Smoke from Canadian wildfires poured into the U.S. East Coast and Midwest on Wednesday, covering the capitals of both nations in an unhealthy haze, holding up flights at major airports, postponing Major League Baseball games and prompting people to fish out pandemic-era face masks.
Canadian officials asked other countries for additional help fighting more than 400 blazes nationwide that already have displaced 20,000 people. Air with hazardous levels of pollution extended into the New York metropolitan area, central New York state and parts of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Massive tongues of unhealthy air extended as far as North Carolina and Indiana, affecting millions of people.
“I can taste the air,” Dr. Ken Strumpf said in a Facebook post from Syracuse, New York, which was enveloped in an amber pall. The smoke, he later said by phone, even made him a bit dizzy.
The air quality index, a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency metric for air pollution, exceeded a staggering 400 at times in Syracuse, New York City and Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley. A level of 50 or under is considered good; anything over 300 is considered “hazardous,” when even healthy people are advised to curtail outdoor physical activity.
In Baltimore, Debbie Funk sported a blue surgical mask as she and husband, Jack Hughes, took their daily walk around Fort McHenry, a national monument overlooking the Patapsco River. The air hung thick over the water, obscuring the horizon.
Flooding from dam break strands hundreds and leaves thousands with no drinking water in Ukraine
KHERSON, Ukraine (AP) — Authorities rushed to rescue hundreds of people stranded on rooftops and supply drinking water to areas flooded by a collapsed dam in southern Ukraine on Wednesday, in a growing humanitarian and ecological disaster along a river that forms part of the front line in the 15-month war.
The collapse of the Kakhovka hydroelectric dam and emptying of its reservoir on the Dnieper River added to the misery the region has suffered for more than a year from artillery and missile attacks.
With humanitarian and ecological disasters still unfolding, it’s already clear that tens of thousands of people have been deprived of drinking water, many are homeless, crops are ruined, land mines have been displaced, and the stage is set for long-term electricity shortages.
Some residents of Russia-occupied areas hit by high water complained that help was slow in arriving, with some stranded on roofs and streets passable only by boat in scenes more like natural disasters than wars. Others refused to leave.
The first report of casualties from the disaster emerged, with a mayor reporting three dead. At least 4,000 people have been evacuated from both the Russian and Ukrainian-controlled sides of the river, officials said, with the true scale of the disaster yet to emerge in an affected area that was home to more than 60,000 people. Russia-appointed authorities in the occupied parts of the Kherson region reported 15,000 flooded homes.
Justice Dept. moves closer toward possible indictment of Trump in classified documents investigation
WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal grand jury investigating Donald Trump in Florida heard from at least one additional witness Wednesday amid signs that the Justice Department was moving toward a possible indictment over the former president’s mishandling of classified documents.
In the last week, his lawyers have met with Justice Department officials to argue against an indictment; Trump has issued social media posts in which he suggested he anticipated that he might be charged; and a former top aide appeared before a grand jury in Miami — an indication, legal experts said, that prosecutors had settled on Florida rather than Washington as an appropriate venue for charges.
In addition, several media reports Wednesday evening said prosecutors had recently issued the Trump legal team a target letter, which is often but not always a precursor to criminal charges. The Justice Department defines a target as someone whom prosecutors have substantial evidence linking to a crime.
“I think the signal is increasingly that the charges against the former president will be in Florida,” said Brandon Van Grack, a former Justice Department prosecutor and a key lawyer on an earlier special counsel team that investigated ties between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign.
Lawyers for Trump did not return calls seeking comment. The Associated Press has not independently confirmed the existence of a target letter. A Trump spokesman would not confirm or deny receiving a letter and a Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment.
Pence opens presidential bid with denunciation of Trump over Jan. 6 insurrection and abortion
ANKENY, Iowa (AP) — Former Vice President Mike Pence opened his bid for the Republican nomination for president Wednesday with a firm denunciation of former President Donald Trump, accusing his two-time running mate of abandoning conservative principles and being guilty of dereliction of duty on Jan. 6, 2021.
On that perilous day, Pence said, as Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol after the president falsely insisted his vice president could overturn the election results, Trump “demanded I choose between him and our Constitution. Now voters will be faced with the same choice.”
Pence is the first vice president in modern history to challenge the president under whom he served. While he spent much of his speech, delivered at a community college in a suburb of Des Moines, criticizing Democratic President Joe Biden and the direction he has taken the country, he also addressed Jan. 6 head-on, saying Trump had disqualified himself when he declared falsely that Pence had the power to keep him in office.
Trump’s statements about mass voting fraud led a mob of his supporters to storm the U.S. Capitol, sending Pence and his family scrambling for safety as some in the crowd chanted, “Hang Mike Pence!”
“I believe anyone that puts themselves over the Constitution should never be president of the United States, and anyone who asks someone else to put them over the Constitution should never be president of the United Sates again,” the former vice president said.
House Republicans pull back contempt charge against FBI director Wray over Biden doc
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Republican chairman of the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday called off a vote on a contempt of Congress charge against FBI Director Christopher Wray, accepting a last-minute offer by the bureau to allow the full committee access to a confidential document of an unverified tip about President Joe Biden.
Rep. James Comer said in a statement that the committee is removing a contempt resolution against Wray from Thursday’s schedule after receiving an accommodation that would give the full committee access to the document.
“Allowing all Oversight Committee members to review this record is an important step toward conducting oversight of the FBI and holding it accountable to the American people,” the Kentucky Republican said.
The action that played out over the last month against Wray reflects a larger breakdown between Republicans and the FBI that has only intensified this year, with some conservatives talking openly about trying to defund the bureau.
It’s a rift that first opened during the Russia investigation of then-President Donald Trump and has only widened amid the FBI’s wide-ranging criminal investigation into the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the Capitol, which some Republicans view as overly zealous and politicized.
Lionel Messi picks MLS’s Inter Miami in a move that stuns soccer after exit from Paris Saint-Germain
MIAMI (AP) — Lionel Messi has pulled off his latest stunning feat: He is headed to Major League Soccer and joining Inter Miami.
After months — years, even — of speculation, Messi on Wednesday finally revealed his decision to join a Miami franchise that has been led by another global soccer icon, David Beckham, since its inception but has yet to make any real splashes on the field.
That likely will soon change. One of Inter Miami’s owners, Jorge Mas, tweeted out a photo of a darkly silhouetted Messi jersey shortly before the Argentinian great revealed his decision in interviews with Spanish news outlets Mundo Deportivo and Sport.
It was widely believed that Messi eventually would choose to play for Al-Hilal in Saudi Arabia, following longtime rival Cristiano Ronaldo to a nation where some clubs now are funded by the state’s sovereign wealth fund. Going back to Barcelona, a storied franchise where he spent most of his career, was another possibility.
But in the end, he made the call that surprised many. Messi is joining MLS. He said in the interviews Wednesday that some final details still need to be worked out, but that he has made the call to “continue my path” in Miami.
After years of threats, a feud ends with a Black mom dead and her white neighbor arrested
OCALA, Fla. (AP) — A woman accused of shooting and killing a mother in front of her kids last week in a shocking end to an ongoing feud between neighbors was arrested Tuesday.
Susan Louise Lorincz, 58, who is white, was charged with manslaughter with a firearm, culpable negligence, battery and two counts of assault in the death of Ajike Owens, a Black mother of four, Sheriff Billy Woods said in a statement.
Authorities came under pressure Tuesday to arrest and charge Lorincz, who fired the gun and killed Owens in a case that has put Florida’s divisive stand your ground law back into the spotlight.
In a video posted on Facebook late Tuesday night, the sheriff said this was not a stand your ground case but “simply a killing.”
“Now many of you were struggling to understand why there was not an immediate arrest,” the sheriff said. “The laws here in the state of Florida are clear. Now I may not like them. I may not agree with them. But however, those laws I will follow.”
South Korean inquiry to look into 237 more foreign adoptions suspected to have laundered origins
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission said Thursday it will investigate 237 more cases of South Korean adoptees who suspect their family origins were manipulated to facilitate their adoptions in Europe and the United States.
The new cases in the commission’s expanded inquiry into South Korea’s foreign adoption boom involve adoptees in 11 nations including the United States, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden who were adopted from 1960 to 1990. More than 300 adoptees from Europe, North America and Australia filed applications last year demanding their cases be investigated.
The commission said most of the applicants claim their adoptions were based on falsified records that laundered their status or origin to ensure their adoptability and expedite custody transfers across borders. Some applicants asked the commission to look into abuse they say they experienced at South Korean orphanages or under the care of their foreign adoptive parents.
When the commission said it would investigate the first 34 cases in December, it said the records of many adoptees sent to the West had clearly been manipulated and falsely described them as orphans or faked their identities by borrowing the details of a third person.
The commission’s potential findings could allow adoptees to take legal actions against agencies or the government, which would otherwise be difficult because South Korean civil courts put the burden of proof entirely on plaintiffs, who often lack information and resources.
Newer heart transplant method could allow more patients a chance at lifesaving surgery
WASHINGTON (AP) — Most transplanted hearts are from donors who are brain dead, but new research shows a different approach can be just as successful and boost the number of available organs.
It’s called donation after circulatory death, a method long used to recover kidneys and other organs but not more fragile hearts. Duke Health researchers said Wednesday that using those long-shunned hearts could allow possibly thousands more patients a chance at a lifesaving transplant — expanding the number of donor hearts by 30%.
“Honestly if we could snap our fingers and just get people to use this, I think it probably would go up even more than that,” said transplant surgeon Dr. Jacob Schroder of Duke University School of Medicine, who led the research. “This really should be standard of care.”
The usual method of organ donation occurs when doctors, through careful testing, determine someone has no brain function after a catastrophic injury — meaning they’re brain-dead. The body is left on a ventilator that keeps the heart beating and organs oxygenated until they’re recovered and put on ice.
In contrast, donation after circulatory death occurs when someone has a nonsurvivable brain injury but, because all brain function hasn’t yet ceased, the family decides to withdraw life support and the heart stops. That means organs go without oxygen for a while before they can be recovered — and surgeons, worried the heart would be damaged, left it behind.
Jokic and Murray both have triple-doubles, Nuggets beat Heat 109-94 for 2-1 lead
MIAMI (AP) — Never had two players from the same team had 30-point triple-doubles in the same game. Never in the regular season. Never in the playoffs. Certainly never in the NBA Finals.
Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray made history Wednesday night — and have the Denver Nuggets two wins away from making some real history as well.
Jokic and Murray became the first teammates in NBA Finals history to both record triple-doubles, and the Nuggets reclaimed the lead in the series by beating the Miami Heat 109-94 in Game 3.
“By far, their greatest performance as a duo in their seven years together,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said, after his team moved two wins away from Denver’s first title.
The Associated Press