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Hawaii’s Mauna Loa, the world’s largest active volcano, has started to erupt for the first time in nearly four decades, prompting volcanic ash and debris to fall nearby. The U.S. Geological Survey says the eruption began late Sunday night in the summit caldera of the volcano on the Big Island. Early Monday, it said lava flows were contained within the summit area and weren’t threatening nearby communities. The agency warned residents at risk from Mauna Loa lava flows should review their eruption preparations. Scientists had been on alert because of a recent spike in earthquakes at the summit of the volcano, which last erupted in 1984.

A judge has accepted a plea deal for a man who randomly killed a Florida couple in their garage six years ago and then chewed on one victim’s face. Twenty-five-year-old Austin Harrouff pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to two counts of first-degree murder and other charges for the 2016 slayings of 59-year-old John Stevens and his wife, 53-year-old Michelle Mishcon Stevens. The agreement avoids a trial that had been scheduled to start Monday. Harrouff will be committed to a secure mental health facility until doctors and a judge agree that he is no longer dangerous. He could have faced life in prison. A number of family members of the slain couple expressed anger at the decision.

Don’t look for plastic partitions or faraway benches when visiting Santa Claus this year. The jolly old elf is back, pre-pandemic style. Santa booker HireSanta.com has logged a 30% increase in demand over last year after losing about 15% of its performers to retirement or death during the pandemic. Most Santa experiences have moved back to kids on laps and aren’t considering COVID-19 in a major way. Inflation has taken a bite out of Santa. Many are older, on fixed incomes and travel long distances to don the red suit. They spend hundreds on their costumes and other accoutrements. And Santa bookers this year say there's a higher demand for inclusive Santas, including Black, deaf and Spanish-speaking Santas.

The Biden administration says Russia has abruptly postponed the scheduled resumption of arms control talks this week. The State Department said Monday that Russia had “unilaterally postponed” a meeting of the Bilateral Consultative Commission that was scheduled to begin Tuesday in Egypt. The commission hammers out details of U.S. and Russian inspections of each others' military sites under the terms of the New START treaty, the last major arms control pact between Washington and Moscow. It has not met in more than a year, initially because of the COVID-19 pandemic but has since languished due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The meeting in Cairo had been aimed at showing the two sides remain committed to arms control and keeping open lines of communication despite other differences.

The white gunman who massacred 10 Black people at a Buffalo supermarket has pleaded guilty to murder and hate-motivated terrorism charges. Payton Gendron’s plea means he’ll spend his life in prison without parole. The 19-year-old modified a legally purchased semiautomatic rifle into an assault weapon before targeting the Tops Friendly Market in May. He said in writings posted online that his goal was to terrify Black people and preserve white power. His own lawyer said Monday’s plea “represents a condemnation of the racist ideology that fueled his horrific actions.” Gendron previously pleaded not guilty to separate federal hate crime charges that could carry the death penalty.

Students in Hong Kong have chanted “oppose dictatorship” in a protest of China’s COVID-19 rules. That came Monday after demonstrators on the mainland issued an unprecedented call for President Xi Jinping to resign in the biggest show of opposition to the ruling Communist Party in decades. Demonstrations against China’s strict anti-virus measures spread to several cities over the weekend. Authorities eased some regulations, apparently as part of an attempt to quell public anger. But the government showed no sign of backing down on its larger coronavirus strategy. Analysts expect authorities to quickly silence the dissent. About 50 students sang at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and some lit candles to show support for demonstrators in mainland cities.

Montana officials are asking a judge to lift a restraining order that restricted wolf hunting and trapping in the state. Monday's hearing before District Judge Chris Abbott in Helena comes as Montana and other Republican-led states have moved in recent years to make it easier to kill the predators. Montana’s loosened wolf-hunting rules drew sharp criticism after 23 wolves from Yellowstone National Park were killed last winter, including 19 by hunters and trappers in Montana. Environmentalists in October sued the state over its regulations.

Cryptocurrency lender BlockFi is filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection as the fallout from the collapse of FTX continues. BlockFi said Monday that it was filing for bankruptcy protection to stabilize its business and give it the chance to perform a restructuring. The company said its restructuring will include recovering all obligations that it is owed by its counterparties, including FTX and associated corporate entities. BlockFi said it anticipates recoveries from FTX will be delayed.

Barely a month after granting himself a third five-year term as China's leader, Xi Jinping is facing a wave of public anger over his “zero COVID" policy. Demonstrators poured into the streets over the weekend in cities including Shanghai and Beijing, in protests unprecedented since the 1989 student-led pro-democracy movement centered on Beijing's Tiananmen Square. Most protesters focused their anger on restrictions that confine families to their homes for months and have been criticized as neither scientific or effective. But some also shouted for Xi and the Communist Party that has ruled China for 73 years to give up power.

NATO is returning to the scene of one of its most controversial decisions to repeat a vow that Ukraine will join the military alliance one day. On Tuesday, NATO foreign ministers will gather for two days at the Palace of the Parliament in the Romanian capital, Bucharest. There, in April 2008, U.S. President George W. Bush persuaded his allies to open NATO’s door to Ukraine and Georgia. The move deeply angered Russia. This time, NATO will make fresh pledges of non-lethal support to Ukraine to help its troops get through the winter. Individual allies will probably donate more military equipment to fend off Russian forces. The ministers will also look to Ukraine's long-term future.

Democrats celebrated winning North Carolina's lone toss-up race for the U.S. House this month as Wiley Nickel won the 13th District seat. The victory creates a 7-7 split in the state’s delegation — the best showing for Democrats in a decade. But there’s a good chance Nickel’s district and others will be altered for the 2024 elections, returning the advantage to Republicans. The current lines are only being used for these elections. New lines will be drawn by Republicans, who still control the General Assembly. And a new GOP majority on the state Supreme Court likely will be more skeptical of legal challenges that scuttled previous boundaries.

Officials say more than 2 million people in the Houston area remain under a boil order notice after a power outage caused low water pressure at a water purification plant. The order — which means water must be boiled before it’s used for cooking, bathing or drinking — also prompted schools in the Houston area to close Monday. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner says the city believes the water is safe but a boil order was required because of the drop Sunday in water pressure. He says water sampling will begin Monday morning and the boil order could be lifted 24 hours after the city is notified the water is safe.

The suspect in a triple homicide in Southern California who died in a shootout with police is believed to have driven across the country to meet a teenage girl before killing three members of her family. Police say 28-year-old Austin Lee Edwards also likely set fire to the family’s home in Riverside, California, on the day of the shooting Friday before leaving with the teenager. The bodies in the home were identified as the girl’s grandparents and mother: Mark Winek, his wife, Sharie Winek, and their daughter Brooke Winek. Police say Edwards met the girl online and obtained her information by deceiving her with a false identity, known as “catfishing." Edwards was a Virginia State Trooper until his resignation last month.

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President Joe Biden is strengthening U.S. policy aimed at stemming sexual violence in war conflict zones. The president has signed a presidential memorandum that will elevate the problem to the level of a possible serious human rights abuse that triggers sanctions and other actions against foreign perpetrators. The memorandum directs the State and Treasury departments and other agencies to leverage sanctions to the fullest extent possible. The United Nations has warned that sexual violence in Ukraine, especially against women and girls, remains prevalent and underreported. The Biden administration on Monday pointed to a U.N. report that found 3,293 verified sexual violence cases in 2021 across 18 countries, an increase of about 800 compared with the previous year.

Ukraine is preparing for more Russian strikes and has warned of the possibility of a new round of evacuations from the capital. Russia has been attacking energy facilities and other key infrastructure in recent weeks, and authorities are struggling to make repairs as quickly as the damage is inflicted. In the West meanwhile, preparations are being stepped up to boost humanitarian aid to Ukraine so that the population can enjoy some warmth during their coldest months of need and keep the resolve of the nation as high as possible. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned that Russian troops “are preparing new strikes and as long as they have missiles, they won’t stop.”

Jurors who will decide whether to convict Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes and four associates of seditious conspiracy have resumed deliberations in the high-stakes trial stemming from the U.S. Capitol attack. Rhodes and his co-defendants are accused of a weekslong plot to stop the transfer of power from Republican Donald Trump to Democrat Joe Biden. Prosecutors say the plot came to a head on Jan. 6, 2021 when Rhodes’ followers stormed the Capitol alongside hundreds of other angry Trump supporters. The jury in Washington D.C.’s federal court deliberated last Tuesday before going home for the long Thanksgiving weekend.

Devastating Russian strikes in Ukraine have cut off power to many hospitals. Power outages have strained and disrupted the country’s health care system, already battered by years of corruption, mismanagement, the COVID-19 pandemic and nine months of war. Scheduled operations are being postponed; patient records are unavailable because of internet outages; and paramedics have had to use flashlights to examine patients in darkened apartments. The World Health Organization said last week that Ukraine’s health system is facing “its darkest days in the war so far,” amid the growing energy crisis, the onset of cold winter weather and other challenges.

When John Fetterman goes to Washington in January as one of the Senate’s new members, he’ll bring along an irreverent style from Pennsylvania. It’s one that extends from his own personal and very casual dress code to hanging marijuana flags outside his current office in the state Capitol. Pennsylvania’s unique lieutenant governor just flipped the state’s open Senate seat to Democrats and may be the only senator ever to be declared an “American taste god” as GQ magazine once did. He’ll be the country’s tallest senator, and might be its most tattooed as well. But Pennsylvania’s sitting Democratic senator, Bob Casey, says he expects Fetterman will navigate the clubbiness of the Senate just fine.

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