Author: Worldcrew

US House Removes McCarthy as Speaker of the House

For the first time in U.S. history, a speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives — who is second in the presidential line of succession — has been removed from office. VOA’s congressional correspondent Katherine Gypson has more.

What Are the Next Steps as US House Searches for New Speaker?

The U.S. House of Representatives for the first time in its history has booted its speaker out of the job, as infighting in the narrow and bitterly divided Republican majority toppled Kevin McCarthy from the position. 

Here is a look at what comes next: 

Is there an acting speaker? 

Immediately following Tuesday’s 216-210 ouster vote, Republican Representative Patrick McHenry, a McCarthy ally, was appointed acting speaker pro tempore. He can serve for only a very limited time — up to three legislative days in this case. 

The acting speaker pro tempore’s duties are vague, according to a guide to the chamber’s rules and procedures: That person “may exercise such authorities of the office of speaker as may be necessary and appropriate pending the election of a speaker or speaker pro tempore.” 

While the speaker sets the overall legislative agenda in the House, it is the House majority leader who schedules specific bills to debated and voted upon in the chamber.   

Republican Representative Kelly Armstrong told reporters that McHenry’s main task will be to “get us a new speaker.” Anything further, he said, would spark a move to oust McHenry.   

A freeze on legislating? 

Until a House speaker is installed, it is unlikely that further action will be taken on bills to fund the government, with lawmakers facing a November 17 deadline to provide more money or face a partial government shutdown. 

Battles over those bills and anger over McCarthy’s failure to win extremely deep spending cuts sought by hard-right conservatives sparked the successful move by Representative Matt Gaetz to unseat him. 

What are House Republicans, Democrats doing? 

The House’s 221 Republicans and 212 Democrats huddled privately to figure out their next steps — both political and legislative. 

Each party was expected to try to settle on a candidate for speaker. That’s fairly easy for Democrats as they are solidly behind Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, who ran for speaker in January against McCarthy and other candidates. 

Republicans, because of their obvious divisions, especially among a small group of hard-line conservatives seeking very deep cuts in federal spending, could have a harder time settling on a candidate. 

McHenry could have an advantage now that he is acting speaker. It was unclear whether he wants the job. McCarthy is not barred from running again, although he said later Tuesday he would not seek it. 

The House finds itself in an unprecedented moment and so it was unclear exactly how quickly an election will be held in the full House. Normally, the elections for speaker are scheduled at the start of the new Congress every two years. 

When will the next speaker election be? 

The leaders of both parties will have to decide when they are ready to enter into the process of electing a speaker. 

The January endeavor was sloppy as McCarthy for days could not get enough votes to win and had to endure 15 ballots. 

It could be at least as chaotic this time around for Republicans, unless they conclude that such chaos is creating a public backlash that could doom their election prospects in 2024 and they unite. 

Who can run for speaker?  

Under the U.S. Constitution, the House speaker does not have to be a member of Congress. That is the reason some Republicans have floated the name of former President Donald Trump for the job, even though he is running for president and has said he does not want the job. 

US Aid to Ukraine Could Hinge on Who Becomes House Speaker

Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s ouster could signal a shift in the U.S. House of Representatives on aid to Ukraine, with some of his possible successors strongly in favor of assisting Kyiv, but others staunchly opposed. 

The House voted for the first time on Tuesday to remove its leader, as eight of McCarthy’s fellow Republicans voted with 208 Democrats against him. There was no immediate indication of who might succeed McCarthy, but the next speaker could quash more Ukraine aid before a proposal reaches the House floor if that person opposes the idea. 

The vote to oust McCarthy came just three days after he led the House to pass a stopgap spending bill to prevent a government shutdown that included no new money for Ukraine, highlighting the reluctance of some members of his caucus to back Ukraine funds. 

A Ukraine “report card” by Defending Democracy Together’s “Republicans for Ukraine” campaign rated the leading candidates on the strength of their support for past Ukraine aid. Republican opponents of the aid view it as excessive spending and a misplaced U.S. policy priority. 

Those ratings ranging from A to F — signifying support or opposition to prior bills — could indicate how likely each would be to bring Ukraine aid to a vote if he becomes speaker. 

Representative Tom Emmer, the House Republican whip, got the highest rating, an A. Representative Steve Scalise, the No. 2 House Republican, has long been favored to take over as speaker after McCarthy and received one notch lower, a B.   

Representative Matt Gaetz, who led the push to oust McCarthy, has said he would support Scalise. 

Gaetz himself, House Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan and hardline rising star Representative Byron Donalds all received Fs. 

The White House said on Tuesday it was confident that the United States would ultimately provide more assistance for Ukraine, no matter the fate of McCarthy’s speakership. 

McCarthy, who got a B-minus grade, early this week denied accusations by Gaetz that he had cut “a secret deal” with Biden to allow the House to vote on Ukraine aid. McCarthy said then he wanted more information from the Biden administration. 

President Joe Biden asked Congress in July to approve another $24 billion related to Ukraine, which Ukraine supporters — Republicans as well as Democrats — had hoped could become law as part of a spending bill. 

Moscow Seeks to Sentence Exiled TV Journalist to Nearly 10 Years in Prison

Russian prosecutors are seeking a 9½-year sentence for a fugitive former state TV journalist who famously stormed a live news broadcast in protest a few weeks after Russia invaded Ukraine.

Marina Ovsyannikova, who formerly worked as an editor at state-controlled Channel One in Russia, now lives in exile in France after escaping house arrest and fleeing Russia with her daughter last year.

Now, prosecutors are demanding the nearly decadelong sentence at Ovsyannikova’s trial in absentia for distributing “fake news.”

This news comes a few days after American journalist Evan Gershkovich marked six months in a Russian jail over espionage charges that he and the U.S. government vehemently deny.

Ovsyannikova’s first protest took place less than three weeks after Russia invaded Ukraine. She stormed a studio of Channel One during a live broadcast holding a placard that read, “Stop the war” and “They’re lying to you.”

The “fake news” charge relates to a protest in July 2022 when she stood on a river embankment across from the Kremlin with a poster calling Russian President Vladimir Putin a murderer.

Since the war in Ukraine began, Moscow has targeted several Russian dissident journalists through trials in absentia over their criticism related to the war in Ukraine. Such criticism is effectively illegal in Russia.

The Russian Embassy in Washington did not immediately reply to VOA’s email requesting comment.

Biden Assures Allies of Continued Ukraine Support

U.S. President Joe Biden called key Western allies on Tuesday to reassure them of continued American military support for Ukraine’s fight against Russia after hardline right-wing congressional Republicans over the weekend forced the exclusion of immediate new funding for Kyiv.

The White House said Biden spoke with the leaders of Canada, Germany, Italy, Japan, Poland, Romania, Britain, and of the European Union and NATO, along with the foreign minister of France.

“President Biden convened a call this morning with allies and partners to coordinate our ongoing support for Ukraine,” the White House said in a statement. 

Later, White House national security spokesman John Kirby said Biden reaffirmed the strong commitment of the United States to supporting Ukraine as it defends itself “for as long as it takes, as did every other leader on the call.”

Kirby said the leaders discussed efforts to continue providing Ukraine with the ammunition and the weapons systems that it needs to defend itself and to continue strengthening Ukrainian air defenses as they prepare for more attacks on critical infrastructure. “Now, certainly, but also certainly in the winter months ahead,” Kirby said.

Biden had sought more Ukraine aid as Congress engaged in an 11th-hour debate Saturday to avert a partial government shutdown at midnight, just ahead of the start of the government’s new fiscal year Sunday morning. Congress approved government funding through mid-November but no new Ukraine aid.

Some right-wing Republicans have balked at new funding for Kyiv, contending that Ukraine’s fight against Russia is not a strategic U.S. national security interest, although the large majority of U.S. lawmakers still appear to support more aid. 

Democrat Biden has called for Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to rush through new aid over the objection of some Republicans, saying that U.S. support for Kyiv as it battles Russia’s invasion could not be interrupted “under any circumstances.” The Democratic-controlled Senate already appears set to approve further assistance.

“Speaker McCarthy and the majority of House Republicans must keep their word and secure passage of the support needed to help Ukraine as it defends itself,” Biden said earlier Tuesday on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“We are the indispensable nation in the world — let’s act like it,” Biden said. The president has also warned that not much time remains before existing funding runs out.

Russia on Monday called the political chaos in Washington a sign that Western war fatigue would grow amid the uncertainty over U.S. assistance for Ukraine.

McCarthy’s fate as the leader of the narrow Republican majority in the House of Representatives is also in question, with the hardline bloc of his caucus moving Tuesday to oust him from his leadership position for cooperating with Democrats to approve the short-term funding bill to keep the government open for the next seven weeks.

Ukraine downs Russian drones

Ukraine’s air force said Tuesday it destroyed 29 drones and a cruise missile that Russia used to attack Ukrainian regions overnight.

The Ukrainian military said most of the drones targeted the Mykolaiv region in southern Ukraine and the Dnipropetrovsk region in the central part of the country. 

Serhiy Lysak, the regional governor of Dnipropetrovsk, said falling debris from the intercepts damaged an industrial site in the city of Pavlohrad and caused a fire at a private firm in Dnipro.

The attacks followed renewed pledges of support from the European Union, as EU foreign ministers met Monday in Kyiv.

Western aid for Ukraine has come under political pressure after a pro-Russian candidate won an election in Slovakia, an EU and NATO member. The Ukrainian military counter-offensive has also been slower than Western leaders had hoped before autumn mud clogs the treads of their donated tanks.

“Our victory explicitly depends on our cooperation — the more powerful and principled steps we take together, the sooner this war will end,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told the EU foreign ministers during the meeting. 

Zelenskyy noted that Ukraine continues to protect its people and its economy from continuous Russian attacks, that its counteroffensive aimed at liberating its occupied territories is progressing steadily and reminded the EU leadership that Ukraine needs more money, more weapons and more military training to achieve its goals. He also asked them to intensify sanctions against Russia.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock called for efforts to prepare Ukraine for the coming winter, including through air defense and guaranteed energy supplies, after Russia bombed Ukraine’s energy infrastructure last year.

“Last winter, we saw the brutal way in which the Russian president is waging this war,” said Baerbock. “We must prevent this together with everything we have, as far as possible.”

French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna said holding the meeting in Ukraine’s capital was a show of “resolute and lasting support for Ukraine.”

“It is also a message to Russia that it should not count on our weariness. We will be there for a long time to come,” Colonna told reporters.

Dutch Foreign Minister Hanke Bruins Slot said Russia must be held accountable for its aggression in Ukraine and that it is important to pressure Russia with sanctions.

“We have to do whatever it takes, as long as it takes, for the freedom of the people of Ukraine,” she said.

Russia Shelling

At least two people were killed and 10 injured, including children, by Russian shelling of Ukraine’s southern region of Kherson on Tuesday. Regional governor Oleksandr Prokudin said on the Telegram messaging app that Russian forces pounded residential areas, shops, medical facilities and other infrastructure overnight. 

In the eastern city of Kharkiv, which is located near the Russian border, officials announced plans to build a school entirely underground in response to frequent Russian bomb and missile attacks.

Students have used online courses and met in Kharkiv’s metro stations to avoid the dangers.

Mayor Ihor Terekhov said on Telegram that the new underground school “will enable thousands of Kharkiv children to continue their safe face-to-face education even during missile threats.”

Some information for this story came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.

Meta Plans to Charge Europeans for Ad-Free Facebook, Instagram, Source Says

Meta is proposing to offer European users subscription-based versions of Instagram and Facebook if they would rather not be tracked for ads, a source said on Tuesday.

The idea, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, comes as the social media giant seeks to comply with a growing list of EU regulations designed to curb the power of U.S. big tech.

The company founded by Mark Zuckerberg makes its billions of dollars in profit by offering advertisers highly individualized data on users, but new European regulations and EU court decisions have made that practice harder to do.

The proposal has been put to EU regulators and is another example of big tech companies having to adapt long-held practices to meet oncoming EU rules.

The source close to the matter said subscribers in Europe could pay $10.50 a month for a desktop version of Instagram or Facebook, or $13.50 a month for Instagram on their phones.

Social media platforms have increasingly floated the idea of charging users for access to their sites, whether to comply with data privacy regulations or better guarantee the identity of users.

But the practice would be a major shift for the social media industry that grew exponentially over the past decade on an advertising model that made the site free for users in return for being tracked and seeing highly personalized ads.

The proposal could help meet several regulations, including the Digital Markets Act, which imposes a list of do’s and don’ts on big tech companies in Europe, including a ban on tracking users when they surf other sites if their consent hasn’t been clearly granted.

It also follows the recommendation of the EU’s highest court, which in a July decision said that Meta platform users who declined to be tracked should be offered an ad-free alternative “for an appropriate fee.”

That ruling echoed many previous rulings against Meta and other big tech firms in which the court ruled that the U.S. company must ask for permission to collect large amounts of personal data, striking down various workarounds that Meta had offered.

Meta declined to comment directly on the Wall Street Journal report but said in a statement that it still “believes in the value of free services which are supported by personalized ads.”

“However, we continue to explore options to ensure we comply with evolving regulatory requirements.”

Meta reported second-quarter revenues of $32 billion, of which $31.5 billion came from advertising. Some $7.2 billion of that came from Europe.

Texas Lawmaker Back to Work After Being Carjacked at Gunpoint

U.S. Representative Henry Cuellar has returned to work after a Monday night carjacking in which three masked men held him at gunpoint in Washington, D.C.

Speaking to the press on Tuesday, the Texas Democrat said that he was unscathed and made light of the situation. “[The police] recovered the car. They recovered everything. But what really got me upset is [the suspects] took my sushi.”

Cueller said that although the men wore masks and knit caps, he could tell that they were young. An eyewitness who alerted a nearby U.S. Capitol Police agent described the suspects as probably around the age of 16. “[They] swarmed [Cuellar’s] vehicle, pointed firearms in his face and demanded the keys to the car.”

“I looked at one with a gun, another with a gun, and I felt one behind me,” Cuellar said. “They said they wanted my car, and I said, ‘Sure.’ You got to keep calm under those situations, and they took off.”

Cuellar handed his keys to the men, who were dressed in black. No one was injured.

United States Capitol Police officers canvassed the area and recovered the congressman’s stolen phone. The Metropolitan Police Department later found Cuellar’s Toyota Crossover at another location.

Cuellar’s chief of staff, Jacob Hochberg, said in a statement on Monday evening that Cuellar “is working with local law enforcement.”

On Tuesday, Cuellar praised the police response and said that his “message is very simple: You’ve got to support law enforcement.”

In a Tuesday meeting with fellow House Democrats, Representative Brad Schneider of Illinois said colleagues told Cuellar they are glad he is safe.

“It could have been so much worse,” Schneider said. “We just pray for him.”

Monday’s carjacking was the second violent crime against a congressperson in Washington this year. In February, Representative Angie Craig, a Minnesota Democrat, was attacked in her apartment complex. She escaped with only bruises.

Some information for this report was provided by the Associated Press.

Trump Claims He’s Worth More, Not Less Than Disputed Values of His Assets

Former U.S. President Donald Trump claimed Tuesday he is “worth far more” than the listed assets at stake in his New York civil real estate fraud case, not less as state Attorney General Letitia James has alleged.

Trump voluntarily showed up to hear testimony for a second straight day after assailing James on his Truth Social media site, calling her a “Monster” and a “Trump Deranged Lunatic.” James has accused Trump of inflating the values of his real estate assets on financial forms to get better interest rates on business loans and lower insurance premiums.

But Trump declared the opposite is true.

“In actuality, I am WORTH FAR MORE than the numbers put down on the Financial Statements, not less,” he said.

Walking into court, Trump contended to reporters that his winter-time retreat, the oceanside Mar-a-Lago resort in the southern state of Florida, is worth $1.5 billion, compared to the $18 million valuation listed by Florida tax officials. 

Trump, the leading 2024 Republican presidential contender, said James “should be reprimanded and sanctioned for bringing this case with its FAKE LOW VALUES, in order to make me look bad. Election Interference!”

James is seeking fines of up to $250 million against Trump, his two adult sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, a takeover of key real estate assets held by the Trump Organization and revocation of their right to do business in New York.

Judge Arthur Engoron, hearing and deciding the case without a jury, last week made an initial ruling that the former U.S. leader had committed fraud in the valuations of his assets listed on financial forms and now is considering other issues in a trial that could last nearly through the end of the year.

Trump has called Engoron a “rogue judge” who should reverse his fraud ruling and dismiss the case.

“He’s been given false information, misleading information and corrupt information by a very corrupt and incompetent Attorney General Letitia James,” Trump said. 

Trump claims that real estate experts often disagree on asset valuations and noted that his financial forms contain a disclaimer clause that the information in it should not necessarily be trusted.

Moreover, he says that whatever loans he got using the disputed valuations were repaid, meaning that lenders were not victimized if his asset valuations proved to be incorrect.

“It’s a scam. It’s a sham,” Trump said Monday on the opening day of the case.

“My best asset is my brand,” Trump declared. “We have a great company.”

In granting a partial summary judgment on James’s case last week, Judge Engoron cited “false and misleading square footage” of Trump’s Fifth Avenue apartment among the faulty valuations. The 19,000 square foot discrepancy — a calculation not subject to interpretation — resulted in an estimated property value inflation “between $114-207 million dollars.”

James told reporters, “Donald Trump and the other defendants have committed persistent and repeated fraud. My message is simple: No matter how powerful you are, no matter how much money you think you may have, no one is above the law. Justice will prevail.”

Trump was not required to appear at the trial but the stakes are high for him, personally and politically. As a politician, he often has characterized himself as a successful multibillionaire who could run the country like a chief executive officer runs a successful company.

But rulings in the case could tarnish that image, and he could lose control of some of his prized assets. Engoron’s fraud ruling last week, if upheld on appeal, would shift control of some of Trump’s companies to a court-appointed receiver and could force him to give up high-end New York properties, such as Trump Tower, a Wall Street office building, golf courses and a suburban estate.

Trump called it a “a corporate death penalty.”

Trump did not appear in court as either a witness or a spectator when his company and one of its top executives were convicted of tax fraud last year. He didn’t show, either, for a trial earlier this year in which a jury found him liable for sexually assaulting the writer E. Jean Carroll in a New York department store dressing room and ordered him to pay her $5 million.

In addition to the business fraud case, in the coming months Trump is facing another civil defamation case brought by Carroll and four criminal indictments. 

In the criminal cases, Trump, 77, faces 91 allegations. He could be sent to prison for years if he is convicted on any of them.

In two of the cases, he is accused of illegally trying to overturn his 2020 election loss to President Joe Biden. In the other cases, he is accused of illegally hoarding highly classified national security documents at Mar-a-Lago when he left office in early 2021 and falsifying Trump Organization business records to hide hush money payments to a pornographic film actress ahead of his successful 2016 run for the presidency.

Three of the cases are set for trial in the first half of 2024 during Trump’s political campaign, although pre-trial legal wrangling could delay their start. 

Spanish Court Investigates Deadly Nightclub Fire

A court in Spain’s southeastern city of Murcia opened an investigation into a fire that tore through two adjoining discos, killing 13 people. It is the country’s deadliest nightclub fire in more than 30 years.

The discos, Teatre and Fondo Milagros, were popular dance spots, located on the outskirts of town. In January 2022, city officials ordered the venues closed after Teatre’s owner divided the building it was in to establish Fondo Milagros.

The order was disregarded.

The fire erupted just before sunrise Sunday. Authorities said the inferno probably spread quickly through air vents.

A firefighter said that six of the bodies were found clustered in restrooms, perhaps because people were hiding from the smoke, while the other seven bodies were scattered across a mezzanine above the entrance. In the restroom, a wall gave way and covered two of the dead in rubble.

The goal of the probe is to determine whether the fire broke out because of negligence, the city’s top prosecutor Jose Luis Diaz Manzanera said in an interview with La Opinion de Murcia, the local newspaper.

If the tragedy arose from recklessness, he said, those responsible for the deaths could face a maximum of nine years in prison. Diaz Manzanera promised an “exhaustive” search to uncover the truth of what happened.

“We must go centimeter by centimeter, checking everything,” he said. “Let’s see how it ends up. There may have been a short circuit that was not caused by negligence.”

Law enforcement and a team of forensic investigators scoured the site on Monday to gather evidence.

By Monday night, police said that they had identified six victims using fingerprints but that naming the remaining seven would prove “very difficult.”

The victims’ family members have turned in toothbrushes, combs and other toiletries to law enforcement hoping DNA samples can aid in the identification process.

“No father or mother can, or should, have to go through a tragedy like this,” Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Tuesday. He called the eyewitness testimony “heartbreaking.”

Macedonian-Born Soccer Coach’s Winning Legacy in Maryland

For 31 years Macedonian-born Sasho Cirovski coach has instilled his passion for excellence into the University of Maryland’s soccer program. The result is success on and off the field. VOA’s Jane Bojadzievski reports. Camera, edit: Larz Lacoma

Hunter Biden Pleads Not Guilty to 3 Federal Gun Charges

Hunter Biden pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to three federal firearms charges filed after a plea deal imploded, putting the case on track toward a possible trial as the 2024 election looms. 

His lawyer Abbe Lowell said in court he plans to file a motion to dismiss the case, challenging their constitutionality. 

President Joe Biden’s son faces charges that he lied about his drug use in October 2018 on a form to buy a gun that he kept for about 11 days. 

He’s acknowledged struggling with an addiction to crack cocaine during that period, but his lawyers have said he didn’t break the law. Gun charges like these are rare, and an appeals court has found the ban on drug users having guns violates the Second Amendment under new Supreme Court standards. 

Hunter Biden’s attorneys are suggesting that prosecutors bowed to pressure by Republicans who have insisted the Democratic president’s son got a sweetheart deal, and that the charges were the result of political pressure. 

He was indicted after the implosion this summer of his plea agreement with federal prosecutors on tax and gun charges. The deal devolved after the judge who was supposed to sign off on the agreement instead raised a series of questions about the deal. Federal prosecutors had been looking into his business dealings for five years, and the agreement would have dispensed with criminal proceedings before his father was actively campaigning for president in 2024. 

Now, a special counsel has been appointed to handle the case, and there appears no easy end in sight. No new tax charges have yet been filed, but the special counsel has indicated they could come in Washington or in California, where Hunter Biden lives. 

In Congress, House Republicans are seeking to link Hunter Biden’s dealings to his father’s through an impeachment inquiry. Republicans have been investigating Hunter Biden for years, since his father was Barack Obama’s vice president. While questions have arisen about the ethics surrounding the Biden family’s international business, no evidence has emerged so far to prove that Joe Biden, in his current or previous office, abused his role or accepted bribes. 

The legal wrangling could spill into 2024, with Republicans eager to divert attention from the multiple criminal indictments faced by GOP primary front-runner Donald Trump, whose trials could be unfolding at the same time. 

After remaining silent for years, Hunter Biden has taken a more aggressive legal stance in recent weeks, filing a series of lawsuits over the dissemination of personal information purportedly from his laptop and his tax data by whistleblower IRS agents who testified before Congress as part of the GOP probe. 

The president’s son, who has not held public office, is charged with two counts of making false statements and one count of illegal gun possession, punishable by up to 25 years in prison upon conviction. Under the failed deal, he would have pleaded guilty and served probation rather than jail time on misdemeanor tax charges and avoided prosecution on a gun count if he stayed out of trouble for two years. 

Defense attorneys have argued that he remains protected by an immunity provision that was part of the scuttled plea agreement, but prosecutors overseen by special counsel David Weiss disagree. Weiss also serves as U.S. attorney for Delaware and was originally appointed by Trump. 

Hunter Biden had asked for Tuesday’s hearing to be conducted remotely over video feed, but U.S. Magistrate Judge Christopher Burke sided with prosecutors, saying there would be no “special treatment.” 

Winner of Nobel Prize in Physics to be Announced

The annual Nobel Prize announcements continue Tuesday in the Swedish capital Stockholm when the winner – or winners – of the physics prize will be revealed. 

The 2022 Nobel Prize in Physics was shared by Alain Aspect of France, John Clauser of the United States and Anton Zeilinger of Austria. 

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, which awards the prize, cited the three scientists for “pioneering quantum information science.”

The committee said each man carried out “groundbreaking experiments using entangled quantum states, where two particles behave like a single unit even when they are separated.”

The Nobel announcements began Monday with the prize in Medicine going to Hungary’s Kataline Kariko and Drew Weissman of the United States for their joint research that led to the rapid development of the mRNA COVID vaccines. 

The Nobel laureates for chemistry, literature and peace will be announced Wednesday through Friday, while economics will be announced Monday. 

All the categories except economics were established in the will of 19th century Swedish businessman Alfred Nobel, who made a fortune with his invention of dynamite.  The first Nobel Prizes were awarded in 1901, five years after his death. 

The economics prize was established in 1968 by Sweden’s central bank Sveriges Riksbank in Nobel’s memory, with the first laureates, Norway’s Ragnar Frisch and Jan Tinbergen of the Netherlands, announced the next year. 

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse.

Turkey Detains Dozens Following Ankara Attack

Turkey said Tuesday it detained at least 67 people suspected of having links to a Kurdish militant group.

Interior Minister Yerlikaya said authorities carried out raids in 16 provinces.

The sweeps targeting alleged members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, came days after the group claimed responsibility for a suicide bomb attack in Ankara that injured two police officers.

Turkey launched airstrikes hours later against PKK sites in northern Iraq, where the group is based.

The PKK, which is designated as a terror organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union, has waged a decades-long insurgency in Turkey.

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters

US House Speaker Faces Ouster Threat 

U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is facing a threat to his leadership position after a fellow member of the Republican Party, Rep. Matt Gaetz, filed a motion to force a vote on removing McCarthy.

Gaetz filed the motion to vacate on Monday, setting the stage for a vote in coming days.

McCarthy seemingly dismissed the challenge in a post on X, writing, “Bring it on.”

A vote to remove McCarthy would require a simple majority in the 435-member House. Republicans hold control of the chamber with a 221-212 majority over opposition Democrats.

The challenge from Gaetz came days after McCarthy relied on votes from a Democratic bloc to pass a short-term funding measure and avoid a federal government shutdown.

McCarthy became House speaker in January after repeated rounds of voting that saw Gaetz and other Republicans oppose his candidacy. One concession that led to McCarthy’s ultimate election was agreeing to allow any single member to call for a vote to oust the speaker.

No speaker of the House has ever been removed from the post.

Some information for this story came from The Associated Press and Reuters.

Armenia’s Parliament Votes to Join the International Criminal Court, Straining Ties With Ally Russia 

The Armenian parliament on Tuesday voted to join the International Criminal Court, which earlier this year indicted Russian President Vladimir Putin for war crimes connected to the deportation of children from Ukraine.  

The move is likely to further strain Armenia’s deteriorating relation with its ally Russia, which last month called Yerevan’s push to join the ICC an “unfriendly step.”  

Countries that have signed and ratified the Rome Statute that created the ICC are bound to arrest Putin if he sets foot on their soil.  

Armenian officials say the effort to join ICC has nothing to do with Russia and was prompted by Azerbaijan’s aggression against the country. 


Pope Suggests Blessings for Same-Sex Unions Possible

Pope Francis has suggested there could be ways to bless same-sex unions, responding to five conservative cardinals who challenged him to affirm church teaching on homosexuality ahead of a big meeting where LGBTQ+ Catholics are on the agenda.

The Vatican published a letter Monday that Francis wrote to the cardinals on July 11 after receiving a list of five questions, or “dubia,” from them a day earlier. In it, Francis suggests that such blessings could be studied if they didn’t confuse the blessing with sacramental marriage.

New Ways Ministry, which advocates for LGBTQ+ Catholics, said the letter “significantly advances” efforts to make LGBTQ+ Catholics welcomed in the church and is “one big straw toward breaking the camel’s back” in their marginalization.

The Vatican holds that marriage is an indissoluble union between man and woman. As a result, it has long opposed gay marriage. But even Francis has voiced support for civil laws extending legal benefits to same-sex spouses, and Catholic priests in parts of Europe have been blessing same-sex unions without Vatican censure.

Francis’ response to the cardinals, however, marks a reversal from the Vatican’s current official position. In an explanatory note in 2021, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said flat-out that the church couldn’t bless gay unions because “God cannot bless sin.”

In his new letter, Francis reiterated that matrimony is a union between a man and a woman. But responding to the cardinals’ question about homosexual unions and blessings, he said “pastoral charity” requires patience and understanding and that regardless, priests cannot become judges “who only deny, reject and exclude.”

“For this reason, pastoral prudence must adequately discern whether there are forms of benediction, requested by one or more persons, that do not transmit a mistaken conception of marriage,” he wrote. “Because when a benediction is requested, it is expressing a request for help from God, a plea to be able to live better, a trust in a father who can help us to live better.”

He noted that there are situations that are objectively “not morally acceptable.” But he said the same “pastoral charity” requires that people be treated as sinners who might not be fully at fault for their situations.

Francis added that there is no need for dioceses or bishops’ conferences to turn such pastoral charity into fixed norms or protocols, saying the issue could be dealt with on a case-by-case basis “because the life of the church runs on channels beyond norms.”

Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, welcomed the pope’s openness.

“The allowance for pastoral ministers to bless same-gender couples implies that the church does indeed recognize that holy love can exist between same-gender couples, and the love of these couples mirrors the love of God,” he said in a statement. “Those recognitions, while not completely what LGBTQ+ Catholics would want, are an enormous advance towards fuller and more comprehensive equality.”

The five cardinals, all of them conservative prelates from Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas, had challenged Francis to affirm church teaching on gays, women’s ordination, the authority of the pope and other issues in their letter.

They published the material two days before the start of a major three-week synod, or meeting, at the Vatican at which LGBTQ+ Catholics and their place in the church are on the agenda.

The signatories were some of Francis’ most vocal critics, all of them retired and of the more doctrinaire generation of cardinals appointed by St. John Paul II or Pope Benedict XVI.

They were Cardinals Walter Brandmueller of Germany, a former Vatican historian; Raymond Burke of the United States, whom Francis axed as head of the Vatican supreme court; Juan Sandoval of Mexico, the retired archbishop of Guadalajara; Robert Sarah of Guinea, the retired head of the Vatican’s liturgy office; and Joseph Zen, the retired archbishop of Hong Kong.

Brandmueller and Burke were among four signatories of a previous round of “dubia” to Francis in 2016 following his controversial opening to letting divorced and civilly remarried couples receive Communion. Then, the cardinals were concerned that Francis’ position violated church teaching on the indissolubility of marriage. Francis never responded to their questions, and two of their co-signatories subsequently died.

Francis did respond this time around. The cardinals didn’t publish his reply, but they apparently found it so unsatisfactory that they reformulated their five questions, submitted them to him again and asked him to simply respond with a yes or no. When he didn’t, the cardinals decided to make the texts public and issue a “notification” warning to the faithful.

The Vatican’s doctrine office published his reply to them a few hours later, though it did so without his introduction in which he urged the cardinals to not be afraid of the synod.

Serbia Reduces Army Presence Near Kosovo After US Expressed Concern

The Serbian army has cut the number of troops stationed on the border with Kosovo by nearly half, top Serbian military officials said Monday, denying U.S. and other reports of a mass military buildup in the wake of a shooting over a week ago that killed four people and raised fears of instability in the volatile region. 

Troop numbers are now at their “regular” level of some 4,500 soldiers, reduced from 8,350 in the wake of violence on September 24 in northern Kosovo between heavily armed Serb gunmen and Kosovo police, the Serbian Army Chief of Staff Gen. Milan Mojsilovic said at a news conference. 

He said troop numbers in the past had reached 14,000 soldiers and that unlike several times in the recent past, the army had not raised its combat readiness, so “from the military point of view I see no reason for such [critical] comments” by both U.S. and European Union officials. 

Mojsilovic and Serbia’s Defense Minister Milos Vucevic also denied reports by Kosovo officials that the Serbian army trained and armed the group of some 30 men involved in the shootout in the northern Kosovo village of Banjska that left a Kosovo police officer and three insurgents dead. 

Mojsilovic added the army training sometimes includes Serb reservists from Kosovo, a former Serbian territory whose 2008 declaration of independence Belgrade does not recognize, but that they were not part of the group that took part in the clashes. 

Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti said on X, the former Twitter, that the “terrorists who carried out the attacks” recently trained at two bases in Serbia and that “the attackers enjoyed the full support & planning of the Serbian state” with a wider plan to “annex” the north of Kosovo. 

Such accusations present an “intellectual insult,” Mojsilovic said in Belgrade. 

The incident in Banjska has raised concern in the West of possible instability in the Balkans as war also rages in Ukraine. U.S. and EU officials have been trying to negotiate an agreement to normalize relations between Serbia and Kosovo following their 1998-99 war after which NATO intervened to force Serbia to pull out of the province. 

In Brussels, European Commission spokesman Peter Stano said the military buildup near Kosovo was “very concerning and needs to stop immediately.” Stano urged a thorough investigation into the Kosovo incident with full cooperation from Serbia, a candidate nation for EU membership. 

“There is no place for arms and [a] security forces buildup on the European continent,” said Stano. “All forces need to stand down.” 

There was no immediate comment from NATO on the reports of the Serbian army pullout from the border zone. John Kirby, spokesperson for the White House National Security Council, Friday described the Serbian troop movement as an “unprecedented staging of advanced Serbian artillery, tanks and mechanized infantry units.” 

NATO last week announced it was beefing up its peacekeeping presence in Kosovo by some 200 British troops in the wake of the crisis. Spokesperson Dylan White signaled Sunday that this would not be all, saying “further reinforcements will follow from other Allies.” 

KFOR already comprises around 4,500 troops from 27 nations as part of the peacekeeping mission established after the NATO bombing of Serbia in 1999. An agreement that ended the conflict also defines relations with the Serbian military and its presence in the border area. 

“Cooperation with KFOR is good and continuous,” said Vucevic. “The Serbian army believes additional presence of KFOR units [in Kosovo,] and primarily in the areas where Serbs live, would improve the security situation. 

“If the army of the Republic of Serbia receives an order from the president, as the commander in chief, for its units to enter the territory of Kosovo and Metohija as part of the Republic of Serbia, the Army of Serbia would perform such a task efficiently, professionally and successfully,” Vucevic said, adding that KFOR would be informed in advance of such a decision. 

Kosovo officials have said they are also investigating possible Russian involvement in the violence. Serbia is Russia’s main ally in Europe, and there are fears in the West that Moscow could try to stir trouble in the Balkans to avert attention from the war in Ukraine. 

Serbia insists the insurgents were local ethnic Serbs fed up with constant harassment from the Kosovo government. Belgrade also claims at least one of the killed insurgents was executed after he was injured, rather than killed in the fighting. 

Judge Plans May Trial for US Senator Bob Menendez in Bribery Case

A judge is planning a spring trial for U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez and his wife, who are accused of accepting bribes of cash, gold bars and a luxury car from three New Jersey businessmen who sought the senator’s help and influence over foreign affairs.

The tentative trial date of May 6 would come just one month before New Jersey’s June 4 primary, meaning it could still be underway when voters start casting ballots on whether to return Menendez to the Senate. An attorney for the government gave the judge an estimate of four to six weeks.

An indictment last month charged the Democrat, formerly the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, with taking payouts in exchange for corrupt acts that included passing information to Egyptian military and intelligence officials. Among other things, prosecutors accused Menendez of ghostwriting a letter for Egyptian officials that sought to influence U.S. policy on military aid.

The indictment also said Menendez used his influence to try and pressure state and federal prosecutors in New Jersey into giving lenient treatment to friends or associates who were the subject of criminal investigations and interceded with U.S. regulators to protect an associate’s business deal.

Authorities found nearly $500,000 in cash, much of it hidden in clothing and closets, as well as more than $100,000 in gold bars in a search of the New Jersey home Menendez, 69, shares with his wife, Nadine.

Menendez has pleaded not guilty and said the cash found in the house was personal savings he had squirreled away for emergencies.

Menendez was excused from being present for Monday’s court hearing in New York City after his lawyers said he needed to be in Washington for Senate business. The judge declined similar requests from Nadine Menendez and her co-defendants, Wael Hana, Jose Uribe and Fred Daibes. All four have also said they are innocent.

Prosecutors have accused Hana of being a conduit between Menendez and Egyptian officials. They said Hana gave Nadine Menendez a job, gave her money to make mortgage payments, wrote checks to her consulting company, promised envelopes of cash and gave her gold bars. They said Menendez used his post to facilitate foreign military sales and financing to Egypt, which gave Hana’s business a lucrative, worldwide monopoly over religious certification for imported meat.

More than half of Senate Democrats have said that Menendez should resign, including fellow New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has as well. Menendez has said he intends to stay in the Senate, saying he is certain he will ultimately be exonerated.

Monday’s court hearing in the Menendez case took place just a short walk from where former President Donald Trump was appearing in court in a civil fraud lawsuit.

Besides setting a trial date, Judge Sidney Stein gave prosecutors a December deadline to turn over certain evidence to the defense.

Montana Appeals Landmark Climate-Change Ruling Favoring Youth Plaintiffs

The office of Montana’s Republican attorney general is appealing a landmark climate change ruling that said state agencies aren’t doing enough to protect 16 young plaintiffs from harm caused by global warming.

The state filed notice Friday that it is going to appeal the August ruling by District Court Judge Kathy Seeley, who found the Montana Environmental Policy Act violates the plaintiffs’ state constitutional right to a clean and healthful environment. The 1971 law requires state agencies to consider the potential environmental impacts of proposed projects and take public input before issuing permits.

Under a change to that law passed by the 2023 Legislature, the state Department of Environmental Quality does not have to consider the effect of greenhouses gases when issuing permits for fossil fuel projects unless the federal government declares carbon dioxide a regulated pollutant.

The plaintiffs argued they were already feeling the consequences of climate change, with smoke from worsening wildfires choking the air they breathe and droughts drying rivers that sustain agriculture, fish, wildlife and recreation. The state argued that the volume of greenhouse gases released from Montana fossil fuel projects was insignificant compared to the world’s emissions.

Seeley’s ruling, which followed a first-of-its-kind trial in the U.S. in June, added to a small number of legal decisions around the world that have established a government duty to protect citizens from climate change.

Last week in France, the European Court of Human Rights heard arguments from six young Portuguese people and their lawyers who said 32 European governments were violating their human rights by failing to address climate change.

It will likely be several months before the state of Montana files its brief laying out its appeal of Seeley’s ruling, Bowen Greenwood, clerk of the Montana Supreme Court, said Monday.

In the meantime, the state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is asking Montana residents to weigh in on potential updates to the Montana Environmental Policy Act, or MEPA. The administrative rules to implement the law were passed in the 1980s.

“These regulations are showing their age and it’s time to hear from Montanans about what MEPA should look like today and into the future,” Chris Dorrington, director of the DEQ, said in a statement.

Montanans are being asked what changes, if any, are needed to modernize the regulations and how greenhouse gas emissions and climate change should be analyzed. At least three public hearings are scheduled this month, including one Monday night in Billings. The DEQ is also taking public comment online through the end of the year.

The issue is being considered now, Dorrington said, in part because of the successful legal challenge by Montana youth.

“We want to start a thoughtful dialogue about greenhouse gas emissions and other topics, and we are seeking input that is balanced and driven by sound science,” he said.

Iran Says It Opposes ‘Geopolitical Changes’ in Caucasus

Iran said Monday it opposes any “geopolitical changes” in the Caucasus, where it has long been angered over Azerbaijan’s desire to set up a transport link along the Armenian-Iranian border.

Foreign ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanani, while voicing support for Azerbaijan’s reclamation of the separatist Nagorno-Karabakh region last month, said Tehran is “against making geopolitical changes in the region and this is our clear position.”  

He was referring to the Zangezur land corridor which would connect mainland Azerbaijan to its exclave of Nakhchivan and then to Turkey.

Relations between Baku and Tehran have been traditionally sour, as Turkic-speaking Azerbaijan is a close ally of Iran’s historical rival Turkey.

Following a lightning Azerbaijani military offensive which recaptured the separatist Nagorno-Karabakh enclave to the east of Zangezur last month, some experts believe that Azerbaijan’s leader Ilham Aliyev could now seek to launch operations in southern Armenia to create territorial continuity with Nakhchivan.

Armenian separatists, who had controlled Nagorno-Karabakh for three decades, agreed to disarm, dissolve their government and reintegrate with Baku.

Nakhchivan does not share a border with Azerbaijan but has been tied to Baku since the 1920s — and is located between Armenia, Turkey and Iran.

The annexation of this corridor, strategic to Tehran, would cut off Iran’s access to Armenia and consequently to Europe.

Kanani was commenting after the secretary of Armenia’s Security Council, Armen Grigoryan, met Sunday with his Iranian counterpart, Ali Akbar Ahmadian, during a visit to Tehran.

They discussed “the latest developments in the South Caucasus” and “military movements in the region,” Kanani said.

“We have always supported the return of these occupied territories to Azerbaijan,” he said, referring to Nagorno-Karabakh.

The Islamic Republic, bordering Azerbaijan and Armenia, has an Azeri-speaking community of around 10 million people, as well as an Armenian community of just under 100,000 people.

Ties between Azerbaijan and Iran soured in January when a gunman stormed into Baku’s embassy in Tehran.

He killed a diplomat and wounded two embassy security guards.

Tehran fears that its archenemy, Israel, also a major weapons supplier to Azerbaijan, could use Azerbaijani territory for an offensive against Iran. 

New IOM Chief Seeks More Regular Pathways for Migration

On assuming her post as the new director general of the International Organization for Migration, Amy Pope said that one of her main priorities was to build more regular pathways for migration for people who have lost hope for a viable future and cannot stay home. 

“I am taking the helm of IOM at a time of unprecedented movement around the world,” she told journalists in Geneva on Monday. She also said conflicts, the inability to find a job or a future at home, or violence within neighborhoods or communities, drove more and more people “to find a better life somewhere else.”

The IOM estimates there were about 281 million international migrants in the world in 2020, about 3.6% of the global population.

Pope, the first woman to head IOM in its 72-year history, said the No. 1 goal of the organization she leads “is to really harness the benefits and the promise of migration.”

Pope said it was important to build up more regular channels because the current situation was not tenable.

“If we do not work with member states to build out more regular pathways for people who are in need of movement, we will continue to see overwhelming appeals for asylum systems and people coming up to borders trying to cross the Mediterranean,” she said.

She said this situation was playing out in many parts of the world. In the Americas, for example, she said the number of people on the move and the profile of people on the move has evolved considerably.

“We are seeing people from all over the world show up and try to cross the Darien these days,” she said, referring to the Darien Gap migration route, a perilous stretch of jungle between Colombia and Panama.  

Hundreds of thousands of people cross this dangerous territory every year in hopes of reaching the United States.

Pope said people make this journey because there are not enough regular avenues for people who are desperate to find work and improve their impoverished lives.

“Right now, when we look at the opportunities that exist, most people are searching out asylum pathways. And so, they are crossing the Darien because they look to present themselves at a border to seek asylum at that border,” she said.

Though many do not qualify, she said people continue to claim asylum because they see this as the only option open for them.

“That, to me, says that we collectively, with our member states and with the support of IOM, need to build up more regular pathways.

“Whether they are labor pathways, whether they are other humanitarian or family reunification pathways, we need to ensure that people who cannot stay at home have a safe way to move without going through extremely dangerous jungle,” she said.

Pope leaves for the Horn of Africa on Sunday. She said she chose this region as her first mission abroad because more than 80% of migration takes place within the African continent.

“Ultimately, our job as a U.N. organization is not to focus just on South to North migration, which I know occupies a lot of political space and a lot of print space, but to work with communities across the world to enable migration and outcomes no matter where they happen,” she said.

Pope begins her trip in Ethiopia, where she will meet with the African Union Commission and government officials, and then travel to Kenya, Somalia and Djibouti.

A focus of her visit, she said, was to identify safe pathways and opportunities across the African continent and see how IOM can ensure migration enables development within countries in Africa.  

“We have seen increased migration heading south down to South Africa. We know that migrants along the route often are facing discrimination, dangers, a lot of violence along the way, and often when they land,” she said, adding that it was crucial to build awareness and better pathways for them.

Pope said she also will seek solutions for African migrants who are going to the Gulf for work. She likely was referring to the Gulf of Aden, where the IOM has been dealing with problems relating to Somali and Ethiopian migrants crossing into Yemen to reach Saudi Arabia for work.

“There have been many troubling reports about the treatment of migrants coming back from the Gulf,” she said.

Pope said she wants to ensure better protection for migrants against exploitation and better access to services.

Regarding the state of West African migrants, the IOM chief called the situation in Niger, which recently went through its third coup in less than two years, particularly worrying. She said that many African migrants expelled from Algeria were among some 5,000 migrants currently in eight transit centers in Niger waiting to go home.

“We are very much advocating to have some humanitarian corridor that is open so that we can allow the migrants who want to go home to be able to go home safely,” she said.

Pope refuted arguments that migrants were a drain on society. She said overwhelming evidence showed that migration benefits economies. 

“When you look at economies that have had a significant influx of migrants over the years, if you look at how they are performing in the future, we see overwhelmingly that people tend to be better off as a result of migration,” she said.  

Kyiv Official Urges More Cost-Effective Weapons for Countering Russia Drones

A senior Ukrainian official called on Monday for a reassessment of Western anti-aircraft systems being supplied to Ukraine, saying simpler and cheaper weapons could be more cost-efficient in countering Russia’s Iranian-made Shahed drones.

The Shahed drones are deployed in Russian attacks virtually every day. Ukraine has become skilled at downing them though some still hit industrial and residential sites despite Moscow’s assurances that it does not target civilians.

Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said the issue was not just one of securing more anti-aircraft systems “but primarily solving a mathematical problem lying in the economics of war.”

While Western systems, like NASAMS and Iris-T, were used to down missiles, he said, using them to intercept Shaheds may not be cost-effective, Podolyak wrote in English on the X platform, formerly Twitter.

“Thus, it leads to depletion of allied stockpiles and long-term weakening,” Podolyak wrote.

“The solution is obvious: in addition to mobile large-caliber machine guns, there are plenty of simpler and cheaper anti-aircraft systems available today that have proven themselves to be effective against Shaheds. These include Gepard and Vampire.”

The Gepard is an anti-aircraft-gun tank made in Germany. The U.S.-made Vampire counter-drone system consists of a laser-guided missile launcher than can be installed on a truck bed.

Such scaling-down, Podolyak wrote, “will minimize the effect of Russian ‘raids’ and ensure long-term stability of Ukrainian skies and our neighboring NATO countries.”

Ukraine has relied heavily on arms supplies from Western countries in facing the 19-month-old Russian invasion and in launching a counteroffensive in June aimed at recovering the roughly 18% of its territory held by Moscow’s troops.

Zelenskyy and other officials have stressed in recent weeks the importance of developing Ukraine’s own arms industry and in jointly developing weapons with Western companies.

Armenian Exodus From Nagorno-Karabakh Ebbs as Azerbaijan Moves to Reaffirm Control

The last bus carrying ethnic Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh left the region Monday, completing a grueling weeklong exodus of over 100,000 people — more than 80% of its residents — after Azerbaijan reclaimed the area in a lightning military operation. 

The bus that entered Armenia carried 15 passengers with serious illnesses and mobility problems, said Gegham Stepanyan, Nagorno-Karabakh’s human rights ombudsman. He called for information about any other residents who want to leave but have had trouble doing so. 

In a 24-hour military campaign that began on Sept. 19, the Azerbaijani army routed the region’s undermanned and outgunned Armenian forces, forcing them to capitulate. Separatist authorities then agreed to dissolve their government by the end of this year. 

While Baku has pledged to respect the rights of ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh, most of them hastily fled the region, fearing reprisals or losing the freedom to use their language and practice their religion and customs. 

The Armenian government said Monday that 100,514 of the region’s estimated 120,000 residents have crossed into Armenia. 

Armenian Health Minister Anahit Avanesyan said some people had died during the exhausting and slow journey over the single mountain road into Armenia that took as long as 40 hours. The exodus followed a nine-month Azerbaijani blockade of the region that left many suffering from malnutrition and lack of medicines. 

Sergey Astsetryan, 40, one of the last Nagorno-Karabakh residents to leave the region in his own vehicle Sunday, said some elderly people have decided to stay, adding that others might return if they see it’s safe for ethnic Armenians to live under Azerbaijani rule. 

“My father told me that he will return when he has the opportunity,” Astsetryan told reporters at a checkpoint on the Armenian border. 

Azerbaijani authorities moved quickly to reaffirm control of the region, arresting several former members of its separatist government and encouraging ethnic Azerbaijani residents who fled the area amid a separatist war three decades ago to start moving back. 

The streets of the regional capital, Stepanakert, which Azerbaijanis call Khankendi, appeared empty and littered with trash, with doors of deserted shops flung open. Azerbaijani police checkpoints were set up on the city’s edges. 

Russian peacekeeping troops could be seen on a balcony of one building, and others were at their base outside the city, where their vehicles were parked.

On Sunday, Azerbaijan prosecutors issued an arrest warrant for former Nagorno-Karabakh leader Arayik Harutyunyan, who led the region before stepping down at the beginning of September. Azerbaijani police arrested one of Harutyunyan’s former prime ministers, Ruben Vardanyan, on Wednesday as he tried to cross into Armenia. 

“We put an end to the conflict,” Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said in a speech Monday. “We protected our dignity, we restored justice and international law.” 

He added that “our agenda is peace in the Caucasus, peace in the region, cooperation, shared benefits, and today, we demonstrate that.” 

After six years of separatist fighting ended in 1994 following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Nagorno-Karabakh came under the control of ethnic Armenian forces, backed by Armenia. After a six-week war in 2020, Azerbaijan took back parts of the region in the south Caucasus Mountains along with surrounding territory that Armenian forces had captured earlier. 

Armenian authorities have accused the Russian peacekeepers, who were deployed to Nagorno-Karabakh after the 2020 war, of standing idle and failing to stop the Azerbaijani onslaught. The accusations were rejected by Moscow, which argued that its troops didn’t have a mandate to intervene. 

The mutual accusations have further strained the relations between Armenia and its longtime ally Russia, which has accused the Armenian government of a pro-Western tilt. 

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan alleged Thursday that the exodus of ethnic Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh amounted to “a direct act of ethnic cleansing and depriving people of their motherland.” 

Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry strongly rejected Pashinyan’s accusations, arguing their departure was “their personal and individual decision and has nothing to do with forced relocation.” 

A United Nations delegation arrived Sunday in Nagorno-Karabakh to monitor the situation. The mission is the organization’s first to the region for three decades, due to the “very complicated and delicate geopolitical situation” there, U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said Friday. 

Local officials dismissed the visit as a formality. Hunan Tadevosyan, spokesperson for Nagorno-Karabakh’s emergency services, said the U.N. representatives had come too late and the number of civilians left in the regional capital of Stepanakert could be “counted on one hand.” 

“We walked around the whole city but found no one. There is no general population left,” he said. 

Trump Says He Will be in Courtroom for New York Trial

With control over some of his most prized real estate holdings in jeopardy, former President Donald Trump says he will make a rare, voluntary trip to court in New York on Monday for the start of a civil trial in a lawsuit that already has resulted in a judge ruling that he committed fraud in his business dealings.

“I’m going to Court tomorrow morning to fight for my name and reputation,” Trump wrote Sunday night on his Truth Social platform.

Trump lashed out in his post at New York Attorney General Letitia James, who is suing him, and Judge Arthur Engoron, who is presiding over the non-jury trial and made the fraud ruling last week.

“THIS WHOLE CASE IS SHAM!!!” Trump wrote. “See you in Court — Monday morning.”

The trial is the culmination of a yearslong investigation by James, who accused Trump and his company of habitually lying about his wealth in financial statements.

Last week, Engoron resolved the lawsuit’s top claim before the trial even began, ruling that Trump routinely deceived banks, insurers and others by exaggerating the value of assets on paperwork used in making deals and securing loans.

The former president and a who’s who of people in his orbit — his two eldest sons, Trump Organization executives and former lawyer-turned-foe Michael Cohen are all listed among dozens of potential witnesses.

Trump isn’t expected to testify for several weeks. His trip to court Monday will mark a remarkable departure from his past practice.

Trump didn’t come to court as either a witness or a spectator when his company and one of its top executives was convicted of tax fraud last year. He didn’t show, either, for a trial earlier this year in which a jury found him liable for sexually assaulting the writer E. Jean Carroll in a department store dressing room.

In some ways, though, this new trial comes with higher stakes.

James, a Democrat, is seeking $250 million in penalties and a ban on doing business in New York.

Engoron’s ruling of last week, if upheld on appeal, would also shift control of some of his companies to a court-appointed receiver and could force him to give up prized New York properties such as Trump Tower, a Wall Street office building, golf courses and a suburban estate.

Trump called it a “a corporate death penalty.”

“I have a Deranged, Trump Hating Judge, who RAILROADED this FAKE CASE through a NYS Court at a speed never before seen,” Trump wrote on his Truth Social platform.

In his post Sunday night, Trump wrote that Engoron is “unfair, unhinged, and vicious in his PURSUIT of me.”

Engoron will decide on six remaining claims in James’ lawsuit, including allegations of conspiracy, falsifying business records and insurance fraud.

James’ lawsuit accused Trump and his company of a long list of fibs in the financial statements he gave to banks. In a recent court filing, James’ office alleged Trump exaggerated his wealth by as much as $3.6 billion.

Among the allegations were that Trump claimed his Trump Tower apartment in Manhattan — a three-story penthouse replete with gold-plated fixtures — was nearly three times its actual size and worth an astounding $327 million. No apartment in New York City has ever sold for close to that amount, James said.

Trump valued Mar-a-Lago as high as $739 million — more than 10 times a more reasonable estimate of its worth, James claimed. Trump’s figure for the private club and residence was based on the idea that the property, now a private club, could be developed for residential use, but deed terms prohibit that, James said.

Trump has denied wrongdoing, arguing in sworn testimony for the case that it didn’t matter what he put on his financial statements because they have a disclaimer that says they shouldn’t be trusted.

He and his lawyers have also argued that no one was harmed by anything in the financial statements. Banks he borrowed money from were fully repaid. Business partners made money. And Trump’s own company flourished.

James’ lawsuit is one of several legal headaches for Trump as he campaigns for a return to the White House in next year’s election. He has been indicted four times since March, accused of plotting to overturn his 2020 election loss, hoarding classified documents and falsifying business records related to hush money paid on his behalf.

The trial could last into December, Engoron said.

Temperatures in Spain Shatter Records as October Kicks Off

The start of October in Spain this year has been the warmest since records began, the country’s meteorological agency AEMET said on Monday, with nearly 40% of weather stations recording maximum temperatures above 32 degrees Celsius (89.6 Fahrenheit).

The early autumn season is so far offering Spaniards little respite after a summer with four heatwaves spread out over 24 days, part of a global pattern of rising temperatures that is widely attributed by scientists to human activity.

“In most of the Iberian Peninsula, temperatures on Oct. 1 were between seven and 14 degrees above normal for this time of the year,” said AEMET spokesperson Ruben del Campo, adding almost 100 individual records had been beaten on Sunday.

Two cities in south-central Spain, Badajoz and Montoro, broke the heat record for continental Spain during the month of October with 38 C and 38.2 C, respectively. The previous record was 37.5 C, documented in the resort city of Marbella in October 2014.

The weather station at Madrid’s iconic Retiro Park, which is over a century old, equaled its October record of 30 C set in 1930.

“The footprint of climate change is manifested in the fact that such warm spells are now much more frequent and more intense,” Del Campo told state broadcaster TVE.

He added that future summers would not only be hotter, but also longer, extending into the traditionally mild and rainy autumn.


Things to Know About the Nobel Prizes

Fall has arrived in Scandinavia, which means Nobel Prize season is here.

The start of October is when the Nobel committees get together in Stockholm and Oslo to announce the winners of the yearly awards.

First up, as usual, is the Nobel Prize in medicine or physiology, which will be announced Monday by a panel of judges at the Karolinska Institute in the Swedish capital. The prizes in physics, chemistry, literature, peace and economics will follow, with one announcement every weekday until Oct. 9.

Here are some things to know about the Nobel Prizes:

An Idea More Powerful Than Dynamite

The Nobel Prizes were created by Alfred Nobel, a 19th-century businessman and chemist from Sweden. He held more than 300 patents, but his claim to fame before the Nobel Prizes was having invented dynamite by mixing nitroglycerine with a compound that made the explosive more stable.

Dynamite soon became popular in construction and mining as well as in the weapons industry. It made Nobel a very rich man. Perhaps it also made him think about his legacy, because toward the end of his life he decided to use his vast fortune to fund annual prizes “to those who, during the preceding year, have conferred the greatest benefit to humankind.”

The first Nobel Prizes were presented in 1901, five years after his death. In 1968, a sixth prize was created, for economics, by Sweden’s central bank. Though Nobel purists stress that the economics prize is technically not a Nobel Prize, it’s always presented together with the others.

Peace in Norway

For reasons that are not entirely clear, Nobel decided that the peace prize should be awarded in Norway and the other prizes in Sweden. Nobel historians suspect Sweden’s history of militarism may have been a factor.

During Nobel’s lifetime, Sweden and Norway were in a union, which the Norwegians reluctantly joined after the Swedes invaded their country in 1814. It’s possible that Nobel thought Norway would be a more suitable location for a prize meant to encourage “fellowship among nations.”

To this day, the Nobel Peace Prize is a completely Norwegian affair, with the winners selected and announced by a Norwegian committee. The peace prize even has its own ceremony in the Norwegian capital of Oslo on Dec. 10 — the anniversary of Nobel’s death — while the other prizes are presented in Stockholm.

What’s politics got to do with it?

The Nobel Prizes project an aura of being above the political fray, focused solely on the benefit of humanity. But the peace and literature awards, in particular, are sometimes accused of being politicized. Critics question whether winners are selected because their work is truly outstanding or because it aligns with the political preferences of the judges.

The scrutiny can get intense for high-profile awards, such as in 2009, when President Barack Obama won the peace prize less than a year after taking office.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee is an independent body that insists its only mission is to carry out the will of Alfred Nobel. However, it does have links to Norway’s political system. The five members are appointed by the Norwegian Parliament, so the panel’s composition reflects the power balance in the legislature.

To avoid the perception that the prizes are influenced by Norway’s political leaders, sitting members of the Norwegian government or Parliament are barred from serving on the committee. Even so, the panel isn’t always viewed as independent by foreign countries. When imprisoned Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo won the peace prize in 2010, Beijing responded by freezing trade talks with Norway. It took years for Norway-China relations to be restored.

Gold and glory

One reason the prizes are so famous is they come with a generous amount of cash. The Nobel Foundation, which administers the awards, raised the prize money by 10% this year to 11 million kronor (about $1 million). In addition to the money, the winners receive an 18-carat gold medal and diploma when they collect their Nobel Prizes at the award ceremonies in December.

Most winners are proud and humbled by joining the pantheon of Nobel laureates, from Albert Einstein to Mother Teresa. But two winners refused their Nobel Prizes: French writer Jean-Paul Sartre, who turned down the literature prize in 1964, and Vietnamese politician Le Duc Tho, who declined the peace prize that he was meant to share with U.S. diplomat Henry Kissinger in 1973.

Several others were not able to receive their awards because they were imprisoned, such as Belarusian pro-democracy activist Ales Bialiatski, who shared last year’s peace prize with human rights groups in Ukraine and Russia.

Lack of diversity

Historically, the vast majority of Nobel Prize winners have been white men. Though that’s started to change, there is still little diversity among Nobel winners, particularly in the science categories.

To date, 60 women have won Nobel Prizes, including 25 in the scientific categories. Only four women have won the Nobel Prize in physics and just two have won the economics prize.

In the early days of the Nobel Prizes, the lack of diversity among winners could be explained by the lack of diversity among scientists in general. But today critics say the judges need to do a better job at highlighting discoveries made by women and scientists outside Europe and North America.

The prize committees say their decisions are based on scientific merit, not gender, nationality or race. However, they are not deaf to the criticism. Five years ago, the head of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said it had started to ask nominating bodies to make sure they don’t overlook “women or people of other ethnicities or nationalities in their nominations.”