AP News in Brief at 11:04 p.m. EDT

Burning Man revelers begin exodus after flooding left tens of thousands stranded in Nevada desert

BLACK ROCK DESERT, Nev. (AP) — Muddy roads flooded by a summer storm that left tens of thousands of partygoers stranded for days at the Burning Man counterculture festival had dried up enough by Monday afternoon to allow them to begin their exodus from the northern Nevada desert.

Event organizers said they started to let traffic flow out of the main road around 2 p.m. local time — even as they continued urging attendees to delay their exit to help ease traffic on Monday. About two hours after the mass departure began, organizers estimated a wait time of about five hours.

Organizers also asked attendees not to walk out of the Black Rock Desert about 110 miles (177 kilometers) north of Reno as others had done throughout the weekend, including celebrity DJ Diplo and comedian Chris Rock. They didn't specify why.

The festival had been closed to vehicles after more than a half-inch (1.3 centimeters) of rain fell Friday, causing flooding and foot-deep mud.

The road closures came just before the first of two ceremonial fires signaling an end to the festival was scheduled to begin Saturday night. The event traditionally culminates with the burning of a large wooden effigy shaped like a man and a wood temple structure during the final two nights, but the fires were postponed as authorities worked to reopen exit routes by the end of the Labor Day weekend.


North Korea's Kim Jong Un may meet with Putin in Russia this month, US official says

WASHINGTON (AP) — A U.S. official said Monday that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un may travel to Russia soon to meet with President Vladimir Putin as the Kremlin tries to acquire military equipment for use in its war in Ukraine.

The official, who was not authorized to address the matter publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity, said the U.S. expects Kim will make the trip within the month. The official said the U.S. isn’t sure exactly where or when the meeting would take place, but the Pacific port city of Vladivostok would be a likely possibility given its relative proximity to North Korea.

National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson noted Monday that Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu traveled to Pyongyang recently and tried to persuade North Korea to sell artillery ammunition to Russia.

Watson said, “We have information that Kim Jong Un expects these discussions to continue, to include leader-level diplomatic engagement in Russia.”

She added that the U.S. is urging North Korea "to cease its arms negotiations with Russia and abide by the public commitments that Pyongyang has made to not provide or sell arms to Russia.”


First lady Jill Biden tests positive for COVID-19, but President Biden's results negative so far

WASHINGTON (AP) — First lady Jill Biden tested positive for COVID-19 Monday but is experiencing only mild symptoms, her spokeswoman said.

President Joe Biden was tested for the virus following his wife's positive test, but his results were negative. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the president would continue testing regularly and would be monitored for symptoms.

Jill Biden will remain at the couple's home in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, for the time being, communications director Elizabeth Alexander said. The first lady had planned to start the new school year Tuesday at Northern Virginia Community College, where she teaches English and writing.

Due to her condition, she was working with school officials to arrange substitute teachers for her classes, Alexander said.

The first lady had traveled with her husband to Florida on Saturday to inspect the damage from Hurricane Idalia. President Biden then spent part of the Labor Day weekend at the Delaware beach house before traveling Monday to a union event in Philadelphia and then back to the White House.


Security in Ecuador has come undone as drug cartels exploit the banana industry to ship cocaine

GUAYAQUIL, Ecuador (AP) — Men walk through a lush plantation between Ecuador ’s balmy Pacific coast and its majestic Andes, lopping hundreds of bunches of green bananas from groaning plants twice their height.

Workers haul the bunches to an assembly line, where the bananas are washed, weighed and plastered with stickers for European buyers. Owner Franklin Torres is monitoring all activity on a recent morning to make sure the fruit meets international beauty standards — and ever more important, is packed for shipment free of cocaine.

Torres is hypervigilant because Ecuador is increasingly at the confluence of two global trades: bananas and cocaine.

The South American country is the world’s largest exporter of bananas, shipping about 6.5 million metric tons (7.2 tons) a year by sea. It is also wedged between the world’s largest cocaine producers, Peru and Colombia, and drug traffickers find containers filled with bananas the perfect vehicle to smuggle their product.

Drug traffickers’ infiltration of the industry that is responsible for about 30% of the world’s bananas has contributed to unprecedented violence across this once-peaceful nation. Shootings, homicides, kidnappings and extortions have become part of daily life, particularly in the Pacific port city and banana-shipping hub of Guayaquil.


Smash Mouth frontman Steve Harwell, known for the ubiquitous pop-rock hit 'All Star,' dies at 56

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Steve Harwell, the longtime frontman of the Grammy-nominated pop rock band Smash Mouth that was behind the megahit “All Star” has died. He was 56.

The band’s manager, Robert Hayes, said Harwell “passed peacefully and comfortably” Monday morning surrounded by family and friends at his home in Boise, Idaho. The cause of death was acute liver failure, Hayes said in a statement.

Smash Mouth is also known for hits including “ Walkin' on the Sun ” and “ Then The Morning Comes."

“Steve Harwell was a true American Original. A larger than life character who shot up into the sky like a Roman candle," Hayes said. "Steve should be remembered for his unwavering focus and impassioned determination to reach the heights of pop stardom.”

“His only tools were his irrepressible charm and charisma, his fearlessly reckless ambition,” Hayes said, adding: “Steve lived a 100% full-throttle life. Burning brightly across the universe before burning out.”


Biden celebrates unions and job creation during a Philadelphia Labor Day appearance

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — President Joe Biden, who often says he's the most pro-union president in history, touted the importance of organized labor and applauded American workers in building the economy during a Labor Day appearance in Philadelphia on Monday.

The Democratic president spoke about how the economy is recovering from the crippling coronavirus pandemic and about what his administration has done to pay for infrastructure improvements, and cited the importance of unions in building the middle class.

As the pace of the Republican primary season escalates, Biden is trying to reclaim ground among working class voters that abandoned Democrats and moved their allegiance to former President Donald Trump and others over cultural issues. And on Monday in Philadelphia he gave a preview of that argument, repeatedly referring to Trump as “the last guy” and likening Trump’s job creation record to that of President Herbert Hoover, who presided over the country as it spiraled into the Great Depression and was soundly defeated by Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Speaking of Trump — who is the leading Republican candidate in the polls so far — Biden said: “He left office with fewer jobs in America than when he got elected into office."

Biden spoke to a crowd of union members from a diversity of industries — from steel workers to stage hands — and focused on the impact that his administration's policies have had on working people.


Aryna Sabalenka is about to be No. 1 in the WTA rankings. She could be the new US Open champ, too

NEW YORK (AP) — Aryna Sabalenka is going to be the No. 1 player in the WTA rankings next week, replacing Iga Swiatek there. That much is certain. The way Sabalenka is playing at the moment, she might very well supplant Swiatek as the U.S. Open champion, too.

In Sabalenka's first match since being assured of rising to the top of women's tennis, she showed off the power-based game that allows her to dominate so many opponents, overwhelming No. 13 seed Daria Kasatkina 6-1, 6-3 on Monday night in Arthur Ashe Stadium to advance to her fifth consecutive major quarterfinal.

“All this year, I've been pushing myself so hard to reach this goal,” Sabalenka said about getting to No. 1. “It really means a lot for me. It means a lot for my family. It's crazy. It's unbelievable.”

After the top-seeded Swiatek lost in the fourth round on Sunday night, No. 3 Jessica Pegula and No. 5 Ons Jabeur — who was the runner-up in New York a year ago — both were defeated Monday. No. 4 Elena Rybakina bowed out last week.

That all left Sabalenka as the only one of the top five women remaining in the bracket.


In the pivotal South Carolina primary, Republican candidates search for a path against Donald Trump

ANDERSON, S.C. (AP) — A microphone in hand, Sen. Tim Scott left the podium at a recent barbecue event in South Carolina and made his way through tables draped in red, white and blue as attendees finished plates of pulled pork and baked beans.

As he talked about his campaign, Scott passed Casey DeSantis, the first lady of Florida, who looked ahead at the empty stage from which she would soon speak. She was there in place of her husband, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who was overseeing the response to Hurricane Idalia.

Several hours earlier, former Gov. Nikki Haley packed an event hall about 130 miles to the northeast. An overflow crowd spilled out into the back hallways, with some people having to watch her remarks on a video monitor.

The flurry of activity showed the priority these three campaigns are placing on South Carolina, where the Republican primary is traditionally the last chance for many White House hopefuls to break through before Super Tuesday. If former President Donald Trump maintains his front-runner status here and in the other early voting states, his path to the GOP nomination may be nearly impossible to stop.

In all but one primary since 1980, the Republican winner in South Carolina has gone on to be the party’s nominee.


Putin says he won't renew the grain deal until the West meets his demands. The West says it has

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Monday that a landmark deal allowing Ukraine to export grain safely through the Black Sea amid the war won’t be restored until the West meets Moscow's demands on its own agricultural exports.

Ukraine and its Western allies have dismissed the Kremlin’s demands as a ploy to advance its own interests.

Still, Putin's remarks dashed hopes that his talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan could revive an agreement seen as vital for global food supplies, especially in Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

Russia refused to extend the deal in July, complaining that a parallel agreement promising to remove obstacles to Russian exports of food and fertilizer hadn’t been honored. It said restrictions on shipping and insurance hampered its agricultural trade, though it has shipped record amounts of wheat since last year.

Putin reiterated those complaints Monday, while also telling reporters that if those commitments were honored, Russia could return to the deal “within days.”


Farms with natural landscape features provide sanctuary for some Costa Rica rainforest birds

Small farms with natural landscape features such as shade trees, hedgerows and tracts of intact forest provide a refuge for some tropical bird populations, according to an 18-year study in Costa Rica.

For almost two decades, ornithologist James Zook has been collecting detailed records on nearly 430 tropical bird species found on small farms, plantations and undisturbed forests in the country.

While birds thrive the most in undisturbed rainforests, Zook said some species usually found in forests can establish populations in “diversified farms” that partially mimic a natural forest environment.

“How you farm matters,” said Nicholas Hendershot, a Stanford University ecologist and co-author of the study published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“In these diversified farms, you see growth over the long term in bird species with specialized needs,” such as safe and shady nooks to build nests and a variety of food sources, Hendershot said.

The Associated Press