Trial of 20 men accused in 2015 Paris attacks to begin

PARIS (AP) — In a secure complex embedded within a 13th-century courthouse, France on Wednesday will begin the trial of 20 men accused in the Islamic State group's 2015 attacks on Paris that left 130 people dead and hundreds injured. 

Nine gunmen and suicide bombers struck within minutes of each other at France's national soccer stadium, the Bataclan concert hall and Paris restaurants and cafes on Nov. 13, 2015. Survivors of the attacks as well as those who mourn their dead are expected to pack the rooms, which were designed to hold 1,800 plaintiffs and 350 lawyers. 

The lone survivor of the extremist cell from that night, Salah Abdeslam, is the key defendant among those being tried for the deadliest attack in France since World War II. He is the only one charged with murder. The same IS network went on to strike Brussels months later, killing another 32 people.

Dominique Kielemoes, whose son bled to death at one of the cafes that night, said the month dedicated to victims' testimonies at the trial will be crucial to both their own healing and that of the nation.

"The assassins, these terrorists, thought they were firing into the crowd, into a mass of people. But it wasn't a mass — these were individuals who had a life, who loved, had hopes and expectations, and that we need to talk about at the trial. It's important." she said,

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Taliban form all-male Afghan government of old guard members

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The Taliban on Tuesday announced an all-male interim government for Afghanistan stacked with veterans of their hard-line rule from the 1990s and the 20-year battle against the U.S.-led coalition, a move that seems unlikely to win the international support the new leaders desperately need to avoid an economic meltdown.

Appointed to the key post of interior minister was Sirajuddin Haqqani, who is on the FBI's most-wanted list with a $5 million bounty on his head and is believed to still be holding at least one American hostage. He headed the feared Haqqani network that is blamed for many deadly attacks and kidnappings.

The announcement came hours after Taliban fired their guns into the air to disperse protesters in the capital of Kabul and arrested several journalists, the second time in less than a week that heavy-handed tactics were used to break up a demonstration.

Drawn mostly from Afghanistan's dominant Pashtun ethnic group, the Cabinet's lack of representation from other ethnic groups also seems certain to hobble its support from abroad. 

As much as 80 percent of Afghanistan's budget comes from the international community, and a long-running economic crisis has worsened in recent months. Near daily flights from Qatar bring in humanitarian aid, but the needs are massive, and the Taliban can hardly afford isolation.

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They were some of 9/11's biggest names. Where are they now?

Rudolph Giuliani was a hero before he was a punchline. Lisa Beamer was a wife and mother before she became a symbol of Sept. 11 — and though her celebrity passed, her widowhood cannot.

In the aftermath of the planes falling from the sky, America and the world were introduced to an array of personalities. Some we had known well, but came to see in different ways. Others were thrown into public consciousness by unhappy happenstance. 

Some, like Osama bin Laden and Mullah Mohammad Omar, are dead. But others have gone on to lead lives that are postscripts to Sept. 11, 2001. Here are a few of the boldface names of that tumultuous time — what they were then, and what has happened to them since.

RUDOLPH GIULIANI

THEN: Mayor of New York City, he was a hero of the moment -- empathetic, determined, a focus of the nation's grief and a constant presence at ground zero. "The number of casualties will be more than any of us can bear ultimately," he said on Sept. 11. Oprah Winfrey pronounced him "America's Mayor"; Time magazine declared him "Person of the Year."

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In NYC after Ida, Biden calls climate 'everybody's crisis'

NEW YORK (AP) — President Joe Biden declared climate change has become "everybody's crisis" on Tuesday as he toured neighborhoods flooded by the remnants of Hurricane Ida, warning it's time for America to get serious about the "code red" danger or face ever worse loss of life and property.

Biden spoke after walking streets in New Jersey and then Queens in New York City, meeting people whose homes were destroyed or severely damaged by flooding when Ida barreled through. The storm dumped record amounts of rain onto already saturated ground and was blamed for more than a dozen deaths in the city.

The president said he thinks the damage everyone is seeing, from wildfires in the West to hurricane havoc in the South and Northeast, is turning climate-change skeptics into believers, but years of unheeded warnings from scientists, economists and others mean time for action is short.

"The threat is here. It is not getting any better," Biden said in New York. "The question is can it get worse. We can stop it from getting worse." 

Biden sounded a similar theme before he toured Manville, New Jersey, also ravaged by severe flooding caused by Ida.

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Fire kills 41 inmates, 80 hurt at crowded Indonesian prison

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — A massive fire raged through an overcrowded prison near Indonesia's capital early Wednesday, killing at least 41 inmates, two of them foreigners serving drug sentences, and injuring 80 others.

Televised footage showed firefighters battling to extinguish orange flames while black smoke billowed from the compound. Indonesian Red Cross officials evacuated the victims to ambulances and dozens of bodies in orange bags were laid in a room of Tangerang prison on the outskirts of Jakarta.

Most of the 41 killed were drug convicts, including two men from South Africa and Portugal, but a terrorism convict and a murder were also killed, Indonesia's Justice and Human Rights minister Yasona Laoly told reporters.

He expressed his deep condolences for the family of the victims and pledged to provide the best treatment for injured victims.

"This is a tragedy that concerns all of us," Laoly said. "We are working closely with all relevant parties to investigate the causes of the fire."

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Powerful earthquake near Mexico's Acapulco kills at least 1

MEXICO CITY (AP) — A powerful earthquake struck near the Pacific resort city of Acapulco on Tuesday night, killing at least one person and causing buildings to rock and sway in Mexico City hundreds of kilometers away.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake had a preliminary magnitude of 7 and was centered 17 kilometers (about 10 miles) northeast of Acapulco.

Guerrero state Gov. Hector Astudillo told Milenio Television late Tuesday night that one person had been killed by a falling post in the town of Coyuca de Benitez near Acapulco.

"We heard loud noise from the building, noise from the windows, things fell inside the house, the power went out," said Sergio Flores, an Acapulco resident reached by phone. "We heard leaking water, the water went out of the pool and you heard people screaming, very nervous people."

Flores said all he could do when it started shaking was hug his wife. He saw people leaving hotels around the bay and some running into parking decks to remove their cars, fearing a collapse.

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China chases 'rejuvenation' with control of tycoons, society

BEIJING (AP) — An avalanche of changes launched by China's ruling Communist Party has jolted everyone from tech billionaires to school kids. Behind them: President Xi Jinping's vision of making a more powerful, prosperous country by reviving revolutionary ideals, with more economic equality and tighter party control over society and entrepreneurs.

Since taking power in 2012, Xi has called for the party to return to its "original mission" as China's economic, social and cultural leader and carry out the " rejuvenation of the great Chinese nation." 

The party has spent the decade since then silencing dissent and tightening political control. Now, after 40 years of growth that transformed China into the world's factory but left a gulf between a wealthy elite and the poor majority, the party is promising to spread prosperity more evenly and is pressing private companies to pay for social welfare and back Beijing's ambition to become a global technology competitor.

To support its plans, Xi's government is trying to create what it deems a more wholesome society by reducing children's access to online games and banning "sissy men" who are deemed insufficiently masculine from TV.

Chinese leaders want to "direct the constructive energies of all people in one laser-focused direction selected by the party," Andrew Nathan, a Chinese politics specialist at Columbia University, said in an email.

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Lee statue in Richmond set to be removed, sent to storage

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Crews are set to remove one of the country's largest remaining monuments to the Confederacy, a towering statute of Robert E. Lee in Richmond, Virginia. 

The 21-foot-tall (6.4-meter) bronze likeness of Lee on a horse will be hoisted off its 40-foot (12- meter) pedestal Wednesday, 131 years after it was erected in the former capital of the Confederacy as a tribute to the Civil War leader. 

While many saw the statue as an offensive glorification of the South's slave-holding past, public officials had long resisted its removal, along with residents of Virginia who argued moving the monument would be akin to erasing history. 

Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam announced plans to take down the statue in June 2020, 10 days after George Floyd died under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer, sparking nationwide protests against police brutality and racism. The plans were stalled for more than a year by two lawsuits filed by residents opposed to its removal, but rulings last week by the Supreme Court of Virginia cleared the way for the statue to be taken down.

"This is an important step in showing who we are and what we value as a commonwealth," Gov. Ralph Northam said in a news release announcing final plans for the removal.

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Bulgaria, EU's least vaccinated nation, faces deadly surge

VELIKO TARNOVO, Bulgaria (AP) — Standing outside the rundown public hospital in Bulgaria's northern town of Veliko Tarnovo, the vaccination unit's chief nurse voices a sad reality about her fellow citizens: "They don't believe in vaccines."

Bulgaria has one of the highest coronavirus death rates in the 27-nation European Union and is facing a new, rapid surge of infections due to the more infectious delta variant. Despite that, people in this Balkan nation are the most hesitant in the bloc to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Only 20% of adults in Bulgaria, which has a population of 7 million, have so far been fully vaccinated. That puts it last in the EU, which has an average of 69 % fully vaccinated.

"We are open every day," Yordanka Minekova, the chief vaccination nurse who has worked at the hospital for 35 years, told The Associated Press. "But people who want to be vaccinated are very few."

Krasimira Nikolova, a 52-year-old restaurant worker, has chosen not to get vaccinated, saying she has doubts over the effectiveness of the available vaccines.

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Silicon Valley finds remote work is easier to begin than end

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Technology companies that led the charge into remote work as the pandemic unfurled are confronting a new challenge: how, when and even whether they should bring long-isolated employees back to offices that have been designed for teamwork. 

"I thought this period of remote work would be the most challenging year-and-half of my career, but it's not," said Brent Hyder, the chief people officer for business software maker Salesforce and its roughly 65,000 employees worldwide. "Getting everything started back up the way it needs to be is proving to be even more difficult."

That transition has been complicated by the rapid spread of the delta variant, which has scrambled the plans many tech companies had for bringing back most of their workers near or after Labor Day weekend. Microsoft has pushed those dates back to October while Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon and a growing list of others have already decided wait until next year.

Given how they set the tone for remote work, tech companies' return-to-office policies will likely have ripple effects across other industries. Employers' next steps could redefine how and where people work, predicts Laura Boudreau, a Columbia University assistant economics professor who studies workplace issues.

"We have moved beyond the theme of remote work being a temporary thing," Boudreau says. The longer the pandemic has stretched on, she says, the harder it's become to tell employees to come back to the office, particularly full time.

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