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US Traffic Deaths Hit 20-Year-High in Early 2022 

U.S. traffic deaths jumped about 7% in the first three months of 2022 to 9,560, the largest first-quarter number since 2002, regulators said Wednesday in a preliminary estimate. 

Traffic deaths have been surging since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said. In 2021, U.S. traffic deaths jumped 10.5% to 42,915, the most people killed on American roads in a year since 2005. 

The Biden administration has called the spike a “crisis.” 

Traffic deaths have jumped after pandemic lockdowns ended as more drivers engaged in unsafe behavior. Traffic deaths in the first three months of 2022 are up 21% over the 7,893 in the same period in 2020. 

“The overall numbers are still moving in the wrong direction,” outgoing NHTSA Administrator Steve Cliff said in a statement. “Now is the time for all states to double down on traffic safety.” 

The rise in traffic deaths outpaced the 5.6% increase in U.S. road-miles traveled in the first quarter, according to the Office of Highway Policy Administration. 

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) lamented the lack of a government plan to address “this immediate crisis.” 

“We have seen a troubling lack of commitment to take action to stop the slaughter occurring on our roads,” MADD said in a statement on Wednesday. 

It called for a “return to the basics of enforcing hazardous driving behavior laws and prosecuting these choices to the fullest extent of the law.” 

Cliff announced last week he would step down to take an environmental position in California. Safety groups wrote to the White House on Friday urging quick action to find a replacement. 

Governors Highway Safety Association Director Jonathan Adkins said “tragically, the U.S. is on its way to a third straight year of surging roadway deaths.” 

In 2021, pedestrians killed jumped 13% to 7,342, the most since 1981. The number of people on bicycles who were killed rose 5% to 985, the most since at least 1980, NHTSA said. 

As U.S. roads became less crowded during the pandemic, some motorists perceived police were less likely to issue tickets, experts say, likely resulting in riskier behavior on the roads. 

NHTSA research indicates incidents of speeding and traveling without wearing seat belts were higher than before the pandemic. 

The Autonomous Vehicle Industry Association cited the fatality hike as it urged Congress and NHTSA to speed the adoption of autonomous vehicles (AVs). “AVs don’t speed, drive impaired or get distracted,” the group said.

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Two More Baltic Countries Quit China-Led Forum Amid Ukraine War

Estonia and Latvia say they are pulling out of a decade-old mechanism established by China to deepen its influence in Europe, following their Baltic neighbor Lithuania, which left the group last year.

Sixteen nations joined the China and Central and Eastern European Cooperation (China-CEEC) Forum when it was established in April 2012, with an inaugural summit held in Poland. The 16+1, as it was known, appeared to be gaining influence when Greece joined in 2019.

But Lithuania quit the group in 2021 over security concerns and frustrations with growing authoritarianism in Beijing, leading lawmakers from Lithuania told VOA earlier this year. The country also said it wanted to end the practice of dealing with major powers on a subregional group basis, preferring a united European Union approach.

Lithuania’s two Baltic neighbors announced last week that they, too, would no longer participate in the grouping’s activities. China’s close ties with Russia factored in their country’s decision, a statement issued by the Latvian foreign ministry said.

Both countries said they want to continue to work toward constructive and pragmatic relations with China but would like to do so within the framework of EU-China relations, and “in line with rules-based international order and values such as human rights.”

On sidelines since early 2021

The last summit held under the China-CEEC mechanism was in February 2021, when Chinese leader Xi Jinping hosted top officials in a virtual meeting. “Since then, Estonia has not participated or kept track of the events,” Aari Lemmik, counselor for press and cultural affairs at the Estonian Embassy in Washington, told VOA.

Latvia, meanwhile, stated that in the current geopolitical setting, its continued participation in the 16+1 format is no longer in line with its strategic objectives.

“China-Russia relations are growing closer. China has repeatedly confirmed its strategic partnership with Russia even after the latter embarked upon wide-scale military aggression in Ukraine, for which China is putting the blame on the West,” read a statement provided to VOA by the Latvian Embassy in Washington.

“Since 16+1 is a format for international dialogue, and not an international organization, no formal withdrawal procedures are applicable. Latvia simply will no longer participate in the activities of this framework,” the statement said.

A Romanian-based expert who has been following China and Central and Eastern Europe described the 16+1 exercise as “an initiative that failed to turn into a ‘fan club’ of China partners.”

“For the time being, at least in the short and medium term, I think [China’s] expansion reached its limits,” said Horia Ciurtin, an expert at the New Strategy Center, a think tank headquartered in Bucharest, in written answers to questions from VOA. “It hit a ceiling and it will slowly ossify and withdraw. And this is not only the case of Central/Eastern Europe, but throughout the scattered map.”

Ciurtin thinks that the conflict in Ukraine and China’s ties with Russia have made it more difficult for China to market itself as a benign investor or trading partner. In addition, he sees the decisions made by Latvia and Estonia as a form of Baltic solidarity.

The war in Ukraine “presented a good opportunity for Latvia and Estonia to follow Lithuania’s path,” he said.

Lithuania punished

Lithuania has been the target of Chinese political and economic punitive measures since its decision last year to leave the China-CEEC forum and expand trade ties with democratic Taiwan, which Beijing sees as a renegade province. Beijing’s effort has been widely seen as designed to scare off other countries that may want to follow suit.

Following an online meeting between the Chinese and Estonian foreign ministers in January, Chinese state media hailed Estonia as an “example” of how European nations handle their relations with Beijing, “in sharp contrast to Lithuania.”

But following last week’s announcement, Beijing’s Global Times published an article casting Estonia’s and Latvia’s decisions as “shortsighted” and the result of bowing to U.S. pressure. The newspaper added that their role within the China-CEEC forum had been “marginal,” and that the forum would continue regardless.

Global Times also said that neither the U.S. nor the EU can be counted on to deliver the kind of economic help China delivers.

Asked to respond, a State Department spokesperson said the United States “will continue to closely support [Estonia’s and Latvia’s] efforts to make the Baltics a more resilient and prosperous region.

“Estonia and Latvia are valued NATO allies and key U.S. partners across a range of issues, including through our strong defense and economic ties, and on the promotion of democracy and human rights,” the spokesperson said.

“Beyond our commitment to the same values, our free, democratic countries produce prosperity that helps our economies thrive,” the spokesperson added.

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Russian Police Search Homes of Journalists Contributing to RFE/RL Programs

Russian police have searched the homes of several journalists contributing to programs of RFE/RL’s Russian Service and Idel.Realities, an online project that covers news and events in the Volga-Urals region.

On August 17, police in the capital of Russia’s Tatarstan region, Kazan, searched the home of sociologist Iskander Yasaveyev, who is a columnist for the Idel.Realities online project.

Yasaveyev’s lawyer, Rim Sabirov, said police took his client to the Investigative Committee for questioning. According to Sabirov, the law enforcement officers confiscated all the mobile phones belonging to Yasaveyev’s family members.

At this point it remains unclear why exactly Yasaveyev, who is known for his open stance against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, was detained for questioning.

Meanwhile, pro-Kremlin website Tatar-Inform reported on August 17 that police searched the homes of seven other local journalists who work as freelancers or contribute to RFE/RL’s Russian and Tatar-Bashkir services, as well as to Idel.Realities.

Only one of the journalists targeted was identified: Marina Yudkevich, who is also a columnist for Idel.Realities.

According to Tatar-Inform, the searches were linked to the journalists’ articles covering Russia’s ongoing aggression against Ukraine.

President Vladimir Putin in March signed a law that calls for lengthy prison terms for distributing “deliberately false information” about Russian military operations as the Kremlin seeks to control the narrative about its war in Ukraine.

The law carries sentences of up to 10 years in prison for individuals convicted of an offense, while the penalty for the distribution of “deliberately false information” about the Russian military that leads to “serious consequences” is 15 years in prison.

It also makes it illegal “to make calls against the use of Russian troops to protect the interests of Russia” or “for discrediting such use” with a penalty possible of up to three years in prison. The same provision applies to calls for sanctions against Russia.

Multiple websites of RFE/RL, the BBC and other independent media outlets have been blocked over what Russian regulators claim is erroneous reporting.

Separately, on August 17, a contributor in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg to RFE/RL’s Russian Service and several other independent media outlets, Yelena Shukayeva, was sentenced to 14 days in jail on charges of propaganda and public demonstration of extremist groups’ symbols.

Shutayeva’s lawyer, Roman Kachanov, said the charges against his client stemmed from her reposting materials prepared by jailed opposition politician Aleksei Navalny’s team.

Russia last year declared Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation “extremist” and banned the use of any symbols tied to the group as part of a widening crackdown on the opposition.

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Обстріл Харкова: кількість загиблих зросла до 6 людей, російські ракети влучили в гуртожиток

«Підлий і цинічний удар по цивільних, що не має жодного виправдання й демонструє безсилля агресора. Не пробачимо, помстимося» – Зеленський

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Зеленський: окупанти у деяких районах півдня України намагаються покращити своє становище, але це безнадійно

За словами президента, «найважчі бойові дії» зараз на Авдіївському, Бахмутську, Харківському, деяких інших напрямках

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«Багатостраждальна Салтівка». Війська РФ знову обстріляли Харків, є жертви

За даними ОВА, внаслідок чергової російської атаки загинули дві людини, поранені 10

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US Gun Owners Suggest Gun Laws They Would Support

After a string of mass shootings, the U.S. has been facing conflicting messages on regulating guns. The Supreme Court struck down some state laws restricting gun possession, while Congress passed a law expanding mental health checks for younger gun buyers. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes us to Bristol, Tennessee, to find out what regulations gun owners might support. Camera, Production: Mary Cieslak

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NATO Says it Is Ready to Step Up Forces if Serbia-Kosovo Tensions Escalate

NATO will increase its peacekeeping force in Kosovo if there is an escalation of tensions with neighboring Serbia, the alliance’s chief said on Wednesday on the eve of EU-facilitated talks between the estranged western Balkan neighbors.

“We have now a significant mission, a military presence in Kosovo close to 4,000 troops,” Jens Stoltenberg told a news conference after talks with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic in Brussels, who stood alongside him.

“If needed, we will move forces, deploy them where needed and increase our presence. We have already increased the presence in the north. We are ready to do more.”

Tensions between Serbia and Kosovo flared this month when Pristina said it would oblige Serbs living in the north, who are backed by Belgrade and do not recognize Kosovo institutions, to start using car license plates issued in Pristina.

The situation calmed after Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti, under U.S. and European Union pressure, agreed to postpone the number plates rule until Sept. 1 and NATO peacekeepers oversaw the removal of roadblocks set up by Serbs.

However, Vucic told the news conference at NATO that talks with Kurti on Thursday, which will be facilitated by the EU, would be difficult because the two sides disagree on almost everything.

Kosovo won independence from Serbia in 2008, almost a decade after a guerrilla uprising against repressive Belgrade rule.

Serbia legally still considers Kosovo an integral part of its territory. It denies whipping up tensions and conflict there, and accuses Pristina of trampling on the rights of minority Serbs. Ethnic Serbs account for 5% of Kosovo’s 1.8 million population, which is 90% ethnic Albanian.

Vucic said Serbia wanted to avoid any escalation of the situation, but it was important to understand that there is “a new generation of young men” who see Kosovo as Serbian territory and will no longer “put up with the terror.”

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US Airstrike in Somalia Kills More Than a Dozen al-Shabab Militants   

U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) has confirmed a U.S. airstrike killed more than a dozen al-Shabab militants in Somalia this week, the deadliest strike against the terror group in months. 

VOA first reported the strike on Monday.

AFRICOM said at a press release Wednesday they struck al-Shabab terrorists who were “actively attacking Somali National Army forces” in a remote location near Teedaan, Somalia, on Sunday. 

“The command’s initial assessment is that the strike killed 13 al-Shabaab terrorists and that no civilians were injured or killed,” AFRICOM said. 

Military officials in central Somalia told VOA by phone on Monday that the U.S. airstrike had killed 14 al-Shabab fighters in Somalia’s central region of Hiran.  

The Somali military added that it captured the group’s main stronghold in the region, located outside the town of Mahas, and also destroyed its hideouts. 

Last week AFRICOM said it conducted an airstrike outside Beledweyne, the capital of the Hiran region that borders Ethiopia. AFRICOM said that airstrike, also conducted in support of the Somali national army, killed four al-Shabab terrorists. 

Abdurahman Sheikh Azhari, director of the Mogadishu-based Centre for Analysis and Strategic Studies, told VOA the U.S. is increasing its role in Somalia again as “part of ongoing U.S. strategic policy and interest in the region,” noting that President Joe Biden has pledged to return the small U.S. troop presence that was withdrawn by former president Donald Trump. 

The recent airstrikes follow the election of Hassan Sheikh Mohamud as Somalia’s new president and Mohamud’s pledge to fight al-Shabab on all fronts. 

Daniel Furnad, the associate director for the Nairobi-based Farsight Africa Group, said that AFRICOM is selecting its targets carefully and only participates in actions that have little chance for civilian collateral damage, while eliminating high-value resources for al-Shabab. 

He added that Washington is concerned about al-Shabab widening its scope of operations to include Ethiopia, but adds he doesn’t think the airstrikes in Somalia are related to al-Shabab’s recent incursions into Ethiopian territory. 

 

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Війська РФ мають «частковий успіх» у напрямку Опитного та Новомихайлівки – Генштаб ЗСУ

Війська РФ мають «частковий успіх» у напрямку населеного пункту Опитне та Новомихайлівка, повідомляє у вечірньому зведенні генеральний штаб ЗСУ.

Українські військові відбили низку штурмових дій на Донеччині та Харківщині.

За даними штабу, на Слов’янському напрямку противник намагався просунутися у напрямках Новодмитрівки та Мазанівки – упіху не мав, відійшов, також на Краматорському напрямку штурмовими діями безуспішно намагався покращити тактичне положення у напрямку населеного пункту Веселе.

На Харківському напрямку російські військові спробували прорвати оборону ЗСУ у напрямках населених пунктів Леб’яже та Базаліївка – успіху не мали, відійшли.

«На Бахмутському напрямку зафіксовано обстріли поблизу Бахмута, Зайцевого, Яковлівки, Білогорівки та Майорська. Окупанти задіяли авіацію для удару біля Соледара. Українські воїни придушили усі спроби ворога покращити тактичне положення підрозділів в районах населених пунктів Білогорівка, Соледар, Бахмутське, Кодема, Зайцеве та Майорськ», – йдеться у повідомленні.

Російські війська продовжують обстріли низки населених пунктів із танків, артилерії та з допомогою авіації на Харківському, Слов’янському, Бахмутському, Краматорському, Авдіїівському, Новопавлівському та Запорізькому напрямках.

 

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Україна не втратила жодної установки HIMARS – Резніков

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У Дніпрі затвердили програму «лагідної українізації»

У місті планують організувати безкоштовні курси з вивчення української мови, розмовні клуби та уроки для дітей і дорослих, проводити тематичні флешмоби в соцмережах і офлайн

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Turkey, Israel to Re-Appoint Ambassadors after Four-Year Chill

Turkey and Israel said on Wednesday they will re-appoint respective ambassadors more than four years after they were called back, marking another milestone after months of steady improvement in relations.

The two regional powers had expelled ambassadors in 2018 over the killing of 60 Palestinians by Israeli forces during protests on the Gaza border against the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem.

But they have been working to mend long-strained ties with energy emerging as a key area for potential cooperation.

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s office said on Wednesday the two countries decided to restore full diplomatic ties.

“It was decided to once again upgrade the level of the relations between the two countries to that of full diplomatic ties and to return ambassadors and consuls general,” Lapid’s office said in a statement following a conversation between the prime minister and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan.

“Upgrading relations will contribute to deepening ties between the two peoples, expanding economic, trade, and cultural ties, and strengthening regional stability,” it added.

Avisit to Turkey by Israeli President Isaac Herzog in March, followed by visits by both foreign ministers, helped warm relations after more than a decade of tensions.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the appointment of ambassadors was one of the steps in the normalization of ties.

“Such a positive step came from Israel as a result of these efforts, and as Turkey, we also decided to appoint an ambassador to Israel, to Tel Aviv,” Cavusoglu said at a news conference in Ankara, adding Turkey was selecting someone.

The move, which comes as Israel has sought to improve ties with regional powers, was agreed two years after the so-called Abraham Accords which saw relations normalized between Israel, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Morocco.

Turkey also launched a charm offensive in 2020 to repair ties with estranged rivals, making overtures to Egypt, the UAE, Israel and Saudi Arabia. Efforts with Cairo have so far yielded little progress, but officials have said normalization work with Riyadh and Abu Dhabi are going well.

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Сполучені Штати виділять ООН 68 млн доларів на пшеницю з України – Блінкен

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Ukraine Tells Civilians to Avoid Russian Ammo Depots After Blast

Following massive explosions at a military depot in the Russian-occupied Crimean Peninsula, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told people there and in other parts of southern Ukraine to “be very careful” and avoid areas where Russian forces store ammunition and equipment. 

“The reasons for the explosions in the occupied territory can be different, very different, in particular, I quote the definition of the occupiers themselves, ‘bungling,’” Zelenskyy said in his latest address. “But they all have the same meaning: the destruction of the occupiers’ logistics, their ammunition, military and other equipment, command posts saves the lives of our people.” 

The large-scale blasts Tuesday occurred at an ammunition storage facility in Mayskoye, the second time in a week that explosions have occurred at Russian outposts in the territory it seized in 2014.  

Russia, without pinpointing the perpetrators, called the latest explosions an “act of sabotage.” They followed last week’s attack at the Saki air base that destroyed nine Russian warplanes.  

Ukraine did not claim responsibility for the Mayskoye incident, but Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhaylo Podolyak tweeted: “Crimea occupied by Russians is about warehouses, explosions and high risk of death for invaders and thieves. Demilitarization in action.”  

Russian officials said the fires at the depot caused damage to a power plant, power lines, rail tracks and some apartment buildings, but that there were no serious injuries.  

The fight for control of Crimea remains contentious, with Moscow demanding that Ukraine recognize it as part of Russia and Ukraine calling for its return to the Kyiv government before any eventual end to the war can be negotiated.  

The military depot where the blasts occurred is in the north of the peninsula, about 50 kilometers from the Russian-controlled region of Kherson in southern Ukraine.  

The Russian military blamed last week’s blasts at the Saki air base on an accidental detonation of munitions there, but more likely it appeared to be the result of a Ukrainian attack, with U.S. news outlets quoting unnamed Ukrainian military sources as saying their forces carried it out.    

Guterres visit 

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is due to visit Ukraine on Thursday for a meeting with Zelenskyy and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. 

Guterres spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters that the U.N. chief would then travel Friday to the southern city of Odesa to visit a port being used as part of an initiative to restart Ukrainian grain exports. The United Nations and Turkey helped broker the agreement with Russia and Ukraine amid a global food crisis, and several ships have already departed Ukraine. 

Guterres is also due to travel to Istanbul on Saturday to visit the Joint Coordination Center that is monitoring the export system, including inspections of the exports demanded by Russia. 

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced late Monday $68 million to help with “procurement, transport, and storage of up to 150,000 metric tons of Ukrainian wheat to address acute food insecurity.” 

“While the resumption of exports from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports is a positive step in addressing the needs of food insecure countries, these shipments must continue so that the millions of tons of food trapped in the country can reach markets and help feed the world’s most vulnerable,” Blinken said in a statement.     

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Втрати російської армії перевищили 44 тисячі військових – Генштаб ЗСУ

«Найбільших втрат противник зазнав на Харківському та Донецькому напрямках»

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Російські війська вдарили ракетами по університету Петра Могили в Миколаєві

Віталій Кім також повідомив, що ракетний удар поцілив у одне з підприємств міста

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Trump Critic Liz Cheney Falls in US Primary, But Murkowski Survives

U.S. Representative Liz Cheney, a fierce Republican critic of Donald Trump who has played a prominent role in the congressional probe of the January 6 assault on the Capitol, lost to a Trump-backed primary challenger in Wyoming on Tuesday.   

But Senator Lisa Murkowski, another Republican who has defied the former president, cleared a hurdle in Alaska. She was set to face Trump-endorsed challenger Kelly Tshibaka in the Nov. 8 congressional election, as the two candidates advanced in that state’s nonpartisan primary. 

Cheney’s defeat, by Trump-endorsed Harriet Hageman, marks a significant victory for the former president in his campaign to oust Republicans who backed impeaching him after a mob of his supporters stormed the Capitol building last year. 

In conceding the race, Cheney said she was not willing “go along with President Trump’s lie about the 2020 election” to win a primary. 

“It would have required that I enable his ongoing efforts to unravel our democratic system and attack the foundations of our republic. That was a path I could not and would not take,” she told supporters. 

With 99% of expected ballots counted in Wyoming, Hageman led the Republican field with 66.3% of the vote, followed by Cheney with 28.9%, according to Edison Research, an election monitoring firm. 

The results were less clear cut in Alaska. 

With 72% of expected ballots tallied, Murkowski narrowly led with 42.7% of the vote, followed by Tshibaka at 41.4% and Democrat Patricia Chesbro at 6.2%, according to Edison. The nonpartisan primary format in that state weeds out all but the top four vote-getters.   

Murkowski, a moderate who is one of the more independent voices in the Senate, has held the seat since 2003. 

Also in Alaska, Edison predicted that no candidate would emerge as a clear winner in the three-way contest to complete the term of Representative Don Young, who died in March. 

That race pits Sarah Palin, a former governor and 2008 vice presidential nominee who has been endorsed by Trump, against fellow Republican Nick Begich III and Democrat Mary Peltola. The winner will be announced on August 31.   

Both Wyoming and Alaska are reliably Republican, making it unlikely that the results will influence whether President Joe Biden’s Democrats lose their razor-thin majorities in Congress. Republicans are expected to retake the House and also have a chance of winning control of the Senate. 

Weeding out Trump critics   

The ousting of Cheney is the latest sign of Trump’s enduring sway over the Republican Party. 

Trump, who has hinted that he will run for president in 2024, made ending Cheney’s congressional career a priority among the 10 House Republicans he targeted for supporting his impeachment in 2021. 

Cheney, the daughter of Republican former Vice President Dick Cheney, has used her position on the January 6 committee investigating the circumstances surrounding the Capitol riot to keep attention on Trump’s actions that day and his false claims that he won the 2020 election.   

Republican leaders are expected to dissolve the January 6 investigation if they win control of the House in November. The representatives in the new Congress take their seats in January. 

Hageman, a natural resources lawyer who has embraced Trump’s election lies, criticized Cheney’s concession speech, saying it showed she cared little about the issues facing her state.   

“She’s still focusing on an obsession about President Trump and the citizens of Wyoming, the voters of Wyoming sent a very loud message tonight,” Hageman said on Fox News. 

Cheney, in the House, voted to impeach Trump on a charge of inciting the Capitol riot, while Murkowski, in the Senate, voted to convict him on that charge. Trump was ultimately acquitted. 

Of the 10 Republicans who supported impeachment, it is possible that only one — Dan Newhouse of Washington – will be in Congress after November’s election. 

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Arizona’s Border Wall Work Delayed After 2 Containers Topple

An effort by Arizona Republican Gov. Doug Ducey to use shipping containers to close a 1,000-foot gap in the U.S.-Mexico border wall near Yuma, Arizona, suffered a setback when two stacked containers toppled over. 

Claudia Ramos, a correspondent for the digital platform of Univision Noticias in Arizona, posted on her Twitter feed a photo she took Monday morning of the containers on their side. She said they fell on the U.S. side of the border. 

No witnesses have come forward to say what happened Sunday night. 

Ramos said contractors in the area told her that they believed the containers may have been toppled by strong monsoon winds. 

But C.J. Karamargin, a Ducey spokesman, said that he doubted that hypothesis, adding that even though the containers are empty they still weigh thousands of pounds. 

“It’s unlikely this was a weather event,” said Karamargin, suggesting that someone opposed to the wall was to blame. 

The stacked pair of containers were righted by early Monday morning. 

“Clearly we struck a nerve. They don’t like what we are doing, and they don’t want to keep the border open,” the spokesman said. 

Officials with Ducey’s office say they were acting to stop migrants after repeated, unfulfilled promises from the Biden administration to close the gap. 

Federal officials have not commented on the state’s actions, which come without explicit permission on federal land. State contractors began moving and stacking 18.2-meter-long (60-foot-long), 2.7-meter-tall (9-foot-tall) shipping containers early Friday. Two other 305-meter (1,000-foot) gaps also will be closed off. The containers will be topped with 1.2 meters (4 feet) of razor wire. 

Karamargin said that the Border Patrol informed the governor’s office around midnight that the containers were toppled. 

“Those weren’t secured yet,” he said. “This happened before securing the containers to the ground. They will be bolted later and will be immovable.” 

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New Scottish Law Makes Period Products Free for All

A law has taken effect in Scotland to ensure period products are available free of charge to anyone who needs them.

The Scottish government said it became the first in the world to legally protect the right to access free period products when its Period Products Act came into force Monday.

Under the new law, schools, colleges and universities as well as local government bodies must make a range of period products such as tampons and sanitary pads available for free in their bathrooms. The Scottish government already invested millions of pounds since 2017 to fund free period products in educational institutions, but the law makes it a legal requirement.

A mobile phone app also helps people find the nearest place — such as the local library or community center — where they can pick up period products.

“Providing access to free period products is fundamental to equality and dignity, and removes the financial barriers to accessing them,” Scottish Social Justice Secretary Shona Robison said.

“This is more important than ever at a time when people are making difficult choices due to the cost-of-living crisis and we never want anyone to be in a position where they cannot access period products,” she added.

The bill, which was passed unanimously in 2020, was introduced by Scottish Parliament lawmaker Monica Lennon, who had campaigned against “period poverty” — when someone who needs sanitary products can’t afford them.

“Proud of what we have achieved in Scotland,” Lennon tweeted Monday. “We are the first but won’t be the last.”

The Scottish government said its move was world-leading, with countries including South Korea and New Zealand taking similar approaches.

Last year New Zealand’s government said all schools in the country were to offer free period products as part of a drive to help students from poorer families who were missing school because of period poverty.