GOP blocks bill to keep government going; new try ahead

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican senators blocked a bill to keep the government operating and allow federal borrowing, but Democrats aiming to avert a shutdown pledged to try again — at the same time pressing ahead on President Joe Biden's big plans to reshape government.

The efforts are not necessarily linked, but the fiscal yearend deadline to fund the government past Thursday is bumping up against the Democrats' desire to make progress on Biden's expansive $3.5 trillion federal overhaul.

It's all making for a tumultuous moment for Biden and his party, with consequences certain to shape his presidency and the lawmakers' own political futures.

Success would mean a landmark accomplishment, if Democrats can helm Biden's big bill to passage. Failure — or a highly unlikely government shutdown and debt crisis — could derail careers.

"You know me, I'm a born optimist," Biden told reporters Monday, as he rolled up his sleeve for a COVID-19 booster shot. "We're gonna get it done."

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Far-right cryptocurrency follows ideology across borders

BRUSSELS (AP) — The Daily Stormer website advocates for the purity of the white race, posts hate-filled, conspiratorial screeds against Blacks, Jews and women and has helped inspire at least three racially motivated murders. It has also made its founder, Andrew Anglin, a millionaire.

Anglin has tapped a worldwide network of supporters to take in at least 112 Bitcoin since January 2017 — worth $4.8 million at today's exchange rate — according to data shared with The Associated Press. He's likely raised even more.

Anglin is just one very public example of how radical right provocateurs are raising significant amounts of money from around the world through cryptocurrencies. Banned by traditional financial institutions, they have taken refuge in digital currencies, which they are using in ever more secretive ways to avoid the oversight of banks, regulators and courts, finds an AP analysis of legal documents, Telegram channels and blockchain data from Chainalysis, a cryptocurrency analytics firm.

Anglin owes more than $18 million in legal judgments in the United States to people whom he and his followers harassed and threatened. And while online, he remains visible — most days, dozens of stories on the Daily Stormer homepage carry his name — in the real world, Anglin's a ghost. 

His victims have tried — and failed — to find him, searching at one Ohio address after another. Voting records place him in Russia in 2016 and his passport shows he was in Cambodia in 2017. After that, the public trail goes cold. He has no obvious bank accounts or real estate holdings in the U.S. For now, his Bitcoin fortune remains out of reach. 

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In R. Kelly verdict, Black women see long-overdue justice

NEW YORK (AP) — For years, decades even, allegations swirled that R&B superstar R. Kelly was abusing young women and girls, with seeming impunity.

They were mostly young Black women. And Black girls. 

And that, say accusers and others who have called for him to face accountability, is part of what took the wheels of the criminal justice system so long to turn, finally leading to his conviction Monday in his sex trafficking trial. That it did at all, they say, is also due to the efforts of Black women, unwilling to be forgotten.

Speaking out against sexual assault and violence is fraught for anyone who attempts it. Those who work in the field say the hurdles facing Black women and girls are raised even higher by a society that hypersexualizes them from a young age, stereotyping them as promiscuous and judging their physiques, and in a country with a history of racism and sexism that has long denied their autonomy over their own bodies.

"Black women have been in this country for a long time and ... our bodies were never ours to begin with," said Kalimah Johnson, executive director of the SASHA Center in Detroit, which provides services to sexual assault survivors.

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Pentagon leaders to face Congress on Afghan pullout decision

WASHINGTON (AP) — In their first public testimony since the U.S. completed its withdrawal from Afghanistan, top Pentagon leaders will face sharp questions in Congress about the chaotic pullout and the Taliban's rapid takeover of the country.

Republicans in particular have intensified their attacks on President Joe Biden's decision to pull all troops out of Afghanistan by Aug. 30, saying it left the U.S. more vulnerable to terrorism. They are demanding more details on the suicide bombing in Kabul that killed 13 American service members in the final days of the withdrawal.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are slated to testify Tuesday in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee and then on Wednesday before the House Armed Services Committee. Gen. Frank McKenzie, who as head of Central Command oversaw the withdrawal, will testify as well.

The Senate committee's ranking Republican, James Inhofe of Oklahoma, has peppered the Pentagon with a lengthy list of questions about multiple aspects of the withdrawal, including the suicide bombing on Aug. 26 at Kabul's international airport that killed 169 Afghans in addition to the American service members. He also is demanding information about decision-making over the summer as it became apparent that the Taliban were overwhelming U.S.-backed Afghan forces.

"We need a full accounting of every factor and decision that led us to where we are today and a real plan for defending America moving forward," Inhofe wrote last week.

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Where women took shelter from abuse, Taliban now in control

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — When the Taliban seized power, the operator of the only women's shelter in a northern Afghan city ran away. Left abandoned were 20 women who had fled a variety of domestic horrors, some abused by husbands or family, others forced into early marriages with older men. 

Soon after, the Taliban arrived at the shelter in the city of Pul-e-Kumri.

They gave the women two options: Return to their abusive families — some of whom had threatened them with death for leaving — or go with the Taliban, recalled one of the women, Salima, who asked only that her first name be used.

Most of the women chose to return home, fearing the Taliban more than their families. Salima said she knew of at least one who was since killed, likely by an angry family member. 

But Salima decided to leave with the Taliban. She didn't know what they would do, but she had nowhere else to go, having fled her abusive, drug-addicted husband months earlier. Now she finds herself housed in a prison — but protected and safe, she says.

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Japan to lift all coronavirus emergency steps nationwide

TOKYO (AP) — Japan's government announced Tuesday that the coronavirus state of emergency will end this week so the economy can be reactivated as infections slow.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said the emergency will end Thursday and virus restrictions will be eased gradually "in order to resume daily lives despite the presence of the virus." He said the government will create more temporary COVID-19 treatment facilities and continue vaccinations to prepare for any future resurgence.

Government officials are also instituting other plans such as vaccine passports and virus tests, Suga said.

With the lifting, Japan will be free of emergency requirements for the first time in more than six months. 

Japan's current state of emergency, declared in April, was repeatedly extended and expanded. Despite public weariness and frustration over the measures, Japan has managed to avoid the more restrictive lockdowns imposed elsewhere while recording about 1.69 million cases and 17,500 deaths from COVID-19.

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German lawmakers meet to mull fallout from election

BERLIN (AP) — Germany's newly elected lawmakers are holding their first meetings on Tuesday as their parties digest the fallout of the election that reduced outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel's bloc to its worst-ever result and start the process of putting together a new government.

The narrow winners of Sunday's parliamentary election, the center-left Social Democrats of Olaf Scholz, underlined their hopes of a quick start to talks with the likely kingmakers in a new government. And several prominent figures in Merkel's Union bloc questioned an initial push by election loser Armin Laschet to lead a new administration. 

Since neither of the traditional big parties wants to renew their outgoing "grand coalition" of rivals, the third- and fourth-placed parties — the environmentalist Greens and the business-friendly Free Democrats — appear to hold the keys to a parliamentary majority. Leaders of those parties plan to meet each other this week to search for common ground before entertaining advances from potential suitors.

"The Greens and Free Democrats have been invited by us to hold exploratory talks with us this week already if they want," Social Democratic parliamentary group leader Rolf Muetzenich said before a gathering of his party's newly elected and outgoing lawmakers.

Scholz, the outgoing vice chancellor, said Monday that he wants a new government before Christmas if possible. Forming a government can take weeks or months in Germany as parties thrash out in detail the new coalition's plans.

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North Korea launches missile as diplomat decries US policy

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea fired a short-range missile into the sea Tuesday at nearly the same moment its U.N. diplomat was decrying the U.S.'s "hostile policy" against it, in an apparent return to its pattern of mixing weapons displays with peace overtures to wrest outside concessions. 

The launch, its third round of weapons firings this month, came only three days after North Korea repeated its offer for conditional talks with South Korea. Some experts say the latest missile launch was likely meant to test how South Korea would respond as North Korea needs Seoul to persuade Washington to ease economic sanctions and make other concessions. 

In an emergency National Security Council meeting, the South Korean government expressed regret over what it called "a short-range missile launch" by the North. South Korea's military earlier said the object fired from North Korea's mountainous northern Jagang province flew toward the waters off the North's eastern coast. Further details of the launch were being analyzed.

The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said the launch didn't pose an immediate threat but highlighted "the destabilizing impact of (North Korea's) illicit weapons program." Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said North Korea fired "what could be a ballistic missile" and that his government stepped up its vigilance and surveillance.

A ballistic missile launch would violate a U.N. Security Council ban on North Korean ballistic activities, but the council typically doesn't impose new sanctions on North Korea for launches of short-range weapons.

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Reparations draw UN scrutiny, but those who'd pay say little

More than a year after Black Lives Matter protests launched a worldwide reckoning about the centuries of racism that Black people continue to face, the question of reparations emerged — unevenly — as a high-profile issue at this year's largest gathering of world leaders.

At the U.N. General Assembly, African and Caribbean countries that stand to benefit from reparations were backed by other nations, though those most responsible for slavery and colonialism said little about what they might owe to African descendants.

Leaders from Africa (South Africa and Cameroon) to the Caribbean (Saint Kitts & Nevis and Saint Lucia) were joined by representatives of countries that are unlikely to be tapped to pay up — Cuba and Malaysia among them — in explicitly endorsing the creation of reparation systems.

Those missing from the renewed global conversation on the topic, though, were noteworthy as well: the United States, Britain and Germany, wealthy and developed nations built from conquests of varying kinds.

"Caribbean countries like ours, which were exploited and underdeveloped to finance the development of Europe, have put forward a case for reparations for slavery and native genocide, and we expect that case to be treated with the seriousness and urgency it deserves," said Philip J. Pierre, prime minister of Saint Lucia. "There should be no double standards in the international system in recognizing, acknowledging and compensating victims of crimes against humanity."

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In Murdaugh family scandal, tiny South Carolina town shaken

HAMPTON, S.C. (AP) — Ask any of the 2,600 residents in this South Carolina town whether they know Alex Murdaugh, and you'll probably get a quick nod. Nearly everyone does in Hampton, a tiny place where every road in has just two lanes. 

Ask them to tell you about Murdaugh, though, and you'll get a firm head shake, followed by: "You're not going to quote me, are you?" No one wants to talk about the influential lawyer whose wife and son were killed and who's now accused in a string of controversies — at least, not in the open.

For the past century, the Murdaughs have steered much of the legal world in this remote corner of South Carolina — north of Savannah, Georgia, and far from the interstate or just about anything else. Running the prosecutor's office and a large civil law firm allowed the Murdaughs to do it quietly, until recently.

Murdaugh's wife, Maggie, and son Paul were killed June 7, shot multiple times at the family's sprawling estate. No one's been arrested in their deaths, which brought scrutiny into every nook of Murdaugh's life.

Six investigations are underway, over the killings, stolen money, death coverups and a Sept. 4 shooting in which a bullet grazed Murdaugh's head on a lonely highway. Police said he tried to arrange his own death and make sure a $10 million life insurance policy would pay off for his surviving son.

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