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

Putin signs annexation of Ukrainian regions as losses mount

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the final papers Wednesday to annex four regions of Ukraine while his military struggled to control the new territory that was added in violation of international laws.

Ukrainian law enforcement officials, meanwhile, reported discovering more evidence of torture and killings in areas retaken from Russian forces. In Lyman, an eastern town liberated after more than four months of Russian occupation, residents emerged from their destroyed homes to receive packages of food and medicine.

In a defiant move, the Kremlin held the door open for further land grabs in Ukraine.

Speaking in a conference call with reporters, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that “certain territories will be reclaimed, and we will keep consulting residents who would be eager to embrace Russia.”

Peskov did not specify which additional Ukrainian territories Moscow is eyeing, and he wouldn’t say if the Kremlin planned to organize more such “referendums.”

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North Korea launches more missiles as US redeploys carrier

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea launched two short-range ballistic missiles toward its eastern waters Thursday after the United States redeployed an aircraft carrier near the Korean Peninsula in response to Pyongyang’s previous launch of a nuclear-capable missile over Japan.

The latest missile launches suggest North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is determined to continue with weapons tests aimed at boosting his nuclear arsenal in defiance of international sanctions. Many experts say Kim’s goal is to eventually win U.S. recognition as a legitimate nuclear state and the lifting of those sanctions, though the international community has shown no sign of allowing that to happen.

The latest missiles were launched 22 minutes apart from the North’s capital region and landed between the Korean Peninsula and Japan, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement. The first missile flew 350 kilometers (217 miles) and reached a maximum altitude of 80 kilometers (50 miles) and the second flew 800 kilometers (497 miles) on an apogee of 60 kilometers (37 miles).

The flight details were similar to Japanese assessments announced by Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada, who confirmed that the missiles didn’t reach Japan’s exclusive economic zone.

He added that the second missile was possibly launched on an “irregular” trajectory. It is a term that has been previously used to describe the flight characteristics of a North Korean weapon modeled after Russia’s Iskander missile, which travels at low altitudes and is designed to be maneuverable in flight to improve its chances of evading missile defenses.

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Biden and DeSantis join together in Ian recovery effort

FORT MYERS, Florida (AP) — President Joe Biden surveyed the devastation of hurricane-ravaged Florida on Wednesday, promising to marshal the power of the federal government to help rebuild as he comforted local residents alongside Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, a potential 2024 foe.

Biden praised DeSantis’ handling of the storm recovery as both men — who have battled over pandemic protocols and migration as the governor mulls a presidential bid — put aside politics for a few days. The state is struggling to recover from the wreckage of Hurricane Ian, which tore through southwestern Florida last week and left dozens dead.

“Today we have one job and only one job, and that’s to make sure the people in Florida get everything they need to fully, thoroughly recover,” Biden said in a community that bore the brunt of Ian’s assault. He warned that the rebuilding effort will take months or years.

“It’s going to take a hell of a long time, hopefully without any snags in the way,” he said as DeSantis stood behind him, hands folded as he squinted into the glaring sunlight. “Later, after the television cameras have moved on, we’re still going to be here with you.”

The days after Ian’s landfall in Florida have prompted a temporary détente between Biden and DeSantis, who had spoken on the phone at least three times to coordinate recovery efforts. They spent part of Wednesday meeting with area residents and, for Biden, absorbing the full scope of Ian’s devastation.

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Twitter under Musk? Most of the plans are a mystery

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A super app called X? A bot-free free speech haven? These are some of Elon Musk’s mysterious plans for Twitter, now that he may be buying the company after all.

After months of squabbling over the fate of their bombshell $44 billion deal, the billionaire and the bird app are essentially back to square one — if a bit worse for wear as trust and goodwill has seemed to erode on both sides.

Musk, the CEO of Tesla Motors and SpaceX and Twitter’s most high-profile user since former President Donald Trump was booted from it, has shared few concrete details about his plans for the social media platform. While he’s touted free speech and derided spam bots since agreeing to buy the company in April, what he actually wants to do about either is shrouded in mystery.

He could own one of the world’s most powerful communications platforms with 237 million daily users in a matter of weeks, though the deal is not final. The lack of clear plans for the platform are raising concern among Twitter’s constituencies, ranging from users in conflict regions where it offers an information lifeline to the company’s own employees.

“Both users and advertisers are — understandably — anxious about whether the move will fundamentally change the culture of the platform,” said Brooke Erin Duffy, a professor at Cornell University who studies social media. “And so, Musk will need to decide whether he wants to quash their concerns by retaining core features (the content moderation system, for instance) and keeping the company public — or whether he will undertake a full-scale overhaul.”

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Appeals court orders another review of revised ‘DACA’

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A federal appeals court Wednesday ordered a lower court review of Biden administration revisions to a program preventing the deportation of hundreds of thousands of immigrants brought into the United States as children.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said a federal district judge in Texas should take another look at the program following the revisions adopted in August. The ruling leaves the future of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals up in the air, with current DACA recipients protected — for now — but new applicants barred.

President Joe Biden said in a statement that he was “disappointed” in the ruling, noting, “The court’s stay provides a temporary reprieve for DACA recipients but one thing remains clear: the lives of Dreamers remain in limbo.” People protected by DACA are commonly referred to as “Dreamers,” based on never-passed proposals in Congress called the DREAM Act.

The president added, “And while we will use the tools we have to allow Dreamers to live and work in the only country they know as home, it is long past time for Congress to pass permanent protections for Dreamers, including a pathway to citizenship.”

The advocacy group Families Belong Together said in a statement, “It is beyond time for Congress and Biden to act on their promises.”

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Barges grounded by low water halt Mississippi River traffic

The unusually low water level in the lower Mississippi River is causing barges to get stuck in mud and sand, disrupting river travel for shippers, recreational boaters and even passengers on a cruise line.

Lack of rainfall in recent weeks has left the Mississippi River approaching record low levels in some areas from Missouri south through Louisiana. The U.S. Coast Guard said at least eight “groundings” of barges have been reported in the past week, despite low-water restrictions on barge loads.

One of the groundings happened Friday between Louisiana and Mississippi, near Lake Providence, Louisiana. It halted river traffic in both directions for days “to clear the grounded barges from the channel and to deepen the channel via dredging to prevent future groundings,” U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spokesperson Sabrina Dalton said in an email.

As a result, dozens of tows and barges were lined up in both directions, waiting to get by. The stoppage also brought a halt to a Viking cruise ship with about 350 passengers on board, said R. Thomas Berner, a Penn State professor emeritus of journalism and American studies, and one of the passengers.

The Viking ship was originally supposed to launch from New Orleans on Saturday, but the water there was so low that the launch was moved to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Berner said.

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At 15 least dead as 2 migrant boats sink in Greek waters

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — At least 15 people have died as two boats carrying migrants sank in Greek waters late Wednesday, and rescuers were looking for dozens still missing, authorities said early Thursday. The coast guard said 15 bodies had been recovered near the eastern island of Lesbos after a dinghy carrying about 40 people sank. Five people were rescued and three had been located on a rocky outcrop near the site of the sinking. A second rescue effort was launched several hundred kilometers (miles) to the west, near the island of Kythira, where a sailboat carrying about 100 migrants hit rocks and sank late Wednesday.

Officials said 30 people had been rescued after that boat hit rocks off the village port of Diakofti on the east of the island. Winds in the area were up to 70 kph (45 mph).

“We could see the boat smashing against the rocks and people climbing up those rocks to try and save themselves. It was an unbelievable sight,” Martha Stathaki, a local resident told The Associated Press. “All the residents here went down to the harbor to try and help.”

Fire service rescuers lowered ropes to help migrants climb up cliffs on the seafront. Local officials said a school in the area would be opened to provide shelter for the rescued. Navy divers were also expected to arrive Thursday.

Most migrants reaching Greece travel from neighboring Turkey, but smugglers have changed routes in recent months in an effort to avoid heavily patrolled waters around Greek islands near the Turkish coastline.

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Fan who caught Aaron Judge’s 62nd HR offered $2M for ball

The owner of a sports memorabilia auction house says he has offered $2 million to the fan who caught Aaron Judge’s American League-record 62nd home run.

JP Cohen, president of Memory Lane Inc. in Tustin, California, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that he has texted and emailed Cory Youmans, the man who caught Judge’s milestone shot Tuesday night at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas. Cohen says Youmans has not yet replied.

“I feel the offer is way above fair, if he is inclined to sell it,” Cohen said in a telephone interview with the AP on Wednesday.

Youmans grabbed the historic souvenir on the fly as it sailed into the front row of section 31 in left field. The homer pushed Judge past Roger Maris for the AL season record — a mark many consider baseball’s “clean” standard because the only National League players who hit more have been tarnished by ties to steroids.

Youmans, who is from Dallas, works in the financial world. He was asked Tuesday what he planned to do with the prize while security personnel whisked him away to have it authenticated.

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Nobel Prize for 3 chemists who made molecules ‘click’

STOCKHOLM (AP) — Three scientists were jointly awarded this year’s Nobel Prize in chemistry on Wednesday for developing a way of “snapping molecules together” that can be used to explore cells, map DNA and design drugs that can target diseases such as cancer more precisely.

Americans Carolyn R. Bertozzi and K. Barry Sharpless, and Danish scientist Morten Meldal were cited for their work on click chemistry that works “sort of like molecular Lego.”

“It’s all about snapping molecules together,” said Johan Aqvist, a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences that announced the winners at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm.

Sharpless, 81, who previously won a Nobel in 2001 and is now the fifth person to receive the prize twice, first proposed the idea of connecting molecules using chemical “buckles” around the turn of the millennium, Aqvist said.

“The problem was to find good chemical buckles,” he said. “They have to react with each other easily and specifically.”

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OPEC+ makes big oil cut to boost prices; pump costs may rise

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — The OPEC+ alliance of oil-exporting countries decided Wednesday to sharply cut production to support sagging oil prices, a move that could deal the struggling global economy another blow and raise politically sensitive pump prices for U.S. drivers just ahead of key national elections.

Energy ministers cut production by a larger-than-expected 2 million barrels per day starting in November after gathering for their first face-to-face meeting at the Vienna headquarters of the OPEC oil cartel since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The group said the decision was based on the “uncertainty that surrounds the global economic and oil market outlooks.” Saudi Energy Minister Abdulaziz bin Salman stressed the group’s stated role as a guardian of stable energy markets.

“We are here to stay as a moderating force, to bring about stability,” he told reporters.

Oil is trading well below its summer peaks because of fears that major global economies such as the U.S. or Europe will sink into recession due to high inflation, rising interest rates and energy uncertainty over Russia’s war in Ukraine. The OPEC+ decision could help member Russia weather a looming European ban on most of Moscow’s oil, but its impact will have some limitations because countries in the alliance already can’t meet their quotas.

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