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Putin: Call-up of Russian reservists to finish in 2 weeks

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Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks at the Summit of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), in Astana, Kazakhstan, Friday, Oct. 14, 2022. (Ramil Sitdikov, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

KYIV, UKRAINE (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday he expects a mobilization of army reservists he ordered last month to bolster his country’s troops in Ukraine to be completed in two weeks.

Putin told reporters after attending a summit in Kazakhstan that 222,000 of the 300,000 reservists the Russian Defense Ministry said would get called up have been mobilized. A total of 33,000 of them are already in military units and 16,000 are involved in combat, he said.

The call-up, announced by Putin in September, has proved hugely unpopular in Russia, where almost all men under the age of 65 are registered as reservists. At the same time, the Kremlin has faced domestic criticism of its handling of the war, increasing pressure on Putin to do more to turn the tide in Russia’s favor.

The Russian leader initially described the mobilization as “partial” and said only those with combat or service experience would be drafted. However, a decree he signed outlined almost no specific criteria.

Russian media reports have described attempts to round up men without the relevant experience, including those ineligible for service for medical reasons. In the wake of the president’s mobilization order, tens of thousands of men left Russia.

Putin also said Friday there was no need for more widespread attacks against Ukraine, such as those Russia launched Monday in retaliation for an Oct. 8 truck bomb explosion on a prized bridge linking Russia to Crimea, which Moscow seized from Ukraine in 2014.

The Kerch Bridge explosion followed Ukraine’s recapturing of occupied areas in the country’s east and south in continuing counteroffensives that have restored Ukrainian confidence and embarrassed Russia’s military.

Russia has promised free accommodation to residents of Ukraine’s partially occupied Kherson region who want to evacuate to Russia, a sign that Ukrainian military gains along the war’s southern front are worrying the Kremlin.

The Moscow-installed leader of Kherson, one of four regions illegally annexed by Putin last month, asked the Kremlin to organize an evacuation from four cities, citing incessant shelling by Ukrainian forces.

Vladimir Saldo, the head of the Moscow-appointed regional administration, said a decision was made to evacuate Kherson residents to the Russian regions of Rostov, Krasnodar and Stavropol, as well as to the Crimean Peninsula, which Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

“We, residents of the Kherson region, of course know that Russia doesn’t abandon their own, and Russia always offers a hand,” Saldo said Thursday.

Russia has characterized the movement of Ukrainians to Russia or Russian-controlled territory as voluntary, but in many cases those are the only evacuation routes residents of occupied areas can or are allowed to take.

Reports have surfaced that some Ukrainians were forcibly deported to “filtration camps” with harsh conditions. In addition, an Associated Press investigation found that Russian officials deported thousands of Ukrainian children – some orphaned, others living with foster families or in institutions – to be raised as Russian.

The evacuation announcement came as Ukrainian forces pushed deeper into the Kherson region, albeit at a slower pace than a few weeks ago. Ukrainian forces reported retaking 75 populated places in the region in the last month, Ukraine’s Ministry for Reintegration of Temporarily Occupied Territories said late Thursday night.

A similar campaign in eastern Ukraine resulted in most of the Kharkiv region returning to Ukrainian control, as well as parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, the ministry said.

Putin illegally annexed Kherson, as well as the neighboring Zaporizhzhia region and the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of eastern Ukraine last month following “referendums” in the four regions that Kyiv and the West denounced as a sham.

Gen. Valeriy Zaluzhny, the commander of Ukraine’s armed forces, vowed Friday that his forces would succeed in “getting ours back.”

“No one and nothing will stop us,” Zaluzhny said in a video message. “We have buried the myth of the invincibility of the Russian army.”

While reiterating calls for local residents to evacuate to Russia, Saldo’s deputy, Kirill Stremousov, also insisted the evacuation preparations did not mean the Russian-installed officials anticipated Ukrainian forces taking all of the Kherson region.

“No one’s retreating. … No one is planning to leave the territory of the Kherson region,” he said.

For a fifth day, Russia continued missile strikes on critical infrastructure that started Monday in retaliation for an explosion on the Kerch Bridge last weekend that Moscow has said was caused by a truck bomb. The span, which links Crimea to the Russian mainland, holds important strategic and symbolic value to Russia in its faltering war in Ukraine.

In the last 24 hours, at least nine civilians were killed and 15 were wounded, the Ukrainian president’s office reported Friday morning. The victims included an 11-year-old boy and six other people who died after a missile strike in the city of Mykolaiv, where a residential building was destroyed, the regional governor, Vitaliy Kim, said.

Russian forces on Friday carried out at least four missile strikes on Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second- largest city. Mayor Ihor Terekhov reported several explosions in the northeastern city without offering any details on the extent of the damage or saying if there were any casualties.

The Ukrainian army recaptured most previously occupied areas of the Kharkiv region, which includes the city of the same name, during a fierce counteroffensive last month that forced Russian troops to withdraw and inflicted a stunning blow on Moscow’s military prestige.

The region’s governor, Oleh Syniehubov, urged residents not to ignore air raid sirens and to get to bomb shelters. Earlier Russian strikes on Thursday night cut off the electricity in the regional capital, which had a pre-war population of 1.4 million.

Multiple Russian missile strikes shook the city of Zaphorizhzhia overnight. The capital of the annexed region remains in Ukrainian hands and has come under repeated bombardment as Ukraine pushes its southern counteroffensive.

Several explosions were reported overnight at infrastructure facilities, causing fires, regional Gov, Oleksandr Starukh said. There were no victims in preliminary reports, and further details about specific damage were unavailable.

Starukh told Ukrainian state television that Russian soldiers remained unable to enter the city but their “missiles remind us of the evil and grief that the army of the occupiers carries.”

In addition to the missile strikes on the regional capital, there was also shelling in three cities closer to the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant. In Nikopol, Marhanets, Chervonohryhorivka, drone and artillery strikes destroyed residential buildings and damaged water supply and power lines.

The regional capital is about 100 miles by road from the plant, the largest nuclear power plant in Europe. Two days ago, it was forced to revert to diesel-fueled generator power to maintain its reactor cooling systems after an Russian missile attack on distant electrical substation.

Friday is Defender’s Day in Ukraine, but celebrations were muted because of the war. In Kyiv, a concert at the central opera house was canceled because of planned, rotating power outages across the city as repairs to the city’s energy infrastructure continue following Russia’s wide-ranging missile attacks.

Missile, drone and rocket attacks on Ukraine have kept the country on edge with air raid sirens occurring more frequently and bringing a heightened sense of urgency after Monday’s strike killed 19 people and wounded more than 100, including many in the capital.

Putin has vowed to retaliate harshly if Ukraine or its allies strike Russian territory, including the annexed regions of Ukraine. Russian officials reported Friday that Ukrainian shelling blew up an ammunition depot in Russia’s Belgorod region on the border with Ukraine.

An unspecified number of people were killed and wounded in the incident, according to Russia’s Investigative Committee. Unconfirmed media reports said three Russian National Guard officers were killed and more than 10 were wounded.

The Kerch Bridge explosion temporarily halted rail and road traffic on the 12-mile span, undermining a vital supply route for the Kremlin’s forces. The Russian government said Friday that repairs were scheduled to be completed by July 2023.

Also on Friday, a court in Simferopol, the second-largest city in Crimea, formally arrested and placed five suspects in pre-trial detention in connection with the explosion, according to Russian news agency Interfax.

Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) stated on Wednesday that it had identified 12 suspects involved in the explosion. The FSB reported the involvement of Ukrainian, Armenian and Russian citizens in what it described as a “terrorist act”.

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US opts to not rebuild renowned Puerto Rico telescope

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FILE - This July 13, 2016 photo shows the world's largest single-dish radio telescope at the Arecibo Observatory in Arecibo, Puerto Rico. The National Science Foundation announced Oct. 13, 2022 that it will not rebuild the renowned radio telescope, which was one of the world’s largest until it collapsed in August 2020. (AP Photo/Danica Coto, File)

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — The National Science Foundation announced Thursday that it will not rebuild a renowned radio telescope in Puerto Rico, which was one of the world’s largest until it collapsed nearly two years ago.

Instead, the agency issued a solicitation for the creation of a $5 million education center at the site that would promote programs and partnerships related to science, technology, engineering and math. It also seeks the implementation of a research and workforce development program, with the center slated to open next year in the northern mountain town of Arecibo where the telescope was once located.

The solicitation does not include operational support for current infrastructure at the site that is still in use, including a 12-meter radio telescope or the Lidar facility, which is used to study the upper atmosphere and ionosphere to analyze cloud cover and precipitation data.

The reflector dish and the 900-ton platform hanging 450 feet above it previously allowed scientists to track asteroids headed to Earth, conduct research that led to a Nobel Prize and determine if a planet is potentially habitable.

“We understand how much the site has meant to the community,” said Sean Jones, assistant director for directorate of mathematical and physical sciences at NSF. “If you’re a radio astronomer, you’ve probably spent some time of your career at Arecibo.”

But all research abruptly ended when an auxiliary cable snapped in August 2020, tearing a 100-foot hole in the dish and damaging the dome above it. A main cable broke three months later, prompting the NSF to announce in November 2020 that it was closing the telescope because the structure was too unstable.

Experts suspect that a possible manufacturing error caused the cable to snap, but NSF officials said Thursday that the investigation is still ongoing.

Jones said in a phone interview that the decision to not rebuild the telescope comes in part because the U.S. government has other radar facilities that can do part of the mission that Arecibo once did. He added that the NSF also envisions a five-year maintenance contract to keep the site open, which would cost at least $1 million a year.

“This is a pivotal time. The education component is very important,” said James Moore, assistant director for education and human resource directorate at NSF.

He said by phone that one of the agency’s priorities is to make STEM more accessible and inclusive and that the proposed education center would fill that need.

“It’s a way to augment some of the things that young people are getting in their schools or not getting,” he said.

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Judge rules new DACA program can continue temporarily

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FILE - Susana Lujano, left, a dreamer from Mexico who lives in Houston, joins other activists to rally in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, also known as DACA, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on June 15, 2022. The fate of DACA, a program preventing the deportation of hundreds of thousands of immigrants brought into the United States as children, was set Friday, Oct. 14, 2022, to again be in front of a federal judge who has previously declared it illegal. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

HOUSTON (AP) — A federal judge ruled Friday that the current version of a federal policy that prevents the deportation of hundreds of thousands of immigrants brought to the U.S. as children can continue, at least temporarily.

U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen — who last year declared the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program illegal — said that the policy, which is set to proceed under new regulations at the end of the month, can continue with limitations that he previously set. Those limitations say there can be no new applicants for DACA and that those who are already in the program can continue to be in it and renew their application.

Hanen ordered attorneys in the case to provide more information and said he expects additional legal arguments related to the new rule, but there was no timetable set for future hearings. It’s also unclear when Hanen will give his final decision on the case, which is expected to end up at the U.S. Supreme Court.

The current version of DACA, which the Biden administration created to improve its chances of surviving legal scrutiny, is set to take effect Oct. 31.

The case went back to Hanen after the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans said last week he should take another look at DACA following revisions adopted by the Biden administration.

Before the hearing Friday morning, a group of about 30 community activists gathered in support of DACA at a park next to the federal courthouse. They held up signs that said, “Judge Hanen Do the Right Thing Protect DACA” and “Immigrants Are Welcomed.” They chanted as many of them marched into the courthouse to attend the hearing.

Hanen last year declared DACA illegal after Texas and eight other Republican-leaning states filed a lawsuit claiming they are harmed financially, incurring hundreds of millions of dollars in health care, education and other costs, when immigrants are allowed to remain in the country illegally. They also argued that the White House overstepped its authority by granting immigration benefits that are for Congress to decide.

“Only Congress has the ability to write our nation’s immigration laws,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said Thursday in a statement.

Hanen found DACA had not been subjected to public notice and comment periods required under the federal Administrative Procedures Act. But he left the Obama-era program intact for those already benefiting from it, pending the appeal. There were 611,270 people enrolled in DACA at the end of March.

A three-judge panel of the New Orleans-based appeals court upheld Hanen’s initial finding but sent the case back to Hanen so he could review the impact of the federal government’s new DACA regulation.

The new rule’s 453 pages are largely technical and represent little substantive change from the 2012 memo that created DACA, but it was subject to public comments as part of a formal rule-making process.

But even if Hanen were to issue a positive ruling on the new DACA regulation, the judge might still decide the program is illegal because it was not created by Congress, Perales said.

“Which is why so many right now are calling on Congress to act,” she said.

After last week’s appeals court ruling, President Joe Biden and advocacy groups renewed their calls for Congress to pass permanent protections for “Dreamers,” which is what people protected by DACA are commonly called. Congress has failed multiple times to pass proposals called the DREAM Act to protect DACA recipients.

Whatever Hanen decides, DACA is expected to go to the Supreme Court for a third time. In 2016, the Supreme Court deadlocked 4-4 over an expanded DACA and a version of the program for parents of DACA recipients. In 2020, the high court ruled 5-4 that the Trump administration improperly ended DACA, allowing it to stay in place.

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Proposed UN resolution would sanction top Haitian gang chief

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FILE - Barbecue, the leader of the "G9 and Family" gang, stands next to garbage to call attention to the conditions people live in as he leads a march against kidnapping through La Saline neighborhood in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Friday, Oct. 22, 2021. Haiti Prime Minister Ariel Henry and 18 top-ranking officials have requested on the second week of Oct. 2022, the immediate deployment of foreign armed troops as gangs and protesters paralyze the country. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph, File)

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Security Council is negotiating a resolution that would impose an arms embargo, asset freeze and travel ban on influential Haitian gang leader Jimmy Cherizier, nicknamed “Barbeque.”

It also would target other Haitian individuals and groups who engage in actions that threaten the peace, security or stability of the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country, according to the text obtained Thursday by The Associated Press.

The U.S.-drafted resolution singles out by name Cherizier, a former police officer who leads an alliance of Haitian gangs known as the “G9 Family and Allies.” But it would establish a Security Council committee to designate other Haitians and groups to be put on a blacklist and subjected to sanctions as well.

The draft resolution expresses “grave concern about the extremely high levels of gang violence and other criminal activities, including kidnappings, trafficking in persons and the smuggling of migrants, and homicides, and sexual and gender-based violence including rape and sexual slavery, as well as ongoing impunity for perpetrators, corruption and recruitment of children by gangs and the implications of Haiti’s situation for the region.”

The Security Council moved up a meeting on Haiti to Monday because of the increasingly dire situation in the country.

Daily life in Haiti began to spin out of control last month just hours after Prime Minister Ariel Henry said fuel subsidies would be eliminated, causing prices to double. Gangs blocked the entrance to the Varreux fuel terminal, leading to a severe shortage of fuel at a time that clean water is also scarce and the country is trying to deal with a deadly cholera outbreak.

The draft resolution says “Cherizier and his G9 gang confederation are actively blocking the free movement of fuel from the Varreux fuel terminal — the largest in Haiti.”

“His actions have directly contributed to the economic paralysis and humanitarian crisis in Haiti,” it says.

In a video posted on Facebook last week, Cherizier called on the government to grant him and G9 members amnesty and to void all arrest warrants against them. He said in Creole that Haiti’s economic and social situation is worsening by the day, so “there is no better time than today to dismantle the system.”

He outlined a transitional plan for restoring order in Haiti. It would include creation of a Council of Sages with one representative from each of Haiti’s 10 departments to govern the country with an interim president until a presidential election could be held in February 2024. It also calls for restructuring Haiti’s National Police and strengthening the army.

“The country is (facing) one crisis after another,” Cherizier said. “During all these crises, the first victim is the population, the people in the ghettos, the peasants.”

Haiti has been in the grips of an inflationary vise that is squeezing its people and exacerbating protests that have brought society to the breaking point. Violence is raging, making parents afraid to send their kids to school. Hospitals, banks and grocery stores are struggling to stay open.

The president of neighboring Dominican Republic, which shares the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, recently described the situation as a “low-intensity civil war.” His government is cracking down on Haitians migrating to the Dominican Republic.

Political instability has simmered ever since last year’s still-unsolved assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse, who had faced opposition protests calling for his resignation over corruption charges and claims that his five-year term had ended. Moïse dissolved Parliament in January 2020 after legislators failed to hold elections in 2019 amid political gridlock.

Last week, Haiti’s prime minister and 18 high-ranking officials requested “the immediate deployment of a specialized armed force, in sufficient quantity” by international partners to stop the “criminal actions” of armed gangs across the country.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres sent a letter to the Security Council on Sunday calling for the deployment of a rapid action force by one or several U.N. member states to help Haiti’s National Police.

That force would “remove the threat posed by armed gangs and provide immediate protection to critical infrastructure and services,” as well as secure the “free movement of water, fuel, food and medical supplies from main ports and airports to communities and health care facilities,” he said.

The draft resolution takes note of Guterres’ letter, welcomes the appeal from Haiti, and encourages “the immediate deployment of a multinational rapid action force” to support the Haitian National Police, as the secretary-general recommends.

U.S. officials said Wednesday the Biden administration will provide security and humanitarian assistance to Haiti and pull visas to current and former government officials involved with gangs.

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