World and nation newsw in brief for Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024

In this photo provided by the Flower Mound, Texas, Fire Department, Flower Mound firefighters respond to a fire in the Texas Panhandle, Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024. A rapidly widening Texas wildfire doubled in size Tuesday and prompted evacuation orders in at least one small town. (Flower Mound Fire Department via AP)

Rapidly expanding wildfires in Texas Panhandle prompt evacuations

(AP) — Rapidly expanding Texas wildfires fueled by surging winds have prompted safety and evacuation warnings for several towns in the state’s rural Panhandle. The Texas A&M Forest Service said Tuesday that the largest fire had already burned nearly 400 square miles. It remained 0% contained as of Tuesday afternoon. The Smokehouse Creek Fire has more than doubled its size since it sparked Monday. Texas state Sen. Kevin Sparks posted on social media that an evacuation order was issued for Canadian, a town of some 2,000 about 100 miles northeast of Amarillo. Other towns also were recommending and ordering people to leave their homes quickly.


Biden, party leaders implore Johnson to help Ukraine in ‘intense’ meeting

WASHINGTON (AP) — Congressional leaders emerged from an “intense” Oval Office meeting with President Joe Biden speaking optimistically about the prospects for avoiding a partial government shutdown beginning this weekend. However, things are still at a crossroads on assistance for Ukraine and Israel as the president and others in the meeting urgently warned House Speaker Mike Johnson of the grave consequences of delay. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer says those in the meeting told Johnson ‘get it done.’ But Johnson emerged from the meeting without mentioning Ukraine. He said “the first priority of the country is our border, and making it secure.”

Japan had the fewest babies it has ever recorded last year

TOKYO (AP) — The number of babies born in Japan in 2023 fell for an eighth straight year and is the lowest since Japan started compiling birth statistics in 1899. The 631,758 babies born last year was a 5.1% decline from the previous year. The number of marriages also fell last year and was below a half-million for the first time in 90 years. That’s one of the key reasons for the declining births, since out-of-wedlock births are rare in Japan. The government plans more support and subsidies for families with children, but experts doubt that will be effective since it focuses on people already married or planning children and doesn’t adequately address people who don’t plan to do either.

Two mayoral hopefuls of a Mexican city are shot dead within hours of each other

MARAVATÍO, Mexico (AP) — Two mayoral hopefuls in the Mexican city of Maravatío have been gunned down within hours of each other, as experts warn the June 2 national elections could be the country’s most violent on record. The widening control of drug cartels in Mexico has been described as a threat. During the last nationwide election in 2021, about three dozen candidates were killed. Campaigning officially begins Friday. The western state of Michoacan has been particularly hard hit by gang turf wars. One watchdog says that “it is likely that the biggest elections in history will also suffer the biggest attacks from organized crime.”

Toyota recalling 381,000 Tacoma pickups

DETROIT (AP) — Toyota is recalling about 381,000 Tacoma midsize pickup trucks in the U.S. because a part can separate from the rear axle, increasing the risk of a crash. The recall covers certain trucks from the 2022 and 2023 model years. Toyota said in a statement Tuesday that welding debris left on the ends of the axles can cause some nuts to loosen over time and eventually fall off. That can cause the part to separate, which can affect stability and brake performance. Toyota wouldn’t say if there have been any crashes or injuries. Dealers will inspect the rear axles and tighten retaining nuts at no cost to owners. Any damaged components will be repaired or replaced. Customers will be notified by mail in late April.

Burger chain Wendy’s looking to test surge pricing at restaurants as early as next year

Wendy’s is looking to test having the prices of its menu items fluctuate throughout the day based on demand, implementing a strategy that has already taken hold with ride-sharing companies and ticket sellers. During a conference call earlier this month, Wendy’s CEO Kirk Tanner said that the Dublin, Ohio-based burger chain will start testing dynamic pricing, also known as surge pricing, as early as next year. Wendy’s also plans to invest about $20 million to launch digital menu boards at all of its U.S. company-run restaurants by the end of next year.

Biden administration taps $366M to fund clean energy for Native American tribes

President Joe Biden’s administration is announcing funding for 17 projects to expand renewable energy access on Native American reservations and in other rural areas. The $366 million plan will fund solar, battery storage and hydropower projects across 20 states, including on land involving 30 tribes. The administration wants to address high electricity costs and power outages in remote areas. The funding comes from a $1 trillion infrastructure law that Biden signed in 2021. Biden administration officials are meeting with tribal leaders to discuss clean energy projects at a summit in Southern California that began Tuesday.

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