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

Biden: Nuclear ‘Armageddon’ risk highest since ’62 crisis

NEW YORK (AP) — President Joe Biden said Thursday that the risk of nuclear “Armageddon” is at the highest level since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, as Russian officials speak of the possibility of using tactical nuclear weapons after suffering massive setbacks in the eight-month invasion of Ukraine.

Speaking at a fundraiser for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Biden said Russian President Vladimir Putin was “a guy I know fairly well” and the Russian leader was “not joking when he talks about the use of tactical nuclear weapons or biological or chemical weapons.”

Biden added, “We have not faced the prospect of Armageddon since Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis.” He suggested the threat from Putin is real “because his military is — you might say — significantly underperforming.”

U.S. officials for months have warned of the prospect that Russia could use weapons of mass destruction in Ukraine as it has faced a series of strategic setbacks on the battlefield, though Biden’s remarks marked the starkest warnings yet issued by the U.S. government about the nuclear stakes.

It was not immediately clear whether Biden was referring to any new assessment of Russian intentions. As recently as this week, though, U.S. officials have said they have seen no change to Russia’s nuclear forces that would require a change in the alert posture of U.S. nuclear forces.

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Riot plea: Proud Boys member admits to seditious conspiracy

WASHINGTON (AP) — A North Carolina man pleaded guilty Thursday to plotting with other members of the far-right Proud Boys to violently stop the transfer of presidential power after the 2020 election, making him the first member of the extremist group to plead guilty to a seditious conspiracy charge.

Jeremy Joseph Bertino, 43, has agreed to cooperate with the Justice Department’s investigation of the role that Proud Boys leaders played in the mob’s attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, a federal prosecutor said.

Bertino’s cooperation could ratchet up the pressure on other Proud Boys charged in the siege, including former national chairman Henry “Enrique” Tarrio.

The guilty plea comes as the founder of the another extremist group, the Oath Keepers, and four associates charged separately in the Jan. 6 attack stand trial on seditious conspiracy — a rarely used Civil War era offense that calls for up to 20 years behind bars.

Bertino traveled to Washington with other Proud Boys in December 2020 and was stabbed during a fight, according to court documents. He was not in Washington for the Jan. 6 riot because he was still recovering from his injuries, court papers say.

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Biden pardons thousands for ‘simple possession’ of marijuana

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden is pardoning thousands of Americans convicted of “simple possession” of marijuana under federal law, as his administration takes a dramatic step toward decriminalizing the drug and addressing charging practices that disproportionately impact people of color.

Biden’s move also covers thousands convicted of the crime in the District of Columbia. He is also calling on governors to issue similar pardons for those convicted of state marijuana offenses, which reflect the vast majority of marijuana possession cases.

Biden, in a statement, said the move reflects his position that “no one should be in jail just for using or possessing marijuana.”

“Too many lives have been upended because of our failed approach to marijuana,” he added. “It’s time that we right these wrongs.”

According to the White House, no one is currently in federal prison solely for “simple possession” of the drug, but the pardon could help thousands overcome obstacles to renting a home or finding a job.

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Judge delays Twitter trial, gives Musk time to seal buyout

A judge has delayed a looming trial between Twitter and Elon Musk, giving the Tesla CEO more time to close his $44 billion deal to buy the company after months spent fighting to get out of it.

Musk had asked to halt the upcoming Delaware court trial, where the Tesla billionaire was expected to fare poorly against Twitter’s lawsuit to force him to complete his April merger agreement. Musk revived the takeover offer on Monday but said he needed time to get the financing in order.

Chancellor Kathaleen St. Jude McCormick, head of the Delaware Chancery Court, said Thursday that Musk and Twitter now have until Oct. 28 to close the deal. A trial originally set for Oct. 17 will happen in November if they don’t, she said.

Twitter had asked McCormick earlier Thursday to proceed with the trial, saying the billionaire refuses to accept the “contractual obligations” of his April agreement to buy the social media company and take it private.

Twitter disputed Musk’s claim that the San Francisco-based company is refusing to accept his renewed bid. Musk told Twitter earlier this week he’s ready to buy the company once again after trying to back out of the deal over the summer, accusing it of refusing to give him information about “spam bot” accounts on the service.

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Ian evacuees return to mud, rubble as death toll hits 101

SANIBEL ISLAND, Fla. (AP) — Rotting fish and garbage lie scattered in Sanibel Island’s streets. On the mainland, debris from washed-away homes is heaped in a canal like matchsticks. Huge shrimp boats sit perched amid the remains of a mobile home park.

“Think of a snow globe. Pick it up and shake it — that’s what happened,” said Fred Szott.

For the past three days, he and his wife Joyce have been making trips to their damaged mobile home in Fort Myers, cleaning up after Hurricane Ian slammed into Florida’s Gulf Coast.

As for the emotional turbulence, he says: “You either hold on, or you lose it.”

The number of storm-related deaths rose to at least 101 on Thursday, eight days after the storm made landfall in southwest Florida. According to reports from the Florida Medical Examiners Commission, 92 of those deaths were in Florida. Five people were also killed in North Carolina, three in Cuba and one in Virginia.

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Sheriff: Killing of kidnapped California family ‘pure evil’

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The suspect in the kidnapping and killing of an 8-month-old baby, as well as her parents and uncle, had once worked for the family’s trucking business and had a longstanding feud with them that culminated in an act of “pure evil,” a sheriff said Thursday.

The slayings left relatives mourning worldwide as investigators prepared a case against the suspect — a convicted felon who tried to kill himself a day after the kidnappings — and sought a person of interest believed to be his accomplice.

“Right now, I’ve got hundreds of people in a community that are grieving the loss of two families, and this is worldwide. These families are across different continents,” Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke told The Associated Press. “We’ve got to show them that we can give them justice.”

The suspect, 48-year-old Jesus Salgado, remained hospitalized Thursday as Warnke called for prosecutors to seek the death penalty. The sheriff called it one of the worst crimes he has seen over his 43 years in law enforcement and pleaded for Salgado’s accomplice to turn himself in.

“There’s some things you’ll take to the grave. This to me was pure evil,” he said in an interview Thursday.

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Fired police sergeant attacks Thai day care center, kills 36

UTHAI SAWAN, Thailand (AP) — A former police officer facing a drug charge burst into a day care center Thursday in Thailand, killing dozens of preschoolers and teachers and then shooting more people as he fled. At least 36 people were slain in the deadliest rampage in the nation’s history.

The assailant, who was fired earlier this year, took his own life after killing his wife and child at home.

Photos taken by first responders showed the school’s floor littered with the tiny bodies of children still on their blankets, where they had been taking an afternoon nap. The images showed slashes to their faces and gunshots to their heads and pools of blood.

A teacher told public broadcaster Thai PBS that the assailant got out of a car and immediately shot a man eating lunch outside, then fired more shots. When the attacker paused to reload, the teacher had an opportunity to run inside.

“I ran to the back, the children were asleep,” said the young woman, who did not give her name, choking back her words. “The children were two or three years old.”

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Judy Tenuta, brash ‘Goddess of Love’ comedian, dies at 72

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Judy Tenuta, a brash standup who cheekily styled herself as the “Goddess of Love” and toured with George Carlin as she built her career in the 1980s golden age of comedy, died Thursday. She was 72.

Tenuta died Thursday afternoon at home in Los Angeles, with her family around her, publicist Roger Neal told The Associated Press. The cause of death was ovarian cancer.

“She was a very funny, amazing performer,” Neal said, and it was always a “happy time to be around her.”

Tenuta had claimed her birthdate as Nov. 7, 1965, but she was born in 1949, Neal said. “She was old school so she would never tell her real age, but now that she’s gone we can tell her real age,” he added.

Her heart-shaped face, topped by bouffant hair with a flower accent, conveyed an impression of sweet innocence that was quickly shattered by her loud, gravelly delivery and acidic humor, expletives included. The accordion she made part of her act was “an instrument of love and submission,” as she fondly called it.

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Peloton to cut 500 jobs as turnaround efforts continue

Peloton is cutting hundreds of jobs in a corporate reorganization of its stalled business as the pandemic-related surge ebbs.

The maker of high-end exercise equipment cut approximately 500 jobs, or about 12% of its workforce, Peloton said Thursday.

Peloton Interactive Inc. said it’s completed the vast majority of a restructuring plan begun in February. That plan included a new chief executive and a smaller store base.

“The changes we have made, combined with the performance of the business, are moving us closer to our fiscal year-end goal of break-even cash flow, with a renewed focus on growth,” said CEO and President Barry McCarthy.

Peloton experienced incredible sales growth during the height of the coronavirus pandemic. The New York-based company’s share price multiplied by more than five times in 2020 amid lockdowns that made its bikes and treadmills popular among customers who pay a monthly fee to participate in its interactive workouts.

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MLB’s postseason is here: A guide to the 12-team playoffs

Major League Baseball’s postseason has a little more heft this season.

The playoffs are here, with the first games played on Friday. The postseason begins with a field of 12 teams — up from last year’s 10 — and includes a best-of-three format for the opening wild-card round.

The expanded postseason has produced some spicy early postseason matchups. San Diego’s newly acquired slugger Juan Soto against the 101-win New York Mets? Ageless star Albert Pujols and the Cardinals against Bryce Harper, Kyle Schwarber and the Phillies?

Buckle up, they’re happening this weekend.

MLB’s new wild-card format is similar to the one currently used in college baseball for the NCAA Super Regional round: The three games will be scheduled on three consecutive days from Friday to Sunday at the higher seed’s field. The first team that gets two wins advances.

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