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Apple Urges Customers to Update Software Upon Discovery of Highly Invasive Spyware

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Apple Urges Customers to Update Software Upon Discovery of Highly Invasive Spyware
NSO Group spyware has been found in iPhones that belong to activists and political dissidents. ODD ANDERSEN/AFP via Getty Images

Apple is urging all users of iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, Mac computer and other Apple devices to update their software to prevent a highly invasive yet invisible spyware from stealing your photos, messages and calls.

Apple issued emergency software updates on Monday to address the security issue after researchers at Citizen Lab, a cybersecurity watchdog organization at the University of Toronto, discovered that a virus made by Israel’s NSO Group had infected some Apple devices without leaving any trace.

NSO Group sells spyware to governments around to the world to surveil targeted individuals such as terrorists and criminals.

The spyware in question, called Pegasus, used a novel method called “zero-click remote exploit” to invisibly access an Apple user’s full digital life without the victim’s knowledge. For example, it can turn on a user’s camera and microphone, record messages—including those sent via encrypted apps—and send them back to NSO’s clients.

“This spyware can do everything an iPhone user can do on their device and more,” John Scott-Railton, a senior researcher at Citizen Lab who worked on the findings, told The New York Times on Monday.

Apple customers are advised to install the newly released iOS 14.8, MacOS 11.6 and WatchOS 7.6.2. for the fix to take effect.

The emergency updates were released one day before Apple’s annual product reveal.

“Attacks like the ones described are highly sophisticated, cost millions of dollars to develop, often have a short shelf life and are used to target specific individuals,” Ivan Krstić, Apple’s head of security engineering and architecture, said in a statement on Monday.

Apple also plans to introduce new security defenses for iMessage in the next iOS 15 software update, expected later this year.

Citizen Lab’s researchers first learned about Pegasus in March a Saudi activist reported that his iPhone had been infected. They estimate that the spyware had been drawing data from Apple devices for at least six months.

NSO Group has said that it only does business with clients that meet strict human rights standards. But its spyware has been found in phones that belong to activists, dissidents, lawyers and doctors in countries like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Mexico, according to The New York Times.

In a statement on Monday, NSO Group said it “will continue to provide intelligence and law enforcement agencies around the world with life saving technologies to fight terror and crime.”

Apple Urges Customers to Update Software Upon Discovery of Highly Invasive Spyware

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‘Scared to death’ Vermont advocates rally for emergency housing

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‘Scared to death’ Vermont advocates rally for emergency housing

Posted: Updated:

MONTPELIER, Vt. (WFFF) — An 84-day extension of emergency housing benefits is set to expire for more than 540 Vermont households this week. Vermont Legal Aid (VLA) and housing advocates are asking the state for more time.

“Most of us are afraid for our lives, the winter itself,” said 24-year-old motel voucher participant Randy Tatro. “If you’re homeless in the winter, and you can’t end up in centers—People will freeze to death.”

April Metcalf, a participant in the voucher program, says she’s lived in several different motels in Central Vermont throughout the pandemic. “It’s just really hard. I’m scared to death, and I’m sure everybody else is,” she said. “When Thursday comes, what are we going do to?”

In a letter to the Department for Children and Families, VLA and shelter providers are asking the department to extend the benefits “for as long as possible, dictated only by room availability,” for 543 households. VLA staff attorney Mairead O’Reilly said that with COVID cases rising due to the highly transmissible Delta variant, ending the benefits doesn’t make sense. “When the legislature approved the administration’s plan to offer benefits for only 84 days, the circumstances were really different,” she said.

Rick DeAngelis, executive director of the Good Samaritan Haven in Barre, said that without an extension, 50 to 75 people in Washington County, Vermont, will lose housing. He said the state should take advantage of the recent decision by FEMA to extend a 100% cost-share through the end of the year. “In this period of uncertainty and crisis, why wouldn’t you use that funding to provide support and protection?” he asked.

The advocates’ letter also points out that while the state is investing in affordable housing and additional shelters, the units won’t be ready in time. Another Way, a drop-in site in Montpelier, is supplying camping gear—tarps, tents, sleeping bags, and meals—to those in need.

However, Ken Russell, executive director of the site, says it’s a temporary fix. “We’re helping them get stable emotionally to the best of our ability,” he said. “But this feels like pulling the rug out from underneath the motel system. These are human beings we’re talking about, here. These are people who are not outside just because of moral failings, they’re in life crisis.”

Metcalf says she’s hoping and praying for more support from Gov. Phil Scott and his administration. “What do they expect us to do?” she said. “Really.”

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Missouri’s abortion law in federal court; focus on Down syndrome diagnosis

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Missouri’s abortion law in federal court; focus on Down syndrome diagnosis

ST. LOUIS – Missouri could join Texas with one of the strictest abortion laws in the country if a federal court of appeals rules in the state’s favor.

Back in 2019, the Missouri General Assembly passed a bill banning abortions after eight weeks or if the mother receives a prenatal Down syndrome diagnosis. A day before the law was set to go into effect, a federal judge blocked the measure, and it has been an ongoing legal fight since. A rare move Tuesday as all 11 members of a federal court of appeals heard the case.

“Today, we argued that every single life matters,” Attorney General Eric Schmitt said. “We are hopeful that we are on the right side of this issue, and we are going to continue to fight for those most vulnerable among us.”

Just days after lawmakers passed the legislation, Gov. Mike Parson signed the bill which does not allow exemptions for rape or incest survivors. But the focus in Tuesday’s hearing wasn’t how long a woman has to get an abortion. Instead, it was about a mother receiving a Down syndrome diagnosis.

“People who are pregnant, regardless of why they are choosing to have an abortion should be able to have that care here in the state of Missouri,” Chief Medical Officer for Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region Dr. Colleen McNicholas said. “Pregnant folks who are facing an abortion in the context of having a diagnosis of a fetal anomaly, a genetic diagnosis, whether it’s Down syndrome or any other diagnosis, are facing a real traumatic decision.”

Earlier this summer, a three-judge panel from the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals blocked the law, but after the June decision, the court made a rare move and decided in July to re-hear the case before all the judges.

Schmitt said the focus was on the Down syndrome piece because that’s a relatively new issue for the courts.

“I think that every individual deserves the right to live their life and pursue happiness including those with Down syndrome,” Schmitt said. “This is modern-day eugenics, this is discriminating to the most extreme level of the elimination of an entire class of people because of a trait.”

During a press conference after the hearing, Schmitt, citing a 2019 dissent from Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas (Box v. Planned Parenthood of Indiana & Kentucky, Inc.), claimed roughly 70% of babies in the U.S. are aborted due to a Down syndrome diagnosis.

A few weeks ago, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to block a law in Texas that bans abortions as early as six weeks, allowing private citizens to sue abortion providers and anyone who participates. This law makes Texas the most restrictive state in the country for abortions.

“I would say that Missouri is on the list of many states who are on the verge of losing access to abortion and so last week Texas, this week, Missouri,” McNicholas said.

McNicholas said it’s not a decision the state should make for women who are pregnant.

“Anti-abortion groups and legislators have longed tried to find wedge issues to push people to anti-abortion stances but our stance, my stance, the stance of the patients I care for, everyone has a unique situation,” McNicholas said.

Planned Parenthood in the Central West End in St. Louis is Missouri’s only abortion clinic. The Show-Me State is one of five states across the country that only has one clinic. McNicholas said whatever the ruling is, they won’t close their doors.

“This is a public health matter, it is basic healthcare and we will continue to fight for people to have access to that,” McNicholas said.

Under the Missouri law passed back in 2019, physicians who perform abortions after eight weeks could face anywhere from five to 15 years in prison but the woman who made the decision to have the abortion would not be charged. Anyone who participates in an abortion after the knowledge of a prenatal Down syndrome diagnosis could be charged with civil penalties which could include the loss of a medical license.

Currently in Missouri, a woman can have an abortion up to 22 weeks. The number of abortions in Missouri per year has decreased significantly over the years in the past decade. According to the Department of Health and Senior Services, the state recorded 6,163 abortions in 2010, but only 46 in 2020.

Here is the list of abortions per year in the last decade:

2010 – 6,163
2011 – 5,772
2012 – 5,624
2013 – 5,416
2014 – 5,060
2015 – 4,765
2016 – 4,562
2017 – 3,903
2018 – 2,911
2019 – 1,368
2020 – 46

Schmitt said he does not know when the court will rule but is hoping for a quick decision.

The hearing in St. Louis comes less than three months before the country’s highest court is expected to hear arguments for a Mississippi law that challenges the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which establishes abortion as a protected right.

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Officials: Many Haitian migrants are being released in US

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Officials: Many Haitian migrants are being released in US

By ELLIOT SPAGAT, MARIA VERZA and JUAN A. LOZANO

DEL RIO, Texas (AP) — Many Haitian migrants camped in a small Texas border town are being released in the United States, two U.S. officials said Tuesday, undercutting the Biden administration’s public statements that the thousands in the camp faced immediate expulsion.

Haitians have been freed on a “very, very large scale” in recent days, according to one U.S. official who put the figure in the thousands. The official, with direct knowledge of operations who was not authorized to discuss the matter and thus spoke on condition of anonymity

Many have been released with notices to appear at an immigration office within 60 days, an outcome that requires less processing time from Border Patrol agents than ordering an appearance in immigration court and points to the speed at which authorities are moving, the official said.

The Homeland Security Department has been busing Haitians from Del Rio to El Paso, Laredo and Rio Grande Valley along the Texas border, and this week added flights to Tucson, Arizona, the official said. They are processed by the Border Patrol at those locations.

A second U.S. official, also with direct knowledge and speaking on the condition of anonymity, said large numbers of Haitians were being processed under immigration laws and not being placed on expulsion flights to Haiti that started Sunday. The official couldn’t be more specific about how many.

U.S. authorities scrambled in recent days for buses to Tucson but resorted to flights when they couldn’t find enough transportation contractors, both officials said. Coast Guard planes took Haitians from Del Rio to El Paso.

The releases in the U.S. were occurring despite the signaling of a massive effort to expel Haitians on flights to Haiti under pandemic-related authority that denies migrants an opportunity to seek asylum. A third U.S. official not authorized to discuss operations said there were seven daily flights to Haiti planned starting Wednesday.

Accounts of wide-scale releases – some observed at the Del Rio bus station by Associated Press journalists – are at odds with statements a day earlier by Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who traveled to Del Rio to promise swift action.

“If you come to the United States illegally, you will be returned, your journey will not succeed, and you will be endangering your life and your family’s life,” he said at a Monday news conference.

The releases come amid a quick effort to empty the camp under a bridge that, according to some estimates, held more than 14,000 people over the weekend in a town of 35,000 people. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, during a visit Tuesday to Del Rio, said the county’s top official told him the most recent tally at the camp was about 8,600 migrants.

The criteria for deciding who is flown to Haiti and who is released in the U.S. was unclear, but two U.S. officials said single adults were the priority for expulsion flights.

The Homeland Security Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment late Tuesday night.

Meanwhile, Mexico has begun busing and flying Haitian migrants away from the U.S. border, authorities said Tuesday, signaling a new level of support for the United States as the camp presented President Joe Biden with a humanitarian and increasingly political challenge.

The White House is facing sharp bipartisan condemnation. Republicans say Biden administration policies led Haitians to believe they would get asylum. Democrats are expressing outrage after images went viral this week of Border Patrol agents on horseback using aggressive tactics against the migrants.

Mexico has helped at key moments before. It intensified patrols to stop unaccompanied Central American children from reaching the Texas border in 2014, allowed tens of thousands of asylum-seekers to wait in Mexico for hearings in U.S. immigration courts in 2019 and, just last month, began deporting Central American migrants to Guatemala after the Biden administration flew them to southern Mexico.

Marcelo Ebrard, Mexico’s foreign relations secretary, said Tuesday he had spoken with his U.S. counterpart, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, about the Haitians’ situation. Ebrard said most of the Haitians already had refugee status in Chile or Brazil and weren’t seeking it in Mexico.

“What they are asking for is to be allowed to pass freely through Mexico to the United States,” Ebrard said.

Two Mexican federal officials, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly, confirmed Mexico’s actions.

One of the officials said three busloads of migrants left Acuña on Tuesday morning for Piedras Negras, about 55 miles (90 kilometers) down the border, where they boarded a flight to the southern city of Villahermosa in the state of Tabasco.

The other official said there was a flight Monday from the northern city of Monterrey to the southern city of Tapachula near the Guatemala border. Tapachula is home to the largest immigrant detention center in Latin America. The flight carried about 100 migrants who had been picked up around the bus station in Monterrey, a hub for various routes north to the U.S. border.

The second official said the plan was to move to Tapachula all Haitians who already solicited asylum in Mexico.

The Haitian migrants who are already in Mexico’s detention centers and have not requested asylum will be the first to be flown directly to Haiti once Mexico begins those flights, according to the official.

Around Ciudad Acuña, Mexican authorities were stepping up efforts to move migrants away from the border. There were detentions overnight by immigration agents and raids on hotels known to house migrants.

“All of a sudden they knocked on the door and (yelled) ‘immigration,’ ‘police,’ as if they were looking for drug traffickers,” said Freddy Registre, a 37-year-old Venezuelan staying at one hotel with his Haitian wife, Vedette Dollard. The couple was surprised at midnight.

Authorities took four people plus others who were outside the hotel, he said. “They took our telephones to investigate and took us to the immigration offices, took our photos,” Registre said. They were held overnight but finally were given their phones back and released. Authorities gave them two options: leave Mexico or return to Tapachula.

On Tuesday afternoon, they decided to leave town. They bought tickets for a bus ride to the Gulf coast state of Veracruz, planning to continue to Tapachula where they had already applied for asylum.

Others left without being told. Small groups arrived at Ciudad Acuña’s bus station to buy tickets to Veracruz, Monterrey and Mexico City. The same bus lines prohibited from selling them tickets for rides north through Mexico, sold them tickets to head south without issue.

In Haiti, dozens of migrants upset about being deported from the U.S. tried to rush back into a plane that landed Tuesday afternoon in Port-au-Prince as they yelled at authorities. A security guard closed the plane door in time as some deportees began throwing rocks and shoes at the plane. Several of them lost their belongings in the scuffle as police arrived. The group was disembarking from one of three flights scheduled for the day.

___

Verza reported from Ciudad Acuña, Mexico, and Spagat from San Diego. Associated Press writers Mark Stevenson in Mexico City, Felix Marquez in Ciudad Acuña, Mexico, Danica Coto in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Evens Sanon from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Michael Balsamo in Washington, Michael R. Sisak in New York and Tammy Webber in Fenton, Michigan, also contributed to this report.

___

Follow AP’s coverage of migration at https://apnews.com/hub/migration

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Google to spend $2.1B on Manhattan campus acquisition

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Google to spend $2.1B on Manhattan campus acquisition

NEW YORK — Google is planning to buy New York City’s St. John’s Terminal for $2.1 billion, making it the anchor of its Hudson Square campus.

The announcement Tuesday arrives with the city buffeted by the pandemic and most offices still largely unpopulated.

While CEO Sundar Pichai said in a blog post late last month that Google is delaying its global return to offices until Jan. 10, the commitment by the company to further invest in New York City real estate was trumpeted both by Gov. Kathy Hochul and New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio, who called it “one of the shots in the arm we need as part of our comeback.”

“Google is leading the way here in our economic comeback but also further asserting what we know more and more: New York City is now one of the great tech capitals in the world,” de Blasio said at a virtual news conference Tuesday.

Google’s had a footprint in New York City for more than two decades, and it is the company’s largest location outside of California. Its 1.7 million-square-foot Hudson Square campus is on the Hudson River just south of the New York University campus and Greenwich Village.

“As Google moves toward a more flexible hybrid approach to work, coming together in person to collaborate and build community will remain an important part of our future,” the company’s Chief Financial Officer Ruth Porat said. “It is why we continue investing in our offices around the world. Our decision to exercise our option to purchase St. John’s Terminal further builds upon our existing plans to invest more than $250 million this year in our New York campus presence.”

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Twins break out the bats in win over Cubs

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Twins break out the bats in win over Cubs

CHICAGO — Anthony Rizzo and Javier Báez both make their home in New York — Rizzo as a Yankee, Báez as a Met. Craig Kimbrel pitches on the other side of Chicago these days for the White Sox. Kris Bryant is headed to the playoffs as a Giant.

Nelson Cruz will enjoy a trip to the playoffs this year as a Tampa Bay Ray, and José Berríos is hoping his Blue Jays make it.

The late July sell-off for both the Cubs and the Twins of some of their biggest and best names left Tuesday’s late-September matchup with little intrigue. These days, the fifth-place Twins and fourth-place Cubs are just trying to stave off 90 losses.

The Cubs inched a little closer to the dreaded number on Tuesday, falling 9-5 to the Twins in the series opener at Wrigley Field in a game that lasted four hours and five minutes.

That’s what tends to happen when you collect 16 hits in a game, as the Twins (66-85) did. Nearly everyone got in on the action, except for Jorge Polanco, who uncharacteristically struck out four times as part of an 0 for 6 day against the Cubs (67-84).

But that hardly mattered, because his teammates more than picked up the slack.

“It was really kind of an explosive effort from our guys,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “You can point to a number of them. … But really, everywhere you looked, there were good swings. There were guys who came up in good situations with people on base getting it done.”

One of those was Mitch Garver, who returned from weeks on the injured list with a back injury on Tuesday. When Garver returned from a lengthy stint on the injured list earlier this year, he hit two home runs in his first game back. This time around, he had three hits.

“I had some rust when I was rehabbing for those three games,” Garver said. “I was getting some good swings off, wasn’t making solid contact. Then to come out today and find the barrel three times was pretty good for me. Four (times) actually.”

Garver was one of four Twins to finish the game with three hits. Josh Donaldson, Max Kepler and Nick Gordon each did so as well, and all three each drove in two runs.

Gordon’s opposite field two-run home run broke open a tie game in the fourth inning, giving the Twins a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

“The guy comes in every day and has great energy about him,” Donaldson said of Gordon. “We love him around here, and for him to be able to hit a home run at that time of the game was big for us.”

Starter Griffin Jax went three innings, giving up three runs before being lifted for a pinch hitter in the top of the fourth. Jax gave up a pair of home runs — he has now surrendered 21, tying him with former Twin J.A. Happ for the team lead.

After his departure, the Twins used six different relievers to cover the remaining six innings, all but one turning in scoreless efforts.

“It felt like and you can’t fall prey to this, but it also felt like it wasn’t necessarily a (four)-run-game,” Baldelli said. “It felt like we had scored more runs than we actually had, and we scored a bunch of runs. So we had to stay locked in in every way to win this ballgame.”

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11 state landmarks to be lit purple, blue, red, and pink for annual #BeKind21 Campaign

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11 state landmarks to be lit purple, blue, red, and pink for annual #BeKind21 Campaign

NEW YORK STATE (NEWS10) — Gov. Kathy Hochul Tuesday announced that 11 state landmarks will be lit purple, blue, red and pink on Tuesday, Sept. 21 in celebration of Born This Way Foundation’s annual #BeKind21 Campaign to build kinder, more connected communities that foster mental wellness.

“Youth today face stressors to their mental health that were unfathomable to generations only a few decades ago,” Gov. Hochul said. “It is crucial that we encourage mental wellness among them and make sure they have access to resources to keep themselves safe and healthy. I want to thank Lady Gaga and Born This Way Foundation for their tireless work and let them know New York State is with them every step of the way.”

“I love my home state so much, and on September 21st, I am excited for the world to witness how New Yorkers lead and inspire with kindness. And as we celebrate the end of our #BeKind21 campaign, we continue the call to action to keep kindness going always,” said Lady Gaga, co-founder, Born This Way Foundation. “The world has been heavy recently, and at times things have felt so dark for so many people that it can be hard to find hope. So let’s lift each other up, and let’s light the way forward with kindness in New York, and everywhere.”

Landmarks to be lit include:

  • Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge
  • Kosciuszko Bridge
  • The H. Carl McCall SUNY Building
  • State Education Building
  • Alfred E. Smith State Office Building
  • State Fairgrounds – Main Gate & Expo Center
  • The “Franklin D. Roosevelt” Mid-Hudson Bridge
  • Grand Central Terminal – Pershing Square Viaduct
  • Albany International Airport Gateway
  • The Lake Placid Olympic Jumping Complex
  • MTA LIRR – East End Gateway at Penn Station
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‘This is definitely not a human thing, this is a God thing,’ Springfield officer receives kidney at SLU Hospital

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‘This is definitely not a human thing, this is a God thing,’ Springfield officer receives kidney at SLU Hospital

ST. LOUIS – Two Missouri police officers have never met, but are forever connected.

The sacrifice of one gave a second chance to the other through a kidney transplant at SSM Health St. Louis University. 

“At 12:12 in the morning the phone rang, and it was the coordinator telling us that they had a match for Mark, and it was the Independence officer that had been killed in the line of duty she said we need you to be in St. Louis at 8 a.m.,” Heather Priebe said.  

The phone call changed everything for Springfield Police Officer Mark Priebe. He needed a new kidney.
Priebe was paralyzed after being intentionally struck by a vehicle in 2020.

His kidneys began to fail this summer. A kidney match was found when Independence Police Officer Blaize Madrid-Evans was shot to death in the line of duty last week. He was an organ donor. 

“The way the dots were connected, and the people reaching to the right people in within my department and the people who knew each other from Independence PD and Springfield PD. This is definitely not a human thing, this is a God thing,” Officer Priebe said.  

The transplant surgery was Sept. 18 at SSM Health St. Lous University Hospital.

Officer Priebe said he is “doing really good. Everything’s looking good. We’re just dealing with typical after-surgery stuff. I’m hoping to get up later this afternoon and get a little more mobile.” 

Heather Priebe said, “The nephrologist was just in from the transplant team and told Mark that his kidney function looks better than his own kidney function.” 

It’s a story of an officer and an organ donor at this point, but Officer Priebe and his wife are reaching out to Madrid-Evans’ family, hoping they can meet them someday.

“We’ll never meet Blaize on this Earth. Today, all we can do is thank him through our prayers and thank his family,” Heather Priebe said.   

Officer Priebe and Heather are hoping to return home to the Springfield area in a couple of weeks. 

“What a difference one person can make in so many different lives by willing to donate,” Priebe said. 

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White House faces bipartisan backlash on Haitian migrants

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White House faces bipartisan backlash on Haitian migrants

WASHINGTON — The White House is facing sharp condemnation from Democrats for its handling of the influx of Haitian migrants at the U.S. southern border, after images of U.S. Border Patrol agents on horseback using aggressive tactics went viral this week.

Striking video of agents maneuvering their horses to forcibly block and move migrants attempting to cross the border has sparked resounding criticism from Democrats on Capitol Hill, who are calling on the Biden administration to end its use of a pandemic-era authority to deport migrants without giving them an opportunity to seek asylum in the United States.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., an administration ally, said images of the treatment of the migrants “turn your stomach” and called on the administration to discontinue the “hateful and xenophobic” policies of Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump.

“The policies that are being enacted now — and the horrible treatment of these innocent people who have come to the border — must stop immediately,” Schumer told the Senate on Tuesday.

At the same time, the administration continues to face attacks from Republicans, who say Biden isn’t doing enough to deal with what they call a “crisis” at the border.

Reflecting the urgency of the political problem for the administration, Homeland Security chief Alejandro Mayorkas said Tuesday the images “horrified” him, a seeming shift in tone from a day earlier, when he and others were more sanguine about the situation at the border.

Mayorkas announced later that the agents involved have been placed on administrative duties pending the outcome of an investigation. “The actions we’re taking are swift and strong, and we will take further action as the facts adduced in the investigation compel,” he said on Twitter.

It’s a highly uncomfortable position for the administration, led by a president who has set himself up as a tonic for the harshness of his predecessor. But immigration is a complex issue, one no administration has been able to fix in decades. And Biden is trapped between conflicting interests of broadcasting compassion while dealing with throngs of migrants coming to the country — illegally — seeking a better life.

The provision in question, known as Title 42, was put in place by the Trump administration in March 2020 to justify restrictive immigration policies in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. But the Biden administration has used Title 42 to justify the deportation of Haitian migrants who in recent days have set up an encampment in and around the small city of Del Rio, Texas. The provision gives federal health officials powers during a pandemic to take extraordinary measures to limit transmission of an infectious disease.

A federal judge late last week ruled the regulation was improper and gave the government two weeks before its use was to be halted, but the Biden administration on Monday appealed the decision.

“The Biden administration pushing back on this stay of expulsions is another example of broken promises to treat migrants with respect and humanity when they reach our borders to exercise their fundamental right to asylum,” said Karla Marisol Vargas, senior attorney with the Texas Civil Rights Project and co-counsel on the litigation.

NAACP President Derrick Johnson demanded a meeting with Biden to discuss the situation and called the treatment of the Haitian migrants “utterly sickening.”

“The humanitarian crisis happening under this administration on the southern border disgustingly mirrors some of the darkest moments in America’s history,” he said in a statement.

Shortly after the judge’s decision on Friday, Homeland Security officials formed a plan to begin immediately turning the groups of Haitian migrants around, working against the clock. But people kept coming.

Trump essentially put a chokehold on immigration. He decreased the number of refugees admitted to a record low, made major changes to policy and essentially shut down asylum.

Biden has undone many of the Trump-era policies, but since his inauguration, the U.S. has seen a dramatic spike in the number of people encountered by border officials. The Haitian migrants are the latest example.

More than 6,000 Haitians and other migrants have been removed from the encampment in Del Rio, and Mayorkas predicted a “dramatic change” in the number of migrants there within the next two to four days as the administration continues the removal process.

As the controversy swirled around him, Biden spent his Tuesday address at the U.N. General Assembly in New York calling for the global community to come together to defend human rights and combat injustice worldwide, declaring, “the future will belong to those who embrace human dignity, not trample it.”

The remarks stood in notable contrast to images of the Border Patrol agents on horseback. Biden himself seemed to acknowledge the challenge his administration faces with immigration, offering a clipped response when asked by a reporter after his U.N. remarks to offer his reaction to the images.

“We’ll get it under control,” he insisted.

Vice President Kamala Harris also weighed in, telling reporters in Washington that she was “deeply troubled” by the images and planned to talk to Mayorkas about the situation. Harris has been tasked with addressing the root causes of migration to the U.S., and emphasized that the U.S. should “support some very basic needs that the people of Haiti have” that are causing them to flee their homes for the U.S.

Videos and photos taken in recent days in and around Del Rio show Border Patrol agents confronting Haitians along the Rio Grande near a border bridge where thousands of migrants have gathered in hopes of entering the country.

One Border Patrol agent on horseback was seen twirling his long leather reins in a menacing way at the Haitian migrants, but not actually striking anyone. There was no sign in photos and videos viewed by The Associated Press that the mounted agents were carrying whips or using their reins as such when confronting the migrants.

The agents, wearing chaps and cowboy hats, maneuvered their horses to forcibly block and move the migrants, almost seeming to herd them. In at least one instance, they were heard taunting the migrants.

Asked about the images on Tuesday, Mayorkas told lawmakers that the issue had been “uppermost in my mind” ever since he had seen them. He said the department had alerted its inspector general’s office and directed that staff from the Office of Professional Responsibility be present round-the-clock in Del Rio.

“I was horrified to see the images, and we look forward to learning the facts that are adduced from the investigation, and we will take actions that those facts compel,” Mayorkas said. “We do not tolerate any mistreatment or abuse of a migrant. Period.”

Previously, during a Monday news conference, both Mayorkas and Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz played down the incident, with Ortiz telling reporters that the agents were working in a difficult and chaotic environment and trying to control their horses.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Mayorkas spoke Monday before he had seen the images. “He believes this does not represent who we are as a country and does not represent the positions of the Biden-Harris administration,” Psaki told reporters on Tuesday.

Criticism was withering from members of Congress, including Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee. He called on Mayorkas to “take immediate action to hold those responsible accountable.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also called for an investigation.

Republicans, meanwhile, stepped up their continued criticism of Biden’s approach to the border, with 26 Republican governors calling on the president to change his border policies.

“A crisis that began at the southern border now extends beyond to every state and requires immediate action before the situation worsens,” they said in a statement.

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Ticker: Home sales down for second straight month; Activision confirms SEC probe

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Ticker: Home sales down for second straight month; Activision confirms SEC probe

Home prices in the red-hot housing market exceeded $500,000 for the fifth straight month in August, but buyers aren’t scooping up the properties as fast as they did during the previous two years as single-family home sales declined for the second straight month, The Warren Group reported on Tuesday.

Homebuyers purchased 6,318 single-family homes in August, down 6.2% from August 2020 and 4.6% from the same month in 2019.

“I think prices have gotten higher than a lot of people can afford. Increasingly the people who can afford to buy have already done so and the rest are ready to give up on home shopping,” said Warren Group CEO Tim Warren.

The median price of a single-family home in August shot up 11.5% on a year-over-year basis to $535,000, about $55,000 more than the median price recorded in August 2020 and up from $420,000 in August 2019.

Activision confirms SEC probe

Activision Blizzard, one of the world’s most high-profile video game companies, confirmed a regulatory probe and said it is working to address complaints of workplace discrimination.

The Santa Monica, Calif., company said Tuesday that it is complying with a recent Securities and Exchange Commission subpoena sent to current and former employees and executives on “employment matters and related issues.”

The Wall Street Journal had reported Monday that the SEC was investigating how the company had treated complaints of sexual misconduct and workplace discrimination.

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House OKs debt and funding plan, inviting clash with GOP

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House OKs debt and funding plan, inviting clash with GOP

By LISA MASCARO and KEVIN FREKING

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House voted late Tuesday to keep the government funded, suspend the federal debt limit and provide disaster and refugee aid, setting up a high-stakes showdown with Republicans who oppose the package despite the risk of triggering a fiscal crisis.

The federal government faces a shutdown if funding stops on Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year — midnight next Thursday. Additionally, at some point in October the U.S. risks defaulting on its accumulated debt load if its borrowing limits are not waived or adjusted.

Rushing to prevent that dire outcome, the Democratic-led House passed the measure by a party-line vote of 220-211. The bill now goes to the Senate, where it is likely to falter because of overwhelming GOP opposition.

“Our country will suffer greatly if we do not act now to stave off this unnecessary and preventable crisis,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said shortly before the vote.

Backed by the White House, the Democratic leaders pushed the package to approval at a time of great uncertainty in Congress. With lawmakers already chiseling away at the $3.5 trillion price tag of President Joe Biden’s broad “build back better” agenda, immediate attention focused on the upcoming deadlines to avert deeper problems if votes to shore up government funding fail.

The package approved Tuesday would provide stopgap money to keep the government funded to Dec. 3 and extend borrowing authority through the end of 2022. It includes $28.6 billion in disaster relief for the aftermath of Hurricane Ida and other extreme weather events, and $6.3 billion to support Afghanistan evacuees in the fallout from the end of the 20-year war.

While suspending the debt ceiling allows the government to meet financial obligations already incurred, Republicans argued it would also facilitate a spending binge in the months ahead.

“I will not support signing a blank check as this majority is advancing the most reckless expansion of government in generations,” said Rep. Dan Meuser, R-Pa., during the debate.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said since Democrats control the White House and Congress, it’s their problem to find the votes — even though he had relied on bipartisan cooperation to approve the debt limits when Republicans were in charge.

“The debt ceiling will be raised as it always should be, but it will be raised by the Democrats,” McConnell said.

In the 50-50 Senate, Democrats will be hard-pressed to find 10 Republicans to reach the 60-vote threshold needed to overcome a filibuster.

“This is playing with fire,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

The Treasury Department has been using “extraordinary measures” to fund the government since the last debt limit suspension expired July 31, and projects that at some point next month will run out cash reserves. Then, it will have to rely on incoming receipts to pay its obligations, now at $28.4 trillion. That could force the Treasury to delay or miss payments, a devastating situation.

Mark Zandi, the chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, warned if lawmakers allow a federal debt default “this economic scenario is cataclysmic.”

In a report being circulated by Democrats, Zandi warned that a potential downturn from government funding cutbacks would cost 6 million jobs and stock market losses would wipe out $15 trillion of household wealth.

Once a routine matter, raising the debt ceiling has become a political weapon of choice for Republicans in Washington ever since the 2011 arrival of tea party lawmakers who refused to allow the increase. At the time, they argued against more spending and the standoff triggered a fiscal crisis.

Echoing that strategy, McConnell is setting the tone for his party, but some GOP senators might have a tough time voting no.

Republican John Kennedy of Louisiana, whose state was battered by the hurricane and who is up for election next year, said he will likely vote for the increase. “My people desperately need the help,” he said.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that “in our view, this should not be a controversial vote.” Psaki said Congress has raised the debt ceiling numerous times on a bipartisan basis, including three times under President Donald Trump.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro, the Democratic chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee, was forced to introduce another version of the bill Tuesday after some within the Democratic caucus objected to the inclusion of $1 billion for Israel’s Iron Dome defense system, which uses missiles to intercept short-range rockets fired into the country.

The Israel defense issue splits Democrats, but DeLauro assured colleagues that money for the weapons system would be included in the annual defense spending bill. Hoyer went a step further and said he would bring a bill to the floor this week to replenish the Iron Dome system.

Republicans were highly critical of the change and vowed to stand as allies with Israel.

Meanwhile, behind the scenes, Democrats were negotiating over Biden’s big “build back better” package as the price tag likely slips to win over skeptical centrist lawmakers who view it as too much.

Publicly, the White House has remained confident the legislation will pass soon, despite sharp differences among progressives and moderates in the party over the eventual size of the package and a companion $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill.

There has been a flurry of outreach from the White House to Democrats on Capitol Hill, and Biden himself was given a call sheet of lawmakers to cajole. The president has been talking to a wide number of lawmakers beyond his recent meetings with key centrist Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., according to a White House official familiar with the calls and granted anonymity to discuss them.

Biden’s big initiative touches almost all aspects of Americans’ lives. It would impose tax hikes on corporations and wealthy Americans earning beyond $400,000 a year and plow that money back into federal programs for young and old, including government health, education and family support and environmental efforts to fight climate change.

With Republicans opposed to Biden’s vision, Democrats have no votes to spare in the Senate, and just a few votes’ margin in the House.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has promised a Sept. 27 vote on the companion $1 trillion bill of public works projects that has already passed the Senate.

Even though that bipartisan bill should be an easy legislative lift, it too faces a political obstacle course. Dozens of lawmakers in the Congressional Progressive Caucus are expected to vote against it if it comes ahead of the broader Biden package. And centrists won’t vote for the broader package unless they are assured the bipartisan bill will also be included.

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Associated Press writers Darlene Superville and Jonathan Lemire contributed to this report.

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