Allegations fly as recall vote looms for California's Newsom

LOS ANGELES (AP) — In a blitz of TV ads and a last-minute rally, California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom urged voters Sunday to turn back a looming recall vote that could remove him from office, while leading Republican Larry Elder broadly criticized the media for what he described as double standards that insulated Newsom from criticism and scrutiny throughout the contest.

The sunny, late-summer weekend was a swirl of political activity, as candidates held rallies, continued bus tours and cluttered the TV airwaves with advertising offering their closing arguments in advance of the election that concludes Tuesday.

Newsom — who is expecting President Joe Biden on Monday for a capstone get-out-the-vote rally in Long Beach — was in a largely Hispanic area on the northern edge of Los Angeles, where he sought to drive up turnout with the key voting bloc.

Elder also was in Los Angeles, where he was joined by activist and former actress Rose McGowan, who repeated her claims from recent days that Newsom's wife, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, attempted to persuade her in 2017 not to go public with her allegations of sexual misconduct against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.

Siebel Newsom's office described the allegations as a "complete fabrication." In a brief interview with The Associated Press, Newsom characterized McGowan's claims as a "last-minute classic hit piece" from one of Elder's supporters.

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Biden to survey wildfire damage, make case for spending plan

WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — President Joe Biden will promote his administration's use of the Defense Production Act to aid in wildfire preparedness during a western swing in which he'll survey wildfire damage in Idaho and California.

The administration activated the wartime provision in early August to boost the supply of fire hoses for the U.S. Forest Service, by helping to ease supply chain issues affecting the agency's primary firehose supplier. It marks the second use of the wartime law, after the president used it to boost vaccine supplies, and the administration had not previously announced it publicly.

The use of the Defense Production Act helped an Oklahoma City nonprofit called NewView Oklahoma, which provides the bulk of the U.S. Forest Service's hoses, obtain needed supplies to produce and ship 415 miles of firehoses. Biden planned to showcase the move as part of broader remarks on the work his administration has done to address yet another devastating wildfire season across the western U.S.

The president planned to deliver remarks during a visit Monday to the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, and then travel to Sacramento, California, where he'll survey wildfire damage. He'll wrap up the day in Long Beach for an election-eve event with California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, who faces a recall vote on Tuesday.

Biden's western visit is aimed primarily at drumming up support for his massive $3.5 trillion spending plan by linking it to beating back wildfires and upgrading social programs.

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UN seeks $606 million for Afghanistan after Taliban takeover

GENEVA (AP) — The United Nations is hosting a high-level donors conference on Monday to drum up emergency funds for Afghanistan after last month's Taliban takeover of the country that stunned the world. 

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was leading the world body's call for more than $600 million for the rest of this year in a "flash appeal" for Afghans after their country's government was toppled by the Taliban and U.S. and NATO forces exited the 20-year war in a chaotic departure. 

There are concerns that instability and upended humanitarian efforts, compounded by an ongoing drought, could further endanger lives and plunge Afghanistan toward famine.

The conference will put to the test some Western governments and other big traditional U.N. donors who want to help everyday Afghans without handing a public relations victory or cash to the Taliban, who ousted the internationally backed government in a lightning sweep. 

The U.N. says "recent developments" have increased the vulnerability of Afghans who have already been facing decades of deprivation and violence. A severe drought is jeopardizing the upcoming harvest, and hunger has been rising. The U.N.'s World Food Program is to be a major beneficiary of any funds collected during Monday's conference.

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North Korea says it tested new long-range cruise missiles

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea says it successfully test fired newly developed long-range cruise missiles over the weekend, its first known testing activity in months, underscoring how it continues to expand its military capabilities amid a stalemate in nuclear negotiations with the United States. 

The Korean Central News Agency said Monday the cruise missiles, which had been under development for two years, demonstrated an ability to hit targets 1,500 kilometers (932 miles) away during flight tests on Saturday and Sunday. 

The North hailed its new missiles as a "strategic weapon of great significance" that meets leader Kim Jong Un's call to strengthen the country's military might, implying that they were being developed with an intent to arm them with nuclear warheads. 

North Korean state media published photos of a projectile being fired from a launcher truck and an apparent missile with wings and tail fins traveling in the air. 

South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said the military was analyzing the North Korean launches based on U.S. and South Korean intelligence. The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said it was monitoring the situation with allies and that the North Korean activity reflects a continuing focus on "developing its military program and the threats that poses to its neighbors and the international community." Japan said it was "extremely concerned."

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Israel hits Hamas targets in Gaza in response to rocket fire

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli aircraft struck a series of targets in the Gaza Strip early Monday in response to rocket launches out of the Hamas-ruled territory. It was the third consecutive night of fighting between the two sides, even as Israel's foreign minister sought to dangle incentives for calm.

Tensions have risen after last week's escape from an Israeli prison by six Palestinian inmates, as well as struggling efforts by Egypt to broker a long-term cease-fire in the wake of an 11-day war last May. 

The Israeli military reported three separate rocket launches late Sunday and early Monday, saying at least two of them were intercepted by its rocket defenses. In response, it said it attacked a number of Hamas targets. There were no reports of casualties on either side.

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid on Sunday called for a new approach to end the cycle of fighting with Hamas, describing a plan of international investment in Gaza's infrastructure in exchange for pressure on Hamas to halt its military buildup and preserve calm.

"The policy Israel has pursued up until now hasn't substantially changed the situation," Lapid said during a speech at Reichman University, north of Tel Aviv. 

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School starts for 1 million NYC kids amid new vaccine rules

NEW YORK (AP) — Classroom doors swing open for about a million New York City public school students on Monday in the nation's largest experiment of in-person learning during the coronavirus pandemic.

The start of the school year coincides with several milestones in the city's pandemic recovery that hinge on vaccine mandates.

Nearly all of the city's 300,000 employees will be required to be back in their workplaces, in person, Monday as the city ends remote work. Most will either need to be vaccinated, or undergo weekly COVID-19 testing to remain in their jobs.

The city was also set to start enforcing rules requiring workers and patrons to be vaccinated to go indoors at restaurants, museums, gyms and entertainment venues. The vaccination requirement has been in place for weeks, but had not previously been enforced.

There will also be a vaccine mandate — with no test-out option — for teachers, though they have been given until Sept. 27 to get their first shot.

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Tropical Storm Nicholas threatens Gulf Coast with heavy rain

MIAMI (AP) — Tropical Storm Nicholas was moving up the Gulf Coast on Monday, threatening to bring heavy rain and floods to coastal areas of Texas, Mexico and storm-battered Louisiana.

Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center in Miami said Nicholas was strengthening, churning up top winds of 60 mph (95 kph). It was traveling north-northwest at 14 mph (22 kph) on a forecast track to pass near the South Texas coast later Monday, then move onshore along the coast of south or central Texas by Monday evening.

Nicholas was centered roughly 45 miles (75 kilometers) southeast of the mouth of the Rio Grande River, and 200 miles (325 kilometers) south of Port O'Connor, Texas, as of Monday morning.

A hurricane watch was issued from Port Aransas to Freeport, Texas. Much of the state's coastline was under a tropical storm warning as the system was expected to bring heavy rain that could cause flash floods and urban flooding.

Rainfall totals of up to 10 inches (25 centimeters) in Texas and southwest Louisiana were expected, with isolated maximum amounts of 20 inches (50 centimeters) across portions of coastal Texas from Sunday night through midweek.

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Pope in Slovakia to honor Holocaust dead on Day 2 of tour

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia (AP) — Pope Francis opened his first full day in Slovakia on Monday by meeting with church and state leaders ahead of an encounter with the country's Jewish community to honor its Holocaust dead and atone for Catholic complicity in World War II-era racial laws and crimes.

Francis arrived at the presidential palace, and later at the capital's St. Martin cathedral, looking well and rested on the second day of his four-day pilgrimage to Hungary and Slovakia which marks his first international outing since undergoing intestinal surgery in July. 

"I'm still alive!" Francis quipped when asked by an Italian journalist how he was feeling as he walked up a ramp into the cathedral for a meeting with Slovak priests and nuns, where he cracked a series of jokes in a sign he was in good spirits, too.

Francis, 84, has been recovering after having 33 centimeters (13 inches) of his colon removed for what the Vatican said was a severe narrowing of the large intestine. He has seemed in good form, though he used a golf cart buggy indoors on Sunday during a rigorous day in Budapest to limit a long walk, and has been delivering some speeches sitting down. 

On Monday in Bratislava, he told President Zuzana Caputova, Slovakia's first female president, that the coronavirus pandemic had been the greatest test in recent history, but that it should offer a lesson for the future. 

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Capitol rally seeks to rewrite Jan. 6 by exalting rioters

WASHINGTON (AP) — First, some blamed the deadly Jan. 6 attack at the U.S. Capitol on left-wing antifa antagonists, a theory quickly debunked. Then came comparisons of the rioters to peaceful protesters or even tourists.

Now, allies of former President Donald Trump are calling those charged in the Capitol riot "political prisoners," a stunning effort to revise the narrative of that deadly day.

The brazen rhetoric ahead of a rally planned for Saturday at the Capitol is the latest attempt to explain away the horrific assault and obscure what played out for all the world to see: rioters loyal to the then-president storming the building, battling police and trying to stop Congress from certifying the election of Democrat Joe Biden. 

"Some people are calling it Jan. 6 trutherism — they're rewriting the narrative to make it seem like Jan. 6 was no big deal, and it was a damn big deal, and an attack on our democracy," said Heidi Beirich, co-founder of the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism, who studies extremist movements. 

All told, the attempted whitewashing of the Jan. 6 attack threatens to further divide an already polarized nation that finds itself drifting from what had been common facts and a shared commitment to civic order toward an unsettling new normal.

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Adapt or else: Downtown businesses cope with new reality

NEW YORK (AP) — Downtown businesses in the U.S. and abroad once took for granted that nearby offices would provide a steady clientele looking for breakfast, lunch, everyday goods and services and last-minute gifts. As the resilient coronavirus keeps offices closed and workers at home, some are adapting while others are trying to hang on. 

Some businesses are already gone. The survivors have taken steps such as boosting online sales or changing their hours, staffing levels and what they offer customers. Others are relying more on residential traffic. 

Many business owners had looked forward to a return toward normalcy this month as offices reopened. But now that many companies have postponed plans to bring workers back, due to surging COVID-19 cases, downtown businesses are reckoning with the fact that adjustments made on the fly may become permanent. 

In downtown Detroit, Mike Frank's cleaning business was running out of money and, it seemed, out of time. 

Frank started Clifford Street Cleaners eight years ago. Pre-pandemic, monthly revenue was about $11,000, but by last December, when many downtown offices had to close, revenue had dropped to $1,800, Frank said. 

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