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Dissent growing among GOP to help Ukraine; Fed keeps interest rates unchanged; Kraft Heinz recalling some American cheese slices

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On the version of Hot off the Wire posted Sept. 21 at 6:40 a.m. CT:

WASHINGTON (AP) — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is returning to Washington for a whirlwind one-day visit. This time, Zelenskyy will face the Republicans now questioning the flow of American dollars that for 19 months has kept his troops in the fight against Russian forces. Zelenskyy on Thursday will meet with President Joe Biden at the White House, speak with U.S. military leaders at the Pentagon and stop at Capitol Hill to talk privately with Republican and Democratic leaders of the House and the Senate. It's Zelenskyy’s second visit to Washington since Russia invaded and comes as Biden’s request to Congress for another $24 billion for Ukraine is hanging in the balance.

Detroit carmakers are announcing more layoffs that they blame on fallout from the United Auto Workers strike. General Motors said Wednesday it idled a plant in Kansas with 2,000 workers because they don't have auto parts to work with. The plant that makes those parts is on strike. And Stellantis, the maker of Jeep and Chrysler, says it expects to lay off more than 300 workers in Ohio and Indiana. The layoff are adding to tension just two days before the UAW is expected to call for expanding its strike, which right now is limited to three vehicle-assembly plants.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration says it’s granting temporary legal status to hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans already in the country. The move Wednesday to give Venezuelans who arrived in the country as of July 31 temporary protected status essentially makes it easier and faster for them to get authorization to work. That's been a key demand of Democratic mayors and governors struggling to care for an increased number of migrants in their care. Venezuelans account for a large number of the migrants who've been arriving in the country in recent years. Eagle Pass, Texas, has announced a state of emergency over what it calls a “severe undocumented immigrant surge."

NEW YORK (AP) — A growing number of Americans are finding it difficult to afford insurance on their homes, a problem only expected to worsen because insurers and lawmakers have underestimated the impact of climate change, a new report says. A report from the non-profit First Street Foundation released Wednesday says states such as California, Florida and Louisiana, which are prone to wildfires and damaging storms and flooding, are likely to see the most dramatic increases in premiums. But the fire that destroyed the Hawaiian community of Lahaina, as well as the historic flooding in Vermont and Maine, are recent examples of events that could drive up insurance costs for homeowners in other states.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate has confirmed Gen. CQ Brown as the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, putting him in place to succeed Gen. Mark Milley when he retires at the end of the month. Brown’s confirmation on a 83-11 vote, months after President Joe Biden nominated him for the post, comes as Democrats try to maneuver around holds placed on hundreds of nominations by Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville over the Pentagon’s abortion policy. The Senate is also expected to confirm Gen. Randy George to be Army Chief of Staff and Gen. Eric Smith as commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps this week.

The AL West contenders all win, the Rays waste a chance to cut into the Orioles lead, the Twins are on the verge of a title and the Brewers pad their division lead.

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Alan Williams has resigned, saying he needs to tend to his health and his family. Williams' resignation comes just two games into his second season. In a statement, Williams thanked the Bears and their front office and ownership, and vowed to coach again. He missed last week’s loss at Tampa Bay for what the team said were personal reasons after working the opener against Green Bay. Coach Matt Eberflus called the defense in Williams’ absence and figures to do so again when the Bears visit Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.

On the version of Hot off the Wire posted Sept. 20 at 4 p.m. CT:

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Reserve left its key interest rate unchanged for the second time in its past three meetings, a sign that it’s moderating its fight against inflation as price pressures have eased. But Fed officials also signaled that they expect to raise rates once more this year. Consumer inflation has dropped from a year-over-year peak of 9.1% in June 2022 to 3.7%. Yet it’s still well above the Fed’s 2% target, and its policymakers made clear that they aren’t close to declaring victory over the worst bout of inflation in 40 years. The Fed’s latest decision left its benchmark rate at about 5.4%, the result of 11 rate hikes it unleashed beginning in March 2022.

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Republicans have clashed with Attorney General Merrick Garland, accusing him of the “weaponization” of its work under President Joe Biden. The Republicans used a routine oversight hearing on Wednesday to grill Garland about a special prosecutor's investigation of the president's son, Hunter Biden. Garland's appearance comes at an unprecedented moment in the Justice Department’s history. The department is overseeing two cases against Donald Trump, the first former president to face criminal charges, and another against the sitting president’s son.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration has announced that it is providing $600 million in funding to produce new at-home COVID-19 tests and is restarting a website allowing Americans to again order up to four free tests per household. It is aiming to prevent possible shortages during a rise in coronavirus cases that has typically come during colder months. The Department of Health and Human Services says orders can be placed at starting Sept. 25, and that no-cost tests will be delivered for free by the United States Postal Service. Twelve manufacturers in seven states have been awarded funding and will produce 200 million over-the-counter tests to replenish federal stockpiles for government use, in addition to producing enough tests to meet demand for tests ordered online.

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Ukraine’s president is accusing Russia of undermining all norms of war and the United Nations Charter. The allegation was aired Wednesday at a meeting of the U.N. Security Council. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told the council that his proposal to end the 19-month war starts with adherence to the charter that ensures the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all 193 U.N. member nations. He stressed that restoration of all Ukrainian territory is the key to peace. Before the meeting started, there was intense speculation about whether Zelenskyy and Russia’s top diplomat, Sergey Lavrov, would clash, speak or totally avoid each other. But no confrontation happened because Zelenskyy left the council soon after his address.

NEW YORK (AP) — The nationwide surge in book bannings continues. The American Library Association is reporting that challenges to books in schools and public libraries will likely reach record highs in 2023, topping what had been a record pace in 2022. School libraries had long been the predominant target, but in 2023 reports have been near-equally divided between schools and libraries open to the general public, the ALA announced Wednesday. The ALA released its numbers in advance of its annual banned books week, Oct. 1-7, when libraries highlight challenged works.

Budweiser parent company Anheuser-Busch InBev announced Wednesday that its iconic Clydesdales will no longer have their tails shortened using a common, yet controversial, procedure that has drawn the ire of animal activists. The brewer said in a statement that the change was made earlier this year, stressing that the safety of the horses was a “top priority.” The statement coincided with an announcement that it had obtained an animal welfare certification for the horses, as well as the dalmatians that serve as their companions. The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, led protests and mounted a nationwide ad campaign, with billboards depicting the horses reading “Severed Tails: Cruelty to Clydesdales.”

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Speaker Kevin McCarthy says he won't give up in trying to pass a conservative bill to prevent a government shutdown. The California Republican is confronted with dwindling time and no sure support from his hard-right flank to avert a shutdown by the end of the month. McCarthy said Wednesday he still has time. Other lawmakers aren't so sure and are looking at other options. McCarthy is trying to pass a temporary bill including 8% cuts to many government services. Hard-line conservatives want more cuts. Even if McCarthy is able to pass the bill, it would be rejected by the Democratic-held Senate, which is working with Republicans on other plans.

Kraft Heinz is recalling more than 83,000 cases of individually-wrapped Kraft Singles American processed cheese slices because part of the wrapper could stick to the slice and become a choking hazard. The company says one of its wrapping machines developed a temporary issue that makes it possible for a thin strip of film to remain on the slice even after it’s been removed from the wrapper. The machine has since been fixed. Kraft Heinz says it initiated the recall after it received several consumer complaints, but no injuries or serious health issues have been reported.

ATLANTA (AP) — An author's clash with a Georgia school district over a brief mention of homosexuality in a presentation highlights the reach of conservatives' push for what what they call parents' rights. Author Marc Tyler Nobleman at first complied with a request not to mention that the son of Batman's co-creator was gay but then rebelled. He and LGBTQ+ advocates say the Forsyth County district in suburban Atlanta was wrong. The district says schools shouldn't engage in such discussions without parents knowing in advance. It's just one example of how schools are censoring LGBTQ+ themes even in states that don't have specific laws banning such talk.

MADRID (AP) — Most of Spain’s World Cup-winning players have ended their boycott of the women’s national team after the government intervened to help shape an agreement to make immediate structural changes at the country’s soccer federation. Only two players opted to leave the team’s training camp after receiving guarantees from the government that they would not be sanctioned. The rest stayed after being told that some of their demands for reform would be met. The federation soon fired its general secretary to meet one of those demands. Players had reported to camp on Tuesday after being picked by new coach Montse Tomé against their will on Monday in the latest twist in the crisis that has engulfed Spanish soccer.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Parents whose kids bought virtual gear without their knowledge on the popular Fortnite video game could soon be able to get a refund. U.S. regulators are starting to notify more than 37 million people by email that they may be eligible for compensation as part of a legal settlement with Fortnite’s maker, Epic Games Inc. The Federal Trade Commission announced late last year that Epic Games would pay $520 million in penalties and refunds to settle complaints revolving around children’s privacy and its payment methods that tricked players into making unintended purchases.

—The Associated Press

About this program

Host Terry Lipshetz is a senior producer for Lee Enterprises. Besides producing the daily Hot off the Wire news podcast, Terry conducts periodic interviews for this Behind the Headlines program, co-hosts the Streamed & Screened movies and television program and is the producer of Across the Sky, a podcast dedicated to weather and climate.

Lee Enterprises produces many national, regional and sports podcasts. Learn more here.

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