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Tropical Storm Ian Strengthens as it Heads to Cuba, Florida

Authorities and residents in Florida were keeping a cautious eye on Tropical Storm Ian as it rumbled ominously through the Caribbean on Sunday, likely to become a major hurricane on its path toward the state.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has declared a state of emergency throughout Florida and urged residents to prepare for the storm to lash large swaths of the state with heavy rains, high winds and rising seas.

Forecasters are still unsure of exactly where Ian could make landfall, with current models plotting it toward Florida’s west coast or panhandle regions, he said.

“We’re going to keep monitoring the track of this storm. But it really is important to stress the degree of uncertainty that still exists,” DeSantis said at a news conference Sunday, cautioning that “even if you’re not necessarily right in the eye of the path of the storm, there’s going to be pretty broad impacts throughout the state.”

The National Hurricane Center said Ian is expected to become a hurricane by early Monday and reach major hurricane strength Monday night or early Tuesday before it reaches western Cuba.

Flash and urban flooding is possible in the Florida Keys and Florida peninsula through midweek, and then heavy rainfall was possible for north Florida, the Florida panhandle and the southeast United States later this week. The agency advised Floridians to have hurricane plans in place and monitor updates of the storm’s evolving path.

A hurricane warning was in effect Sunday for Grand Cayman and the Cuban provinces of Isla de Juventud, Pinar del Rio and Artemisa.

Cuban state media said emergency authorities have met to plan for the storm’s arrival and prepare for evacuations, though none had been ordered as of Sunday. The track forecast by the National Hurricane Center shows a major storm striking the far-western part of the island early Tuesday, close to the country’s most famed tobacco fields.

President Joe Biden also declared an emergency, authorizing the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, to coordinate disaster relief and provide assistance to protect lives and property. The president postponed a scheduled Sept. 27 trip to Florida because of the storm.

John Cangialosi, a senior hurricane specialist at the Miami-based center, said in an interview Sunday that it is not clear exactly where Ian will hit hardest in Florida. Residents should begin preparations, including gathering supplies for potential power outages, he said.

“It’s a hard thing to say stay tuned, but that’s the right message right now,” Cangialosi said “But for those in Florida, it’s still time to prepare. I’m not telling you to put up your shutters yet or do anything like that, but it’s still time to get your supplies.”

Local media in Florida have reported a consumer rush on water, generators and other supplies in some areas where residents moved to stock up on goods ahead of the storm.

Kevin Guthrie, director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, said the state has begun loading trailers with more than 2 million meals and more than 1 million gallons of water to be ready to be sent into impacted areas. He said the state has had frequent communication with local governments and is processing requests for resources.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp on Sunday moved to activate the State Operations Center to respond to any potential storm damage. He told residents to monitor the weather and calmly take precautions if necessary.

At the Kennedy Space Center, NASA kept close watch on Ian’s projected path while debating whether to move its new moon rocket off the launch pad and into shelter. Managers already have bumped the test flight from this week to next because of the storm.

Elsewhere, powerful post-tropical cyclone Fiona crashed ashore Saturday in Nova Scotia in the Atlantic Canada region, washing houses into the sea, tearing off rooftops and knocking out power to more than 500,000 customers in two provinces.


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Italy’s Right-wing, Led by Meloni, Wins Election – Exit Polls

A right-wing alliance led by Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party looks set to win a clear majority in the next parliament, exit polls said Sunday after voting ended in an Italian national election.
An exit poll for state broadcaster RAI said the bloc of conservative parties, that also includes Matteo Salvini’s League and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party, won between 41% and 45% of the vote, enough to guarantee control of both houses of parliament.

Italy’s electoral law favors groups that manage to create pre-ballot pacts, giving them an outsized number of seats by comparison with their vote tally.

Full results are expected by early Monday.

If confirmed, the result would cap a remarkable rise for Meloni, whose party won only 4% of the vote in the last national election in 2018, but this time around was forecast to emerge as Italy’s largest group on 22.5%-26.5%.

As leader of the biggest party in the winning alliance, she is the obvious choice to become Italy’s first woman prime minister, but the transfer of power is traditionally slow, and it could take several weeks before the new government is sworn in.

Meloni, 45, plays down her party’s post-fascist roots and portrays it as a mainstream conservative group. She has pledged to support Western policy on Ukraine and not take undue risks with the third largest economy in the eurozone.

Italy’s first autumn national election in over a century was triggered by party infighting that brought down Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s broad national unity government in July.

Italy has a history of political instability, and the next prime minister will lead the country’s 68th government since 1946 and face a host of challenges, notably soaring energy costs and growing economic headwinds.

The outcome of the vote was also being watched nervously in European capitals and on financial markets, given the desire to preserve unity in dealings with Russia and concerns over Italy’s daunting debt mountain.

The new, slimmed-down parliament will not meet until Oct. 13, at which point the head of state will summon party leaders and decide on the shape of the new government.


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In Moldova, Thousands Protest in New Call for Government’s Resignation

Several thousand people protested in Moldova’s capital Sunday for the second straight weekend to demand the resignation of the country’s pro-Western government amid mounting anger over spiraling natural gas prices and inflation.

The small east European nation, sandwiched between Ukraine and Romania, has seen political tensions rise in recent months as gas prices soar following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

A Reuters reporter estimated the crowd at about 5,000 outside the official residence of President Maia Sandu — slightly smaller than last Sunday’s gathering.

Protesters chanted “Down with Maia Sandu,” and “Down with the government.”

The rallies are the largest since Sandu won a landslide election victory in 2020 on an anti-corruption platform but pose no immediate threat to the president and her administration.

Sandu has repeatedly condemned Moscow’s actions in Ukraine and is pushing for membership of the European Union, which has provided the ex-Soviet state with considerable assistance.

Her critics charge she should have negotiated a better gas deal with Russia, Moldova’s main supplier.

On Friday, Moldova’s gas regulator raised prices by 27% for households.

The protests have been organized by the opposition party of Ilan Shor, an exiled businessman convicted of fraud in connection with a $1 billion bank scandal. The chief suspect in that fraud, business magnate Vlad Plahotniuc, is also outside Moldova, his whereabouts unknown.

Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilita said she was focused on helping those with low incomes.

“The problems of the country and its people will not be solved on the streets,” she wrote on the point.md news site. “We are trying to solve the problems of people most in need.” Protesters have vowed to hold weekly rallies until Sandu and her government leave office.

An encampment of about 100 tents remains around Moldova’s parliament and Sunday protesters set up another dozen tents outside the president’s residence. 


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Зеленський: робота щодо наступних обмінів триває

«Але все ж пам’ятаємо: це непросто, це вимагає зусиль багатьох людей, і це прямо пов’язано із ситуацією на передовій»


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US Warns Russia of ‘Catastrophic Consequences’ If It Launches Nuclear Attack in Ukraine 

The U.S. has warned Russia of “catastrophic consequences” if it launches a nuclear attack on Ukraine, President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said Sunday.

Sullivan, speaking on ABC’s “This Week” show, said U.S. officials have told Russian officials privately that Biden “will respond decisively” if Russian President Vladimir Putin orders a nuclear strike but did not say how the U.S. would respond.

Sullivan said the U.S. would “not engage in a game of rhetorical tit-for-tat” with Russia.

But Sullivan, in a separate interview, told NBC’s “Meet the Press” show that “Russia understands very well what the United States would do in response to the use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine because we have spelled it out for them.” 

The U.S. response came after Putin signaled the possibility of a nuclear attack last week as he called up 300,000 military reservists to help fight in its seven-month invasion of Ukraine. The troop augmentation came after Russian battlefield setbacks, with Kyiv’s forces recapturing large swaths of territory in northeast Ukraine that Russia had seized in the early weeks of the war. 

Widespread protests against Putin’s troop call-up have erupted in Russia, with police arresting hundreds of demonstrators participating in street protests in Moscow and elsewhere. 

Many men opposed to Putin’s war or fearful of being killed in the battlefront have abruptly fled Russia on flights to other countries, while others have joined long queues of cars on land routes headed to the Russian borders with Finland, Georgia and other countries.

Russia is in the midst of staging five days of disputed referenda in four regions of Ukraine it either fully or partially controls, votes where it assumes the local residents will support Russian annexation, which would give Moscow a pretext to defend the newly claimed territory. In some instances, Russian soldiers have been going door to door at gunpoint to order Ukrainians to vote.

But Ukraine, the U.S. and their Western allies are calling the referenda sham votes and of no legal consequence. Any Russian annexation of Ukrainian land would not be globally recognized.

Sullivan said the votes were “definitely not signs of strength or competence” on Russia’s part.

In an interview aired Sunday on CBS News’s “Face the Nation” show, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that Ukrainians who refuse to vote in the referenda face significant retribution from Russian forces.

“Russians can turn off their electricity and won’t give them an opportunity to live a normal human life,” Zelenskyy said. “They force people, they throw them in prisons. They force them to come to these pseudo-referenda. And also, they also announced mobilization [of 300,000 reservists.] They’re forcing people to fight, people from the temporarily occupied territories.”

But Zelenskyy said, “there is no support in the society for this referendum.”

The Ukrainian leader said the referenda are “a very dangerous signal” from Putin that he does not intend to end the war.

“He knows that he’s losing the war,” Zelenskyy said. “In the battlefield, Ukraine has seized the initiative. He cannot explain to his society why, and he is looking for answers to these questions.”

With the West and Ukraine saying the voting is almost assuredly preordained to favor Russia’s annexation, Zelenskyy said Moscow will then say, “Now, it’s the West who attacks Russia. Now, the West attacks our territories. We have to let the society join Russia, the society that wanted to be with Russia.”

Zelenskyy said a Russian nuclear attack on Ukraine “could be a reality. He wants to scare the whole world. These are the first steps of his nuclear blackmail. I don’t think he’s bluffing.”

But Zelenskyy added, “I think the world is deterring it and containing this threat. We need to keep putting pressure on him and not allow him to continue.”

He concluded, “I think that the military strategy of military and political leadership of Russia has not changed: its occupation of our country. And of course, they want to destabilize our country from inside.”

But he said Ukrainians are united against Putin, “even more united now than ever, over the 31 years of our independence from the Soviet Union.”

“So, he does everything possible to destabilize our country to make sure we’re weaker. And for that he wants to divide us of course, I’m one of the targets, of course, it goes without saying,” Zelenskyy said. “It’s not because of my personality, just because… because the president is a leader of their country.”


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Україна отримала від США ЗРК NASAMS – Зеленський

«Я хочу подякувати президенту Байдену за позитивне рішення, яке вже було ухвалене. І Конгресу США – ми отримали NASAMS»


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Pope urges Italians to Have More Children, Welcome Migrants 

Pope Francis traveled to southern Italy on Sunday to close out an Italian church congress that coincided with Italy’s national election, and delivered a message that hit on key domestic campaign issues including immigration.

Neither Francis nor his hosts referred to the vote during the open-air Mass, though Italy’s bishops conference had earlier urged Italians to cast ballots in the eagerly watched election that could bring Italy its first far-right government since World War II.

At the end of the outdoor Mass in Matera, Francis spoke off the cuff asking Italians to have more children. “I’d like to ask Italy: More births, more children,” Francis said.

Italy has one of the lowest birth rates in the world and Francis has frequently lamented its “demographic winter.”

Far-right leader Giorgia Meloni, who campaigned on a “God, family and homeland” mantra, has also called for Italy to reverse its demographic trends by proposing bigger financial incentives for couples to have children.

Francis also weighed in on a perennial issue in Italy, recalling that Sunday coincided with the Catholic Church’s World Day of Migrants and Refugees. Francis called for a future in which “God’s plan” is implemented, with migrants and victims of human trafficking living in peace and dignity, and for a more “inclusive and fraternal future.”

He added: “Immigrants are to be welcomed, accompanied, promoted and integrated.”

Meloni and her center-right alliance have vowed to resume a strict crackdown on migrants coming to Italy via Libyan-based smugglers. The center-left Democratic Party has among other things called for an easier path to citizenship for children of newcomers.

The Mass was celebrated by a protege of Francis, Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, who is head of the Italian bishops’ conference and has a long affiliation with the Sant’Egidio Community, a Rome-based charity known for its outreach to migrants and the poor.

The 85-year-old Francis appeared tired during the visit, which was scheduled before Italy’s snap elections were called and came a day after he made a separate day trip to the Umbrian hilltop town of Assisi. Francis has been using a cane and wheelchair this year, due to strained knee ligaments that make walking and standing difficult.

His trip to Matera, the southern Basilicata city known for its cave dwellings, underwent a slight, last-minute change due to storms that belted much of the Italian peninsula overnight: Originally scheduled to fly by helicopter Sunday morning from the Vatican’s helipad, Francis instead flew to Matera by jet from Rome’s Ciampino airport.


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Italians Vote in Election That Could Take Far-Right to Power

The Italians voted Sunday in an election that could move the country’s politics sharply toward the right during a critical time for Europe, with war in Ukraine fueling skyrocketing energy bills and testing the West’s resolve to stand united against Russian aggression. 

Polls opened at 7 a.m. (0500GMT) and by noon turnout was equal to or slightly less than at the same time during Italy’s last general election in 2018. The counting of paper ballots was expected to begin shortly after they close at 11 p.m. (2100 GMT), with projections based on partial results coming early Monday morning.

Publication of opinion polls is banned in the two weeks leading up to the election, but polls before that showed far-right leader Giorgia Meloni and her Brothers of Italy party, with its neo-fascist roots, the most popular. That suggested Italians were poised to vote their first far-right government into power since World War II. Close behind was former Premier Enrico Letta and his center-left Democratic Party.

“Today you can help write history,” Meloni tweeted Sunday morning.

Letta, for his part, tweeted a photo of himself at the ballot box. “Have a good vote!” he wrote. 

Meloni is part of a right-wing alliance with anti-migrant League leader Matteo Salvini and Silvio Berlusconi, the three-time premier who heads the Forza Italia party he created three decades ago. Italy’s complex electoral law rewards campaign coalitions, meaning the Democrats are disadvantaged since they failed to secure a similarly broad alliance with left-leaning populists and centrists.

If Meloni becomes premier, she will be the first woman in Italy to hold the office. But assembling a viable, ruling coalition could take weeks.

Nearly 51 million Italians were eligible to vote. Pollsters, though, predicted turnout could be even lower than the record-setting low of 73% in the last general election in 2018. They say despite Europe’s many crises, many voters feel alienated from politics, since Italy has had three coalition governments since the last election — each led by someone who hadn’t run for office.

Early voters in Rome expressed concerns about Italian politics as a whole.

“I hope we’ll see honest people, and this is very difficult nowadays,” said Adriana Gherdo, at a polling station in the city. 

In Milan, voter Alberto Veltroni said he thought the outcome was still anyone’s guess.

“I expect that these will be difficult elections to read, to understand, with unexpected votes as opposed to the polls ahead of elections,” he said.

The election in the eurozone’s third-largest economy is being closely watched in Europe, given Meloni’s criticism of “Brussels bureaucrats” and her ties to other right-wing leaders — she recently defended Hungary’s Viktor Orban after the European Commission recommended suspending billions of euros in funding to Hungary over concerns about democratic backsliding and the possible mismanagement of EU money.

Elections are being held six months early after Mario Draghi’s pandemic unity government collapsed in late July. Italy’s president, Sergio Mattarella, saw no alternative but to have voters elect a new Parliament.

Opinion polls found Draghi, a former European Central Bank chief, hugely popular. But the three populist parties in the coalition boycotted a confidence vote tied to an energy relief measure. Their leaders, Salvini, Berlusconi and 5-Star Movement leader Giuseppe Conte, a former premier whose party is the largest in the outgoing Parliament, saw Meloni’s popularity growing while theirs slipped.

Meloni kept her Brothers of Italy in the opposition, refusing to join Draghi’s unity government or Conte’s two coalitions that governed after the 2018 vote.

She further distanced herself from Salvini and Berlusconi with unflagging support for Ukraine, including sending weapons so Kyiv could defend itself against Russia. Her nationalist party champions sovereignty.

Before Russia’s invasion, Salvini and Berlusconi had gushed admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin. In the final days of the election campaign, Salvini criticized Russian atrocities in Ukraine but Berlusconi raised eyebrows by saying Putin merely wanted to put “decent” people in government in Kyiv after pro-Moscow separatists in Donbas complained they were being harmed by Ukraine.

Many factories in Italy face cutbacks — some already have reduced production — and other business might close as they struggle with gas and electricity bills reaching 10 times higher than a year ago. The major candidates, despite their political leanings, agreed on the urgency for a EU-wide price cap on energy prices, or failing that, a national one.

Draghi, who remains in a caretaker role until a new government is sworn in, had for months already pressed EU authorities in Brussels for the same remedy.


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