Faster-moving Hawaii lava gushes into sea, spews new danger
Lava flows from fissures
near Pahoa, Hawaii in this Saturday, May 19, photo. (U.S. Geological Survey
Caleb Jones and Audrey McAvoy
Pahoa, Hawaii (AP) — A volcano
that is oozing, spewing and exploding on Hawaii's Big Island has gotten more
hazardous, sending rivers of molten rock pouring into the ocean Sunday and
launching lava skyward that caused the first major injury.
Kilauea volcano began erupting more
than two weeks ago and has burned dozens of homes, forced thousands of
people to flee and shot up ash clouds from its summit that led officials to
distribute face masks.
Lava flows have picked up speed in
recent days, spattering molten rock that hit a man in the leg.
He was outside his home Saturday in the
remote, rural region affected by the volcano when the lava "hit him on the
shin and shattered everything from there down on his leg," Janet Snyder,
Hawaii County mayor's spokeswoman, told the Hawaii News Now TV station.
Lava that's flying through the air from
cracks in the Earth can weigh as much as a refrigerator and even small
pieces can be deadly, officials said.
The injury came the same day that lava
began streaming across a highway and flowing into the ocean.
The interaction of lava and seawater
has created a cloud of steam laced with hydrochloric acid and fine glass
particles that can irrigate the skin and eyes and cause breathing problems.
The lava haze, or "laze," extended as
far as 15 miles (24 kilometers) west of where the lava gushed into the ocean
on the Big Island's southern coast. It was just offshore and running
parallel to the coast, said U.S. Geological Survey scientist Wendy Stovall.
Authorities warn that the plume could
shift direction if the winds change. The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory says
sulfur dioxide emissions also have tripled.
Residents in the area have been
evacuated, and the highway that the lava crossed has shut down in places.
Joseph Kekedi, an orchid grower who
lives and works about 3 miles (5 kilometers) from where lava is pouring into
the sea, said luckily the flow didn't head his way. At one point, it was
about a mile upslope from his property in the coastal community of Kapoho.
He said residents can't do much but
stay informed and be ready to get out of the way.
"Here's nature reminding us again who's
boss," Kekedi said.
He is hosting a 90-year-old who
evacuated from the Leilani Estates neighborhood, where lava started spewing
May 3. He also was storing belongings for other friends who had to leave
Kekedi said most of his neighbors are
optimistic. He has friends who lost houses when lava smothered the town of
Kalapana in the 1990s but they built again, found a good life and "life went
Scientists say they don't know how long
the eruption will last. The volcano has opened more than 20 vents, including
four that have merged into one large crack. It has been gushing lava high
into the sky and sending a river of molten rock toward the ocean at about
300 yards (274 meters) per hour.
The flows accelerated after newer lava
began emerging from the ground late last week. The fresher lava is hotter
and tends to move faster than the older lava that was unleashed earlier.
Scientists say the older lava is likely
from magma that Kilauea has been storing underground since the volcano last
erupted in 1955.
The area affected by lava and ash is
small compared with the Big Island, which is about 4,000 square miles
(10,360 square kilometers). The volcano has spared most of the island and
the rest of the Hawaiian chain.
Officials reminded tourists that
flights have not been affected, even on the Big Island. There, travelers are
free to do most of the usual sightseeing activities that aren't associated
with the erupting volcano.
Malaysia ex-leader seeks police protection amid graft probe
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak gestures during his speech at United
Malays National Organization (UMNO) building in Pekan, Malaysia, Sunday, May
20. (AP Photo/Sadiq Asyraf)
Pekan, Malaysia (AP) — Former
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, who is under investigation for a
massive corruption scandal, has sought police protection over concern about
his family's safety, Malaysia's national news agency reported Sunday.
Najib's long-ruling coalition suffered
a shocking defeat in May 9 elections amid anger over at least $4.5 billion
that investigators say was looted and laundered by Najib's associates from a
state investment fund he set up. The new government has reopened an
investigation into the case, with police raiding Najib's properties and
seizing more than 300 expensive handbags as well as suitcases filled with
cash, jewelry and other valuables.
Najib and his wife have been barred
from leaving the country.
"Najib has lodged a police report
asking for protection for himself and his family as they fear for their
safety after the 14th general election," a Najib spokesman told Bernama news
agency. He didn't give details.
Najib's main aide said he couldn't
immediately comment when contacted.
The Malay Mail newspaper said Najib
sought protection due to "clear threats" made, but gave no details.
Police have been stationed outside
Najib's house in Kuala Lumpur since he failed to win a third term in office.
On Sunday, he was escorted by police as
he traveled back to his hometown of Pekan in central Pahang state.
Najib, 64, has been summoned by the
Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission for questioning on Tuesday. A
government official said he could possibly be detained after that.
Abdul Kadir Jasin, a spokesman for a
new government advisory council, said an investigation had already been
conducted in the past but was suppressed by Najib while he was in power.
"The chances are that he will give his
statement and then be arrested," Abdul Kadir wrote on his blog.
At a party event Sunday in Pekan, Najib
reiterated that he "didn't steal money from the people" and that the loss of
his coalition — which had led Malaysia since independence from Britain in
1957 — was due to a vicious personal attack against him based on slander and
"The people of Pekan know me. I am not
a thief. I am not a rogue," he said. "To topple the party, they had to
target the president. They would do anything as long as my brand was
He said he handed over power to the new
government without fuss but lamented that he wasn't treated well. He slammed
raids on apartments occupied by his children, accusing police of taking baby
shoes and wedding gifts that were unrelated to the 1MDB case.
Congo to begin vaccinating against Ebola on Monday
photo taken Monday, May 14, members of a Red Cross team don protective
clothing before heading out to look for suspected victims of Ebola, in
Mbandaka, Congo. (Karsten Voigt/International Federation of Red Cross and
Red Crescent Societies via AP)
Kinshasa, Congo (AP) — Congo
will begin administering an experimental Ebola vaccine Monday in Mbandaka,
the northwestern city of 1.2 million where the deadly disease has infected
some residents, Congo's health minister announced.
"The vaccination campaign begins
tomorrow, Monday, in Mbandaka, capital of the province. It will target,
first, the health staff, the contacts of the sick and the contacts of the
contacts," Minister of Health Oly Ilunga told The Associated Press Sunday.
The death toll of the current Ebola
outbreak has risen to 26.
Initially, the campaign will target 600
people, mainly medical staff, contacts of suspected cases, and those who
have been in contact with the contacts, said Ilunga. Officials are working
urgently to prevent the disease from spreading beyond Mbandaka, which lies
on the Congo River, a busy traffic corridor, and is an hour's flight from
More than 4,000 doses are already in
Congo and more are on the way, according to officials. The vaccine is still
in the test stages, but it was effective in the West Africa outbreak a few
A major challenge will be keeping the
vaccines cold in this vast, impoverished, tropical country where
infrastructure is poor.
Four new cases have been confirmed as
Ebola, said the health ministry in a statement released early Sunday. A
total of 46 cases of hemorrhagic fever have been reported, including 21
confirmed cases of Ebola, 21 probable and four suspected.
Congo President Joseph Kabila and his
Cabinet agreed Saturday to increase funds for the Ebola emergency to more
than $4 million. The Cabinet also endorsed the decision to provide free
health care in the affected areas and to provide special care to all Ebola
victims and their relatives.
The spread of Ebola from a rural area
to Mbandaka has raised alarm as Ebola can spread more quickly in urban
centers. The fever can cause severe internal bleeding that is often fatal.
The risk of Ebola spreading within
Congo is "very high" and the disease could also move into nine neighboring
countries, the World Health Organization has warned. The WHO, however,
stopped short of declaring the outbreak a global health emergency. WHO said
there should not be restrictions to international travel or trade.
While Congo has contained several Ebola
outbreaks in the past, all of them were based in remote rural areas. The
virus has twice made it to Kinshasa, Congo's capital of 10 million people,
but was effectively contained.
The outbreak was declared more than a
week ago in Congo's remote northwest and its spread has some Congolese
"Even if it's not happening here yet, I
have to reduce contact with people. May God protect us in any case," Grace
Ekofo, a 23-year-old student in Kinshasa, told AP.
Schools in Mbandaka are implementing
preventive measures by instructing students not to greet each other by
shaking hands or kissing, said teacher Jean Mopono, 53.
"We pray that this epidemic does not
take place here," Mopono said.
The WHO appears to be moving swiftly to
contain this latest epidemic, experts said. The health organization was
accused of bungling its response to the earlier West Africa outbreak —the
biggest Ebola outbreak in history which resulted in more than 11,000 deaths.
There is "strong reason to believe this
situation can be brought under control," said Robert Steffen, who chaired
the WHO expert meeting last week. But without a vigorous response, "the
situation is likely to deteriorate significantly," he said.
This is Congo's ninth Ebola outbreak
since 1976, when the disease was first identified. The virus is initially
transmitted to people from wild animals, including bats and monkeys. It is
spread via contact with bodily fluids of those infected.
There is no specific treatment for
Ebola. Symptoms include fever, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle pain and at times
internal and external bleeding. The virus can be fatal in up to 90 percent
of cases, depending on the strain.
Italian populist says he and rival have deal on new premier
Saturday, May 19, photo, the League party leader, Matteo Salvini, meets
reporters in Milan, Italy. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)
Rome (AP) — One of Italy's two
main populist leaders said Sunday that he and his rival finally have agreed
on who should be the next premier - neither of them - in what would be the
nation's first populist-led government.
Exactly 11 weeks after a parliamentary
election with inconclusive results created political gridlock, League leader
Matteo Salvini said he and 5-Star Movement leader Luigi Di Maio have settled
both on a choice for premier and the makeup of the Cabinet.
In that coalition government, which
should take power soon, "neither I nor Di Maio" will be premier, Salvini
He and Di Maio will reveal their
premier pick to Italian President Sergio Mattarella. Their agreed on
candidate, he said, "mirrors the vote of the majority of Italians" on March
Italian media say the president, who is
head of state, is expected to summon the two political leaders to the
presidential palace on Monday.
If Mattarella is convinced their choice
can muster a solid majority in Parliament, he can give a mandate to the
premier-designate to try to forge a coalition government that would have to
win confidence votes in both chambers,
"Obviously, the prerogative is now in
the hands of the president, he'll decide the steps to take," Di Maio said.
Right after the March parliamentary
election, Di Maio and Salvini each staked a claim to be premier.
Di Maio's 5-Stars won some 32 percent
of the vote, making the movement Parliament's largest party and positioning
it to enter government for the first time.
Salvini's anti-migrant League, a
euroskeptic party like the movement, took 17 percent, the best showing among
the factions in a center-right campaign coalition.
The coalition, which included former
Premier Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia party, is now Parliament's largest
bloc, but far short of an absolute majority. Berlusconi refused to ally
Forza Italia in any coalition with the 5-Stars, saying the antiestablishment
movement was dangerous to democracy.
After weeks of dead-end negotiations
involving various other combinations of political forces, including the
outgoing center-left Democrats, Mattarella asked Salvini and Di Maio to see
if they could unite in a viable coalition.
Together, their lawmakers account for
just over 50 percent of the seats in Parliament.
Airliner with 110 aboard crashes in Cuba, 3 said to survive
Forensic investigators and Ministry of Interior
officers sift through remains of a Boeing 737 that plummeted into a yuca
field with more than 100 passengers on board, in Havana, Cuba, Friday, May
18. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
Andrea Rodriguez and Michael Weissenstein
Havana (AP) — A 39-year-old
airliner with 110 people aboard crashed and burned in a cassava field just
after taking off from the Havana airport Friday, leaving three survivors in
Cuba's worst aviation disaster in three decades, officials said.
The Boeing 737 went down just after
noon a short distance from the end of the runway at Jose Marti International
Airport while on a short-hop flight to the eastern city of Holguin.
Firefighters rushed to extinguish the flames that engulfed the field of
debris left where Cubana Flight 972 hit the ground.
"There is a high number of people who
appear to have died," Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel said from the scene.
"Things have been organized, the fire has been put out, and the remains are
Relatives of those aboard were ushered
into a private area at the terminal to await word on their loved ones.
"My daughter is 24, my God, she's only
24!" cried Beatriz Pantoja, whose daughter Leticia was on the plane.
State TV said the jet veered sharply to
the right after takeoff, and Diaz-Canel said a special commission had been
formed to investigate the cause of the crash.
"The only thing we heard, when we were
checking in, an explosion, the lights went out in the airport and we looked
out and saw black smoke rising and they told us a plane had crashed,"
Argentine tourist Brian Horanbuena told The Associated Press at the airport.
Skies were overcast and rainy at the
airport at the time of the incident, with winds reportedly around 4 mph (6
Authorities said there were 104
passengers and six crew members on the flight operated by the Cuban state
airline. Mexican authorities said the Boeing 737-201 was built in 1979 and
rented by Cubana from Aerolineas Damojh, a small charter company that also
goes by the name Global Air.
A statement from the country's
Transportation Department identified the pilot and co-pilot as Capt. Jorge
Luis Nunez Santos and first officer Miguel Angel Arreola Ramirez. It said
the flight attendants were Maria Daniela Rios, Abigail Hernandez Garcia and
Beatriz Limon. Global Air said maintenance worker Marco Antonio Lopez Perez
was also aboard.
Outside the company's Mexico City
offices, former Global Air flight attendant Ana Marlen Covarrubias said she
had worked for the company for over seven years and knows nearly all the
"I don't have the words. I'm very sad.
We're in mourning," a she said in tears. "It was something really, really,
really terrible; a tragedy for us."
In addition to the Mexican crew, Cuban
Communist Party newspaper Granma reported that the passengers were mostly
Cubans plus five foreigners from countries it did not identify. Argentina's
Foreign Ministry said two of its citizens had died in the crash.
In November 2010 a Global Air flight
originating in Mexico City made an emergency landing in Puerto Vallarta
because its front landing gear did not deploy. The fire was quickly
extinguished, and none of the 104 people aboard were injured. That plane was
a 737 first put into service in 1975.
Mexican aviation authorities said a
team of experts would fly to Cuba on Saturday to take part in the
Cubana has had a generally good safety
record but is notorious for delays and cancellations and has taken many of
its planes out of service because of maintenance problems in recent months,
prompting it to hire charter aircraft from other companies.
Four crash survivors were taken to a
Havana hospital, and three remained alive as of mid-afternoon, hospital
director Martinez Blanco told Cuban state TV.
State media reports stopped short of
openly declaring the rest on board were dead, but there was no word of other
survivors by Friday evening.
Cuban First Vice President Salvador
Valdes Mesa had met with Cubana officials on Thursday to discuss
improvements to its service. The airline blames its spotty record on a lack
of parts and airplanes because of the U.S. trade embargo against the
It was Cuba's third major aviation
accident since 2010.
Last year a Cuban military plane
crashed into a hillside in the western province of Artemisa, killing eight
soldiers. In 2010, an AeroCaribbean flight from Santiago to Havana went down
in bad weather, killing all 68 people aboard, including 28 foreigners, in
what was the country's worst air disaster in more than two decades.
The last deadly accident involving a
Cubana-operated plane was in 1989, when a charter flight from Havana to
Milan, Italy, crashed shortly after takeoff, killing all 126 people on board
and at least two dozen on the ground.
Cubana's director general, Capt. Hermes
Hernandez Dumas, told state media last month that the airline's domestic
flights had carried 11,700 more passengers than planned between January and
He said 64 percent of flights took off
on time, up from 59 percent the previous year.
Texas school shooting kills 10, deadliest since Parkland
prays in the grass outside the Alamo Gym where parents wait to reunite with
their kids following a shooting at Santa Fe High School Friday, May 18, in
Santa Fe, Texas. (Michael Ciaglo/Houston Chronicle via AP)
Juan A. Lozano
Santa Fe, Texas (AP) — A
17-year-old armed with a shotgun and a pistol opened fire at a Houston-area
high school Friday, killing 10 people, most of them students, authorities
said. It was the nation's deadliest such attack since the massacre in
Florida that gave rise to a campaign by teens for gun control.
The suspected shooter, who was in
custody on murder charges, also had explosive devices that were found in the
school and nearby, said Gov. Greg Abbott, who called the assault "one of the
most heinous attacks that we've ever seen in the history of Texas schools."
Investigators offered no immediate
motive for the shooting. The governor said the assailant intended to kill
himself but gave up and told police that he did not have the courage to take
his own life.
The deaths were all but certain to
re-ignite the national debate over gun regulations, coming just three months
after the Parkland, Florida, attack that killed 17 people at Marjory
Stoneman Douglas High School.
"It's been happening everywhere. I've
always kind of felt like that eventually it was going to happen here, too,"
Santa Fe High School student Paige Curry told Houston television station
KTRK. "I don't know. I wasn't surprised. I was just scared."
Another 10 people were wounded at the
school in Santa Fe, a city of about 13,000 people roughly 30 miles (48
kilometers) southeast of Houston, the governor said. The wounded included a
school police officer who was the first to confront the suspect and got shot
in the arm.
Hospitals reported treating a total of
14 people for injuries related to the shooting.
Zachary Muehe, a sophomore, was in his
art class when he heard three loud booms.
Muehe told The New York Times that a
student he knew from football was armed with a shotgun and was wearing a
shirt emblazoned with the slogan "Born to Kill."
"It was crazy watching him shoot and
then pump. I remember seeing the shrapnel from the tables, whatever he hit.
I remember seeing the shrapnel go past my face," he told The Times.
Michael Farina, 17, said he was on the
other side of campus when the shooting began. He heard a fire alarm and
thought it was a drill. He was holding a door open for special education
students in wheelchairs when a principal came bounding down the hall and
telling everyone to run. Another teacher yelled out, "It is real!"
Students were led to take cover behind
a car shop across the street from the school. Some still did not feel safe
and began jumping the fence behind the shop to run even farther away, Farina
"I debated doing that myself," he said.
The gunman yelled "Surprise" before he
started shooting, according to Texas Rep. Michael McCaul, the chairman of
the House Homeland Security Committee.
The suspect was identified as Dimitrios
Pagourtzis, who appeared to have no prior arrests or confrontations with law
enforcement. A woman who answered the phone at a number associated with the
Pagourtzis family declined to speak with the AP.
"Give us our time right now, thank
you," she said.
Pagourtzis made his initial court
appearance Friday evening by video link from the Galveston County Jail. A
judge denied bond and took his application for a court-appointed attorney.
McCaul, a former federal prosecutor,
said he expects the Justice Department to pursue additional charges,
possibly involving weapons of mass destruction.
Pagourtzis played on the junior varsity
football team and was a member of a dance squad with a local Greek Orthodox
church. Acquaintances described him as quiet and unassuming, an avid video
game player who routinely wore a black trench coat and black boots to class.
The suspect obtained the shotgun and a
.38-caliber handgun from his father, who owned them legally, Abbott said. It
was not clear whether the father knew his son had taken them.
Investigators were determining whether
the shotgun's shortened barrel was legal, Texas Sen. John Cornyn said.
The assailant's homemade explosives
included pipe bombs, at least one Molotov cocktail and pressure-cooker bombs
similar to those used in the Boston Marathon attack, authorities said.
While cable news channels carried hours
of live coverage, survivors of the Feb. 14 Florida attack took to social
media to express grief and outrage.
"My heart is so heavy for the students
of Santa Fe High School. It's an all too familiar feeling no one should have
to experience. I am so sorry this epidemic touched your town — Parkland will
stand with you now and forever," Marjory Stoneman Douglas student Jaclyn
Corin said in a tweet.
She also directed her frustration at
President Donald Trump, writing "Our children are being MURDERED and you're
treating this like a game. This is the 22nd school shooting just this year.
In Texas, senior Logan Roberds said he
was near the school's art room when he heard the fire alarm and left the
building with other students. Once outside, Roberds said, he heard two loud
bangs. He initially thought somebody was loudly hitting a trash can. Then
came three more bangs.
"That's when the teachers told us to
run," he said.
At that point, Roberds said, he told
himself, "Oh my God, this is not fake. This is actually happening."
Roberds said additional gun-control
measures are not needed, citing the need for defense against intruders.
"What are you going to do if some guy
comes in your house and points a gun at you? You can't do nothing with a
knife," he said.
Friday's assault was the deadliest in
Texas since a man with a semi-automatic rifle attacked a rural church late
last year, killing more than two dozen people.
There were few prior clues about
Pagourtzis' behavior, unlike the shootings in Parkland and the church in
Sutherland Springs, Abbott said, but the teen wrote in journals of wanting
to carry out such an attack and then to end his own life.
"This young man planned on doing this
for some time. He advertised his intentions but somehow slipped through the
cracks," Cornyn said.
In the aftermath of the Florida
assault, survivors pulled all-nighters, petitioned city councils and state
lawmakers, and organized protests in a grass-roots movement. Within weeks,
state lawmakers adopted changes, including new weapons restrictions.
In late March, the teens spearheaded
one of the largest student protest marches since Vietnam in Washington and
inspired hundreds of other marches from California to Japan.
The calls for tighter gun controls have
barely registered in gun-loving Texas — at least to this point.
Texas has some of the most permissive
gun laws in the U.S. and just hosted the NRA's annual conference earlier
this month. In the run-up to the March primary election, gun control was not
a main issue with candidates of either party. Republicans did not soften
their views on guns, and Democrats campaigned on a range of issues instead
of zeroing in on gun violence.
Windsor gears up for royal wedding, embraces Harry, Meghan
rings his bell in front of Windsor Castle in Windsor, Friday, May 18, 2018.
Preparations are being made in the town ahead of the wedding of Britain's
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle that will take place in Windsor on Saturday
May 19.(AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
Jill Lawless and Gregory Katz
Windsor, England (AP) — Meghan
Markle will have an heir to the British throne walk her down the aisle — and
have her mother and friends on hand for support — when she marries Prince
Harry at Windsor Castle.
Friday's announcement that Markle has
asked her future father-in-law Prince Charles to offer a supporting elbow,
stepping in for Markle's father after he became ill, meant arrangements were
almost complete for Saturday's royal wedding.
The event's mix of royalty, celebrity,
pomp and ceremony has drawn stratospheric levels of interest around the
world and will be broadcast live to tens of millions.
Kensington Palace said Prince Charles
"is pleased to be able to welcome Ms. Markle to the royal family in this
way" after Markle's father Thomas was unable to attend due to illness.
Thousands of well-wishers descended
Friday on Windsor amid final preparations for the wedding, which has drawn
royal fans and an international media throng to the castle town and royal
residence 25 miles (40 kilometers) west of London.
Union Jacks have been unfurled,
security barriers and police patrols put into place and fans were already
camping out to capture the prime viewing positions for Saturday's royal
carriage ride through the town.
Harry and Prince William, his brother
and best-man, delighted royal fans when they emerged from Windsor Castle
late Friday afternoon to greet well-wishers.
If Harry was feeling nervous, he didn't
show it. The smiling prince gave a thumb's up and answered "Great, thank
you" when asked how he was feeling on the eve of his wedding. The
33-year-old prince accepted a teddy bear from one well-wisher as he chatted
to people from Britain, the United States, Canada and elsewhere.
Tens of thousands of spectators,
including many Americans who have come in support of the California-born
Markle, are expected in Windsor to soak up the royal atmosphere. British
police say they will be subject to airport-style security scanners and bag
searches. Metal barriers have also been erected to stop vehicle attacks like
the ones that killed several people on London and Westminster bridges last
Sniffer dogs and mounted patrols are
also out and about, and well-wishers have been asked not to throw confetti
when the newlyweds ride through town in a horse-drawn carriage Saturday.
"It poses a potential security risk and
it's a bit of a pain to clean up!" said Thames Valley Police.
Buckingham Palace also announced that
Queen Elizabeth II's husband the Duke of Edinburgh will attend the royal
wedding, just a few weeks after undergoing a hip replacement operation.
Harry's 96-year-old grandfather has largely retired from public duties and
it had not been clear earlier whether he would be well enough to attend.
Markle's mother, Doria Ragland, flew to
England from her California home earlier in the week and had tea Friday with
the queen at Windsor Castle. It was her first meeting with a head of state
within whom she's about to share a family bond.
On Thursday, Ragland dined with
William's family and a day earlier she met Charles and his wife Camilla.
Ragland had been was the bookies'
favorite to escort the bride down the aisle, but Charles has a lifetime of
experience in appearing at large-scale public events amid intense scrutiny.
"I think some people will be
disappointed — people who were looking forward to the historic moment of a
woman walking her daughter down the aisle, and a woman of mixed race
heritage from America. It would have made an historic shot," said royal
historian Robert Lacey.
But, he added, "for Prince Charles, the
future king, to walk a bride down the aisle, what more could Meghan dream
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby,
who will conduct the wedding ceremony, said Charles is "a very warm person
and that he's doing this is a sign of his love and concern and support. And
I think it's wonderful. It's beautiful."
The archbishop also said Harry and
Markle are "a very self-possessed couple" and the atmosphere in rehearsals
has been "relaxed, laughing and enjoyable."
It's not the first time a royal bride
hasn't been walked down the aisle by her father. The monarch's sister, the
late Princess Margaret, was walked down the aisle by Prince Philip because
her father was dead. Queen Victoria walked two daughters down the aisle.
Roseline Morris, 35-year-old fan from
Basildon, England, noted that Charles hasn't got a daughter himself.
"He's never going to get the chance to
walk a daughter down the aisle, so this will be nice for him as well," she
Having the father of the groom escort
the bride is yet another twist in a royal wedding that is proving to be
different from many others.
Master baker Claire Ptak said Friday
that the royal wedding cake — a three-part layered lemon and elderflower
cake — will have an "ethereal" taste and be presented in a non-traditional
Markle will not have a maid of honor
but there will be 10 young bridesmaids and page boys, including 4-year-old
Prince George and 3-year-old Princess Charlotte, the elder children of
William and his wife Kate.
The 600 invited guests include members
of the royal family and celebrity friends of Harry and Meghan's including,
it's rumored, Elton John. Also invited are several of Markle's co-stars from
the legal TV drama "Suits."
The couple will be married by Welby in
a Church of England ceremony, but the Most Rev. Michael Curry, the first
black presiding bishop of the U.S. Episcopal Church, will also deliver a
Curry — the son of an American civil
rights activist and the descendant of African slaves — has spoken out for
gay rights and plans to join a march on the White House next week to reject
U.S. President Donald Trump's "America first" stance.
On Friday, Curry said seeing the couple
up close, he saw "two real people who are obviously in love."
"When I see them, something in my heart
leaps," he said. "That's why 2 billion people are watching them."
Malaysians transfixed by luxury goods seized from ex-PM flat
containing confiscated items are put inside a police truck in Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia Friday, May 18. (AP Photo)
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (AP) — In
10 days of dramatic political developments, none has transfixed Malaysians
more than the sight of truckloads of orange boxes containing Hermes Birkin
handbags and luggage filled with cash and jewelry being seized from
apartments linked to former Prime Minister Najib Razak.
Najib's wife, Rosmah Mansor, was known
for her love of Birkin bags and her opulent lifestyle, but television
footage of the police haul has Malaysia gasping with shock. It is possibly
the most sensational image of elite corruption in Asia in the three decades
since former Philippine first lady Imelda Marcos and her extravagant
collection of designer shoes.
Thousands of Malaysians followed a
livestream on social media of the police raid at an upscale condominium in
Kuala Lumpur late Thursday that was part of a corruption and
money-laundering investigation into the 1MDB state investment fund that
Najib set up and is being investigated abroad.
Police said Friday they confiscated 284
handbags, mostly Birkins, and 72 suitcases containing cash, jewelry, watches
and other valuable items that filled five police trucks from the
condominium. In addition, police seized dozens of other designer handbags,
cash and other valuables from Najib's house.
The labels on some of the boxes seen by
The Associated Press described some of the bags as a "navy blue crocodile
skin with diamond," a "blue with diamonte" crocodile skin Hermes and a gray
crocodile skin Hermes. All appeared to be new and bought abroad, including
in Paris and Switzerland in 2013 and 2015. Luxury publications say a Birkin
can cost from $12,000 to more than $200,000.
Rosmah's fetish for bags has been
compared to Marcos' collection of shoes. More than 1,200 pairs of designer
shoes including gold-trimmed imports were found in the Philippine
presidential palace after she and her dictator husband, President Ferdinand
Marcos, fled a "people power" revolt that toppled the regime in 1986.
Ferdinand Marcos used his power to
accumulate an estimated $5 billion to $10 billion, but it was his wife's
treasures that stamped the couple's excesses in the collective memory of
their poor nation and the world.
Rosmah was reviled by many Malaysians
as an avaricious first lady and similar to Marcos, her collection of bags
and jewelry, which allegedly includes a $23 million rare pink diamond
necklace bought with 1MDB money, reflected the extent of the family's
U.S. investigators say Najib's
associates stole and laundered $4.5 billion from the fund, some of which
also landed in Najib's bank account. Najib, whose coalition was ousted in a
stunning election defeat after 60 years in power last week, denies any
An official at the Malaysian
Anti-Corruption Commission said Najib has been summoned for questioning as
part of its 1MDB probe. The official, who declined to be named because the
case is sensitive, said a notice has been served on Najib to appear at the
commission's office on Tuesday.
Police commercial crime chief Amar
Singh said simultaneous raids were also conducted at several other locations
including Najib's family house, his former office as prime minister and an
official residence. Documents related to 1MDB were taken from the office and
police are still trying to crack open a safe in Najib's house, he said.
Singh declined to say if the haul would
lead to an indictment of Najib. The search for evidence continues, he said.
Social media was filled with comments
from angry Malaysians who want to see Najib and his wife jailed. In
contrast, new Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad was lauded for being thrifty
after being spotted at an event wearing a $4 pair of locally made sandals.
Mahathir, 92, reopened a probe into
1MDB after leading an opposition alliance to victory in the May 9 polls. He
was prime minister for 22 years until 2003 but emerged from retirement
spurred by anger over the 1MDB scandal.
Mahathir, now the world's oldest
elected leader, has said initial investigations showed the scale of
wrongdoing by Najib's administration was more serious than thought. He said
arrests will be made when there is evidence, and there would be "no deal"
Police have spent 20 hours since late
Wednesday searching Najib's house, and several police cars arrived at
Najib's house Friday morning, fueling speculation his arrest may be
imminent. Najib and his wife have been barred from traveling overseas.
Mahathir has said the government will
seek to retrieve billions of dollars laundered from 1MDB to repay government
debts that have piled up over the years. The government has also told the
current attorney general, who cleared Najib of wrongdoing in 2016, to go on
leave, and has relieved the country's treasury chief, who is also the 1MDB
The government has set up a five-member
committee, including a former attorney general and an adviser to Indonesia's
Financial Services Authority, to handle the 1MDB case.
Saudi arrests activists who campaigned for women's driving
30, 2014 image made from video released by Loujain al-Hathloul, shows her
driving towards the United Arab Emirates - Saudi Arabia border before her
arrest on Dec. 1, 2014, in Saudi Arabia. (AP Photo/Loujain al-Hathloul)
Dubai, United Arab Emirates (AP) —
Saudi authorities have detained at least six activists, including three of
the country's most prominent women's rights campaigners, just weeks before
the kingdom is set to lift a ban on women driving, people familiar with the
arrests said Friday.
The Associated Press spoke with two
people in touch with the detainees' relatives. One activist, who spoke on
condition of anonymity for fear of repercussion, said five were arrested on
Tuesday and the sixth person was detained on Thursday. Several more are
feared to be detained and others have been banned from traveling abroad by
The government has not commented on the
arrests and government spokespeople did not immediately respond to a request
The crackdown on prominent activists
comes just six weeks before Saudi Arabia is set to lift the world's only ban
on women driving on June 24. It is seen as a significant step toward greater
women's rights in the kingdom.
Among those detained since Tuesday is
Loujain al-Hathloul, who was arrested in late 2014 and held for more than 70
days for criticizing the government online and pushing for the right to
Others arrested include Eman al-Nafjan
and Aziza al-Yousef, two of the most well-known women's rights activists in
the kingdom who for years had campaigned for the right to drive and were
involved in human rights issues in the kingdom. Al-Nafjan and al-Yousef have
both taught at state-run universities and are mothers, with al-Yousef also a
The three women had also called for an
end to other less visible forms of discrimination in Saudi Arabia, such as
guardianship laws that give male relatives final say on whether a woman can
travel abroad, obtain a passport or marry.
When the kingdom issued its stunning
royal decree last year announcing that women would be allowed to drive in
2018, women like al-Nafjan and al-Yousef were contacted by the royal court
and warned against giving interviews to the media or speaking out on social
Following the warnings, some women left
the country for a period of time and others stopped voicing their opinions
Activists say it's not clear why the
group of six, including four women and two men, have been arrested now.
Among the men detained is lawyer Ibrahim al-Mudimigh, who previously
defended al-Hathloul in court.
As activists remain under pressure to
keep silent, credit for reforms, such as lifting the ban on women driving,
has largely gone to the king's 32-year-old son and heir, Crown Prince
Mohammed bin Salman. He has relaxed some of the country's ultraconservative
rules by allowing women into stadiums to watch sports and bringing back
musical concerts and movie theaters.
Such measures, however, are more about
boosting the economy and improving the country's image abroad, and less
about promoting personal freedoms. The kingdom remains an absolute monarchy
where protests are illegal and where the king and his son oversee all major
Last year, Prince Mohammed oversaw the
arrests of high-level princes and businessmen in a purported anti-corruption
sweep that forced detainees to sign over significant portions of their
wealth in exchange for their freedom.
Security forces also arrested last year
dozens of writers, intellectuals and moderate clerics who were perceived as
critics of his foreign policies, according to activists.
Human Rights Watch says the number of
people held for excessively long periods has apparently increased
dramatically in recent years in Saudi Arabia. The rights group, which
analyzed a public database, said on May 6 that 2,305 people have been
detained for more than six months without being referred to a judge. Another
1,875 have been held "under investigation" for more than a year, and 251 for
over three years.
Study says China-backed dam would destroy Mekong
walks with her child at the fishermen's village of Kbal Chroy on the Mekong
River bank near Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, May 17. (AP Photo/Heng
Bangkok (AP) — A Chinese-backed
plan for Cambodia to build the Mekong River's biggest dam would destroy
fisheries that feed millions and worsen tensions with Vietnam, the
downstream country with most to lose from dams on the waterway, according to
a three-year study commissioned by the Cambodian government.
The report, posted this month on the
website of the U.S.-based organization that conducted the study, said the
Sambor dam would "generate large power benefits to Cambodia, but at the
probable cost of the destruction of the Mekong fishery, and the certain
enmity of Vietnam."
It said the dam designed by China
Southern Power Grid Co. would have a 620 square kilometer (239 square mile)
reservoir and dwarf the biggest dam currently being built on the Mekong, the
Xayaburi dam in Laos, which was bitterly opposed by environmentalists for
The experts at the Natural Heritage
Institute who authored the report, submitted to the Cambodian government
late last year, recommended it defer the project while studying "better"
alternatives such as using solar power to augment existing hydroelectric
Alternative sites upstream where the
Mekong separates into several channels are possible but either financially
unfeasible or only marginally less destructive than the site currently
envisaged for the 2,600 megawatt dam, the study said. Possible mitigation
measures are either unproven or have a poor track record, it said.
The dam would block fish migration from
the giant Tonle Sap lake in Cambodia which is crucial for reproduction and
replenishing what scientists say is the world's most productive fresh-water
fishery. It would also prevent riverbed sediment that fertilizes the Mekong
Delta rice bowl from moving down river, a particular problem for Vietnam
where delta farmlands are being destroyed by saltwater incursion from the
"The dam and the reservoir would create
a barrier that would be devastating for the migratory fish stocks," the
It also warned that a population of
about 80 critically endangered Irrawaddy river dolphins would likely be
wiped out because the deep river pools they use as a dry season refuge would
become filled with sediment blocked by the dam.
Cambodia's government, closely allied
with China, its northern neighbor, and the recipient of substantial Chinese
aid and investment, has not publicly commented on the report.
Seven dams that China built on the
Mekong headwaters in its territory are already a headache for Southeast
Asian countries, reducing the amount of sediment floating downstream by as
much as half, according to researchers.
The Chinese dams were blamed for
exacerbating a Southeast Asian drought in 2016, but countries in the region
are pressing ahead with plans for Chinese companies to build a slew of other
Mekong dams to meet growing demand for energy. Laos, one of the poorest
countries in Asia, is pinning development hopes on becoming a source of
power for its neighbors.
Congo's Ebola outbreak reports 1st confirmed urban case
photo taken Saturday, May 12, health workers don protective clothing as they
prepare to attend to suspected Ebola patients at Bikoro Hospital in Bikoro,
Congo. (Mark Naftalin/UNICEF via AP)
Saleh Mwanamilongo and Carley Petesch
Kinshasa, Congo (AP) — Congo's
latest Ebola outbreak has spread to a city of more than 1 million people, a
worrying shift as the deadly virus risks traveling more easily in densely
Medical teams hurried to track down
anyone thought to have had contact with infected people as this vast,
impoverished nation — a veteran of eight previous Ebola outbreaks — for the
first time is fighting the virus in an urban area.
Two suspected cases of hemorrhagic
fever were reported in the Wangata health zones that include Mbandaka, the
capital of northwestern Equateur province. The city is about 150 kilometers
(93 miles) from Bikoro, the rural area where the outbreak was announced last
week, said Congo's Health Minister Oly Ilunga.
One sample proved positive for Ebola,
he said. That brings to three the number of confirmed Ebola cases. A total
of 44 cases have now been reported, including 23 deaths, according to the
World Health Organization. The total includes 20 probable cases and 21
"We are entering a new phase of the
Ebola outbreak that is now affecting three health zones, including an urban
health zone," Ilunga said, adding he was worried because Mbandaka is densely
populated and at the crossroads of Equateur province.
The city of almost 1.2 million is on
the Congo River, a busy travel corridor in the vast country and upstream
from the capital, Kinshasa, a city of about 10 million. Mbandaka is an
hour's plane ride from Kinshasa or a four-to-seven-day trip by river barge,
according to a map issued Thursday by the United Nations.
"Since the announcement of the alert in
Mbandaka, our epidemiologists are working in the field with community relays
to identify people who have been in contact with suspected cases," Ilunga
said. WHO said it was deploying about 30 experts to conduct surveillance in
The aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres
said 514 people who are thought to have been in contact with infected people
were now being monitored.
Those exposed to the suspected Ebola
cases will for the first time in Congo receive Ebola vaccinations, the
health minister said.
WHO has sent 4,000 doses of the
experimental Ebola vaccine to Congo and said it will send thousands more in
the coming days as needed.
"This is a concerning development but
we now have better tools than ever before to combat Ebola," Tedros Adhanom
Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, said of the new urban case.
The experimental vaccine has been shown
to be highly effective against Ebola. It was tested in Guinea during the
outbreak that killed more than 11,300 people in West Africa from 2014 to
2016. The vaccine is thought to be effective against the Zaire strain of
Ebola found in Congo.
WHO has said it will use the "ring
vaccination" method. It involves vaccinating contacts of cases and suspected
cases, contacts of those contacts and health care and other front-line
This is the ninth Ebola outbreak in
Congo since 1976, when the deadly disease was first identified.
There is no specific treatment for
Ebola, which is spread through the bodily fluids of people exhibiting
symptoms or those who have died from the disease. Symptoms include fever,
vomiting, diarrhea, muscle pain and at times internal and external bleeding.
Without preventive measures, the virus
can spread quickly and is fatal in up to 90 percent of cases.
18 acquitted in massive Brussels Airport 2013 diamond heist
Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013 file photo, baggage carts make their way past a
Helvetic Airways aircraft from which millions' of dollars worth of diamonds
were stolen on the tarmac of Brussels international airport. (AP Photo/Yves
Brussels (AP) — Five years after
a brazen multimillion-dollar diamond heist on the tarmac of Brussels
Airport, a Belgian court on Thursday cited a lack of evidence as it
acquitted 18 suspects in the case.
The massive 2013 theft, in which tens
of millions worth of gems were stolen from the hold of a departing
Swiss-bound plane, had all the hallmarks of an "Ocean's Eleven" operation.
And it still might get a Hollywood ending.
One other person, suspected of being
the mastermind, will hear his case in court later.
"It is a great result," said defense
lawyer Nathalie Gallant. "The tribunal is indirectly saying that we were
right and that the case is not sufficient to condemn anyone."
Dimitri de Beco, the lawyer for the
lone other suspect, said he was "pretty sure the same will apply to my
client as well," arguing the case was not strong enough.
It was not a full victory yet since
Thursday's decision can still be appealed.
The diamond heist was estimated at $50
million at the time and was one of the biggest of recent times. It stunned
the world with its clockwork precision. Many compared it to the plot of the
2001 Vegas heist movie, "Ocean's Eleven," which stars George Clooney, Brad
Pitt and Matt Damon, for its clinically clean execution.
In the Feb. 18, 2013 heist, several
parcels of diamonds were driven from the global diamond center of Antwerp
and had been loaded on a plane bound for Zurich when robbers, dressed in
dark police clothing and hoods, drove through a hole they had cut in the
airport fence in two black cars with blue police lights flashing.
They approached the plane, brandished
machine guns, off-loaded the diamonds and then left, all in barely five
minutes. Later that night, investigators found the charred remains of a van
used in the heist.
Three months later, authorities
detained several dozen people in a three-nation sweep and recovered some of
The court case in Brussels was supposed
to bring closure to the case, yet with the acquittals, it has opened it up
again, further adding to the mystery.
"They made a very wide sweep. They
focused on some famous names," said Gallant, who claimed the investigators
"worked with blinkers" on.
She said the verdicts were not a
surprise to those in the courtroom.
"Have you noticed how none of the
lawyers were surprised? Did you see any sign of surprise in the court room?
No," she said. "With such a case, it was not possible for a tribunal as
competent as this one to condemn anyone."
Catalonia gets new leader determined to achieve independence
President Quim Torra, right, shakes hands with Roger Torrent, speaker of
Catalan Parliament during a swearing in ceremony at the Palau Generalitat in
Barcelona, Thursday, May 17. (Alberto Estevez, Pool via AP)
Madrid (AP) — Fervent Catalan
secessionist Quim Torra was sworn in Thursday as the restive Spanish
region's new leader, with his demands for an independent Catalonia set to
prolong a standoff with Spain's national government.
Torra formally took office at a
ceremony in the Catalan capital, Barcelona. He was elected by the Catalan
parliament's secessionist lawmakers on Monday.
In a sign of the simmering tension,
Spain's national government in Madrid, which usually sends a representative
to regional government ceremonies, declined to attend the swearing-in. It
said Catalan authorities had tried to dictate which central government
officials could be present — a condition that Madrid rejected.
The spat over Catalonia's future has
brought Spain's worst political crisis in decades, though its three main
political parties stand united against Catalan independence.
Thursday's ceremony was heavy on
symbolism, with pointed signals apparently aimed at the central Spanish
Torra had only the red-and-yellow
Catalan flag behind him during the ceremony. The Spanish flag was absent.
Also, in his oath he pledged only to be
faithful to the people of Catalonia. He made no reference to upholding the
Spanish Constitution nor loyalty to Spain's king. The Spanish government
says it cannot grant Catalonia independence, among other reasons, because
the Constitution says Spain is "indivisible." King Felipe VI has publicly
supported the government's stance.
Torra also wore a yellow ribbon in his
lapel, symbolizing support for separatist leaders being held in Spanish
jails over last year's outlawed independence referendum and illegal
declaration of a separate Catalan state.
Quakes damage roads as ash spews from Hawaii volcano
into the night sky from active fissures on the lower east rift of the
Kilauea volcano, Tuesday, May 15, near Pahoa, Hawaii. (AP Photo/Caleb Jones)
Sophia Yan and Audrey McAvoy
Honolulu (AP) — Earthquakes were
damaging roads and buildings on Hawaii's Big Island on Wednesday as ash
emissions streamed from Kilauea volcano.
The strongest shaking was recorded
around 8:30 a.m., measured as a 4.4-magnitude earthquake. The floor of the
summit crater has also dropped about three feet (90 centimeters), as the
threat of a strong, explosive eruption at the top of the volcano loomed.
Ash spewed from the summit at Hawaii's
Kilauea volcano, though emissions decreased from Tuesday.
There were occasional bursts of ash
coming from the crater causing ash to fall downwind to several communities,
though there were only trace amounts, said the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.
Ash plumes on Tuesday had spouted as high as 12,000 feet (3,657 meters) into
the air, scientists said.
These plumes are separate from the lava
eruptions happening roughly 25 miles (40 kilometers) away from summit, where
about 20 lava fissures have destroyed more than two dozen homes and forced
the evacuation of about 2,000 residents.
Dense, large rocks roughly two feet in
diameter (60 centimeters) were found in a parking lot a few hundred yards
away from Kilauea's summit crater, which reflect the "most energetic
explosions yet observed and could reflect the onset of steam-driven
explosive activity," the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said in a statement,
and continues to monitor activity.
Scientists say earthquakes may shake
loose rocks underground and open up new tunnels for lava to flow.
Cracks formed on a highway near the
entrance to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, said the Hawaii Police
Department. Much of the park remains closed.
"We're all safe, and I wish they'd open
the park back up, but they have to keep it safe for everybody," said Ken
McGilvray, an area resident. "We live on a volcano!"
Hawaii Gov. David Ige said the state is
forming a joint task force that could handle mass evacuations of the Big
Island's Puna district if lava from Kilauea volcano covers major roads and
isolates the area. The troops may be needed for emergency evacuations,
search and rescue, clearing debris and other duties.
On Tuesday, the volcano discharged ash
because of rocks falling into the summit, U.S. Geological Survey
geophysicist Mike Poland said.
"There is very little wind at the
summit," he said. "The plume, it's not near as ashy as it was yesterday, and
it's rising more or less vertically over the summit region."
Because of the ash, USGS scientists
operated from a backup command center at the University of Hawaii at Hilo.
Poland did not have an immediate height
on the plume Wednesday since scientists were not staffing the observatory at
the summit. They will have to rely on remote observations, he said.
"Things seem to be progressing largely
as they have been, except for a shift in wind and less ash," Poland said.
Scientists remained on alert for more
violent activity. Geologists have warned that the summit could have a
separate explosive steam eruption that would hurl huge rocks and ash miles
into the sky. But it's not certain when or if that might happen.
For those on the ground near the lava
vents, health warnings were issued because of dangerous volcanic gases.
An air-quality alert was in effect for
an area near the Lanipuna Gardens subdivision. That area was evacuated
shortly after the eruption began May 3. Most fissures are in that
subdivision or the adjoining Leilani Estates neighborhood.
Several fissures remained active
Wednesday, producing lava spatter. Lava from one fissure that had been
clearing a path toward the ocean, about 2 miles (3 kilometers) away, had not
advanced in the last 24 hours.
4 shot dead in attack on Indonesia police; officer killed
inspects a minivan used in the attack at the regional police headquarters in
Pekanbaru, Riau province, Indonesia, Wednesday, May 16. (AP Photo/Akbari)
Jakarta, Indonesia (AP) —
Indonesian police on Wednesday shot dead four sword-wielding men who
attacked a police headquarters in Sumatra, killing one officer, the latest
in a spate of militant attacks across the Muslim-majority country.
National police spokesman Setyo Wasisto
said the men attacked officers after driving a minivan into Riau province's
He said a fifth man, who drove the
vehicle, was arrested trying to escape. One officer, who was hit by the
minivan, died and two were injured.
"When the car broke through into the
Riau police headquarters, it was blocked by policemen," Wasisto told a
televised news conference. "Then four of the men got out from the car and
Suicide bombings Sunday and Monday in
Surabaya, Indonesia's second-largest city, killed 26 people, including 13
attackers. Two families carried out the attacks, using children as young as
The Islamic State group claimed
responsibility for the Surabaya attacks in statements carried by its Aamaq
news agency. The key figure in the attacks was the head of the Surabaya cell
of a network of Indonesian extremists who have aligned themselves with IS.
Riau police said they were looking for
a sixth man they believe was connected to Wednesday's police station attack.
Earlier this month, six officers at a
high-security detention center on the outskirts of Jakarta, Indonesia's
capital, were killed by Islamic militant inmates who took control of part of
the prison and held hostages until being overwhelmed by police.
The flurry of attacks, and the tactic
of using children as suicide bombers, has shocked Indonesians, who fear that
IS has inspired a new wave of violent extremism in the country of more than
Indonesia's deadliest terror attack was
in 2002 on the tourist island of Bali when nightclub bombings killed 202
people, mostly foreigners.
China, Airbus investigating blown-out windshield on plane
are seen leaving the Sichuan Airline flight that made an emergency landing
in Chengdu in southwestern China's Sichuan province, Monday, May 16. (AP
Hong Kong (AP) — Chinese
authorities and Airbus are investigating why a plane's windshield blew out
midflight, forcing an emergency landing, in an unusual mishap for a country
with a booming aviation market and exemplary air safety record.
Sichuan Airlines flight 8633 was en
route from Chongqing, China, to Lhasa, Tibet, on Monday morning when the
A319 jet's cockpit window jet flew off, the country's aviation regulator
said. The pilot made a white-knuckle descent to Chengdu, China as the
co-pilot was nearly sucked out of the plane, saved only by his seatbelt.
Chinese internet users praised the
pilot's levelheaded response during the harrowing incident but also wanted
to know what caused it.
Losing a windshield midflight "is an
incredibly rare event," said Geoffrey Thomas, the Australia-based editor in
chief of safety website Airlineratings.com. "You get cracks in windshields
from time to time, but certainly they're designed to be failsafe and this is
not supposed to happen."
The incident does not detract from
China's overall safety record, which rivals that of more advanced countries,
The plane took off at 6:27 a.m. and
climbed to 9,800 meters (32,000 feet) when its right-hand windshield
"suddenly burst and fell off, causing the cabin to lose pressure and
passenger oxygen masks to drop," the Civil Aviation Administration of China
said in a statement on its website.
"There was no sign before the
windshield burst. Just a huge noise," Captain Liu Chuanjian told the
newspaper Chengdu Economic Daily. Looking across the cockpit, Liu saw the
co-pilot "partially hanging out of the window. Fortunately, he had his
Some cockpit equipment was damaged, the
CAAC said. Photos posted on Chinese social media showed an control panel
partially torn away from the dashboard.
The co-pilot suffered scratches, a
flight attendant's waist was hurt, and 27 of the 119 passengers were
injured, according to a post from Sichuan Airlines on Sina Weibo, China's
version of Twitter.
Airbus said Tuesday it has assigned a
team to investigate and will cooperate with Chinese authorities.
CAAC said that the Airbus jet began
service on July 26, 2011 and its windshield had no record of defects and had
not undergone any maintenance or been replaced before the accident. Airbus
said the aircraft had logged 19,942 flight hours.
In 1990, an improperly installed
windshield on a British Airways jetliner blew out at about 17,300 feet
(5,300 meters) after it took off from Birmingham's airport. The captain was
sucked halfway out the BAC 1-11's window but survived because cabin crew
held on to his legs while the co-pilot made an emergency landing. An
accident report said the windshield was replaced before the flight with the
wrong size bolts.
Earlier this year, a Southwest Airlines
jet's passenger window shattered when it was hit by debris from an exploding
engine, killing one passenger.
China's air safety record improved
dramatically after a string of fatal accidents in the 1980s and early 1990s
as authorities focused on making improvements. Now, China's airlines have a
"superb record" and the country is "considered an extremely safe place" for
air travel, Thomas said.
China's most recent fatal plane
disaster was a military aircraft crash that killed 12 in January. But the
country hasn't had a fatal accident involving a scheduled commercial
jetliner flight since 2010, when 44 people were killed in an Embraer jet
crash in northeast Heilongjiang province, according to the Aviation Safety
Royal wedding: Not clear who will walk Meghan down the aisle
flags fly across the main shopping street in Windsor, Tuesday, May 15.
Preparations are being made in the town ahead of the wedding of Britain's
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle that will take place in Windsor on Saturday
May 19. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
London (AP) — The question of
whether Meghan Markle's father will walk his daughter down the aisle to
marry Britain's Prince Harry or attend the wedding persisted Wednesday as
royal representatives remained tight-lipped on possible changes to the
Harry's press office declined to
comment on a celebrity news website's report that Thomas Markle, 73, needed
a heart procedure and would not be well enough to fly to England.
The uncertainty over his health and
attendance at Saturday's wedding came from comments TMZ said the father made
exclusively to the site. His condition has not been independently confirmed.
Thomas Markle, a retired Hollywood
cinematographer who lives in Mexico, told TMZ he would receive a stent and
other treatment for blocked coronary arteries on Wednesday morning.
Stent procedures done on a
non-emergency basis typically do not require long hospital stays, but the
recovery guidance likely would rule out a lengthy plane trip to England
right after surgery.
The bride's parents divorced when she
was a child. Her mother, Doria Ragland, is traveling from Los Angeles to
England for the wedding and is scheduled to ride with her daughter to St.
George's Chapel on the grounds of Windsor Castle before the ceremony.
Ragland is also scheduled to visit with
Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Charles, Prince William and his wife, Kate, and
other senior royals this week. Thomas Markle also had been expected to spend
the days before the wedding meeting the queen and other members of his
daughter's future family.
The palace has not announced any
alternative plans for Thomas Markle's role of accompanying his daughter
through the chapel to meet the groom. An official announcement is expected
if it's confirmed that he will not be making it to the wedding.
Some estranged members of Meghan
Markle's extended family have arrived in Britain, but did not receive
invitations to the wedding.
Concerns about Thomas Markle's health
overshadowed Wednesday's announcements of the bridesmaids and page boys who
will take part in the ceremony.
The list include William and Kate's two
older children: Prince George, 4, and Princess Charlotte, 3.
It is a repeat performance for the two,
who were a page boy and bridesmaid when Kate's sister, Pippa Middleton,
married last year.
The other bridesmaids are Harry's
goddaughters, 2-year-old Zalie Warren and 3-year-old Florence van Cutsem,
and Markle's goddaughters: Remi and Rylan Litt, ages 6 and 7 respectively,
and 4-year-old Ivy Mulroney.
Besides Prince George, the page boys
are Harry's godson, 6-year-old Jasper Dyer, and 7-year-old twin brothers
Brian and John Mulroney.
The three Mulroney siblings are the
children of Markle's close friend, stylist Jessica Mulroney, and are the
grandchildren of former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.
Some devoted fans of Harry and Markle
are already gathering at prime viewing points just outside the imposing
walls of Windsor Castle, even though the wedding is three days away.
A few carried signs wishing the
soon-to-be newlyweds well, and some carried U.S. flags in honor of Markle's
Windsor officials have warned the
public that huge crowds are expected in the town on Saturday. Many roads
will be closed off and extra security procedures will be put into effect.
Malaysia's reformist icon Anwar freed, given royal pardon
reformist icon Anwar Ibrahim arrives at his house in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia,
Wednesday, May 16. (AP Photo/Sadiq Asyraf)
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (AP) —
Reformist icon Anwar Ibrahim celebrated a "new dawn" for Malaysia after he
was given a royal pardon and freed from custody Wednesday, transforming a
political prisoner into a prime minister-in-waiting following his alliance's
stunning election victory.
Anwar, 70, was convicted of sodomy in
2015 in a case he said was aimed at crushing his alliance, which was making
gains against Malaysia's long ruling coalition government. His sentence was
set to end June 8 but last week's unexpected election win, which ended the
National Front's 60-year rule, led to his swift release.
"Now there is a new dawn for Malaysia,"
he told a news conference at his house. Anwar said he was grateful to
Malaysians "regardless of race and religion, who stood by the principles of
democracy and freedom."
The election result was a demand for
change and it's the new government's responsibility to ensure that mandate
is honored, he said.
Earlier, Anwar was thronged by scores
of supporters and reporters after he walked free from a hospital, where he
was recovering from shoulder surgery, and whisked away to an audience with
Malaysia's king. The royal palace said in a statement that the monarch had
given Anwar a full pardon following advice from the Pardons Board.
Analysts say his release could cause
tensions in the new government led by Mahathir Mohamad, who after leading
the four-party alliance in the election campaign has become the world's
oldest leader at 92. Mahathir is the chairman of the alliance and Anwar is
its de-facto leader.
Anwar sought to allay those concerns,
saying he was not in a hurry to take over from Mahathir. Anwar's wife, Wan
Azizah Wan Ismail, is currently the deputy premier.
Anwar, who needs to contest a
by-election to become a member of Parliament, said he doesn't want any
Cabinet posts yet as he plans to spend time with his family and travel
abroad for speaking engagements. He reiterated his full support for
Mahathir's leadership and said their political feud has long been buried.
"I have forgiven him. He has proven his
mettle. He made his sacrifices and was maligned in the media. I tell you, it
is like deja vu," Anwar said. "He has struggled and worked indefatigably
hard. He has now supported the reform agenda. He facilitated my release. Why
should I harbor any malice toward him?"
His party has disputed Mahathir's
appointment of three top Cabinet posts, but Anwar said it was only a
difference over the consultation process, adding it was Mahathir's
prerogative as premier to form the Cabinet.
Mahathir, premier for 22 years until
2003, on Tuesday said that he will run the country for "one to two years" to
fix Malaysia's financial problems.
It was Anwar's second spell in prison.
Once a high flyer in the ruling party, Anwar was first convicted of
homosexual sodomy and corruption after a power struggle with Mahathir in
Anwar and his supporters have long
denied the sodomy allegations, saying they were concocted to destroy his
political career. Yet rather than give up, Anwar worked from his prison cell
to forge a new opposition alliance by ending the two-decade feud with
Mahathir — a gamble that paid off when the alliance won the May 9 polls.
Anwar said the royal pardon was granted
to him on the grounds of a "travesty of justice" and a clear conspiracy to
kill his political career by Najib Razak, who was denied a third term as
prime minister in the elections.
He said has no malice against Najib but
the former leader "has to answer" for corruption scandals that led to his
coalition's defeat. Anwar said he was touched that his 20-year struggle for
reform has finally paid off.
Asked about the new government's pledge
to review large Chinese infrastructure projects, Anwar said like Mahathir,
he welcomed Chinese investment but was concerned about the manner in which
they were done. He said there must be transparency and accountability to
ensure the deals were in the nation's interest.
"The hope is that Anwar and Mahathir
will find a way to work together especially during this period of
transition," said Rashaad Ali, research analyst with the S. Rajaratnam
School of International Studies in Singapore.
"This is an opportunity for both of
them to move forward for the sake of the country. There may be clashes
between these two big personalities but (officials in their) coalition as
well as the expectations of Malaysians will provide a check and balance," he
Anwar is expected to meet supporters at
a rally later Wednesday.
Amnesty International said his release
was a "landmark moment for human rights" in Malaysia and called for
repressive laws muzzling freedom of expression and assembly to be repealed.
North Korea threatens to cancel US summit over drills
is placed near Unification Bridge, which leads to the demilitarized zone,
near the border village of Panmunjom in Paju, South Korea, Wednesday, May
16. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
Hyung-Jin Kim and Foster Klug
Seoul, South Korea (AP) — North
Korea on Wednesday canceled a high-level meeting with South Korea and
threatened to scrap a historic summit next month between President Donald
Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un over military exercises between
Seoul and Washington that Pyongyang has long claimed are invasion
The surprise declaration, which came in
a pre-dawn dispatch in North Korea's state media, appears to cool what had
been an unusual flurry of outreach from a country that last year conducted a
provocative series of weapons tests that had many fearing the region was on
the edge of war. It's still unclear, however, whether the North intends to
scuttle all diplomacy or merely wants to gain leverage ahead of the planned
June 12 talks between Kim and Trump.
The statement by North Korea's Korean
Central News Agency was released hours before the two Koreas were to meet at
a border village to discuss how to implement their leaders' recent
agreements to reduce military tensions along their heavily fortified border
and improve their overall ties.
It called the two-week Max Thunder
drills, which began Monday and reportedly include about 100 aircraft, an
"intended military provocation" and an "apparent challenge" to an April
summit between Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, when the leaders
met on their border in their countries' third-ever summit talks since their
formal division in 1948. KCNA said the U.S. aircraft mobilized for the
drills include nuclear-capable B-52 bombers and stealth F-22 fighter jets,
two of the U.S. military assets it has previously said are aimed at
launching nuclear strikes on the North.
"The United States must carefully
contemplate the fate of the planned North Korea-U.S. summit amid the
provocative military ruckus that it's causing with South Korean
authorities," the North said Wednesday. "We'll keenly monitor how the United
States and South Korean authorities will react."
Annual military drills between
Washington and Seoul have long been a major source of contention between the
Koreas, and analysts have wondered whether their continuation would hurt the
detente that, since an outreach by Kim in January, has replaced the insults
and threats of war. Earlier — and much larger — springtime drills, which
Washington and Seoul toned down, went off without the North's typically
fiery condemnation or accompanying weapons tests.
South Korean called North Korea's move
"regrettable" and demanded a quick return to talks.
Seoul's Unification Ministry spokesman
Baek Tae-hyun said the North's decision goes against the spirit of last
month's inter-Korean summit, where the Koreas' leaders issued a vague vow on
the "complete denuclearization" on the Korean Peninsula and pledged
permanent peace between the rivals. He didn't provide a straightforward
answer on whether Seoul sees the North's talks cancellation as potentially
affecting the meeting between Trump and Kim.
In Washington, the U.S. State
Department emphasized that Kim had previously indicated he understood the
need and purpose of the U.S. continuing its long-planned exercises with
South Korea. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the U.S. had
not heard anything directly from Pyongyang or Seoul that would change that.
"We will continue to go ahead and plan
the meeting between President Trump and Kim Jong Un," Nauert said.
Army Col. Rob Manning said this current
exercise is part of the U.S. and South Korea's "routine, annual training
program to maintain a foundation of military readiness." Manning, a Pentagon
spokesman, said the purpose of Max Thunder and exercise Foal Eagle — another
training event — is to enhance the two nations' abilities to operate
together to defend South Korea.
"The defensive nature of these combined
exercises has been clear for many decades and has not changed," said
Washington and Seoul delayed an earlier
round of drills in the spring because of the North-South diplomacy
surrounding February's Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in the South, which saw
Kim send his sister to the opening ceremonies.
Kim told visiting South Korean
officials in March that he "understands" the drills would take place and
expressed hope that they'll be modified once the situation on the peninsula
stabilizes, according to the South Korean government.
South Korea didn't immediately make any
official response to the North's announcement.
The North's statement Wednesday comes
amid a slew of surprising moves in recent weeks.
On Tuesday, South Korea's military said
North Korea was moving ahead with plans to close its nuclear test site next
week, an assessment backed by U.S. researchers who say satellite images show
the North has begun dismantling facilities at the site.
The site's closure was set to come
before the Kim-Trump summit, which had been shaping up as a crucial moment
in the decades-long push to resolve the nuclear standoff with the North,
which is closing in on the ability to viably target the mainland United
States with its long-range nuclear-armed missiles.
Despite the North's moves, some experts
were skeptical about whether Kim would completely give up a nuclear program
that he had pushed so hard to build. Kim has expressed his intention to
negotiate over his weapons, but he still uses a long-contentious term, "the
denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula." The North previously has used
this phrase when demanding that the United States pull its 28,500 troops out
of South Korea and withdraw its so-called "nuclear umbrella" security
guarantee to South Korea and Japan as a condition for its nuclear
Wednesday's threat could also be
targeted at showing a domestic audience that Kim is willing to stand up to
Washington. Kim has repeatedly told his people that his nukes are a
"powerful treasured sword" that can smash U.S. hostility.
North Korea also has a long history of
launching provocations or scrapping deals with Seoul and Washington at the
In 2013, North Korea abruptly cancelled
reunions for families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War just days before
they were held to protest what it called rising animosities ahead of joint
drills between Seoul and Washington. A year earlier in 2012, the North
conducted a prohibited long-range rocket launch weeks after it agreed to
suspend weapons tests in return for food assistance.
Indonesia police shoot dead suspected militant, arrest 13
officers walk outside the house of the family that carried out the bombing
of Surabaya police headquarters during a raid in Surabaya, Tuesday, May 15.
(AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)
Surabaya, Indonesia (AP) —
Indonesian police fatally shot a militant and arrested 13 others Tuesday
suspected of links to suicide bombings carried out by two families in the
country's second-largest city.
Surabaya police spokesman Frans Barung
Mangera said the militant died in a shootout in a Surabaya neighborhood with
counter-terrorism police, who had tried to arrest him over possible
involvement in the attacks that killed at least 13 people.
He said the arrests of suspected
militants were made in raids in Surabaya and its neighboring cities of
Malang and Pasuruan.
Coordinated suicide bombings at three
churches were carried out Sunday by a family of six that included girls aged
8 and 12.
A second family bombed Surabaya's
police headquarters on Monday. Their 7-year-old daughter survived the
All told, 26 people died in the two
days of attacks including a total of 13 militants and their children.
The Islamic State group claimed
responsibility for all the attacks in statements carried by its Aamaq news
Earlier Tuesday, police searched the
home of the family that bombed Surabaya's police headquarters.
Australia upgrading airport security after alleged bomb plot
In this June
21, 2011, file photo, an almost deserted domestic terminal is seen at Sydney
Airport, Australia. (AP Photo/Rob Griffith)
Canberra, Australia (AP) —
Australia's government said Tuesday that it will upgrade airport security
around the country and increase police powers in response to an alleged
attempt to smuggle an improvised explosive device aboard a flight out of
Sydney last year.
The government will spend 294 million
Australian dollars on improving security equipment and staffing levels at
all major city airports plus 13 regional airports, government ministers
It follows an attempt to check in a bag
allegedly containing military-grade explosives into the luggage hold of an
Etihad Airways Airbus A380 double-decker jet headed to the Middle East last
July in a plot authorities say was directed by the Islamic State group.
The airline rejected the bag at the
check-in counter because it was overweight. The alleged plot wasn't
discovered until weeks later, but two Sydney men were eventually charged
with planning a terrorist act.
Under the upgrade, body scanners and
advanced X-ray equipment will be rolled out across Australian airports.
Inbound air cargo and international mail will be subjected to stricter
An additional 140 police trained to
detect improvised explosive devices would be assigned to airports. They
would be supported by police intelligence specialists.
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said
police would be given new powers to check people's identities at airports
and to remove from airports people suspected of "certain criminal
activities." He did not elaborate on those activities.
Police can only demand to see people's
identity documents at airports under certain conditions, a restriction that
Dutton described as an absurdity.
"We're addressing an anomaly and a
deficiency in the law at the moment," Dutton told reporters.
He said that had the July plot
succeeded, the explosion would have had a multibillion-dollar impact on
tourism and the number of foreign students studying at Australian
universities, which is one of Australia's most lucrative industries.
"Had that been successful, hundreds of
people would've of course lost their lives, but it would've had an enormous
impact on the psyche of the Australian traveling public," he said.
Putin opens bridge linking southern Russia with Crimea
President Vladimir Putin, centre right, drives a truck to officially open
the much-anticipated bridge linking Russia and the Crimean peninsula, during
the opening ceremony near in Kerch, Crimea, Tuesday, May 15. (Alexander
Nemenov/Pool Photo via AP)
Moscow (AP) — Russian President
Vladimir Putin drove a large construction truck Tuesday to road test the
much-anticipated bridge linking southern Russia and the Crimean peninsula
that Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
The 19-kilometer (11.8-mile) bridge,
which took two years to build and cost $3.6 billion is Putin's project to
show that Crimea has joined Russia for good. Transportation links to Crimea
deteriorated after both the Ukrainian and Russian militaries set up
checkpoints into the peninsula and trains crossing the Ukrainian mainland
Putin traveled to southern Russia to
inspect the construction site and to lead the opening ceremony for the
bridge. After receiving a briefing from the construction firm, owned by his
childhood friend Arkady Rotenberg, Putin jumped into an orange Kamaz truck
with two engineers to lead several dozen trucks across the span.
"Let's hit the road!" he said in the
cabin before driving off.
Putin annexed Crimea in March 2014
following a hastily called local vote. The European Union and the United
States imposed sanctions on Russia for the move. Only a handful of Russia's
staunchest allies like Venezuela and Syria have recognized Crimea as part of
TV host Andrei Kondrashov, who was
chairman of Putin's victorious re-election campaign, this year described the
bridge as "one more reason for Russians to be proud."
Tuesday's test drive took a little
under 20 minutes and was covered live by Russian state television. Reporters
and cameras were stationed at several spots along the route. One reporter
hailed the bridge as an example of "heroism of the workers."
The Ukrainian government reacted to the
opening with anger. President Petro Poroshenko lambasted the bridge as "yet
another piece of evidence of the Kremlin ignoring international law" and "an
attempt to legitimize the temporary occupation of the Crimean peninsula."
Gap apologizes for China map T-shirt that didn't show Taiwan
In this Nov. 16, 2010 file photo, a man carries
a Chinese flag as he walks past U.S. retailer GAP's newly-opened flagship
store in Beijing. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
Hong Kong (AP) — The U.S.
clothing retailer Gap apologized Tuesday for selling T-shirts with a map of
China that didn't include self-ruled Taiwan, the latest example of corporate
kowtowing to Beijing.
"Upon the realization that one of our
T-shirts sold in some overseas markets mistakenly failed to reflect the
correct map of China, we urgently launched an internal investigation across
the group and have decided to immediately pull back this T-shirt from all
the concerned global markets," the company said in a statement, adding that
the shirts had already been pulled from Chinese shelves and destroyed.
The company took action after photos
began circulating on Chinese social media of a T-shirt showing a map that
didn't include Taiwan, a self-ruled island that Beijing regards as Chinese
territory. The map also appeared to leave out southern Tibet and the
disputed South China Sea, the state-owned Global Times said, adding that it
drew hundreds of complaints on China's Weibo microblogging platform.
The photos were taken at a Gap shop in
Canada's Niagara region, Global Times said. The shirt could not be found on
Gap websites and it wasn't clear whether it was still being sold in shops in
"We sincerely apologize for this
unintentional error," said the company, which issued the statement through
its public relations firm APCO after making a similar apology late Monday on
its Weibo account.
Gap promised to carry out "more
rigorous reviews" to prevent similar incidents and said it respected China's
"sovereignty and territorial integrity" and strictly followed the country's
laws and rules.
China noted Gap's apology and "will
follow carefully their actions and remarks later on," Foreign Ministry
spokesman Lu Kang said at a daily briefing in Beijing.
Taiwan's Foreign Minister Joseph Wu
told reporters that China pressuring companies like Gap to change how they
refer to Taiwan was "rather unfortunate in terms of cross-strait relations"
and would push its residents "further and further away" rather than winning
their "hearts and minds."
Gap is the latest of several companies
that have apologized for perceived slights to China's sovereignty.
Delta Air Lines, hotel operator
Marriott and fashion brand Zara are among businesses that have apologized to
China for referring to Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Tibet as countries on websites
or promotional material. Mercedes-Benz said sorry for quoting the Dalai Lama
on social media. The Tibetan spiritual leader is reviled by Beijing.
The U.S. has started pushing back
against Beijing, with the White House condemning China's efforts to control
how U.S. airlines refer to Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau as "Orwellian
55 dead in Gaza protests as Israel fetes US Embassy move
A Palestinian woman walks through black smoke
from burning tires during a protest on the Gaza Strip's border with Israel,
Monday, May 14. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
Fares Akram and Josef Federman
Gaza City, Gaza Strip (AP) — In
a jarring contrast, Israeli forces shot and killed at least 55 Palestinians
and wounded more than 1,200 during mass protests Monday along the Gaza
border, while just a few miles away Israel and the U.S. held a festive
inauguration ceremony for the new American Embassy in contested Jerusalem.
It was by far the deadliest day of
cross-border violence since a devastating 2014 war between Israel and Gaza's
Hamas rulers, and further dimmed the already bleak prospects for President
Donald Trump's hoped-for peace plan.
Throughout the day, Gaza protesters set
tires ablaze, sending thick plumes of black smoke into the air, and hurled
firebombs and stones toward Israeli troops across the border. The Israeli
military, which has come under international criticism for using excessive
force against unarmed protesters, said Hamas tried to carry out bombing and
shooting attacks under the cover of the protests and released video of
protesters ripping away parts of the barbed-wire border fence.
Monday's protests culminated more than
a month of weekly demonstrations aimed at breaking a crippling
Israeli-Egyptian border blockade. But the U.S. Embassy move, bitterly
opposed by the Palestinians, added further fuel.
There was barely any mention of the
Gaza violence at Monday's lavish inauguration ceremony for the new embassy,
an upgraded consular building located just 50 miles (80 kilometers) away.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other top officials joined an
American delegation of Trump administration officials and Republican and
evangelical Christian supporters.
Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law and
chief Mideast adviser, headlined the U.S. delegation with his wife and
fellow White House adviser, Ivanka Trump, as well as Treasury Secretary
Steven Mnuchin and four Republican senators. Republican super-donor Sheldon
Adelson was also present, and evangelical pastors Robert Jeffress and John
Hagee delivered blessings.
"A great day for Israel!" Trump tweeted
In a videotaped address, Trump said the
embassy move, a key campaign promise, recognizes the "plain reality" that
Jerusalem is Israel's capital. Yet he added the United States "remains fully
committed to facilitating a lasting peace agreement."
But Monday's steadily climbing death
toll and wall-to-wall condemnation of the embassy move in the Arab world
raised new doubts about Trump's ambitions to broker what he called the "deal
of the century." More than a year after taking office, Trump's Mideast team
has yet to produce a long-promised peace plan.
Trump says recognizing Jerusalem as
Israel's capital acknowledges the reality that Israel's government is
located there as well as the ancient Jewish connection to the city. He
insists the decision has no impact on future negotiations on the city's
But to both Israel and the
Palestinians, the American gesture is widely seen as siding with Israel on
the most sensitive issue in their longstanding conflict.
"What a glorious day. Remember this
moment. This is history," Netanyahu told the inauguration ceremony.
"You can only build peace on truth, and
the truth is that Jerusalem has been and will always be the capital of the
Jewish people, the capital of the Jewish state," he added.
The Palestinians, who seek east
Jerusalem as their capital, have cut off ties with the Trump administration
and say the U.S. is unfit to serve as a mediator. Israel captured east
Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war and annexed the area in a move that is not
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas,
furious over the embassy ceremony, said he "will not accept" any peace deal
proposed by the Trump administration.
The Palestinian president also urged
the international community to condemn what he said were "massacres" carried
out by Israeli troops in Gaza, and officials said the Palestinians would
file a war crimes complaint against Israel in the International Criminal
Court over settlement construction.
By nightfall, at least 55 Palestinians,
including a young girl and four other minors, were killed, the Gaza Health
Ministry said. It said 1,204 Palestinians were wounded by gunfire, including
116 who were in serious or critical condition.
Egypt, an important Israeli ally,
condemned the killings of Palestinian protesters, while the U.N. human
rights chief, Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, decried the "shocking killing of
Turkey said it was recalling its
ambassador to the United States over the U.S. Embassy move, saying it
"disregarded the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people" and would "not
serve peace, security and stability in the region." It also recalled its
ambassador to Israel following what it called a "massacre" of Palestinians
on the Gaza border.
South Africa, a fervent supporter of
the Palestinians, also recalled its ambassador for consultations, the
Israeli Foreign Ministry said.
The European Union's foreign policy
chief, Federica Mogherini, called on Israel to respect the "principle of
proportionality in the use of force" and show restraint, while also urging
Hamas to ensure any protests remain peaceful. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio
Guterres issued a similar appeal.
At the U.S. Embassy ceremony in
Jerusalem, Kushner placed the blame on the Gaza protesters.
"As we have seen from the protests of
the last month and even today those provoking violence are part of the
problem and not part of the solution," he said.
Israel says the blockade of Gaza,
imposed by Israel and Egypt after Hamas overran the territory in 2007, is
needed to prevent Hamas from building up its military capabilities. But it
has decimated Gaza's economy, sending unemployment skyrocketing to over 40
percent and leaving the territory with just a few hours of electricity a
The Israeli military estimated a
turnout of about 40,000 at Monday's protest, saying it fell short of what
Hamas had hoped for. But officials described what they called "unprecedented
violence" unseen in previous weeks.
Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, a military
spokesman, said hundreds of protesters carried out "concerted, coordinated"
attacks on the border fence.
Although the crowd did not manage to
break through, he said they caused "significant damage." The army released
video showing demonstrators setting a cargo crossing on fire and appearing
to climb on the fence as they lobbed flaming objects into the Israeli side.
Conricus also said Hamas militants
disguised as protesters tried to infiltrate, and there were at least three
instances of armed Hamas gunmen trying to carry out attacks. Israeli
aircraft and tanks struck seven Hamas positions.
Monday marked the biggest showdown in
years between Israel's military and Gaza's Hamas rulers along the volatile
border. The sides have largely observed a cease-fire since the 2014 war —
their third in a decade.
Since the protests began on March 30,
105 Palestinians have been killed, most of them protesters. Israel said it
killed three militants trying to plant a bomb along the fence, and
Palestinian security officials said several Hamas militants were also killed
by Israeli shelling in northern Gaza.
Ismail Radwan, a senior Hamas figure,
said the mass border protests would continue "until the rights of the
Palestinian people are achieved."
Throughout the day, sirens wailed as
the wounded were carried to ambulances. Groups of young activists repeatedly
approached the fence, but were quickly scattered by gunfire and tear gas.
The timing of Monday's events was
deeply symbolic to Israel and the Palestinians.
The U.S. said it chose the date to
coincide with the 70th anniversary of Israel's establishment.
But Tuesday also marks the anniversary
of what Palestinians call their "nakba," or catastrophe, a reference to the
uprooting of hundreds of thousands who fled or were expelled during the 1948
war surrounding Israel's creation. A day of mourning and mass funerals was
A majority of Gaza's 2 million people
are descendants of refugees, and the protests have been billed as the "Great
March of Return" to long-lost homes in what is now Israel.
The new embassy will temporarily
operate from an upgraded, existing U.S. consulate building, until a decision
is made on a permanent location. Even the current location is sensitive,
located partially in an area designated "no-man's land" in a 1949 armistice
agreement. The U.N. considers that land to be occupied territory, though the
U.S. says in practice the area has been in continuous Israeli use since
Indonesia suicide bombings work of 2 families
stand guard outside the local police headquarters following an attack in
Surabaya, East Java, Indonesia, Monday, May 14. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)
Surabaya, Indonesia (AP) — An
Indonesian family bought its 8-year-old daughter to a suicide bomb attack it
launched Monday on the police headquarters in the country's second-largest
city, authorities said, a day after members of another family conducted
coordinated suicide bombings on three city churches that killed 12 people.
National police chief Tito Karnavian
said the girl, who was with two of the attackers on a motorcycle, survived
being thrown by the blast at Surabaya's police headquarters. The attack
killed the four perpetrators. Six civilians and four officers were wounded.
The attack came just hours after police
said the family that carried out the church bombings included girls aged 9
The flurry of bombings raised concerns
that previously beaten-down militant networks in the world's most populous
Muslim-majority nation have been reinvigorated by the return of some of the
estimated 1,100 Indonesians who went to fight with the Islamic State group
in Syria. Experts have warned for several years that when those fighters
return, they could pose a significant threat.
IS claimed responsibility for the
church bombings in a statement carried by its Aamaq news agency. Karnavian,
however, said earlier police comments that the family had spent time in
Syria were incorrect.
He said the church bombers and the
police headquarters attackers were friends, as were another family whose
homemade bombs exploded in their apartment Sunday night.
The use of children in the attacks has
been particularly horrifying to people.
"This is terrifying," said Taufik
Andrie, executive director of an institute that runs programs to help
paroled militants reject extremism and rejoin society. "This is showing how
extremist ideology can entrap children. Children have no choice. They can't
comprehend the decisions involved."
All told, 25 people have died since
Sunday including a total of 13 militants and their children.
Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi"
Widodo condemned the attacks as "barbaric" and vowed that authorities would
root out and destroy Islamic militant networks. The top security minister,
Wiranto, who uses one name, said the government will attempt to hasten
passage of an updated anti-terrorism law that has languished in parliament.
A security camera video of the attack
on Surabaya's police headquarters showed at least one explosion after the
four attackers rode two motorcycles up to a security checkpoint. The
motorcycles, which moved closely together, pulled up alongside a car and
four officers manning opposite sides of the checkpoint.
Two men, apparently civilians, were
walking into the area just meters (yards) from the motorcycles at the moment
of the explosion, which a split second later was followed by a second
Indonesia's deadliest terrorist attack
occurred in 2002, when bombs exploded on the tourist island of Bali, killing
202 people in one night, mostly foreigners. Jemaah Islamiyah, the al-Qaida
affiliated network responsible for the Bali attacks, was obliterated by a
sustained crackdown on militants by Indonesia's counterterrorism police with
U.S. and Australian support. Its leaders were killed in police raids and
hundreds of militants were arrested.
Karnavian said the father of the family
that carried out the church bombings was head of the Surabaya cell of Jemaah
Anshorut Daulah, an Indonesian militant network affiliated with IS that has
been implicated in attacks in Indonesia in the past year. All six members of
the family were killed.
The IS statement claiming
responsibility for the attacks didn't mention anything about families or
children taking part and said there were only three attackers. The group
also claimed responsibility for a hostage-taking ordeal last week by
imprisoned Islamic militants at a detention center near Jakarta in which six
officers were killed.
Separately on Sunday, three members of
another family were killed when homemade bombs exploded at an apartment in
Sidoarjo, a town bordering Surabaya, police said.
The church attacks occurred within
minutes of each other, according to Surabaya police spokesman Frans Barung
Karnavian said the father drove a
bomb-laden car into the city's Pentecostal church. The mother, with her two
daughters, attacked the Christian Church of Diponegoro, he said. Based on
their remains, Karnavian said the mother and daughters were all wearing
explosives around their waists.
The sons aged 16 and 18 rode a
motorcycle onto the grounds of the Santa Maria Church and detonated their
explosives there, he said.
Powerful storms kill at least 43 across northern India
walk past an uprooted tree in New Delhi, India, Monday, May 14. (AP
Lucknow, India (AP) — Powerful
winds and rainstorms swept across a crowded swath of northern India,
demolishing houses, uprooting trees and killing at least 43 people as winds
turned the skies brown with dust and sand, officials said Monday.
Most of the deaths occurred when wind
and falling trees caused buildings to collapse, leaving people buried in the
wreckage. In the town of Bareilly, the minaret of a mosque fell on a group
of people taking shelter in the courtyard, killing eight people. In another
town, one man was killed when he was hit by a billboard that had been blown
Less than two weeks ago, similar storms
caused 134 deaths and injured another 400. The extreme weather comes amid
withering summer heat, and approaching monsoon rains.
"These storm are not unusual at this
time of the year," said J.P. Gupta, the meteorological office director for
Uttar Pradesh state. "But the wind speed this year is a bit abnormal."
Winds reached speeds up to 109
kilometers per hour (68 miles per hour) Sunday, officials said. Trains and
commuter rail lines were paused and dozens of flights were diverted from New
Delhi's international airport as the storm blew into the city.
At least 42 people were killed in
sprawling Uttar Pradesh state, which has a population of more than 210
million people, said government spokesman Avnish Awasthi. He said 50 people
were injured when uprooted trees fell on houses, with 38 of those people
admitted to hospitals. At least one more person was killed in New Delhi.
A large swath of Uttar Pradesh was also
without electricity overnight because of broken power lines.
Rajesh Sharma, a senior state official,
estimated that more than 120 million people in the state had been affected
in some way.
"Saddened by the loss of lives due to
storms," Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a tweet. "Condolences to the
bereaved families. I pray for the speedy recovery of those injured."
Separately, at least 13 people were
killed by storms elsewhere in India, including nine in Andhra Pradesh and
four in West Bengal.
Australian climbs 7 peaks in 7 continents in record time
Sept. 27, 2015 file photo, trekkers rest at Everest Base Camp, Nepal. (AP
Kathmandu, Nepal (AP) — An
Australian mountaineer scaled Mount Everest on Monday, completing his quest
to climb the highest peaks on all seven continents in record time, an
expedition organizer said.
Steve Plain scaled Everest on Monday,
117 days after he began his mission in Antarctica.
Iswari Poudel of Himalayan Guides Nepal
said he got a phone call from Mount Everest base camp saying that Plain
along with two guides reached the 8,850-meter (29,035-foot) peak at around 7
a.m. and were descending.
The 36-year-old Plain, from Perth,
began his mission by climbing Mount Vinson in Antarctica on Jan. 16. He
followed that with Mount Aconcagua in South America, Mount Kilimanjaro in
Africa, Mount Carstensz Pyramid in Papua New Guinea, which covers Australia
and Oceania, Mount Elbrus in Europe and Denali in North America.
A surfing accident in 2014 nearly left
Plain with multiple injuries but he recovered to continue mountain climbing.
Polish climber Janusz Kochanski had the
previous record of fastest to climb the seven peaks, doing it in 126 days
Several climbers were also heading to
the summit on Monday, according to government official Gyanendra Shrestha.
A group of eight Nepalese Sherpa guides
reached the summit on Sunday, fixing ropes and clearing paths for other
climbers to begin their ascent to the peak.
Some 340 foreign climbers and many
Nepalese Sherpa guides are attempting to climb Everest this month.
The popular spring season runs from
March until the end of May, after which weather conditions on the mountain
begin to deteriorate. There are only about a couple of days of windows of
good weather on the highest part of the peak in May, when climbers rush to
attempt their way to the summit.
Suicide bombers hit Indonesian churches; 11 dead, 41 hurt
tend to a man injured in a church explosion in Surabaya, East Java,
Indonesia, Sunday, May 13. (AP Photo/Trisnadi)
Surabaya, Indonesia (AP) —
Suicide bombers on motorcycles and including a woman with children targeted
Sunday Mass congregations in three churches in Indonesia's second-largest
city, killing at least 11 people and wounding dozens in one of the worst
attacks on the country's Christian minority, police said.
The bombings were the deadliest to
target churches in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim-majority
country, since a series of attacks on Christmas Eve in 2000 killed 15 people
and wounded nearly 100. Religious minorities in Indonesia, especially
Christians, have been repeatedly targeted by militants.
The first attack struck the Santa Maria
Roman Catholic Church in Surabaya, killing four people, including one or
more bombers, police spokesman Frans Barung Mangera told reporters at the
scene. He said two police officers were among a total of 41 wounded.
The blast was followed by a second
explosion minutes later at the Christian Church of Diponegoro and a third at
the city's Pantekosta Church, Mangera said.
Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi"
Widodo arrived in Surabaya, the East Java provincial capital, in the
aftermath of the attacks, Mangera said.
A senior police official said the
bombings were carried out by at least five suicide bombers, including a
veiled woman who had two children with her. The official spoke on condition
of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak to the media.
A witness described the woman, saying
she was carrying two bags at the Diponegoro church.
"At first officers blocked them in
front of the churchyard, but the woman ignored and forced her way inside.
Suddenly she hugged a civilian then (the bomb) exploded," said the witness,
a civilian guard named Antonius.
A local police chief, David Triyo
Prasojo, said a bomb squad detonated an unexploded bomb at the Diponegoro
Shattered glass and chunks of concrete
littered the entrance of the Santa Maria Church, which was sealed off by
heavily armed police. Rescue personnel treated victims on a nearby field
while officers inspected wrecked motorcycles in the parking lot that had
been burned in the explosion.
A street merchant outside the church
said she was blown away several meters (yards) by the powerful blast.
"I saw two men riding a motorbike
forced their way into the churchyard. One was wearing black pants and one
with a backpack," said the merchant, Samsia, who uses a single name. "Soon
after that the explosion happened."
In Jakarta, Indonesia's capital, the
Indonesian Church Association strongly condemned the attacks and called on
people to wait for authorities to investigate.
"We are angry with these attacks, but
we leave it to the authorities to resolve them," said Gormar Gultom, an
official with the association.
Two of Indonesia's largest Muslim
organizations, Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah, also condemned the attacks.
National police spokesman Setyo Wasisto
said police fatally shot four suspected militants and arrested two others
early Sunday in West Java towns. It wasn't clear if the shootings were
connected with the church attacks.
"They have trained in order to attack
police," Wasisto said, identifying the militants as members of Jemaah
Anshorut Daulah. The network of about two dozen extremist groups has been
implicated in a number of attacks in Indonesia over the past year. It
pledges allegiance to Islamic State group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
The church attacks came days after
police ended a riot and hostage-taking at a detention center near Jakarta
that left six officers and three inmates dead. The Islamic State group
claimed responsibility for that incident.
Indonesia has carried out a sustained
crackdown on militants since bombings by al-Qaida-affiliated radicals in
Bali in 2002 killed 202 people. In recent years, the country has faced a new
threat as the rise of the Islamic State group in the Middle East invigorated
local militant networks.
Christians, many of whom are from the
ethnic Chinese minority, make up about 9 percent of Indonesia's 260 million
Israel kicks off US Embassy celebration, boosts border force
wave national flags outside the Old City's Damascus Gate, in Jerusalem,
Sunday, May 13. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
Jerusalem (AP) — Israel on
Sunday kicked off festivities to celebrate the opening of the new U.S.
Embassy in Jerusalem, even as it bolstered its forces along the Gaza border
and in the West Bank in anticipation of mass Palestinian protests of the
A day before the embassy's formal
opening, Israel hosted a gala party at its Foreign Ministry with President
Donald Trump's daughter Ivanka, her husband, Jared Kushner, and other
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
praised Trump's "bold decision" in upending decades of U.S. policy by
recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital. "It's the right thing to do," a
smiling Netanyahu told the jubilant crowd.
Trump announced his decision on
Jerusalem in December, triggering a joyous reaction from Netanyahu's
nationalist government. The move infuriated the Palestinians, who claim
Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem as their capital.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas
halted ties with the Trump administration and declared it unfit to remain in
its role as the sole mediator in peace talks.
The rival Hamas movement, which
controls the Gaza Strip, has been staging a series of weekly demonstrations
against a crippling Israeli-Egyptian blockade of the territory. Those
protests are to climax Monday, with tens of thousands of people expected to
gather along the Israeli border in an event timed to coincide with the U.S.
Hamas has signaled that large crowds,
numbering perhaps in the thousands, might try to break through the border
fence to realize the "right of return" to lost homes.
Both the embassy move and the protests
have symbolic timing. Trump has said the opening is meant to coincide with
the 70th anniversary of Israel's establishment. The Palestinian protests
also mark the date as the anniversary of their "naqba," or catastrophe, when
hundreds of thousands of people fled or were forced from their homes during
the war surrounding the event. About two-thirds of Gaza's 2 million people
are descendants of Palestinian refugees.
A mass border breach could trigger
potentially lethal Israeli force. Forty-two Palestinians have been killed
and over 1,800 have been wounded by Israeli fire since the weekly protests
began on March 30. The U.N., European Union and rights groups have accused
Israel of using excessive force against unarmed protesters.
Israel says it is protecting a
sovereign border and accuses Hamas of using the unrest to plan and carry out
attacks. Marchers have thrown stones and burned tires at the fence and flown
flaming kites over it to try to set Israeli fields on fire.
On Friday, a Palestinian crowd attacked
the main cargo crossing between Israel and Gaza, disrupting shipments of
cooking fuel, gasoline and building materials, and causing millions of
dollars in damage. Israeli officials said it could take weeks or months to
repair the crossing.
"Unfortunately, the crossing is closed
today and will remain closed until the foreseeable future due to severe
damage caused by Palestinian rioters," said Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, a
military spokesman. "It is still unclear how long it will take to fix and
replace the necessary parts."
The Israeli military announced that it
bolstered forces on the Gaza border with combat battalions, special units,
intelligence forces and snipers. Israeli warplanes also dropped leaflets in
Gaza, urging residents to stay far from the fence.
"You deserve a better government. You
deserve a better future," the leaflets said. "Do not approach the security
fence nor participate in the Hamas display that is putting you in risk."
A high-ranking delegation of Gaza's
Hamas rulers headed Sunday to Egypt, amid diplomatic efforts aimed at
containing the mass rally. But one of the Hamas participants, Khalil
al-Hayya, said there were no breakthroughs and the march would go on as
The army said it was also reinforcing
its troops in the West Bank with several combat battalions and intelligence
units in case of possible unrest there as well.
Sunday's celebrations coincided with
Israel's "Jerusalem Day," the 51st anniversary of what it refers to the
city's "unification" during the 1967 Mideast war.
Israel immediately annexed east
Jerusalem — home to the city's most sensitive Jewish, Muslim and Christian
holy sites — in a move that has not received international recognition. The
Palestinians claim east Jerusalem as the capital of a future state.
In an annual ritual, tens of thousands
of Israelis marched through Jerusalem's Old City to mark the day. Revelers
sang, danced and waved Israeli flags.
Earlier Sunday, Netanyahu told his
Cabinet that there would be a "series of decisions" to build up Jerusalem,
including its contested eastern sector. Shortly after, the government
approved construction of a $57 million cable car system that will link west
Jerusalem to the Old City.
Although Trump has said his declaration
does not set the final borders of the city, his recognition of Jerusalem as
Israel's capital has been perceived by both Israel and the Palestinians as
taking Israel's side in the most sensitive issue in their conflict. Only two
countries, Guatemala and Paraguay, have said they will follow suit. Most of
the world maintains embassies in Tel Aviv, saying the Jerusalem issue must
first be resolved.
In a reflection of the deep
sensitivities, dozens of countries — including Britain, France and Germany —
skipped Sunday night's celebration at the Israeli Foreign Ministry.
Netanyahu, who frequently clashed with
President Barack Obama, has found a welcome partner in Trump. The new
administration has lined up solidly behind Netanyahu in his dealings with
the Palestinians and delighted him last week when it withdrew from the
international nuclear deal with Iran, Obama's top foreign policy
Addressing the crowd Sunday evening,
Netanyahu said Israelis would be "eternally grateful" for Trump's decision
"Thank you, President Trump, for your
bold decision. Thank you for making the alliance between Israel and the
United States stronger than ever," he said.
Netanyahu said Trump's decision
recognized a 3,000-year Jewish connection to Jerusalem and the "truth" that
Jerusalem will be Israel's capital under any future peace deal.
"It's been the capital of our state for
the past 70 years. It will remain our capital for all time," he said.
Kushner and Ivanka Trump sat in the
front row near Netanyahu during the ceremony but did not speak. Netanyahu
called their presence a "national and international statement" that "touches
U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin
said Trump was fulfilling a key campaign promise by moving the embassy. "The
United States has no greater partner than Israel," he said.
Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of J Street,
a liberal pro-Israel group in the U.S., expressed concern that the embassy
move would backfire.
He accused the White House of putting
the interests of a small group of hard-liners ahead of the larger interest
of promoting peace with the Palestinians.
"Making a move like this removes the
U.S. as a credible mediator," he said.
The Palestinian ambassador to
Washington sharply condemned the relocation of the U.S. Embassy in a
"Tragically, the US administration has
chosen to side with Israel's exclusivist claims over a city that has for
centuries been sacred to all faiths," said Husam Zomlot.
Bridge collapses into river in Kashmir; 5 dead, 11 missing
rescue workers search for bodies at the site of bridge collapse in Kundal
Shahi, some 75 kilometers (47 miles) north of Muzaffarabad, the capital of
Pakistani controlled Kashmir, Sunday May 13. (AP Photo/M.D. Mughal)
Muzaffarabad, Pakistan (AP) — An
old wooden bridge over a fast-moving river in Kashmir collapsed as dozens of
students were taking pictures on it, leading to at least five deaths on
Javed Ayub, a senior tourism department
official in Pakistani-administered Kashmir, said 14 students were rescued
after the bridge collapsed and that civil and military rescue teams were
searching for 11 others.
Ayub said rescue workers recovered the
bodies of five drowned students. The students, most in their early 20s, were
enrolled in the medical college at Faisalabad in eastern Punjab province. He
said some students from a college in Lahore were also among those who fell
into the river.
"We hope for the best but it will be
unlikely to find the remaining (students) alive as the water flow is very
high," said Ayub.
Ayub said the hanging wooden bridge was
designed for locals to use in small numbers. "The touring youths have not
realized the danger despite a warning board asking people not to overload
the old structure," he said.
Police official Mohammad Siddiq said
eight of the rescued students were injured and airlifted to Muzaffarabad in
a military helicopter for medical aid. He said the incident took place near
the picnic point of Kundal Shahi, some 75 kilometers (approx. 47 miles)
north of Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistani Kashmir.
The Neelum Valley is a popular tourist
destination in the Pakistan-administered part of Kashmir.
Kashmir is split between Pakistan and
India, both of which claim the Himalayan region in its entirety.
Trump welcomes N. Korea plan to blow up nuke-site tunnels
People watch a TV screen reporting that North
Korea will dismantle a nuke test site during a news program at the Seoul
Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Sunday, May 13. (AP Photo/Ahn
Seoul, South Korea (AP) — North
Korea said Saturday that it will dismantle its nuclear test site in less
than two weeks, in a dramatic event that would set up leader Kim Jong Un's
summit with President Donald Trump next month. Trump welcomed the "gracious
In a statement carried by state media,
North Korea's Foreign Ministry said all of the tunnels at the country's
northeastern testing ground will be destroyed by explosion, and observation
and research facilities and ground-based guard units will also be removed.
Kim had already revealed plans to shut
the test site by the end of May during his summit with South Korean
President Moon Jae-in last month. Analysts say that while the closure of the
site is important, it doesn't represent a material step toward full
"A ceremony for dismantling the nuclear
test ground is now scheduled between May 23 and 25," depending on weather,
the Foreign Ministry's statement said, adding that journalists from the
United States, South Korea, China, Russia and Britain will be invited to
witness the dismantling.
The ministry said the North will
continue to "promote close contacts and dialogue with the neighboring
countries and the international society so as to safeguard peace and
stability on the Korean Peninsula and over the globe."
Trump, in a tweet Saturday, thanked
North Korea for its plan to dismantle the nuclear test site, calling it "a
very smart and gracious gesture!"
Following the Moon-Kim meeting, Moon's
office said Kim was willing to disclose the process to international
experts, but the North's statement Saturday didn't address allowing experts
on the site.
South Korea had no immediate response
to the statement.
The North's announcement comes days
after Washington announced that the historic summit between Kim and Trump
will be held June 12 in Singapore.
South Korea has said Kim has genuine
interest in dealing away his nuclear weapons in return for economic
benefits. However, there are lingering doubts about whether Kim would ever
agree to fully relinquish the weapons he probably views as his only
guarantee of survival.
During their meeting at a border truce
village, Moon and Kim vaguely promised to work toward the "complete
denuclearization" of the Korean Peninsula, but made no references to
verification or timetables.
North Korea for decades has been
pushing a concept of "denuclearization" that bears no resemblance to the
American definition. The North has been vowing to pursue nuclear development
unless Washington removes its 28,500 troops from South Korea and the nuclear
umbrella defending South Korea and Japan.
Some experts believe Kim may try to
drag out the process or seek a deal in which he gives away his
intercontinental ballistic missiles but retains some of his shorter-range
arsenal in return for a reduced U.S. military presence in the South. This
could satisfy Trump but undermine the alliance between Washington and Seoul.
Kim declared his nuclear force as
complete in December, following North Korea's most powerful nuclear test to
date in September and three flight tests of ICBMs designed to reach the U.S.
North Korea announced at a ruling party
meeting last month that it was suspending all tests of nuclear devices and
ICBMs, as well as the plan to close the nuclear testing ground.
Kim said during the meeting that the
nuclear test site's mission had come "to an end" because the North had
completed developing nuclear-capable intermediate-range missiles, ICBMs and
other strike means.
The North also said for the first time
at the meeting that it had been conducting "subcritical" nuclear tests.
These refer to experiments involving a subcritical mass of nuclear materials
that allow scientists to examine the performance and safety of weapons
without triggering a nuclear chain reaction and explosion.
North Korea's reference to such
activity is designed to communicate that even without underground testing,
the country intends to maintain its nuclear arsenal and be a "responsible"
steward of those weapons at the same time, said Andrea Berger, a senior
analyst at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies.
Still, the closure of the underground
testing site could be a useful precedent for Washington and Seoul as they
proceed with the nuclear negotiations with Pyongyang, analysts say.
"Now that North Korea has accepted in
principle that agreements should be verified, U.S. negotiators should hold
them to this standard for any subsequent agreement," said Adam Mount, a
senior defense analyst at the Federation of American Scientists. "It will
make it more difficult for Kim Jong Un to deny inspections now that he has
placed them on the table."
North Korea has invited the outside
world to witness the dismantling of its nuclear facilities before. In June
2008, international broadcasters were allowed to show the demolishing of a
cooling tower at the Nyongbyon reactor site, a year after the North reached
an agreement with the U.S. and four other nations to disable its nuclear
facilities in return for an aid package worth about $400 million.
But in September 2008, the North
declared that it would resume reprocessing plutonium, complaining that
Washington wasn't fulfilling its promise to remove the country from the U.S.
list of state sponsors of terrorism.
The administration of George W. Bush
removed North Korea from the list in October 2008 after the country agreed
to continue disabling its nuclear plant. However, a final attempt by Bush to
complete an agreement to fully dismantle North Korea's nuclear weapons
program collapsed that December when the North refused to accept
U.S.-proposed verification methods.
The North went on to conduct its second
nuclear test in May 2009.
China's first home-built aircraft carrier begins sea trials
China's first entirely home-built aircraft
carrier leaves Dalian in northeast China's Liaoning Province for sea trials
Sunday, May 13. (Li Gang/Xinhua via AP)
Beijing (AP) — China's first entirely home-built aircraft carrier
began sea trials Sunday in a sign of the growing sophistication of the
country's domestic arms industry.
The still-unnamed ship left dock in the
northern port of Dalian at 7:00 a.m. to "test the reliability and stability
of its propulsion and other system," the Defense Ministry said in a
The Liaoning provincial maritime safety
bureau issued an order for shipping to avoid a section of ocean southeast of
the city between Sunday and Friday.
The 50,000-ton carrier will likely be
formally commissioned sometime before 2020 following the completion of sea
trials and the arrival of its full air complement.
The new carrier is based on the former
Soviet Union's Kuznetsov class design, with a ski jump-style deck for taking
off and a conventional oil-fueled steam turbine power plant.
China's first aircraft carrier, the
Liaoning, arrived as a mostly empty hull from Ukraine and was commissioned
in 2012 along with its flight wing of Chinese J-15 fighter jets.
State media reports say China is also
planning to build a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier capable of remaining at
sea for long durations.
China has the world's largest navy in
terms of numbers of ships, although it lags behind the U.S. in technology
and combat capabilities.
It has been deployed to assert China's
claim to virtually the entire South China Sea and is increasingly ranging
farther into the Pacific and Indian oceans. China last year established its
first overseas military base in the Horn of Africa nation of Djibouti, where
rivals such as the U.S., Japan and several European nations also have a
Iran cleric threatens destruction of Israeli cities
protestors burn the U.S. flags during a gathering after their Friday prayer
in Tehran, Iran, Friday, May 11. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)
Tehran, Iran (AP) — A prominent
Iranian cleric on Friday threatened two Israeli cities with destruction if
the Jewish state "acts foolishly" and attacks its interests again, while
thousands of protesters demonstrated against President Donald Trump's
withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear deal with world powers.
The comments by Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami
followed a week of escalating tensions that threaten to spill over into a
wider conflict between the two bitter enemies, who have long fought each
other through proxies in Syria and Lebanon.
Israeli airstrikes struck Iranian
military installations inside Syria on Thursday — its biggest coordinated
assault on Syria since the 1973 Mideast war — in retaliation for an Iranian
rocket barrage on Israeli positions in the occupied Golan Heights. It was
the most serious military confrontation between the two rivals to date.
Khatami, who has echoed sentiments of
Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei who says Israel will not exist in 25 years, said
the Jewish state could face destruction if it continues to challenge Iran.
"The holy system of the Islamic
Republic will step up its missile capabilities day by day so that Israel,
this occupying regime, will become sleepless and the nightmare will
constantly haunt it that if it does anything foolish, we will raze Tel Aviv
and Haifa to the ground," he said, according to state television.
His remarks drew chants of "Death to
America!" from those gathered for Friday prayers in Tehran.
Thousands later demonstrated across the
country to protest Trump's withdrawal from the nuclear deal. The protests
resembled other aggressive but orderly gatherings typical under President
Hassan Rouhani, who has portrayed himself as seeking rapprochement with the
West and is simultaneously trying to save the nuclear deal with world powers
while attempting to appease hard-liners seeking revenge for Israeli attacks.
In a lengthy government statement on
Friday, the Iranian government warned that it would take "whatever
reciprocal measures it deems expedient" if it is not fully compensated for
the U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear agreement as provided for in the
It called on the other parties to the
agreement — especially Britain, France and Germany — to safeguard the
accord, adding that no provisions or timeframes in the 2015 agreement "are
negotiable in any manner."
At the same time, the government said
it has tasked the president of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran with
"taking all necessary steps in preparation for Iran to pursue
industrial-scale enrichment without any restrictions."
After Trump announced the U.S.
withdrawal from the deal on Tuesday, Rouhani warned that Iran would resume
uranium enrichment at an even higher rate if the accord collapses. He
ordered Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to negotiate with the
countries still in the deal to try to save it, and Friday's statement
reiterated that Zarif was seeking "required guarantees" from the five other
parties to the agreement.
The 2015 nuclear deal imposed
restrictions on the Islamic Republic's nuclear program in return for the
lifting of most of the U.S. and international sanctions against Tehran.
However, the deal came with time limits
and did not address Iran's ballistic missile program or its regional
policies. Trump has repeatedly pointed to those omissions in referring to
the accord as the "worst deal ever." However, proponents of the deal have
said those time limits were meant to encourage more discussion with Iran in
On Friday, France urged Europeans to
stand up to Trump over the nuclear deal and not act as "vassals," as the EU
scrambles to find ways to save the accord and the billions of dollars in
trade it unleashed.
French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire
said on Europe-1 radio that Europe should not accept that the U.S. is the
"world's economic policeman."
"Do we want to be vassals who obey
decisions taken by the United States while clinging to the hem of their
trousers?" Le Maire asked. "Or do we want to say we have our economic
interests, we consider we will continue to do trade with Iran?"
European governments tried for months
to persuade Trump to stick with the deal but failed, and now fear it will
raise the risk of conflict in the region. Aside from the mounting military
tensions between Iran and Israel, oil prices are rising on the uncertainty.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and
German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke Friday and underlined their aim of
preserving the deal and peace in the Mideast. And European Union foreign
policy chief Federica Mogherini insisted that it's not up to the U.S. to
determine the deal's future anyway.
"This deal is not a bilateral treaty.
It's a UN Security Council Resolution and it belongs to the entire world,"
said Mogherini, who will chair talks Tuesday with the British, French,
German and Iranian foreign ministers in Brussels.
Family of 7 dead with gunshot wounds in rural Australia
Police forensics investigate the death of seven
people in a suspected murder-suicide in Osmington, east of Margaret River,
south west of Perth, Australia Friday, May 11. (Richard Wainwright/AAP Image
Canberra, Australia (AP) — A
family of seven including four children was found dead with gunshot wounds
Friday at a rural property in southwest Australia in what could be the
country's worst mass shooting in 22 years, police and news media said.
The children died with their mother and
grandparents. The three generations had moved in 2015 to Osmington, a
village of fewer than 700 people near the tourist town of Margaret River, to
grow fruit, media reported.
Police would not comment on the
possibility of murder-suicide, but said they are not looking for a suspect.
After being alerted by a phone call
before dawn, police found the bodies and two guns at the property, Western
Australia state Police Commissioner Chris Dawson said. Police wouldn't say
who made the call.
The bodies of two adults were found
outside a house and the others were found inside. They all resided at the
property, he said.
Police said they have no information
that would raise concerns about wider public safety, suggesting a shooter is
not at large.
"Police are currently responding to
what I can only describe as a horrific incident," Dawson told reporters.
"This devastating tragedy will no doubt
have a lasting impact on the families concerned, the whole community and, in
particular, the local communities in our southwest," he added.
Police were attempting to make contact
with the victims' relatives, Dawson said. He declined to release the names
or ages of the dead.
Philip Alpers, a Sydney University gun
policy analyst, said the tragedy appeared to be the worst mass shooting in
Australia since a lone gunman killed 35 people in Tasmania state in 1996,
prompting the nation to introduce tough gun controls.
Australia's gun laws are widely
acclaimed as a success, with supporters including former U.S. President
Barack Obama saying Australia has not had a single mass shooting since they
The generally accepted definition of a
mass shooting — four deaths excluding the shooter in a single event — has
been met only once in Australia since then. In 2014, a farmer shot his wife
and three children before killing himself.
Police have revealed few details about
the recent killings, and it is not clear whether there was more than one
Farmers are allowed to own guns under
Australian law because they have a legitimate need to use them to kill feral
pests and predators or sick or injured livestock. But automatic and
semi-automatic rifles and shotguns are banned from public ownership.
Osmington is a collection of a few
streets, farms, vacation accommodations and vineyards supplying the premium
winemaking district known as Margaret River.
Samantha Lee, chair of the Gun Control
Australia lobby group, said rural areas were over-represented in Australian
gun deaths, including suicides.
"Regional and rural areas are
particularly vulnerable to these sorts of tragedies, because of the
combination of isolation, sometimes mental or financial hardship and easy
access to firearms," Less said in a statement.
"Although the details of this tragedy
are yet to come to light, Australia has a tragic history of higher rate of
gun deaths in rural areas," she added.
Police defuse WWII bomb found at Hong Kong construction site
Police bomb squad members move a deactivated
WWII bomb in the Wan Chai district of Hong Kong, Friday, May 11. (AP
Hong Kong (AP) — Police on Friday defused a World War II bomb that
was found at a construction site in Hong Kong's Wan Chai district.
Officials said the unexploded American
1,000-pound (450-kilogram) bomb, found by a construction worker on Thursday,
was the third dug up at the site since January.
Police evacuated workers, residents and
office staff from the area until bomb squad officers were able to defuse the
explosive at midday Friday.
The bombs are believed to have been
dropped by warplanes during World War II, when the then-British colony was
the scene of fighting between Allied and Japanese occupation forces.
Indonesia's most active volcano erupts, spews ash into sky
Mount Merapi spews volcanic materials from its
crater as seen from Klaten, Central Java, Indonesia, Friday, May 11. (AP
Jakarta, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesia's most active volcano, Mount
Merapi, erupted early Friday, spewing sand and pyroclastic material and
sending an ash column as high as 5,500 meters (18,045 feet) into the sky.
The sudden eruption was accompanied by
a rumbling sound with medium to strong pressure, Disaster Mitigation Agency
spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said.
People living within 5 kilometers of
the crater evacuated to barracks set up for the displaced or left for other
There were no immediate reports of
Nugroho said Adi Sucipto airport in
Yogyakarta was closed for about one hour due to the spread of volcanic ash.
It has reopened.
The eruption, however, did not raise
the alert status of Merapi, which is at a normal level with no eruption
expected in the foreseeable future.
The 2,968-meter mountain between
Yogyakarta and Central Java provinces is the most active of 500 Indonesian
volcanoes. Its last major eruption in 2010 killed 347 people and caused the
evacuation of 20,000 villagers.
Indonesia, an archipelago of more than
250 million people, is prone to earthquakes and volcanic activity because it
sits along the Pacific "Ring of Fire," a horseshoe-shaped series of fault
Singapore ties with US, NKorea make city-state summit site
Singapore's financial skyline is seen lining the
edge of the Singapore River on Thursday, May 10. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)
Singapore (AP) — Singapore's
diplomatic ties with North Korea and its relative proximity made the
Southeast Asian city-state a natural choice for the historic summit between
President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Trump announced in a tweet Thursday the
two leaders will meet in Singapore on June 12.
The city is "a great location" for the
summit, said Tom Plant, who specializes in nuclear and proliferation issues
at London's Royal United Services Institute. "Kim will be on friendly
territory, not hostile territory. But he wouldn't be on home turf."
Among the factors: It's closer for Kim
than possible Europe venues, the experience of Singapore's security forces,
and the fact that Pyongyang has had diplomatic relations with the country
Singapore is familiar ground for the
reclusive communist country, which has its embassy in Singapore's central
Single-party rule since Singapore
gained independence in 1965 has ensured stability and fostered a security
state that is among the world's most efficient. Located between two Muslim
majority nations — Malaysia and Indonesia — with Islamic State group
sympathizers, it has effectively checked terrorist threats.
It's also a perfect venue for top
security meetings — protests are not allowed without permission, movement is
strictly controlled and media are kept under control.
Singapore is sometimes decried by civil
libertarians as repressive. Among the most common complaints: preventive
detention without warrants or charges; monitoring of private electronic or
telephone communications also without warrants; the use of defamation laws
to discourage government criticism and strict laws limiting freedom of
association, according to the annual U.S. State Department human rights
North Korea's state companies have, in
the past, conducted legal and illegal business dealings with Singaporean
companies. The city-state, under pressure from the U.S. and a leaked U.N.
report, officially cut off trade relations with North Korea in 2017 to abide
Singapore also is welcome ground for
the United States.
It is a large trading partner, the
second-largest Asian investor, and a longtime supporter of its military
presence in the Asia-Pacific region. It's also the regional headquarters of
large U.S. companies including Google, Facebook and Airbnb. Diplomatic
relations between the two countries were established in 1966.
"The North Korean side will likely have
a very large number of logistical and protocol issues it wants addressed by
the summit venue, so having a (North Korean) embassy in the country where
the summit is to be held is likely a requirement," said Malcolm Cook, a
senior fellow at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore.
Located just over 3,000 miles (4,800
kilometers) from North Korea, Singapore is comfortably within the flying
range of its aircraft. Flying to western Europe would require a stop or two
"Singapore is neither too far away as
European nations are, allowing Kim Jong Un's private jet to make it here
without refueling, nor too close that Trump might be seen as 'giving way' to
Kim by having to travel a longer distance than the latter," said Nah Liang
Tuang, a research fellow at the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies.
Former U.S. Ambassador to Singapore
David Adelman said Singapore was ideal because it has been "an honest broker
between East and West."
"Singapore has been a great friend to
the U.S. but also Singapore has carefully worked to be a friend to all,
which has earned it trust in capitals around the world," he said.
Its free enterprise philosophy welcomes
trading partners from everywhere, regardless of politics.
"We hope this meeting will advance
prospects for peace in the Korean Peninsula," Singapore's Ministry of
Foreign Affairs said in a statement.
In 2015, Singapore was the site of
another unprecedented summit between two leaders burdened with a legacy of
mutual distrust: Chinese President Xi Jinping and rival Taiwan's
then-President Ma Ying-jeou, the first such meeting since the founding of
the People's Republic of China in 1949.
It also has hosted regional meetings,
including the summits of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in 2007
and 2018. Since 2002, an annual security conference has been held there,
featuring defense chiefs and officials from countries including the U.S.,
China and South Korea.
For such gatherings, roadblocks are set
up around the summit venues, where armed Nepalese Gurkhas stand guard.
In 2015, Gurkha officers fired at a car
that breached four roadblocks and crashed into a concrete barrier. The
driver was killed and two passengers arrested in what turned out to be a
drug-related crash, rather than an attack.
Valued foreign guests won't be troubled
by protesters, either. Demonstrations in Singapore can only be held in a
designated area, the 2.4-acre (0.9-hectare) Hong Lim Park.
Amnesty International says amendments
to the country's Public Order Act have given authorities more power to
restrict public assembly, and participants in peaceful protests have been
At least 44 killed as dam bursts in Kenya, officials say
People gather in front of the broken banks of
the Patel dam near Solai, in Kenya's Rift Valley, Thursday, May 10. (AP
Nairobi, Kenya (AP) — Villagers
said it started with a loud rumble, then houses collapsed one by one under
an approaching wall of water.
"We took our children and rushed to
higher ground," farmer Joseph Maina told The Associated Press. Their home
was submerged and their crops were washed away but unlike dozens of others,
At least 44 were dead and another 40
were missing Thursday after a dam swollen by weeks of seasonal rains burst
in Kenya's Rift Valley, sweeping away hundreds of homes and sending people
fleeing, officials said.
At least 20 of the dead were children.
"Many people are missing. It is a
disaster," said Rongai town police chief Joseph Kioko.
The bursting of the Patel Dam in Solai,
Nakuru County, on Wednesday night was the deadliest single incident yet in
the seasonal rains that have killed more than 170 people in Kenya since
March. The floods hit as the East African nation was recovering from a
severe drought that affected half of the country.
Almost an entire village was swept away
by silt and water from the burst dam, said Gideon Kibunja, the county police
chief in charge of criminal investigations. Officials said homes over a
radius of nearly 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) were submerged.
Forty people have been reported
missing, Regional Commissioner Mwongo Chimwanga said, while about 40 others
were rescued from the mud and taken to local hospitals.
The area has seven dams used by a
commercial farm, said Keffa Mageni, an official with an advocacy group that
helps to resettle displaced people. With the heavy seasonal rains the dams
do not have an outlet, he said.
"There are two other dams which are
leaking," one resident, Stephen Nganga, said. He asked the government to
investigate them for the residents' safety.
Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred
Matiangi, visiting the scene, said the government had launched
investigations to determine the stability of the other dams.
Nakuru County Governor Lee Kinyanjui
said water from one of the other dams will be discharged to avoid a disaster
and that a village near that dam will be evacuated.
More than 225,000 people in Kenya have
been displaced from their homes since March, according to the government.
Military helicopters and personnel in the past week have been deployed to
rescue people marooned by the flooding.
The dam burst has again raised concerns
about the state of Kenya's infrastructure. The National Construction
Authority in the past has blamed contractors of bypassing building codes to
save on cost.
In April 2016 a residential building in
the capital, Nairobi, collapsed during rains, killing 52 people. Last May
the wall of a hospital collapsed due to rains, killing six people in Kenya's
second largest city, Mombasa.
Australian, 104, dies in assisted suicide in Switzerland
104-year-old Australian scientist David Goodall
speaks during a press conference a day before his assisted suicide in Basel,
Switzerland, on Wednesday, May 9. (Georgios Kefalas/Keystone via AP)
Liestal, Switzerland (AP) — A 104-year-old
Australian biologist who drew international attention to his right-to-die
case ended his life in Switzerland on Thursday, an advocacy group said.
Exit International, the group that helped David Goodall
carry out his wish, said the scientist was declared dead at 12:30 p.m. in
Liestal, a town outside the city of Basel, where he had traveled to take
advantage of Switzerland's assisted-suicide laws.
"My life has been rather poor for the last year or so.
And I'm very happy to end it," Goodall said Thursday in the room where he
died shortly after.
The British-born scientist said this week that he had
been contemplating the idea of suicide for about 20 years, but only started
thinking about it for himself after his quality of life deteriorated over
the last year.
He cited a lack of mobility, doctor's restrictions and
an Australian law prohibiting him from taking his own life among his
complaints, but he was not ill.
Assisted suicide is legal in Switzerland, where the
procedure is available for anyone who acknowledges in writing that they are
taking their lives willingly — without being forced. But the practice is
frowned upon by many doctors and some others who say it should be reserved
for the terminally ill. Goodall and his supporters want the practice to be
more accepted as a legitimate choice for elderly people in sound mind.
On Wednesday, Goodall told a crowded news conference
that medically assisted suicide should be more widely available.
"At my age, and even at rather less than my age, one
wants to be free to choose the death and when the death is the appropriate
time," he said.
Hundreds of people — some far more frail than Goodall,
who used a wheelchair — travel to Switzerland every year to take their
lives. The best-known group to help foreigners end their days in the Alpine
country is Dignitas, but others include Life Circle in Basel, Goodall's
Goodall took his life with an intravenous drip of
pentobarbital, a chemical often used as an anesthetic but which is lethal in
excessive doses. A doctor put a cannula in his arm, and Goodall turned a
wheel to allow the solution to flow, Exit International said.
Philip Nitschke, director of Exit International, said
that before activating the drip, Goodall had to answer "several questions so
he knew who he was, where he was and what he was about to do."
"He answered those questions with great clarity,
activated the process" while Beethoven's Ninth Symphony played in the
background, he added.
His last words before losing consciousness were "this
is taking an awfully long time," Nitschke said, but "he died shortly
Exit International said Goodall had requested that his
body be donated to medicine, or his ashes sprinkled locally.
"He wishes to have no funeral, no remembrance service
or ceremony," the group said in a statement. "David has no belief in the
The Swiss federal statistics office says the number of
assisted suicides has been growing fast: Nine years ago, there were 297. By
2015, the most recent year tabulated, the figure had more than tripled to
965. Nearly 15 percent of the cases last year were people under 65 years
10 Indian cities top WHO list of most polluted in the world
In this Friday, Nov. 10, 2017 file photo, Indian
motorists ride past a thick blanket of smog and dust on the outskirts of New
Delhi, India. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
New Delhi (AP) — The most recent air pollution data from the World
Health Organization gives India a dubious lead. The world's ten most
polluted cities are Indian.
The air quality database for 2016 was
released by WHO this month and showed that the north Indian industrial city
of Kanpur had the highest measured levels of PM2.5, or small particulate
Kanpur, a northern city on the banks of
the Yamuna River, recorded an annual average PM2.5 level of 173 micrograms
per cubic meter, several times higher than the WHO recommendation of no more
than 10 mcg per cubic meter.
India's capital, which once was the
world's most polluted city, ranks sixth in the most recent list. But experts
say the data does not show improvements in New Delhi's air quality, but
rather that more Indian cities have toxic air.
"This is a grim reminder that air
pollution has become a national public health crisis. It requires hard
action," Anumita Roy Chowdhury, executive director of the Centre for Science
and Environment, a Delhi-based research and lobbying organization, said in a
WHO says as many as 9 out of 10 people
across the world breathe unhealthy air. It attributes some 7 million deaths
yearly to air pollution as tiny particulate matter lodge deep inside the
lungs, causing strokes, heart diseases, lung cancer, chronic obstructive
pulmonary diseases and respiratory infections.
The Indian capital and large parts of
north India gasp for breath for most of the year due to vehicle fumes and
swirling construction dust as well as coal and garbage fires lit by the poor
to keep warm.
Some local studies indicate up to a
third of Delhi's children have impaired lung function and respiratory
diseases like asthma.
Since being identified as one of the
world's most polluted cities, the Indian capital has struggled to clean its
It has barred cargo trucks from city
streets, required drivers to buy newer cars that meet higher emissions
standards and experimented at limiting the number of cars on the road. But
other pollution sources, including construction dust and the burning of crop
stubble in the winter, continue unchecked
Vietnam asks China to withdraw missiles from South China Sea
China has allegedly deployed missile systems and
military jamming equipment to its Spratly Island outposts. (AP Photo/Bullit
Hanoi, Vietnam (AP) — Vietnam has requested China to withdraw its
military equipment from South China Sea outposts, saying their deployment
seriously violates Hanoi's sovereignty, increases tension and destabilizes
the regional situation.
The comments came after CNBC
reported last week that China had installed anti-ship cruise missiles
and surface-to-air missile systems on three outposts in the contested
Spratly Islands, which are also claimed by Vietnam, among others.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Le Thi
Thu Hang said in a statement that Vietnam has sufficient legal basis and
historical evidence to affirm its sovereignty over the Spratlys and the
Paracels in the South China Sea.
"Vietnam requests that China ...
show its responsibility in maintaining peace, stability in the East Sea,
do not carry out militarization activities, withdraw military equipment
illegally installed on features under Vietnam's sovereignty," she said,
using Vietnam's name for the South China Sea.
Chinese Foreign Ministry
spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the "peaceful constructions and deployed
defensive facilities" aimed to "meet the need of safeguarding national
sovereignty and security, which is also the right of a sovereign state."
Hua denied such work constituted
militarization and accused the U.S. of increasing military tensions in
the area, adding that "they should be prepared for the consequences."
China has constructed seven
man-made islands and equipped them with runways, hangers, radar and
missile stations, further cementing its vast territorial claims in the
busy waterway. The U.S. says that militarization of the South China Sea
runs contrary to Chinese President Xi Jinping's assurances to