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AP News in Brief at 12:04 a.m. EDT

Sep 23, 2022

Police focus on van renter in Brooklyn subway shooting probe

NEW YORK (AP) — A gunman wearing a gas mask set off smoke grenades and fired a barrage of bullets inside a rush-hour subway train in Brooklyn, wounding at least 10 people Tuesday, authorities said. Police were trying to track down the renter of a van possibly connected to the violence.

Chief of Detectives James Essig said investigators weren't sure whether the man, identified as Frank R. James, 62, had any link to the subway attack.

Authorities were looking at the man's apparent social media posts, some of which led officials to tighten security for New York City Mayor Eric Adams. Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell called the posts “concerning.”

The attack transformed the morning commute into a scene of horror: a smoke-filled underground train, an onslaught of at least 33 bullets, screaming riders running through a station and bloodied people lying on the platform as others administered aid.

Jordan Javier thought the first popping sound he heard was a textbook dropping. Then there was another pop, people started moving toward the front of the car, and he realized there was smoke, he said.

Biden: Russia war a 'genocide,' trying to 'wipe out' Ukraine

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — President Joe Biden on Tuesday said Russia's war in Ukraine amounted to "genocide,” accusing President Vladimir Putin of trying to “wipe out the idea of even being a Ukrainian."

“Yes, I called it genocide," he told reporters in Iowa shortly before boarding Air Force One to return to Washington. “It’s become clearer and clearer that Putin is just trying to wipe out the idea of even being a Ukrainian."

At an earlier event in Menlo, Iowa, addressing spiking energy prices resulting from the war, Biden had implied that he thought Putin was carrying out genocide against Ukraine, but offered no details. Neither he nor his administration announced new consequences for Russia or assistance to Ukraine following Biden's public assessment.

Biden's comments drew praise from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who had encouraged Western leaders to use the term to describe Russia's invasion of his country.

“True words of a true leader @POTUS," he tweeted. "Calling things by their names is essential to stand up to evil. We are grateful for US assistance provided so far and we urgently need more heavy weapons to prevent further Russian atrocities.”

Putin vows to press invasion until Russia's goals are met

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Vladimir Putin vowed Tuesday that Russia's bloody offensive in Ukraine would continue until its goals are fulfilled and insisted the campaign was going as planned, despite a major withdrawal in the face of stiff Ukrainian opposition and significant losses.

Russian troops, thwarted in their push toward Ukraine's capital, are now focusing on the eastern Donbas region, where Ukraine said Tuesday it was investigating a claim that a poisonous substance had been dropped on its troops. It was not clear what the substance might be, but Western officials warned that any use of chemical weapons by Russia would be a serious escalation of the already devastating war.

Russia invaded on Feb. 24, with the goal, according to Western officials, of taking Kyiv, the capital, toppling the government and installing a Moscow-friendly regime. In the six weeks since, the ground advance stalled and Russian forces lost potentially thousands of fighters and were accused of killing civilians and other atrocities.

Putin insisted Tuesday that his invasion aimed to protect people in parts of eastern Ukraine controlled by Moscow-backed rebels and to “ensure Russia’s own security.”

He said Russia “had no other choice” but to launch what he calls a “special military operation,” and vowed it would “continue until its full completion and the fulfillment of the tasks that have been set.”

Gilbert Gottfried, actor and comic's comic, dies at 67

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Gilbert Gottfried, the actor and legendary standup comic known for his raw, scorched voice and crude jokes, has died. He was 67.

Gottfried died from a rare genetic muscle disease that can trigger a dangerously abnormal heartbeat, his publicist and longtime friend Glenn Schwartz said in a statement.

“In addition to being the most iconic voice in comedy, Gilbert was a wonderful husband, brother, friend and father to his two young children. Although today is a sad day for all of us, please keep laughing as loud as possible in Gilbert’s honor,” his family said in a statement posted on Twitter.

Gottfried was a fiercely independent and intentionally bizarre comedian's comedian, as likely to clear a room with anti-comedy as he was to kill it with his jokes.

"The first comedian I saw who would go on and all the other comics would go in the room to watch,” standup comic Colin Quinn said on Twitter.

Biden waiving ethanol rule in bid to lower gasoline prices

MENLO, Iowa (AP) — With inflation at a 40-year high, President Joe Biden journeyed to corn-rich Iowa on Tuesday to announce a modest step aimed at trimming gasoline prices by about a dime a gallon at a limited number of stations by waiving rules that restrict ethanol blending.

His action reflects the ways Biden is deploying almost every weapon in his bureaucratic arsenal to ease price pressures, yet the impact appears to be small and uncertain. Inflation has only accelerated in recent months, instead of fading as Biden once promised it would after the recovery from the coronavirus recession following last year's $1.9 trillion relief package.

A government report Tuesday that consumer prices jumped 8.5% in March from a year ago — the worst reading since December 1981 — only deepened the political challenge for Biden and fellow Democrats ahead of this year's midterm elections. More than half the increase came from higher gas prices, which spiked in part because of Russia’s war in Ukraine, but costs also jumped for housing, food and other items.

Biden called the inflation report “Putin's price hike."

“Your family budget, your ability to fill up your tank, none of it should hinge on whether a dictator declares war and commits genocide a half a world away," the U.S. president said, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Blame Trump? Jury hears that defense at Capitol riot trial

WASHINGTON (AP) — Mentions of Donald Trump have been rare at the first few trials for people charged with storming the U.S. Capitol, but that changed Tuesday: The latest Capitol riot defendant to go on trial is blaming his actions on the former president and his false claims about a stolen election.

Dustin Byron Thompson, an Ohio man charged with stealing a coat rack from the Capitol, doesn't deny that he joined the mob on Jan. 6, 2021. But his lawyer vowed to show that Trump abused his power to “authorize” the attack.

Describing Trump as a man without scruples or integrity, defense attorney Samuel Shamansky said the former president engaged in a “sinister” plot to encourage Thompson and other supporters to “do his dirty work.”

“It’s Donald Trump himself spewing the lies and using his position to authorize this assault,” Shamansky told jurors Tuesday during the trial's opening statements.

Justice Department prosecutor Jennifer Rozzoni said Thompson knew he was breaking the law that day.

AP PHOTOS on Day 48: Ukraine takes stock as attacks continue

As Russia gears up for a major offensive in Ukraine's eastern Donbas region, Ukrainians took stock Tuesday of the death and destruction the war has wrought.

A man mourned his 82-year-old mother, who died in a retirement home due to sorely deteriorated conditions in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha, where the mayor said 403 bodies had been found. Nearby, as another funeral took place, a woman held one hand to her chest while clutching a portrait of Dmytro Stefienko, a 32-year-old civilian killed during the war, with the other.

Elsewhere in Bucha, forensic investigators investigating allegations of war crimes gathered at the site of a mass grave, a gold-domed church looming in the background. Volunteers in white biohazard suits loaded bodies into a truck.

Meanwhile in Kharkiv, Ukrainian firefighters scrambled to put out fires after Russian shelling destroyed a culinary school near the city's airport.

EXPLAINER: Why Finkenauer's Senate bid rests on 3 signatures

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa Democrat Abby Finkenauer’s hopes of running against Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley this fall may hinge on a state Supreme Court ruling on three petition signatures.

Finkenauer's campaign was thrown into turmoil this week after a judge overturned a panel's decision that she had qualified for the ballot. Finkenauer, a former one-term congresswoman, called the ruling “deeply partisan" and appealed to the Iowa Supreme Court.

The court, under pressure to rule quickly to meet deadlines to mail ballots to Iowa residents who live out of the country, will hear arguments Wednesday and likely will issue a decision within days. The state's primary is June 7.

Here's what you should know about the challenge to Finkenauer:

WHAT ARE THE LEGAL ARGUMENTS?

In Rio, rescue dogs watch out for their rescuers

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — In Rio de Janeiro, two rescue dogs have turned local mascots and budding online influencers after joining their rescuers' ranks, wooing their growing audience, one bark at a time.

Corporal Oliveira, a dog with short brown hair thought to be around four years old, turned up one morning in 2019 at a police station on Rio's Governador Island, injured and weak.

“I gave him food, water. It took a while for him to get used to me,” said Cpl. Cristiano Oliveira, the officer who took the dog under his wing and later gave him his name. But within a few days, Corporal Oliveira – the furry animal – started following his new master around the precinct. Oliveira has since joined another precinct, but the dog never left.

Corporal Oliveira has his own Instagram profile with more than 45,000 fervent followers, always hungry for more photos and videos of their mascot in his trademark police uniform, standing on top of police armoured vehicles, motorcycles or sticking his little head out of a regular patrol car's window. He even has a miniature toy firearm attached to his uniform.

A dozen miles from there, in the leafy and leftist neighborhood of Laranjeiras, another rescue dog has turned mascot.

In Cuba, crabs embark on perilous migration to Bay of Pigs

PLAYA GIRON, Cuba (AP) — Every year in Cuba, millions of crabs emerge from the forest at the beginning of the spring rains and head for the waters of the Bay of Pigs, crossing streets and highways on a perilous journey to mate and reproduce.

Now underway, the migration causes concern to drivers who try to swerve in an often futile attempt not to kill the crustaceans. The crabs are a nuisance to residents but the sight of their road-crossing is a wonder for tourists and other first-time onlookers.

“They got here before us,” said Amaury Urra, a 50-year-old hiking guide who spent his entire life in this part of the Ciénega de Zapata, the largest wetland in the Caribbean, particularly picturesque for the backdrop of turquoise sea waters and the coastal cliffs. ″We’re used to this.″

“Where I live, which is in the center of the town of Girón, the crabs don’t get there as much,″ though there are plenty on the outskirts, he said.

Located about 180 kilometers (110 miles) southeast of Havana, the area was the scene of a 1961 failed invasion by Cuban exiles who signed up for a covertly CIA-funded operation to overthrow Fidel Castro.

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