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Russia halts wartime deal allowing Ukraine to ship grain. It’s a blow to global food security

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Russia halts wartime deal allowing Ukraine to ship grain. It’s a blow to global food security

LONDON (AP) — Russia on Monday halted a breakthrough wartime deal that allowed grain to flow from Ukraine to countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia where hunger is a growing threat and high food prices have pushed more people into poverty.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the Black Sea Grain Initiative would be suspended until demands to get Russian food and fertilizer to the world are met. An attack Monday on a bridge connecting the Crimean Peninsula to Russia was not a factor in the decision, he said.

“When the part of the Black Sea deal related to Russia is implemented, Russia will immediately return to the implementation of the deal,” Peskov said.

Russian representatives at the operation center for the initiative were more definitive, calling the decision “a termination,” according to a note obtained by The Associated Press. Russia has complained that restrictions on shipping and insurance have hampered its agricultural exports, but it has shipped record amounts of wheat since last year.

The suspension marks the end of an accord that the U.N. and Turkey brokered last summer to allow shipments of food from the Black Sea region after Russia’s invasion of its neighbor worsened a global food crisis. The initiative is credited with helping reduce soaring prices of wheat, vegetable oil and other global food commodities.

Ukraine and Russia are both major global suppliers of wheat, barley, sunflower oil and other food that developing nations rely on.

The suspension of the deal sent wheat prices up about 3% in Chicago trading, to $6.81 a bushel, which is still about half what they were at last year’s peak. Prices fell later in the day.

Some analysts don’t expect more than a temporary bump in food staples traded on global markets because countries such as Russia and Brazil have ratcheted up wheat and corn exports. But food insecurity worldwide and prices at local stores and markets have risen as developing countries also struggle with climate change, conflict and economic crises. Finding suppliers outside Ukraine that are farther away also could raise costs, analysts say.

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The grain deal provided guarantees that ships would not be attacked entering and leaving Ukrainian ports, while a separate agreement facilitated the movement of Russian food and fertilizer. Western sanctions do not apply to Moscow’s agricultural shipments, but some companies may be wary of doing business with Russia.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he wanted to keep the initiative going even without Russia’s safety assurances for ships.

“We are not afraid,” he said, adding that shipping companies told him “everyone is ready to continue supplying grain” if Ukraine and Turkey were on board.

The Russian Foreign Ministry again declared the northwestern Black Sea area “temporarily dangerous.” Sergei Markov, a Moscow-based pro-Kremlin political analyst, speculated that if Ukraine doesn’t heed the warnings, Russia could strike Ukrainian ports or place mines in shipping routes.

The Black Sea Grain Initiative has allowed three Ukrainian ports to export 32.9 million metric tons of grain and other food to the world, according to the Joint Coordination Center in Istanbul.

Russia has repeatedly complained that the deal largely benefits richer nations. JCC data shows that 57% of the grain from Ukraine went to developing nations, with the top destination being China, which received nearly a quarter of the food.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the end of the deal will result in more human suffering but that the U.N. would keep working to ensure the flow of supplies from Ukraine and Russia.

“There is simply too much at stake in a hungry and hurting world,” Guteres told reporters.

Ukraine can still export by land or river through Europe, but those routes have a lower capacity and have stirred divisions among its neighbors.

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In a post late Monday on his Telegram channel, Zelenskyy said he and Guterres agreed “to work together and with the responsible states” to restore food supplies via the Black Sea.

White House national security spokesman John Kirby blasted Moscow for pulling out of the deal and said the decision would “harm millions of vulnerable people around the world.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said officials were talking with Russia and that he hoped the deal would be extended.

The agreement was renewed for 60 days in May, but the amount of grain and number of vessels departing Ukraine have plunged, with Russia accused of preventing new ships from participating since June 27. The last ship left Ukraine on Sunday and was inspected Monday.

 

 

 

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, center, with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Mark Milley, right, and Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Celeste Wallander, left, speaks during a virtual meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group at the Pentagon in Washington, Tuesday, July 18, 2023. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Ukraine said its forces shot down Russian drones and cruise missiles targeting the Black Sea port of Odesa in what Moscow called “retribution” for an attack that damaged a crucial bridge to the Crimean Peninsula.

 

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A freight train runs on rails of a railway link of the Crimean Bridge connecting Russian mainland and Crimean peninsula over the Kerch Strait not far from Kerch, Crimea, on Monday, July 17, 2023. An attack before dawn damaged part of a bridge linking Russia to Moscow-annexed Crimea that is a key supply route for Kremlin forces in the war with Ukraine. The strike Monday has forced the span's temporary closure for a second time in less than a year. (AP Photo)

The bridge connecting Crimea and Russia carries heavy significance for Moscow, both logistically and psychologically, as a key artery for military and civilian supplies and as an assertion of Kremlin control of the peninsula it illegally annexed in 2014.

 

 

 

FILE - Activists and international delegations stand next to cluster bomb units, during a visit to a Lebanese military base at the opening of the Second Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, in the southern town of Nabatiyeh, Lebanon, Sept. 12, 2011. The Biden administration has decided to provide cluster munitions to Ukraine and is expected to announce on Friday, July 6, 2023, that the Pentagon will send thousands as part of the latest military aid package for the war effort against Russia, according to people familiar with the decision. (AP Photo/Mohammed Zaatari, File)

Russian President Vladimir Putin said in an interview published Sunday that Russia has a “sufficient stockpile” of cluster munitions, warning that Russia “reserves the right to take reciprocal action” if Ukraine uses the controversial weapons.

 

 

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Peter Nikitin, a Russian pro-democracy activist residing in Serbia, shouts slogans during a protest against Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's visit in Belgrade, Serbia, Monday, June 6, 2022. Nikitin said Thursday, July 13, 2023, that Serbian authorities have banned him from entering the country upon return from a trip abroad. Nikitin is well known as a fierce critic of Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the regime of Russian President Vladimir Putin. He has been one of the organizers of antiwar and pro-democracy protests in Serbia by the Russians and Ukrainians living in the country. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

Serbian authorities have allowed into the country a Russian antiwar activist who was previously denied entry and had spent more than one day at the Belgrade airport.

Here’s the latest for Monday July 17th: More extreme heat across U.S.; Devastating floods in Northeast; Officials in Crimea say Ukraine attacked bridge; Suspect killed in shootout with Georgia authorities.

The war in Ukraine sent food commodity prices to record highs last year and contributed to a global food crisis, which was also tied to other conflicts, the fallout from the pandemic and climate factors.

High grain prices in countries like Egypt, Lebanon and Nigeria exacerbated economic challenges and helped push millions more people into poverty or food insecurity.

Rising food prices affect people in developing countries disproportionately, because they spend more of their money on meals. Poorer nations that depend on imported food priced in dollars also are spending more as their currencies weaken and they are forced to import more because of climate change.

Under the deal, prices for wheat and other commodities have fallen, but food was already expensive before the war in Ukraine, and the relief hasn’t trickled down to kitchen tables.

“Countries such as Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia are dependent on food imports from Ukraine, so it does hamper availability and accessibility to food,” said Shashwat Saraf, the International Rescue Committee’s regional emergency director for East Africa.

Now, it’s key to watch whether Russia “weaponizes” its wheat exports, said Simon Evenett, professor of international trade and economic development at the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland.

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As the world’s current largest wheat supplier, Russia could hike its export taxes, which “would raise world grain prices as well as allow Russia to finance more of its military campaign in Ukraine,” Evenett said. He noted that Moscow already raised them slightly this month.

The grain deal has faced setbacks since it was brokered. Russia pulled out briefly in November before rejoining and extending the deal.

In March and May, Russia would only renew for two months, instead of the usual four. Joint inspections meant to ensure vessels carry only grain and not weapons have slowed considerably.

The amount of grain shipped per month has fallen from a peak of 4.2 million metric tons in October to over 2 million metric tons in June.

Meanwhile, Russia’s wheat shipments hit all-time highs following a large harvest. The country exported 45.5 million metric tons in the 2022-2023 trade year, with another record of 47.5 million metric tons expected in 2023-2024, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates.

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Associated Press reporters Hanna Arhirova in Kyiv, Ukraine, Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations and Andrew Wilks in Istanbul contributed.

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See AP’s complete coverage of the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine and the food crisis at https://apnews.com/hub/food-crisis.

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Austin Local News

Remember last year’s Memorial Day travel jams? Chances are they will be much worse this year

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Remember last year’s Memorial Day travel jams? Chances are they will be much worse this year

The patience of Memorial Day weekend travelers was tested Thursday by widespread delays across the country, but there were relatively few canceled flights, raising hopes that airlines can handle bigger crowds expected Friday.

By early evening on the East Coast, more than 6,000 flights had been delayed Thursday, with the biggest backups at the three major airports in the New York City area and Dallas-Fort Worth International.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pasha Pidlubniak waits for a domestic flight at Miami International Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Miami. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

 

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Pasha Pidlubniak waits for a domestic flight at Miami International Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Miami. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

 

The Transportation Security Administration predicted that Friday will be the busiest day for air travel over the holiday weekend, with nearly 3 million people expected to pass through airport checkpoints. It could rival the record of 2.9 million, set on the Sunday after Thanksgiving last year.

“Airports are going to be more packed than we have seen in 20 years,” said Aixa Diaz, a spokesperson for AAA.

When they aren’t waiting out flight delays, travelers are reporting sticker shock at the prices.

At Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, Larisa Latimer of New Lenox, Illinois, said her airfare was reasonable but other expenses for a getaway to New Orleans were not.

 

 

 

 

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Motorists travel along Interstate 24 near the Interstate 40 interchange Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. A record number of Americans are expected to hit the pavement over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

 

Motorists travel along Interstate 24 near the Interstate 40 interchange Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. A record number of Americans are expected to hit the pavement over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

 

“I just have to make the accommodation,” she said. “The rental car is up … this year, the hotel accommodations were very unusually expensive.”

Kathy Larko of Fort Meyers, Florida, used frequent-flyer miles — and some flexible scheduling — to pay for her trip to Chicago.

“I’m really conscious of looking at the cost of the entire trip. We’re staying a little farther out than we normally would” to get a lower hotel rate, she said. “We’re also flying back a day later, because we could get cheaper miles.”

More travelers will be on the road. AAA estimates that 43.8 million people will venture at least 50 miles (80 kilometers) from home between Thursday and Monday, with 38 million of them taking vehicles.

 
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Travelers wait at a TSA checkpoint at the Los Angeles International Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Los Angeles. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/Ryan Sun)

 

Travelers wait at a TSA checkpoint at the Los Angeles International Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Los Angeles. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/Ryan Sun)

 

Airport unions are using the holiday weekend to highlight their demands.

About 100 workers who clean airplane cabins and drive trash trucks at the airport in Charlotte, North Carolina, started a 24-hour strike Thursday, demanding better pay and healthcare, according to the Service Employees International Union. About 15% of flights were delayed, but it was unclear whether the strike played any role.

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A planned strike at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York was averted, however. Teamsters Local 553, which represents about 300 workers who refuel passenger and cargo jets at JFK, said that it reached a settlement with Allied Aviation Services and called off a walkout planned for Friday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

George Ridley, 4, left, rides on a suitcase as he and his father Chris Ridley make their way through the Nashville international Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

 

George Ridley, 4, left, rides on a suitcase as he and his father Chris Ridley make their way through the Nashville international Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

 

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“We are happy an agreement has been reached, a need for a strike averted, and we are hopeful that the deal will be ratified by our members,” said Demos Demopoulos, the secretary-treasurer of the local.

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Associated Press video journalist Melissa Perez Winder in Chicago and Associated Press radio reporter Shelley Adler in Washington contributed to this report.

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Texas health department appoints anti-abortion OB-GYN to maternal mortality committee

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Texas health department appoints anti-abortion OB-GYN to maternal mortality committee

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas’ health department has appointed an outspoken anti-abortion OB-GYN to a committee that reviews pregnancy-related deaths as doctors have been warning that the state’s restrictive abortion ban puts women’s lives at risk.

Dr. Ingrid Skop was among the new appointees to the Texas Maternal Morality and Morbidity Review Committee announced last week by the Texas Department of State Health Services. Her term starts June 1.

The committee, which compiles data on pregnancy-related deaths, makes recommendations to the Legislature on best practices and policy changes and is expected to assess the impact of abortion laws on maternal mortality.

Skop, who has worked as an OB-GYN for over three decades, is vice president and director of medical affairs for the Charlotte Lozier Institute, an anti-abortion research group. Skop will be the committee’s rural representative.

Skop, who has worked in San Antonio for most of her career, told the Houston Chronicle that she has “often cared for women traveling long distances from rural Texas maternity deserts, including women suffering complications from abortions.”

Texas has one of the most restrictive abortion bans in the U.S., and doctors have sought clarity on the state’s medical exemption, which allows an abortion to save a woman’s life or prevent the impairment of a major bodily function. Doctors have said the exemption is too vague, making it difficult to offer life-saving care for fear of repercussions. A doctor convicted of providing an illegal abortion in Texas can face up to 99 years in prison and a $100,000 fine and lose their medical license.

Skop has said medical associations are not giving doctors the proper guidance on the matter. She has also shared more controversial views, saying during a congressional hearing in 2021 that rape or incest victims as young as 9 or 10 could carry pregnancies to term.

Texas’ abortion ban has no exemption for cases of rape or incest.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which says abortion is “inherently tied to maternal health,” said in a statement that members of the Texas committee should be “unbiased, free of conflicts of interest and focused on the appropriate standards of care.” The organization noted that bias against abortion has already led to “compromised” analyses, citing a research articles co-authored by Skop and others affiliated with the Charlotte Lozier Institute.

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Earlier this year a medical journal retracted studies supported by the Charlotte Lozier Institute claiming to show harms of the abortion pill mifepristone, citing conflicts of interests by the authors and flaws in their research. Two of the studies were cited in a pivotal Texas court ruling that has threatened access to the drug.

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Michigan farmworker diagnosed with bird flu, becoming 2nd US case tied to dairy cows

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Michigan farmworker diagnosed with bird flu, becoming 2nd US case tied to dairy cows

A Michigan dairy worker has been diagnosed with bird flu — the second human case associated with an outbreak in U.S. dairy cows.

The male worker had been in contact with cows at a farm with infected animals. He experienced mild eye symptoms and has recovered, U.S. and Michigan health officials said in announcing the case Wednesday.

A nasal swab from the person tested negative for the virus, but an eye swab tested Tuesday was positive for bird flu, “indicating an eye infection,” U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials said.

The worker developed a “gritty feeling” in his eye earlier this month but it was a “very mild case,” said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, Michigan’s chief medical executive. He was not treated with oseltamivir, a medication advised for treating bird flu, she said.

The risk to the public remains low, but farmworkers exposed to infected animals are at higher risk, health officials said. They said those workers should be offered protective equipment, especially for their eyes.

Health officials say they do not know if the Michigan farmworker was wearing protective eyewear, but an investigation is continuing.

In late March, a farmworker in Texas was diagnosed in what officials called the first known instance globally of a person catching this version of bird flu from a mammal. That patient reported only eye inflammation and recovered.

Since 2020, a bird flu virus has been spreading among more animal species — including dogs, cats, skunks, bears and even seals and porpoises — in scores of countries.

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The detection in U.S. livestock earlier this year was an unexpected twist that sparked questions about food safety and whether it would start spreading among humans.

That hasn’t happened, although there’s been a steady increase of reported infections in cows. As of Wednesday, the virus had been confirmed in 51 dairy herds in nine states, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department. Fifteen of the herds were in Michigan.

The CDC’s Dr. Nirav Shah said the case was “not unexpected” and it’s possible more infections could be diagnosed in people who work around infected cows.

U.S. officials said they had tested 40 people since the first cow cases were discovered in late March. Michigan has tested 35 of them, Bagdasarian told The Associated Press in an interview.

Shah praised Michigan officials for actively monitoring farmworkers. He said health officials there have been sending daily text messages to workers exposed to infected cows asking about possible symptoms, and that the effort helped officials catch this infection. He said no other workers had reported symptoms.

That’s encouraging news, said Michael Osterholm, a University of Minnesota epidemiologist who has studied bird flu for decades. There’s no sign to date that the virus is causing flu-like illness or that it is spreading among people.

“If we had four or five people seriously ill with respiratory illness, we would be picking that up,” he said.

The virus has been found in high levels in the raw milk of infected cows, but government officials say pasteurized products sold in grocery stores are safe because heat treatment has been confirmed to kill the virus.

The new case marks the third time a person in the United States has been diagnosed with what’s known as Type A H5N1 virus. In 2022, a prison inmate in a work program picked it up while killing infected birds at a poultry farm in Montrose County, Colorado. His only symptom was fatigue, and he recovered. That predated the virus’s appearance in cows.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Educational Media Group. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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