Biden tells Idalia's Florida victims 'your nation has your back.' DeSantis rejects meeting with him
LIVE OAK, Fla. (AP) — President Joe Biden on Saturday saw from the sky Hurricane Idalia's impact across a swath of Florida before he set out on a walking tour of a city recovering from the storm. Notably absent was Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican presidential candidate who declined to join Biden after he suggested that the Democrat's presence could hinder disaster response efforts.
Biden, when asked about his rival's absence, said he was not disappointed by the turn of events, but welcomed the presence of Rick Scott, one of the state's two Republican U.S. senators.
He pledged the federal government's total support for Floridians.
“I'm here today to deliver a clear message to the people of Florida and throughout the Southeast,” Biden said after the walking tour. He spoke outdoors near a church that had parts of its sheet metal roof peeled back by Idalia's powerful winds and a home half crushed by a fallen tree.
“As I’ve told your governor, if there’s anything your state needs, I’m ready to mobilize that support,” he continued. "Anything they need related to these storms. Your nation has your back and we’ll be with you until the job is done.’’
For at least a day, all the world is 'Margaritaville' in homage to Jimmy Buffett
KEY WEST, Florida (AP) — All the world was “Margaritaville” on Saturday, from Key West to New York City and beyond, as legions of fans mourned the passing of beach-bum balladeer Jimmy Buffett at the age of 76.
Buffett’s eponymous hit song has long been the anthem of Florida’s Key West, where Buffett once lived and built his enduring legacy.
“Everybody equates that song with our city,” said Clayton Lopez, a Key West city commissioner. “I mean, when you say Margaritaville, you’re talking about the city of Key West.”
The community planned a remembrance Sunday along Duval Street, home to some of Key West’s most well-known eateries and music venues, including the Chart Room, a dive bar where Buffett sang early in his career.
“He’s doing another show now, but it’s in the sky,” said Jimmy Weekley, who owns Fausto, a restaurant that is one of Key West’s landmarks.
DeSantis' redistricting map in Florida is unconstitutional and must be redrawn, judge says
A Florida redistricting plan pushed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis violates the state constitution and is prohibited from being used for any future U.S. congressional elections since it diminishes the ability of Black voters in north Florida to pick a representative of their choice, a state judge ruled Saturday.
Circuit Judge J. Lee Marsh sent the plan back to the Florida Legislature with instructions that lawmakers should draw a new congressional map that complies with the Florida Constitution.
The voting rights groups that challenged the plan in court “have shown that the enacted plan results in the diminishment of Black voters’ ability to elect their candidate of choice in violation of the Florida Constitution,” Marsh wrote.
The decision was the latest to strike down new congressional maps in Southern states over concerns that they diluted Black voting power.
In June, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a Republican-drawn map in Alabama, with two conservative justices joining liberals in rejecting the effort to weaken a landmark voting rights law. Not long after that, the Supreme Court lifted its hold on a Louisiana political remap case, increasing the likelihood that the Republican-dominated state will have to redraw boundary lines to create a second mostly Black congressional district.
Bill Richardson, a former governor and UN ambassador who worked to free detained Americans, dies
WASHINGTON (AP) — Bill Richardson, a two-term Democratic governor of New Mexico and an American ambassador to the United Nations who dedicated his post-political career to working to secure the release of Americans detained by foreign adversaries, has died. He was 75.
The Richardson Center for Global Engagement, which he founded and led, said in a statement Saturday that he died in his sleep at his home in Chatham, Massachusetts.
“He lived his entire life in the service of others — including both his time in government and his subsequent career helping to free people held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad,” said Mickey Bergman, the center's vice president. "There was no person that Gov. Richardson would not speak with if it held the promise of returning a person to freedom. The world has lost a champion for those held unjustly abroad and I have lost a mentor and a dear friend.”
President Joe Biden said Richardson seized every chance he had to serve in government and lauded his efforts to free Americans being held elsewhere. “He’d meet with anyone, fly anywhere, do whatever it took. The multiple Nobel Peace Prize nominations he received are a testament to his ceaseless pursuit of freedom for Americans,” the president said in a statement. “So is the profound gratitude that countless families feel today for the former governor who helped reunite them with their loved ones.”
Before his election in 2002 as governor, Richardson was U.S. envoy to the United Nations and energy secretary under President Bill Clinton and served 14 years as a congressman representing northern New Mexico.
Russia says it thwarted attacks on Crimea bridge. Shelling and strikes leave at least 3 dead
KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russia said Saturday its forces destroyed three Ukrainian naval drones being used in an attempt to attack a key bridge linking Russia to the Moscow-annexed Crimean Peninsula, forcing its temporary closure for a third time in less than a year.
One naval drone was destroyed late Friday and two others early Saturday morning, according to Russia’s Defense Ministry. There was no immediate comment from Ukrainian officials.
The Kerch bridge, which is a key supply route for Kremlin forces in Russia's war with Ukraine, has come under repeated attack since Russia launched its full-scale invasion.
An explosion in October, which Russian authorities said was caused by a truck bomb, left three people dead. A further attack on the bridge in July, killing a couple and seriously wounding their daughter, left a span of the roadway hanging perilously.
The bridge connecting Crimea and Russia carries heavy significance for Moscow, both logistically and psychologically, as a key artery for military and civilian supplies and as an assertion of Kremlin control of the peninsula it annexed in 2014.
Pope starts Mongolia visit by praising the country's religious freedom dating back to Genghis Khan
ULAANBAATAR, Mongolia (AP) — Pope Francis on Saturday praised Mongolia’s tradition of religious freedom dating to the times of its founder, Genghis Khan, as he opened the first-ever papal visit to the Asian nation with a word of encouragement to its tiny Catholic flock.
Francis met with President Ukhnaagiin Khurelsukh inside a traditional Mongolian ger, or round yurt, set up inside the state palace and wrote a message in the guest book that he was visiting “a country young and ancient, modern and rich of tradition,” as a pilgrim of peace.
Francis is in Mongolia to minister to one of the world's newest and smallest Catholic communities — around 1,450 Mongolians are Catholic — and make a diplomatic foray into a region where the Holy See has long had troubled relations, with Russia to the north and China to the south.
While Christianity has been present in the region for hundreds of years, the Catholic Church has only had a sanctioned presence in Mongolia since 1992, after the country abandoned its Soviet-allied communist government and enshrined religious freedom in its constitution.
While Catholicism is tolerated and legal, foreign missionaries working here lament that the government restricts their numbers and treats the church as a nongovernmental organization — limitations that the Holy See is hoping will be lifted with a comprehensive bilateral agreement.
An Ohio ballot measure seeks to protect abortion access. Opponents' messaging is on parental rights
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The wording of a proposed constitutional amendment on Ohio's fall ballot to ensure abortion rights seems straightforward: It would enshrine the right “to make and carry out one's own reproductive decisions.”
Yet as the campaigning for and against the nation's latest tug-of-war over abortion begins in earnest this weekend, voters are getting a different message from the measure's opponents. They are characterizing it as threatening a wide range of parental rights.
“As parents, it’s our worst nightmare," one particularly ominous online ad funded by Protect Women Ohio, the opposition campaign, says of November's Issue 1.
That ad suggests the amendment would let minors end pregnancies without parental permission, calling it “a potential reality so grim it’s hard to even imagine.” Another suggests parents would have no say in minors' ”sex change surgery."
It's no surprise that anti-abortion groups opposed to the amendment are promoting that message. They are trying to flip the script in how they talk to voters after a string of losses in statewide ballot fights since the U.S. Supreme Court ended a nationwide right to abortion last year.
Texas AG Ken Paxton's impeachment trial is in the hands of Republicans who have been by his side
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Billionaires, burner phones, alleged bribes: The impeachment trial of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is going to test the will of Republicans senators to oust not only one of their own, but a firebrand who has helped drive the state's hard turn to the right for years.
The historic proceedings set to start in the state Senate Tuesday are the most serious threat yet to one of Texas' most powerful figures after nine years engulfed by criminal charges, scandal and accusations of corruption. If convicted, Paxton — just the third official in Texas' nearly 200-year history to be impeached — could be removed from office.
Witnesses called to testify could include Paxton and a woman with whom he has acknowledged having an extramarital affair. Members of the public hoping to watch from the gallery will have to line up for passes. And conservative activists have already bought up TV airtime and billboards, pressuring senators to acquit one of former President Donald Trump's biggest defenders.
“It's a very serious event but it's a big-time show,” said Bill Miller, a longtime Austin lobbyist and a friend of Paxton. “Any way you cut it, it's going to have the attention of anyone and everyone.”
The build-up to the trial has widened divisions among Texas Republicans that reflect the wider fissures roiling the party nationally heading into the 2024 election.
Children hit hardest by the pandemic are now the big kids at school. Many still need reading help
They were the kids most disrupted by the pandemic, the ones who were still learning to write their names and tie their shoes when schools shut down in the spring of 2020.
Now, they’re the big kids at elementary schools across the United States. Many still need profound help overcoming the effects of the pandemic.
To catch up, schools have deployed a wide range of strategies. And among some incoming fourth-graders, there are encouraging signs of gains. But as this generation progresses, many will need extra reading support that schools are not as accustomed to providing for older students.
Beyond third grade, fewer teachers each year know how to help students who are lacking key foundational reading skills, said Elizabeth Albro, an executive at the U.S. Department of Education’s independent research arm, the Institute of Education Sciences.
“ Middle and high school teachers aren’t expecting to have to teach kids how to read,” Albro said.
More than a meal: Restaurant-based programs feed seniors' social lives
GOFFSTOWN, N.H. (AP) — A group of friends and neighbors meets for a weekly meal, choosing from a special menu of nutritious foods paid for by social programs meant to keep older adults eating healthy.
They’re all over 60, and between enjoying butternut squash soup, sandwiches, oats and eggs, they chat and poke fun about families, politics, and the news of the day.
But if you’re imagining people gathering for lunch in a senior center, think again.
Long before COVID put a pause on social gatherings, some senior centers were losing their lunch appeal. Others didn’t reopen after the pandemic.
Enter this elegant solution that’s gained popularity: give some of the federal and state money set aside to feed seniors to struggling restaurants and have them provide balanced meals with more choices, flexible timing and a judgment-free setting that can help seniors get together to chat and stem loneliness.
The Associated Press