National Politics

Biden highlights Hyundai announcement of $10B US investment

President Joe Biden is tending to both business and security interests as he wraps up a three-day visit to South Korea on Sunday. Biden showcased Hyundai's pledge to invest at least $10 billion in electric vehicles and related technologies in the United States. Biden also says the U.S. is ready for any provocation that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un might deliver while Biden is touring the region. The $10 billion investment from South Korea's Hyundai is a reflection of how the U.S. and South Korea are leveraging their longstanding military ties into a broader economic partnership.

Bangkok governor election a test of political winds

Residents of Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, are voting Sunday to elect a new governor in a contest whose results will be seen as a barometer of the public mood ahead of an approaching general election. Neither the main Parliamentary opposition party, Pheu Thai, nor the ruling, pro-military Palang Pracharath party have candidates on the ballot. But Chadchart Sittipunt is seen as a proxy for Pheu Thai, while Asawin Kwanmuang, a former senior police officer, is regarded as a stand-in for Palang Pracharath. The results will be regarded as a measure of the stability of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha's government, which may face a no-confidence motion soon as well as polls next year.

Herschel Walker's ties to veterans program face scrutiny

Herschel Walker boasts of his charity work helping members of the military who struggle with mental health. The football legend and leading Republican Senate candidate in Georgia says the outreach is done through a program he created, called Patriot Support. But court filings and company documents offer a more complicated picture. They show Walker did not found the program. It's also not a charity. It's an arm of a for-profit hospital chain. Court documents reveal the company has a checkered history treating veterans and reached a $122 million settlement after the Justice Department sued for improperly treating patients. The company denies the allegations. Walker's campaign criticized the media for writing a story about the program.

Wisconsin Republicans vote not to endorse for governor

Wisconsin Republicans have voted not to endorse anyone for governor ahead of the GOP primary in August, after many activists rose up against the move. The Republican endorsement has been highly sought after because it unlocks funding from the state party. Former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch got the most votes at 55%, just short of the 60% needed for an endorsement. Now the Republican candidates for governor will fight it out without any official backing from the party. The winner of the Aug. 9 primary will advance to face Democratic Gov. Tony Evers.

Kemp and Walker look to victory in Georgia as primaries near

Two Republican frontrunners are hoping to clinch primary victories in Georgia. Candidates in the state are making their final pitches to Georgia voters ahead of Tuesday’s election. Gov. Brian Kemp and former football star Herschel Walker hope to win GOP majorities and clinch nominations for governor and U.S. senator on Tuesday without runoffs. Kemp spoke to voters at a rally with Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts showing up to support him. Walker was scheduled to rally later Saturday in Columbus. For Kemp, an outright win would be vindication after months of attacks from former President Donald Trump.

New maps create challenge for women seeking reelection

For some female incumbents running for reelection in Congress this year, holding their seats comes with a new challenge. Because of redistricting, some of those congressional districts will be tougher to win. It’s too early to know how many female representatives were hurt by the once-a-decade process because maps haven’t been finalized in several states. But in states with new district boundaries set, the Center for American Women in Politics at Rutgers University found more than a dozen women who are running in significantly tougher territory. This comes as female representatives make up about 28% of the 435 House members.

Russia's claim of Mariupol's capture fuels concern for POWs

Concern is mounting over the fate of Ukrainian fighters who have become Moscow’s prisoners as Russia claimed full control of the Mariupol steel plant. A separatist leader in eastern Ukraine said nearly 2,500 Ukrainian fighters were in custody and they were sure to face tribunals. Their family members have pleaded for them to be given rights as prisoners of war and eventually returned to Ukraine. Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said Ukraine “will fight for the return” of every one of them. The steel plant for weeks was the last Ukrainian holdout in Mariupol and a symbol of Ukrainian tenacity in the strategic port city.

3 Air Force cadets who refused vaccine won't be commissioned

The U.S. Air Force Academy says three cadets who have refused the COVID-19 vaccine will not be commissioned as military officers but will graduate with bachelor’s degrees. Academy spokesman Dean Miller says a fourth cadet who only recently decided to be vaccinated will graduate and become an Air Force officer. Miller said in a statement Saturday that the three won't be commissioned as long as they remain unvaccinated. He says the Air Force secretary will decide whether the unvaccinated students will be required to pay their educational costs in lieu of service.

Florida bills limit roof refusal by insurers, add new fund

Legislation proposed by Florida lawmakers for an upcoming special session to reform the state’s property insurance market would create a $2 billion reinsurance fund for insurers to get insurance that insulates them from risk. Four bills filed late Friday in the state House and Senate would also allow homeowners with roofs 15 years or older to get an inspection of their condition before insurers deny them coverage. If an inspection shows that a roof has at least five years of life remaining, insurers can’t refuse to issue a policy only based on the roof’s age under the proposed legislation.

Arizona governor OK's ban on school COVID-19 vaccines

Arizona’s Republican governor has signed legislation preventing state health officials from ever adding a COVID-19 vaccine to the list of required school inoculations and barring mask mandates in government buildings. The bills Gov. Doug Ducey signed Friday permanently block disease mitigation measures that many health professionals say are critical to reining in the pandemic if case counts again surge or the virus mutates and becomes more deadly to children. GOP lawmakers say they are needed to stop government overreach and intrusion into personal choice. Minority Democrats were united in opposition.

Milley tells West Point cadets technology will transform war

The top U.S. military officer is challenging the next generation of Army soldiers to prepare America’s military to fight future wars that may look little like the wars of today. Army Gen. Mark Milley is chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and his remarks were to graduating cadets at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. His address paints a grim picture of a world that is becoming more unstable, with great powers intent on changing the global order. And he tells the cadets they will bear the responsibility to make sure America is ready.

US, SKorea open to expanded military drills to deter North

U.S. President Joe Biden and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol say after meeting that they will consider expanded joint military exercises to deter the nuclear threat from North Korea. The announcement Saturday during Biden's visit to Seoul reflects a shift in direction from former U.S. President Donald Trump. Trump had considered scrapping the exercises and had expressed affection for North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The announcement may also put to rest concerns in Seoul that Washington would revert to the Obama administration's policy of “strategic patience” in which it largely looked the other way while North Korea expanded its nuclear arsenal.

Australia PM Morrison defends record despite election loss

Scott Morrison says his conservative government had left Australia in a robust condition even as voters punished him for his handling of issues including climate change and the pandemic that helped return the center-left opposition to power. Morrison says he'll step down as head of the Liberal party after conceding defeat to the Labor party and its leader Anthony Albanese. A former tourism marketer before switching to politics, Morrison was labeled the “accidental prime minister” in 2018, and sprung a major surprise by winning a 2019 election. He has since been deeply criticized for dragging the chain on climate change and for not establishing a promised integrity and corruption watchdog. He was also scorned for his handling of sexual harassment scandals.

Australia's next prime minister came from humble beginnings

Australia’s Prime Minister-elect Anthony Albanese is a politician molded by his humble start to life as the only child of a single mother who raised him on a pension in gritty inner-Sydney suburbia. He is also a hero of multicultural Australia, describing himself as the only candidate with a “non-Anglo Celtic name” to run for prime minister in the 121 years that the office has existed. He has promised to rehabilitate Australia’s international reputation as a climate change laggard with steeper cuts to greenhouse gas emissions. His financially precarious upbringing in government-owned housing in suburban Camperdown fundamentally formed the politician who has lead the center-left Australian Labor Party into government for the first time since 2007.

Australian Labor topples conservatives; PM faces early tests

Australia’s center-left opposition party has toppled the conservative government after almost a decade in power. Prime Minister-elect Anthony Albanese in his Saturday election victory speech promised sharper reductions in greenhouse gas emissions while he faces an early foreign policy test. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he quickly conceded defeat despite millions of votes yet to be counted because an Australian leader must attend a Tokyo summit on Tuesday with U.S. President Joe Biden and leaders from Japan and India. Albanese has described himself as the only candidate with a “non-Anglo Celtic name” to run for prime minister in the 121 years that the office has existed. He referred to his own humble upbringing in the Sydney suburb of Camperdown.

Former Ohio prisons chief top contender to run US prisons

The former director of the Ohio state prison system has emerged as a leading contender to run the crisis-plagued federal Bureau of Prisons. That's according to three people familiar with the matter who spoke to The Associated Press. The people say Gary Mohr is among the top contenders to replace Bureau of Prisons Director Michael Carvajal. Carvajal submitted his resignation in January but said he would stay on until a successor was named. The people cautioned a final decision has not been made. Mohr said Saturday he was “shocked to see an article" describing him as a contender for the position and denied he had applied or been interviewed.

US sees risk of COVID supply rationing without more funds

The White House is planning for what it calls “dire” contingencies that could include rationing supplies of vaccines and treatments this fall if Congress doesn’t approve more money for fighting COVID-19. Biden administration officials have been warning for weeks that the country has spent nearly all the money approved for COVID-19 response. The administration faces critical decisions about how to spend what's left. It's weighing whether to use it to secure the next generation of vaccines to protect the highest risk populations or to prioritize highly effective therapies to reduce the risks of severe illness and death. Rationing could expose even the most vulnerable to shortages.

Parris Island wages battles, not war, against climate change

A Defense Department-funded “resiliency review” finds Parris Island facing growing threats from climate change. The South Carolina military base has molded recruits into Marines for more than a century. Now experts say three-quarters of the island could be under water during high tides each day by 2099. Military authorities say they can keep the base intact through small-scale changes, like raising roads and equipment during existing projects. Others advocate much more expensive solutions, such as spending millions on seawalls to avoid spending billions to repair hurricane damage. But to date there is no grand overhaul planned.

Turkey's Erdogan talks to Swedish, Finnish leaders on NATO

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has discussed his objections to Sweden and Finland joining NATO with the two Nordic countries’ leaders. In a statement released Saturday, his office said he spoke to Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and Sweden’s Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson in separate calls to address Ankara’s concerns about people it considers terrorists in their countries. The statement said Erdogan urged Sweden to lift the defensive weapons export restrictions it imposed on Turkey over Turkey's 2019 incursion into northern Syria. Erdogan told Niinisto of Finland “that an understanding that ignores terrorist organizations that pose a threat to an ally within NATO is incompatible with the spirit of friendship and alliance.”

Fugitive North Macedonian ex-premier gets 9-year sentence

North Macedonia’s fugitive former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski has been handed a 9-year prison sentence for illegally ordering the 2011 demolition a multimillion-dollar complex owned by a former political ally turned opponent. Three other government officials were also sentenced late Friday to multiple years in jail and hefty fines. This is Gruevski’s fourth conviction since he left office in 2016 after nearly ten years in power. He also has two more cases pending against him. Gruevski fled North Macedonia for Hungary in 2018 before his first sentence could be carried out.

Russia cuts off gas exports to Finland in symbolic move

Russia has halted natural gas exports to neighboring Finland. The highly symbolic move that came early Saturday marks a likely end to nearly 50 years of natural gas import from Moscow to Helsinki. It also comes just days after Finland announced it wanted to join NATO. Russia’s energy giant Gazprom cut gas supplies after Finland refused to pay for the gas in rubles as demanded by Russian President Vladimir Putin after Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February. Moscow also cut off electricity exports to Finland earlier this month. The Finnish state-controlled oil company Neste has also decided to replace imports of Russian crude oil with crude from elsewhere.

Adoptions another facet of life halted by war in Ukraine

The ripple effects of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have been devastating for families of all kinds, including those who have seen their prospective adoptions put on hold. Ukraine has stopped all international adoptions as the country copes with the turmoil unleashed on its courts by the war. Children, including orphans, have also fled or been displaced. The National Council For Adoption says there are more than 300 children previously hosted by American families that were seeking to adopt them at the time the war started. U.S. families meanwhile are trying to keep the bonds with the children in Europe strong.

Poles need EU funds as they help Ukrainians, ambassador says

Ukraine's ambassador to neighboring Poland says his country is grateful for the welcome that Poles have given to millions of Ukrainians, but hopes the European Union will soon release billions of euros to Poland so that helping those fleeing the war does not come “at the cost of the Polish people.” Ambassador Andrii Deshchytsia said that while there have been no real social tensions in the three months since Ukrainians began crossing into Poland seeking safety, he worries they could appear in the future given how much Poland has done. The government has extended free medical care, education and other social services to the Ukrainians, while more than 80% of them are being housed in private Polish homes.