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10 things you need to know today: September 21, 2022

Russia moves to annex separatist regions in Ukraine, special master tells Trump's lawyers to prove he declassified documents, and more


Russia prepares to annex 4 Ukrainian regions after 'sham' referendums

Russian-controlled parts of eastern and southern Ukraine announced Tuesday that they would hold referendums on formally becoming part of Russia. The rushed votes are scheduled to start Friday in Luhansk, Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, and Donetsk provinces, where Russia and Kremlin-backed separatists occupy large swaths of territory. Allies of Russian President Vladimir Putin have been urging him to cement control of the areas as Ukrainian forces reclaim big chunks of lost territory in an unexpectedly swift and successful counteroffensive. Former President Dmitry Medvedev, deputy head of Russia's Security Council, said the referendums would be "irreversible" and let Moscow use "any means" to defend the territory. Ukraine and Western leaders called the referendums a "sham" that won't stop Ukraine from reclaiming its rightful lands.


Special master tells Trump lawyers to prove documents declassified

Judge Raymond Dearie, the special master assigned to review the documents FBI agents seized from former President Donald Trump's home, told Trump's lawyers in a hearing Tuesday that they would have to provide proof of Trump's assertion he declassified the material before he left office. Dearie said if the government provides evidence the documents are classified and Trump's team doesn't support its claim they're declassified, "as far as I'm concerned, that's the end of it." Trump lawyer Jim Trusty said the former president's team couldn't provide that information now because that could weaken their defense in any possible criminal case. Dearie told them to hurry up and provide the evidence, saying, "you can't have your cake and eat it."


Putin announces 'partial mobilization' as Ukraine counteroffensive continues

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced Wednesday that his government is calling up some 300,000 military reservists in a "partial mobilization" to counter what he called the West's effort to "turn Ukraine's people into cannon fodder" in order to "divide and destroy Russia." In the rare televised speech, Putin made an apparent threat to use nuclear weapons, saying with Russia's "territorial integrity" threatened, it will protect itself with "all the means at our disposal, this is not a bluff." Putin's remarks came after a Ukrainian counteroffensive forced Russian troops to retreat from territory in Ukraine's northeaster Kharkiv province they had occupied since early in the invasion. "This is obviously an escalation," British Foreign Office Minister Gillian Keegan told Sky News.


Migrants sue Fla. Gov. Ron DeSantis over flight to Martha's Vineyard 

Three of the nearly 50 migrants flown to Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, last week are suing Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and other Florida officials, accusing them of tricking them into leaving Texas for political gain. Lawyers for Civil Rights, a nonprofit representing 30 of the migrants, filed the lawsuit Tuesday on behalf of the three migrants and Alianza Americas, a network of migrant-led groups. The suit says Florida lured the mostly Venezuelan asylum-seekers onto the flight to the upscale island with McDonald's gift cards and promises of free English classes, legal assistance, and food. DeSantis and two other Republican governors — Greg Abbott of Texas and Doug Ducey of Arizona — have sent migrants to Democratic strongholds to highlight President Biden's border policies.


DOJ charges 47 defendants with pandemic-relief fraud in Minnesota

The Justice Department on Tuesday charged 47 people with fraudulently collecting a total of nearly $250 million from a federal coronavirus pandemic relief program intended to provide food for needy children. Federal prosecutors said the defendants, all tied to the Minnesota nonprofit Feeding our Future, participated in a "brazen scheme of staggering proportions." The defendants, including individuals and organizations, used a web of shell companies and bribes, with one defendant allegedly creating a fake list of children it was serving meals to. Some of those charged bought luxury cars, jewelry, and houses with the money, U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger told reporters. Attorney General Merrick Garland said the case was "the largest pandemic relief fraud scheme charged to date."


4 Iranian police officers injured, 1 assistant killed in violent protests

An Iranian "police assistant" was killed during violent protests in the southern city of Shiraz over the death of a woman arrested by Iran's "morality police" as they enforced the Islamic republic's strict hijab rules, Reuters reported Wednesday, citing the official IRNA news agency. Four police officers were injured in the clashes. Police arrested 15 protesters, according to an official quoted by IRNA. The protests began Friday outside a Tehran hospital shortly after officials there confirmed that 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, a member of Iran's Kurdish minority, had died. Amini had been arrested for not adequately covering her hair, and she was evidently beaten savagely in custody. The anti-government demonstrations have now spread to 16 of Iran's 31 provinces.


Hurricane Fiona strengthens into season's 1st Category 4 storm

Hurricane Fiona gained strength as it headed north into the Atlantic after devastating Puerto Rico and part of the Dominican Republic. Its top sustained winds reached 130 miles per hour Wednesday, making it the Atlantic hurricane season's first Category 4 storm. Fiona battered the Turks and Caicos islands after leaving behind extensive flooding that knocked out power island-wide in Puerto Rico and left two people dead. One other person died in the Dominican Republic. Forecasters expect Fiona to get even more powerful as it pushes north through the open Atlantic Ocean toward Bermuda.


Beyond Meat suspends executive arrested over brawl

Vegan food company Beyond Meat said Tuesday it has suspended its chief operating officer, Doug Ramsey, after he was arrested over the weekend and accused of biting a man's nose and punching him outside a University of Arkansas football game. The altercation left the other man with flesh taken off the tip of his nose. Ramsey is also accused of threatening to kill the man during the incident, which occurred as the men left a parking garage in their vehicles after the Razorbacks beat Missouri State on Saturday. Ramsey, 53, has been charged with terroristic threatening and third-degree battery.


Gap slashes 500 corporate jobs to cut costs as sales lag

Gap is cutting roughly 500 corporate jobs, mostly in its main offices in San Francisco and New York, and some in Asia, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday, citing people familiar with the matter. The positions are being eliminated as the clothing retailer works to slash expenses to offset falling sales and profits. "We've let our operating costs increase at a faster rate than our sales, and in turn our profitability," Bob Martin, Gap's executive chair and interim chief executive, wrote in a memo to employees on Tuesday informing them of the job cuts, according to a copy reviewed by the Journal. Gap's Old Navy brand suffered especially sharp sales declines early this year. Gap also owns Banana Republic and Athleta.


Flemish Catholic bishops approve same-sex-union blessings

Flemish Roman Catholic bishops on Tuesday defied the Vatican and issued a document suggesting a ritual to bless same-sex unions, although it emphasized the blessing was not "what the church understands by sacramental marriage." The Bishops' Conference of Belgium published the document on its website, detailing the plan by the bishops in Belgium's Flanders region. The proposed ritual would start with prayers and allow the couple to affirm, before family and friends, their commitment to be faithful to each other. The event would end with a "benediction." The bishops said the Catholic Church wants to be "pastorally close to homosexual persons" and a "welcoming church that excludes no one." The Vatican did not immediately comment.


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