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Journalists from Philippines, Russia given Nobel Peace Prize

OSLO (AP) — The 2021 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded Friday to journalists Maria Ressa of the Philippines and Dmitry Muratov of Russia.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee cited their fight for freedom of expression, stressing that it is vital in promoting peace.

"Free, independent and fact-based journalism serves to protect against abuse of power, lies and war propaganda," said Berit Reiss-Andersen, chair of the committee.

"Without freedom of expression and freedom of the press, it will be difficult to successfully promote fraternity between nations, disarmament and a better world order to succeed in our time," she said.

Ressa in 2012 co-founded Rappler, a news website that has focused "critical attention on the (President Rodrigo) Duterte regime's controversial, murderous anti-drug campaign," the Nobel committee said.


Senate avoids a US debt disaster, votes to extend borrowing

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate has dodged a U.S. debt disaster, voting to extend the government's borrowing authority into December and temporarily avert an unprecedented federal default that experts warned would devastate the economy and harm millions of Americans.

The party-line Democratic vote of 50-48 in support of the bill to raise the government's debt ceiling by nearly a half-trillion dollars brought instant relief in Washington and far beyond. However, it provides only a reprieve. Assuming the House goes along with the Senate's Thursday night vote, which it will, Republican and Democratic lawmakers will still have to tackle their deep differences on the issue once more before yearend.

That debate will take place as lawmakers also work to fund the federal government for the new fiscal year and as they keep up their bitter battling over President Joe Biden's top domestic priorities — a bipartisan infrastructure plan with nearly $550 billion in new spending as well as a much more expansive, $3.5 trillion effort focused on health, safety net programs and the environment.

Easing the crisis at hand — a disastrous default looming in just weeks — the Republican Senate leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, offered his support for allowing a short-term extension of the government's borrowing authority after leading solid GOP opposition to a longer extension. He acted as Biden and business leaders ramped up their concerns that a default would disrupt government payments to millions of Americans and throw the nation into recession.

The GOP concession to give up its blockade for now was not popular with some members of McConnell's Republican caucus, who complained that the nation's debt levels are unsustainable. 


Americans agree misinformation is a problem, poll shows

WASHINGTON (AP) — Nearly all Americans agree that the rampant spread of misinformation is a problem.

Most also think social media companies, and the people that use them, bear a good deal of blame for the situation. But few are very concerned that they themselves might be responsible, according to a new poll from The Pearson Institute and the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

Ninety-five percent of Americans identified misinformation as a problem when they're trying to access important information. About half put a great deal of blame on the U.S. government, and about three-quarters point to social media users and tech companies. Yet only 2 in 10 Americans say they're very concerned that they have personally spread misinformation.

More — about 6 in 10 — are at least somewhat concerned that their friends or family members have been part of the problem.

For Carmen Speller, a 33-year-old graduate student in Lexington, Kentucky, the divisions are evident when she's discussing the coronavirus pandemic with close family members. Speller trusts COVID-19 vaccines; her family does not. She believes the misinformation her family has seen on TV or read on questionable news sites has swayed them in their decision to stay unvaccinated against COVID-19.


Mystery lingers around cause of California oil pipeline leak

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. (AP) — Investigators searching for the cause of an oil pipeline break off the Southern California coast have pointed to the possibility that a ship anchor dragged the line across the seabed and cracked it, but two videos released so far provide only tantalizing clues about what might have happened 100 feet (30 meters) below the ocean surface.

A Coast Guard video released Thursday appears to show a trench in the seafloor leading to a bend in the submerged line, but experts offered varied opinions of the significance of the brief, grainy shots. An earlier video revealed a 13-inch (33-centimeter) rupture in the line, but the pipe showed no evidence of damage that they said would be expected from a collision with a multi-ton anchor from cargo ships that routinely move through the area off the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

The slight bow in the line displayed in one video "doesn't necessarily look like anchor damage," Frank G. Adams, president of Houston-based Interface Consulting International, said in an email. When a pipeline is hit by an anchor or other heavy object "that typically results in physical damage that may lead to a fracture."

Ramanan Krishnamoorti, a petroleum engineering professor at the University of Houston, said he considered the video that runs along a bend in the line "revealing."

"It seems to me you've got something that was dragged in the sand that might have impacted the pipeline," he said. However, he remained puzzled that the leak came from a crack and not a larger gash, assuming it was hit by an anchor or some other object.


US hiring may have risen last month in a sign of resilience

WASHINGTON (AP) — America's employers may have stepped up their hiring last month after a slowdown in August. But COVID-19's fingerprints will likely still be found on the September jobs report being released Friday.

Economists have forecast that employers added 488,000 jobs last month, according to data provider FactSet. That's about half the gains in both June and July, when a sharp drop in new infections spurred more traveling, shopping and spending, but well above August's sluggish growth of 235,000 jobs. The unemployment rate is expected to have dropped from 5.2 percent to 5.1 percent.

During August, the delta variant caused a sharp pullback in hiring among restaurants, bars, hotels and retail stores, when Americans were reluctant to visit restaurants, bars and shops. Those trends likely remained a factor in September but might have improved as confirmed COVID cases began declining in recent weeks. 

A big question surrounding the September hiring report is whether employers managed to find enough people to fill a record-high number of open jobs. As the spread of vaccinations accelerated earlier this year and more Americans ventured out, companies were caught flat-footed as customer demand soared much faster than they expected. At the same time, many of their former employees had dropped out of the job market to care for children at home or because higher stock prices and home values allowed older workers to retire early. 

The demand for workers remains intense: The employment website Indeed says the number of job postings, which was flat in August compared with July, rose again last month, particularly for warehouse jobs and positions in human resources. 


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The AP Interview: Jayapal pushes Biden for $3T spending bill

WASHINGTON (AP) — Washington Rep. Pramila Jayapal, the head of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, says she has pushed President Joe Biden to hold the line and keep his ambitious social spending plan closer to $3 trillion instead of the $2 trillion range that he has floated to Democrats in recent days. 

Jayapal told The Associated Press in an interview Thursday that she had told Biden that his suggestion for compromise was "too low, and I said that I would really like to be closer to three." The original amount for the package of Democratic initiatives, including expanded child care, health care, education and environmental programs, was $3.5 trillion. 

The Washington state Democrat has emerged as a top negotiator in the talks on Capitol Hill, using the clout of her liberal caucus — and its nearly 100 members — to thwart a group of House moderates who demanded a vote last week on a $1 trillion infrastructure bill. 

Biden tacitly endorsed the progressive caucus's strategy last week, insisting that the spending package full of longtime Democratic priorities be linked to infrastructure. But he also floated trimming it back to a range between $1.9 trillion and $2.3 trillion, drawing pushback from Jayapal and others. 

Jayapal said that the conversation is ongoing and she isn't "drawing any red lines" in the negotiations. A White House spokesman declined to comment on any private conversations. 


India staring at power crisis with coal stocks down to days

NEW DELHI (AP) — An energy crisis is looming over India as coal supplies grow perilously low, adding to challenges for a recovery in Asia's third largest economy after it was wracked by the pandemic. 

Supplies across the majority of coal-fired power plants in India have dwindled to just days worth of stock.

Federal Power Minister R. K. Singh told the Indian Express newspaper this week that he was bracing for a "trying five to six months." 

"I can't say I am secure … With less than three days of stock, you can't be secure," Singh said. 

The shortages have stoked fears of potential black-outs in parts of India, where 70 percent of power is generated from coal. Experts say the crunch could upset renewed efforts to ramp up manufacturing. 


Israel, Palestinian militants use bodies as bargaining chips

ABU DIS, West Bank (AP) — More than a year after his son was killed by Israeli forces under disputed circumstances in the occupied West Bank, Mustafa Erekat is still seeking his remains.

It is one of dozens of cases in which Israel is holding the remains of Palestinians killed in conflict, citing the need to deter attacks and potentially exchange them for the remains of two Israeli soldiers held by the Palestinian militant group Hamas in the Gaza Strip. 

The Palestinians and human rights groups view the practice of holding bodies as a form of collective punishment that inflicts further suffering on bereaved families.

"They have no right to keep my son, and it is my right for my son to have a good funeral," Erekat said.

The Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center, a Palestinian rights group, says Israel is holding the bodies of at least 82 Palestinians since the policy was established in 2015. It says many are buried in secret cemeteries where the plots are only marked by plaques of numbers. Hamas holds the remains of the two Israeli soldiers killed during the 2014 Gaza war in an undisclosed location.


Trump-backed candidates face scrutiny after minimal vetting

WASHINGTON (AP) — One has been accused of assaulting another White House aide. Another allegedly threatened his ex-wife's life, exaggerated claims of financial success and alarmed business associates with his erratic behavior. A third has asked a judge to keep past protection-from-abuse orders sealed.

As former President Donald Trump wades into contested primaries across the country, he's trying to exact revenge and remake the Republican Party in his image. In doing so, he has endorsed a series of candidates involved in allegations of wrongdoing, especially concerning their treatment of women. 

That's contributing to anxiety among some Republicans who worry that Trump is lending his powerful political backing only to those who flatter his ego. Such candidates may be able to win GOP primaries in which the party's Trump-supporting base dominates, only to struggle in the general election.

And with control of Congress hinging on just a few seats, such missteps could be costly.

"There is no vetting process — at least not on policy and electability," said Dan Eberhart, a GOP donor and Trump supporter who said the concerns extend to many corners of the party. "The endorsement process comes down to how much a candidate supports the former president and is willing to have the Trump machine run their campaign and fundraising. ... Whether they are the most viable candidate in a given race is secondary."


Opal Lee's Juneteenth dream came true, but she isn't done

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Opal Lee's dream of seeing Juneteenth become a federal holiday was finally realized over the summer, but the energetic woman who spent years rallying people to join her push for the day commemorating the end of slavery is hardly letting up on a lifetime of work teaching and helping others.

Lee, who celebrated her 95th birthday Thursday, has devoted decades to making a difference in her Texas hometown of Fort Worth. She then saw her legacy in recent years stretch far beyond the city as she worked to get national recognition for Juneteenth, and stood beside President Joe Biden as he signed into law the bill making June 19 a federal holiday that commemorates when Union soldiers brought the news of freedom to enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas, after the Civil War.

"We don't want people to think that Juneteenth is a stopping point, because it isn't," Lee, who worked for over two decades as a teacher and counselor in the Fort Worth school district, told The Associated Press. "It's a beginning, and we're going to address some of the disparities that we know exist."

Her recent work in Fort Worth has included establishing a large community garden that produced 7,700 pounds of fruits and vegetables last year, delivering food to people who can't leave their homes and working alongside others to transform a former Ku Klux Klan auditorium into a museum and center for the arts. 

As for Juneteenth, she'd like to see festivities span until the Fourth of July — and incorporate events to provide resources to help people with finances, health and other issues.

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