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AP Top News at 11:21 p.m. EDT

September 28, 2022 GMT

Cuba without electricity after hurricane hammers power grid

HAVANA (AP) — Hurricane Ian knocked out power across all of Cuba and devastated some of the country’s most important tobacco farms when it slammed into the island’s western tip as a major hurricane Tuesday. Cuba’s Electric Union said in a statement that work was underway to gradually restore service to the country’s 11 million people during the night. Power was initially knocked out to about 1 million people in Cuba’s western provinces, but later the entire grid collapsed. Ian hit a Cuba that has been struggling with an economic crisis and has faced frequent power outages in recent months. It made landfall as a Category 3 storm on the island’s western end, devastating Pinar del Río province, where much of the tobacco used for Cuba’s iconic cigars is grown.

Hurricane Ian strikes Cuba, Florida braces for winds, floods

HAVANA (AP) — Hurricane Ian tore into western Cuba as a major hurricane Tuesday, knocking out power to the entire country and leaving 11 million people without electricity, before churning on a collision course with Florida over warm Gulf waters amid expectations it would strengthen into a catastrophic Category 4 storm. Ian made landfall in Cuba’s Pinar del Rio province, where officials set up 55 shelters, evacuated 50,000 people, and took steps to protect crops in the nation’s main tobacco-growing region. The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Cuba suffered “significant wind and storm surge impacts” when the hurricane struck with top sustained winds of 125 mph (205 kmh).

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Kremlin announces vote, paves way to annex part of Ukraine

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — The Kremlin paved the way Tuesday to annex more of Ukraine and escalate the war by claiming that residents of a large swath overwhelmingly supported joining with Russia in stage-managed referendums the U.S. and its Western allies have dismissed as illegitimate. Pro-Moscow officials said all four occupied regions of Ukraine voted to join Russia. According to Russia-installed election officials, 93% of the ballots cast in the Zaporizhzhia region supported annexation, as did 87% in the Kherson region, 98% in the Luhansk region and 99% in Donetsk. Possibly explaining the lower favorable vote in Kherson is that Russian authorities there have faced a strong Ukrainian underground resistance movement whose members have killed Moscow-appointed officials and threatened those who considered voting.

Biden keeps US target for refugee admissions at 125,000

SAN DIEGO (AP) — President Joe Biden on Tuesday kept the nation’s cap on refugee admissions at 125,000 for the 2023 budget year, despite pressure from advocates to raise it even higher to meet the need after falling far short of that target this year. Refugees advocates have been pushing the Biden administration to do more to restore the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program. The more than four-decade-old program suffered deep cuts under the Trump administration, which slashed admissions to a record low of 15,000. After taking office, Biden quadrupled the number of refugee admissions permitted for the remaining months of the 2021 budget year.

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Millions of Americans will save on Medicare fees next year

WASHINGTON (AP) — For the first time in a decade, Americans will pay less next year on monthly premiums for Medicare’s Part B plan, which covers routine doctors’ visits and other outpatient care. The rare 3% decrease in monthly premiums is likely to be coupled with a historically high cost-of-living increase in Social Security benefits — perhaps 9% or 10% — putting hundreds of dollars directly into the pockets of millions of people. “That’s something we may never see again in the rest of our lives,” said Mary Johnson, the Social Security and Medicare policy analyst for The Senior Citizens League.

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VP Harris seeks computer chip partners in Japan meetings

TOKYO (AP) — Armed with a new law that boosts U.S. support for computer chip manufacturing, Vice President Kamala Harris said the administration was looking for new investments and partnerships as she sat down with Japanese technology executives on Wednesday. The morning meeting on her last full day in Tokyo reflects the administration’s focus on boosting semiconductor manufacturing and expanding the supply chain for critical materials. The economy’s vulnerability to disruptions in the flow of computer chips was revealed during the pandemic, when a shortage helped increase costs and stall the assembly of cars and other products. “The citizens and the people of our countries rely on products without even knowing sometimes how reliant those products are on semiconductor chips,” Harris said during the meeting at the U.S.

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Blasts precede Baltic pipeline leaks, sabotage seen likely

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Denmark believes “deliberate actions” caused big leaks in two natural gas pipelines running under the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany, and seismologists said powerful explosions preceded the leaks. European leaders and experts pointed to possible sabotage amid the energy standoff with Russia provoked by the war in Ukraine. Although filled with gas, neither pipeline is currently supplying it to Europe. “It is the authorities’ clear assessment that these are deliberate actions -– not accidents,” Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said Tuesday. But she added “there is no information indicating who could be behind it.” Frederiksen rejected the suggestion that the incident was an attack on Denmark, saying the leaks occurred in international waters.

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California murder suspect, teen daughter killed in shootout

LOS ANGELES (AP) — An abducted 15-year-old girl and her father — a fugitive wanted in the death of the teen’s mother — were both killed amid a shootout with law enforcement Tuesday on a highway in California’s high desert, authorities said. San Bernardino County Sheriff Shannon Dicus did not specify whether Savannah Graziano was shot by the responding deputies or her father. Anthony John Graziano, 45, had allegedly killed his estranged wife the day before and abducted their daughter. Investigators had issued an Amber Alert after Graziano fled. He was described as armed and dangerous. A 911 caller reported seeing the suspect’s Nissan Frontier around Barstow on Tuesday, according the sheriff’s department.

Families testify of confrontations with Sandy Hook deniers

WATERBURY, Conn. (AP) — A mother who lost one of her sons in the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre testified Tuesday that her biggest fear is that people who believe the shooting was a hoax will harm her other son, who survived the attack at his school. Nicole Hockley and her former husband, Ian Hockley, were the latest family members of the 26 victims of the school shooting to testify at the defamation trial of Alex Jones, where a jury is deciding how much the conspiracy theorist must pay for spreading the hoax lie. Nicole Hockley said she’s been called an actress and threatened with violence by people who have written to her that her 6-year-old son, Dylan, either never lived or never died.

FAFSA season starts: What you need to know for financial aid

NEW YORK (AP) — The Free Application for Federal Student Aid filing season starts Oct. 1 for the 2023-2024 school year. If you plan to attend college next year, experts say you might want to fill out the FAFSA application as close to the opening date as possible. Many institutions award financial aid on a first-come, first-serve basis. Karen McCarthy, vice president of public policy and federal relations from the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, recommends students get started. “It is a good idea to do it on the earlier side,” said McCarthy. “Whenever (colleges) run out of money, then that’s all the funding they have for the year.” Whether this is your first or fifth time filling out the application, here are some recommendations and background for completing this process and getting financial aid for your college career.