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

Democrats win on abortion rights and other highlights from Tuesday's elections

WASHINGTON (AP) — There was plenty in the early results of Tuesday's off-year election to make Democrats happy, but it shouldn't be enough to make them feel secure heading into next year's presidential election.

Abortion rights supporters won an Ohio ballot measure and the Democratic governor of beet-red Kentucky held onto his office by campaigning on reproductive rights and painting his opponent as extremist on abortion.

The off-year elections have major implications for both of those states and provide a snapshot of American politics heading into 2024. But two big names — Joe Biden and Donald Trump — weren't on the ballot.

Here are some key results from Tuesday’s voting.

Democrats notched two early wins Tuesday night in Kentucky and Ohio, both states that voted for Trump in 2020. In both states, abortion was the main issue.


Kentucky Gov. Beshear wins reelection. Ohio passes amendment on abortion rights. Follow live updates

Democratic Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear won reelection on Tuesday, while Ohio voters approved a constitutional amendment guaranteeing the right to an abortion and other forms of reproductive health care. In other races, Mississippi voters were weighing whether to retain their Republican governor or replace him with a cousin of Elvis Presley's, while legislative control in Virginia was up for grabs.

Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear elected to second term in Kentucky

Ohio voters enshrine abortion rights in their state’s constitution

Mississippi voters weigh whether to replace the GOP governor with Elvis' cousin

Virginia's governor calls the state's legislative races the ‘most important elections in America’


Israel fights Hamas deep in Gaza City and foresees control of enclave’s security after war

KHAN YOUNIS, Gaza Strip (AP) — Israel said Tuesday that its ground forces were battling Hamas fighters deep inside Gaza’s largest city, signaling a major new stage in the month-old conflict, and its leaders foresee controlling the enclave's security after the war.

The push into Gaza City guarantees that the already staggering death toll will rise further, while comments from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about controlling Gaza’s security for “an indefinite period” pointed to the uncertain endgame of a war that Israel says will be long and difficult.

Israeli ground troops have battled Palestinian militants inside Gaza for over a week, cutting the territory in half and encircling Gaza City. The army's chief spokesman, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, said that Israeli ground forces “are located right now in a ground operation in the depths of Gaza City and putting great pressure on Hamas.”

Hamas spokesman Ghazi Hamad, speaking on Tuesday from Beirut, denied that Israeli forces were making any significant military gains or that they had advanced deep into Gaza City.

“They never give the people the truth,” Hamad said. He added that numerous Israeli soldiers were killed on Monday and “many tanks were destroyed.”


House votes to censure Rep. Rashida Tlaib over her Israel-Hamas rhetoric in a stunning rebuke

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House voted late Tuesday to censure Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan — the only Palestinian American in Congress — an extraordinary rebuke of her rhetoric about the Israel-Hamas war.

The 234-188 tally came after enough Democrats joined with Republicans to censure Tlaib, a punishment one step below expulsion from the House. The three-term congresswoman has long been a target of criticism for her views on the decades-long conflict in the Middle East.

The debate on the censure resolution on Tuesday afternoon was emotional and intense. Republican Rep. Rich McCormick of Georgia pushed the censure measure in response to what he called Tlaib’s promotion of antisemitic rhetoric. He said she has “levied unbelievable falsehoods about our greatest ally, Israel, and the attack on October 7.”

With other Democrats standing by her side, Tlaib defended her stance, saying she “will not be silenced and I will not let you distort my words.”

Tlaib added that her criticism of the Jewish state has always been directed toward its government and its leadership under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.


Highlights of Donald Trump's hours on the witness stand at his New York civil fraud trial

NEW YORK (AP) — Donald Trump went off. Again and again. Making the witness stand at his civil fraud trial his podium, the former president laid into the judge who'll decide the case and the New York attorney general who’s suing him.

During 3 1/2 hours of testimony on Monday, the Republican denied Attorney General Letitia James’ allegations that he duped banks by exaggerating his wealth on financial statements used to make deals and secure loans.

“There was no victim. There was no anything," he said.

He bragged about his riches, saying he has “a lot of cash" and described one of the grown sons he put in charge of his company as a “hard working boy." He said of his priorities while president: "My threshold was China, Russia and keeping our country safe."

Trump’s often verbose responses — replete with anecdotes about development projects, the intricacies of property valuations and complaints that he was a victim of a “political witch hunt” — led a frustrated Judge Arthur Engoron to warn: “This is not a political rally.”


October obliterated temperature records, virtually guaranteeing 2023 will be hottest year on record

This October was the hottest on record globally, 1.7 degrees Celsius (3.1 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than the pre-industrial average for the month — and the fifth straight month with such a mark in what will now almost certainly be the warmest year ever recorded.

October was a whopping 0.4 degrees Celsius (0.7 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than the previous record for the month in 2019, surprising even Samantha Burgess, deputy director of the Copernicus Climate Change Service, the European climate agency that routinely publishes monthly bulletins observing global surface air and sea temperatures, among other data.

“The amount that we’re smashing records by is shocking,” Burgess said.

After the cumulative warming of these past several months, it’s virtually guaranteed that 2023 will be the hottest year on record, according to Copernicus.

Scientists monitor climate variables to gain an understanding of how our planet is evolving as a result of human-generated greenhouse gas emissions. A warmer planet means more extreme and intense weather events like severe drought or hurricanes that hold more water, said Peter Schlosser, vice president and vice provost of the Global Futures Laboratory at Arizona State University. He is not involved with Copernicus.


Special counsel in the Hunter Biden case insists he was the 'decision-maker' in rare testimony

WASHINGTON (AP) — The prosecutor overseeing the Hunter Biden investigation testified Tuesday that he had the ultimate authority in the yearslong case as he made an unprecedented appearance before Congress to rebut Republicans' explosive claims that the probe has been plagued with interference.

U.S. Attorney David Weiss' nearly seven-hour interview with the House Judiciary Committee marked the first time a special counsel has ever testified to lawmakers in the middle of a probe. He agreed to the unusual appearance under heavy pressure from House Republicans, who are looking to ramp up their impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden and his family.

In his opening statement, Weiss told lawmakers he would not answer questions that could jeopardize the investigation and would only talk about the scope of his authority. “I am, and have been, the decision-maker on this case,” he told lawmakers. “I do not, however, make these decisions in a vacuum.”

He acknowledged being required to follow Justice Department guidelines and processes as well as federal law as he carried out his investigation. But those requirements “did not interfere with my decision-making authority,” he said.

No one at the Justice Department, including U.S. attorneys or the tax division, blocked or prevented him from pursuing charges or taking other necessary steps in the investigation, Weiss said.


The Supreme Court seems likely to preserve a gun law that protects domestic violence victims

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court seemed likely Tuesday to preserve a federal law that prohibits people under domestic violence restraining orders from having guns.

In their first guns case since last year’s expansion of gun rights, the justices suggested that they will reverse a ruling from an appeals court in New Orleans that struck down the 1994 ban on firearms for people under court order to stay away from their spouses or partners.

The court’s decision could affect other cases in which other gun laws have been called into question, including in the high-profile prosecution of Hunter Biden. President Joe Biden’s son has been charged with buying a firearm while he was addicted to drugs, but his lawyers have indicated they will challenge the indictment.

Liberal and conservative justices sounded persuaded by arguments from the Biden administration's top Supreme Court lawyer that the prohibition is in line with the longstanding practice of disarming dangerous people.

The case before the court involves a Texas man, Zackey Rahimi, who was accused of hitting his girlfriend during an argument in a parking lot and later threatening to shoot her.


Syphilis cases in US newborns skyrocketed in 2022. Health officials suggest more testing

NEW YORK (AP) — Alarmed by yet another jump in syphilis cases in newborns, U.S. health officials are calling for stepped-up prevention measures, including encouraging millions of women of childbearing age and their partners to get tested for the sexually transmitted disease.

More than 3,700 babies were born with congenital syphilis in 2022 — 10 times more than a decade ago and a 32% increase from 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday. Syphilis caused 282 stillbirth and infant deaths, nearly 16 times more than the 2012 deaths.

The 2022 count was the most in more than 30 years, CDC officials said, and in more than half of the congenital syphilis cases, the mothers tested positive during pregnancy but did not get properly treated.

The rise in congenital syphilis comes despite repeated warnings by public health agencies and it’s tied to the surge in primary and secondary cases of syphilis in adults, CDC officials said. It’s also been increasingly difficult for medical providers to get benzathine penicillin injections — the main medical weapon against congenital syphilis — because of supply shortages.

“It is clear that something is not working here, that something has to change,” the CDC’s Dr. Laura Bachmann said. “That’s why we’re calling for exceptional measures to address this heartbreaking epidemic”


A Meta engineer saw his own child face harassment on Instagram. Now, he's testifying before Congress

On the same day whistleblower Frances Haugen was testifying before Congress about the harms of Facebook and Instagram to children in the fall of 2021, a former engineering director at the social media giant who had rejoined the company as a consultant sent an alarming email to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg about the same topic.

Arturo Béjar, known for his expertise on curbing online harassment, recounted to Zuckerberg his own daughter's troubling experiences with Instagram. But he said his concerns and warnings went unheeded. And on Tuesday, it was Béjar's turn to testify to Congress.

“I appear before you today as a dad with firsthand experience of a child who received unwanted sexual advances on Instagram,” he told a panel of U.S. senators.

Béjar worked as an engineering director at Facebook from 2009 to 2015, attracting wide attention for his work to combat cyberbullying. He thought things were getting better. But between leaving the company and returning in 2019 as a contractor, Béjar’s own daughter had started using Instagram.

“She and her friends began having awful experiences, including repeated unwanted sexual advances, harassment,” he testified Tuesday. “She reported these incidents to the company and it did nothing.”

The Associated Press