Category: USA

Striking Actors Hope to Match Writers’ Success at Curtailing AI

Hollywood actors on strike want to limit the use of Artificial Intelligence in moviemaking, hoping for the same success as Hollywood writers, who ended their five-month strike last week after a deal with major studios. From Los Angeles, Genia Dulot has our story. Video edit: Bakhtiyar Zamanov

Native Americans Challenging Proposed Rio Tinto Copper Mine

Federal judges are considering an appeal from a Native American group seeking to block a copper mine from being dug on land sacred to the Western Apache in the southwestern state of Arizona. From Arizona, Levi Stallings has our story

Work on Funding Foreign, Humanitarian Aid at Standstill Amid US House Turmoil

The U.S. Congress is at a standstill Wednesday, with its lower house paralyzed by the ousting of its speaker and lawmakers facing a deadline six weeks away to approve spending bills and avoid a government shutdown.

The lack of a functioning House of Representatives, and the prospects of losing more days to identifying and electing a speaker candidate who can garner enough support, leaves in limbo several important spending bills, including those providing for foreign military financing, international humanitarian aid and efforts to counter China’s influence.

Lawmakers in the Republican-majority House are not expected to hold any further votes this week. Instead, Democrats and Republicans will discuss who might lead the narrowly divided chamber through a period that will require agreement not only among themselves, but eventually with the Democrat-led Senate before the spending bills can be enacted.

Recent history suggests selecting the new speaker may not be a quick process.  Former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who was ousted Tuesday, needed 15 rounds of voting in January to earn the post.  He had to make several concessions to conservative holdouts in his party, including a rule that a single lawmaker could call for a vote to remove him as speaker.

Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz brought such a motion Monday, expressing frustration in McCarthy’s leadership after McCarthy failed to pass a government funding bill last week with conservative spending priorities. 

The slim Republican majority in the House meant that Gaetz needed only a handful of Republicans to vote along with Democrats to oust McCarthy in the 216-210 vote. The majority of Republicans voted to keep McCarthy in leadership.

It was the first time in U.S. history that House members had voted to remove the speaker.

While eligible to seek the role again, McCarthy announced Tuesday night he would not seek reelection to the speakership.

“I can continue to fight, maybe in a different manner, and will not run for speaker again,” McCarthy told reporters.

As in the recent negotiations on averting a federal government shutdown, the slim Republican majority in the House meant that Democrats had the numbers to influence the vote on McCarthy.    

In a “Dear Colleague” letter to Democrats Tuesday morning, Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries urged his caucus to vote to remove McCarthy from the speakership.   

“House Democrats remain willing to find common ground on an enlightened path forward. Unfortunately, our extreme Republican colleagues have shown no willingness to do the same. It is now the responsibility of the GOP members to end the House Republican Civil War,” Jeffries said in the letter.  

McCarthy spoke with Jeffries Monday night. McCarthy said he told Jeffries, “You guys do whatever you need to do. I get politics. I understand where people are. I truly believe, though, in the institution of the House at the end of the day. If you throw a speaker out that has 99% of their conference, that kept government open and paid the troops, I think we’re in a really bad place for how we’re going to run Congress.”

Lahaina Residents Deliver Petition Asking Hawaii Governor To Delay Tourism Reopening

Residents from fire-stricken Lahaina Tuesday delivered a petition asking Hawaii Gov. Josh Green to delay plans to reopen a portion of West Maui to tourism starting this weekend, saying the grieving community is not ready to welcome back visitors. 

The petition signed by 3,517 people from West Maui zip codes comes amid a fierce and anguished debate over when travelers should return to the region home to the historic town of Lahaina that was destroyed in the deadliest U.S. wildfire in more than a century.  

At least 98 people died in the Aug. 8 blaze and more than a dozen are missing. The first phase of the plan to reopen Maui to tourists begins Sunday, the two-month anniversary of the disaster.

Though many residents say they are not ready, others say they need tourism so they can work in hotels and restaurants to earn a living.

“We are not mentally nor emotionally ready to welcome and serve our visitors. Not yet,” restaurant bartender Pa‘ele Kiakona said at a news conference before several dozen people delivered the petition. “Our grief is still fresh and our losses too profound.”

Tamara Paltin, who represents Lahaina on the Maui County Council, said two months may seem like a long time, but she noted Lahaina residents didn’t have reliable cellphone service or internet for the first month after the fire and have been coping with uncertain housing. She said many people, including herself, can’t sleep through the night.

Paltin urged the governor to decide on when to reopen after consulting residents in an “open and transparent way.”

Several dozen people dressed in red T-shirts went to Green’s koa wood-paneled executive chambers to deliver the signatures in person. Green was not in his office, so his director of constituent services, Bonnelley Pa’uulu, accepted the box on his behalf. Altogether, 14,000 people signed the petition as of midday Tuesday.

Green told the Hawaii News Now interview program “Spotlight Now” shortly afterward that he was “utterly sympathetic” to people’s suffering. But he said more than 8,000 people have lost their jobs due to the fire and getting people back to work was part of recovering.

“It’s my job as governor to support them, to be thoughtful about all people and to make sure Maui survives, because people will otherwise go bankrupt and have to leave the island, have to move out of Maui,” he said. “Local people — these are middle-class people that lived in Lahaina — will have to leave if they don’t have jobs.”

Maui, which is famous around the world for its beaches and waterfalls, is among the most tourism-dependent islands in Hawaii. 

The number of visitors plummeted 70% after the fire when Green and tourism officials discouraged “non-essential travel” to the island. University of Hawaii economists estimate unemployment will top 10% on Maui, compared to 2.5% in July. The resulting economic downturn is expected to depress state tax revenues.

A few weeks after the fire, the tourism industry began urging travelers to respectfully visit parts of Maui unaffected by the blaze, like Wailea and Makena. Then last month Green announced that West Maui — a long expanse of coastline encompassing Lahaina and hotels and condos to its north — would reopen to tourists on Oct. 8.

Maui Mayor Richard Bissen last week narrowed the geographic scope of this plan, saying that only the northernmost section of West Maui — a 5-kilometer stretch including the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua — would resume taking tourists. The rest of the region, where most of Lahaina’s evacuees are staying, would reopen at a later, unspecified date.

The first phase to be reopened under the mayor’s plan — from Kapalua to the Kahana Villa — is 11 to 16 kilometers and a 15- to 20-minute drive north of the area that burned. Bissen said second and third phases, both covering zones closer to the burned parts of Lahaina, would reopen after officials assess earlier phases. 

Green said only one or two hotels would reopen on Sunday, calling it a “gentle start.”

Restaurant bartender Kiakona said he’s among those not ready to go back to work. He said he doesn’t want to constantly be asked if he lost his home and to have “somebody consistently reminding you of the disaster that you just went through.”

Green said people who aren’t ready to go back to work won’t need to. He said they would continue to receive benefits and housing. 

“But what I say to them is think of your neighbor or think of the business next door to you,” Green said. “Or think of the impact of having only, say, 40% of the travelers that we normally have to Maui.” 

The governor said a lack of tourism would make it harder for the state to rebuild the elementary school that burned in the fire and provide residents with healthcare coverage.

Charles Nahale, a musician who lost all his gigs singing and playing the ukulele and guitar for tourists, recounted recently seeing tourists at a restaurant a few miles from the burn zone. They appeared oblivious and unsympathetic to those around them, he said. 

“This is not a normal tourist destination like it was prior to the fire,” he said by telephone from Lahaina. “You shouldn’t be there expecting people to serve you your mai tais and your food.

Nahale said grieving was more critical to him than getting back to work.  

“What is more important to me is that these thousands, including me, have the time to heal,” he said. “What’s more important to me is that we have the time to be normal again.”

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. 

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. 

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.” 

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.

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.

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.

California Governor to Name Laphonza Butler to Feinstein Senate Seat

California Gov. Gavin Newsom will name Laphonza Butler, a Democratic strategist and adviser to Kamala Harris’ presidential campaign, to fill the vacant U.S. Senate seat held by the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a spokesman in his office said Sunday.

In choosing Butler, Newsom fulfilled his pledge to appoint a Black woman if Feinstein’s seat should become open. However, he had been facing pressure by some Black politicians and advocacy groups to select Rep. Barbara Lee, a prominent Black congresswoman who is already running for the seat.

Butler will be the only Black woman serving in the U.S. Senate, and the first openly LGBTQ person to represent California in the chamber.

The long-serving Democratic senator died last Thursday after a series of illnesses.

Butler leads Emily’s List, a political organization that supports Democratic women candidates who favor abortion rights. She also is a former labor leader with SEIU 2015, a powerful force in California politics.

Butler currently lives in Maryland, according to her Emily’s List biography.

She did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment. A spokesman in Newsom’s office who declined to be named confirmed to The Associated Press that Newsom had chosen Butler.

Democrats control the Senate 51-49, though Feinstein’s seat is vacant. A quick appointment by Newsom will give the Democratic caucus more wiggle room on close votes, including nominations that Republicans uniformly oppose. She could be sworn in as early as Tuesday evening when the Senate returns to session.

Feinstein, the oldest member of Congress and the longest-serving woman in the Senate, died at age 90 after a series of illnesses. She said in February she would not seek reelection in 2024. Lee is one of several prominent Democrats competing for the seat, including Democratic U.S. Reps. Katie Porter and Adam Schiff. Newsom said he did not want to appoint any of the candidates because it would give them an unfair advantage in the race.

His spokesman Anthony York said the governor did not ask Butler to commit to staying out of the race. Dec. 8 is the deadline for candidates to file for the office.

Butler has never held elected office but has a long track record in California politics. She served as a senior adviser to Harris’s 2020 presidential campaign while working at a political firm filled with strategists who have worked for Newsom and many other prominent state Democrats. She also briefly worked in the private sector for Airbnb.

She called Feinstein “a legendary figure for women in politics and around the country,” in a statement posted after Feinstein’s death.

Emily’s List, the group Butler leads, focuses on electing Democratic women who support abortion rights. With the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2022 decision to overturn women’s constitutional right to abortion, the issue has become a galvanizing one for many Democrats.

It’s not Newsom’s first time selecting a U.S. senator, after being tasked with choosing a replacement for Kamala Harris when she was elected vice president; at that time he selected California Secretary of State Alex Padilla for the post. It was one of a string of appointments Newsom made in late 2020 and early 2021, a power that gave him kingmaker status among the state’s ambitious Democrats.

The seat is expected to stay in Democratic hands in the 2024 election. Democrats in the liberal-leaning state have not lost a statewide election since 2006, and the party holds a nearly 2-to-1 voter registration advantage over Republicans.

Late-Night Shows Return After Writers Strike as Actors Resume Talks That Could End Their Standoff

Late-night talk shows are returning after a five-month absence brought on by the Hollywood writers strike, while actors will begin talks that could end their own long work walk-off.

CBS’s “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert,” ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” and NBC’s “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” were the first shows to leave the air when the writers strike began on May 2, and now will be among the first to return on Monday night.

Comedian John Oliver got his first take on the strike out, exuberantly returning Sunday night to his “Last Week Tonight” show on HBO and delivering full-throated support for the strike.

Oliver cheerily delivered a recap of stories from the last five months before turning serious, calling the strike “an immensely difficult time” for all those in the industry.

“To be clear, this strike happened for good reasons. Our industry has seen its workers severely squeezed in recent years,” Oliver said. “So, the writers guild went to strike and thankfully won. But it took a lot of sacrifices from a lot of people to achieve that.”

“I am also furious that it took the studios 148 days to achieve a deal they could have offered on day (expletive) one,” Oliver said. He added that he hoped the writers contract would give leverage to other entertainment industry guilds – as well as striking auto workers and employees in other industries – to negotiate better deals.

Warner Bros. Discovery, which owns HBO, is among the studios on the other side of the table in the writers and actors strikes.

Network late-night hosts will have their returns later Monday.

Colbert will have Astrophysicist and author Neil deGrasse Tyson on his first show back. Kimmel will host Arnold Schwarzenegger. Matthew McConaughey will be on Fallon’s couch.

All the hosts will surely address the strike in their monologues.

“I’ll see you Monday, and every day after that!” an ebullient Colbert said in an Instagram video last week from the Ed Sullivan Theater, which was full of his writers and other staffers for their first meeting since spring.

The hosts haven’t been entirely idle. They teamed up for a podcast, “Strike Force Five,” during the strike.

The writers were allowed to return to work last week after the Writers Guild of America reached an agreement on a three-year contract with an alliance of the industry’s biggest studios, streaming services and production companies.

Union leaders touted the deal as a clear win on issues including pay, size of staffs and the use of artificial intelligence that made the months off worth it. The writers themselves will vote on the contract in a week of balloting that begins Monday.

Meanwhile, the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists will begin negotiations with the same group, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, for the first time since they joined writers in a historic dual strike on July 14.

Actors walked off the job over many of the same issues as writers, and SAG-AFTRA leaders said they would look closely at the gains and compromises of the WGA’s deal but emphasized that their demands would remain the same as they were when the strike began.

It was just five days after writers and studios resumed talks that a deal was reached and that strike ended, though an attempt to restart negotiations a month earlier broke off after a few meetings.

The late-night shows will have significant limits on their guest lists. Their bread and butter, actors appearing to promote projects, will not be allowed to appear if the movies and shows are for studios that are the subject of the strikes.

But exceptions abound. McConaughey, for example, is appearing with Fallon to promote his children’s book, “Just Because.”

And SAG-AFTRA has granted interim agreements allowing actors to work on many productions, and with that comes the right of actors to publicly promote them.


‘PAW Patrol’ Sequel Is Top Dog at Box Office

After several quiet weeks in movie theaters, four films entered wide release over the weekend. “PAW Patrol: The Mighty Movie” came out the top dog, with $23 million in ticket sales, according to studio estimates Sunday.

The performances of all four films – “PAW Patrol: The Mighty Movie,” “Saw X,” “The Creator” and “Dumb Money” – told a familiar story at the box office. What worked? Horror and animated franchises. What didn’t? Originality and comedy.

“PAW Patrol,” from Paramount Pictures and Spin Master, had timing on its side. The film, a sequel to the 2021 “PAW Patrol” movie adapted from the Nickelodeon TV series, was the first family animated movie in theaters since “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem” was released in early August.

The first “PAW Patrol,” released during the pandemic, debuted with $13 million while simultaneously releasing on Paramount+, and its success in both arenas was a contributing factor in leading Nickelodeon chief Brian Robbins to be named head of Paramount. A third “PAW Patrol” movie has already been green-lit.

“Paw Patrol: The Mighty Movie,” which cost $30 million to make, added $23.1 million in overseas sales.

“Saw X,” the tenth release in the long-running horror series, managed to bounce back from a franchise low with an opening weekend of $18 million for Lionsgate. The previous “Saw” movie, 2021’s “Spiral,” starring Chris Rock, debuted with $8.8 million and totaled $23.3 million domestically.

But the 10th “Saw” doubled back on gore and brought back Tobin Bell as the serial killer Jigsaw. It came away with the franchise’s best opening weekend in more than a decade and strong audience scores.

The $13-million production was also the widest “Saw” release yet, playing in 3,262 theaters. Since James Wan’s 2004 original, the “Saw” franchise — the flagship series of so-called torture porn — has made more than $1 billion worldwide.

“The Creator,” an $80 million movie financed by New Regency and distributed by Disney’s 20th Century Studios, was easily the biggest film to launch in theaters over the weekend but struggled to catch on. It grossed a modest $14 million at 3,680 theaters while adding $18.3 million internationally.

The film, directed by Gareth Edwards, stars John David Washington as an undercover operative in an AI-dominated future. “The Creator” drew mostly positive reviews and a B+ CinemaScore from audiences.

Sony Pictures’ “Dumb Money,” expanded nationwide after two weeks of limited release but failed to ignite the kind of populist movement it irreverently dramatizes. The film, directed by Craig Gillespie, came away with a disappointing $3.5 million in 2,837 locations.

“Dumb Money,” starring an ensemble of Paul Dano, Pete Davidson, Seth Rogen, American Ferrera and Anthony Ramos, turns the GameStop stock frenzy into a ripped-from-the-headlines underdog tale of amateur traders rattling Wall Street. While all the weekend’s new releases were hampered by the ongoing SAG-AFTRA strike, “Dumb Money” would have especially benefitted from its cast hitting late-night shows and other promotions.

Made for $30 million, “Dumb Money” wasn’t a massive bet. But it represented the kind of movie – a mid-budget, acclaimed original mostly targeted at adults – that Hollywood seldom makes anymore. As the industry enters an awards season a year after many high-profile contenders (among them “Tár” and “The Fabelmans”) failed to catch on in theaters, the results for “Dumb Money” may be cautionary for films queuing up.

The weekend’s other notable success came from a four-decade-old concert film. The 4K restoration of the Talking Heads concert film “Stop Making Sense” made $1 million on 786 screens, and surely led all movies in the number of dancing moviegoers. The Jonathan Demme film has surpassed $3 million thus far. Indie distributor A24 promised it will “have audiences dancing in the aisles around the world for a very long time to come.”

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Comscore. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.

  1. “PAW Patrol: The Mighty Movie,” $23 million.

  2. “Saw X,” $18 million.

  3. “The Creator,” $14 million.

  4. “The Nun II,” $4.7 million.

  5. “The Blind,” $4.1 million.

  6. “A Haunting in Venice,” $3.8 million.

  7. “Dumb Money,” $3.5 million.

  8. “The Equalizer,” $2.7 million.

  9. “Expend4bles,” $2.5 million.

  10. “Barbie,” $1.4 million.

Woman Who Fled Maui Wildfire on Foot Dies After 7 Weeks in Burn Unit

A woman who escaped Hawaii’s Lahaina wildfire by running through a flaming field has died after spending more than seven weeks in a hospital burn unit.

Laurie Allen died Friday at Straub Medical Center in Honolulu, according to a gofundme page set up for her and her husband, Perry Allen.

“Laurie slipped away peacefully. Her heart was tired, and she was ready,” her sister-in-law, Penny Allen Hood, wrote on the website.

Allen’s husband, two brothers, a sister and other relatives were at her side.

Allen was among at least 98 people killed by the fire Aug. 8 that devastated historic Lahaina on the west coast of Maui. The fire was the deadliest in the U.S. in more than a century and destroyed 2,200 buildings, most of them homes.

The fire began when strong winds appeared to cause a Hawaiian Electric power line to fall and ignite dry brush and grass. After being declared contained, the fire flared up and raced through the town.

Perry Allen, an artist, lost a lifetime of work when their home burned, according to Hood. He was working 24 kilometers (15 miles)away when the fire hit.

Laurie Allen, a physical therapist’s administrative assistant who worked from home, was home when the fire erupted. She fled with others in a vehicle, but a fallen, flaming tree blocked their way.

Allen got out of the car and fled 91 meters (100 yards) across a field of burning grass. A police officer and firefighter met her, and she was taken to an emergency shelter.

At the hospital, Allen endured infections and a series of operations, including skin grafts, and was brought into and out of consciousness. She had difficulty communicating but at one point raised hopes by being able to wiggle her toes when asked.

Her prognosis worsened in recent days, however, and Hood posted Thursday that “the battle to repair and rebuild Laurie’s earthly body” would soon be over. Allen was taken off life support Friday.

“This ordeal touched numerous lives. For me, it was realizing how many shared concerns for Laurie — people from her childhood, her family, work colleagues, church friends, and clients at the PT Clinic she worked at,” Hood wrote Friday. “This is a reminder that we never know how much our smile or even a simple greeting can leave an impression on others.”

Some Lahaina residents whose homes burned began returning to the devastated town last week. Authorities urged them not to sift through the ashes for belongings out of concern they could stir up dust containing asbestos, lead, arsenic or other toxins.

Returnees were given water, shade, washing stations, portable toilets, medical and mental health care, and transportation help. Nonprofit groups also were offering personal protective equipment, including masks and coveralls.

Nearly 8,000 displaced residents are living in hotels and other accommodations around Maui. Economists have warned that, without zoning and other changes, housing costs in already expensive Lahaina could be prohibitively costly for many after rebuilding.

After Shutdown Averted, Capitol Hill Showdown on the Horizon

Despite the fact that a U.S. government shutdown was averted, another week of turmoil seems to be in the making on Capitol Hill. A conservative legislator has promised to be “relentless” in his efforts to oust Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. VOA’s Veronica Balderas Iglesias has the latest.

Heat Forces Cancellation of Minnesota Races That Draw up to 20,000 Runners

A forecast that record high temperatures and humidity would create “extreme and dangerous” conditions prompted organizers to cancel two long-distance races Sunday in Minnesota’s two largest cities that were expected to draw up to 20,000 runners.

The Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon from Minneapolis to neighboring St. Paul had been expected to draw up to 8,000 runners when organizers called it off early Sunday. The organizers, Twin Cities in Motion, also canceled a separate 16-kilometer race drawing 12,000 runners.

In an email to race participants early Sunday, race organizers said, “The latest weather forecast update projects record-setting heat conditions that do not allow a safe event for runners, supporters and volunteers.”

In the days leading up to Sunday’s race, organizers had warned that weather conditions could be unsafe. But the race was expected to still be held, with additional safety precautions in place. By Sunday morning, a “black flag” warning was issued, prompting the event’s cancellatio

The National Weather Service predicted a midday high Sunday of 31 degrees Celsius.

Some runners had lined up for the race’s start early Sunday and told Minneapolis’ Star Tribune they planned to run anyway.

For Women, There’s Never a Right Age to Lead, Survey Finds

Report suggests age is used to justify bias against women in the workplace

Powerball Jackpot Rises to Over $1 Billion

No one picked the winning numbers for Saturday’s Powerball lottery.

The Powerball jackpot now rises to $1.04 billion for Monday’s game.

Most people who win choose to take a lump sum, which for Monday’s game would be close to half a billion dollars after taxes – not a bad deal for a $2 ticket.

The jackpot has grown so incredibly large because there have been 30 consecutive games without a big winner.  

Biden Signs Bill to Fund US Government, Avoid Shutdown

President Joe Biden has signed a bill to fund the U.S. government through mid-November and avoid a shutdown, less than an hour before money for federal agencies was set to run out.

Biden posted a picture of himself signing the bill on X, the social media platform previously known as Twitter, late Saturday night. In the message, he urged Congress to get to work immediately to pass funding bills for the full fiscal year.

The U.S. Senate, in a rare weekend meeting, approved a funding bill Saturday night, sending it to President Joe Biden for his signature and averting a widely dreaded shutdown of the federal government.

The bill, which passed the Senate 88-9 after winning approval in the House of Representatives, would fund the federal government through Nov. 17. The bill contains $16 billion in disaster aid sought by Biden but did not include money to help Ukraine in its war against Russia’s invasion.

After the vote, Biden released a statement saying the bill’s passage prevented “an unnecessary crisis that would have inflicted needless pain on millions of hardworking Americans.”

“We will have avoided a shutdown,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement after the vote. “Bipartisanship, which has been the trademark of the Senate, has prevailed. And the American people can breathe a sigh of relief.”

Had the bill not been approved by Congress and signed by the president by midnight Saturday, the federal government would have shut down.

More than 4 million U.S. military service personnel and government workers would not be paid, although essential services, such as air traffic control and official border entry points would still be staffed. Pensioners might not get their monthly government payments in time to pay bills and buy groceries, and national parks could be closed.

For days all of that seemed inevitable.

The abrupt turn of events began Saturday when Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy changed tactics and put forward the funding bill that hard-line members of his Republican caucus opposed.

The House passed the bill, 335-91. More Democrats supported it than Republicans, even though it does not contain aid for Ukraine, a priority for Biden, Democrats and many Senate Republicans.

“Extreme MAGA Republicans have lost, the American people have won,” top House Democrat Hakeem Jeffries told reporters ahead of the vote.

Republican Representative Lauren Boebert criticized the passage of the short-term stopgap bill.

“We should have forced the Senate to take up the four appropriations bills that the House has passed. That should have been our play,” she told CNN. “We should have forced them to come to the negotiating table, to come to conference, to hash out our differences.”

McCarthy is likely to face a motion from the right-wing members of his party to remove him as speaker.

“If somebody wants to remove me because I want to be the adult in the room, go ahead and try,” McCarthy said of the threat to oust him. “But I think this country is too important.”

Ukraine aid still likely

In his statement, Biden noted the lack of funding for Ukraine in the bill and said, “We cannot under any circumstances allow American support for Ukraine to be interrupted.”

Support for Ukraine remains strong in Congress and late Saturday night, a bipartisan group of Senate leadership members, led by Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, released a statement vowing to ensure the United States continues “to provide critical and sustained security and economic support for Ukraine.”

NBC News quoted an unnamed U.S. official as saying Biden and the Defense Department have funds to meet Ukraine’s battlefield needs “for a bit longer,” but it is “imperative” that Congress pass a Ukraine funding bill soon.

In the House, the lone Democrat to vote against the funding bill was Representative Mike Quigley of Illinois, the co-chair of the Congressional Ukraine Caucus. “Protecting Ukraine is in our national interest,” he said.

“This does look very chaotic, but this is not the first time it’s happened,” Todd Belt, director of the school of political management at The George Washington University, told VOA. “There is a price that has to be paid here. But that is the price of democracy. It does seem very messy sometimes. But eventually, usually you get some compromise.”

Such shutdowns have occurred four times in the last decade in the U.S., but often have lasted just a day or two until lawmakers reach a compromise to fully restart government operations. However, one shutdown that occurred during the administration of former President Donald Trump lasted 35 days, as he unsuccessfully sought funding to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border.

Chicago Keeps Hundreds of Migrants at Airports While Waiting on Shelters and Tents

Hidden behind a heavy black curtain in one of the nation’s busiest airports is Chicago’s unsettling response to a growing population of asylum-seekers arriving by plane.

Hundreds of migrants, from babies to the elderly, live inside a shuttle bus center at O’Hare International Airport’s Terminal 1. They sleep on cardboard pads on the floor and share airport bathrooms. A private firm monitors their movements.

Like New York and other cities, Chicago has struggled to house asylum-seekers, slowly moving people out of temporary spaces and into shelters and, in the near future, tents. But Chicago’s use of airports is unusual, having been rejected elsewhere, and highlights the city’s haphazard response to the crisis. The practice also has raised concerns about safety and the treatment of people fleeing violence and poverty.

“It was supposed to be a stop-and-go place,” said Vianney Marzullo, one of the few volunteers at O’Hare. “It’s very concerning. It is not just a safety matter, but a public health matter.”

Some migrants stay at O’Hare for weeks, then are moved to police stations or manage to get into the few shelters available. Within weeks, Chicago plans to roll out winterized tents, something New York has done.

Up to 500 people have lived at O’Hare simultaneously in a space far smaller than a city block, shrouded by a curtain fastened shut with staples. Their movements are monitored by a private company whose staff control who enters and exits the curtain.

Sickness spreads quickly. The staffing company provides limited first aid and calls ambulances. A volunteer team of doctors visited once over the summer and their supplies were decimated.

Chicago offers meals, but only at specific times and many foods are unfamiliar to the new arrivals. While migrants closer to Chicago’s core have access to a strong network of volunteers, food and clothing donations at O’Hare are limited, due to airport security concerns.

Most of the 14,000 immigrants who have arrived in Chicago during the last year have come from Texas, largely under the direction of Republican Gov. Greg Abbott.

As more migrants arrived, the city’s existing services were strained. Officials struggled to find longer-term housing solutions while saying the city needed more help from the state and federal governments. Brandon Johnson took office in May and has proposed tents.

Many migrants are from Venezuela, where a political, social and economic crisis in the past decade has pushed millions of people into poverty. At least 7.3 million have left, with many risking an often-harrowing route to the United States.

Maria Daniela Sanchez Valera, 26, who passed through Panama’s dangerous, jungle-clad Darien Gap with her 2-year-old daughter, arrived at O’Hare days ago. She fled her native Venezuela five years ago for Peru, where her daughter was born. After her daughter’s father was killed, she left.

“We come here with the intention of working, not with the intention of being given everything,” she said. A recent Biden Administration plan to offer temporary legal status status, and the ability to work, to Venezuelans doesn’t apply to her because she arrived after the deadline.

She tries to keep the toddler entertained with walks around the terminal. On a recent day, a staff member told Valera to make her daughter stop running or else they would be kicked out. The company, Favorite Healthcare Staffing, said employees treat new arrivals with respect and it would investigate further.

Valera said she wanted to take a train from the airport, but she didn’t have the roughly $5 subway fare. “There are many people who have been able to get out and they say that in the garbage dumps you can get good clothes for the children,” she added.

Chicago began using the city’s two international airports as temporary shelters as the number of migrants arriving by plane increased. Nearly 3,000 people who have arrived by plane since June have sought shelter.

A handful live at Midway International Airport. When they need clothes or services, they walk 3 kilometers to a police station, volunteers say.

At O’Hare, migrants have spread out beyond the curtain for more space, sleeping along windows. Travelers wheeling suitcases and airline staff catching buses whiz by, some stopping to take pictures.

Chicago officials acknowledge using O’Hare isn’t ideal, but say there aren’t other options with a crisis they inherited.

Cristina Pacione-Zayas, first deputy chief of staff, said Chicago is slowly building capacity to house people. The city has added 15 shelters since May and resettled about 3,000 people. They serve 190,000 meals weekly and partner with groups for medical care, but still rely heavily on volunteers to fill gaps.

“Is it perfect? No. But what we have done is stood in our values to ensure that we live up to operationalizing a sanctuary city,” she said. “We will continue to work on it, but we are holding the line.”

Other cities oppose using airports.

At Boston’s Logan International Airport, migrants who arrive overnight are given cots for a few hours before being sent elsewhere. Massport spokeswoman Jennifer Mehigan said Logan “is not the appropriate place” to stay.

When reports of a possible federal plan to use the Atlantic City International Airport in New Jersey as a shelter surfaced recently, elected officials blasted the idea.

“It is such a preposterous solution to the problems we have,” said Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson. “Who is going to secure these people? Who is going to feed them? Who is going to educate them? We really don’t have any infrastructure to take care of them.”

Jhonatan Gelvez, a 21-year-old from Colombia, didn’t plan to stay at O’Hare long, as he has a friend in Chicago. He teared up when he talked of being separated from his fiancé en route to the U.S. Among his few belongings was a silver, anchor-shaped necklace she gave him.

“Just by arriving here I feel peace,” he said. “It is a country with many opportunities. … I am very grateful.”

Yoli Cordova, 42, arrived at O’Hare days ago. She left Venezuela because she was discriminated against for her sexual orientation. She cried as she expressed relief at leaving but remained worried about her daughters in Venezuela.

“I don’t know if they’re going to help me here,” Cordova said. “I really don’t know what to do, where to go.”

Police Chief Behind Raid on Small Kansas Newspaper Suspended

The police chief who led a highly criticized raid of a small Kansas newspaper has been suspended, the mayor confirmed Saturday to The Associated Press.

Marion Mayor Dave Mayfield in a text said he suspended Chief Gideon Cody on Thursday. He declined to discuss his decision further and did not say whether Cody was still being paid.

Voice messages and emails from the AP seeking comment from Cody’s lawyers were not immediately returned Saturday.

The Aug. 11 searches of the Marion County Record’s office and the homes of its publisher and a City Council member have been sharply criticized, putting Marion at the center of a debate over the press protections offered by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Cody’s suspension is a reversal for the mayor, who previously said he would wait for results from a state police investigation before taking action.

Vice Mayor Ruth Herbel, whose home was also raided Aug. 11, praised Cody’s suspension as “the best thing that can happen to Marion right now” as the central Kansas town of about 1,900 people struggles to move forward under the national spotlight.

“We can’t duck our heads until it goes away, because it’s not going to go away until we do something about it,” Herbel said.

Cody has said little publicly since the raids other than posting a defense of them on the police department’s Facebook page. In court documents he filed to get the search warrants, he argued that he had probable cause to believe the newspaper and Herbel, whose home was also raided, had violated state laws against identity theft or computer crimes.

The raids came after a local restaurant owner accused the newspaper of illegally accessing information about her. A spokesperson for the agency that maintains those records has said the newspaper’s online search that a reporter did was likely legal even though the reporter needed personal information about the restaurant owner that a tipster provided to look up her driving record.

The newspaper’s publisher, Eric Meyer, has said the identity theft allegations simply provided a convenient excuse for the search after his reporters had been digging for background information on Cody, who was appointed this summer.

Legal experts believe the raid on the newspaper violated a federal privacy law or a state law shielding journalists from having to identify sources or turn over unpublished material to law enforcement.

Video of the raid on the home of publisher Eric Meyer shows how distraught his 98-year-old mother became as officers searched through their belongings. Meyer said he believes that stress contributed to the death of his mother, Joan Meyer, a day later.

Another reporter last month filed a federal lawsuit against the police chief over the raid.