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AP News in Brief at 11:04 p.m. EDT

Under pressure over border, Biden administration to protect hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration said Wednesday that it was granting temporary legal status to hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans who are alr

Under pressure over border, Biden administration to protect hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration said Wednesday that it was granting temporary legal status to hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans who are already in the country — quickly making them eligible to work — as it grapples with growing numbers of people fleeing the South American country and elsewhere to arrive at the U.S. border with Mexico.

The move — along with promises to accelerate work permits for many migrants — may appease Democratic leaders who have pressured the White House to do more to aid asylum seekers, while also providing grist for Republicans who say the president has been too lax on immigration.

The Homeland Security Department plans to grant Temporary Protected Status to an estimated 472,000 Venezuelans who arrived in the country as of July 31, 2023, making it easier for them to get authorization to work in the U.S. That's been a key demand of Democratic mayors and governors who are struggling to care for an increased number of migrants in their care.

That's in addition to about 242,700 Venezuelans who already qualified for temporary status before Wednesday's announcement.

The protections for Venezuelans are significant because they account for such a large number of the migrants who have been arriving in the country in recent years.


Behind all the speechmaking at the UN lies a basic, unspoken question: Is the world governable?

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Work together. Go it alone. The apocalypse is at hand. But the future can be bright. The squabbles never cease, yet here are human beings from all across the world — hashing out conflicts with words and processes, convening under one roof, trying to write the next chapter of a common dream.

At the United Nations, “multilateralism” is always the goal. Yet so is the quest for a coherent storyline that unites all 193 member states and their ideas. Those two holy grails often find themselves at odds when leaders gather each September at the United Nations — a construct whose very name can be a two-word contradiction.

You hear a lot about “the narrative” these days in politics (and everywhere else). It's a way to punch through the static and make sure people are absorbing your message — and, ultimately, doing what you want them to do. But how to establish a coherent storyline when the very notion of many nations with many voices is baked into the pie to begin with?

Which raises the bigger question, the one that sits beneath it all at this assembling of people trying to figure out how to run their patches of the planet and be part of an increasingly interconnected civilization: With the 21st century unfolding in all of its unimaginable complexities and conundrums, with fracture and fragmentation everywhere, can the world even be governed?

“Yes, it can, but only in the sense that the world has ever been governed, including in this highly institutionalized and regulated world — that is, minimally," Jeffrey Martinson, an associate professor of political science at Meredith College in North Carolina, said in an email.


House Republicans clash with Attorney General Garland, accusing him of favoring Hunter Biden

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Republicans clashed with Attorney General Merrick Garland on Wednesday, accusing him and the Justice Department of the “weaponization” of the department's work in favor of President Joe Biden 's son Hunter.

Garland’s appearance before the House Judiciary Committee was his first in two years and came at an unprecedented moment in the department’s history: He’s overseeing two cases against Donald Trump, the first former president to face criminal charges, and another against the sitting president's son.

Republicans on the committee — led by chairman Jim Jordan of Ohio — set the tone with accusations that the Justice Department is favoring the Biden family while targeting his likely 2024 opponent, Trump.

“There’s one investigation protecting President Biden. There’s another one attacking President Trump,” Jordan declared. “The Justice Department’s got both sides of the equation covered.”

Garland — carefully and deliberately — defended the country’s largest law enforcement agency of more than 115,000 employees at a time when political and physical threats against agents and their families are on the rise.


Trump launches his fall push in Iowa to lock in his lead before the first Republican caucuses

MAQUOKETA, Iowa (AP) — Donald Trump began a fall press Wednesday to lock in thousands of Republican caucusgoers in early-voting Iowa, where the former president faces sky-high expectations in his campaign for a White House comeback.

Having campaigned far less often in Iowa than many of his 2024 rivals, Trump was making his first of five Iowa visits planned through the end of October. The visits are aimed at converting what polls in Iowa show as a commanding lead into committed supporters and volunteers as Trump's campaign tries to secure a massive victory that would deny his rivals momentum and effectively end the primary on caucus day.

“In less than four months from now, we're going to win the Iowa caucuses in a historic landslide," Trump predicted as he addressed a crowd of more than 1,000 people in small-town Maquoketa. He urged those in attendance to support him in the Jan. 15 caucuses and asked them to bring friends along.

On display was his team's promised commitment to better organize in Iowa than it did in 2016, when Trump finished a close second to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

Supporters from across northeast Iowa had lined up outside the expo building at the Jackson County fairgrounds hours before Trump's arrival. His campaign aimed to collect signed cards from the crowd pledging to back him in the Jan. 15 caucuses. While the cards do not bind voters to a candidate, they give campaigns valuable contact information to get out the vote and recruit volunteers and precinct leaders.


Officers who put Elijah McClain in neck hold ignored pleas of 'I can't breathe,' prosecutors say

BRIGHTON, Colo. (AP) — Two Denver-area police officers who put Elijah McClain in a neck hold ignored his pleas of “I can’t breathe” before the Black man was injected by paramedics with a powerful sedative and died, prosecutors said Wednesday, as a trial began over the 2019 confrontation that became a rallying cry for protests and spurred police reform.

In opening arguments for the first of several trials stemming from McClain's death, lawyers for the two sides painted contrasting pictures of the fatal struggle after he was stopped by police in Aurora.

Officers Randy Roedema and Jason Rosenblatt approached McClain, a 23-year-old massage therapist, as he walked home from a convenience store carrying only a plastic bag with three cans of iced tea and his phone. A 911 caller had reported him as “sketchy.”

If prosecutors can convince jurors the Aug. 24, 2019 stop was unjustified, that would undermine any argument that McClain’s injuries were a result of the officers just doing their jobs.

Roedema and Rosenblatt are both charged with criminally negligent homicide, manslaughter and assault. They have pleaded not guilty but have never spoken publicly about the allegations against them. The trial is expected to last about a month.


Debate over a Black student's suspension over his hairstyle in Texas ramps up with probe and lawsuit

HOUSTON (AP) — The debate over whether a Black high school student in Texas should be serving in-school suspension for wearing twisted dreadlocks to class intensified this week as the student’s family and his school district both took legal action.

Darryl George, 17, a junior at Barbers Hill High School in Mont Belvieu, has been serving an in-school suspension since Aug. 31 at the Houston-area school. School officials say his dreadlocks fall below his eyebrows and ear lobes and violate the district’s dress code.

George’s mother, Darresha George, and the family’s attorney deny the teenager’s hairstyle violates the Barbers Hill Independent School District dress code and have accused the district of violating a new state law that outlaws racial discrimination based on hairstyles. The new law, the CROWN Act, took effect Sept. 1.

On Tuesday, Darresha George and her attorney filed a formal complaint with the Texas Education Agency, alleging that Darryl George was being harassed and mistreated by school district officials over his hair and that his in-school suspension was in violation of the CROWN Act.

On Wednesday, the agency notified Darresha George and her attorney that it will investigate the complaint.


Jeep maker Stellantis makes a new contract offer as auto workers prepare to expand their strike

General Motors and Stellantis announced fresh layoffs Wednesday that they blamed on damage from the United Auto Workers strike, and the labor standoff grew more tense just two days before the union was expected to call for new walkouts.

Stellantis provided a glimmer of hope for a breakthrough by giving the union a new contract proposal. However, a company spokeswoman said the offer primarily covered non-economic issues.

It was not clear whether the Stellantis offer would satisfy union President Shawn Fain, who vows to announce new strike targets on Friday unless there is “serious progress” toward agreements with GM, Stellantis and Ford.

So far UAW workers are striking at just three factories, one for each company. It's a novel approach for the union, which in the past has focused negotiations on one company and limited a 2019 strike to GM. Fain says his approach will keep the companies guessing about UAW's next move.

“He is trying to distinguish himself from the old leadership of the UAW,” said Harry Katz, a professor of collective bargaining at Cornell University. “He's different, he's tough, and he's trying to put pressure on the companies.”


Senate confirms chairman of joint chiefs as GOP senator still blocking hundreds of military nominees

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate on Wednesday confirmed Gen. CQ Brown as the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, putting him in place to succeed Gen. Mark Milley when he retires at the end of the month.

Brown's confirmation on a 83-11 vote, months after President Joe Biden nominated him for the post, comes as Democrats try to maneuver around holds placed on hundreds of nominations by Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville over the Pentagon's abortion policy. The Senate is also expected to confirm Gen. Randy George to be Army Chief of Staff and Gen. Eric Smith as commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps this week.

Tuberville has been blocking the Senate from the routine process of approving military nominations in groups, frustrating Democrats who had said they would not go through the time-consuming process of bringing up individual nominations for a vote. More than 300 nominees are still stalled amid Tuberville's blockade, and confirming them one-by-one would take months.

But Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., reversed course on Wednesday and moved to force votes on Brown, George and Smith.

“Senator Tuberville is forcing us to face his obstruction head on,” Schumer said. “I want to make clear to my Republican colleagues — this cannot continue.”


White House to announce first-ever federal office of gun violence prevention, AP sources say

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden is creating the first-ever federal office of gun violence prevention, according to two people familiar with the plans.

The office will coordinate efforts across the federal government and will offer help and guidance to states struggling with increasing gun violence, while taking the lead on implementation of the bipartisan gun legislation signed into law last year. Biden tentatively plans to announce the new effort with an event Friday at the White House, said the people, who had direct knowledge of the plans and who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

The office fulfills a key demand of gun safety activists who banded together as a coalition to endorse Biden for president in 2024, and is an effort by the White House to keep the issue front-and-center as the president pushes for a ban on so-called “assault weapons” and urges Congress to act.

“The creation of an Office of Gun Violence Prevention in the White House will mark a turning point in how our federal government responds to an epidemic that plagues every state and every community in America," said Kris Brown, president of the gun safety group Brady, which has advocated for the office since 2020.

“Tackling this epidemic will take a whole-of-government approach, and this new office would ensure the executive branch is focused and coordinated on proven solutions that will save lives."


Biden administration announces $600M to produce COVID tests and will reopen website to order them

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration announced Wednesday that it is providing $600 million in funding to produce new at-home COVID-19 tests and is restarting a website allowing Americans to again order up to four free tests per household — aiming to prevent possible shortages during a rise in coronavirus cases that has typically come during colder months.

The Department of Health and Human Services says orders can be placed at starting Sept. 25, and that no-cost tests will be delivered for free by the United States Postal Service.

Twelve manufacturers that employ hundreds of people in seven states from California to Maryland have been awarded funding and will produce 200 million over-the-counter tests to replenish federal stockpiles for government use, in addition to producing enough tests to meet demand for tests ordered online, the department said.

The new effort is meant to guard against supply chain issues that sparked some shortages of at-home COVID tests made overseas during past surges in coronavirus cases. But it also illustrates the political balance President Joe Biden is trying to strike as he seeks reelection next year between trumpeting his administration having led the country through the worst of the pandemic while also trying to trying to better prepare for the continued effects of a virus that persists.

Dawn O’Connell, assistant secretary for preparedness and response at HHS, said that though some portions of the public may be tired of the pandemic and its implications, at home-testing remains a key way to slow the spread of new cases.

The Associated Press