August 22, 2023
As Tropical Storm Hilary shrinks, desert and mountain towns dig themselves out of the mud
CATHEDRAL CITY, Calif. (AP) — Crews worked to dig roads, buildings and care home residents out of the mud across a wide swath of Southwestern U.S. desert Monday, as the first tropical storm to hit Southern California in 84 years headed north, prompting flood watches and warnings in half a dozen states. The National Hurricane Center said only vestiges of a weakened system was moving over the Rocky Mountains. Hilary first made landfall as a hurricane in Mexico’s arid Baja California Peninsula on Sunday before becoming the first tropical storm to hit Southern California in 84 years. Officials warned it still could cause severe flooding and mudslides in areas.
How a mix of natural and human-caused factors cooked up Tropical Storm Hilary’s soggy mess
Scientists figure a natural El Nino, human-caused climate change, a stubborn heat dome over the nation’s midsection and other factors cooked up Hilary’s record-breaking slosh into California and Nevada. Cooked up is the key phrase because hot water and hot air were both crucial in growing Hilary quickly and then steering the storm on an unusual path that dumped 10 months of rain in just one weekend in some normally bone-dry places. Nearly a foot of rain fell along a couple of Southern California mountains while cities easily exceeded summertime records.
Former Thai leader Thaksin goes to jail as political party linked to him wins vote to take power
BANGKOK (AP) — A populist Thai party linked to former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has won a vote in parliament to lead the country, hours after the divisive former leader returned from years of self-imposed exile and began an eight-year prison sentence. Real estate tycoon Srettha Thavisin’s victory as prime minister ends months of suspense, legal wrangling and horse trading that followed May elections. After the progressive Move Forward Party, which won the most votes in the elections, was blocked from taking power by conservative senators, the Pheu Thai party entered a coalition with military parties linked to the coup that removed it from power in 2014.
Russia’s Putin stays away over arrest warrant as leaders of emerging economies meet in South Africa
JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin will be notably absent when Chinese President Xi Jinping and other leaders from the BRICS group of emerging economies begin a three-day summit in South Africa on Tuesday. The bloc, consisting of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, is holding its first in-person meeting since before the COVID-19 pandemic. But Putin will participate via video call after his travel to South Africa was complicated by an International Criminal Court arrest warrant issued for him in March over the abduction of children from Ukraine. Xi, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa will attend in person.
Maui confronts the challenge of finding more than 800 missing people after the deadly wildfires
LAHAINA, Hawaii (AP) — Maui authorities say more than 800 people remain unaccounted for two weeks after the deadliest U.S. wildfire in more than a century destroyed the community of Lahaina. It’s a staggering number that presents huge challenges for officials who are trying to determine how many of those people perished and how many may have made it to safety but haven’t checked in. As of Monday the toll of confirmed dead was 115. A list of the missing was published after a 2018 wildfire killed 85 people in Paradise, California, and officials were able to reduce the number of names from 1,300 to just about a dozen within a month. But Maui officials are not making their list public.
Greek authorities say the bodies of 18 people have been found in area struck by a major wildfire
ALEXANDROUPOLIS, Greece (AP) — Authorities say Greek firefighters found the bodies of 18 people in an area of northeastern Greece ravaged by a major wildfire burning for days. Greek police Tuesday activated the country’s Disaster Victim Identification Team to identify the bodies, which were found near a shack in the Avanta area in the northeastern Alexandroupolis region. That’s according to Ioannis Artopios, a spokesman for the fire department. Given no reports of missing people had been filed in the area, authorities were examining the possibility that the casualties were migrants who had entered the country from the nearby border with Turkey, Artopios said.
A judge will consider if Texas can keep its floating barrier to block migrants crossing from Mexico
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A federal judge is set to consider whether Texas can keep a floating barrier on the U.S.-Mexico border. A court hearing is planned Tuesday and comes days after Texas repositioned the oversize buoys closer to U.S. soil. Republican Gov. Greg Abbott says the barrier was moved as a precaution because of allegations the buoys had drifted to Mexico’s side of the river. Both the Biden administration and Mexico want the barrier removed. The Justice Department has accused Texas of unlawfully putting the buoys on the international boundary. It’s not clear when U.S. District Judge David Ezra might issue a ruling.
Mass shootings spur divergent laws as states split between gun rights and control
Tennessee lawmakers are convening a special session this week that highlights the divergent response states are taking to a spate of mass shootings. The special session on public safety is unlikely to produce any new gun control laws from Tennessee’s Republican-led Legislature. But numerous Democratic-led states have passed an array of new restrictions, including bans on certain semi-automatic weapons and expanded background check requirements. Many of the new laws already are facing court challenges. The state action comes a year after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled people have a right to carry guns in public for self-defense.
Europe’s sweeping rules for tech giants are about to kick in. Here’s how they work
LONDON (AP) — Google, Facebook, TikTok and other Big Tech companies operating in Europe are facing one of the most far-reaching efforts to clean up what people encounter online. The first phase of the European Union’s groundbreaking new digital rules will take effect this week. The Digital Services Act is part of a suite of tech-focused regulations crafted by the 27-nation bloc. The biggest platforms must start following the DSA starting Friday. The law is designed to keep users safe online and stop the spread of harmful content that’s either illegal or violates a platform’s terms of service. Some online platforms have already started making changes, and they could have worldwide effects.