AP News in Brief at 6:04 p.m. EDT

Biden’s ‘Armageddon’ talk edges beyond bounds of US intel

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden’s warning that the world is at risk of a nuclear “Armageddon” was designed to send an unvarnished message that no one should underestimate the extraordinary danger if Russia deploys tactical nuclear weapons in its war against Ukraine, administration officials said Friday.

The president’s grim assessment, delivered during a Democratic fundraiser on Thursday night, rippled around the globe and appeared to edge beyond the boundaries of current U.S. intelligence assessments. U.S. security officials continue to say they have no evidence that Vladimir Putin has imminent plans for a nuclear strike.

Biden veered into talk about Ukraine at the end of his standard fundraising remarks, saying that Putin was “not joking when he talks about the use of tactical nuclear weapons or biological or chemical weapons.”

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

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Friday did not directly respond to a question about whether Biden had gone into the event intending to invoke Armageddon, as the White House sought to clarify the president’s off-the-cuff comments.

___

Uvalde schools suspend entire police force after outrage

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Uvalde’s school district suspended its entire police force Friday amid fresh outrage over the hesitant law enforcement response to the gunman who massacred 21 people at Robb Elementary School.

The extraordinary move follows the revelation that the district hired a former state trooper who was among hundreds of officers who rushed to the scene of the May 24 shooting.

School leaders also put two members of the district police department on administrative leave, one of whom chose to retire instead, according to a statement released by the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District. Remaining officers will be reassigned to other jobs in the district.

Uvalde school leaders’ suspension of campus police operations one month into a new school year in the South Texas community underscores the sustained pressure that families of some of the 19 children and two teachers killed have kept on the district.

Brett Cross, the uncle of 10-year-old victim Uziyah Garcia, had been protesting outside the Uvalde school administration building for the past two weeks, demanding accountability over officers allowing a gunman with an AR-15-style rifle to remain in a fourth-grade classroom for more than 70 minutes.

___

Michael Flynn’s ReAwaken roadshow recruits ‘Army of God’

BATAVIA, N.Y. (AP) — By the time the red, white and blue-colored microphone had been switched off, the crowd of 3,000 had listened to hours of invective and grievance.

“We’re under warfare,” one speaker told them. Another said she would “take a bullet for my nation,” while a third insisted, “They hate you because they hate Jesus.” Attendees were told now is the time to “put on the whole armor of God.” Then retired three-star Army general Michael Flynn, the tour’s biggest draw, invited people to be baptized.

Scores of people walked out of the speakers’ tent to three large metal tubs filled with water. While praise music played in the background, one conference-goer after another stepped in. Pastors then lowered them under the surface, welcoming them into their movement in the name of Jesus Christ. One woman wore a T-shirt that read “Army of God.”

Flynn warned the crowd that they were in the midst of a “spiritual war” and a “political war” and urged people to get involved.

ReAwaken America was launched by Flynn, a former White House national security adviser, and Oklahoma entrepreneur Clay Clark a few months after the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol failed to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. Attendees and speakers still insist — against all evidence and dozens of court rulings — that Donald Trump rightfully won.

___

What Friday’s jobs report means for Fed’s inflation fight

WASHINGTON (AP) — For most Americans, Friday’s September jobs report was welcome news: Businesses kept hiring at a brisk pace, unemployment fell back to a half-century low and average pay rose.

Yet for the Federal Reserve, the jobs figures highlight how little progress they’re making in their fight against inflation. With the Fed more likely to keep raising borrowing costs rapidly, the risk of recession will also rise.

Employers did pull back slightly on hiring last month, and average wage gains slowed. But economists say neither is falling fast enough for the Fed to slow its inflation-fighting efforts.

As a result, another hefty rate hike of three-quarters of a point — a fourth consecutive one — is likely at the Fed’s next meeting in November. (The central bank typically lifts rates in quarter-point increments.)

The Fed’s rate hikes are intended to cool the economy and tame inflation. The increases have, in turn, led to higher borrowing costs across the economy, notably for homes, credit cards and business loans.

___

Thais mourn dozens, mainly kids, killed in day care attack

UTHAI SAWAN, Thailand (AP) — Relatives wailed and collapsed in grief before the small coffins of children Friday after a fired police officer stormed a rural Thai day care center at naptime and massacred 36 people.

At least 24 of the dead were children, mostly preschoolers. The grisly gun and knife attack a day earlier was the deadliest mass killing in Thailand’s history, leaving virtually no family untouched in Uthai Sawan, a small rural community nestled among rice paddies and palms.

“I cried until I had no more tears coming out of my eyes,” said Seksan Sriraj, 28, whose wife was a teacher at the Young Children’s Development Center and was due to give birth this month.

Across the country, flags were lowered to half-staff and schoolchildren said prayers to honor the dead, while at the site of the attack, about 85 miles (137 kilometers) from Laos, a stream of people, including Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, left flowers. The wall outside the small, one-story day care center was lined with bouquets of white roses and carnations, along with juice boxes, bags of corn chips and a stuffed animal.

Relatives crowded the grounds of a nearby Buddhist temple to receive the dead after their autopsies. Some screamed as the small, white coffins were opened. Others fainted and were revived with smelling salts.

___

Flynn, Gingrich testimony sought in Georgia election probe

ATLANTA (AP) — The Georgia prosecutor investigating whether then-President Donald Trump and others illegally tried to interfere in the 2020 election filed paperwork Friday seeking to compel testimony from a new batch of Trump allies, including former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis filed petitions seeking to have Gingrich and Flynn, as well as former White House lawyer Eric Herschmann and others, testify next month before a special grand jury that’s been seated to aid her investigation.

They join a string of other high-profile Trump allies and advisers who have been called to testify in the probe. Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor and Trump attorney who’s been told he could face criminal charges in the probe, testified in August. U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham’s attempt to fight his subpoena is pending in a federal appeals court.

A lawyer for Flynn did not immediately return an email seeking comment. Gingrich did not immediately respond to a voicemail left on his cellphone. Herschmann could not immediately be reached for comment.

Willis has said she plans to take a monthlong break from public activity in the case leading up to the November midterm election, which is one month from Saturday.

___

Russia strikes annexed area; more bodies in liberated zones

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russia concentrated attacks Friday in its increasingly troubled invasion of Ukraine on areas it illegally annexed as the death toll from earlier missile strikes on apartment buildings in the southern city of Zaporizhzhia rose to 14.

In a rebuke to Russian President Vladimir Putin and his conduct of Europe’s worst armed conflict since World War II, the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to human rights organizations in his country and Ukraine, and to an activist jailed in Russia’s ally Belarus.

Berit Reiss-Andersen, the committee’s chair, said the honor went to “three outstanding champions of human rights, democracy and peaceful coexistence.”

Putin this week illegally claimed four regions of Ukraine as Russian territory, including the Zaporizhzhia region that is home to Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, whose reactors were shut down last month.

Fighting near the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant has alarmed the U.N.’s atomic energy watchdog, which on Friday doubled to four the number of its inspectors monitoring plant safeguards. An accident there could release 10 times more potentially lethal radiation than the world’s worst nuclear disaster at Chernobyl in Ukraine 36 years ago, Ukrainian Environmental Protection Minister Ruslan Strilets said Friday.

___

Nobel Peace Prize to activists from Belarus, Russia, Ukraine

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Human rights activists from Ukraine, Belarus and Russia won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, a strong rebuke to Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose invasion of Ukraine ruptured decades of nearly uninterrupted peace in Europe, and to the Belarusian president, his authoritarian ally.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the 2022 prize to imprisoned Belarus activist Ales Bialiatski, the Russian group Memorial and the Ukrainian organization Center for Civil Liberties. Bialiatski is the fourth laureate to be honored while in detention.

Berit Reiss-Andersen, chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, said the panel was honoring “three outstanding champions of human rights, democracy and peaceful coexistence.”

“We are in the midst of a war and we are talking about two authoritarian regimes and one nation fighting a war and we would like to highlight the importance of civil society,” she said.

In Ukraine, there was some resentment at awarding the Ukrainian group alongside activists from Russia and Belarus, whose government allowed Russian forces to attack Ukraine from its territory.

___

Hurricane Ian drowning victim was “the best big brother”

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Craig Steven Markgraff Jr., a construction worker and the “best big brother ever,” was last seen clinging to a tree as rising waters from Hurricane Ian lashed areas dozens of miles inland from Florida’s Gulf Coast.

One of the storm’s first publicly identified victims in Florida, the 35-year-old man’s body was found this week by rescue crews near his home in Zolfo Springs in central Florida, the Hardee County Sheriff’s Office said.

Markgraff was known as “CJ” to many of his friends. But to his sister April Rudolph, he was just Craig, “the best big brother ever.”

“If you ever needed anything, he was right there. He was the protector of the family,” she said from her home in Garden City, Michigan.

Rudolph said her brother split time between Florida and Michigan and was last home in Michigan over the summer. He left his Rotweiller, Rex, with the family while he returned to Florida to wrap up some work, she said. He had planned to return to Michigan.

___

FBI gives evidence to tie militia to Gov. Whitmer plotters

Prosecutors on Friday played secretly recorded audio from a 2020 meeting in the basement of a vacuum shop as they tried to show jurors how a paramilitary group was connected to a plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

It was contemptuous talk about police and politicians in the makeshift home of Adam Fox — who was recently convicted of conspiring to abduct Whitmer — as a step toward kicking off a U.S. civil war, known to extremists as the “boogaloo.” The FBI intervened in the fall of 2020.

Joe Morrison, Paul Bellar and Pete Musico, members of a group called the Wolverine Watchmen, are charged with providing material support to Fox and others, though they’re not accused of directly participating in the kidnapping scheme.

The trial in Jackson, Michigan, is the first in state court since prosecutors won convictions against Fox and three other men in federal court. Testimony began Wednesday.

“I like how you guys roll, man,” Fox said at the Vac Shack, according to the audio recorded by an FBI informant.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.