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World Briefing

Unseal warrant for Mar-a-Lago search, AG Garland asks

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department is asking a federal court to unseal the warrant the FBI used to search the Mar-a-Lago estate of former President Donald Trump, Attorney General Merrick Garland said Thursday, acknowledging extraordinary public interest in the case about classified records.

The request is striking because such documents traditionally remain sealed during a pending investigation. But the Justice Department appeared to recognize that its silence since the search had created a vacuum for bitter verbal attacks by Trump and his allies and Garland wanted to provide the FBI’s side for what led to the action.

“The public’s clear and powerful interest in understanding what occurred under these circumstances weighs heavily in favor of unsealing,” said a motion filed in federal court in Florida on Thursday seeking the unsealing.

Should the warrant be released — the request is now with the judge, and Trump can object — it could disclose potentially unflattering information about the former president and his handling of sensitive government documents right as he prepares for another run for the White House. During his successful 2016 campaign, he pointed frequently to an FBI investigation into his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, over whether she mishandled classified information.

It’s unclear at this point how much information would be included in the documents, if made public, or if they would encompass an FBI affidavit that would presumably lay out a detailed factual basis for the search. To obtain a search warrant, federal authorities must prove to a judge that probable cause exists to believe that a crime was committed.

CDC drops quarantine, distancing guidelines for COVID

NEW YORK (AP) — The nation’s top public health agency relaxed its COVID-19 guidelines Thursday, dropping the recommendation that Americans quarantine themselves if they come into close contact with an infected person.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also said people no longer need to stay at least 6 feet away from others.

The changes, which come more than 2 1/2 years after the start of the pandemic, are driven by a recognition that an estimated 95% of Americans 16 and older have acquired some level of immunity, either from being vaccinated or infected, agency officials said.

“The current conditions of this pandemic are very different from those of the last two years,” said the CDC’s Greta Massetti, an author of the guidelines.

Many places around the country long ago abandoned social distancing and other once-common precautions, but some of the changes could be particularly important for schools, which resume classes this month in many parts of the country.

Russia struggles to replenish its troops in Ukraine

The prisoners at the penal colony in St. Petersburg were expecting a visit by officials, thinking it would be some sort of inspection. Instead, men in uniform arrived and offered them amnesty — if they agreed to fight alongside the Russian army in Ukraine.

Over the following days, about a dozen or so left the prison, according to a woman whose boyfriend is serving a sentence there. Speaking on condition of anonymity because she feared reprisals, she said her boyfriend wasn’t among the volunteers, although with years left on his sentence, he “couldn’t not think about it.”

As Russia continues to suffer losses in its invasion of Ukraine, now nearing its sixth month, the Kremlin has refused to announce a full-blown mobilization — a move that could be very unpopular for President Vladimir Putin. That has led instead to a covert recruitment effort that includes using prisoners to make up the manpower shortage.

This also is happening amid reports that hundreds of Russian soldiers are refusing to fight and trying to quit the military.

“We’re seeing a huge outflow of people who want to leave the war zone — those who have been serving for a long time and those who have signed a contract just recently,” said Alexei Tabalov, a lawyer who runs the Conscript’s School legal aid group.

Big climate bill: Major new spending to spur green energy

WASHINGTON (AP) — After decades of inaction in the face of escalating natural disasters and sustained global warming, Congress hopes to make clean energy so cheap in all aspects of life that it’s nearly irresistible. The House is poised to pass a transformative bill Friday that would provide the most spending to fight climate change by any one nation ever in a single push.

Friday’s anticipated action comes 34 years after a top scientist grabbed headlines warning Congress about the dangers of global warming. In the decades since, there have been 308 weather disasters that have each cost the nation at least $1 billion, the record for the hottest year has been broken 10 times and wildfires have burned an area larger than Texas.

The crux of the long-delayed bill, singularly pushed by Democrats in a closely divided Congress, is to use incentives to spur investors to accelerate the expansion of clean energy such as wind and solar power, speeding the transition away from the oil, coal and gas that largely cause climate change.

The United States has put the most heat-trapping gases into the air, burning more inexpensive dirty fuels than any other country. But the nearly $375 billion in climate incentives in the Inflation Reduction Act are designed to make the already plummeting costs of renewable energy substantially lower at home, on the highways and in the factory. Together these could help shrink U.S. carbon emissions by about two-fifths by 2030 and should chop emissions from electricity by as much as 80%.

Experts say it isn’t enough, but it’s a big start.

Buried as numbers, more of Bucha’s victims are laid to rest

BUCHA, UKRAINE (AP) — With graves marked only with numbers, not names, burial services were held Thursday for 11 more unidentified bodies found in Bucha, the town outside the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv that saw hundreds of people slaughtered under Russian occupation early in the war.

Under a grim gray sky, the two women and eight men were buried following their discovery in a mass grave near the town’s Church of Andrew the Apostle, in the wake of the Russian withdrawal in late March. The 11th victim had been shot dead and was found in the village of Chervone, 17 kilometers (10 miles) further outside the Ukrainian capital. Another man who was shot dead but who was identified was also buried Thursday at the same cemetery.

The civilian killings at Bucha have become a symbol of brutality of the war. They were carried out as Russia launched a failed effort to capture the Ukrainian capital after it invaded the country on Feb. 24.

Wrapped in plastic, the bodies arrived in a refrigerator truck, were placed in wooden caskets and then buried separately.

“We are praying for the souls of those killed unjustly,” said Father Andriy, an Orthodox priest who led Thursday’s service near the site where the mass grave was found. “God knows their names.”

Brazilians rally for democracy, seek to rein in Bolsonaro

SAO PAULO (AP) — Thousands of Brazilians flocked to a law school Thursday in defense of the nation’s democratic institutions, an event that carried echoes of a gathering nearly 45 years ago when citizens joined together at the same site to denounce a brutal military dictatorship.

In 1977, the masses poured into the University of Sao Paulo’s law school to listen to a reading of “A Letter to Brazilians,” a manifesto calling for a prompt return of the rule of law. On Thursday, they heard declarations defending democracy and the country’s elections systems, which President Jair Bolsonaro has repeatedly attacked ahead of his reelection bid.

While the current manifestos don’t specifically name Bolsonaro, they underscore the country’s widespread concern that the far-right leader may follow in former U.S. President Donald Trump’s footsteps and reject election results not in his favor in an attempt to cling to power.

“We are at risk of a coup, so civil society must stand up and fight against that to guarantee democracy,” Jose Carlos Dias, a former justice minister who helped write the 1977 letter and the two documents read Thursday, told The Associated Press.

In Sao Paulo, drivers stuck in traffic on one of the main roads to the law school applauded and honked as marching students chanted pro-democracy slogans. A huge inflatable electronic voting machine by the building’s main entrance bore the slogan “RESPECT THE VOTE”.

Gas prices dip just below $4 for the first time in 5 months

DALLAS (AP) — Gasoline prices have dipped under $4 for the first time in more than five months — good news for consumers who are struggling with high prices for many other essentials.

AAA said the national average for a gallon of regular was $3.99 on Thursday, down from the mid-June record of $5.02. However, that’s still about 80 cents higher than the average a year ago.

Energy is a key factor in the cost of many goods and services, and falling prices for gas, airline tickets and clothes are giving consumers a bit of relief, although inflation is still close to a four-decade high.

Glen Smith, a for-hire driver, sized up the price — $3.85 a gallon — while waiting between rides at a gas station in Kenner, Louisiana.

“I’m not tickled pink, but I’m happier it’s less than what it was,” Smith said. “There for a while, every two days I put $50 of gas in my car. It’s $12 to run from the airport to drop off in the city — $12 a trip!”

Scientists use tiny trackers, plane to follow moths on move

NEW YORK (AP) — Trillions of insects migrate across the globe each year, yet little is known about their journeys. So to look for clues, scientists in Germany took to the skies, placing tiny trackers on the backs of giant moths and following them by plane.

To the researchers’ surprise, the moths seemed to have a strong sense of where they were going. Even when the winds changed, the insects stayed on a straight course, the scientists reported in a study published Thursday in the journal Science.

Their flight paths suggest these death’s-head hawk moths have some complex navigation skills, the authors said, challenging earlier ideas that insects are just wanderers.

“For many, many years, it was thought that insect migration was mostly just dictated by winds, and they were blowing around,” said lead author Myles Menz, now a zoologist at James Cook University in Australia.

It’s been tough for scientists to get a close look at how insects travel, in part because of their small size, Menz said. The kinds of radio tags used to follow birds can be too heavy for smaller fliers.

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