AP Information in Transient at 6:04 a.m. EST – Winnipeg Free Press

Sinema party switch highlights 2024 obstacles for Democrats

PHOENIX (AP) — Less than three days after Democrats celebrated victory in the final Senate contest of the 2022 midterms, the challenges facing the party heading into the next campaign came into sharp relief.

The decision by Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona to leave the Democratic Party on Friday raised the prospect of a tumultuous — and expensive — three-way race in one of the most politically competitive states in the U.S. It set off a scramble among potential Democratic and Republican candidates to assess whether they could win their party’s nomination.

And it prompted difficult questions about whether Democrats might financially and politically support Sinema over their own nominee if she decides to seek reelection in 2024 and is seen as having the best chance of keeping the seat out of GOP hands.

Ultimately, Sinema’s move was a sobering reminder that while Democrats won an outright majority in the Senate this week, their grip on the chamber is still tenuous, giving individual members notable sway over the congressional agenda. And it foreshadowed the even more difficult climate ahead as Democrats defend seats in seven states, including Arizona, that former President Donald Trump carried at least once.

In an interview, Sinema was largely dismissive of such considerations, saying she doesn’t fit into the traditional party system. She said she won’t caucus with Republicans, but declined to say whether she plans to seek a second term in the Senate. Her shift to becoming an independent, however, strongly suggests she’s at least trying to preserve the option.


Rural voters ‘in the trenches’ on climate, leery of Biden

NEW YORK (AP) — Drought in California meant Raquel Krach, a rice farmer and graduate student in the Sacramento Valley, planted very little. Using groundwater, she and her husband planted 75 acres this year to maintain their markets. The rest of the 200 acres she typically sows remained empty due to an inadequate water supply.

The 53-year-old Democrat said it’s clear to her that climate change is responsible. But she says that notion is a deeply divisive one in her community.

“Our connections to our neighbors are pretty limited because our views are so different. Climate change is normally a topic we don’t even broach because our views are so different,” Krach said.

The impacts of climate change hit communities across the country, including Krach’s, yet voters in rural communities are the least likely to feel Washington is in their corner on the issue. Rural Americans and experts suggest there’s a disconnect between the way leaders talk about climate change and the way these communities experience it.

AP VoteCast, a sweeping survey of the 2022 midterm electorate, shows clear differences between urban and rural communities in voter sentiment on President Joe Biden ’s handling of climate, and whether climate change is impacting their communities.


Ukraine utility crews adapt, overcome after Russian strikes

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Over the grinding wail of a chainsaw pruning trees, Oleh Braharnyk recalls how his crew sprang into action in Kyiv a week earlier to repair power lines downed by Russian missiles and keep electricity flowing to his beleaguered fellow Ukrainians.

Braharnyk, an electric company foreman, knows the stakes: Like many others in Ukraine, his family has dealt with daily power outages caused by Russian strikes.

“We, too, sit in the dark,” he says, acknowledging that his home gets power for only about half of each day.

In recent months, Russia has rained missiles on Ukraine to try to take out power grid equipment and facilities that keep lights on, space heaters warm and computers running. It’s part of Moscow’s strategy to cripple the country’s infrastructure and freeze Ukraine into submission this winter.

Braharnyk’s crew is one of many from energy company DTEK that moves swiftly in Kyiv – occasionally under artillery and rocket fire – to keep the city ticking. Colleagues across Ukraine do the same.


Soccer writer Grant Wahl dies at World Cup match in Qatar

LUSAIL, Qatar (AP) — Grant Wahl, one of the most well-known soccer writers in the United States, died early Saturday while covering the World Cup match between Argentina and the Netherlands. He was 48.

U.S. media seated near him said 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, the reporters said.

“He received immediate emergency medical treatment on site, which continued as he was transferred by ambulance to Hamad General Hospital,” the World Cup organizing committee said in a statement, which did not list 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.”

Wahl was covering his eighth World Cup. He wrote Monday on his website that he had visited a medical clinic while in Qatar.

“My body finally broke down on me. Three weeks of little sleep, high stress and lots of work can do that to you,” Wahl wrote. “What had been a cold over the last 10 days turned into something more severe on the night of the USA-Netherlands game, and I could feel my upper chest take on a new level of pressure and discomfort.”


Warnings on gay club shooter stir questions about old case

DENVER (AP) — A California woman who warned a judge last year about the danger posed by the suspect in the Colorado Springs gay nightclub shooting said Friday that the deaths could have been prevented if earlier charges against the suspect weren’t dismissed.

Jeanie Streltzoff — a relative of alleged shooter Anderson Lee Aldrich — urged Colorado Judge Robin Chittum in a letter last November to incarcerate the suspect following a 2021 standoff with SWAT teams that uncovered a stockpile of more than 100 pounds (45 kilograms) of explosive material, firearms and ammunition.

Aldrich should have been in prison at the time of the shooting and prevented from obtaining weapons, she told The Associated Press on Friday.

“Five people died,” Streltzoff said, hushing the final word. “Someone should have done something.”

Streltzoff blamed Aldrich’s grandmother and mother for dodging subpoenas that would have forced them to testify in the bomb threat case. But documents unsealed Thursday also raised questions about whether authorities were aggressive enough in their pursuit of a conviction or could have sought different charges when it became clear Aldrich’s mother, Laura Voepel, and grandparents Jonathan and Pamela Pullen wouldn’t testify.


Griner swap reveals dilemma US faces in freeing detainees

WASHINGTON (AP) — A Taliban drug lord convicted in a vast heroin trafficking conspiracy. A Russian pilot imprisoned for a scheme to distribute cocaine across the world. And a Russian arms dealer so infamous that he earned the nickname “Merchant of Death.”

Those are just some of the convicted felons the United States government has agreed to release in the last year in exchange for securing the release of Americans detained abroad. It’s long been conventional wisdom that the U.S. risks incentivizing additional hostage taking by negotiating with adversarial nations and militant groups for the release of American citizens. But the succession of swaps has made clear the Biden administration’s willingness to free a convicted criminal once seen as a threat to society if that’s what it takes to bring home a U.S. citizen.

The latest swap occurred Thursday when WNBA star Brittney Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist who played pro basketball in Russia and was easily the most prominent American to be held overseas, was freed in exchange for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.

The exchange drew some criticism, including from Republican lawmakers, and raised concerns that Bout, who was tried and convicted in American courts, was being traded for someone the U.S regarded as a wrongful detainee convicted in Russia of a relatively minor offense. Administration officials acknowledged that such deals carry a heavy price and cautioned against the perception that they are the new norm, but the reality is that they’ve been a tool of administrations of both political parties.

The Trump administration, seen as more willing to flout convention in hostage affairs, brought home Navy veteran Michael White in 2020 in an agreement that freed an Iranian American doctor and permitted him to return to Iran.


Kentucky remembers tornado victims as rebuilding continues

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Chris Bullock has a lot to be grateful for as she decorates her new home for Christmas, after spending much of the past year in a camper with her family.

One year ago Saturday, a massive tornado obliterated wide swaths of her Kentucky hometown of Dawson Springs, leaving her homeless after a terrifying night of death and destruction.

Things look much different now.

In August, Bullock and her family moved into their new home, built free of charge by the disaster relief group God’s Pit Crew. It sits on the same site where their home of 26 years was wiped out.

“God’s sent blessings to us,” Bullock said in a phone interview Friday. “Sometimes we feel there’s a little guilt, if you will. Why were we spared?”


Peru’s ex-president faced bigotry for impoverished past

LIMA, Peru (AP) — When Pedro Castillo won Peru’s presidency last year, it was celebrated as a victory by the country’s poor — the peasants and Indigenous people who live deep in the Andes and whose struggles had long been ignored.

His supporters hoped Castillo, a populist outsider of humble roots, would redress their plight — or at least end their invisibility.

But during 17 months in office before being ousted and detained Wednesday, supporters instead saw Castillo face the racism and discrimination they often experience. He was mocked for wearing a traditional hat and poncho, ridiculed for his accent and criticized for incorporating Indigenous ceremonies into official events.

Protests against Castillo’s government featured a donkey — a symbol of ignorance in Latin America — with a hat similar to his. The attacks were endless, so much so that observers from the Organization of American States documented it during a recent mission to the deeply unequal and divided country.

Castillo, however, squandered the popularity he enjoyed among the poor, along with any opportunity he had to deliver on his promises to improve their lives, when he stunned the nation by ordering Congress dissolved Wednesday, followed by his ouster and arrest on charges of rebellion. His act of political suicide, which recalled some of the darkest days of the nation’s anti-democratic past, came hours before Congress was set to start a third impeachment attempt against him.


Hong Kong jails pro-democracy media tycoon over fraud

HONG KONG (AP) — A Hong Kong court sentenced a pro-democracy media tycoon to five years and nine months in prison on Saturday over two fraud charges linked to lease violations, the latest of a series of cases against prominent activists that critics say are aimed at crushing dissent in the city.

Jimmy Lai, who was arrested during a crackdown on the city’s pro-democracy movement following widespread protests in 2019 and under the National Security Law imposed by Beijing, was also fined 2 million Hong Kong dollars ($257,000).

His media company, Next Digital, published the now-defunct pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily. The publication was forced to close following the arrests of its top executives, editors and journalists last year.

In October, Lai was found guilty of fraud for subletting part of the office space to a secretarial firm, which was also controlled by him, between 2016 and 2020. The second fraud count was for letting the same firm use the media outlet’s office space in an alleged breach of lease agreements from 1998 to 2015.

The court at that time ruled the moves had violated lease agreements with the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corp. and that Lai had hidden the fact that the company was occupying space in the building.


Messi, Argentina advance to semifinals at World Cup

LUSAIL, Qatar (AP) — Lionel Messi started the match by delivering another soccer clinic. The Argentina superstar ended it sporting a bloodied top lip, shouting abuse to opponents and even blasting the referee.

And of course there were goals, too, for one of the greats of the game whose bid to win the World Cup for the first time is still on track.

Messi is heading to the semifinals with Argentina after a chaotic penalty-shootout victory over Netherlands that had just about everything on Friday.

Argentina took a 2-0 lead, conceded an equalizer in the 11th minute of second-half stoppage time to send the match to extra time at 2-2, and then won the shootout 4-3 amid a deafening noise inside Lusail Stadium.

Messi, who scored a penalty in regulation time, converted his penalty in the shootout while goalkeeper Emiliano Martínez made two saves to help Argentina secure a semifinal match against Croatia, which beat Brazil earlier Friday.

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