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AP News in Brief at 11:04 p.m. EDT

September 18, 2021 - 8:13 PM

Haitians on Texas border undeterred by US plan to expel them

DEL RIO, Texas (AP) — Haitian migrants seeking to escape poverty, hunger and a feeling of hopelessness in their home country said they will not be deterred by U.S. plans to speedily send them back, as thousands of people remained encamped on the Texas border Saturday after crossing from Mexico.

Scores of people waded back and forth across the Rio Grande on Saturday afternoon, re-entering Mexico to purchase water, food and diapers in Ciudad Acuña before returning to the Texas encampment under and near a bridge in the border city of Del Rio.

Junior Jean, a 32-year-old man from Haiti, watched as people cautiously carried cases of water or bags of food through the knee-high river water. Jean said he lived on the streets in Chile the past four years, resigned to searching for food in garbage cans.

“We are all looking for a better life,” he said.

The Department of Homeland Security said Saturday that it moved about 2,000 of the migrants from the camp to other locations Friday for processing and possible removal from the U.S. Its statement also said it would have 400 agents and officers in the area by Monday morning and would send more if necessary.

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One stunning afternoon: Setbacks imperil Biden's reset

WASHINGTON (AP) — It was an hour President Joe Biden would no doubt like to forget.

On Friday, the Pentagon acknowledged that a drone strike in Afghanistan killed 10 civilians, including seven children, not terrorists. A panel advising the Food and Drug Administration voted to not recommend COVID-19 booster shots for all Americans over age 16, dashing an administration hope. And France announced it was recalling its ambassador to the United States out of anger for being cut out of a secret nuclear submarine deal Biden had struck with the United Kingdom and Australia.

The headlines, all within an hour, underscored the perils for any president from situations that can define a term in office.

Already, Biden has seen public approval numbers trend downward as the pandemic has deepened and Americans cast blame for the flawed U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The administration had hoped to roll out tougher vaccine guidelines, a new international alliance to thwart China and a recommitment to what Biden has done best: drawing on his years on Capitol Hill and knowledge of the legislative process to cajole fellow Democrats to pass the two far-reaching spending bills that make up the heart of his agenda.

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French minister decries 'duplicity' in US-Australia sub deal

PARIS (AP) — France's foreign minister on Saturday denounced what he called the “duplicity, disdain and lies” surrounding the sudden rupture of France's lucrative contract to make submarines for Australia in favor of a U.S. deal and declared that a crisis is at hand among the Western allies.

A day after France recalled its ambassadors to the United States and Australia, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian pummeled what he suggested was a backroom deal that betrayed France.

The recalling of its ambassadors “signifies the force of the crisis today” between the French government and Washington and Canberra, he said in an interview on France 2 television. He said it was the first time ever that France, the United States' oldest ally, has recalled its ambassador to the U.S.

The announcement by President Joe Biden of the deal, alongside the leaders of Australia and Britain, for at least eight nuclear-powered submarines has set France in a fury. The French had signed a contract in 2016 for a dozen conventional diesel-electric submarines and the work to make them was already underway. The deal with French majority state-owned Naval Group was worth at least $66 billion.

Diplomatic niceties have gone out the window as French authorities seek to make their anger known.

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Fearful US residents in Afghanistan hiding out from Taliban

Every night in yet another house in Afghanistan’s capital, a U.S. green card-holding couple from California take turns sleeping, with one always awake to watch over their three young children so they can flee if they hear the footsteps of the Taliban.

They’ve moved seven times in two weeks, relying on relatives to take them in and feed them. Their days are an uncomfortable mix of fear and boredom, restricted to a couple of rooms where they read, watch TV and play “The Telephone Game” in which they whisper secrets and pass them on, a diversion for the children that has the added benefit of keeping them quiet.

All of it goes on during the agonizing wait for a call from anybody who can help them get out. A U.S. State Department official contacted them several days ago to tell them they were being assigned a case worker, but they haven’t heard a word since. They tried and failed to get on a flight and now are talking to an international rescue organization.

“We are scared and keep hiding ourselves more and more,” the mother said in a text message to The Associated Press. “Whenever we feel breathless, I pray.”

Through messages, emails and phone conversations with loved ones and rescue groups, AP has pieced together what day-to-day life has been like for some of those left behind after the U.S. military’s chaotic withdrawal -- that includes U.S. citizens, permanent U.S. resident green-card holders and visa applicants who aided U.S. troops during the 20-year war.

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Taliban replace ministry for women with 'virtue' authorities

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghanistan's new Taliban rulers set up a ministry for the “propagation of virtue and the prevention of vice" in the building that once housed the Women's Affairs Ministry, escorting out World Bank staffers on Saturday as part of the forced move.

It was the latest troubling sign that the Taliban are restricting women's rights as they settle into government, just a month since they overran the capital of Kabul. During their previous rule of Afghanistan in the 1990s, the Taliban had denied girls and women the right to education and barred them from public life.

Separately, three explosions targeted Taliban vehicles in the eastern provincial capital of Jalalabad on Saturday, killing three people and wounding 20, witnesses said. There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but Islamic State group's militants, headquartered in the area, are enemies of the Taliban.

The Taliban are facing major economic and security problems as they attempt to govern, and a growing challenge by IS militants would further stretch their resources.

In Kabul, a new sign was up outside the women's affairs ministry, announcing it was now the “Ministry for Preaching and Guidance and the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice.”

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Top doctors say not so fast to Biden's boosters-for-all plan

WASHINGTON (AP) — Just one month ago, President Joe Biden and his health advisers announced big plans to soon deliver a booster shot of the coronavirus vaccine to all Americans. But after campaigning for the White House on a pledge to “follow the science,” Biden found himself uncharacteristically ahead of it with that lofty pronouncement.

Some of the nation's top medical advisers on Friday delivered a stinging rebuke of the idea, in essence telling the White House: not so fast.

A key government advisory panel overwhelmingly rejected Biden's plan to give COVID-19 booster shots across the board and instead recommended the extra vaccine dose only for those who are age 65 or older or who run a high risk of severe disease.

Biden’s Aug. 18 announcement that the federal government was preparing to shore up nearly all Americans’ protection had been made with great fanfare. It was meant to calm the nerves of millions of Americans fearful of a new, more transmissible strain of the coronavirus.

“The plan is for every adult to get a booster shot eight months after you got your second shot,” Biden said, noting that his administration would be ready to begin the program on Sept. 20.

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Agents search in Wyoming for woman, in Florida for boyfriend

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Police searched a vast Florida wildlife reserve on Saturday for 23-year-old Brian Laundrie, a person of interest in the disappearance of his girlfriend, Gabrielle “Gabby” Petito, while across the country the FBI hunted for clues about the missing woman in a mountainous national park in Wyoming.

More than 50 North Port police officers, FBI agents and members of other law enforcement agencies searched the 24,000-acre (9,712-hectare) Carlton Reserve in the Sarasota, Florida area of the Gulf Coast.

Authorities used drones, scent-sniffing dogs and all-terrain vehicles in the reserve, which has more than 100 miles (160 kilometers) of trails, as well as campgrounds. Investigators took some of his clothing from his parents' home Friday night to provide a scent for the search dogs.

“His family says they believe he entered the area earlier this week," North Port Police tweeted Saturday.

Meanwhile, the FBI in Denver said Saturday that agents were conducting ground surveys at Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, with help from the National Park Service and local law enforcement agencies, seeking clues to Petito's disappearance. Her last known contact with family members was from the national park known for its mountainous terrain.

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In edgy Washington, police outnumber Jan. 6 protesters

WASHINGTON (AP) — In a city still on edge after the Jan. 6 insurrection, law enforcement bore down in large numbers on the Capitol on Saturday over concerns that a rally in support of the jailed rioters would turn violent. It didn’t.

The crowd was sparse and incidents were few. The only clear parallels to the riots more than eight months ago by supporters of Donald Trump were the false claims put forth by the rally organizers about the violence that January day when Congress met to certify the election of Joe Biden.

The low turnout also called into question whether such rallies will have any staying power as the organizers attempt to tap into the rage of Jan. 6 without the presence of the former president.

Law enforcement had prepared for a confrontation by erecting temporary fencing around the Capitol and deploying heavy dump trucks to ring the rally site. Local police departments and the U.S. National Guard were on standby.

The security might have been unnecessary in the end, but the volatility around the lie that the 2020 election was stolen and the presence of extremists and white nationalist groups on Jan. 6 have made it impossible to predict how such events will go.

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Mourners in California honor 3 Marines killed in Afghanistan

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (AP) — Mourners in California said prayers and their final goodbyes Saturday to three Marines killed in last month’s bombing in Afghanistan.

Family and friends of Lance Cpl. Kareem Nikoui packed a church in Riverside to celebrate the life of the 20-year-old Marine from Norco.

He was one of 13 U.S. troops killed in a horrific suicide bombing at Afghanistan’s Kabul airport, which also claimed the lives of more than 160 Afghans, on Aug. 26.

Nikoui sent videos to his family hours before he died, showing himself interacting with children in Afghanistan.

Phil Wozniak, pastor of Grace Fellowship Church Norco, said Nikoui pulled three families to safety and went back to the airport to rescue a child when the bomb went off.

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Trailblazing tourist trip to orbit ends with splashdown

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — Four space tourists safely ended their trailblazing trip to orbit Saturday with a splashdown in the Atlantic off the Florida coast.

Their SpaceX capsule parachuted into the ocean just before sunset, not far from where their chartered flight began three days earlier.

The all-amateur crew was the first to circle the world without a professional astronaut.

The billionaire who paid undisclosed millions for the trip and his three guests wanted to show that ordinary people could blast into orbit by themselves, and SpaceX founder Elon Musk took them on as the company’s first rocket-riding tourists.

“Your mission has shown the world that space is for all of us,” SpaceX Mission Control radioed.

News from © The Associated Press, 2021
The Associated Press

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