Death toll hits 39 in Italy bridge collapse; blame begins
recover an injured person after the Morandi highway bridge collapsed in
Genoa, northern Italy, Tuesday, Aug. 14. (Luca Zennaro/ANSA via AP)
Paolo Santalucia and Frances
Genoa, Italy (AP) — Italian
emergency experts pulled two more bodies out of tons of broken concrete and
twisted steel Wednesday after a highway bridge collapsed in Genoa, raising
the death toll in the disaster to at least 39 people.
The collapse of the Morandi Bridge sent
dozens of cars and three trucks plunging as much as 45 meters to the ground
Tuesday as many Italian families were on the road ahead of Wednesday's major
Civil protection authorities confirmed
Wednesday that 39 people had died and 15 were injured. Interior Minister
Matteo Salvini said three children were among the dead.
Working with heavy equipment, rescuers
climbed over concrete slabs with sniffer dogs all through the night and into
the day, searching for survivors or bodies.
Investigators, meanwhile, were working
to determine what caused an 80-meter long stretch of highway to break off
from the 45-meter high bridge in the northwestern port city.
Italian politicians, for their part,
were trying to find who to blame for the deadly tragedy.
The 1967 bridge, considered innovative
in its time for its use of concrete around its cables, was long due for an
upgrade, especially since the structure was more heavily trafficked than its
designers had envisioned. One expert in such construction, Antonio Brencich
at the University of Genoa, had previously called the bridge "a failure of
An unidentified woman who was standing
below the bridge told RAI state TV that it crumbled Tuesday as if it were a
mound of baking flour.
Engineering experts, noting that the
bridge was 51 years old, said corrosion and weather could have been factors
in its collapse.
The Italian CNR civil engineering
society said structures dating from when the Morandi Bridge was built had
surpassed their lifespan. It called for a "Marshall Plan" to repair or
replace tens of thousands of Italian bridges and viaducts built in the 1950s
and 1960s. It said that simply updating or reinforcing the bridges would be
more expensive than destroying and rebuilding them with new technology.
Mehdi Kashani, an associate professor
in structural mechanics at the University of Southampton in the U.K., said
pressure from "dynamic loads," such as heavy traffic or wind, could have
resulted in "fatigue damage" in the bridge's parts.
Italy's minister of transportation and
infrastructure, Danilo Toninelli, said there was a plan pending to spend 20
million euro on bids for significant safety work on the bridge.
While the collapse's cause is yet to be
determined, political bickering moved into high gear Wednesday.
Toninelli, from the populist 5-Star
Movement, threatened in a Facebook post that the state, if necessary, would
take direct control of the highway contractor responsible for the bridge if
it couldn't properly care for the roads and bridges it was responsible for.
State radio reported Wednesday that
some 5-Star lawmakers in 2013 had questioned the wisdom of an ambitious,
expensive infrastructure overhaul program as possibly wasteful, but that a
post about that on the Movement's site was removed Tuesday after the
Within hours after the collapse,
Salvini was trying to shift the blame away from Italy's new populist
government, vowing not to let European Union spending strictures on Italy,
which is laden with public debt, stop any effort to make the country's
Genoa is a flood-prone city, and
officials were warning that the debris from the collapse must be removed as
soon as possible. Some of the wreckage landed in a dry riverbed that could
flood when the rainy season resumes in a few weeks.
Suicide bomber targets Shiite students in Kabul, killing 48
stand in front of burned out shops following a Taliban attack in Ghazni,
Afghanistan, Wednesday, Aug. 15. (AP Photo/Rahmatullah Nikzad)
Rahim Faiez and Amir Shah
Kabul, Afghanistan (AP) — A
suicide bomber struck a private education center in a Shiite neighborhood of
Kabul on Wednesday where high school graduates were preparing for university
entrance exams, killing 48 young men and women and leaving behind a scene of
devastation and tragedy.
The bombing, blamed on the Islamic
State group, was the latest assault on Afghanistan's Shiite community, which
has increasingly been targeted by Sunni extremists who consider Shiites to
It also showed how militants are still
able to stage large-scale attacks, even in the heart of Kabul, and
underscored the struggles of the Afghan forces to provide security and
stability on their own.
The attack comes amid a particularly
bloody week in Afghanistan that has seen Taliban attacks kill scores of
Afghan troops and civilians.
It was not immediately clear how the
bomber managed to sneak into the building, used by the Shiite community as
an education center, in the Dasht-i Barcha area of Kabul.
The spokesman for the public health
ministry, Wahid Majroh, said 67 people were also wounded in the bombing and
that the death toll — which steadily rose in the immediate aftermath of the
bombing — could rise further. He did not say if all the victims were
students and whether any of their teachers were also among the casualties.
Dawlat Hossain, father of 18-year-old
student Fareba who had left her class just a few minutes before the bombing
but was still inside the compound, was on his way to meet his daughter and
started running when he heard the explosion.
Hossain recounted to The Associated
Press how when he entered Fareba's classroom, he saw parts of human bodies
all over student desks and benches.
"There was blood everywhere, all over
the room, so scary and horrible," he said. After finding out that his
daughter was safe, he helped move the wounded to hospitals.
Fareba was traumatized that so many of
her friends were killed, but Hossain said she was lucky to be alive.
The explosion initially set off gunfire
from Afghan guards in the area, leading to assumptions that there were more
attackers involved, but officials later said all indications were that there
was only one bomber.
No group immediately claimed
responsibility for the attack but Jawad Ghawari, a member of the city's
Shiite clerical council, blamed IS, which has carried similar attacks on
Shiites in the past, hitting mosques, schools and cultural centers. In the
past two years, there were at least 13 attacks on the Shiite community in
Kabul alone, he said.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani condemned
the "terrorist" attack that "martyred and wounded the innocent" — students
attending class — and ordered an investigation into the attack.
"By targeting educational and cultural
centers, terrorists have clearly shown they are against all those Islamic
principles (that strive) for both men and women to learn and study," Ghani
said in a statement.
The U.N. Security Council condemned the
bombing as a "heinous and cowardly terrorist attack," saying that it
"underlined the need to hold perpetrators, organizers, financiers and
sponsors of these reprehensible acts of terrorism accountable and bring them
The head of the U.N. children's agency
denounced the attack, saying it's "deplorable" that children continue to be
hardest hit in the growing violence across Afghanistan.
"Children are not, and must never be
the target of violence," said UNICEF's executive director Henrietta Fore.
Meanwhile, a Taliban assault on two
adjacent checkpoints in northern Afghanistan late on Tuesday night killed at
least 30 soldiers and policemen.
The attack took place in Baghlan
province's Baghlan-I Markazi district, said Mohammad Safdar Mohseni, the
head of the provincial council.
Dilawar Aymaq, a parliamentarian from
Baghlan, said the attack targeted a military checkpoint and another manned
by the so-called local police, militias recruited and paid by the Interior
At least nine security forces were
still missing and four others were wounded in the attack, said Abdul Hai
Nemati, the governor of Baghlan. He said reinforcements have been dispatched
to help recapture the checkpoints.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid
claimed responsibility for the assault.
Life was gradually returning to normal
Wednesday in parts of the eastern city of Ghazni after a massive, days-long
Taliban attack, though sporadic gunbattles was still underway in some
The Taliban launched a coordinated
offensive last Friday, overwhelming the city's defenses and capturing
several neighborhoods. Afghan forces repelled the initial assault and in
recent days have struggled to flush the insurgents out of residential areas
where they are holed up.
The United States and NATO launched
airstrikes and sent military advisers to aid Afghan forces as they fight for
the city, just 120 kilometers (75 miles) from the Afghan capital with a
population of some 270,000 people.
At least 35 Ghazni civilians have been
killed, said Arif Noori, a spokesman for the provincial governor. The
wounded were still arriving at the city's only hospital, which has been
overwhelmed by casualties, he added.
Hundreds of people have fled the
fighting in Ghazni, which has also killed about 100 members of the Afghan
Elsewhere in Afghanistan, the Taliban
attacked a police checkpoint in the southern Zabul province early Wednesday,
killing four policemen, according to the provincial police chief, Mustafa
The Taliban have seized several
districts across the country in recent years and carry out near-daily
attacks targeting Afghan security forces. The assault on Ghazni was widely
seen as a show of force ahead of possible peace talks with the U.S., which
has been at war in Afghanistan for nearly 17 years.
Also Wednesday, six children were
killed when they tinkered with an unexploded rocket shell, causing it to
blow up, said Sarhadi Zwak, spokesman for the governor of the eastern
Laghman province. The victims were girls, aged 10-12, who were gathering
firewood, he said, blaming the Taliban.
Afghanistan is littered with unexploded
ordnance left by decades of war. It is also plagued by roadside bombs
planted by insurgents, which are usually intended for government officials
or security forces, but often kill and maim civilians.
British media say crash suspect is Briton of Sudanese origin
officers work near the car that crashed into security barriers outside the
Houses of Parliament in London, Tuesday, Aug. 14. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
London (AP) — British
authorities said Wednesday they are considering turning the area around
Parliament into a pedestrian zone to prevent future vehicle attacks as
police searched three properties for clues about the motivation of a man who
plowed a car into cyclists and pedestrians, injuring three.
Local media on Wednesday identified the
suspect as Salih Khater, a 29-year-old British citizen of Sudanese origin.
Police searched the suspect's apartment in the central England city of
Birmingham, as well as another property in the city and a third in
Nottingham, about 50 miles away.
A Facebook page for a man of the same
name says he lives in Birmingham, works as a shop manager, and has studied
at Sudan University of Science and Technology. Coventry University in
central England said Khater had studied accounting there between September
2017 and May 2018 but was no longer enrolled.
Ahmed Abdi, a neighbor of Khater in
Birmingham, said he recognized him from news footage, "and I was shocked."
"He was very, very quiet and he never
spoke to anybody. He would say nothing to nobody," Abdi said.
British authorities do not name
suspects until they are formally charged. London's Metropolitan Police force
said the suspect was not known to counterterrorism officers or the
The suspect was being held at a London
police station as detectives traced the movements of the Ford Fiesta which
careered across a road, hitting cyclists and pedestrians, then crashed into
a security barrier at Parliament. Three people were injured, but none
remains in hospital.
Detectives say the car was driven from
Birmingham to London late Monday, and drove around the area near Parliament
for an hour and a half on Tuesday morning before the rush-hour crash.
The incident appears to be the second
in less than 18 months in which a vehicle has been used to attack the heart
of Britain's government. Over the past two decades authorities have
tightened security around Parliament with fences, crash barriers and armed
Now the rise of vehicle attacks around
the world is triggering calls for traffic to be barred from Parliament
Square, currently a busy traffic route.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan told the BBC
that the plan presented challenges, but "it's possible to have a design
solution that meets the objectives ... in relation to keeping our buildings
and our people as safe as we can do, but also not losing what's wonderful
about our city which is a vibrant democracy."
Heavy monsoon rains kill 67 in southern India, close airport
An Indian man grazing buffalos tries to cross
River Tawi that was flooded following monsoon rains in Jammu, India, Monday,
Aug.13. (AP Photo/Channi Anand)
New Delhi (AP) — Torrential monsoon rains have disrupted air and
train services in the southern Indian state of Kerala where flooding,
landslides, house and road bridge collapses have killed more than 60 people
in the past week, officials said Wednesday.
The international airport at Kochi, a
major port city, suspended flight operations until Saturday after rains
flooded the runway.
Authorities asked tourists to stay away
from the popular hill station of Munnar in Idukki district because of
flooding. Kerala is a popular tourist destination with scenic landscapes,
waterfalls and beautiful beaches.
People also have been asked to avoid
the Sabarimala hill shrine as the water level in the nearby rain-fed Pampa
River was rising. Sabarimala, a Hindu pilgrimage center in mountain ranges
of Pathanamthitta district, attracts around 45 million devotees every year.
Krishna Kumar, a relief official, said
there's no immediate respite for thousands of people in state-run relief
camps with more rain and gusty winds forecast until Saturday.
Heavy rains forced the state
authorities to release excess water from dozens of reservoirs, causing
floods downstream. The flooding has submerged vast areas in 12 of 14
districts in the state.
The Press Trust of India news agency
reported that Kerala state officials have put the death toll at 67 since
Monsoon rains kill hundreds of people
every year in India. The monsoon season runs from June to September.
New Zealand bans most foreigners from buying homes
A house is
pictured for sale in Christchurch, New Zealand in this Aug. 13, 2018, photo.
(AP Photo/Mark Baker)
Wellington, New Zealand (AP) —
New Zealand has banned most foreigners from buying homes as it tries to
tackle runaway housing prices.
Previously the housing market was open
to investors worldwide, but the government on Wednesday passed legislation
that allows only New Zealand residents to buy homes.
In recent years, there have been many
anecdotal stories of wealthy foreigners from Silicon Valley and beyond
buying ranches in picturesque rural New Zealand as a "bolt hole" or escape
option from a turbulent world.
There have also been stories of wealthy
Chinese buyers outbidding New Zealanders on suburban homes in the main city
Statistics indicate about 3 percent of
New Zealand homes are being sold to foreigners, but the amount rises to 5
percent in the scenic Queenstown region and 22 percent in central Auckland.
Last month, the directors of the
International Monetary Fund executive board said they encouraged New Zealand
to reconsider the ban, which they thought would be unlikely to improve
But the government says there is no
doubt that foreigners are driving up prices, and the only question that
remains is by how much. The new law fulfils a campaign pledge by the
liberal-led government which came to power last year.
There are some exceptions. Foreigners
with New Zealand residency status will still be able to buy homes, as will
people from Australia and Singapore, thanks to existing free-trade
Foreigners who already own homes in New
Zealand won't be affected. And overseas buyers will still be able to make
limited investments in large apartment blocks and hotels.
"We're here today to take another step
toward restoring the great New Zealand dream of home ownership," said
Associate Finance Minister David Parker.
He said it was the birthright of New
Zealanders to buy homes at a fair price.
"This government believes that New
Zealanders should not be outbid by wealthier foreign buyers," Parker said.
"Whether it's a beautiful lakeside or oceanfront estate, or a modest
suburban house, this law ensures that the market for our homes is set in New
Zealand, not on the international market."
Opposition lawmaker Judith Collins said
the bill was unnecessary.
"We oppose the bill because we don't
believe that it actually fixes any problem," Collins said. "It is, in fact,
nothing more than an attempt to justify some of the policies of the incoming
Skyrocketing home prices in Auckland
have been of particular concern to New Zealanders, although that market has
cooled over the past year. Still, prices there remain among the most
expensive in the world when compared with people's incomes.
Figures released Wednesday by the Real
Estate Institute of New Zealand indicate the median house price in Auckland
is 835,000 New Zealand dollars (US$547,000) while the median price across
the country is NZ$550,000 (US$361,000).
In June, officials decided that former
"Today" show host Matt Lauer could keep a lakeside ranch near Queenstown
after authorities concluded there wasn't enough evidence he'd breached a
"good character" condition.
Lauer has been accused of sexual
misconduct by at least three women and was fired from NBC last November.
Cambodian election results give ruling party sweep of seats
Prime Minister Hun Sen is shown in this Aug. 1, 2018, file photo. (AP
Phnom Penh, Cambodia (AP) —
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen's ruling party has won all 125 seats in the
National Assembly, official results released Wednesday by the state election
An announcement by the state National
Election Committee showed that the Cambodian People's Party had swept the
polls, ensuring that Hun Sen, who has held power for 33 years, will receive
another five-year term.
Both the legitimacy and the results of
the polls had already been challenged by Hun Sen's opponents, who say the
July 29 vote was not fair because the Cambodia National Rescue Party, the
only credible opposition force, was disbanded last year by court order after
a complaint by the government.
Critics also were skeptical about the
July 29 vote itself. The former leaders of the opposition CNRP called for a
voter boycott of the election, but the official turnout was a high 83
percent. Hun Sen's party also won more than two-thirds of the vote in every
Nineteen parties had competed against
Hun Sen's CPP, but almost all were vanity vehicles or groups serving as
window-dressing to give the illusion of democratic choice.
The new parliament is to convene on
Sept. 5, and the next government is to be installed on Sept. 6.
"This result shows that our compatriots
fully believed in the right leadership of the Cambodian People's Party which
is led by Prime Minister Hun Sen," Hun Sen said on his Facebook page after
the announcement of the official results, adding that voting for his party
meant voting for peace and development for the entire country.
He called the July 29 election free and
fair and said it was conducted according to the principle of democracy.
In a speech earlier Wednesday to
thousands of garment workers, Hun Sen said he wanted to hold a meeting with
the leaders of the 19 other parties that contested the election, and was
considering offering them positions as government advisers or senior posts
in various ministries.
Sam Rainsy, the self-exiled founder of
the opposition CNRP and Hun Sen's chief political nemesis, said the official
voting results were fraudulent.
On his Facebook page, he said Wednesday
that the vote totals were inflated by 2 million — purportedly cast in the
names of people who did not go to the polls — and that all those votes were
counted as being for the ruling CPP.
He said the National Election Committee
"was able to play all sorts of tricks because, after the forceful
dissolution of the CNRP, the election body was placed under the absolute
control of the CPP. There were no independent and credible observers and no
CNRP representatives to monitor this election."
Several established poll-watching
groups — as well as national contingents from the United States and the
European Union — declined to take part because they felt the polls were not
legitimate. One of the bigger Cambodian groups participating in
poll-watching was led by one of Hun Sen's sons.
Hun Sen's party was alarmed by the
results of the last general election in 2013, when the race was close enough
for the opposition to claim that it would have won had it not been for
manipulation of the voter registration process.
Cambodia's Supreme Court last November
ordered the opposition CNRP dissolved on the pretext that it had conspired
with the United States to overthrow the government. It banned its leaders
from holding office for five years and expelled its members from the
elective positions they held. Sam Rainy already was in exile and the other
party founder was in jail awaiting trial on the treason charge.
Hun Sen's government also silenced
critical voices in the media. Over the past year, about 30 radio stations
shut down and two English-language newspapers that provided serious
reporting were gutted, one forced to close and the other put under ownership
friendly to the government.
After initial election results were
earlier announced, the United States said it regretted the "flawed
elections" and would consider its response, including expanding visa
restrictions that were announced in December.
A statement from the White House press
secretary's office said the U.S. was disappointed in the government's
decision to disenfranchise voters, citing the exclusion of the principal
opposition party, the jailing and banning of its officials, and threats to
Cars plunge in Italian highway bridge collapse; 25 killed
A view of
the Morandi highway bridge after a section of it collapsed, in Genoa,
northern Italy, Tuesday, Aug. 14. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)
Milan (AP) — A bridge on a main
highway linking Italy with France collapsed Tuesday in the Italian port city
of Genoa during a sudden, violent storm, sending vehicles plunging 45 meters
into a heap of rubble. The city's mayor said at least 25 people were killed,
although some people were found alive in the debris.
A huge section of the Morandi Bridge
fell at midday over an industrial zone, sending tons of twisted steel and
concrete onto warehouses below. Photos from the Italian news agency ANSA
showed a massive gap between two sections of the bridge.
The head of Italy's civil protection
agency, Angelo Borrelli, said 30-35 cars and three heavy trucks were on the
80-meter section of the bridge that collapsed.
Hundreds of firefighters and emergency
officials were searching for survivors in the rubble with heavy equipment.
Firefighters said at least two people were pulled alive from vehicles and
taken by helicopter to a hospital.
Video of the collapse captured a man
screaming: "Oh, God! Oh, God!" Other images showed a green truck that had
stopped just short of the edge and the tires of a tractor trailer in the
There was confusion over the exact
death toll, which kept rising during the day.
Genoa Mayor Marco Bucci told Sky TG24
that the number of dead was above 25 people and that 11 injured were pulled
from the rubble. Two other officials earlier put the death toll at 22 with
13 injured but said it was expected to rise.
Borrelli told a news conference in Rome
that all the victims appeared to all have been in vehicles that fell from
The disaster occurred on a highway that
connects Italy to France, and northern cities like Milan to the beaches of
The collapse also came on the eve of a
major Italian summer holiday on Wednesday called Ferragosto, which marks the
religious feast of the Assumption of Mary. It's the high point of the
Italian summer holiday season, when most cities and business are closed and
Italians head to the beaches or the mountains. That means traffic could have
been heavier than usual on the Genoa highway.
The Morandi Bridge is a main
thoroughfare connecting the A10 highway that goes toward France and the A7
highway that continues north toward Milan. Inaugurated in 1967, it is just
over a kilometer long.
Borrelli said highway engineers were
checking other parts of the bridge and that some areas were being evacuated
as a precaution. He said they were still trying to figure out the reason for
"You can see there are very big
portions of the bridge (that collapsed). We need to remove all of the rubble
to ascertain that all of the people have been reached," he said, adding that
more than 280 rescue workers and dogs units were on the scene.
"Operations are ongoing to extract
people imprisoned below parts of the bridge and twisted metal," he said.
Borrelli said there was no construction
going on at the time on the bridge.
Firefighters told The Associated Press
they were worried about gas lines exploding in the area from the collapse.
Transportation Minister Danilo
Toninelli called the collapse "an enormous tragedy."
ANSA said Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte
will travel to Genoa later in the day.
"We are following minute by minute the
situation," Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said on Twitter.
French President Emmanuel Macron
offered his country's help in a phone call with Conte.
It was the second deadly disaster on an
Italian highway in as many weeks.
On Aug. 6, another major accident
occurred on an Italian highway near the northern city of Bologna. A tanker
truck carrying a highly flammable gas exploded after rear-ending a stopped
truck and getting hit from behind. The accident killed one person, injured
dozens and blew apart a section of a raised eight-lane highway.
UK police treat Parliament crash as terrorism, man arrested
woman patrols on Westminster Bridge after a car crashed into security
barriers outside the Houses of Parliament, in London, Tuesday, Aug. 14.
(Stefan Rousseau/PA via AP)
Danica Kirka and Jill Lawless
London (AP) — A car plowed into
pedestrians and cyclists near the Houses of Parliament in London during the
morning rush hour Tuesday, injuring three people in what police suspect is
the latest in a string of attacks in the British capital that used vehicles
A rooftop camera recorded the car
driving past Parliament and suddenly veering sharply to the left, striking
cyclists waiting at a set of lights before crossing the road and crashing
into a barrier outside Parliament. Armed police surrounded the car within
seconds, pulling a man from the vehicle.
Police said the driver, a man in his
late 20s, was arrested on suspicion of terrorism offenses. He was alone and
no weapons were found in the car.
"Given that this appears to be a
deliberate act, the method and this being an iconic site, we are treating it
as a terrorist incident," Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu of the
Metropolitan Police told reporters outside Scotland Yard.
Police flooded the area after the
incident was reported at 7:37 a.m., cordoning off streets surrounding the
heart of Britain's government. The nearby Westminster subway station was
closed, and police asked people to stay away from the area, which is filled
with government offices and major tourist attractions including Westminster
Most of the cordons were lifted by
mid-afternoon, apart from a stretch of road right outside Parliament, where
forensics officers in blue coveralls collected evidence from the crashed
The suspect was not cooperating with
police, and officers were working to confirm his identity, said Basu, who
oversees U.K. counterterrorism policing. No other suspects have been
identified and police believe there is no further threat to Londoners, he
Basu said "we don't believe this
individual was known" to police or Britain's intelligence services.
Eyewitnesses said the silver car was
traveling at high speed when it hit pedestrians and cyclists, then crashed
into a barrier designed to protect Parliament from vehicle attack. Two
people were taken to local hospitals and another was treated at the scene.
One woman remained hospitalized Tuesday afternoon, but her injuries aren't
believed to be life threatening, authorities said.
"The car drove at speed into the
barriers outside the House of Lords. There was a loud bang from the
collision and a bit of smoke," Ewelina Ochab told The Associated Press. "The
driver did not get out. The guards started screaming to people to move
Jason Williams also saw a car moving at
"It didn't look like an accident," he
said. "How do you do that by accident?"
Donovan Parsons, a cameraman for ITV's
"Good Morning Britain," was filming outside Parliament when he heard a loud
"I saw the car crash into the barrier
outside Westminster Palace, with smoke coming out of the vehicle. Police
were around it, telling people to get back. ... They dragged someone out of
Prime Minister Theresa May tweeted: "My
thoughts are with those injured in the incident in Westminster and my thanks
to the emergency services for their immediate and courageous response."
U.S. President Donald Trump was less
measured, tweeting that the crash was "another terrorist attack in London."
Trump added: "These animals are crazy
and must be dealt with through toughness and strength!"
Trump has a history of tweeting about
violence, or alleged violence, in London. He angered many when he said a
London hospital was like a war zone because of knife violence.
Parliament has been a target for
attacks several times over the years, and security has grown progressively
tighter. Concrete and steel barriers protect against vehicle attacks, armed
police officers patrol the grounds and visitors undergo airport-style
Since a series of vehicle attacks in
London last year, concrete barriers or bollards have been erected along
bridges and beside some major roads to prevent cars mounting the sidewalk to
The House of Commons and House of Lords
are on their summer break, so lawmakers and some of their staff are not
currently working in the building.
Parliament was the site of an attack in
March 2017, when Khalid Masood ploughed a car into crowds on Westminster
Bridge, killing four people. Masood abandoned his car and then stabbed and
killed a police officer before being shot dead in a courtyard outside
Less than three months later, a van
rammed into pedestrians on London Bridge before three men abandoned the
vehicle and attacked weekend revelers in the nearby Borough Market. Eight
people were killed and 48 injured in the attack.
On June 19, 2017, a man drove a van
into a crowd of worshippers leaving a mosque in north London, killing one
man and injuring eight others.
The official terrorist threat level for
Britain is "severe," indicating an attack is considered highly likely.
With gun salutes, Pakistan marks 71 years of independence
visit the mausoleum of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, founder of Pakistan, to
celebrate the 71st Independence Day in Karachi, Pakistan, Tuesday, Aug. 14.
(AP Photo/Shakil Adil)
Islamabad (AP) — Pakistan kicked
off a day of celebrations Tuesday to mark the country's 71 years of
statehood and independence.
This year, the anniversary comes amid
political change with a new government taking over following the July 25
general elections. Pakistan's former cricket-star-turned-politician Imran
Khan is to become the next prime minister.
President Mamnoon Hussain hoisted the
national flag at a ceremony in Islamabad while Pakistanis across the country
raised the banner at their homes and on their cars.
Fireworks erupted over the capital,
Islamabad, at midnight on Monday, ushering in the festivities. During the
day, gun salutes were held in Islamabad and the four provincial capitals.
Festive rallies and school functions
were also taking place.
Pakistan gained independence when
British left India and split the subcontinent in 1947.
Indian rupee falls to all-time low against dollar
Nov. 11, 2016 file photo, a shopkeeper in Jammu, India prepares a garland
with Indian 10 Rupees denomination notes used particularly to garland grooms
on their wedding day. (AP Photo/Channi Anand)
New Delhi (AP) — The Indian
rupee fell to an all-time low Tuesday against the U.S. dollar amid worries
that Turkey's growing financial crisis could spread to other
Indian Economic Affairs Secretary
Subhash Chander Garg told reporters that there was "nothing at this stage to
worry" about after the rupee reached 70.1 to the dollar earlier in the day.
He said the dip resulted from "external factors."
The rupee ended the day at 69.93 per
dollar, down 110 paise or 1.6 percent. It was the currency's biggest one-day
drop in five years. The rupee has lost about 8 percent of its value this
Garg said the country had sufficient
foreign exchange reserves to weather the downturn.
Turkey's central bank has been unable
to stop a sharp plunge in the lira, pushing the value of the dollar higher
and driving down emerging-market currencies from South Africa to Mexico.
Rajnish Kumar, chairman of the State
Bank of India, said he believed the rupee would stabilize at around 69-70 to
the dollar, the Press Trust of India news agency reported.
Turkey's economy has been troubled for
years, but the latest crisis was set off by worries over President Recep
Tayyip Erdogan's economic policies and a trade dispute with the United
States. Turkey's government has so far refused to raise interest rates to
prop up the currency, fearing a political backlash if it causes the economy
The falling rupee, which will make
Indian exports cheaper on overseas markets, was welcomed by one of India's
"With this boost to India's export
competitiveness could we now convince global companies that it's time to
switch to India for world-scale, export-focused manufacturing?" Anand
Mahindra, the executive chairman of the Mahindra Group, said on Twitter.
Mahindra's interests range from cars to construction equipment to insurance.
India's manufacturing economy has long
been overshadowed by China's.
Swedish leader voices anger after dozens of cars are burned
Burned cars are shown parked at Frolunda Square
in Gothenburg, Tuesday, Aug. 14. (Adam Ihse/TT via AP)
Jan M. Olsen
Copenhagen, Denmark (AP) —
Masked youths torched dozens of cars overnight in Sweden and threw rocks at
police, prompting an angry response from the prime minister, who denounced
an "extremely organized" night of vandalism.
About 80 cars were set ablaze
overnight, chiefly in Sweden's second largest city, Goteborg, and nearby
Trollhattan, an industrial city, and fires were also reported on a smaller
scale in Malmo, Sweden's third largest city, police said Tuesday.
In Trollhattan, northeast of Goteborg,
where at least six cars were burned, rocks were also thrown at police and
roads were blocked. Goteborg is 400 kilometers (250 miles) southwest of
Police noted the fires started within a
short period of time and believe "there is a connection between the blazes."
"As of now we have no motive
whatsoever," police spokesman Christer Fuxborg told The Associated Press.
"Our theory is that the fires have somehow been coordinated on social media
like Snapchat but we do not know why."
Local newspaper Goteborg-Posten
noted police in recent days have been active in pursuing drug dealers in
Frolunda, a suburb of Goteborg where of some the fires took place.
"Honestly we do not know whether this
has something to do with it," Fuxborg said.
Photos posted by Swedish tabloid
Aftonbladet showed black-clad men torching cars on a parking lot near
Sweden's news agency TT said witnesses
had seen "masked youngsters" running away.
Several youths that police met at the
scene have been identified.
"We have spoken with them but we cannot
conclude they started the fires. We also have spoken with their parents,"
Fuxborg said, adding police were in the early stages of the investigation.
Two people, aged 16 and 21 and living
in Frolunda were detained for questioning, Fuxborg said. They later were
formally arrested on suspicion of arson. More suspects likely could be
Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven
lashed out at the perpetrators, asking them: "What the heck are you doing?"
In an interview on Swedish radio, he
said he was "really getting mad" and that "society must react in a tough
manner." He said the fires seemed to be "extremely organized."
No injuries have been reported.
However, the fires occupy police and rescue officials and frighten
"You damage residential areas and ruin
it for your neighbors," Lofven said.
"I am speechless. This so terrible,
it's destructive and it's pure evil," Jonas Ransgaard, a member of the
Goteborg City council, told local daily Goteborgs-Posten.
Malaysia eyes more than 10-fold hike in Singapore water deal
Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad is interviewed in Putrajaya, Malaysia,
Monday, Aug. 13. (AP Photo/Yam G-Jun)
Putrajaya, Malaysia (AP) —
Malaysia's prime minister said Monday he is seeking to hike the price of
water sold to the neighboring country of Singapore by more than ten times as
his country searches for ways to pay off massive debts.
Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who
shot back to power in an electoral upset in May, told The Associated Press
that a decades-old treaty governing the water agreement needs to be revised
to reflect increases in the cost of living.
The water deal has long been a point of
contention between the two countries. Mahathir said in June he wants to
renegotiate the deal.
Malaysia currently sells water to
Singapore at 3 sen (0.7 U.S. cents) per thousand gallons and buys treated
water at 50 sen (12 cents) per thousand gallons.
Mahathir said that by comparison, the
southern Malaysian state of Johor sells water to the neighboring state of
Melaka at 30 sen per 1,000 gallons — a rate he described as "charitable"
given that it's a domestic deal.
"To a foreign country, we need to get
more than that," he said. He declined to discuss specifics, citing ongoing
Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian
Balakrishnan has said his country will live up to the agreement and expects
Malaysia to do the same.
Mahathir also continued to cast doubt
on the value of a high-speed rail project linking the Malaysian capital,
Kuala Lumpur, to the wealthy island city-state. He announced the
cancellation of the project in May as part of a wider review of big-ticket
infrastructure deals reached under his predecessor, Najib Razak, though the
government has since reconsidered and is trying to renegotiate the terms.
"We cannot afford it. If the price is
brought down within our means, then maybe we'll go ahead," he said Monday.
He added, though, that it would be preferable to improve existing train
lines to improve travel times.
Death toll from quake that hit Indonesian island passes 430
men carry the body of a victim of last week's earthquake past a damaged
building during a funeral in Gangga, Lombok Island, Indonesia, Sunday, Aug.
12. (AP Photo/Fauzy Chaniago)
Jakarta, Indonesia (AP) — The
death toll from the earthquake that rocked the Indonesian island of Lombok a
week ago has passed 430 and the government is estimating economic losses
will exceed several hundred million dollars.
The national disaster agency said
Monday the Aug. 5 quake killed 436 people, most of whom died in collapsing
It said damage to homes, infrastructure
and other property is at least 5 trillion rupiah ($342 million), calling
that a temporary figure that will rise as more assessments are made. The
agency said rebuilding will cost hundreds of millions of dollars.
The magnitude 7.0 quake flattened
thousands of homes and according to the disaster agency's latest estimate
has displaced about 350,000 people.
"The damage and losses are very large,"
said disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho.
"When all data has been collected
later, the amount will be greater. It needs trillions of rupiah (hundreds of
millions of dollars) for rehabilitation and reconstruction. It will take
time to restore community life and economic development," he said.
Nugroho said damaged roads were
hindering access to isolated mountainous areas and helicopters had been
deployed by the disaster agency, the military and the search and rescue
agency to distribute aid.
Lombok, a popular but less developed
tourist destination than neighboring Bali, was hit by three strong quakes in
little over a week and has endured more than 500 aftershocks.
A July 29 quake killed 16 people. An
aftershock measuring magnitude 5.9 on Thursday caused panic, more damage and
more than two dozen injuries.
Turkey tries to contain crisis but currency keeps falling
copy of a 200 Turkish lira banknote, featuring a photo of modern turkey's
founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk decorates a currency exchange shop in
Istanbul, Monday, Aug. 13. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
Ankara, Turkey (AP) — Turkey's
central bank took action Monday to free up cash for banks as the country
grapples with a currency crisis sparked by concerns over President Recep
Tayyip Erdogan's economic policies and a trade and diplomatic dispute with
the United States.
The Turkish lira has nosedived over the
past week, accelerating a months-long decline, and tumbled another 7 percent
on Monday as the central bank's measures failed to restore market
Investors are worried about a
confluence of factors: the country's reliance on foreign loans that may stop
flowing in as interest rates rise in other economies, like the U.S.;
Erdogan's insistence that the central bank not raise interest rates, as most
independent analysts say it should; and a spat with the U.S. that has led to
sanctions and the fear of greater isolation from longtime allies in the
The uncertainty pushed down world stock
markets and briefly caused a sharp drop in the currencies of other emerging
countries, like South Africa and India, amid concerns that investors might
see similar problems in their economies.
The lira hit a record low of 7.23 per
dollar late Sunday after Erdogan remained defiant in his economic policies
and the standoff against the United States, a NATO ally.
"Turkey is faced with an economic
siege," Erdogan said Monday, in the latest of a series of speeches. "We are
taking the necessary steps against these attacks and will continue to do
He has threatened to seek new alliances
— a veiled hint at closer ties with Russia — and warned of drastic measures
if businesses withdraw foreign currency from banks.
Erdogan also ruled out the possibility
of higher interest rates, as they can slow economic growth. But independent
analysts say higher rates are needed urgently to stabilize the currency and
Erdogan's hard line is one of the reasons investors are worrying.
Erdogan won a second term in office in
June under a new system of government that gives him sweeping powers. He has
used his new power to put pressure on the central bank to not raise rates.
On Monday, the central bank announced a
series of measures to "provide all the liquidity the banks need" — but
offered no hint of a rate increase.
The moves are meant to grease the
financial system, ease worries about trouble at banks and keep them
providing loans to people and businesses.
In times of high uncertainty, banks
tend to shy away from lending to each other. A so-called credit crunch, a
lack of daily liquidity, can cause a bank to collapse.
Simon Derrick, chief currency
strategist at BNY Mellon, said the central bank's measures are unlikely to
be enough. In the absence of a decisive rate increase, he said, "it
is...hard to look at these announcements as being anything more than
temporary calming measures, rather than solutions to the problems at hand."
The lira has now dropped some 45
percent this year.
Part of the concerns about Turkey are
the same as other emerging markets. As interest rates rise in the U.S.,
investors pull their money out of countries that had enjoyed strong economic
growth but are perceived as somewhat riskier.
Turkey's situation is among the most
precarious among emerging markets because so much of its growth was fueled
with debt in foreign currencies. That makes the currency drop so much more
painful as it will increase the cost of servicing debt for Turkish companies
and banks and could lead to bankruptcies.
So far, the impact on developed
economies has been relatively contained. Stocks have fallen modestly in the
U.S. and Europe since last week, but analysts do not see a big risk of
financial turmoil. A few European banks have business there that could lead
to losses, but that is not expected to pose a systemic danger to the region.
Among the most important things
investors are watching out for is whether Turkey, in an effort to stymie the
outflow of capital from the country, puts limits on money flows.
Berat Albayrak, Turkey's finance chief
— and Erdogan's son-in-law — said Sunday that the government had no plans to
seize foreign currency deposits or convert deposits to the Turkish lira. He
said it had readied an "action plan," without elaborating.
The country's economic trouble has been
heightened by a dispute with the U.S. that has centered on the continued
detention of an American pastor who is on trial for espionage and
terror-related charges. The U.S. has responded by slapping financial
sanctions on two ministers and later doubled steel and aluminum tariffs on
Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said
Monday that the United States would not achieve aims by exerting pressure
and imposing sanctions on Turkey.
Addressing a conference in Ankara
gathering Turkish ambassadors, he called on Washington to "remain loyal to
ties based on traditional friendship and NATO alliance" with Turkey.
Meanwhile, Turkey moved to take legal
action against hundreds of social media accounts it accused of provoking the
The Interior Ministry said it initiated
legal investigations against 346 social media accounts "which posted content
provoking the dollar exchange rate."
It did not provide information on the
accounts but said they aimed to "manipulate the dollar rate and form
negative perceptions" concerning the Turkish economy.
The Istanbul Public Prosecutor's office
announced it had begun investigating "those who had taken actions which
threatened economic stability." The Capital Markets Board of Turkey issued a
similar warning to those who spread "lies, false or misleading information,
news or analysis."
120 Afghan forces, civilians killed in battle with Taliban
Sunday, Aug. 12, 2018, photo, Afghan Security personnel patrol in the city
of Ghazni province west of Kabul, Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Mohammad Anwar
Rahim Faiez and Amir Shah
Kabul, Afghanistan (AP) — Four
days of ferocious fighting between Afghan forces and the Taliban over a key
provincial capital has claimed the lives of about 100 Afghan policemen and
soldiers and at least 20 civilians, the defense minister said Monday.
The staggering numbers provided by Gen.
Tareq Shah Bahrami were the first official casualty toll since the Taliban
launched a massive assault on Ghazni, the capital of Ghazni province, last
The multi-pronged assault overwhelmed
the city's defenses and allowed insurgents to capture several parts of it.
It was a major show of force by the Taliban, who infiltrated deep into this
strategic city barely 120 kilometers from the capital, Kabul.
The United States has sent military
advisers to aid Afghan forces.
The fall of Ghazni, a city of 270,000
people, would mark an important victory for the Taliban. It would also cut
off a key highway linking Kabul to the southern provinces, the Taliban's
Bahrami, the defense minister, spoke to
reporters at a press conference in Kabul on Monday. He said the casualty
figures are not yet definite and that the numbers might change. He didn't
offer a breakdown of the casualties but Interior Minister Wais Ahmad Barmak
said nearly 70 policemen were among those killed.
Bahrami said about 1,000 additional
troops have been sent to Ghazni and helped prevent the city from falling
into Taliban hands. He also said 194 insurgents, including 12 leaders, were
killed — with Pakistani, Chechen and Arabs foreign fighters among the dead.
The Taliban have inflicted huge damages
on the city, especially Ghazni's historic parts and cultural heritage,
Bahrami said, adding that he believes the next 24 hours would turn the tide
in the battle.
Barmak, the interior minister, said top
security and government officials, as well as the military chief of staff
were now in Ghazni, leading the "clearing up operations" in different parts
of the city."
The attack began on Friday, with
insurgents infiltrating people's homes and slipping out into the night to
attack Afghan forces in Ghazni.
The Taliban also destroyed a
telecommunications tower on Ghazni's outskirts, cutting off all landline and
cellphone links to the city and making it difficult to confirm details of
Afghan authorities have insisted that
the city would not fall to the Taliban and that Afghan forces remained in
control of key government positions and other institutions there.
Col. Fared Mashal, the province's
police chief, said the majority of the insurgents fighting in Ghazni are
foreigners, including Pakistanis and Chechens. "The Taliban have failed in
reaching their goal," Mashal added.
Meanwhile, hundreds of civilians have
fled from the city.
One of them, 60-year-old Ghulam
Mustafa, made it to neighboring Maidan Wardak province with 14 of his family
"The city became so dangerous," he told
The Associated Press. "Ghazni has become a ghost city."
Mustafa's wife Razia said they had no
food, water or and electricity for the past four days. "There were so many
dead bodies under the bridges, at the side of roads and under the destroyed
houses," she said.
A 14-year-old girl, Fereshta, who only
goes by one name, said when the Taliban entered Ghazni, it was the first
time in her life that she saw the insurgents.
Over the past months, the Taliban have
seized several districts across Afghanistan, staging near-daily attacks on
Afghan security forces, but have been unable to capture and hold urban
The United States and NATO formally
concluded their combat mission in Afghanistan at the end of 2014, but have
since then repeatedly come to the aid of Afghan forces as they struggle to
combat the resurgent Taliban.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani is said
to be considering a cease-fire offer to the Taliban for the upcoming Muslim
holiday of Eid al-Adha, which starts Aug. 21. A three-day holiday cease-fire
in June brought rare quiet to much of the country, but the insurgents
rejected a government request to extend it.
Instead, the Taliban appear intent on
seeking a position of strength ahead of expected talks with the United
States, which has been at war in Afghanistan for nearly 17 years.
The Taliban say they met with Alice
Wells, the top U.S. diplomat for South Asia, in Qatar last month for
preliminary talks. Washington neither confirmed nor denied the meeting, but
acknowledged Wells was in Qatar, where the Taliban maintain an office. The
Taliban said they expect another round of talks.
As part of an effort to bolster Afghan
fighting strength, the U.S. earlier this year sent more military advisers to
Afghanistan. It also shifted A-10 attack planes and other aircraft from
striking Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq to Afghanistan. These and
other moves boosted the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan by at least
3,500 to a total of more than 14,000.
The United Nations has expressed its
concerns for the civilians caught up in the fighting in Ghazni.
Ghazni's residents "have seen their
city turn into a battlefield since Friday morning, with fighting and clashes
reportedly still ongoing. We have received initial reports of a number of
civilian casualties and of people trying to reach safe areas outside of the
city," said Rik Peeperkorn, acting U.N. humanitarian coordinator for
Ghazni's hospitals are running out of
medicines and people are unable to safely bring casualties, Peeperkorn's
statement added. Electricity, water supply and food are also running low,
the statement said.
"Parties to the conflict need to ensure
that access to medical services is not denied and respect for medical
facilities and staff is upheld," Peeperkom said.
Meanwhile, the International Federation
of Journalists and the Afghan Independent Journalists Association jointly
put out a statement condemning the violence in Ghazni and attacks on
Media technician Mohammad Dawood was
among those killed in Ghazni, the statement said, and also condemned the
torching of Ghazni's radio and television station.
3 WWII bombs removed from Baltic Sea resort in Poland
Navy explosives experts retrieve three World War
II-era bombs from the Baltic Sea bed in the vacation resort of Kolobrzeg,
Poland, on Monday, 13 August. (AP Photo/Sekcja Prasowa 8.Flotylla Obrony
Warsaw, Poland (AP) — More than
2,000 people were evacuated Monday while Polish navy experts removed three
World War II bombs from the Baltic Sea bed at the vacation resort of
The spokesman for the local navy unit,
Jacek Kwiatkowski, said the bombs were hoisted out of the sea and onto a
special truck and were taken to a test range for a controlled detonation.
Each bomb weighed about 300 kilograms
and their impact radius was estimated at 2 kilometers. Two other metal
objects found at the site turned out to be parts of an old anchor and some
Dariusz Trzeciak, a Kolobrzeg city
official, said about 2,000 residents and 200 vacationers were evacuated in
their own cars or in buses. They were later allowed to return.
Kolobrzeg, which was part of Germany
during the war, was the site of fierce fighting in the war's last phase.
Tens of thousands rally for removal of US base off Okinawa
Protesters display signs against a planned U.S
military base relocation during a rally in Naha, Okinawa prefecture, on the
southern Japanese island Saturday, Aug. 11. (Koji Harada/Kyodo News via AP)
Tokyo (AP) — Tens of thousands
of protesters in Okinawa vowed to stop the planned relocation of a U.S
military base, saying they want it off the southern Japanese island
Opponents of the relocation say the
plan to move U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma from a crowded
neighborhood to a less populated coastal site would not only be an
environmental debacle but also ignore local wishes to remove the base.
About 70,000 people gathered Saturday
at a park in the state capital of Naha under pouring rain ahead of an
approaching typhoon and observed a moment of silence for Okinawa's governor,
Takeshi Onaga, who died Wednesday of cancer.
Onaga, elected in 2014, had spearheaded
opposition to the relocation and criticized the central government for
ignoring the voices of Okinawans. He had filed lawsuits against the central
government and said he planned to revoke a landfill permit issued by his
predecessor that is needed for construction of the new base.
Deputy Gov. Kiichiro Jahana,
representing Onaga at Saturday's rally, said he will follow through with the
revocation process as instructed by the governor and succeed his "strong
determination and passion."
Okinawans are trying to block the
government plan to start dumping soil into Henoko Bay within days to make a
landfill for the new site of the Futenma base. Environmental groups say
construction at the bay risks corals and endangered dugongs.
The protesters held up signs saying
"Henoko new base, NO!" and "Okinawans will not give up," as they chanted
slogans. They also adopted a resolution demanding the central government to
immediately scrap the relocation plan.
Japan's government says the current
plan is the only solution, but many Okinawans want the base off the island.
About half of the 50,000 American troops in Japan are stationed on Okinawa.
Onaga had said Tokyo's postwar defense
posture under the Japan-U.S. security alliance was built on Okinawa's
The dispute over the Futenma relocation
reflects centuries-old tensions between Okinawa and the Japanese mainland,
which annexed the islands, formerly the independent kingdom of the Ryukus,
in 1878. Okinawa was Japan's only home battleground in the final days of
World War II, and the island remained under U.S. rule for 20 years longer
than the rest of Japan.
Okinawa is still forced to sacrifice
for the interest of the mainland, Onaga's son Takeharu, an Okinawa
assemblyman, told the rally.
"The (relocation issue) is pushed to
Okinawa because nobody on the mainland wants it," he said, urging the rest
of the country to also think about the issue. "Let us keep fighting so we
can achieve my father's unfinished goal and give him good news."
NASA spacecraft rockets toward sun for closest look yet
made available by NASA shows an artist's rendering of the Parker Solar Probe
approaching the Sun. It's designed to take solar punishment like never
before, thanks to its revolutionary heat shield that’s capable of
withstanding 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit (1,370 degrees Celsius). (Steve
Gribben/Johns Hopkins APL/NASA via AP)
Cape Canaveral, Fla. (AP) — A
NASA spacecraft zoomed toward the sun Sunday on an unprecedented quest to
get closer to our star than anything ever sent before.
As soon as this fall, the Parker Solar
Probe will fly straight through the wispy edges of the sun's corona, or
outer atmosphere, that was visible during last August's total solar eclipse.
It eventually will get within 3.8 million (6 million kilometers) of the
surface in the years ahead, staying comfortably cool despite the extreme
heat and radiation, and allowing scientists to vicariously explore the sun
in a way never before possible.
No wonder scientists consider it the
coolest, hottest mission under the sun, and what better day to launch to the
sun than Sunday as NASA noted.
"All I can say is, 'Wow, here we go.'
We're in for some learning over the next several years," said Eugene Parker,
the 91-year-old astrophysicist for whom the spacecraft is named.
Protected by a revolutionary new carbon
heat shield and other high-tech wonders, the spacecraft will zip past Venus
in October. That will set up the first solar encounter in November.
Altogether, the Parker probe will make
24 close approaches to the sun on the seven-year, $1.5 billion undertaking.
For the second straight day, thousands
of spectators jammed the launch site in the middle of the night as well as
surrounding towns, including Parker and his family. He proposed the
existence of solar wind — a steady, supersonic stream of particles blasting
off the sun — 60 years ago.
It was the first time NASA named a
spacecraft after someone still alive, and Parker wasn't about to let it take
off without him. Saturday morning's launch attempt was foiled by last-minute
technical trouble. But Sunday gave way to complete success.
The Delta IV Heavy rocket thundered
into the pre-dawn darkness, thrilling onlookers for miles around as it
climbed through a clear, star-studded sky. NASA needed the mighty 23-story
rocket, plus a third stage, to get the diminutive Parker probe — the size of
a small car and well under a ton — racing toward the sun.
From Earth, it is 93 million miles (150
million kilometers) to the sun, and the Parker probe will be within 4
percent of that distance at its closest. That will be seven times closer
than previous spacecraft.
"Go, baby, go!" project scientist
Nicola Fox of Johns Hopkins University shouted at liftoff.
It was the first rocket launch ever
witnessed by Parker, professor emeritus at the University of Chicago. He
came away impressed, saying it was like looking at the Taj Mahal for years
in photos and then beholding "the real thing" in India.
"I really have to turn from biting my
nails in getting it launched, to thinking about all the interesting things
which I don't know yet and which will be made clear, I assume, over the next
five or six or seven years," Parker said on NASA TV.
NASA's science mission chief, Thomas
Zurbuchen, was thrilled not only with the launch, but Parker's presence.
"I'm in awe," Zurbuchen said. "What a
milestone. Also what's so cool is hanging out with Parker during all this
and seeing his emotion, too."
Parker, the probe, will start
shattering records this fall. On its very first brush with the sun, it will
come within 15.5 million miles (25 million kilometers), easily beating the
current record of 27 million miles (43 million kilometers) set by NASA's
Helios 2 spacecraft in 1976. Zurbuchen expects the data from even this early
stage to yield top science papers.
By the time Parker gets to its 22nd,
23rd and 24th orbits of the sun in 2024 and 2025, it will be even deeper
into the corona and traveling at a record-breaking 430,000 mph (690,000
kilometers per hour).
Nothing from Planet Earth has ever hit
that kind of speed.
Even Fox has difficulty comprehending
the mission's derring-do.
"To me, it's still mind-blowing," she
said. "Even I still go, really? We're doing that?"
Zurbuchen considers the sun the most
important star in our universe — it's ours, after all — and so this is one
of NASA's big-time strategic missions. By better understanding the sun's
life-giving and sometimes violent nature, Earthlings can better protect
satellites and astronauts in orbit, and power grids on the ground, he noted.
In today's tech-dependent society, everyone stands to benefit.
With this first-of-its-kind stellar
mission, scientists hope to unlock the many mysteries of the sun, a
commonplace yellow dwarf star around 4.5 billion years old. Among the
puzzlers: Why is the corona hundreds of times hotter than the surface of the
sun and why is the sun's atmosphere continually expanding and accelerating,
as Parker accurately predicted in 1958?
"The only way we can do that is to
finally go up and touch the sun," Fox said. "We've looked at it. We've
studied it from missions that are close in, even as close as the planet
Mercury. But we have to go there."
The spacecraft's heat shield will serve
as an umbrella, shading the science instruments during the close, critical
solar junctures. Sensors on the spacecraft will make certain the heat shield
faces the sun at the right times. If there's any tilting, the spacecraft
will correct itself so nothing gets fried. With a communication lag time of
16 minutes, the spacecraft must fend for itself at the sun. The Johns
Hopkins flight controllers in Laurel, Maryland, will be too far away to
A mission to get close up and personal
with our star has been on NASA's books since 1958. The trick was making the
spacecraft small, compact and light enough to travel at incredible speeds,
while surviving the sun's punishing environment and the extreme change in
temperature when the spacecraft is out near Venus.
"We've had to wait so long for our
technology to catch up with our dreams," Fox said. "It's incredible to be
standing here today."
More than 1 million names are aboard
the spacecraft, submitted last spring by space enthusiasts, as well as
photos of Parker, the man, and a copy of his 1958 landmark paper on solar
"I'll bet you 10 bucks it works,"
Blast in northern Syria kills at least 36; cause unclear
shows Syrian White Helmet civil defense workers at the scene of an explosion
that brought down a five-story building, in the village of Sarmada, near the
Turkish border, north Syria, Sunday, Aug. 12. (Syrian Civil Defense White
Helmets via AP)
Beirut (AP) — An explosion in
northern Syria killed at least 36 people Sunday and wounded many others, but
the cause of the blast wasn't immediately known, opposition activists said.
The opposition-run Syrian Civil
Defense, first responders also known as the White Helmets, said the blast
occurred in the village of Sarmada near the Turkish border, killing 36
people and wounding many others. The explosion collapsed two five-story
buildings, burying many of the victims, it said.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory
for Human Rights put the death toll at 39, including 21 women and children.
An opposition media collective known as
the Smart news agency, said the dead included civilians as well as members
of the al-Qaida-linked Levant Liberation Committee.
The Observatory said an arms depot in
the basement of a building had detonated. It said the depot was run by an
arms dealer close to the Levant Liberation Committee.
Meanwhile, Syrian government forces
fighting rebels in Idlib province have sent more reinforcements ahead of a
potential offensive on the last major rebel stronghold in Syria.
The pro-government Al-Watan daily said
Sunday that huge military reinforcements have reached the outskirts of Idlib
province as a preliminary step to launch a wide-scale offensive.
Quoting military sources, the paper
said that troops have reached the northern countryside of the neighboring
Hama province as part of military preparations to recapture Idlib province.
The expected offensive on Idlib comes
after government forces captured major rebel strongholds earlier this year
near the capital Damascus and in the southern provinces of Daraa and
The paper said that the battle would be
"comprehensive" starting from Hama's northern countryside to the southern
countryside of Aleppo, adding that the target of the battle is to seize
Government airstrikes on the province
on Friday killed dozens.
Pro-government activists said on social
media that the elite Tiger Force, led by Brig. Gen. Suheil al-Hassan,
arrived in northern Syria to spearhead what they called the "Dawn of Idlib"
Manchester police say 10 people injured in shooting
officers attend the scene of a shooting in the Moss Side area of Manchester,
England, Sunday Aug. 12. (Peter Byrne/PA via AP)
London (AP) — Ten people,
including two children, were injured early Sunday morning when shots were
fired after a Caribbean carnival in the northern English city of Manchester.
Greater Manchester police said one man
is in stable but serious condition at a local hospital with injuries to his
legs. The other nine people are being treated for pellet-type wounds
suffered in the shooting, which was reported at about 2:30 a.m. Sunday.
"Thankfully the injuries suffered do
not appear to be as serious as first believed, and hopefully people will
begin to leave hospital over the course of the day following treatment,"
Chief Superintendent Wasim Chaudhry said in a statement, urging anyone else
who may be injured to seek treatment. "This was a reckless act that could
have had devastating consequences with families and friends losing loved
He later added the working hypothesis
of authorities is that the pellets came from a shotgun discharge.
"How many times it has been discharged
isn't clear at this stage and forms part of our investigation," he said.
The shooting comes amid a spike in gun
and knife crime in Britain that has sparked calls for government action in a
country where firearms are strictly controlled.
Update August 11-12, 2018
Latest Ebola outbreak more challenging than ever, WHO says
workers from the World Health Organization prepare to give an Ebola
vaccination to a front line aid worker in Beni Democratic Republic of Congo,
Friday, Aug 10. (AP Photo/Al-hadji Kudra Maliro)
Al-Hadji Kudra Maliro and Carley
Beni, Congo (AP) — Armed groups,
dense populations and mass displacement make Congo's latest deadly outbreak
of the Ebola virus more challenging than ever to contain, the World Health
Organization's chief said Friday.
Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus spoke
after vaccinations began this week, with support from a U.N. peacekeeping
mission, in Congo's restive northeast where multiple rebel groups pose a
threat and a heavily traveled border with Uganda is nearby.
Tedros and Congo's health minister on
Saturday planned to visit the village where the latest outbreak, Congo's
tenth, was declared on Aug. 1. The ministry says 48 cases have been
reported, 21 of them confirmed as Ebola, including 11 deaths.
This outbreak is different from the one
in Congo's northwest that was declared over a week before this one began,
Tedros said. "And that may require actually a stronger response."
The use of the experimental vaccine and
a swift international response were key in stopping the earlier outbreak,
which killed 33 people. Health officials are using the same strategy now,
first vaccinating health workers, contacts of Ebola cases and their contacts
while finding and monitoring nearly 1,000 people so far.
"The vaccination alone cannot help,"
Tedros warned, adding that finding and monitoring people is crucial, along
with community awareness programs. WHO has said more than 3,000 doses of the
Ebola vaccine are available in Congo.
The region's shifting population poses
a challenge. North Kivu province, where most of the cases in the new
outbreak have been reported, hosts about 1 million internally displaced
persons because of the regional insecurity, according to the U.N.'s
The U.N. refugee agency on Friday said
Ebola screenings are being carried out at transit points while an estimated
250 to 300 people a day cross into Uganda seeking refuge. Officials have
said travel restrictions in response to the outbreak are not necessary.
Some worried Congolese have called for
mass vaccinations in the border region, which the health minister said could
not be done.
Others want more security.
"We call on the Congolese army to
strengthen their presence and guard convoys of aid workers who are treating
Ebola in the Beni region," pastor Gilbert Kambale told The Associated Press.
Civil society groups have pointed out
the threat from Allied Democratic Forces rebels who have killed more than
1,500 people in and around Beni in less than two years.
Violence erupts amid Gaza cease-fire, 2 Palestinians killed
inspect the damaged building of Said al-Mis'hal cultural center after it was
hit bombed by an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City, Thursday, Aug. 9. (AP
Ian Deitch and Fares Akram
Jerusalem (AP) — Violence
erupted at the Gaza border Friday after the territory's militant Islamic
Hamas rulers and Israel appeared to be honoring a cease-fire that ended two
days of intense violence amid efforts by neighboring Egypt to negotiate
between the two sides.
Israel's military said no rockets were
fired from Gaza at Israel overnight and it conducted no airstrikes in Gaza
against Hamas targets. Israel's government hasn't confirmed the truce.
On Friday evening, however, two
Palestinians, including a paramedic, were shot and killed by Israeli fire at
a Hamas-led protest along the border, Gaza's Health Ministry said. The
Israeli military had no immediate comment on the deaths.
The military said a tank fired shells
at a Hamas positon after Palestinians threw explosive devices and a grenade
at forces stationed near the border.
It was not immediately clear whether
the Hamas protests at the border were included in cease-fire negotiations.
Hamas' Al Aqsa TV channel reported late
Thursday that the Egyptian-brokered deal took hold "on the basis of mutual
calm." It was at least the third such truce in recent weeks.
But the deal did not seem to address
the deeper issues that have prevented the bitter enemies from reaching a
longer cease-fire arrangement.
Gaza militants fired some 200 rockets
at Israel and the Israeli military carried out a similar number of
airstrikes in Gaza in the latest round of violence this week.
Also on Friday, the Israeli military
lifted restrictive recommendations for residents of some areas in southern
Israel that it had set amid the Palestinian bombing, including suggestions
to avoid open areas and beaches. "Following a security assessment,"
residents can resume their daily routine, the military said.
Israel and Hamas have fought three wars
since the Islamic militant group seized control of Gaza in 2007. In this
week's fighting, the Palestinian Health Ministry said three Palestinians
were killed. Israeli officials said seven people were wounded by rocket or
mortar fire on the Israeli side.
Israel and Hamas have come close to
serious conflict in recent weeks after four months of violence along Gaza's
Hamas has led weekly border protests
aimed in part at drawing attention to the Israeli-Egyptian blockade imposed
after Hamas took control of Gaza. Large turnout at the protests has also
been driven by widespread desperation in Gaza, amid worsening conditions
linked to the blockade. Power is on for just a few hours a day, unemployment
has sky-rocketed and poverty is widening.
Gaza's Health Ministry said Abdullah
al-Qutati, 26, was shot and killed and 70 others were wounded by live fire
as thousands protested at the border Friday evening. A 55-year-old
Palestinian was also killed, it said.
Another paramedic, Mohammed Suhwail,
told The Associated Press he witnessed the shooting. He said after treating
wounded al-Qutati " began walking toward the (field hospital) but was shot
in the back and the bullet existed from his chest."
Israel has also been battling almost
daily airborne arson attacks from Gaza caused by kites and balloons rigged
with incendiary devices flown across the border that have sparked large
fires that destroyed forests, burned crops and killed wildlife and
Over the past four months, 164
Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire, including at least 121
protesters and three medics according to the Hamas run Gaza Health Ministry
and a local rights group. An Israeli soldier was killed by a Gaza sniper
during this same period.
Israel says it is defending its border
and accuses Hamas, a group sworn to its destruction, of using the protests
as cover for attempts to breach the border fence and attack civilians and
soldiers. Palestinians have thrown explosive devices and opened fire at
forces along the border in numerous instances over the past few months, the
military says. But the high casualty rate among mainly unarmed protesters
has drawn international criticism.
Ryanair pilots strike in Germany, 4 other countries
Irish Ryanair airline stand on the tarmac of the Hahn airport, western
Germany, Friday, Aug. 10. (Thomas Frey/dpa via AP)
Berlin (AP) — Ryanair pilots in
several European countries staged a strike over work conditions on Friday
that prompted the budget carrier to cancel 400 flights.
Walkouts called by German and Belgian
unions accounted for many of the cancelations, with strikes also called in
Sweden and Ireland.
The airline said that over 2,000
flights, or 85 percent of its schedule, would operate as normal and that the
majority of passengers affected have been re-booked on other Ryanair
German pilot representatives had said
this week they were joining the strike action with a 24-hour walkout, ending
at 2.59 a.m. Saturday, because they want pay and work conditions comparable
to those at Ryanair's competitors.
The company has pointed to recent pay
increases and invitations to meet for negotiations. Ryanair urged the unions
"to continue negotiations instead of calling any more unjustified strikes."
Ryanair built its low-cost business
model without unions, but said last year it would recognize them. Labor
representatives are seeking collective-bargaining agreements in the
The airline has already been hit with
strikes by flight attendants in Spain, Portugal and Belgium. Irish pilots
have held four strike days.
In the Netherlands, the carrier was
using non-striking pilots to keep its service running for passengers. In a
tweet Thursday night, the company said that "there will be no cancellations"
as a result of the Dutch union's strike.
Ryanair launched unsuccessful legal
action in a Dutch court to prevent the strike in the Netherlands.
In Sweden, some 40 Ryanair pilots
walked out to demand a collective labor agreement.
Martin Lindgren, head of the Swedish
Air Line Pilots Association, said that "a strike is necessary to show the
airline that it no longer can avoid treating its employees in a dignified
At Ryanair's main Belgian hub, the
Charleroi airport south of Brussels, a few dozen striking pilots gathered in
the main terminal behind a banner marked "Ryanair on strike, Ryanair must
The Belgian Cockpit Association's Alain
Vanalderweireldt said the strike in Belgium "is the conclusion of six months
of discussions between Ryanair and the union representatives that has led to
While the union wants to apply Belgian
labor laws to employees, Ryanair is still applying Irish laws, he said.
UK man pleads guilty to plotting van attack on London street
Pedestrians walk past the House of Fraser
department store on Oxford Street in London, Friday, Aug. 10. (AP
London (AP) — A Muslim convert pleaded guilty Friday to plotting an
Islamic State group-inspired van attack on crowds in London's busy Oxford
Street shopping district.
During a hearing at London's Central
Criminal Court, Lewis Ludlow admitted preparing acts of terrorism and
fundraising for the militant group.
Prosecutors say the 26-year-old wrote
down his attack plans, saying Oxford Street was an "ideal" target because it
was busy and "it is expected nearly 100 could be killed."
Police found the notes ripped up in a
garbage bin and pieced them together. Ludlow's list of "potential attack
sites" also included the Madame Tussauds wax museum, St Paul's Cathedral and
a Shia temple in Romford, east London.
Evidence recovered from Lewis's phone
included a video of him swearing allegiance to IS and pictures of crowded
areas, which prosecutors said were taken during "hostile reconnaissance."
Ludlow, from Rochester in southern
England, was stopped at Heathrow Airport in February as he tried to board a
flight to the Philippines, where prosecutors say he planned to join IS
militants. They say he later plotted to attack London, and allegedly set up
a Facebook account called Antique Collections as a front to send money to
militants in the Philippines.
Lewis, who was arrested on April 18,
admitted preparing terrorist acts and funding terrorism.
Judge Nicholas Hilliard set sentencing
for Nov. 2.
Third strong earthquake shakes Lombok as death toll tops 300
A girl injured in an earthquake is treated in
Mataram, Lombok, Indonesia, Thursday, Aug. 9. (AP Photo/Firdia Lisnawati)
Tanjung, Indonesia (AP) — The
Indonesian island of Lombok was shaken by a third big earthquake in little
more than a week Thursday as the official death toll from the most powerful
of the quakes topped 300.
The strong aftershock, measured at
magnitude 5.9 by the U.S. Geological Survey, caused panic, damage to
buildings, landslides and injuries. It was centered in the northwest of the
island and didn't have the potential to cause a tsunami, Indonesia's
geological agency said.
Videos showed rubble strewn across
streets and clouds of dust enveloping buildings. In northern Lombok, some
people leaped from their vehicles on a traffic-jammed road while an elderly
woman standing in the back of a pickup truck wailed "God is Great." An
Associated Press reporter in the provincial capital, Mataram, saw people
injured by the quake and a hospital moving patients outside.
The aftershock caused more "trauma,"
said national disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho.
Wiranto, Indonesia's top security
minister, told reporters the death toll from Sunday's magnitude 7.0 quake
had risen to 319. The announcement came after an inter-agency meeting was
called to resolve wildly different figures from various government offices.
"We are taking action as fast as we can
to handle this disaster," he said.
Nguroho said in statement that the
death toll will continue to rise because rescue workers are still finding
victims in the ruins of collapsed buildings and some people who are already
buried are not yet included in the official toll.
Grieving relatives were burying their
dead and medics tended to people whose broken limbs hadn't yet been treated
in the days since the quake. The Red Cross said it was focusing relief
efforts on an estimated 20,000 people yet to get any assistance.
In Kopang Daya village in the hard-hit
Tanjung district of north Lombok, a distraught family was burying their
13-year-old daughter who was struck by a collapsing wall and then trampled
when Sunday's quake caused a stampede at her Islamic boarding school.
Villagers and relatives prayed outside
a tent where the girl's body lay covered in a white cloth.
"She was praying when the earthquake
happened," said her uncle Tarna, who gave a single name. "She was trying to
get out, but she got hit by a wall and fell down. Children were running out
from the building in panic and she was stepped on by her friends."
Nearly 68,000 homes were damaged or
destroyed in Sunday's quake and 270,000 people are homeless or otherwise
displaced, according to the disaster agency's latest update.
"People are always saying they need
water and tarps," said Indonesian Red Cross spokesman Arifin Hadi. He said
the agency has sent 20 water trucks to five remote areas, including one
village of about 1,200 households.
In Kopang Daya, injured villagers got
their first proper treatment Thursday after medics arrived with a portable
X-ray machine and other supplies. They tended to an elderly woman with an
injured face and hips who had been knocked over by her grandson as they
scrambled from their house.
"Her son managed to get out from the
house when the earthquake hit but the grandmother and grandson were left
behind," said a relative, Nani Wijayanti. "The grandson tried to help the
grandmother to get out but he pushed too hard."
A July 29 quake on Lombok killed 16
Indonesia is prone to earthquakes
because of its location on the "Ring of Fire," an arc of volcanoes and fault
lines in the Pacific Basin. In December 2004, a massive magnitude 9.1
earthquake off Sumatra triggered a tsunami that killed 230,000 people in a
Wiranto, who goes by one name, said the
government will develop a plan to rebuild communities on Lombok, which like
its more famous neighbor Bali is a popular tourist destination with powder
white beaches, mountains and a lush interior.
"We will make a new roadmap for what we
are going to do after this emergency response is finished," he said. "For
example, how we can deal with the number of damaged houses, mosques,
schools, hospitals. Who will rebuild and how much money and how long it
Hamas says Gaza cease-fire reached with Israel
from an explosion caused by an Israeli airstrike on a building of Said
al-Mis'hal cultural center in Gaza City, Thursday, Aug. 9. (AP Photo/Arafat
Jerusalem (AP) — Gaza's Hamas
rulers said late Thursday that a truce had been reached with Israel, ending
an intense two-day burst of violence that had pushed the region closer to
war. But the deal did not appear to address the deeper issues that have
prevented the bitter enemies from reaching a longer cease-fire arrangement.
Hamas' Al Aqsa TV channel reported late
Thursday that the Egyptian-brokered deal has taken hold "on the basis of
mutual calm." It said the deal was mediated by Egypt and other unidentified
A senior Hamas official, speaking on
condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media,
said the agreement merely ended the latest round of violence, in which Gaza
militants fired some 200 rockets at Israel and the Israeli military carried
out a similar number of airstrikes in Gaza. He said Egypt, which often
serves as a mediator between the sides, would continue the more difficult
task of brokering a long-term cease-fire.
An Israeli official, speaking on
condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter
with the media, denied a deal had been reached. But early Friday, the
situation in Gaza appeared quiet.
The Hamas announcement came shortly
after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Security Cabinet ordered
the army to take unspecified "strong action" against Gaza militants as the
military reinforced units along the border.
Israel and Hamas have fought three wars
since the Islamic militant group seized control of Gaza in 2007. In this
week's fighting, the Palestinian Health Ministry said three Palestinians,
including a pregnant woman and her 1-year-old daughter and a Hamas militant,
were killed in separate airstrikes. Israeli officials said seven people were
wounded by rocket or mortar fire on the Israeli side.
At times, Thursday's fighting resembled
the 2014 war. In Israel, air raid sirens warning of incoming rocket fire
wailed in southern Israel overnight and throughout the day, sending families
scrambling into bomb shelters, canceling outdoor summer cultural events and
forcing summer camps indoors. The Israeli air force, meanwhile, pounded
targets across Gaza.
A Palestinian rocket struck the
southern city of Beersheba late in the afternoon, landing in an open area.
It was the first time a rocket had hit the city since the 2014 war.
Shortly after, an Israeli airstrike
flattened the five-story cultural center in the Shati refugee camp, a
crowded neighborhood of Gaza City. The airstrike set off a powerful
explosion and sent a huge plume of black smoke into the air, causing crowds
to scream in panic. Medical officials said at least seven bystanders were
The building is home to a popular
theater and exhibits plays and other shows on a daily basis. An
Egyptian-Palestinian cultural society also has an office in the building.
"The deliberate targeting of a cultural
center with airstrikes and destruction ... is a barbaric act," said Hazem
Qassem, a Hamas spokesman. He said the destruction of the Egyptian cultural
office was "an Israeli attempt to sabotage" the Egyptian cease-fire efforts.
The Israeli military said the building
served as a Palestinian military installation. Hamas' Interior Ministry,
including its secret police, has offices in an adjacent site, but those
offices were not hit.
Despite the animosity, the enemies have
signaled, through their contacts with Egypt, that they want to avoid another
war. Reaching a deal, however, will likely require major concession on both
Hamas is demanding the lifting of an
Israeli-Egyptian border blockade that has devastated Gaza's economy, while
Israel wants an end to rocket fire, as well as recent border protests and
launches of incendiary balloons, and the return of the remains of two dead
soldiers and two Israelis believed to be alive and held by Hamas.
Israel is believed to be offering an
easing, but not an end, to the blockade.
Gaza's Health Ministry identified those
killed in the airstrikes as 23-year-old Enas Khamash and her daughter Bayan,
as well as a Hamas fighter, Ali Ghandour.
Kamal Khamash, the woman's
brother-in-law, said the family was asleep when the projectile hit the
house, and that her husband had been critically wounded. "This is a blatant
crime and Israel is responsible for it," he said.
In southern Israel, two Thai laborers
were among the seven wounded, and rockets damaged buildings in the cities of
Sderot and Ashkelon. The military said it intercepted some 30 rockets, while
most of the others landed in open areas.
At the United Nations, Israel's
ambassador, Danny Danon, urged the secretary-general and U.N. Security
Council to condemn Hamas militants for what he called "the unprovoked
terrorist attack" on southern Israel.
In Washington, State Department
spokeswoman Heather Nauert said U.S. officials were concerned by the
situation in Gaza.
"Overall, we condemn the launching of
missile attacks into Israel, and call for an end to the destructive
violence. We've seen reports that 180 or so rocket attacks have taken place,
shot from Gaza into Israel, and we fully support Israel's right to defend
itself, and to take actions to prevent provocations of that nature," Nauert
Tension along the Israel-Gaza border
has escalated since late March, when Hamas launched what have become regular
mass protests along Israel's perimeter fence with Gaza. The protests have
been aimed in part at trying to break the blockade.
Israel and Hamas have engaged in
several bouts of fighting over the past month. The latest round erupted
Tuesday, when the Israeli military struck a Hamas military post in Gaza
after it said militants fired on Israeli troops on the border. Hamas said
two of its fighters were killed after taking part in a gunfire parade inside
a militant camp.
Hamas officials said the group waited a
day to retaliate until a group of senior leaders visiting from abroad had
left the territory. The delegation was in Gaza to discuss the cease-fire
efforts with local leaders.
Over the past four months, 163
Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire, including at least 120
protesters, according to the Gaza Health Ministry and a local rights group.
An Israeli soldier was killed by a Gaza sniper during this period.
Israel says it has been defending its
sovereign border against infiltration attempts by Hamas. But it has come
under heavy international criticism for its frequent use of force against
Landslides caused by monsoon rains kill 19 in southern India
Water gushes out following heavy rain and
landslide in Kozhikode, Kerala state, India, Thursday, Aug. 9. (AP Photo)
New Delhi (AP) — Landslides triggered by heavy monsoon rains have
killed at least 19 people in southern India, cutting off road links and
submerging several villages.
Kerala state's disaster management
agency said 11 deaths have been reported since Wednesday from Idukki
district alone. Many areas are submerged after authorities opened the sluice
gates of an overflowing Idamalayar dam.
Wayanad district has been completely
cut off by landslides and the state government has sought the army's help to
restore the road network to the hill district.
At least 58 people were killed by
flooding and house collapses in northern Uttar Pradesh state two weeks ago.
Monsoon rains kill hundreds of people
every year in India through house collapses and flooding of wide swaths of
land. The monsoon season runs from June to September.
Australian man arrested in Bali on cocaine charges
Police officers escort an Australian man
identified only as Brandon at a local police headquarters in Denpasar, Bali,
Indonesia Thursday, Aug. 9. (AP Photo/Nyoman Hendra)
Denpasar, Indonesia (AP) — An Australian man faces up to 20 years in
prison in Indonesia after being arrested for allegedly possessing cocaine on
the resort island of Bali.
The chief of Denpasar district police,
Hadi Purnomo, said Thursday the 43-year-old man, whom he identified only as
Brandon, was arrested with his Indonesian girlfriend at a rented room last
Saturday in the tourist hotspot of Kuta.
He said police found 11.6 grams of
cocaine packed into 13 plastic bags.
Purnomo told reporters that the man,
identified by Indonesian news site Kumparan as Brandon Johnson, had been
living in Bali for four years and was a designer or architect.
He faces between five and 20 years in
prison if found guilty.
Indonesia has very strict drug laws and
convicted traffickers can be executed by firing squad.
Spain takes more African migrants despite signs of tension
The Open Arms Search and Rescue vessel arrives
in Algeciras, Spain, Thursday, Aug. 9. (AP Photo/Javier Fergo)
Barry Hatton and Valerio Nicolosi
Algeciras, Spain (AP) — A rescue
boat carrying 87 African migrants who were saved in the Mediterranean Sea
docked Thursday at the southern Spanish port of Algeciras, but without the
welcome offered to previous groups as the political mood in Spain began
showing signs of tension about a spike in migrant arrivals.
The boat operated by Spanish aid group
Proactiva Open Arms brought what it said were mostly Sudanese war refugees,
including 12 minors, picked up off the Libyan coast on Aug. 2.
Spain allowed the boat to come after
other, geographically closer, European Union countries refused to let it
dock amid continuing tension among EU governments about how best to respond
to the wave of migrants crossing from Africa.
Spain's new center-left Socialist
government made fair treatment for migrants one of its headline policies
after coming to power two months ago.
In June, it announced measures to "put
people's rights first" in the country's migration policies. Among other
things, it took the first steps toward extending public health care to
foreigners without residence permits.
That same month, it accepted the
Aquarius rescue ship with 630 migrants on board after Malta and Italy turned
Authorities gave those migrants who
arrived in Valencia a special entry permit into Spain of 45 days for
humanitarian reasons. A further 60 who arrived on a rescue ship in Barcelona
last month were given a 30-day permit while they decided what to do. Their
paperwork was also fast-tracked.
But those who arrived in Algeciras on
Thursday will get no such special treatment.
They will be processed, the government
said, like any other migrants rescued at sea: held by police for 72 hours at
a migrant camp, given a medical check-up, identified and detained while they
await asylum or are given an expulsion order.
The government official overseeing
immigration, Magdalena Valerio, said earlier this week there would be no
extra money for migrant policies before the end of the year.
The Spanish Network for Immigration and
Refugee Help, a non-governmental organization, accused the government of
abruptly "changing course" in its immigration policies and "discriminating"
against the new arrivals.
"We'd like Spain to remain a safe haven
and be a bulwark against the populism of (Italian Interior Minister Matteo)
Salvini and (French far-right nationalist leader Marine) Le Pen," the
organization's president, Daniel Mendez, told Spanish news agency Europa
Critics of the new government's
perceived softer approach toward migrants said its policies had backfired,
by attracting ever higher numbers, and the government is increasingly wary
of that criticism.
The U.N. Migration Agency says almost
24,000 refugees and other migrants have arrived in Spain by sea this year —
nearly three times the number last year.
The agency says Spain has become the
most popular European destination for Mediterranean migrants, with just over
40 percent of the total, after Libya and Italy began cracking down. Most
come on overcrowded smugglers' boats from Tunisia and Morocco.
Opposition leader Pablo Casado has
targeted Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez's immigration policies.
"What Spaniards are looking for is a
party which says clearly that we can't give documents to everyone, and Spain
can't take in millions of Africans," Casado said last month.
Such criticism has left Sanchez
politically exposed when he heads a minority government with just 84 of the
350 seats in the lower house of parliament.
It has also fueled fears that populism
may spread further in the EU. Far-right parties have joined the governments
in Italy and Austria and made gains elsewhere.
Residents from the region around
Algeciras expressed concern about the latest arrivals.
"With so much unemployment we do not
need extra expenses," Manuel Ruiz said. "The refugees, because they are not
cared for properly, they start stealing to live and this causes all sorts of
problems." He added: "We have to give them all the aid we can, but it has to
Jose Lopez Vicente feared a backlash.
"I think the European Union should take
more of an interest in this situation. If not, the population will become
racist, even if they are not."
Sanchez, the prime minister, says his
government and EU officials are in talks with Morocco, from where
traffickers take the migrants across the Mediterranean, and with the
migrants' countries of origin on how to stem the flow.
Elsewhere in the Mediterranean on
Thursday, a boat carrying migrants capsized off the Turkish coast, killing
seven children and two women, Turkey's state-run news agency said. Many
migrants continue to attempt to reach the Greek islands from the Turkish
coast, hoping to eventually move to more prosperous European Union
Australia's most populous state entirely in drought
In this June 4, 2018, photo, Australian Prime
Minister Malcolm Turnbull, second right, looks at dry soil with farmers
during a visit to Strathmore Farm near Trangie, 485 kilometers northwest of
Sydney. (Ivan McDonnell/AAP Image via AP)
Canberra, Australia (AP) —
Australia's most populous state was declared entirely in drought on
Wednesday and struggling farmers were given new authority to shoot kangaroos
that compete with livestock for sparse pasture during the most intense dry
spell in more than 50 years.
Much of Australia's southeast is
struggling with drought. But the drought conditions in New South Wales state
this year have been the driest and most widespread since 1965.
The state government said Wednesday
that 100 percent of New South Wales' land area of more than 800,000 square
kilometers (309,000 square miles) was now in drought.
Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair
said farmers were enduring one of the driest Southern Hemisphere winters on
"This is tough. There isn't a person in
the state that isn't hoping to see some rain for our farmers and regional
communities," Blair said in a statement.
Farm reservoirs have dried up and crops
State and federal governments are
providing financial help, but not enough for many farmers.
With dry conditions forecast to
continue for the next three months, farmers had to decide whether to
continue the expensive and laborious task of hand-feeding cattle and sheep
or sell their livestock.
The state government on Wednesday also
lifted the number of kangaroos that farmers are allowed to shoot and reduced
bureaucratic red tape facing land holders applying for permission to shoot.
The requirement to tag dead kangaroos
to keep a tally of the number shot across the state had been dispensed with.
"Many farmers are taking livestock off
their paddocks, only to then see kangaroos move in and take whatever is
left," Blair said.
"If we don't manage this situation, we
will start to see tens of thousands of kangaroos starving and suffering,
ultimately leading to a major animal welfare crisis," he added.
But Ray Borda, president of the
Kangaroo Industries Association of Australia, which represents commercial
shooters who hunt kangaroos for meat and leather, raised animal welfare
concerns about the regulation changes.
"Anybody on the land that will make a
phone call to the Department of Environment can get permission to shoot
almost whatever they want to shoot and it's unaudited and unchecked and
that's our concern — animal welfare," Borda told Australian Broadcasting
The government would have been better
off subsidizing professional shooters to reduce kangaroo numbers more
humanely, he said.
"We see this as probably the worst
possible outcome for the kangaroo, but I've got to emphasize we do
understand the plight that farmers are in," Borda said.
Indonesia quake deaths top 130, aid effort intensifies
A military paramedic tends to a boy who suffers
head injury from Sunday's earthquake at a makeshift hospital in Kayangan,
Lombok Island, Indonesia, Wednesday, Aug. 8. (AP Photo/Fauzy Chaniago)
Bangsal, Indonesia (AP) — Aid
began reaching isolated areas of the Indonesian island struggling after a
powerful earthquake that killed more than 130 people as rescuers intensified
efforts Wednesday to find those buried in the rubble.
The national disaster agency stood by
its latest death toll of 131 from Sunday's quake despite other government
agencies including the military reporting much higher figures.
The governor of the province that
includes Lombok where the quake was centered, the military, the national
search and rescue agency and regent of North Lombok issued different death
tolls that ranged from 226 to 381.
But disaster agency spokesman Sutopo
Purwo Nugroho said in a statement the information from those sources was
incomplete and hadn't been cross-checked for duplication. He has said
several times that the number of deaths will increase. An interagency
meeting will be held Thursday to compare information, Nugroho said.
As the aid effort stepped up,
volunteers and rescue personnel erected more temporary shelters for the tens
of thousands left homeless on Lombok by the magnitude 7.0 quake.
Water, which has been in short supply
due to a prolonged dry spell on the island, as well as food and medical
supplies were being distributed from trucks. The military said it sent five
planes carrying food, medicine, blankets, field tents and water tankers.
Still, government assistance was barely
a trickle in the west Lombok village of Kekait where Zulas Triani, an
elementary school teacher who was sharing a tent with 30 others, said they
had received only a basket with three noodle packets, five eggs and a small
ration of water.
"My house was flattened. We are all
frustrated to live like this — in a tent without certainty. Where should we
go if we have no house anymore, nowhere to live?" said the mother of 15- and
"I don't know how to rebuild on my own.
We're all relying on the government to help. I do hope the government can
help," she said.
Nearly 1,500 people have been
hospitalized with serious injuries and more than 156,000 have been displaced
due to the extensive damage to thousands of homes. Thousands of people have
been sleeping in makeshift shelters or out in the open.
At a collapsed mosque in Bangsal
district, emergency workers in orange uniforms removed a woman's body from
the ruins on Wednesday morning. A green and yellow dome rested on the pile
of rubble, the only part of the structure still intact.
Authorities said all the tourists who
wanted to be evacuated from three outlying vacation islands due to power
blackouts and damage to hotels had left by boat, some 5,000 people in all.
The quake was the second in a week to
hit Lombok. A magnitude 6.4 earthquake on July 29 killed 16 people and
cracked and weakened many structures, amplifying the damage that occurred in
Like its famous neighbor Bali, Lombok
is known for beaches, mountains and a lush interior. Hotels and other
buildings in both locations are not allowed to exceed the height of coconut
Ebola vaccinations begin in Congo's latest deadly outbreak
healthcare worker from the World Health Organization gives an Ebola
vaccination to a front line aid worker in Mangina, Democratic Republic of
Congo, Wednesday, Aug 8. (AP Photo/Al-hadji Kudra Maliro)
Al-Hadji Kudra Maliro and Carley Petesch
Dakar, Senegal (AP) — Ebola
vaccinations began Wednesday for Congo's latest outbreak of the deadly virus
that has already claimed at least nine lives.
Health officials have warned that
containing the outbreak in North Kivu province is complicated by the
presence of multiple armed groups vying for mineral-rich land in the
northeastern region that borders Uganda and Rwanda. Ebola screening of
travelers at the Congo-Rwanda border was "already in high gear," the World
Health Organization said.
The latest outbreak, declared Aug. 1 in
Mangina village in the Mabalako health zone, is Congo's tenth outbreak since
the virus was identified in 1976.
This outbreak now has 17 confirmed
Ebola cases, 27 probable cases and 47 suspected ones.
Some 36 people have died from
hemorrhagic fever amid the outbreak, but officials said many cannot be
confirmed as Ebola deaths at this point.
Three thousand doses of the Ebola
vaccine are being sent from Kinshasa, the capital, and will be used first in
the Mabalako health zone and in the nearby city of Beni, which has more than
The experimental vaccine was used in an
earlier, unrelated outbreak in Congo's northwest that was declared over last
The first to be vaccinated are health
workers, contacts of confirmed Ebola cases and their contacts in what is
called a ring vaccination campaign. The strategy is the same that was used
to contain the previous outbreak in Equateur province, with more than 3,300
The first people to be vaccinated on
Wednesday included the Beni's region chief doctor and medical staff. Other
residents in Beni and Mangina will receive vaccinations Thursday,
"I will be very content to receive the
vaccination tomorrow," said Solange Mbambu. "When I see the doctors
preparing the funerals for those who have died from Ebola, without their
family, it gives me goose bumps."
Ebola jumps to humans from animals
including bats and monkeys. It can be spread through contact of bodily
fluids of someone infected, living or dead. There is no specific treatment,
and the virus can be fatal in up to 90 percent of cases, depending on the
Genetic analysis confirmed the virus
strain in this latest outbreak is the Zaire one.
Activists mark 30th anniversary of Myanmar uprising
A boy holds a portrait of Gen. Aung San during a
ceremony marking the 30th anniversary of the pro-democracy uprising,
Wednesday, Aug. 8, in Yangon, Myanmar. (AP Photo/Thein Zaw)
Grace Brown and Min Kyi Thein
Yangon, Myanmar (AP) — Hundreds
of people on Wednesday commemorated the 30th anniversary of Myanmar's 8888
uprising, a seminal and ultimately bloody episode in the Southeast Asian
nation's struggle for democracy.
The flag of the uprising — a fighting
peacock — flew on the campus and in a hall of Yangon University, where
activists including those who took part in the mass revolt heard speeches
and viewed exhibits that recalled the events.
The Aug. 8, 1988, uprising came after
more than a quarter of a century of military rule and international
isolation that had condemned once-prosperous Myanmar — then called Burma —
to poverty. More than 1 million people are estimated to have protested
throughout the country, driven to take to the streets after the government's
sudden demonetization of the country's currency, which wiped out many
The revolt dislodged longtime dictator
Ne Win but was violently crushed by the army in the weeks that followed.
Estimates of the number of deaths range as high as 3,000. Although an
equally repressive set of generals took over, the events also marked the
founding of the pro-democracy movement of Aung San Suu Kyi, which finally
took power peacefully in 2016, although under a restrictive constitution
that forced it to share power with the military.
Many of the leading figures of the 1988
uprising are still active in political and social work, and several on
Wednesday recalled the momentous historical events and how they started.
"Suddenly, someone put out the student
flag, which had been hidden under his shirt, and waved it," recounted former
student protest leader and 88 Generation activist Min Ko Naing. "At the same
time, another person brought a bamboo stick to the fence and tied that flag
to the top. All the rest started chanting and waving their posters." All of
a sudden, the demonstration had begun, he recalled, adding that it had been
"born in our hearts" many years before.
Along with hundreds of others, Min Ko
Naing was arrested in the army takeover that followed. He spent
approximately 19 years behind bars, before finally being released in 2012
during a mass pardon of political prisoners.
An exhibition inside the university
showed in detail what took place in 1988. People young and old stopped to
read carefully preserved archives of journals and newspapers, hanging like
Members of the 88 Group, an association
of protest veterans, also showed visitors how word spread to the streets in
the pre-internet era, relying on foreign radio stations including Voice of
America and BBC. Using simple manual printing techniques, transcripts of the
broadcasts were shared in quiet teashops from Yangon to Mandalay, the
traditional venues for gossip and discussion.
Portugal says major wildfire will take days to put out
People observe as fire gets closer to the
village of Monchique, in southern Portugal's Algarve region, Sunday, Aug. 5.
(AP Photo/Javier Fergo)
Lisbon, Portugal (AP) — A major wildfire blackening hills in
Portugal's southern Algarve region likely will take several more days to
bring under control, the country's prime minister said Wednesday.
Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio
Costa said that efforts to control the fire that broke out Friday were
being hampered by gusting winds, the region's deep ravines and the
numerous plantations where combustible eucalyptus is grown for paper
Costa spoke after visiting the
headquarters of the Portuguese Civil Protection Agency, the government
body that is coordinating the emergency response to the fire.
The Civil Protection Agency said
almost 1,300 firefighters from across Portugal were assigned to the
blaze, the most since it started. Public TV network RTP said more than
20,000 hectares (49,000 acres) have burned in the fire.
The prime minister is aware of
potential political repercussions from major wildfires; the deaths of
109 people in blazes last year almost brought down his government.
Costa acknowledged that much more
work was needed to prevent catastrophic fires, including diversifying
the vegetation in Portugal's forests and establishing fire breaks.
High clouds of black smoke have
towered for days over the Algarve region, a top European vacation
While winds have made the
firefighting effort more difficult, crew working overnight kept flames
from reaching the town of Silves, a popular tourist spot and home to
about 6,000 people.
The torrid weather that has hung
over much of Europe for weeks also was subsiding, with a high of 31
degrees Celsius (88 F) forecast for the Algarve on Wednesday.
Along with ground crews, 13
aircraft and more than 380 vehicles were battling the blaze.
In neighboring Spain, 27 aircraft
were helping some 700 firefighters put out a fire near Valencia. Radio
broadcaster Cadena SER said nearly 2,900 hectares have been burned.