The company ispace designed its craft to use minimal fuel to save money and leave more room for cargo. So it’s taking a slow, low-energy path to the moon, flying 1 million miles (1.6 million kilometers) from Earth before looping back and intersecting with the moon by the end of April.
By contrast, NASA’s Orion crew capsule with test dummies took five days to reach the moon last month. The lunar flyby mission ends Sunday with a Pacific splashdown.
The ispace lander will aim for Atlas crater in the northeastern section of the moon’s near side, more than 50 miles (87 kilometers) across and just over 1 mile (2 kilometers) deep. With its four legs extended, the lander is more than 7 feet (2.3 meters) tall.
Scientists lower alert for Mauna Loa, say eruption could end
HONOLULU (AP) — Scientists lowered the alert level for the Mauna Loa volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island from a warning to a watch on Saturday and said the mountain’s first eruption in nearly 40 years may soon end.
The U.S. Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said in a bulletin that the eruption on the mountain’s northeast rift zone was continuing, but lava output and volcanic gas emissions were “greatly reduced.”
“High eruption rates will not resume based on past eruptive behavior and current behavior suggests that the eruption may end soon,” the observatory said. “However, an inflationary trend of Mauna Loa’s summit is accompanying the decreased activity and there is a small possibility that the eruption could continue at very low eruptive rates.”
Meanwhile, it said, a lava flow front had “stagnated” nearly 2 miles from Saddle Road, the vital highway that residents and tourists alike use to travel between the city of Hilo on the east side of the island and coastal resorts to the west.
Scientists said earlier this week that the road was no longer under imminent threat from the lava, allaying fears previously that it could be cut off.
Heavy rain, wind, snow blows through California into Sierra
RENO, Nev. (AP) — A winter storm packing powerful winds, heavy rain and potentially several feet of snow in the Sierra Nevada shut down mountain highways, toppled trees and triggered flood watches and avalanche warnings on Saturday from the coast of Northern California to Lake Tahoe.
More than 250 miles (400 kilometers) of the Sierra remained under a winter storm warning at least until Sunday night or early Monday from north of Reno to south of Yosemite National Park.
As much as 4 feet (1.2 meters) of snow is expected to fall by the end of the weekend in the upper elevations around Lake Tahoe, and as much as 6 feet (1.8 meters) in more remote parts of the Sierra to the north and south.
A 70-mile (112-kilometer) stretch of eastbound U.S. Interstate 80 was closed “due to zero visibility” from Colfax, California to the Nevada state line, transportation officials said. Chains were required on much of the rest of I-80 in the mountains from Reno toward Sacramento.
A stretch of California Highway 89 also was closed due to heavy snow between Tahoe City and South Lake Tahoe, California, the highway patrol said.
France advances to semifinals at World Cup, tops England 2-1
AL KHOR, Qatar (AP) — France’s players reacted as if they had already won the World Cup. What they were actually celebrating, though, was Harry Kane’s missed penalty.
The match wasn’t over yet, but France was leading 2-1 when Kane, England’s captain and its best player, stepped up to take a penalty that would even the score in the 84th minute of Saturday’s match at Al Bayt Stadium.
He sent his shot high over the bar and defending champion France held on to win 2-1 for a spot in the semifinals.
“That’s football,” England coach Gareth Southgate said. “There is nobody I would rather have in that situation and if we had one tomorrow, I’d feel exactly the same way.”
France is looking to become the first country to successfully defend its World Cup title since Brazil — led by Pele — won back-to-back tournaments in 1958 and 1962. Italy also won two World Cups in succession in 1934 and 1938.
Ronaldo fails again in likely last chance to win World Cup
DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Cristiano Ronaldo choked up with emotion as the tears ran down his cheeks. He momentarily covered his face with his hand, but couldn’t hide his disappointment.
This moment was too big.
It was likely the last World Cup match for the 37-year-old Ronaldo, and probably his last chance to win soccer’s biggest prize.
When it mattered most, he couldn’t conjure up the kind of soccer magic that has made him one of the greatest players the sport has ever seen.
Ronaldo was dropped from the starting lineup for the second straight match on Saturday. The five-time player of the year came on as a substitute in the second half with his team already trailing, but his one real chance was saved easily by the opposing goalkeeper. In the end, Morocco beat the Portuguese 1-0 to become the first African team to reach the tournament’s semifinals.
US soccer journalist Grant Wahl dies at World Cup
LUSAIL, Qatar (AP) — Grant Wahl, an American journalist who helped grow the popularity of soccer in the U.S. and reported on some of the biggest stories in the sport, died Saturday while covering a World Cup match between Argentina and the Netherlands. He was 49.
Wahl fell back in his seat in a section of Lusail Stadium reserved for journalists during extra time of the game, and reporters adjacent to him called for assistance.
Emergency services workers responded very quickly, treated him for 20 or 30 minutes on site and then took him out on a stretcher, said Keir Radnedge, a veteran British sports journalist who was working nearby at the time.
The World Cup organizing committee said he was taken to Doha’s Hamad General Hospital, but it did not state a cause of death. “We are in touch with the US Embassy and relevant local authorities to ensure the process of repatriating the body is in accordance with the family’s wishes,” it said in a statement.
Wahl, who wrote for Sports Illustrated for more than two decades and then started his own website, was a major voice informing an American public of soccer during time of increased interest after the U.S. hosted the 1994 World Cup. He also brought a critical eye to the organizational bodies of the international sport.
USC’s Williams wins Heisman after leading Trojan turnaround
NEW YORK (AP) — Caleb Williams brought sizzle, excitement and star power back to Southern California football.
And now the Heisman Trophy, too.
Williams, the dynamic quarterback who was the catalyst for the Trojans’ turnaround season, won the Heisman on Saturday night to make USC the first school to take home college football’s most prestigious player of the year award eight times.
Williams received 544 first-place votes and 2,031 points to easily outpoint TCU quarterback Max Duggan (1,420).
Williams, who played last season at Oklahoma, is the fourth transfer to win the Heisman in the last six years, joining Baker Mayfield (2017) and Kyler Murray (2018) of Oklahoma and Joe Burrow (2019) of LSU.
Pioneering Black feminist Dorothy Pitman Hughes dies at 84
NEW YORK (AP) — Dorothy Pitman Hughes, a pioneering Black feminist, child welfare advocate and lifelong community activist who toured the country speaking with Gloria Steinem in the 1970s and appears with her in one of the most iconic photos of the second-wave feminist movement, has died. She was 84.
Hughes died Dec. 1 in Tampa, Florida, at the home of her daughter and son-in-law, said Maurice Sconiers of the Sconiers Funeral Home in Columbus, Georgia. Her daughter, Delethia Ridley Malmsten, said the cause was old age.
Though they came to feminism from different places — Hughes from community activism and Steinem from journalism — the two forged a powerful speaking partnership in the early 1970s, touring the country at a time when feminism was seen as predominantly white and middle class, a divide dating back to the origins of the American women’s movement. Steinem credited Hughes with helping her become comfortable speaking in public.
In one of the most famous images of the era, taken in October 1971, the two raised their right arms in the Black Power salute. The photo is now in the National Portrait Gallery.
Hughes, her work always rooted in community activism, organized the first shelter for battered women in New York City and co-founded the New York City Agency for Child Development to broaden childcare services in the city. But she was perhaps best known for her work helping countless families through the community center she established on Manhattan’s West Side, offering day care, job training, advocacy training and more.