Saudis say they will defend themselves, as Trump warns Iran
Friday, May 17, 2019, photo released by the U.S. Navy, the USS Abraham
Lincoln sails in the Arabian Sea near the amphibious assault ship USS
Kearsarge. (Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brian M. Wilbur, U.S.
Navy via AP)
Aya Batrawy and Fay Abuelgasim
Dubai, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Saudi Arabia
does not want war but will not hesitate to defend itself against Iran, a top
Saudi diplomat said Sunday after the kingdom's energy sector was targeted
this past week amid heightened tensions in the Persian Gulf.
U.S. President Donald Trump, meanwhile, warned Iran
that it will face destruction if it seeks a fight, while Iranian officials
said their country isn't looking for war. Trump spoke after a rocket hit
near the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.
Adel al-Jubeir, the Saudi minister of state for foreign
affairs, spoke a week after four oil tankers— two of them Saudi — were
targeted in an alleged act of sabotage off the coast of the United Arab
Emirates and days after Iran-allied Yemeni rebels claimed a drone attack on
a Saudi oil pipeline.
"The kingdom of Saudi Arabia does not want war in the
region and does not strive for that... but at the same time, if the other
side chooses war, the kingdom will fight this with all force and
determination and it will defend itself, its citizens and its interests,"
al-Jubeir told reporters.
On Sunday night, the U.S. military command that
oversees the Mideast confirmed an explosion outside the U.S. Embassy
compound in Baghdad and said there were no U.S. or coalition casualties.
A State Department spokesman, who spoke on condition of
anonymity, said that "a low-grade rocket did land within the International
Zone near the U.S. Embassy." The spokesman said that "attacks on U.S.
personnel and facilities will not be tolerated and will be responded to in a
decisive manner" and added that the U.S. will hold "Iran responsible if any
such attacks are conducted by its proxy militia forces or elements of such
Earlier, after initial reports of the attack, Trump
tweeted a warning to Iranian leaders: "If Iran wants to fight, that will be
the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!" Trump
A senior Iranian military commander was quoted as
saying his country is not looking for war, in comments published in Iranian
media on Sunday.
Fears of armed conflict were already running high after
the White House ordered warships and bombers to the region earlier this
month to counter an alleged, unexplained threat from Iran. The U.S. also has
ordered nonessential staff out of its diplomatic posts in Iraq.
Trump had appeared to soften his tone in recent days,
saying he expected Iran to seek negotiations with his administration. Asked
on Thursday if the U.S. might be on a path to war with Iran, the president
answered, "I hope not."
Sunday night's apparent rocket attack was the first
such incident since September, when three mortar shells landed in an
abandoned lot inside the Green Zone.
Iraqi military spokesman Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasoul told
The Associated Press that a Katyusha rocket fell near the statue of the
Unknown Soldier, less than a mile from the U.S. Embassy. He said that the
military was investigating the cause but that the rocket was believed to
have been fired from east Baghdad. The area is home to Iran-backed Shiite
As tensions escalate between the U.S. and Iran, there
have been concerns that Baghdad could once again get caught in the middle ,
just as it is on the path to recovery. The country hosts more than 5,000
U.S. troops, and is home to powerful Iranian-backed militias, some of whom
want those U.S. forces to leave.
The U.S. Navy said Sunday it had conducted exercises in
the Arabian Sea with the aircraft carrier strike group ordered to the region
to counter the unspecified threat from Iran. The Navy said the exercises and
training were conducted Friday and Saturday with the USS Abraham Lincoln
aircraft carrier strike group in coordination with the U.S. Marine Corps,
highlighting U.S. "lethality and agility to respond to threat," as well as
to deter conflict and preserve U.S. strategic interests.
The current tensions are rooted in Trump's decision
last year to withdraw the U.S. from the 2015 nuclear accord between Iran and
world powers and impose wide-reaching sanctions, including on Iranian oil
exports that are crucial to its economy.
Iran has said it would resume enriching uranium at
higher levels if a new nuclear deal is not reached by July 7. That would
potentially bring it closer to being able to develop a nuclear weapon,
something Iran insists it has never sought.
Energy ministers from OPEC and its allies, including
major producers Saudi Arabia and Russia, are meeting in Saudi Arabia on
Sunday to discuss energy prices and production cuts. Iran's oil exports are
expected to shrink further in the coming months after the U.S. stopped
renewing waivers that allowed it to continue selling to some countries.
OPEC and non-OPEC oil producers have production cuts in
place, but the group of exporters is not expected to make its decision on
output until late June, when they meet again in Vienna.
The United Arab Emirates' energy minister Suhail al-Mazrouei
told reporters at the meeting he does not think relaxing the oil production
cuts in place is the right measure. His comments suggest there's support
within OPEC and other oil-producing nations, like Russia, to continue
propping up oil prices after a sharp fall last year. Oil is now trading
above $70 a barrel and closer to what's needed to balance state budgets
among Persian Gulf producers.
Saudi Arabia's King Salman, meanwhile, has called for a
meeting of Arab heads of state on May 30 in Mecca to discuss the latest
developments, including the oil pipeline attack.
The kingdom has blamed the pipeline attack on Iran,
accusing Tehran of arming the rebel Houthis, which a Saudi-led coalition has
been at war with in Yemen since 2015. Iran denies arming or training the
rebels, who control much of northern Yemen, including the capital, Sanaa.
"We want peace and stability in the region, but we
won't stand with our hands bound as the Iranians continuously attack. Iran
has to understand that," al-Jubeir said. "The ball is in Iran's court."
Al-Jubeir also noted that an investigation, led by the
UAE, into the tanker incident is underway.
The state-run Saudi news agency reported Sunday that
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin
Salman to discuss regional developments. There was no immediate statement by
the State Department about the call.
An English-language Saudi newspaper close to the palace
recently published an editorial calling for surgical U.S. airstrikes in
retaliation for Iran's alleged involvement in targeting Saudi Arabia's oil
The head of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, Gen. Hossein
Salami, was quoted Sunday as saying Iran is not looking for war. But he said
the U.S. is going to fail in the near future "because they are frustrated
and hopeless" and are looking for a way out of the current escalation. His
comments, given to other Guard commanders, were carried by Iran's
semi-official Fars news agency.
The USS Abraham Lincoln has yet to reach the Strait of
Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which a third of all
oil traded at sea passes.
India's marathon national election reaches the finish line
Indian women stand in queues to cast their votes
in the seventh and final phase of national elections, on the outskirts of
Varanasi, India, Sunday, May 19, 2019. (AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh)
Julhas Alam and Ashok Sharma
Kolkata, India (AP) — Voting in
India's mammoth national election ended Sunday with the seventh and final
phase of a grueling poll that lasted more than five weeks, as exit polls
predicted a victory for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist
party and its allies.
Vote counting begins on Thursday, and
the election result will likely be known the same day.
The election is seen as a referendum on
Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party. The BJP's main opposition is the
Congress party, led by Rahul Gandhi, the scion of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty
that has produced three prime ministers.
Exit polls by four leading television
news channels - Republic, TimesNow, New Delhi Television and India today-
projected a victory for the BJP and its allies with 287 to 339 seats out of
543 - far ahead of the 272 seats needed to form the next government.
The Congress party and its allies are
likely to win 122 to 128 seats, the TV channels said. Indian television
channels have had a mixed record in the past in predicting election results.
Total voter turnout in the national
election was 64.9%, the national election commission said, up from 58% in
the last national vote in 2014.
Gandhi questioned the way the election
was conducted by the autonomous Election Commission, saying the election
schedule was manipulated to help Modi's party.
"The EC used to be feared & respected.
Not anymore," Gandhi tweeted Sunday evening, without giving any details.
Sunday's voting covered Modi's
constituency of Varanasi, a holy Hindu city where he was elected in 2014
with an impressive margin of over 200,000 votes. Modi spent Saturday night
at Kedarnath, a temple of the Hindu god Shiva nestled in the Himalayas in
The final election round included 59
constituencies in eight states. Up for grabs were 13 seats in Punjab and an
equal number in Uttar Pradesh, eight each in Bihar and Madhya Pradesh, nine
in West Bengal, four in Himachal Pradesh and three in Jharkhand and
In Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal,
voters lined up outside polling stations early Sunday morning to avoid the
scorching heat, with temperatures reaching 38 degrees Celsius (100
Fahrenheit). Armed security officials stood guard in and outside the centers
amid fear of violence.
While the election, which began April
11, was largely peaceful, West Bengal, located in eastern India, was an
exception. Modi is challenged there by the state's chief minister, Mamata
Banerjee, who heads the more inclusive Trinamool Congress party and is
eyeing a chance to go to New Delhi as the opposition's candidate for prime
Modi visited West Bengal 17 times in an
effort to make inroads with his Hindu nationalist agenda, provoking sporadic
violence and prompting the Election Commission to cut off campaigning there.
On Sunday, Nirmala Sitharaman, a BJP
leader and the country's defense minister, accused Banerjee's supporters of
attacking her party members and preventing them from voting at several
places in six of the nine constituencies in West Bengal. She did not provide
Banerjee denied the accusation and said
Modi's government used security forces to intimidate her party's supporters.
Prodeep Chakrabarty, a retired teacher
in Kolkata, said Modi's BJP was desperate to win some seats against
Banerjee's influential regional party.
"People are divided for many reasons.
We have to wait for a final outcome to see who people are voting for. Things
are not predictable like before," he said.
Minorities in India, especially
Muslims, who comprise about 14 percent of the country's 1.3 billion people,
criticize Modi for his Hindu nationalist agenda. Modi's party backed a bill
that would make it easier to deport millions of Bangladeshis who have
migrated to India since Bangladesh's independence in 1971. The bill,
however, eases a path to citizenship for Hindus, Sikhs, Parsees and Jains -
non-Muslims - who came from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan over
Voters were also up early Sunday in
Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh state, where election workers arranged for
drinking water, shade and fans to cool them down.
"I straightaway came from my morning
walk to cast my vote and was surprised to see enthusiasm among the voters,"
said Ramesh Kumar Singh, who was among the first to vote. "There were long
queues of people waiting patiently to cast their votes, which is a good sign
During the election campaign, Modi
played up the threat of Pakistan, India's Muslim-majority neighbor and
archrival, especially after the suicide bombing of a paramilitary convoy in
Kashmir on Feb. 14 that killed 40 Indian soldiers.
Congress and other opposition parties
have challenged Modi over a high unemployment rate of 6.1% and farmers'
distress aggravated by low crop prices.
Some of Modi's boldest policy steps,
such as the demonetization of high currency notes to curb black-market
money, proved to be economically damaging. A haphazard implementation of
"one nation, one tax" - a goods and services tax - also hit small and medium
Voter turnout in the first six rounds
was approximately 66%, the Election Commission said, up from 58% in the last
national election in 2014.
Pre-election media polls indicate that
no party is likely to win anything close to a majority in Parliament, which
has 543 seats. The BJP, which won a majority of 282 seats in 2014, may need
some regional parties as allies to stay in power.
A Congress-led government would require
a major electoral upset.
Bomb hits tourist bus near Egypt's Giza Pyramids, wounds 17
Police inspect a car and a bus that were damaged
by a bomb, in Cairo, Egypt, Sunday, March 19, 2019. (AP Photo/Mohammed Salah)
Cairo (AP) — A roadside bomb hit
a tourist bus on Sunday near the Giza Pyramids, wounding at least 17 people
including tourists, Egyptian officials said.
The officials said the bus was
travelling on a road close to the under-construction Grand Egyptian Museum,
which is located adjacent to the Giza Pyramids but is not yet open to
The bus was carrying at least 25 people
mostly from South Africa, officials added.
The attack comes as Egypt's vital
tourism industry is showing signs of recovery after years in the doldrums
because of the political turmoil and violence that followed a 2011 uprising
that toppled former leader Hosni Mubarak.
The officials said security forces
cordoned off the site of the explosion and the wounded were taken to a
The explosion damaged a windshield of
another car, they said. Footage circulated online shows shattered windows of
The officials spoke on condition of
anonymity because they were not authorized to brief media.
Atif Moftah, general supervisor of the
Grand Egyptian Museum, said the explosion did not cause any damage to the
museum, in a statement issued by the antiquities ministry.
No group has immediately claimed
responsibility for the attack. It is the second to target foreign tourists
near the famed pyramids in less than six months. In December, a bus carrying
15 Vietnamese tourists was hit by a roadside bomb, killing at least three of
Egypt has battled Islamic militants for
years in the Sinai Peninsula in an insurgency that has occasionally spilled
over to the mainland, hitting minority Christians or tourists. The
insurgency gained strength after the 2013 military overthrow of the
country's first freely elected president, an Islamist whose brief rule
sparked mass protests.
UN tells Italy proposed decree violates migrants' rights
Friday, Dec. 21, 2018 file photo, a baby is loaded into the rescue vessel of
the Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms, after being rescued in the Central
Mediterranean Sea at 45 miles (72 kilometers) from Al Khums, Libya. (AP
Rome (AP) — The Italian interior
ministry vowed Sunday to press ahead with a new decree formalizing the
closure of Italian ports to aid groups that rescue migrants, even after U.N.
human rights investigators said it violated international law.
Ministry officials said the security
decree was "necessary and urgent" and was expected to be approved at a
Cabinet meeting Monday.
In a May 15 letter to Italy's
government released Saturday, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights
urged Italy to withdraw the decree, calling it "yet another political
attempt to criminalize search and rescue operations."
The decree "further intensifies the
climate of hostility and xenophobia against migrants," said the letter,
which was signed by several U.N. human rights rapporteurs.
It was issued as a ship carrying more
than 40 migrants from the German aid group Sea-Watch remained off the island
of Lampedusa waiting for a port to disembark its passengers. Sea-Watch said
it had flouted Italy's ban and entered Italian territorial waters on
Saturday for humanitarian reasons.
Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, a
hard-line populist, proposed the decree before the European Parliament
elections this week, where nationalist, anti-migrant parties are hoping to
make strong gains. Salvini's League has soared in popularity in part because
of his hard-line migration policy, which has involved boosting the Libyan
coast guard's ability to rescue migrants and bring them back.
Among other provisions, the decree
leaves it to the interior minister to limit or prohibit entry into Italian
territorial waters any ships for public security reasons. It foresees fines
of up to 5,500 euros ($6,145) for each migrant transported.
The U.N. letter says the measures would
violate migrants' human rights, which are enshrined in U.N. conventions that
Italy has signed. It said Italy is obliged to rescue migrants in distress
and can't impede others from doing so. And it says that Libya can't be
considered a safe port for migrants rescued at sea, particularly after the
recent spike in fighting.
In a statement late Sunday, the Italian
foreign ministry said the letter carried no juridical weight and suggested
it was based on imprecise information. It noted that since Jan. 1, 2018,
Italy has received eight such letters, whereas the U.S. has received 30,
Britain 16 and France 12.
Interior ministry officials told
journalists in a statement Sunday that Turkey and North Korea similarly
punish border violations and that Italy has long had fines in its legal
code, which have merely been updated.
"The hope is that the authoritative
U.N. dedicates its energies to the humanitarian emergency in Venezuela
rather than engage in electoral campaigning in Italy," they said.
Meanwhile, British and French
authorities have stopped 61 migrants who tried to cross the English Channel
in five small boats over the weekend.
The British Home Office said 52
migrants on four boats were intercepted Saturday and Sunday off the Kent
Coast and handed to immigration officials. The migrants said they were from
Iraq and Iran.
The French maritime authority for the
Channel and North Sea said a patrol ship spotted a boat carrying nine
migrants Sunday off the coast of Cape of Gris-Nez. The nine were suffering
light hypothermia and were handed over to border police in Calais.
Several of the migrants were children.
Illegal migrant crossings across the
English Channel are on the rise in recent weeks despite joint British-French
efforts to crack down on them.
1 dead, mosques attacked as Sri Lanka communal tensions rise
security officers inspect vandalized shops owned by Muslims in Minuwangoda,
a suburb of Colombo, Sri Lanka, Tuesday, May 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Chamila
Colombo, Sri Lanka (AP) — Mob attacks on Muslim
communities in Sri Lanka's northwest have left one person dead and dozens of
shops and mosques destroyed, a government minister said Tuesday, as communal
violence worsened in the wake of Easter bombings that killed more than 250
A Muslim man was hacked to death in Monday's violence
in which members of the country's largely Buddhist majority ethnic Sinhalese
attacked Muslim-owned shops and homes in several towns, said Rauff Hakeem, a
Cabinet minister and leader of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress.
With communal violence also reported in Sri Lanka's
west, the government imposed a nationwide curfew Monday and temporarily
blocked social media and messaging apps.
Tensions have been running high in the
Buddhist-majority Indian Ocean island nation since the April 21 attacks by
seven suicide bombers who struck two Catholic and one Protestant church and
three luxury hotels. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the
attacks, which were carried out by a local radicalized Muslim group.
Sri Lanka has a dark history of communal tensions. For
more than a quarter century it was embroiled in civil war as Tamil Tiger
rebels fought to create an independent state for ethnic minority Tamils.
When the conflict ended 10 years ago, the U.N.'s conservative estimates said
about 100,000 people had been killed.
Two United Nations advisers warned that the latest
attacks against Muslims could escalate further if not stopped immediately.
"The country is trying to move forward from a traumatic
period of inter-ethnic armed conflict, but these attacks are pushing Sri
Lanka backwards. If not adequately dealt with, the recent violence has the
potential to escalate even further," the advisers said in a statement.
The joint statement was released by Adama Dieng, the
U.N. special adviser on the prevention of genocide, and Karen Smith, the
U.N. special adviser on the responsibility to protect.
Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, the archbishop of Colombo,
appealed to the public to maintain the peace and patience they showed in the
first days after the attacks. He said that he found no religious nuances in
the violence but that local level politicians have been found in the mobs.
"I ask the political leaders to keep their followers
under control. It is no heroism in attacking Muslims and damaging their
property — true heroism is to control and overcome oneself," Ranjith said.
Happy 130th birthday, Eiffel Tower: Laser show for Iron Lady
A light show
illuminates the Eiffel Tower for its 130 year anniversary, in Paris,
Wednesday, May 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
Paris (AP) — Paris wished the Eiffel Tower a
happy birthday Wednesday with an elaborate nighttime laser show retracing
the monument's 130-year history.
Earlier in the day, the monument invited 1,300 children
to a giant "snack time" beneath the tower known as the Iron Lady.
After nightfall, a 12-minute laser display began
flashing across the facade in shows that will run through Friday night.
Professional climbers scaled the monument to mount the lights for the
Around 6 million people go up the tower every year, in
addition to the crowds who just come to look at Gustave Eiffel's creation,
designed for the 1889 World's Fair. It was the world's tallest monument at
the time, and thanks to strict urban planning rules, it still looms large
above the Paris skyline.
The Eiffel Tower opened to the public for the first
time on May 15, 1889, several days after its inauguration at the World's
Citing unrest, US suspends air traffic with Venezuela
opposition leader Juan Guaido speaks during a press conference at his
campaign office in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, May 14, 2019. (AP
Caracas, Venezuela (AP) — The
United States on Wednesday suspended all commercial passenger and cargo
flights between the U.S. and Venezuela, saying the political unrest and
tensions there pose a risk to flights.
The announcement by the Department of
Homeland Security affected a dwindling number of flights between the two
countries, since U.S. airlines no longer fly to Venezuela. The measure
reflected the increasingly sour relationship between the Venezuelan
government and the U.S., which is leading a campaign to oust President
Conditions in Venezuela "threaten the
safety and security of passengers, aircraft, and crew," the department said.
It said the flight suspension will continue indefinitely, though the
decision will be reviewed if the situation in Venezuela changes.
American Airlines stopped its flights
in mid-March after union leaders told pilots not to go there due to safety
concerns. Some other international airlines quit flying to Venezuela years
ago because of the country's deteriorating economy.
Some Venezuelan airlines had been
operating commercial flights to and from Miami, though those were already
affected by the upheaval in the South American country, including after a
failed call for a military uprising by the opposition on April 30.
Tuesday's flights between Miami and
Caracas on Venezuela's Laser Airlines included a stop in the Dominican
Republic, according to the airline.
Also Wednesday, Venezuela's
opposition-controlled congress returned to its chamber a day after security
forces prevented legislators from entering the National Assembly building
for a debate.
Assembly leader Juan Guaidó and other
legislators gave speeches denouncing Maduro's government, which has accused
them of conspiring with the United States to stage a coup.
The National Assembly has come under
increasing pressure from Maduro since the opposition appealed in vain for a
military uprising April 30. The assembly's vice president, Edgar Zambrano,
was arrested May 8. He is among 14 lawmakers placed under investigation for
allegations of treason and other crimes since the failed rebellion.
On Tuesday, police sealed off the
National Assembly, purportedly to search for any hidden explosives.
In Washington, the Rev. Jesse Jackson
delivered food to American activists who have been occupying the Venezuelan
Embassy the past five weeks. Police officers who keep watch around the
diplomatic building allowed Jackson to go to the front gate.
The activists, who have ignored
trespassing warnings, consider Maduro to be Venezuela's rightful leader. The
U.S. and more than 50 other countries contend his presidency is illegitimate
and recognize Guaidó as the interim president.
Japanese space startup aims to compete with US rivals
entrepreneurs and Founder of Interstellar Technologies Inc. Takafumi Horie
speaks during a press conference in Tokyo, Wednesday, May 15, 2019. (AP
Tokyo (AP) — A Japanese startup that launched a
rocket into space earlier this month plans to provide low-cost rocket
services and compete with American rivals such as SpaceX, its founder said
Interstellar Technology Inc. founder Takafumi Horie
said a low-cost rocket business in Japan is well-positioned to accommodate
scientific and commercial needs in Asia. While Japan's government-led space
programs have demonstrated top-level technology, he said the country has
fallen behind commercially due to high costs.
"In Japan, space programs have been largely
government-funded and they solely focused on developing rockets using the
best and newest technologies, which means they are expensive," Horie told
reporters in Tokyo. "As a private company, we can focus on the minimum level
of technology needed to go to space, which is our advantage. We can
transport more goods and people to space by slashing costs."
Horie said his company's low-cost MOMO-3 rocket is the
way to create a competitive space business in Japan.
During its May 4 flight, the unmanned MOMO-3 rocket
reached 113.4 kilometers (70 miles) in altitude before falling into the
Pacific Ocean. The cost to launch the MOMO-3 was about one-tenth of the
launch cost of Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, the country's space
agency, according to Interstellar CEO Takahiro Inagawa.
Horie said his company plans to launch its first
orbital rocket — the ZERO — within the next few years and then it would
technologically be on par with competitors such as Elon Musk's SpaceX,
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin and New Zealand engineer Peter Beck's
The two-stage ZERO would be twice as long and much
heavier than the compact MOMO-3, which is about 10 meters (32 feet) long and
50 centimeters (1.5 feet) in diameter and weighs about 1 ton. It would be
able to send satellites into orbit or carry payloads for scientific
Development of a low-cost commercial rocket is part of
a growing international trend in the space business led by the U.S. and
aggressively followed by China and others.
At home, Horie could face competition from space
subsidiaries of major companies such as Canon and IHI, which have expertise
from working with the government's space agency.
Sri Lanka imposes curfew, blocks social media amid violence
Facebook window is seen on a smart phone screen in Colombo, Sri Lanka. (AP
Colombo, Sri Lanka (AP) — Sri Lanka's government
imposed a nationwide curfew Monday and temporarily blocked social media
following a flare-up of communal violence in apparent response to last
month's Easter attacks that killed more than 250 people, officials said.
Acting police chief C.D. Wickramaratne said the
violence started with a few shops being stoned in the North Western town of
Kuliyapitiya on Sunday. It was soon brought under control, but on Monday
mobs carried out violence on a bigger scale, he said.
"This small group must stop the dangerous game they
play against the lives and property of innocent people," Wickramaratne said
in a televised statement. "We won't allow the country being led to anarchy
by those who impose their strength on unarmed, innocent civilians."
He warned that those arrested for breaching the law
could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said in a speech to
the nation that security forces had brought the violence under control but
the government decided to impose the curfew to stop the violence from
spreading to other parts of the country.
Police said the curfew would be enforced until further
notice in the country's North Western region, and until Tuesday morning in
the rest of the nation.
Tensions have been running high in the
Buddhist-majority Indian Ocean island nation since the attacks by seven
suicide bombers who struck two Catholic and one Protestant church and three
luxury hotels. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the
attacks, carried out by a local radicalized Muslim group.
Muslims have been subjected to hate comments since the
Easter Sunday bombings.
The government imposed the social media ban after an
exchange of accusations between two people on Facebook led to a mob to
attack a Muslim-owned shop Sunday in the Catholic-majority town of Chilaw,
said Nalaka Kaluwewa, the chief of the Information Department.
Kaluwewa said the government took the step "to prevent
misinformation from being circulated and also to prevent spreading of
information that would harm communal harmony."
Previous blocks on social media and messaging apps
imposed following the April 21 suicide attacks on churches and hotels were
lifted after several days.
Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekara said police have
arrested a 38-year-old Muslim businessman, Abdul Hameed Mohamed Hasmar, for
allegedly writing the Facebook comments that sparked the violence.
Local media reported that residents in the area angered
by the comments stoned Hasmar's shop.
The government has intensified security across the
country, with police and troops deployed to protect schools, churches and
key government offices.
On Sunday, the Catholic Church held the first regular
Sunday Mass since the attacks amid tight security. Sunday services had been
canceled the two previous weekends for fear of more attacks, leaving the
faithful to hear Mass via live TV transmission from the residence of
Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, the archbishop of Colombo.
Sweden to reopen rape case against WikiLeaks' Assange
Vice chief prosecutor Eva-Britt speaks at a
press conference in Stockholm, Sweden, Monday May 13, 2019. (Anders Wiklund/TT
News Agency via AP)
David Keyton and Jan M. Olsen
Stockholm (AP) — Swedish
prosecutors said Monday they are reopening a rape case against WikiLeaks
founder Julian Assange and will seek his extradition from Britain.
The move sets up a legal battle with
the United States, where the Australian computer hacker is separately wanted
for allegedly hacking into a Pentagon computer. British authorities will
have to decide which extradition request takes precedence.
Assange, who sought refuge in the
Ecuadorian Embassy in London in 2012 to avoid being sent to Sweden for
questioning, was evicted last month after Ecuador revoked his political
asylum. He was arrested by British police on April 11 and is currently in
London's Belmarsh Prison serving a 50-week sentence for jumping bail in
Eva-Marie Persson, Sweden's deputy
director of public prosecutions, told a news conference in Stockholm Monday
that "there is still a probable cause to suspect that Assange committed a
rape." She added: "It is my assessment that a new questioning of Assange is
Swedish prosecutors filed preliminary
charges — a step short of formal charges — against Assange after he visited
the country in 2010, following complaints from two Swedish women who said
they were the victims of sex crimes committed by Assange.
While a case of alleged sexual
misconduct was dropped in 2017 when the statute of limitations expired, a
rape allegation remains. Swedish authorities have had to shelf it because
Assange was living at the embassy at the time and there was no prospect of
bringing him to Sweden.
The statute of limitations in that case
expires in August next year. Assange has denied wrongdoing, asserting that
the allegations were politically motivated and that the sex was consensual.
The Australian secret-spiller now faces
questioning in Sweden, on top of being held on a U.S. extradition warrant
for allegedly conspiring with former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea
Manning to hack into a Pentagon computer.
Assange's Swedish lawyer Per E.
Samuelson told The Associated Press on Monday that the decision to reopen
the rape case is "outrageous."
"He is in prison in the U.K., he faces
the risk of being extradited to the United States and on top of that, to
demand that he's going to put all his energy into looking into a 10-year-old
story from Sweden is just too much," he said.
But Elisabeth Massi Fritz, the lawyer
for the woman who reported being raped by Assange, said her client "feels
great gratitude" over the decision to reopening the case.
She said it "signals that no one stands
above the law," and that "the legal system in Sweden doesn't give a special
treatment to anyone."
Persson said a European arrest warrant
will be issued for Assange. A Swedish court would formally issue the
extradition request, which Assange could appeal.
She added that while there is a risk
the case may cut close to the statute of limitations deadline, "there is
also a chance that we will be able to get him extradited before August 17
Persson said it was "impossible to
predict" how the extradition process would unfold.
The 47-year-old Australian met the
women in connection with a lecture in August 2010 in Stockholm. One was
involved in organizing an event for Sweden's center-left Social Democratic
Party and offered to host Assange at her apartment. The other was in the
A police officer who heard the women's
accounts decided there was reason to suspect they were victims of sex crimes
and handed the case to a prosecutor.
Neither of the alleged victims has been
Assange faces a maximum of four years
in prison in Sweden.
The British extradition process is not
swift, and Assange could appeal several times if decisions go against him.
It's expected it would take a year or longer for him to be sent to the
United States or possibly to Sweden even if he ultimately loses in court.
WikiLeaks' Editor-in-Chief Kristinn
Hrafnsson said the decision to reopen the case against Assange "will give
Julian a chance to clear his name."
He said in a statement that Persson had
been under "intense political pressure" to reopen the case, and criticized
authorities for "mishandling" it from the start.
China retaliates on tariffs, stock markets go into a slide
In this May 9, 2019, file photo a container ship
is unloaded at the Virginia International Gateway terminal in Norfolk,
Virginia. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
Joe McDonald and Paul Wiseman
Beijing (AP) — Sending Wall Street into a slide,
China announced higher tariffs Monday on $60 billion worth of American goods
in retaliation for President Donald Trump's latest penalties on Chinese
Duties of 5% to 25% will take effect on June 1 on about
5,200 American products, including batteries, spinach and coffee, China's
Finance Ministry said.
With investors worried about the potential economic
damage on all sides from the escalating trade war, the Dow Jones Industrial
Average fell 617 points, or 2.4%, and the technology-heavy Nasdaq plunged
270 points, or 3.4%, its biggest drop of the year. Earlier, stocks fell in
Europe and Asia.
"We appear to be in a slow-motion train wreck, with
both sides sticking to their positions," said William Reinsch, a trade
analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a former
U.S. trade official. "As is often the case, however, the losers will not be
the negotiators or presidents, but the people."
Beijing's move came after the U.S. raised duties Friday
on $200 billion of Chinese imports to 25%, up from 10%. In doing so,
American officials accused China of backtracking on commitments it made in
earlier negotiations. The same day, trade talks between the two countries
broke up without an agreement.
On Twitter, Trump warned Xi that China "will be hurt
very badly" if it doesn't agree to a trade deal. Trump tweeted that Beijing
"had a great deal, almost completed, & you backed out!"
The rising trade hostilities could damage the economies
of both countries. The tariff increases already in place have disrupted
trade in such American products as soybeans and medical equipment and sent
shockwaves through other Asian economies that supply Chinese factories.
Still, the two countries have given themselves
something of an escape hatch: The higher Chinese tariffs don't kick in for
2½ weeks. The U.S. increases apply to Chinese goods shipped since Friday,
and those shipments will take about three weeks to arrive at U.S. seaports
and become subject to the higher charges.
Also, both countries have indicated more talks are
likely. Top White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said Sunday that China
has invited U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury
Secretary Steven Mnuchin to Beijing. But nothing has been scheduled. And
Trump said Monday that he expects to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping in
late June at the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan.
The president has repeatedly insisted that increased
tariffs on Chinese goods don't hurt American consumers. But Kudlow, head of
the president's National Economic Council, acknowledged over the weekend
that U.S. consumers and businesses will bear some of the costs.
"Both sides will pay," he told Fox News.
In the U.S., prices of soybeans, targeted by Chinese
tariffs last year, fell Monday to a 10-year low on fears of a protracted
In a statement, American Soybean Association President
Davie Stevens, a soybean farmer from Clinton, Kentucky, expressed
frustration that "the U.S. has been at the table with China 11 times now and
still has not closed the deal. What that means for soybean growers is that
we're losing. Losing a valuable market, losing stable pricing, losing an
opportunity to support our families and our communities."
Trump told reporters Monday that a new program to
relieve U.S. farmers' pain is "being devised right now" and predicted that
they will be "very happy." The administration last year handed farmers aid
worth $11 billion to offset losses from trade conflicts.
Trump seemed to suggest that the aid will make up for
or partially cover the $15 billion that he said represented "the biggest
purchase that China has ever made with our farmers." In fact, U.S. farm
exports to China approached $26 billion in both 2012 and 2013 and came in at
$19.5 billion in 2017 before his trade war began taking a toll on
agricultural sales to China.
The president's allies in Congress scrambled to limit
the damage to farm country.
Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa said it is time
for U.S. allies to "get in the game" to push China to the negotiating table.
"China needs to get with it," he said. "You can't move these goalposts like
they're moving them and expect to be respected."
The highest tariffs announced by China will apply to
industrial chemicals, electronic equipment, precision machinery and hundreds
of food products.
Beijing is running out of U.S. imports to penalize
because of the lopsided trade balance between the world's two largest
economies. Chinese regulators have instead targeted American companies in
China by slowing down the clearing of shipments through customs and the
processing of business licenses.
Oxford Economics calculated that the higher tariffs
will reduce the U.S. economy by 0.3% in 2020, a loss of $490 per American
Similarly, forecasters have warned that the U.S. tariff
increases could set back a Chinese recovery that had appeared to be gaining
traction. Growth in the world's second-largest economy during the
January-through-March period held steady at 6.4% compared with a year
earlier, supported by higher government spending and bank lending.
The tensions "raise fresh doubts about this recovery
path," Morgan Stanley economists said.
The latest U.S. duties could knock 0.5 percentage
points off annual Chinese economic growth, and that could widen to 1
percentage point if both sides extend penalties to all of each other's
exports, economists say. That would pull annual growth below 6%, raising the
risk of politically dangerous job losses.
China's state media tried to reassure businesses and
consumers that the ruling Communist Party has the means to respond.
"There is nothing to be afraid of," said the party
newspaper People's Daily. "The U.S.-instigated trade war against China is
just a hurdle in China's development process. It is no big deal."
Trump has threatened to extend tariffs to the remaining
$300 billion or so in Chinese tariffs that haven't been targeted yet, but
told reporters Monday: "I have not made that decision yet."
The president started raising tariffs last July over
complaints China steals or pressures foreign companies to hand over
technology and unfairly subsidizes Chinese businesses that are striving to
become global leaders in robotics and other technology.
A stumbling block has been U.S. insistence on an
enforcement mechanism with penalties to ensure Beijing carries out its
Indian prime minister mocked for Pakistan airstrike gaffe
Minister Narendra Modi is shown in this Dec. 11, 2018 file photo. (AP
New Delhi (AP) — Indian Prime
Minister Narendra Modi has been skewered by the opposition for going ahead
with an airstrike in Pakistan on the mistaken belief that cloudy skies would
help India's air force avoid radar detection.
In a television interview broadcast
Saturday, Modi said he used his "raw wisdom" in the operation, believing
Indian aircraft would benefit from the cloud cover.
The opposition mocked Modi's apparent
lack of understanding of surveillance radar signals, which can easily pass
through clouds, and for ignoring experts' advice to delay the operation
until the weather cleared.
Ajai Shukla, a military expert, tweeted
that India should hang its head in shame for Modi perceiving that "cloud
cover would help the aircraft" leave Pakistan's air space without detection.
India's staggered national elections
are underway with the last day of voting set for May 19. Results are
expected four days later.
Modi has used the airstrike as a major
election issue to project strength in dealing with longtime nuclear-armed
Omar Abdullah, the opposition National
Conference leader, tweeted sarcastically that "Pakistani radar doesn't
penetrate clouds. This is an important piece of tactical information that
will be critical when planning future strikes."
The strike came days after a suicide
attack on Indian paramilitary forces in the Indian-controlled portion of
disputed Kashmir that killed 40 soldiers. Modi said the Indian air force hit
a training camp run by Pakistan-based Jaishe-e-Mohammed, the militant group
that claimed responsibility for the assault. Pakistan rejected India's claim
that the air strike caused heavy casualties at the site.
"National security is not something to
be trifled with. Such an irresponsible statement from Modi is highly
damaging. Somebody like him can't remain India's prime minister," said
Sitaram Yechury, a top Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader.
A senior leader in Modi's Bharatiya
Janata Party and Cabinet minister, Prakash Javadekar, while not addressing
the gaffe itself, offered a defense of the prime minister's comments on
"Modi did not reveal anything he was
not supposed to reveal," the Press Trust of India news agency quoted him as
Berlin Airlift remembered, key moment in Cold War
Retired Col. Gail Halvorsen attends a ceremony
to dedicate the baseball and softball field of the Berlin Braves baseball
team in 'Gail Halvorsen Park' in Berlin , Saturday, May 11, 2019. Halvorsen
is known as the "Candy Bomber," "Chocolate Pilot," and "Uncle Wiggly Wings,"
for the small candy-laden parachutes he dropped from his aircraft to
children during the Berlin Airlift of 1948-1949. (Christoph Soeder/dpa via
Berlin (AP) — Berliners on
Sunday celebrated the 70th anniversary of the day the Soviets lifted their
blockade strangling West Berlin in the post-World War II years with a big
party at the former Tempelhof airport in the German capital.
Among the invited guests of honor was
98-year-old U.S. pilot Gail Halvorsen, who dropped hundreds of boxes of
candy on tiny parachutes into West Berlin during the blockade.
Halvorsen came to Berlin from Utah with
his two daughters on Friday, the German news agency dpa reported.
On Saturday, a baseball field at
Tempelhof airport was named after him — the "Gail S. Halvorsen Park - Home
of the Berlin Braves" in honor of his help for Berliners during the Cold
Dressed in a military uniform,
Halvorsen told Berlin's mayor Michael Mueller that "it's good to be home."
The airlift began on June 26, 1948, in
an ambitious plan to feed and supply West Berlin after the Soviets — one of
the four occupying powers of a divided Berlin after World War II — blockaded
the city in an attempt to squeeze the U.S., Britain and France out of the
enclave within Soviet-occupied eastern Germany.
Allied pilots flew a total of 278,000
flights to Berlin, carrying about 2.3 million tons of food, coal, medicine
and other supplies.
On the operation's busiest day, April
16, 1949, about 1,400 planes carried in nearly 13,000 tons over 24 hours —
an average of one plane touching down almost every minute.
On the ground in Berlin, ex-Luftwaffe
mechanics were enlisted to help maintain aircraft, and some 19,000
Berliners, almost half of them women, worked around the clock for three
months to build Tegel Airport, providing a crucial relief for the British
Gatow and American Tempelhof airfields.
Finally, on May 12, 1949, the Soviets
realized the blockade was futile and lifted their barricades. The airlift
continued for several more months, however, as a precaution in case the
Soviets changed their minds.
Halvorsen is probably the best known of
the airlift pilots, thanks to an inadvertent propaganda coup born out of
good will. Early in the airlift, he shared two sticks of gum with starving
Berlin children and saw others sniffing the wrappers just for a hint of the
Touched, he told the children to come
back the next day, when he would drop them candy, using handkerchiefs as
He started doing it regularly, using
his own candy ration. Soon other pilots and crews joined in what would be
dubbed "Operation Little Vittles."
After an Associated Press story
appeared under the headline "Lollipop Bomber Flies Over Berlin," a wave of
candy and handkerchief donations followed.
To this day, the airlift still shapes
many Germans' views of the Western allies, especially in Berlin. After the
Sept. 11 attacks on the U.S. in 2001, some 200,000 Berliners took to the
streets of the German capital to show their support for the country that had
helped prevent their city falling completely to the Soviets.
On Sunday, up to 50,000 people were
expected to participate in the festivities, which include musical
performances, talks with witnesses, exhibitions of historical vehicles and
lots of activities for children, dpa reported.
Millions vote in Philippine elections crucial to Duterte
In this Thursday, May 9, 2019, photo, a man
walks past election banners in the slum district of Tondo, Manila,
Philippines. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)
Manila, Philippines (AP) —
Filipinos have begun voting in midterm elections highlighted by a showdown
between President Rodrigo Duterte's allies who aim to dominate the Senate
and an opposition fighting for check and balance under a leader they regard
as a looming dictator.
Nearly 62 million Filipinos have
registered to choose among 43,500 candidates vying for about 18,000
congressional and local posts in Monday's elections in one of Asia's most
The most crucial race is for 12 seats
in the 24-member Senate, which Duterte wants to fill with allies to bolster
his legislative agenda that includes the return of the death penalty.
Military and police forces are on full
alert to respond to any violence, especially in security hotspots, and help
prevent cheating amid intense local political rivalries.
Myanmar passenger jet lands safely after landing gear fails
Firefighters work with a hose on a plane of
Myanmar National Airline (MNA) after an accident at Mandalay International
airport Sunday, May 12, 2019. (Aung Thura via AP)
Aung Naing Soe
Yangon, Myanmar (AP) — A Myanmar
National Airlines plane made an emergency landing at Mandalay International
Airport on Sunday, using only its rear wheels after the front landing gear
failed to deploy.
All 82 passengers and seven crew
members aboard Flight UB103 from Yangon were declared safe after the
Brazilian-made Embraer 190-LR touched down on its rear sets of wheels before
the plane's nose tilted down to scrape the runway, sending off a shower of
sparks as it slowed to a stop.
Kyaw San, a spokesman for the airport,
said the pilot informed the control tower before landing that he was unable
to pull down the nose wheels.
A statement on the airline's Facebook
page explained that the plane's EICAS — Engine Indicating and Crew Alerting
System — indicated a failure of the front landing gear to deploy. The pilot
tried a backup emergency procedure to pull down the wheels but that was
unsuccessful. The aircraft did two fly-bys past the tower for air
controllers to check visually whether the wheels had deployed.
The captain followed emergency
procedures to dump fuel to reduce the landing weight, and made a safe
landing at 9:09 a.m., said the statement.
Video apparently shot by one of the
passengers and posted online showed an urgent but orderly evacuation of the
passengers and crew. Passengers were seen walking away from the plane across
the airfield, several of them smiling.
Flight operations at the airport were
temporarily suspended, and allowed to resume after about 2 ½ hours for
smaller aircraft. The runways were expected to be reopened for use by larger
Boeing and Airbus aircraft by late afternoon.
On Wednesday, a Biman Bangladesh
Airlines aircraft skidded off the runway after landing in bad weather at
Yangon's airport, injuring at least 15 passengers and crew but none
critically. The fuselage of the plane, a Bombardier Dash 8, was broken in at
least two spots, along with the wings.
UAE says 4 ships targeted by 'sabotage' off its east coast
In this Sept. 21, 2016 file photo, an oil tanker
approaches a Jetty during the launch of the new $650 million oil facility in
Fujairah, United Arab Emirates. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)
Dubai, UAE (AP) — The United
Arab Emirates said Sunday that four commercial ships off its eastern coast
"were subjected to sabotage operations," just hours after Iranian and
Lebanese media outlets aired false reports of explosions at a nearby Emirati
Emirati officials declined to elaborate
on the nature of the sabotage or say who might have been responsible.
However, the reported incident comes as the U.S. has warned ships that "Iran
or its proxies" could be targeting maritime traffic in the region, and as
America is deploying an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers to the Persian
Gulf to counter alleged threats from Tehran.
Tensions have risen in the year since
President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the 2015 nuclear deal
between Iran and world powers, restoring American sanctions that have pushed
Iran's economy into crisis. Last week, Iran warned it would begin enriching
uranium at higher levels in 60 days if world powers failed to negotiate new
terms for the deal.
The statement from the UAE's Foreign
Ministry put the ships near the country's territorial waters in the Gulf of
Oman, east of the port of Fujairah. It said it was investigating the
incident "in cooperation with local and international bodies." It said there
were "no injuries or fatalities on board the vessels" and "no spillage of
harmful chemicals or fuel."
The U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet, which
oversees the region, did not immediately offer comment on the incident.
Emirati officials declined to elaborate while their investigation is
Earlier Sunday, Lebanon's pro-Iran
satellite channel Al-Mayadeen, quoting "Gulf sources," falsely reported that
a series of explosions had struck Fujairah's port. State and semi-official
media in Iran picked up the report from Al-Mayadeen, which later published
the names of vessels it claimed were involved in the incident.
The Associated Press, after speaking to
Emirati officials and local witnesses, found the report about explosions at
the port to be unsubstantiated.
Fujairah's port is located about 140
kilometers (85 miles) from the Strait of Hormuz, through which a third of
all oil at sea is traded. The facility handles oil for bunkering and
shipping, as well as general and bulk cargo. It is seen as strategically
located, serving shipping routes in the Persian Gulf, the Indian
subcontinent and Africa.
The reported sabotage incident comes
after the U.S. Maritime Administration warned Thursday that Iran could
target commercial sea traffic.
"Since early May, there is an increased
possibility that Iran and/or its regional proxies could take action against
U.S. and partner interests, including oil production infrastructure, after
recently threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz," the warning read. "Iran
or its proxies could respond by targeting commercial vessels, including oil
tankers, or U.S. military vessels in the Red Sea, Bab-el-Mandeb Strait, or
the Persian Gulf."
It's unclear if that is the same
perceived threat that prompted the White House to order the USS Abraham
Lincoln aircraft carrier strike group and B-52 bombers to the region on May
1 dead, 8 hurt in Colorado school shooting, 2 in custody
Officials guide students off a bus and into a
recreation center where they were reunited with their parents after a
shooting at a suburban Denver middle school Tuesday, May 7, 2019, in
Highlands Ranch, Colorado. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Highlands Ranch, Colo. (AP) — Two students
opened fire Tuesday inside a charter school in an affluent suburb of Denver
not far from Columbine High School , killing a teenager, wounding eight and
spreading minutes of terror before they were taken into custody with no
injuries, authorities said.
Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock said the pair
walked into the STEM School Highlands Ranch and began shooting students in
two classrooms. Within minutes, deputies at a nearby sheriff's department
substation entered the school and arrested the two suspects after a
"As officers were arriving at the school, they could
still hear gunshots," Douglas County Undersheriff Holly Nicholson-Kluth
Authorities did not release the name of the student who
died, but said it was an 18-year-old man.
"I have to believe that the quick response of the
officers that got inside that school helped save lives," Spurlock said. He
did not identify the suspects, but said they were not previously known to
authorities. Authorities planned to search their homes and a vehicle at the
school, he said.
The shooting took place exactly a week after a gunman
killed two students and wounded four at the University of North
Carolina-Charlotte. It also comes nearly three weeks after neighboring
Littleton marked the grim 20th anniversary of the Columbine school massacre
that killed 13 people. The two schools are separated by about 7 miles (11
kilometers) in adjacent communities south of Denver.
"Tragically, this community and those surrounding it
know all too well these hateful and horrible acts of violence," White House
spokesman Judd Deere said in a statement. President Donald Trump had been
briefed on the shooting and was in touch with state and local officials,
STEM is a public charter school with a focus on
science, technology, engineering and math. It has more than 1,850 students
in kindergarten through 12th grade.
Student Christian Paulson told television station KMGH
that he was in study hall when he saw kids running and shouting, "School
"And I'm like, what? Is this real or fake? And then I
just went after them," Christian Paulson said. "And apparently, this is all
real. And I tried to run with my life, but I'm out of breath."
Rocco DeChalk, who lives near the school, told
television station KUSA that he saw so many students running past his house
that at first he thought it was a gym class. He went outside and saw a
teenage boy who had been shot in the back being helped by a teacher and
They brought the boy into his kitchen and alerted a
police officer, who sent for an ambulance.
"He made a comment, 'Oh, I'm starting to feel it now,'"
DeChalk said. "I told him that was probably the adrenaline kicking in and he
was going into shock."
Three area hospitals reported treating eight people in
connection with the attack. Two were listed in serious condition, two were
listed as stable, one was in good condition and three were released.
Lines of firetrucks, ambulances and law enforcement
vehicles from multiple agencies were at the school, and medical helicopters
landed on a grassy field.
The sheriff's office directed parents to a nearby
recreational center to pick up their children. A fleet of school buses
arrived and dropped off students, some of whom were crying and holding hands
with their classmates as they were helped off. An ambulance also pulled up
and let out a half-dozen children, none of whom appeared to be physically
"We know this is a very worrisome situation for
parents," Nicholson-Kluth said. "Relatives are worried, and we are trying to
get them back together as soon as possible."
Gov. Jared Polis said in a statement that he was making
state public-safety resources available to help secure the site and evacuate
"The heart of all Colorado is with the victims and
their families," he said.
Democratic Rep. Jason Crow, a gun-control supporter
whose congressional district includes STEM, said the gun violence cannot
"It is not enough to send thoughts and prayers. It is
empty. It is weak, and it does an injustice to our children who are on the
front lines of this violence," he said.
New Zealand introduces climate bill to become carbon neutral
New Zealand Climate Change Minister James Shaw,
left, and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern talk to reporters on Wednesday, May
8, 2019, in Wellington, New Zealand. (AP Photo/Nick Perry)
Wellington, New Zealand (AP) — New Zealand's
government on Wednesday introduced an ambitious climate change bill that
aims to make the nation mostly carbon neutral by 2050 while giving some
leeway to farmers.
However, some farming industry groups say the measures
remain too onerous and threaten the future of regional communities, while
some environmentalists say the bill doesn't go far enough because there are
no penalties for noncompliance.
The bill represents a campaign promise from the liberal
government that was elected 18 months ago. The government has also promised
to plant 1 billion trees over 10 years and ensure that the electricity grid
runs entirely from renewable energy by 2035.
The bill would require all greenhouse gases except
methane from animals to be reduced to net zero by 2050. Methane emissions
would be reduced by 10 percent by 2030 and by between about one-quarter and
one-half by 2050.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said climate change was
the biggest single challenge facing the world.
"We know the climate is changing. People can see that,"
Ardern said. "This legislation makes a start on tackling climate change
because the alternative is the catastrophic cost of doing nothing."
Agriculture is a key source of overseas revenue for New
Zealand, which is home to just under 5 million people but more than 10
million cows and some 28 million sheep.
Those animals burp and fart methane, resulting in an
unusual greenhouse gas emission profile for the country. Almost half of
total emissions come from agriculture. The bill says the lower targets for
methane reduction reflect that it stays in the atmosphere for a much shorter
time than carbon dioxide.
Tim Ritchie, the chief executive of the Meat Industry
Association, said meat processors and exporters are alarmed at the targets,
which could only be achieved by reducing herds.
"This will impose enormous economic costs on the
country and threaten many regional communities who depend on pastoral
agriculture," he said in a release.
Meanwhile, Russel Norman, the executive director of
Greenpeace in New Zealand, said the bill would have little clout because
there was no mechanism to hold anybody to account.
To come into effect, the bill would need to be passed
by a majority in the Parliament. A final vote is expected later this year.
Myanmar extends detention of American accused of growing pot
U.S. national John Fredric Todoroki is escorted
by police for a court hearing on his arrest for operating a marijuana
plantation, Tuesday, May 7, 2019, in Ngazun Township, Mandalay region,
central Myanmar. (AP Photo/Aung Shine Oo)
Mandalay, Myanmar (AP) — A Myanmar court on
Tuesday allowed police to detain an American entrepreneur accused of
operating a marijuana plantation for two more weeks while he is
John Frederic Todoroki and two Myanmar co-workers
appeared in court in Mandalay region's Myingyan district for the first time
since their April 23 arrests. They could face charges carrying penalties of
up to 10 years' imprisonment.
Myanmar's anti-drug agency said 349,300 marijuana
plants, 5,200 seedlings, 380 kilograms (838 pounds) of marijuana seeds,
1,804 grams (64 ounces) of marijuana oil, and chemicals and equipment were
found when the 20-acre (8-hectare) plantation on an industrial estate in
central Myanmar was raided.
Plantation operator III M Nutraceutical Co. said in an
April 26 statement that the plants are actually hemp, and its project was
approved by the Mandalay region government last August for research and
development purposes. It said its farm has been growing industrial hemp,
kenaf, peppermint, coffee and eucalyptus, and is strictly doing research,
with no sales or distribution.
The company said its work was focused on hemp, which
can be processed into CBD — cannabidiol — a non-intoxicating compound that
many believe has health benefits, but also has many other uses.
Hemp can be grown legally in many countries, and is
often used for making CBD products. Marijuana is another form of cannabis
and another source of CBD. But it has psychoactive effects, causing a high.
Myanmar law does not seem to clearly distinguish between the two plants.
Khin Maung Than, a lawyer representing Todoroki and his
two colleagues, insisted that they had been growing hemp, which was why the
project had been approved.
The company said it employs more than 170 people and
seeks "to implement the first employee-owned agriculture company in the
region with the goal of creating long-term, sustainable employment with
benefits for the local community." It said it teaches high-tech agricultural
techniques to local villagers and donates equipment to them.
Several local farmers turned up at court Tuesday to
offer moral support.
"This is a great loss for us because when we met Mr.
John, we understood that all of his kindness was for our farmers in rural
areas," said Ohn Myint, a farmer from Kwae Gyi village of Ngunzun township.
"He is here to help the development of our farmers."
The parents of Shunlei Myat Noe, one of the arrested
Myanmar employees, also were at court.
"She is not in charge of the laboratory, she has no
connection with the laboratory," said her father, Myo Min Aung. "She studied
English, that's why she is working there. ... She doesn't know anything. She
is just a daily worker."
"I want to bring my daughter back today if possible,"
said her mother, Yi Yi Win. "My heart is broken. My daughter is innocent.
She is working just to take care of her parents."
Police have said they are also seeking to arrest
Alexander Skemp Todoroki. It's unclear where the Todorokis, believed to be
father and son, last lived in the U.S.
UK concedes it must hold EU election amid Brexit delay
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May speaks at
the Welsh Conservative party conference at Llangollen Pavilion, Llangollen,
Wales, Friday May 3, 2019. (Aaron Chown/PA via AP)
London (AP) — The British government on
Tuesday acknowledged for the first time that the country will definitely
take part in the European Parliament elections this month because
there's no chance that a Brexit deal can be approved in time to avoid
Prime Minister Theresa May's Conservative
government had been desperate to avoid U.K. participation in polls for
U.K. seats in the 751-seat European Union legislature. The vote in
Britain on May 23 is being held almost three years after U.K. voters
chose to leave the EU.
But lawmakers have repeatedly rejected May's
divorce deal with the bloc, and Britain's departure date has been
postponed from March 29 until Oct. 31 while politicians scramble for a
Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington, the No. 2
in May's government, said "regrettably" it was no longer possible to get
Brexit finished before the elections, which are being held across the EU
from May 23-26.
"We very much hoped that we would be able to get
our exit sorted and have the treaty concluded so that those elections
did not have to take place," he said. "But legally they do have to take
place unless our withdrawal has been given legal effect, so those will
now go ahead."
Lidington said the government still hoped Britain
would leave the bloc before the new European Parliament takes up its
seats in early July.
The Conservative Party fears it will be trounced in
the European election as pro-Brexit and pro-EU voters both express anger
at the country's political impasse.
Two new parties — the anti-EU Brexit Party led by
Nigel Farage and the pro-European Change UK party — are campaigning
hard, hoping to make gains among disgruntled Britons.
May has pinned hopes of securing Parliament's
support for a Brexit deal on reaching a compromise with the opposition
Labour Party. After several weeks of fruitless negotiations, senior
Conservative and Labour lawmakers resumed Brexit discussions Tuesday in
what appeared to be a final push to reach an agreement.
The talks were given new urgency by last week's
local elections in Britain, which saw the Conservatives hammered and
Labour also lose ground as voters expressed anger at the Brexit mess.
But the left-of-center Labour Party insists it will
only agree to a Brexit deal that includes a permanent customs union with
the EU to avoid barriers to the trade of goods. The government wants a
looser relationship with the bloc that would let Britain strike new
trade deals around the world.
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said "compromises on
all sides" were needed "because the message of last week was that voters
for both main parties are very, very angry about the fact that Brexit
hasn't been delivered."
But suggestions that May's government might soften
the terms of Britain's departure from the EU has infuriated pro-Brexit
Conservatives, who are demanding May's resignation.
"The time has come for her to resign," said
lawmaker Bill Cash. "She needs to be given a date. The sooner the
better. But it needs to be done in an orderly manner."
May has said she will step down once a Brexit deal
has been ratified, but it's unclear when — or even if — that will
The chairman of a powerful Conservative committee
that oversees party leadership contests was due to meet May later
Tuesday to deliver a demand for "clarity" about her departure date.
Leaders of local Conservative organizations are
holding a non-binding no-confidence vote in May's leadership on June 15.