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Ukraine recaptures 5 settlements in Kherson region

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Ukraine recaptures 5 settlements in Kherson region

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine’s biggest nuclear plant, which is surrounded by Russian troops, has lost all external power needed for vital safety systems for the second time in five days, the head of the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog said Wednesday, calling it a “deeply worrying development.”

The warning from International Atomic Energy Agency Director-General Rafael Grossi came amid a flurry of developments in Russia’s war in Ukraine. Ukraine’s military command said its forces recaptured five settlements in the southern Kherson region, and Russia’s main domestic security agency said eight people had been arrested in connection with the weekend Crimea bridge blast.

Grossi, who met with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday, said IAEA monitors at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant — Europe’s largest nuclear power facility — reported the interruption in external power, and said backup diesel generators were keeping nuclear safety and security equipment operational.

“This repeated loss of #ZNPP’s off-site power is a deeply worrying development and it underlines the urgent need for a nuclear safety & security protection zone around the site,” Grossi tweeted.

Ukraine’s state nuclear operator Energoatom said on the Telegram social media platform that a Russian missile attack on the substation “Dniprovska” in the neighboring Dnipropetrovsk region to the north was damaged, leading to the shutdown of a key communication line to the plant — prompting the diesel generators to turn on automatically.

Last month, Energoatom chief Petro Kotin told The Associated Press in an interview that in general, the Zaporizhzhia plant had enough fuel to run the diesel generators for just 10 days. He said those generators were “the station’s last defense before a radiation accident.”

The growing concerns about the nuclear plant come amid an upsurge in fighting in southern Ukraine and a barrage of Russian strikes across the country in recent days.

Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s office, said Russian shelling had left at least 14 people dead in the Zaporizhzhia region and the Donetsk region to the east over the last day. At least 34 people were injured in five regions, he wrote on Telegram.

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Earlier Wednesday, Ukraine’s southern command said its forces recaptured five settlements in the southern Kherson region, on the western fringe of an arc of Russian control of territory in eastern and southern Ukraine.

The villages of Novovasylivka, Novohryhorivka, Nova Kamianka, Tryfonivka and Chervone in the Beryslav district were retaken as of Oct. 11, according to the speaker of the southern command Vladislav Nazarov.

The settlements are in one of the four regions recently annexed by Russia, a move condemned as illegal under international law by many countries and the U.N. secretary-general.

Also Wednesday, Russia’s top domestic security agency — the main successor to the KGB — said it arrested eight people on charges of involvement in the bombing of the main bridge linking Russia to Crimea, while an official in the southern Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia said Russian forces carried out more strikes there.

The Federal Security Service, known by the Russian acronym FSB, said it arrested five Russians and three citizens of Ukraine and Armenia over Saturday’s attack that damaged the Kerch Bridge between Russia and the Crimean Peninsula — a crucial thoroughfare for supplies and travel whose much-ballyhooed construction after Russia’s annexation of Crimea under Putin in 2014 cost billions.

A truck loaded with explosives blew up while driving across the bridge, killing four people and causing two sections of one of the two automobile links to collapse.

Ukrainian officials have lauded the explosion on the bridge, but stopped short of directly claiming responsibility for it.

The FSB alleged that the suspects were working on orders of Ukraine’s military intelligence to secretly move the explosives into Russia and forge the accompanying documents.

It said the explosives were moved by sea from the Ukrainian port of Odesa to Bulgaria before being shipped to Georgia, driven to Armenia and then back to Georgia before being transported to Russia in a complex scheme to secretly deliver them to the target.

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Putin alleged that Ukrainian special services masterminded the blast, calling it “an act of terrorism,” and responded by ordering missile strikes across Ukraine.

Russia’s onslaught continued in the Zaporizhzhia region and eponymous city on Wednesday, shattering windows and blowing out doors in residential buildings, municipal council secretary Anatoliy Kurtev said. There were no immediate reports of casualties, though Kurtev warned locals of the possibility of a follow-up attack.

Zaporizhzhia, which sits fairly near the front line between Russian and Ukrainian forces, has been repeatedly struck with often deadly attacks in recent weeks. It is part of a larger region, including Europe’s largest nuclear power plant now in Russian control, that Moscow has said it has annexed in violation of international law. The city itself remains in Ukrainian hands.

To the south, in a Russian-controlled area of the region, a powerful blast struck the city of Melitopol — sending a car flying into the air, mayor Ivan Fedorov said. There was no word on casualties.

The new clashes came two days after Russian forces began pummeling many parts of Ukraine with more missiles and munition-carrying drones, killing at least 19 people on Monday alone in an attack that the U.N. human rights office described as “particularly shocking” and amounting to potential war crimes.

Tuesday marked the second straight day when air raid sirens echoed throughout Ukraine, and officials advised residents to conserve energy and stock up on water. The strikes knocked out power across the country and pierced the relative calm that had returned to the capital, Kyiv, and many other cities far from the war’s front lines.

“It brings anger, not fear,” Kyiv resident Volodymyr Vasylenko, 67, said as crews worked to restore traffic lights and clear debris from the capital’s streets. “We already got used to this. And we will keep fighting.”

The leaders of the Group of Seven industrial powers condemned the bombardment and said they would “stand firmly with Ukraine for as long as it takes.” Their pledge defied Russian warnings that Western assistance would prolong the war and the pain of Ukraine’s people.

Zelenskyy told the G-7 leaders during a virtual meeting Russia fired more than 100 missiles and dozens of drones at Ukraine over two days. He appealed for “more modern and effective” air defense systems — even though he said Ukraine shot down many of the Russian projectiles.

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The Pentagon on Tuesday announced plans to deliver the first two advanced NASAMs anti-aircraft systems to Ukraine in the coming weeks. The systems, which Kyiv has long wanted, will provide medium- to long-range defense against missile attacks.

In a phone call with Zelenskyy on Tuesday, President Joe Biden “pledged to continue providing Ukraine with the support needed to defend itself, including advanced air defense systems,” the White House said.

Ukraine’s defense minister tweeted that four German IRIS-T air defense systems had just arrived, saying a “new era” of air defense for Ukraine had begun.

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Follow the AP’s coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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Remember last year’s Memorial Day travel jams? Chances are they will be much worse this year

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Remember last year’s Memorial Day travel jams? Chances are they will be much worse this year

The patience of Memorial Day weekend travelers was tested Thursday by widespread delays across the country, but there were relatively few canceled flights, raising hopes that airlines can handle bigger crowds expected Friday.

By early evening on the East Coast, more than 6,000 flights had been delayed Thursday, with the biggest backups at the three major airports in the New York City area and Dallas-Fort Worth International.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pasha Pidlubniak waits for a domestic flight at Miami International Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Miami. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

 

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Pasha Pidlubniak waits for a domestic flight at Miami International Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Miami. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

 

The Transportation Security Administration predicted that Friday will be the busiest day for air travel over the holiday weekend, with nearly 3 million people expected to pass through airport checkpoints. It could rival the record of 2.9 million, set on the Sunday after Thanksgiving last year.

“Airports are going to be more packed than we have seen in 20 years,” said Aixa Diaz, a spokesperson for AAA.

When they aren’t waiting out flight delays, travelers are reporting sticker shock at the prices.

At Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, Larisa Latimer of New Lenox, Illinois, said her airfare was reasonable but other expenses for a getaway to New Orleans were not.

 

 

 

 

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Motorists travel along Interstate 24 near the Interstate 40 interchange Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. A record number of Americans are expected to hit the pavement over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

 

Motorists travel along Interstate 24 near the Interstate 40 interchange Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. A record number of Americans are expected to hit the pavement over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

 

“I just have to make the accommodation,” she said. “The rental car is up … this year, the hotel accommodations were very unusually expensive.”

Kathy Larko of Fort Meyers, Florida, used frequent-flyer miles — and some flexible scheduling — to pay for her trip to Chicago.

“I’m really conscious of looking at the cost of the entire trip. We’re staying a little farther out than we normally would” to get a lower hotel rate, she said. “We’re also flying back a day later, because we could get cheaper miles.”

More travelers will be on the road. AAA estimates that 43.8 million people will venture at least 50 miles (80 kilometers) from home between Thursday and Monday, with 38 million of them taking vehicles.

 
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Travelers wait at a TSA checkpoint at the Los Angeles International Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Los Angeles. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/Ryan Sun)

 

Travelers wait at a TSA checkpoint at the Los Angeles International Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Los Angeles. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/Ryan Sun)

 

Airport unions are using the holiday weekend to highlight their demands.

About 100 workers who clean airplane cabins and drive trash trucks at the airport in Charlotte, North Carolina, started a 24-hour strike Thursday, demanding better pay and healthcare, according to the Service Employees International Union. About 15% of flights were delayed, but it was unclear whether the strike played any role.

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A planned strike at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York was averted, however. Teamsters Local 553, which represents about 300 workers who refuel passenger and cargo jets at JFK, said that it reached a settlement with Allied Aviation Services and called off a walkout planned for Friday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

George Ridley, 4, left, rides on a suitcase as he and his father Chris Ridley make their way through the Nashville international Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

 

George Ridley, 4, left, rides on a suitcase as he and his father Chris Ridley make their way through the Nashville international Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

 

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“We are happy an agreement has been reached, a need for a strike averted, and we are hopeful that the deal will be ratified by our members,” said Demos Demopoulos, the secretary-treasurer of the local.

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Associated Press video journalist Melissa Perez Winder in Chicago and Associated Press radio reporter Shelley Adler in Washington contributed to this report.

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Texas health department appoints anti-abortion OB-GYN to maternal mortality committee

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Texas health department appoints anti-abortion OB-GYN to maternal mortality committee

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas’ health department has appointed an outspoken anti-abortion OB-GYN to a committee that reviews pregnancy-related deaths as doctors have been warning that the state’s restrictive abortion ban puts women’s lives at risk.

Dr. Ingrid Skop was among the new appointees to the Texas Maternal Morality and Morbidity Review Committee announced last week by the Texas Department of State Health Services. Her term starts June 1.

The committee, which compiles data on pregnancy-related deaths, makes recommendations to the Legislature on best practices and policy changes and is expected to assess the impact of abortion laws on maternal mortality.

Skop, who has worked as an OB-GYN for over three decades, is vice president and director of medical affairs for the Charlotte Lozier Institute, an anti-abortion research group. Skop will be the committee’s rural representative.

Skop, who has worked in San Antonio for most of her career, told the Houston Chronicle that she has “often cared for women traveling long distances from rural Texas maternity deserts, including women suffering complications from abortions.”

Texas has one of the most restrictive abortion bans in the U.S., and doctors have sought clarity on the state’s medical exemption, which allows an abortion to save a woman’s life or prevent the impairment of a major bodily function. Doctors have said the exemption is too vague, making it difficult to offer life-saving care for fear of repercussions. A doctor convicted of providing an illegal abortion in Texas can face up to 99 years in prison and a $100,000 fine and lose their medical license.

Skop has said medical associations are not giving doctors the proper guidance on the matter. She has also shared more controversial views, saying during a congressional hearing in 2021 that rape or incest victims as young as 9 or 10 could carry pregnancies to term.

Texas’ abortion ban has no exemption for cases of rape or incest.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which says abortion is “inherently tied to maternal health,” said in a statement that members of the Texas committee should be “unbiased, free of conflicts of interest and focused on the appropriate standards of care.” The organization noted that bias against abortion has already led to “compromised” analyses, citing a research articles co-authored by Skop and others affiliated with the Charlotte Lozier Institute.

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Earlier this year a medical journal retracted studies supported by the Charlotte Lozier Institute claiming to show harms of the abortion pill mifepristone, citing conflicts of interests by the authors and flaws in their research. Two of the studies were cited in a pivotal Texas court ruling that has threatened access to the drug.

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Michigan farmworker diagnosed with bird flu, becoming 2nd US case tied to dairy cows

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Michigan farmworker diagnosed with bird flu, becoming 2nd US case tied to dairy cows

A Michigan dairy worker has been diagnosed with bird flu — the second human case associated with an outbreak in U.S. dairy cows.

The male worker had been in contact with cows at a farm with infected animals. He experienced mild eye symptoms and has recovered, U.S. and Michigan health officials said in announcing the case Wednesday.

A nasal swab from the person tested negative for the virus, but an eye swab tested Tuesday was positive for bird flu, “indicating an eye infection,” U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials said.

The worker developed a “gritty feeling” in his eye earlier this month but it was a “very mild case,” said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, Michigan’s chief medical executive. He was not treated with oseltamivir, a medication advised for treating bird flu, she said.

The risk to the public remains low, but farmworkers exposed to infected animals are at higher risk, health officials said. They said those workers should be offered protective equipment, especially for their eyes.

Health officials say they do not know if the Michigan farmworker was wearing protective eyewear, but an investigation is continuing.

In late March, a farmworker in Texas was diagnosed in what officials called the first known instance globally of a person catching this version of bird flu from a mammal. That patient reported only eye inflammation and recovered.

Since 2020, a bird flu virus has been spreading among more animal species — including dogs, cats, skunks, bears and even seals and porpoises — in scores of countries.

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The detection in U.S. livestock earlier this year was an unexpected twist that sparked questions about food safety and whether it would start spreading among humans.

That hasn’t happened, although there’s been a steady increase of reported infections in cows. As of Wednesday, the virus had been confirmed in 51 dairy herds in nine states, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department. Fifteen of the herds were in Michigan.

The CDC’s Dr. Nirav Shah said the case was “not unexpected” and it’s possible more infections could be diagnosed in people who work around infected cows.

U.S. officials said they had tested 40 people since the first cow cases were discovered in late March. Michigan has tested 35 of them, Bagdasarian told The Associated Press in an interview.

Shah praised Michigan officials for actively monitoring farmworkers. He said health officials there have been sending daily text messages to workers exposed to infected cows asking about possible symptoms, and that the effort helped officials catch this infection. He said no other workers had reported symptoms.

That’s encouraging news, said Michael Osterholm, a University of Minnesota epidemiologist who has studied bird flu for decades. There’s no sign to date that the virus is causing flu-like illness or that it is spreading among people.

“If we had four or five people seriously ill with respiratory illness, we would be picking that up,” he said.

The virus has been found in high levels in the raw milk of infected cows, but government officials say pasteurized products sold in grocery stores are safe because heat treatment has been confirmed to kill the virus.

The new case marks the third time a person in the United States has been diagnosed with what’s known as Type A H5N1 virus. In 2022, a prison inmate in a work program picked it up while killing infected birds at a poultry farm in Montrose County, Colorado. His only symptom was fatigue, and he recovered. That predated the virus’s appearance in cows.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Educational Media Group. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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