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World News

 

Update April 28, 2017

Queen Elizabeth II turns 91

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II smiles as she attends an event at Newbury Racecourse in Newbury England, Friday April 21, 2017. The Queen celebrated her 91st birthday on Friday. (Andrew Matthews/PA via AP)

London (AP) – Britain marked Queen Elizabeth II’s 91st birthday on Friday with gun salutes, as the monarch herself enjoyed a family day and a trip to the races

The queen, who owns and breeds racehorses, was spotted smiling broadly and chatting animatedly Friday with jockeys and staff at Newbury Racecourse, not far from her Windsor Castle home.

She visited the racecourse with daughter Princess Anne and sat in the royal box to watch her thoroughbred Maths Prize run; it finished fifth.

There were also official celebrations in London, where a troop of the Royal Horse Artillery rode horse-and-gun carriages past Buckingham Palace before staging a 41-gun salute in Hyde Park at noon.

Outside the palace, a band of guardsmen in scarlet tunics and bearskin hats played “Happy Birthday” during the Changing of the Guard ceremony.

And at the centuries-old Tower of London, there was a second salute with 62 guns.

The queen is Britain’s oldest and longest-reigning monarch, having become queen on Feb. 6, 1952. She is also the world’s longest-reigning living monarch since the death of Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej last year.

Elizabeth also has an official birthday, marked in June – when the British weather is better – with the “Trooping the Color” military parade.


Trump to sign order aimed at expanding offshore drilling

President Donald Trump.(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

Matthew Day & Jill Colvin, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Working to dismantle his predecessor's environmental legacy, President Donald Trump plans to sign an executive order Friday that could lead to the expansion of drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans.

With one day left to rack up accomplishments before he reaches his 100th day in office, Trump will order his interior secretary to review an Obama-era plan that dictates which locations are open to offshore drilling, with the goal of the new administration to expand operations.

It's part of Trump's promise to unleash the nation's energy reserves in an effort to reduce reliance on foreign oil and to spur jobs, regardless of fierce opposition from environmental activists, who say offshore drilling harms whales, walruses and other wildlife and exacerbates global warming.

"This order will cement our nation's position as a global energy leader and foster energy security for the benefit of American people, without removing any of the stringent environmental safeguards that are currently in place," Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke told reporters at a White House briefing Thursday evening.

Zinke said the order, combined with other steps Trump has taken during his first months in office, "puts us on track for American energy independence."

The executive order will reverse part of a December effort by President Barack Obama to deem the bulk of U.S.-owned waters in the Arctic Ocean and certain areas in the Atlantic as indefinitely off limits to oil and gas leasing.

It will also direct Zinke to conduct a review of the locations available for offshore drilling under a five-year plan signed by Obama in November. The plan blocked new oil and gas drilling in the Atlantic and Arctic oceans. It also blocked the planned sale of new oil and gas drilling rights in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas north of Alaska, but allowed drilling to go forward in Alaska's Cook Inlet southwest of Anchorage.

The order could open to oil and gas exploration areas off Virginia and North and South Carolina, where drilling has been blocked for decades.

Zinke said that leases scheduled under the existing plan will remain in effect during the review, which he estimated will take several years.

The order will also direct Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to conduct a review of marine monuments and sanctuaries designated over the last 10 years.

Citing his department's data, Zinke said the Interior Department oversees some 1.7 billion acres on the outer continental shelf, which contains an estimated 90 billion barrels of undiscovered oil and 327 trillion cubic feet of undiscovered natural gas. Under current restrictions, about 94 percent of that outer continental shelf is off-limits to drilling.

Zinke, who will also be tasked with reviewing other drilling restrictions, acknowledged environmental concerns as "valid," but he argued that the benefits of drilling outweigh concerns.

Environmental activists, meanwhile, railed against the expected signing, which comes seven years after the devastating 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Diana Best of Greenpeace said that opening new areas to offshore oil and gas drilling would lock the U.S. "into decades of harmful pollution, devastating spills like the Deepwater Horizon tragedy, and a fossil fuel economy with no future.

"Scientific consensus is that the vast majority of known fossil fuel reserves - including the oil and gas off U.S. coasts- must remain undeveloped if we are to avoid the worst effects of climate change," she said.

Jacqueline Savitz of the ocean advocacy group ocean advocacy group Oceana warned the order would lead to "corner-cutting and set us up for another havoc-wreaking environmental disaster" in places like the Outer Banks or in remote Barrow, Alaska, "where there's no proven way to remove oil from sea ice."

"We need smart, tough standards to ensure that energy companies are not operating out of control," she said, adding: "In their absence, America's future promises more oil spills and industrialized coastlines."

Follow Matthew Daly and Jill Colvin on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MatthewDalyWDC and https://twitter.com/colvinj

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Mother of Hawaii boy missing for 20 years released from jail

This June 6, 2016 file photo taken in Honolulu shows a bumper sticker Hawaii officials distributed in a campaign for a Hawaii boy who disappeared 20 years ago. (AP Photo/Jennifer Sinco Kelleher, File)

Jennifer Sinco Kelleher,Associated Press

HONOLULU (AP) — The parents of a Hawaii six-year-old boy who disappeared 20 years ago had long been suspects, but without a body, there never has been any concrete confirmation that the child known as "Peter Boy" was dead until his mother pleaded guilty to manslaughter last year and agreed to testify against her husband.

The boy hasn't been found, but authorities now know where his father says he dumped his remains. That development was spurred by Jaylin Kema accepting a deal to plead guilty to manslaughter, agreeing in court to facts a prosecutor laid out about abuse suffered by the boy, her failure to get him medical treatment and his eventual death.

Her plea deal called for a one-year jail sentence, with credit for time served.

A judge granted her supervised release on Thursday, the day that marked one year of incarceration. She was allowed to leave the Hawaii Community Correctional Center soon after returning from a court hearing, said state Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Toni Schwartz.

When she pleaded guilty, she agreed to waive her marital privilege and testify against her husband, Peter Kema Sr. But instead of going to trial, he pleaded guilty to manslaughter earlier this month in a deal with prosecutors requiring him to reveal where Peter Boy's remains are in exchange for a 20-year prison sentence.

On Sunday, while shackled and accompanied by his defense attorney, he rode in a van with police and prosecutors and guided them to a site in the Big Island's rural Puna district where he says he disposed of the remains, said Hawaii County Prosecuting Attorney Mitch Roth, who declined to disclose specifics about the location.

Police will need help from outside agencies to try to find the remains, Roth said.

Roth and police accompanied Peter Boy's siblings, grandfather and an aunt to the site Wednesday, where the family said prayers, lit a candle and carried a lei for Peter Boy.

On the drive there it suddenly rained, Roth recalled after the outing. "We talked about it being tears from heaven. It was like Peter Boy crying, 'they're finally coming for me,'" Roth said. "When we got to the scene, not a drop of rain. The sun came out."

Family members collected some soil from the area, Roth said.

After Peter Boy vanished in 1997, he became the face of a Hawaii campaign for missing and abused children in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Posters and bumper stickers asked, "So where's Peter?"

Prosecutors believe the boy died of septic shock from not getting medical care for an arm injury.

Despite having health insurance, his mother did not get her son medical treatment and did not report the abuse because she was afraid of her husband, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Rick Damerville said after her plea hearing.

She is scheduled to be sentenced on June 13. Her plea agreement calls for 10 years of probation and the year she has already served in jail. Her release before sentencing is contingent on her undergoing drug testing, not leaving the Big Island and having no contact with her children, Damerville said.

She plans to return to the Puna home where she lived when she was arrested on welfare fraud charges, said her court-appointed attorney, Brian De Lima. The Kemas were separated at the time, he said.

Keeping them apart during their incarceration was key to the case because prosecuting them without a body would be difficult, Roth said.

Peter Kema had long ago told authorities that he took his son from the Big Island to Oahu and gave him to someone named "Aunty Rose Makuakane" in an informal adoption. Police could not find a woman as described by Kema or airline records that indicated he had flown there.

If Peter Boy's remains can't be recovered, Kema must pass a polygraph test. Roth said it seems like Kema is being truthful about the location. "However, they lied for 20 years, so I'm cautiously optimistic," he said.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Mississippi man sues R. Kelly, says singer ruined marriage

In this Nov. 6, 2015, file photo, R. Kelly performs during the 2015 Soul Train Awards at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. (Photo by Al Powers/ Powers Imagery/Invision/AP, File)

Jeff Amy, Associated Press

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A Mississippi sheriff's deputy is suing singer R. Kelly, alleging that Kelly had a yearslong affair with his wife that broke up his marriage.

Deputy Kenneth Bryant, who married Asia Childress in Mississippi in 2012, filed suit last week in a county circuit court in Jackson, the state capital. He's seeking unspecified damages. Bryant's lawsuit includes images of texts he says Childress and Kelly exchanged.

Representatives of the rhythm and blues crooner, whose full name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, didn't immediately return requests for comment Thursday. Kelly hasn't yet responded to the suit.

Anna Powers, a lawyer for Bryant, said Kelly was served with the suit Saturday when he performed in Jackson. Powers said Bryant, before marrying Childress, knew she previously had a relationship with Kelly.

"That was water under the bridge, over and done," Powers said. "Our client loved his wife, wanted to work out his relationship."

But the lawsuit says Childress reconnected with Kelly after attending one of his concerts in October 2012, leading to multiple liaisons over more than four years.

At one point in their marriage, according to Bryant, Childress persuaded him to move to the Atlanta area, claiming it would improve her career. Bryant said he sacrificed a good job but that his wife really wanted to be closer to Kelly to pursue the affair. Kelly, 50, once lived in Atlanta part-time.

"Each time R. Kelly would have a concert in a nearby state, Childress would disappear to unite with her lover," the lawsuit states. "Time after time, R. Kelly cuckolded Bryant, with blatant disregard for Bryant's and Childress' vows."

Powers said that Childress has asked for a divorce, but none has been filed. Childress is a licensed public school teacher in Mississippi, but it's unclear where she now lives and she could not be reached for comment.

Mississippi is one of only a handful of states that allow spouses to sue others for breaking up their marriages in what are called alienation of affection lawsuits. The others are Hawaii, North Carolina, South Dakota and Utah.

"R Kelly's wanton and reckless interference with plaintiff's marriage relationship, his blatant disregard for family values, and his un-condoned and unrelenting adulterous relationship with plaintiff's wife was accompanied by R. Kelly's enticement of Childress to ignore her marriage," the suit states.

Kelly is currently touring to promote his albums "The Buffet," his 16th solo or collaborative release since 1992. His hits include "I Believe I Can Fly," ''Bump N' Grind" and "Ignition." Kelly's shows and lyrics often focus on sex and infidelity — such as his Trapped in the Closet series, dealing with a web of sexual deceit.

The Grammy winner has in the past denied allegations he had sexual relationships with underage girls, although he has settled a number of lawsuits. In 2008, a Chicago jury acquitted Kelly of child pornography charges after he was accused of having sex with an underage girl and videotaping it.

Follow Jeff Amy at: http://twitter.com/jeffamy . Read his work at https://www.apnews.com/search/Jeff_Amy.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Taliban announce start of spring offensive

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Afghanistan's Taliban have announced the start of a spring offensive, promising to build their political base in the country while focusing military assaults on coalition and Afghan security forces.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid announced the launch of the offensive Friday in an email statement.

The Taliban dubbed this year's offensive "Operation Mansour," named for the Taliban leader killed last year in a U.S. drone strike.

While they may be officially announcing their spring offensive, recent attacks including one earlier this week on an army base in northern Afghanistan that killed more than 140 Afghan soldiers would seem to warn of a tough fighting season ahead.

As well as the Taliban, Afghanistan is also battling an emerging local Islamic State affiliate known as Islamic State in Khorasan.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Update April 21, 2017

US: North Korean test missile explodes on launch

A visitor walks by a TV showing file footage of a North Korea's ballistic missile launch, at Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Sunday, April 16, 2017. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

Foster Klug & Hyung-Jin Kim, Associated Press

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — A North Korean missile exploded during launch Sunday, U.S. and South Korean officials said, a high-profile failure that comes as a powerful U.S. aircraft supercarrier approaches the Korean Peninsula in a show of force.

It wasn't immediately clear what kind of missile was test-fired from the east coast city of Sinpo. But the failure will sting in Pyongyang because it comes a day after one of the biggest North Korean propaganda events of the year— celebrations of the 105th birthday of late North Korea founder Kim Il Sung, the current leader's grandfather.

The North's test firing can be seen as a message of defiance to the Trump administration in Washington, coming as it does on the day U.S. Vice President Mike Pence is set to arrive in Seoul for talks on North Korea.

President Donald Trump was uncharacteristically quiet about the failed launch. In a statement, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Trump and his military team "are aware of North Korea's most recent unsuccessful missile launch. The president has no further comment."

Washington and Seoul will try hard to figure out what exactly North Korea fired. This matters because while North Korea regularly launches short-range missiles, it is also developing mid-range and long-range missiles meant to target U.S. troops in Asia and, eventually, the U.S. mainland.

The ultimate goal is to have a full array of nuclear-tipped missiles in response to what Pyongyang says is hostility by Washington and Seoul meant to topple its government. North Korea is thought to have a small arsenal of atomic bombs and an impressive array of short- and medium-range missiles.

Many outside analysts believe that North Korea has not yet mastered the technology to build warheads small enough to place on long-range missiles, though some civilian experts say North Korea can already build nuclear-tipped shorter range missiles that have South Korea and Japan within its striking range.

The U.S. Pacific Command said in a statement that Sunday's missile exploded on launch. South Korea's Defense Ministry said it was analyzing exactly how the North Korean launch failed. Neither military knew what kind of missile was fired.

In Seoul, South Korea's presidential office convened a national security council meeting to examine security postures.

Always high animosity has risen on the Korean Peninsula in recent months, as the United States and South Korea conduct annual war games that North Korea claims are invasion preparation and the North prepared for Saturday's anniversary celebrations. A U.S. aircraft carrier, the USS Carl Vinson, is heading to waters off Korea in a show of force.

Analysts warn that even failed missile launches provide valuable knowledge to North Korea as it tries to build its weapons program. The country launched a long-range rocket and conducted two nuclear tests last year, including its most powerful to date.

Aside from improving the technology, North Korean missile and nuclear tests are seen by outside analysts partly as efforts to bolster the domestic image of leader Kim Jong Un and apply political pressure on Seoul and Washington.

Kim Jong Un has overseen three nuclear tests and a string of missile and rocket launches since taking over after the death of his father, dictator Kim Jong Il, in late 2011.

Another missile test from Sinpo failed earlier this month, when the rocket spun out of control and plunged into the ocean. That launch came shortly before Trump's first meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping. China is North Korea's only major ally.

The extended-range Scud missile in that earlier launch suffered an in-flight failure and fell into the sea off North Korea's east coast, according to U.S. imagery and assessments.

Despite Sunday's failure, the North's previous claim to have used "standardized" warheads has led to worries that it was making headway in its push to develop small and sophisticated warheads to be topped on long-range missiles.

Washington sees North Korea's pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles as a threat to world security and to its Asian allies, Japan and South Korea. The United States, South Korea and other countries have vowed to apply more pressure on the North, but so far nothing has worked to stop Pyongyang's nuclear program.

Six-nation negotiations on dismantling North Korea's nuclear program in exchange for aid fell apart in early 2009.


Clifton James, sheriff in 2 James Bond films, dies at 96

This undated photo provided by Lynn James on Saturday, April 15, 2017 shows Clifton James. (Lynn James via AP)

Keith Ridler, Associated Press

Clifton James, best known for his indelible portrayal of a southern sheriff in two James Bond films but who was most proud of his work on the stage, has died. He was 96.

His daughter, Lynn James, said he died Saturday at another daughter's home in Gladstone, Oregon, due to complications from diabetes.

"He was the most outgoing person, beloved by everybody," Lynn James said. "I don't think the man had an enemy. We were incredibly blessed to have had him in our lives."

James often played a convincing southerner but loved working on the stage in New York during the prime of his career.

One of his first significant roles playing a southerner was as a cigar-chomping, prison floor-walker in the 1967 classic "Cool Hand Luke."

His long list of roles also includes swaggering, tobacco-spitting Louisiana Sheriff J.W. Pepper in the Bond films.

His portrayal of the redneck sheriff in "Live and Let Die" in 1973 more than held its own with sophisticated English actor Roger Moore's portrayal of Bond.

James was such a hit that writers carved a role for him in the next Bond film, "The Man with the Golden Gun," in 1974. James, this time playing the same sheriff on vacation in Thailand and the epitome of the ugly American abroad, gets pushed into the water by a baby elephant.

"He wasn't supposed to actually go in," said his daughter. "They gave him sugar in his pocket to feed the elephant. But he wasn't giving it to the elephant fast enough."

She said her father met with real southern sheriffs to prepare for his role as Pepper. Of his hundreds of roles, it was the Louisiana sheriff that people most often recognized and approached him about.

His daughter noted that her father sometimes said actors get remembered for one particular role out of hundreds.

"His is the sheriff's, but he said he would have never picked that one," she said.

George Clifton James was born May 29, 1920, in Spokane, Washington, the oldest of five siblings and the only boy. The family lost all its money at the start of the Great Depression and moved to Gladstone, just outside Portland, Oregon, where James' maternal grandparents lived.

In the 1930s, James got work with the Civilian Conservation Corps and then entered World War II in 1942 as a soldier with the U.S. Army in the South Pacific, receiving two Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star and a Silver Star.

Lynn James said one of the Purple Hearts came when a bullet pierced his helmet and zipped around the inside to come out and split his nose. The second Purple Heart, she said, came from shrapnel that knocked out many of his teeth.

She said her father rarely spoke about the war and never described events leading to his receiving the Silver Star.

"He lost too many friends," she said.

After the war, James took classes at the University of Oregon and acted in plays. Inspired, he moved to New York and launched his acting career.

Later in life, he spent the fall and spring of each year in New York. In the winter, he lived in a condo in Delray Beach, Florida. During the summer he lived in Oregon.

James' wife, Laurie, died in 2015. He is survived by two sisters, five children, 14 grandchildren and four great grandchildren.

Lynn James said a celebration of her father's life will be held in Gladstone in August, but there are no other plans so far. She said some of his ashes will likely be spread in the Clackamas River in Oregon, in which he swam as a boy, and in New York Harbor, where some of his wife's ashes were spread.


Over 100 killed during Syria's troubled population transfer

This frame grab from video provided by the Thiqa News Agency, shows rebel gunmen at the site of a blast that damaged several buses and vans at the Rashideen area, a rebel-controlled district outside Aleppo city, Syria, Saturday, April. 15, 2017. (Thiqa News via AP)

Sarah El Deeb & Philip Issa, Associated Press

BEIRUT (AP) — A stalled population transfer resumed Saturday after a deadly explosion killed at least 100, including children, government supporters and opposition fighters, at an evacuation point — adding new urgency to the widely criticized operation.

The blast ripped through a bus depot in the al-Rashideen area where thousands of government loyalists evacuated the day before waited restlessly for hours, as opposition fighters guarded the area while negotiators bickered over the completion of the transfer deal. Only meters away, hundreds of evacuees from pro-rebels areas also loitered in a walled-off parking lot, guarded by government troops.

Footage from the scene showed bodies, including those of fighters, lying alongside buses, some of which were charred and others gutted from the blast. Personal belongings could be seen dangling out of the windows. Fires raged from a number of vehicles as rescuers struggled to put them out.

The scenes were the last in the unyielding bloodshed Syrians are living through. Earlier this month, at least 89 people were killed in a chemical attack as children foaming at the mouth and adults gasping for last breath were also caught on camera.

The bloody mayhem that followed the Saturday attack only deepened the resentment of the transfer criticized as population engineering. It also reflected the chaos surrounding negotiations between the warring parties. The United Nations did not oversee the transfer deal of the villages of Foua and Kfraya, besieged by the rebels, and Madaya and Zabadani, encircled by the government.

No one claimed responsibility for the attack but pro-government media and the opposition exchanged accusations, each pointing to foreign interference or conspiracies undermining the deal.

State TV al-Ikhbariya said the attack was the result of a car bomb carrying food aid to be delivered to the evacuees in the rebel-held area — ostensibly crisps for the children — and accused rebel groups of carrying it out. A TV broadcaster from the area said: "There can be no life with the terrorist groups."

"I know nothing of my family. I can't find them," said a woman who appeared on al-Ikhbariya, weeping outside the state hospital in Aleppo where the wounded were transported.

Ahrar al-Sham, the rebel group that negotiated the deal, denounced the "cowardly" attack, saying a number of opposition fighters as well as government supporters were killed in the attack. The group said the attack only serves to deflect the attention from government "crimes" and said it was ready to cooperate with an international probe to determine who did it.

Yasser Abdelatif, a media official for Ahrar al-Sham, said about 30 rebel gunmen were killed in the blast. He accused the government or extremist rebel groups of orchestrating the attack to discredit the opposition.

The Syrian Civil Defense in Aleppo province, also known as the White Helmets, said their volunteers pulled at least 100 bodies from the site of the explosion. White Helmets member Ibrahim Alhaj said the 100 fatalities documented by the rescuers included many children and women, as well as fighters.

Syrian state media said at least 39 were killed, including children. The opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights put the death toll at 43, adding that it would likely rise because of the extensive damage. A Facebook page belonging to the pro-government Foua and Kfraya villages said all those in three buses were killed or are still missing while a rebel official said at least 30 opposition fighters who were guarding the evacuees were killed in the blast.

According to Abdul Hakim Baghdadi, an interlocutor who helped the government negotiate the evacuations, 140 were killed in the attack. He added it was not clear how many rebels were killed because they were evacuated to their areas.

Hours after the explosion, the transfer resumed — as dozens of buses, starting with the wounded, left to their respective destinations. Before midnight Saturday, 100 of some 120 buses from both sides had already arrived.

The explosion hit the al-Rashideen area, a rebel-controlled district outside Aleppo city where evacuation buses carrying nearly 5,000 people from the northern rebel-besieged villages of Foua and Kfraya were stuck. Residents from the two villages had been evacuated Friday, along with more than 2,000 from Madaya, an opposition-held town outside of Damascus besieged by government forces.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the attack Saturday in a statement from his spokesman Stephane Dujarric, and called on all parties "to ensure the safety and security of those waiting to be evacuated."

"Those responsible for today's attack must be brought to justice," the statement added.

The coordinated evacuations delivered war-weary fighters and residents from two years of siege and hunger, but moved Syria closer to a division of its national population by loyalty and sect.

Madaya and Zabadani, once summer resorts to Damascus, have been shattered under the cruelty of a government siege. The two towns rebelled against Damascus' authority in 2011 when demonstrations swept through the country demanding the end of President Bashar Assad's rule.

Residents were reduced to hunting rodents and eating tree leaves. Photos of children gaunt with hunger shocked the world and gave new urgency to U.N. relief operations in Syria.

Foua and Kfraya, besieged by the rebels, lived under a steady hail of rockets and mortars. They were supplied with food and medical supplies through military airdrops.

Critics say the string of evacuations, which could see some 30,000 people moved across battle lines over the next 60 days, amounts to forced displacement along political and sectarian lines.

The explosion came as frustration was already mounting over the stalling evacuation process.

"The situation is disastrous," said Ahmed Afandar, a resident evacuated from the opposition area near Madaya. "All these thousands of people are stuck in less than half a kilometer (500 yards)." He said the area was walled off from all sides and there were no restrooms.

Afandar said people were not allowed to leave the buses for a while before they were let out. Food was distributed after several hours and by early afternoon the evacuees from rebel-held areas were "pressured" to sit back on their buses, Afandar said.

The evacuees from Madaya headed to rebel-held Idlib, west of Aleppo. After the blast, evacuees from opposition areas pleaded for protection fearing revenge attacks.

Syrian state TV blamed the rebels for obstructing the deal.

An opposition representative, Ali Diab, accused the government side of violating the terms of the agreement, by evacuating fewer armed men than agreed to from the pro-government areas.


Deals ensure cash keeps flowing to unsettled Prince estate

In this Feb. 18, 1985 file photo, Prince performs at the Forum in Inglewood, California. (AP Photo/Liu Heung Shing, File))

Steve Karonowski, Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A year after Prince died of an accidental drug overdose, his Paisley Park studio complex and home is now a museum and concert venue. Fans can now stream most of his classic albums, and a remastered "Purple Rain" album is due out in June along with two albums of unreleased music and two concert films from his vault.

Prince left no known will and had no known children when he died last April 21, and the judge overseeing Prince's estate has yet to formally declare six of his siblings as its heirs. However, those running the estate have taken steps to preserve his musical legacy and keep the cash coming in. Here's a look at where things stand:

THE MUSIC

The value of the music deals hasn't been disclosed, and key financial information in voluminous court filings is sealed.

Universal Music Group was a big winner, reaching major deals that gave it the licensing rights to Prince's vault of unreleased music and his independently recorded albums, publishing rights and merchandising rights.

Under related deals, Prince's music is now available from major streaming services including Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora, Amazon Music and iHeartRadio.

But a lawsuit remains pending against Jay Z's Roc Nation and the Tidal streaming service over alleged copyright violations. Tidal claims Prince gave it the exclusive right to stream his albums, including his Warner Bros. catalog. Estate lawyers say he gave Tidal limited rights to only one album, 2015's "Hit N Run: Phase 1."

PAISLEY PARK

Paisley Park, which is run by the company that runs Elvis Presley's Graceland, opened for public tours in October. Visitors can see the studios and soundstage where Prince worked and pay their respects at the Paisley Park-shaped urn that holds his ashes. It also hosts dance parties and movie and video showings on Friday and Saturday nights.

Close to 100,000 people from around the world have taken the tour, even though winter was expected to be the slow season, said Joel Weinshanker, managing partner of PPark Management, who has a similar role with Graceland. He wouldn't release revenue figures.

Weinshanker said he expects several hundred thousand visitors in the first full year of operations, which he said would make it the No. 2 museum dedicated to an entertainer behind Graceland.

He said most of the money is going toward preserving the building, which he said was in "grave disrepair" when Prince died, and toward protecting its contents. He said the heating and cooling system had to be replaced, some rooms where videos were stored had recent water damage, and valuable custom-designed outfits were improperly stored on wire hangers.

From April 20-23, Paisley Park will mark the anniversary of Prince's death with Celebration 2017, which will include concerts and other programming. Acts scheduled to appear include The Revolution, Morris Day and the Time, New Power Generation, Liv Warfield and Shelby J., with members of 3RDEYEGIRL, the band Prince was nurturing when he died. Weinshanker said it will draw guests from 28 countries.

THE PROBATE CASE

Barring any surprises, six Prince siblings will get equal shares of his estate, which court filings have suggested is worth around $200 million. Federal and estate taxes are expected to consume nearly half of that.

Judge Kevin Eide wrote last month that he was "reasonably certain" he'll ultimately declare the heirs to be Prince's sister, Tyka Nelson, and his half-siblings Sharon Nelson, Norrine Nelson, John R. Nelson, Omarr Baker and Alfred Jackson.

After Prince died, more than 45 people filed claims purporting to be his wife, children, siblings or other relatives. They've all been rejected, but Eide has said he'll wait for some appeals to run their course before making a final ruling, which could take several months or more. The six presumptive heirs have asked him to speed things up. A hearing on that request is set for May 10.

THE DISPUTES

With so much money at stake, there's been some infighting. Court documents and testimony show that the siblings disagreed over who should control the estate, eventually settling on Comerica Bank & Trust as the executor.

The older half-siblings — Norrine, Sharon, John and Alfred — also wanted a co-executor, former Prince attorney L. Londell McMillan, who was a key figure in the deals for monetizing Prince's entertainment assets.

But Tyka and Omarr opposed McMillan, questioning his fitness to serve and accusing him of mismanaging a family tribute concert last October. They wanted CNN commentator Van Jones, who advised Prince on philanthropy. Citing the siblings' inability to agree, the judge put Comerica in sole control.

McMillan continues to advise Norrine, Sharon and John, though a recent filing indicates Jackson has broken with him. Lawyers for Omarr and Tyka have subpoenaed a potentially huge volume of documents from McMillan. The judge will consider a motion to quash that subpoena at the May 10 hearing.

Sharon, meanwhile, claimed last month that Comerica was being "dictatorial and bullish." Comerica denied any disrespectful, abusive or hostile conduct, but said the heirs don't get to vote on how it runs the estate.


Update April 14, 2017

Today in History -  Friday, April 14, 2017

The Associated Press

Today is Good Friday, April 14, the 104th day of 2017. There are 261 days left in the year.

Today's Highlight in History:

On April 14, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln was shot and mortally wounded by John Wilkes Booth during a performance of "Our American Cousin" at Ford's Theater in Washington.

 

On this date:

In 1775, the first American society for the abolition of slavery was formed in Philadelphia.

In 1828, the first edition of Noah Webster's "American Dictionary of the English Language" was published.

In 1912, the British liner RMS Titanic collided with an iceberg in the North Atlantic at 11:40 p.m. ship's time and began sinking. (The ship went under two hours and 40 minutes later with the loss of 1,514 lives.)

In 1935, the "Black Sunday" dust storm descended upon the central Plains, turning a sunny afternoon into total darkness.

In 1939, the John Steinbeck novel "The Grapes of Wrath" was first published by Viking Press.

In 1949, the "Wilhelmstrasse Trial" in Nuremberg ended with 19 former Nazi Foreign Office officials sentenced by an American tribunal to prison terms ranging from four to 25 years.

In 1956, Ampex Corp. demonstrated the first practical videotape recorder at the National Association of Radio and Television Broadcasters Convention in Chicago.

In 1965, the state of Kansas hanged Richard Hickock and Perry Smith for the 1959 murders of Herbert Clutter, his wife, Bonnie, and two of their children, Nancy and Kenyon. The murders were detailed in the Truman Capote non-fiction novel "In Cold Blood."

In 1970, President Richard Nixon nominated Harry Blackmun to the U.S. Supreme Court. (The choice of Blackmun, who was unanimously confirmed by the Senate a month later, followed the failed nominations of Clement Haynsworth and G. Harrold Carswell.)

In 1981, the first test flight of America's first operational space shuttle, the Columbia, ended successfully with a landing at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

In 1986, Americans got word of a U.S. air raid on Libya (because of the time difference, it was the early morning of April 15 where the attack occurred.) French feminist author Simone de Beauvoir died in Paris at age 78.

In 1994, two U.S. Air Force F-15 warplanes mistakenly shot down two U.S. Army Black Hawk helicopters over northern Iraq, killing 26 people, including 15 Americans. Turner Classic Movies made its cable debut; the first film it aired was Ted Turner's personal favorite, "Gone with the Wind."

Ten years ago: Riot police beat and detained protesters as thousands defied an official ban and attempted to stage a rally in Moscow against Russian President Vladimir Putin's government. A car bomb exploded near one of Shiite Islam's holiest shrines in Karbala, Iraq, killing 47 people. Entertainer Don Ho died in Honolulu at age 76.

Five years ago: In Belfast, Northern Ireland, where the RMS Titanic was built, thousands attended a choral requiem at the Anglican St. Anne's Cathedral or a nationally televised concert at the city's Waterfront Hall to mark the 100th anniversary of the ship's sinking. Eleven Secret Service agents were placed on administrative leave as a deepening scandal involving prostitutes overshadowed President Barack Obama's diplomatic mission to Latin America. Actor Jonathan Frid, best known for playing Barnabas Collins in the 1960s original vampire soap opera "Dark Shadows", died in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada at age 87. Guns N' Roses, Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Beastie Boys, folk icon Donovan, late singer-songwriter Laura Nyro and British bands the Small Faces and Faces were among those inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.

One year ago: Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders aggressively challenged each other's judgment to be president during a Democratic debate in Brooklyn, New York, sparring over Wall Street banks, how high to raise the minimum wage and gun control. The first of two strong earthquakes struck southern Japan; the temblors killed at least 50 people.

Today's Birthdays: Actor Bradford Dillman is 87. Country singer Loretta Lynn is 85. Actress Julie Christie is 77. Retired MLB All-Star Pete Rose is 76. Rock musician Ritchie Blackmore is 72. Actor John Shea is 68. Actor-turned-race car driver Brian Forster is 57. Actor Brad Garrett is 57. Actor Robert Carlyle is 56. Rock singer-musician John Bell (Widespread Panic) is 55. Actor Robert Clendenin is 53. Actress Catherine Dent is 52. Actor Lloyd Owen is 51. Baseball Hall of Famer Greg Maddux is 51. Rock musician Barrett Martin is 50. Actor Anthony Michael Hall is 49. Actor Adrien Brody is 44. Classical singer David Miller is 44. Rapper DaBrat is 43. Actor Antwon Tanner is 42. Actress Sarah Michelle Gellar is 40. Actor-producer Rob McElhenney is 40. Roots singer JD McPherson is 40. Rock singer Win Butler (Arcade Fire) is 37. Actress Claire Coffee is 37. Actor Christian Alexander is 27. Actor Nick Krause is 25. Actress Vivien Cardone is 24. Actor Graham Phillips is 24. Actress Skyler Samuels is 23. Actress Abigail Breslin is 21.

Thought for Today: "Education ... has produced a vast population able to read but unable to distinguish what is worth reading." — George Macaulay Trevelyan, English historian (1876-1962).


United to compensate people on flight when man dragged off

Travelers check in at the United Airlines ticket counter at Terminal 1 in O'Hare International Airport in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)

Don Babwin

CHICAGO (AP) — United Airlines sought to quell the uproar over a man being dragged off a plane by announcing on Tuesday that it would no longer ask police to remove passengers from full flights and would compensate customers who were on the flight when the man was removed.

In an interview with ABC's "Good Morning America" aired Wednesday, United parent company CEO Oscar Munoz said he felt "ashamed" watching video of the man being forced off the jet. He has promised to review the airline's passenger-removal policy.

Munoz, who leads United's parent company, apologized again to Kentucky physician David Dao, his family and the other passengers who witnessed him being taken off the flight.

"That is not who our family at United is," he said. "This will never happen again on a United flight. That's my promise."

In the future, law enforcement will not be involved in removing a "booked, paid, seated passenger," Munoz said. "We can't do that."

In an effort to calm the backlash, United also announced that passengers on United Express Flight 3411 would be compensated equal to the cost of their tickets. United spokeswoman Megan McCarthy said Wednesday that the passengers can take the compensation in cash, travel credits or miles.

The flight was loaded and preparing to leave Chicago's O'Hare International Airport on Sunday when the man was dragged off. Video shot by passengers showing the man's bloodied face went viral on social media, prompting a storm of protest.

Also Wednesday, a Chicago alderman said representatives from United and the city's Aviation Department have been summoned before a city council committee to answer questions about the confrontation at O'Hare Airport.

Alderman Mike Zalewski said he did not know who will represent the airline before the Aviation Committee, but Munoz has been notified of the hearing scheduled for Thursday.

Chicago Aviation Commissioner Ginger Evans will also speak.

Munoz called the incident a "system failure" and said United would reassess its procedures for seeking volunteers to give up their seats when a flight is full. United was trying to find seats for four employees, meaning four passengers had to deplane.

It was at least Munoz's fourth statement about the confrontation.

After the video first emerged, he said the airline was reaching out to the man to "resolve this situation."

Hours later on Monday, his tone turned defensive. He described the man as "disruptive and belligerent."

By Tuesday afternoon, almost two days after the Sunday evening events, Munoz issued another apology.

"No one should ever be mistreated this way," Munoz said.

The passenger was identified as Dao, a 69-year-old physician from Elizabethtown, Kentucky.

Attorneys for Dao filed court papers Wednesday asking the airline and the city of Chicago to preserve evidence in the case. Those documents are often the first steps toward a lawsuit. His legal team planned to hold a news conference Thursday to discuss the matter with reporters.

Airport officials have said little about Sunday's events and nothing about Dao's behavior before he was pulled from the jet that was bound for Louisville, Kentucky.

Likewise, the Chicago Aviation Department has said only that one of its employees who removed Dao did not follow proper procedures and has been placed on leave. The department announced Wednesday that two more officers have been placed on leave.

No passengers on the plane have mentioned that Dao did anything but refuse to leave the plane when he was ordered to do so.

The event stemmed from a common air travel issue — a full flight.

At first, the airline asked for volunteers, offering $400 and then when that did not work, $800 per passenger to relinquish a seat. When no one voluntarily came forward, United selected four passengers at random.

Three people got off the flight, but the fourth said he was a doctor and needed to get home to treat patients on Monday. He refused to leave.

That's when three Aviation Department police officers boarded the plane. When Dao refused to leave his seat, one of the officers could be seen grabbing the screaming man from his window seat and dragging him down the aisle by his arms.

Other passengers on Flight 3411 are heard saying, "Please, my God," ''What are you doing?" ''This is wrong," ''Look at what you did to him" and "Busted his lip."

The U.S. Department of Transportation announced Tuesday that it was reviewing Sunday's events to see if United violated rules on overselling flights. The four top-ranking members of the Senate Commerce Committee asked the airline and Chicago airport officials for more information about what happened.


Trump declares US-Russia relations may be at 'all-time low'

President Donald Trump listens during a news conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, April 12, 2017. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Vivian Salama & Josh Lederman

WASHINGTON (AP) — Laying bare deep and dangerous divisions on Syria and other issues, President Donald Trump declared Wednesday that U.S. relations with Russia "may be at an all-time low." His top diplomat offered a similarly grim assessment from the other side of the globe after meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.

"Right now we're not getting along with Russia at all," Trump said flatly during a White House news conference. It was stark evidence that the president is moving ever further from his campaign promises to establish better ties with Moscow.

Only weeks ago, it appeared that Trump, who praised Putin throughout the U.S. election campaign, was poised for a potentially historic rapprochement with Russia. But any such expectations have crashed into reality amid the nasty back-and-forth over Syria and ongoing U.S. investigations into Russia's alleged interference in America's U.S. presidential election.

"It'd be a fantastic thing if we got along with Putin and if we got along with Russia," Trump said. But he clearly wasn't counting on it.

"That could happen, and it may not happen," he said. "It may be just the opposite."

Not long before Trump spoke in Washington, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson struck a similar tone after an almost two-hour meeting with Putin, saying the two countries had reached a "low point" in relations.

Trump, who last week ordered airstrikes on a Syrian air base in retaliation for a chemical weapons attack, was asked Wednesday if Syria could have launched the attack without Russia's knowledge. Trump said it was "certainly possible" though "probably unlikely."

The newly hardened view of Moscow comes as the president has tried to shake suspicions about the motives behind his campaign calls for warmer relations. As the FBI and multiple congressional committees investigate possible collusion between Russia and Trump's campaign, the president and his aides can now point to his hard-line stance on Syrian President Bashar Assad as evidence he's willing to stand up to Putin.

More than 80 people were killed in what the U.S. has described as a nerve gas attack that Assad's forces undoubtedly carried out. Russia says rebels were responsible for whatever chemical agent was used, which the Trump administration calls a disinformation campaign.

Not long before Trump spoke, Russia vetoed a Western-backed U.N. resolution that would have condemned the chemical weapons attack and demanded a speedy investigation.

The dim view of U.S.-Russian ties from both Trump and Tillerson reflected the former Cold War foes' inability to forge better relations, as Trump until recently has advocated.

Allegations of collusion between Russian officials and Trump campaign associates also have weakened Trump's ability to make concessions to Russia in any agreement, lest he be accused of rewarding bad behavior. Russia wants the U.S. to eliminate sanctions on Moscow related to its 2014 annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region and support for pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Until the chemical attack, the Trump administration had sought to step back from the U.S. position that Assad should leave power. But Tillerson repeated the administration's new belief that "the reign of the Assad family is coming to an end."

Beyond Syria, Russia's alleged meddling in the U.S. presidential election also hovered over what was the first face-to-face encounter between Putin and any Trump administration Cabinet member.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov blasted U.S. claims that it has "irrefutable evidence" of election interference.

"We have not seen a single fact, or even a hint of facts," he said. "I do not know who saw them. No one showed us anything, no one said anything, although we repeatedly asked to produce the details on which these unfounded accusations lie."

He also rejected American claims of certain evidence that Assad ordered the chemical attack.

Still, Tillerson sought to stress the positives from his meetings. He said working groups would be established to improve U.S.-Russian ties and identify problems. He said the two sides would also discuss disagreements on Syria and how to end the country's six-year civil war.

But such hopes appeared optimistic as the diplomats outlined their sharply diverging views on Syria. Tillerson said Syria's government had committed more than 50 attacks using chlorine or other chemical weapons over the duration of the conflict. And he suggested that possible war crimes charges could be levied against the Syrian leader. Russia has never publicly acknowledged any such attacks by Assad's forces and has tried for the past 18 months to help him expand his authority in Syria.

The civil war is separate from the U.S.-led effort against the Islamic State group in the north of the country.

While the most immediate U.S.-Russian dispute concerns culpability for the chemical weapons, broader disagreements over everything from Ukraine to Russia's support for once-fringe candidates in European elections are among other sore points.

Tillerson was greeted frostily in the Russian capital as Lavrov began their meeting Wednesday by demanding to know America's "real intentions."

"We have seen very alarming actions recently with an unlawful attack against Syria," Lavrov said, referring to the 59 Tomahawk missiles Trump launched at an air base to punish Assad for using chemical weapons. "We consider it of utmost importance to prevent the risks of replay of similar action in the future."

Trump and others have indeed threatened similar action. But in a Fox Business Network interview, the U.S. president said he wouldn't intervene militarily against Assad unless the Syrian leader resorts to using weapons of mass destruction again. "Are we going to get involved with Syria? No," Trump said. But, he added, "I see them using gas ... we have to do something."


Syria chemical attack investigator moves on to new UN post

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The head of the international body that investigates responsibility for reports of chemical weapons use in Syria is taking a new job as the U.N. grapples with responding to another alleged poison attack.

The U.N. announced Wednesday that Virginia Gamba is becoming its special representative for children and armed conflict.

It's not immediately clear who will succeed her in leading the joint investigative initiative by the U.N. and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to assess blame for chemical attacks. She's expected to stay on for a few weeks.

The UN-OPCW investigators have blamed at least three chemical weapons attacks on Syria and one on Islamic State extremists.

A suspected April 4 chemical attack in civil war-ravaged Syria killed nearly 90 people and is under OPCW investigation.


Bangladesh militant hanged for attack aimed at British envoy

In this June 16, 2014 file photo, Mufti Abdul Hannan, center, leader of banned radical group Harkatul Jihad al Islami, stands at a court in Dhaka, Bangladesh.(AP Photo/A.M. Ahad, File)

NEW DELHI (AP) — Authorities in Bangladesh have executed a top leader of a banned militant group and two accomplices for their involvement in a grenade attack against a British diplomat at a popular Islamic shrine in 2004.

The attack killed three people and wounded several others. The main target was then-British High Commissioner Anwar Choudhury, who narrowly escaped.

Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan said Thursday that Harkatul Jihad chief Mufti Hannan and one accomplice were hanged at Kashimpur Jail outside the capital late Wednesday. The third man was executed in the northeastern district of Sylhet, also late Wednesday.

Harkatul Jihad wanted to introduce Sharia law and is blamed for other attacks between 1999 and 2005 that claimed more than 100 lives.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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United to compensate people on flight when man dragged off

Trump declares US-Russia relations may be at 'all-time low'

Syria chemical attack investigator moves on to new UN post

Bangladesh militant hanged for attack aimed at British envoy


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