AP Top News at 11:59 p.m. EDT
KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the final papers Wednesday to annex four regions of Ukraine while his military struggled to control the new territory that was added in violation of international laws. Ukrainian law enforcement officials, meanwhile, reported discovering more evidence of torture and killings in areas retaken from Russian forces. In Lyman, an eastern town liberated after more than four months of Russian occupation, residents emerged from their destroyed homes to receive packages of food and medicine. In a defiant move, the Kremlin held the door open for further land grabs in Ukraine. Speaking in a conference call with reporters, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that “certain territories will be reclaimed, and we will keep consulting residents who would be eager to embrace Russia.” Peskov did not specify which additional Ukrainian territories Moscow is eyeing, and he wouldn’t say if the Kremlin planned to organize more such “referendums.” Putin last week signed treaties that purported to absorb Ukraine’s Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions into Russia.
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea launched two short-range ballistic missiles toward its eastern waters Thursday after the United States redeployed an aircraft carrier near the Korean Peninsula in response to Pyongyang’s previous launch of a nuclear-capable missile over Japan. The latest missile launches suggest North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is determined to continue with weapons tests aimed at boosting his nuclear arsenal in defiance of international sanctions. Many experts say Kim’s goal is to eventually win U.S. recognition as a legitimate nuclear state and the lifting of those sanctions, though the international community has shown no sign of allowing that to happen.
FORT MYERS, Florida (AP) — President Joe Biden surveyed the devastation of hurricane-ravaged Florida on Wednesday, promising to marshal the power of the federal government to help rebuild as he comforted local residents alongside Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, a potential 2024 foe. Biden praised DeSantis’ handling of the storm recovery as both men — who have battled over pandemic protocols and migration as the governor mulls a presidential bid — put aside politics for a few days. The state is struggling to recover from the wreckage of Hurricane Ian, which tore through southwestern Florida last week and left dozens dead.
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A super app called X? A bot-free free speech haven? These are some of Elon Musk’s mysterious plans for Twitter, now that he may be buying the company after all. After months of squabbling over the fate of their bombshell $44 billion deal, the billionaire and the bird app are essentially back to square one — if a bit worse for wear as trust and goodwill has seemed to erode on both sides. Musk, the CEO of Tesla Motors and SpaceX and Twitter’s most high-profile user since former President Donald Trump was booted from it, has shared few concrete details about his plans for the social media platform.
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A federal appeals court Wednesday ordered a lower court review of Biden administration revisions to a program preventing the deportation of hundreds of thousands of immigrants brought into the United States as children. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said a federal district judge in Texas should take another look at the program following the revisions adopted in August. The ruling leaves the future of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals up in the air, with current DACA recipients protected — for now — but new applicants barred. President Joe Biden said in a statement that he was “disappointed” in the ruling, noting, “The court’s stay provides a temporary reprieve for DACA recipients but one thing remains clear: the lives of Dreamers remain in limbo.” People protected by DACA are commonly referred to as “Dreamers,” based on never-passed proposals in Congress called the DREAM Act.
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The sheriff of Merced County in California says a baby girl and three other family members who were kidnapped at gunpoint have been found dead. Sheriff Vern Warnke announced Wednesday that the bodies were found in a Merced County orchard and told reporters: “Our worst fears have been confirmed.” The announcement came after authorities released surveillance video of a man kidnapping 8-month-old Aroohi Dheri, her parents and uncle from their business Monday in Merced in the San Joaquin Valley southeast of San Francisco. Authorities earlier said the four were taken by a convicted robber who tried to kill himself a day after the kidnappings.
The unusually low water level in the lower Mississippi River is causing barges to get stuck in mud and sand, disrupting river travel for shippers, recreational boaters and even passengers on a cruise line. Lack of rainfall in recent weeks has left the Mississippi River approaching record low levels in some areas from Missouri south through Louisiana. The U.S. Coast Guard said at least eight “groundings” of barges have been reported in the past week, despite low-water restrictions on barge loads. One of the groundings happened Friday between Louisiana and Mississippi, near Lake Providence, Louisiana. It halted river traffic in both directions for days “to clear the grounded barges from the channel and to deepen the channel via dredging to prevent future groundings,” U.S.
TŪROA SKI AREA, New Zealand (AP) — New Zealand’s Tūroa ski area is usually a white wonderland at this time of year, its deep snowpack supporting its famed spring skiing. This season, it’s largely a barren moonscape, with tiny patches of snow poking out between vast fields of jagged volcanic boulders. The ski area was forced to close for the season this week, three weeks earlier than planned. Rain repeatedly washed away the snow, and the ski area’s 50 snowmaking machines proved no match against balmy temperatures. Climate change appears to be a significant factor, after New Zealand experienced its warmest winter on record — for the third year in a row.
ATHENS, Greece (AP) — At least 15 people have died as two boats carrying migrants sank in Greek waters late Wednesday, and rescuers were looking for dozens still missing, authorities said early Thursday. The coast guard said 15 bodies had been recovered near the eastern island of Lesbos after a dinghy carrying about 40 people sank. Five people were rescued and three had been located on a rocky outcrop near the site of the sinking. A second rescue effort was launched several hundred kilometers (miles) to the west, near the island of Kythira, where a sailboat carrying about 100 migrants hit rocks and sank late Wednesday.
The owner of a sports memorabilia auction house says he has offered $2 million to the fan who caught Aaron Judge’s American League-record 62nd home run. JP Cohen, president of Memory Lane Inc. in Tustin, California, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that he has texted and emailed Cory Youmans, the man who caught Judge’s milestone shot Tuesday night at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas. Cohen says Youmans has not yet replied. “I feel the offer is way above fair, if he is inclined to sell it,” Cohen said in a telephone interview with the AP on Wednesday. Youmans grabbed the historic souvenir on the fly as it sailed into the front row of section 31 in left field.