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UN nuclear agency starts probe of Russian dirty bomb claim

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UN nuclear agency starts probe of Russian dirty bomb claim

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Experts from the United Nations’ nuclear power agency inspected two sites in Ukraine on Tuesday that Russia identified in unfounded claims that Ukrainian authorities planned to set off radioactive “dirty bombs” in their own invaded country.

Russian strikes targeting eight regions of southeastern Ukraine killed at least four civilians and wounded four others in 24 hours, the Ukrainian president’s office said. Tens of thousands of people faced power blackouts and water shortages following Russian shelling of energy infrastructure in 10 regions on Monday.

International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Grossi said the inspections for evidence of a so-called dirty bomb, requested by Kyiv in the wake of the unsubstantiated Russian allegations, would be completed soon.

In the wake of battlefield setbacks for Russia in its war in Ukraine, top Russian officials, including President Vladimir Putin, made unsubstantiated accusations that Ukraine was manufacturing such an explosive device, which scatters radioactive waste. The Russians, without providing evidence, alleged the Ukrainians planned to make the purported bomb look like Russia’s doing.

Russia’s U.N. ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia, alleged in a letter to Security Council members last week that Ukraine’s nuclear research facility and mining company “received direct orders from (President Volodymyr) Zelenskyy’s regime to develop such a dirty bomb.”

Western nations have called Moscow’s repeated claim “transparently false.” Ukrainian authorities dismissed it as an attempt to distract attention from Moscow’s own alleged plans to detonate a dirty bomb as a way to justify a further escalation of hostilities.

The International Atomic Energy Agency has said the investigated sites “are under IAEA safeguards and have been visited regularly by IAEA inspectors,” whose mission is detecting undeclared nuclear activities and materials related to the development of dirty bombs.

“The IAEA inspected one of the two locations a month ago and no undeclared nuclear activities or materials were found there,” the agency said in a statement Monday.

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The U.N.’s atomic energy watchdog also has had on-site monitors at the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant. Fighting around near Europe’s largest nuclear power station has created worries of a possibly catastrophic leak there.

The Ukrainian president’s office said Tuesday that cities and towns around the plant experienced more heavy shelling between Monday and Tuesday. In Nikopol, a city which faces the plant from across the wide Dnieper River, over a dozen apartment buildings, a kindergarten, and various private businesses were damaged, the office said.

Russian shelling hit 14 towns and villages in the eastern Donetsk region Monday and into Tuesday, destroying sections of railway track, damaging a power line and taking down mobile communications in some areas. A missile also struck the city of Kramatorsk, which hosts the Ukrainian army’s headquarters.

The shelling killed three civilians and wounded three others, the region’s governor, Pavlo Kyrylenko, said. Donetsk is one of four regions illegally annexed by Moscow last month, and continues to see fierce clashes as Russian forces press their grinding attack on the cities of Bakhmut and Avdiivka.

Another woman was killed after Russian rockets slammed into apartment buildings and a school in the southern city of Mykolayiv, its mayor reported Tuesday.

Ukraine was still grappling Tuesday with the consequences of Mondays’ massive barrage of Russian strikes, which disrupted power and water supplies in multiple Ukrainian cities and villages.

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said authorities restored electricity and running water in the capital’s residential buildings but that rolling power outages would continue in the city because of significant power shortages.

Kyiv region Gov. Oleksiy Kuleba said Tuesday that 20,000 apartments remained without power.

“Russia has opened an energy front, and is using energy to blackmail the civilian population, provoking hunger and cold in Ukraine,” Kuleba said on Ukrainian TV.

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Ukraine’s state energy company, Ukrenergo, said in a statement Tuesday that seven regions would experience rolling blackouts “to reduce the load on the (energy) grid, maintain a stable balance within the system and avoid repeated failures.”

In Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, subway service was suspended again on Tuesday, according to the subway’s Telegram page. No reason for the suspension was given.

In the occupied Kherson region, Russian-installed authorities sought to evacuate up to 70,000 more people living within 15 kilometers (9 miles) of the Dnieper River in anticipation of a Ukrainian counteroffensive pushing deeper into the region. The effort was already underway on Tuesday morning, according to the Kremlin-appointed governor of the region Vladimir Saldo.

In Russia, the regular fall draft got underway Tuesday with a total of 120,000 men expected to be conscripted within the next two months. Russian military officials have assured that conscripts will not be sent to fight in Ukraine, including to the annexed regions.

This year’s fall draft was scheduled to start in October, but was delayed by one month because of the partial mobilization of 300,000 men, which was declared completed on Monday. Kremlin critics have warned that the call-up could resume after the fall draft is over and military enlistment offices are freed up from processing conscripts.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Tuesday that of the 300,000 men drafted in the partial call-up announced by Putin on Sept. 21, 87,000 were deployed to Ukraine. Some 3,000 military instructors with combat experience acquired this year in Ukraine are involved in training draftees, Shoigu said.

Activists and reports by Russian media and The Associated Press said many of the mobilized reservists were inexperienced, were told to procure basic items such as medical kits and flak jackets themselves, and did not receive training before they were sent off to fight. Some were killed within days of being called up.

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

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Israel hails ‘success’ after blocking unprecedented attack from Iran

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Israel hails ‘success’ after blocking unprecedented attack from Iran

TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — Israeli leaders on Sunday credited an international military coalition with helping thwart a direct Iranian attack involving hundreds of drones and missiles, calling the coordinated response a starting point for a “strategic alliance” of regional opposition to Tehran.

But Israel’s War Cabinet met without making a decision on next steps, an official said, as a nervous world waited for any sign of further escalation of the former shadow war.

The military coalition, led by the United States, Britain and France and appearing to include a number of Middle Eastern countries, gave Israel support at a time when it finds itself isolated over its war against Hamas in Gaza. The coalition also could serve as a model for regional relations when that war ends.

“This was the first time that such a coalition worked together against the threat of Iran and its proxies in the Middle East,” said the Israeli military spokesman, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari.

One unknown is which of Israel’s neighbors participated in the shooting down of the vast majority of about 350 drones and missiles Iran launched. Israeli military officials and a key War Cabinet member noted additional “partners” without naming them. When pressed, White House national security spokesman John Kirby would not name them either.

But one appeared to be Jordan, which described its action as self-defense.

“There was an assessment that there was a real danger of Iranian marches and missiles falling on Jordan, and the armed forces dealt with this danger. And if this danger came from Israel, Jordan would take the same action,” Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman al-Safadi said in an interview on Al-Mamlaka state television. U.S. President Joe Biden spoke with Jordan’s King Abdullah on Sunday.

The U.S. has long tried to forge a regionwide alliance against Iran as a way of integrating Israel and boosting ties with the Arab world. The effort has included the 2020 Abraham Accords, which established diplomatic relations between Israel and four Arab countries, and having Israel in the U.S. military’s Central Command, which oversees operations in the Middle East and works closely with the armies of moderate Arab states.

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The U.S. had been working to establish full relations between Israel and regional heavyweight Saudi Arabia before the Oct. 7 Hamas attack sparked Israel’s war in Gaza. The war, which has claimed over 33,700 Palestinian lives, has frozen those efforts due to widespread outrage across the Arab world. But it appears that some behind-the-scenes cooperation has continued, and the White House has held out hopes of forging Israel-Saudi ties as part of a postwar plan.

Just ahead of Iran’s attack, the commander of CENTCOM, Gen. Erik Kurilla, visited Israel to map out a strategy.

Israel’s military chief, Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, on Sunday thanked CENTCOM for the joint defensive effort. Both Jordan and Saudi Arabia are under the CENTCOM umbrella. While neither acknowledged involvement in intercepting Iran’s launches, the Israeli military released a map showing missiles traveling through the airspace of both nations.

“Arab countries came to the aid of Israel in stopping the attack because they understand that regional organizing is required against Iran, otherwise they will be next in line,” Amos Yadlin, a former head of Israel’s military intelligence, wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

Israel’s defense minister, Yoav Gallant, said he had spoken with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and that the cooperation “highlighted the opportunity to establish an international coalition and strategic alliance to counter the threat posed by Iran.”

The White House signaled that it hopes to build on the partnerships and urged Israel to think twice before striking Iran. U.S. officials said Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Washington would not participate in any offensive action against Iran.

Israel’s War Cabinet met late Sunday to discuss a possible response, but an Israeli official familiar with the talks said no decisions had been made. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was discussing confidential deliberations.

Asked about plans for retaliation, Hagari declined to comment directly. “We are at high readiness in all fronts,” he said.

“We will build a regional coalition and collect the price from Iran, in the way and at the time that suits us,” said a key War Cabinet member, Benny Gantz.

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Iran launched the attack in response to a strike widely blamed on Israel that hit an Iranian consular building in Syria this month and killed two Iranian generals.

By Sunday morning, Iran said the attack was over, and Israel reopened its airspace. Iran’s president, Ebrahim Raisi, claimed Iran had taught Israel a lesson and warned that “any new adventures against the interests of the Iranian nation would be met with a heavier and regretful response from the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

The foes have been engaged in a shadow war for years, but Sunday’s assault was the first time Iran launched a direct military assault on Israel, despite decades of enmity dating back to the country’s 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Iran said it targeted Israeli facilities involved in the Damascus strike, and that it told the White House early Sunday that the operation would be “minimalistic.”

But U.S. officials said Iran’s intent was to “destroy and cause casualties” and that if successful, the strikes would have caused an “uncontrollable” escalation. At one point, at least 100 ballistic missiles were in the air with just minutes of flight time to Israel, the officials said.

Israel said more than 99% of what Iran fired was intercepted, with just a few missiles getting through. An Israeli airbase sustained minor damage.

Israel has over the years established — often with the help of the U.S. — a multilayered air-defense network that includes systems capable of intercepting a variety of threats, including long-range missiles, cruise missiles, drones and short-range rockets.

That system, along with collaboration with the U.S. and others, helped thwart what could have been a far more devastating assault at a time when Israel is already deeply engaged in Gaza as well as low-level fighting on its northern border with Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia. Both Hamas and Hezbollah are backed by Iran.

While thwarting the Iranian onslaught could help restore Israel’s image after the Hamas attack in October, what the Middle East’s best-equipped army does next will be closely watched in the region and in Western capitals — especially as Israel seeks to develop the coalition it praised Sunday.

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In Washington, Biden pledged to convene allies to develop a unified response. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. would hold talks with allies. After an urgent meeting, the Group of Seven countries unanimously condemned Iran’s attack and said they stood ready to take “further measures.”

Israel and Iran have been on a collision course throughout Israel’s war in Gaza. In the Oct. 7 attack, militants from Hamas and Islamic Jihad, also backed by Iran, killed 1,200 people in Israel and kidnapped 250 others. Israel’s offensive in Gaza has killed over 33,000 people, according to local health officials.

Hamas welcomed Iran’s attack, saying it was “a natural right and a deserved response” to the strike in Syria. It urged the Iran-backed groups in the region to continue to support Hamas in the war.

Hezbollah also welcomed the attack. Almost immediately after the war in Gaza erupted, Hezbollah began attacking Israel’s northern border. The two sides have been involved in daily exchanges of fire, while Iranian-backed groups in Iraq, Syria and Yemen have launched rockets and missiles toward Israel.

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Federman reported from Jerusalem. Associated Press writers Zeke Miller and Michelle L. Price in Washington; Amir Vahdat in Tehran, Iran; Samy Magdy in Cairo; Omar Akour in Amman, Jordan; and Giada Zampano in Rome contributed to this report.

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How to get rid of NYC rats without brutality? Birth control is one idea

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How to get rid of NYC rats without brutality? Birth control is one idea

New York lawmakers are proposing rules to humanely drive down the population of rats and other rodents, eyeing contraception and a ban on glue traps as alternatives to poison or a slow, brutal death.

Politicians have long come up with creative ways to battle the rodents, but some lawmakers are now proposing city and statewide measures to do more.

In New York City, the idea to distribute rat contraceptives got fresh attention in city government Thursday following the death of an escaped zoo owl, known as Flaco, who was found dead with rat poison in his system.

City Council Member Shaun Abreu proposed a city ordinance Thursday that would establish a pilot program for controlling the millions of rats lurking in subway stations and empty lots by using birth control instead of lethal chemicals. Abreu, chair of the Committee on Sanitation and Solid Waste Management, said the contraceptives also are more ethical and humane than other methods.

The contraceptive, called ContraPest, is contained in salty, fatty pellets that are scattered in rat-infested areas as bait. It works by targeting ovarian function in female rats and disrupting sperm cell production in males, The New York Times reported.

New York exterminators currently kill rats using snap and glue traps, poisons that make them bleed internally, and carbon monoxide gas that can suffocate them in burrows. Some hobbyists have even trained their dogs to hunt them.

Rashad Edwards, a film and television actor who runs pest management company Scurry Inc. in New York City with his wife, said the best method he has found when dealing with rodents is carbon monoxide.

He tries to use the most humane method possible, and carbon monoxide euthanizes the rats slowly, putting them to sleep and killing them. Edwards avoids using rat poison whenever possible because it is dangerous and torturous to the rodents, he said.

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Some lawmakers in Albany are considering a statewide ban on glue boards under a bill moving through the Legislature. The traps, usually made from a slab of cardboard or plastic coated in a sticky material, can also ensnare small animals that land on its surface.

Edwards opposes a ban on sticky traps, because he uses them on other pests, such as ants, to reduce overall pesticide use. When ants get into a house, he uses sticky traps to figure out where they’re most often passing by. It helps him narrow zones of pesticide use “so that you don’t go spray the entire place.”

“This is not a problem we can kill our way out of,” said Jakob Shaw, a special project manager for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. “It’s time to embrace these more common sense and humane methods.”

Two cities in California have passed bans on glue traps in recent years. On the federal level, a bill currently in committee would ban the traps nationwide.

“It ends a really inhumane practice of managing rat populations,” said Jabari Brisport, the New York state senator who represents part of Brooklyn and sponsored the bill proposing the new guidelines. “There are more effective and more humane ways to deal with rats.”

Every generation of New Yorkers has struggled to control rat populations. Mayor Eric Adams hired a “rat czar” last year tasked with battling the detested rodents. Last month, New York City reduced the amount of food served up to rats by mandating all businesses to put trash out in boxes.

While the war on rats has no end in sight, the exterminator Edwards said we can learn a lot from their resilience. The rodents, he said, can never be eradicated, only managed.

“They’re very smart, and they’re very wise,” he said. “It’s very inspiring but just — not in my house.”

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Coachella: Earthquake shakes SoCal desert during music fest

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Coachella: Earthquake shakes SoCal desert during music fest

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (AP) — A small earthquake shook the Southern California desert Saturday near Coachella, where the famous music festival is being held this weekend. No damage or injuries were reported.

The quake, with a preliminary magnitude of 3.8, hit at 9:08 a.m. about 8 miles (13 kilometers) northeast of Borrego Springs in Riverside County, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The epicenter was about 20 miles (32 kilometers) southeast of Coachella. It struck at a depth of about 7 miles (11 kilometers), the USGS said.

A dispatcher with the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department said there were no calls reporting any problems from the quake.

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