China opens mega-bridge linking Hong Kong to mainland
The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge is seen in
Hong Kong, Monday, Oct. 22. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
Zhuhai, China (AP) — China on
Tuesday opened the world's longest sea-crossing bridge linking Hong Kong to
the mainland, a feat of engineering carrying immense economic and political
Chinese President Xi Jinping presided
over a ceremony in the city of Zhuhai to open the 55-kilometer
(34-mile)-long bridge linking it to the semi-autonomous regions of Hong Kong
and Macau. Digital fireworks exploded on a screen behind him as leaders of
the three cities watched.
The $20 billion bridge took almost a
decade to build while incurring major delays and cost overruns. It includes
an undersea tunnel allowing ships to pass through the Pearl River delta, the
heart of China's crucial manufacturing sector.
Its opening will cut travel time across
the delta from several hours to just 30 minutes, something China hopes will
bind the region together as a major driver of future economic growth.
Heavily regulated traffic using permits issued under a quota system will
begin flowing on Wednesday.
The bridge forms a physical link
between the mainland and Hong Kong, an Asian financial hub that was handed
over from British to Chinese control in 1997 with the assurance it would
maintain its own legal and economic system for 50 years.
That carries major political
significance for Xi's administration, which has rejected calls for political
liberalization in Hong Kong, sparking fears Beijing will clamp down further
on civil liberties before the end of the "one country, two systems"
arrangement in 2047.
The bridge's opening also comes a month
after the inauguration of a new high-speed rail link from Hong Kong to
mainland China that runs along a different, shorter route. That line has
vastly decreased travel times but also raised concerns about Beijing's
growing influence because mainland Chinese law applies within part of the
line's Hong Kong terminus.
To Claudia Mo, a Hong Kong democratic
politician, the bridge's political significance outweighs its practical
"It's not exactly necessary, because
Hong Kong is connected to mainland China in every way already, by land, by
air, by sea," Mo told The Associated Press.
"But they still need it as a political
symbol or icon to remind Hong Kong people ... that you are connected to the
motherland, with this very grand bridge. It's almost like an umbilical
In Zhuhai, however, sentiments revolved
around economic growth and national pride.
Airline pilot Liu Gang said he'd been
eagerly anticipating the opening of the bridge, calling it a symbol of the
mainland's increasingly close ties with Hong Kong and Macau.
"It'll bring us even closer together,
make us more flexible, economically and in many other ways. We're now one
family," Liu said Monday afternoon while strolling along a walkway and
shooting photos of the structure.
Luo Fengzhi, who works in real estate,
cited the bridge as evidence of China's growing economic and engineering
"For Chinese people, this makes them
feel proud," she said. "I hope that every patriotic Chinese person can come
and see this great feat of engineering, and I welcome foreigners to come and
see for themselves as well."
Vietnam parliament elects Communist Party chief as president
Vietnam's Communist Party General Secretary
Nguyen Phu Trong is sworn in as the country's president in Hanoi, Vietnam,
Tuesday, Oct. 23. (Nguyen Phuong Hoa/ Vietnam News Agency via AP)
Yves Dam Van
Hanoi, Vietnam (AP) — Vietnam's
rubber stamp National Assembly elected Communist Party General Secretary
Nguyen Phu Trong as the country's president on Tuesday, consolidating his
influence as the most powerful man in the Southeast Asian nation.
The 74-year-old Trong is the first
Vietnamese leader to hold the two positions since founding President Ho Chi
Minh in the 1960s.
He succeeds President Tran Dai Quang,
who died last month after battling a viral illness for more than a year.
Raising one hand and placing the other
on the constitution, Trong vowed during the swearing-in ceremony to be
"absolutely loyal to the nation, people and the constitution."
He acknowledged in his acceptance
speech that despite impressive achievements in recent years, Vietnam faces
many challenges. "Many heavy tasks and duties are waiting ahead of us," he
Earlier this month, the party's Central
Committee endorsed Trong as the sole candidate for the presidency.
Nguyen Khac Giang, a researcher at the
Vietnam Institute for Economic and Policy Research in Hanoi, said Trong's
serving as general secretary and president could weaken the collective
leadership, which was seen as being more democratic than China's
"When power is concentrated in an
individual, there's a tendency which could be negative in a way that could
lessen the collective leadership inside the party," Giang said.
Vietnam does not have a single
paramount leader, with the country run through the collective leadership of
the general secretary, president, prime minister and National Assembly
Giang said it's unclear whether the
merger of general secretary and president will continue after Trong likely
steps down at the next five-year party congress, scheduled for 2021.
Trong, the party's former chief
ideologue, was elected to the all-powerful Politburo in 1997, serving as the
Communist Party chief of Hanoi and chairman of the National Assembly before
being promoted to general secretary in 2011. He was re-elected to another
five-year term in January 2016.
Vietnam has seen an increased crackdown
on dissidents and corruption, with scores of high-ranking officials and
executives jailed since 2016 under Trong's watch.
The anti-corruption drive is likely to
continue, according to Le Hong Hiep, a research fellow at the
Singapore-based ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute.
"With his consolidated power, it's
likely that he will continue his signature anti-corruption campaign, a key
factor that has helped him strengthen his power and won him the presidency,"
Trong became the first general
secretary to visit former foe the United States when he met with President
Barack Obama at the White House in July 2015.
The U.S. Embassy in Hanoi congratulated
Trong on his election.
"President Trong's selection comes at a
time when our bilateral ties with Vietnam have never been stronger,"
Ambassador Daniel Kritenbrink said in a statement. "Over the past two
decades, the United States and Vietnam have come together to find common
purpose based on shared interests. We have expanded our security ties,
forged new economic and commercial linkages, and deepened our
people-to-people engagement. We share a common desire to promote peace,
security, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region."
"We look forward to continuing to work
closely with President Trong on further strengthening and expanding the
U.S.-Vietnam Comprehensive Partnership," Kritenbrink said.
EU rejects Italy's budget, raising stakes in dispute
right: vice premier Luigi Di Maio, premier Giuseppe Conte and vice premier
Matteo Salvini, pose as they arrive for a press conference at Chigi's
Palace, in Rome, Saturday, Oct. 20. (Angelo Carconi/ANSA via AP)
Raf Casert and Colleen Barry
Brussels (AP) — The European
Union set up a high-stakes battle with Italy, one of the bloc's biggest
economies, over who has final control over a member state's budget after the
executive Commission took the unprecedented step of ordering the country to
revise its public spending plans.
In a move that escalates a month-long
standoff, the EU said the populist government's budget for next year is out
of line and breaks earlier promises to lower public debt.
Italy's debt load is the second-highest
in Europe, after Greece, and there are worries that losing control of
spending could rekindle financial turmoil in Europe. The populist Italian
government says the sharp increase in spending is needed to jumpstart growth
after years of malaise.
"We see no alternative but to request
the Italian government to revise its draft budgetary plan," EU Commission
Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis said.
Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo
Salvini was quick to warn the EU to keep its hands off. "No one will take
one euro from this budget."
The confrontation laid bare the
fundamental problem within the eurozone where 19 EU nations share the same
currency, yet governments maintain autonomy over spending priorities and the
EU has been reluctant to enforce spending limits.
Since the euro economy can be
destabilized when one member state loses control of its finances, like
Greece did a decade ago, the other nations want to have some say over
excessive spending, especially when it concerns the region's third-biggest
The EU Commission said it had no choice
after Italy proposed a deficit of 2.4 percent of GDP for next year — three
times more than what it had previously targeted. The higher deficit means
Italy would not fulfill its promise to lower its debt, which is over 130
percent of GDP and more than twice the EU limit of 60 percent.
Without a tough stance on the issue,
the EU could see its credibility erode and markets could lose confidence in
its ability to keep public spending in check.
The Commission wrote in its official
opinion that "given the size of the Italian economy within the euro area,
the choice of the government to increase the budget deficit ... creates
risks of negative spill-overs for the other euro area member states."
EU Financial Affairs Commissioner
Pierre Moscovici highlighted how Italy's budget would hurt its own people by
saddling the young with higher debt payments. The cost of servicing Italian
public debt is already equal to the country's entire spending on education —
65 billion euros a year.
"Italy must continue its effort to
lower its debt because it is the enemy of the economy," he said.
The EU said it had already been lenient
enough with Italy in recent years, giving it 30 billion euros ($34 billion)
worth of wiggle room in its spending plans, as well as investment funds.
The EU's executive wants the Italian
government to produce a new budget proposal within three weeks.
Italy argues the spending increase is
needed to get growth going and fulfil electoral promises. The extra money
will be spent on restoring pensions to as many as 400,000 people whose
retirement age had been pushed back and on a basic income for some
"We know that we are the last line of
defense for social rights of Italians. And for this we won't let you down.
We know that if we would give up, that the experts for the banks and
austerity would return. So we will not give up," Deputy Premier Luigi Di
Maio wrote on Facebook.
The hard-line stance of the two
populist leaders, Di Maio and Salvini, to some degree defies a more
conciliatory position by the country's economy minister, who signaled in his
response to Brussels that Italy would be willing to change plans if it
didn't achieve the desired results.
But both populist leaders also have
something to gain with their voter base by leveraging a confrontation with
the EU, which has been seen as the bogeyman requiring austerity cuts in
recent years. European parliament elections loom in the spring and Di Maio
and Salvini are jostling to gain influence before then.
Markets were quick to punish Italy over
the dispute, with the government's cost of borrowing on international bond
markets rising and the Milan stock market falling 1 percent.
Italy's standoff with Brussels has had
its first impact on corporate Italy, with credit rating's agency Moody's
downgrading a slew of companies and banks just days after lowering Italy one
notch to just one level above junk status.
Those hit include state-controlled Eni
oil company, the Italian Post Office, defense contractor Leonardo and 12
Eni, which is 30-percent
government-owned, said in a statement that the action was taken despite
"favorable prospects for the company and the expectation of strong credit
BMW to recall 1.6 million vehicles worldwide over fire risk
this Aug. 1, 2017 file photo the brand logo of German car maker BMW is
photographed on a car in Berlin. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
Frankfurt, Germany (AP) —
Automaker BMW says it is expanding a recall to cover 1.6 million vehicles
worldwide due to possible fluid leaks that could result in a fire.
BMW said Tuesday that in some diesel
vehicles coolant could leak from the exhaust gas recirculation module, part
of the emissions reduction system. The leaks could combine with soot at high
temperatures and lead to a fire.
The Munich-based company had already
decided to recall 480,000 vehicles in Asia and Europe after fires were
reported in South Korea. No injuries were reported. Further examination led
to an expansion of the maintenance action.
The recall covers some vehicles made
between 2010 and 2017; a company statement said that customers with affected
cars would be contacted. Some 54,700 vehicles are affected in the U.S and
China emergency crews struggling to rescue 18 trapped miners
photo taken Oct. 21, 2018 and released by Xinhua News Agency, rescuers walk
out of the site of a coal mine where falling rocks killed miners and trapped
some in Yuncheng County in eastern China's Shandong Province. (Guo
Xulei/Xinhua via AP)
Beijing (AP) — Emergency crews
were struggling Tuesday to rescue 18 coal miners trapped underground in
eastern China following a collapse inside the shaft three days earlier.
Three miners were killed by falling
rocks in Saturday's collapse in Shandong province that also destroyed part
of a drainage tunnel.
State media showed ambulances standing
by at the mine entrance and crews equipped with oxygen tanks heading
More than 300 people were working
inside the mine at the time of the collapse, and most were lifted to safety.
China long had the world's deadliest
coal mines but safety has improved considerably with more modern equipment,
better training and the closure of most of the smallest, most dangerous
China is by far the world's largest
coal consumer and the amount it mined last year increased about 3 percent in
2017. While some coal projects have been cancelled as China struggles to
clear polluted skies, coal remains key to providing heat and powering the
Saudi economic forum opens but many absent over Khashoggi
employees print badges of participants of the Future Investment Initiative
conference, Tuesday, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (AP) — A
high-profile economic forum in Saudi Arabia began on Tuesday in Riyadh, the
kingdom's first major event on the world stage since the killing of writer
Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul earlier this month.
The Future Investment Initiative forum
is the brainchild of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, aimed at
drawing more foreign investment into the kingdom and to help create
desperately needed jobs for its youthful population.
Prince Mohammed was not immediately at
the forum when it started.
The forum last year proved to be a
glitzy affair that drew more international business attention to the
kingdom. This year's event meanwhile has seen many top business leaders and
officials drop out over Khashoggi's Oct. 2 slaying.
The killing of Khashoggi has marred the
prince's standing, especially amid Turkish media reports a member of his
entourage on trips abroad allegedly took part in the slaying and made phone
calls to the prince's office.
Saudi Arabia, which for weeks
maintained Khashoggi had left the consulate, on Saturday acknowledged he had
been killed there in a "fistfight." Turkish media reports and officials
maintain that a 15-member Saudi team flew to Istanbul on Oct. 2, knowing
Khashoggi would enter the consulate to get a document he needed to get
married. Once he was inside, the Saudis accosted Khashoggi, cut off his
fingers, killed and dismembered the 59-year-old writer, according to Turkish
The killing has also thrown into
question whether Western executives will continue business as usual with the
crown prince, who as King Salman's favored son is the second most powerful
man in the kingdom.
Last year, the investment forum grabbed
headlines when Prince Mohammed wowed the crowd of global business titans
with pledges to lead the ultraconservative kingdom toward "moderate Islam."
He also announced plans to build a $500 billion futuristic city in the
He spoke on stage alongside Stephen
Schwarzman of U.S. private equity firm Blackstone and Masayoshi Son of
Japan's technology conglomerate SoftBank.
Schwarzman is among those who've backed
out of attending this year. Others include U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven
Mnuchin, who met with Prince Mohammed separately before the forum, according
to Saudi state television.
Among its many investments domestically
and abroad, Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund, which the crown prince
oversees, has invested $20 billion in a U.S.-focused infrastructure fund
The Public Investment Fund has also
invested $3.5 billion in ride-sharing firm Uber, whose CEO also backed out
of attending this year's forum.
Just days after last year's forum, the
emboldened prince launched a sweeping shakedown of Saudi Arabia's wealthiest
businessmen and top princes for alleged corruption, transforming the same
Ritz-Carlton hotel that had earlier hosted the investment forum into a
prison for the country's elite.
The crackdown — a surprise move by the
prince, who's upended the kingdom's reputation for slow, cautions reforms —
Alongside moves like allowing cinemas
to open and lifting a ban on women driving, the crown prince has led a
stifling crackdown on dissent. Dozens of critics and activists have been
detained, including several women and their supporters who had long pushed
for the right
'Extremely dangerous' Hurricane Willa aims for Mexico's west
This image provided by NOAA on Monday, Oct. 22,
shows Hurricane Willa in the eastern Pacific, on a path to smash into
Mexico's western coast. (NOAA via AP)
Mexico City (AP) — Hurricane
Willa has grown rapidly into an "extremely dangerous" near-Category 5 storm
in the eastern Pacific, on a path to smash into Mexico's western coast
between Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta by Wednesday.
The governments of Sinaloa and Nayarit
states ordered coastal region schools to close on Monday and began preparing
emergency shelters ahead of the onslaught.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center said
that Willa could "produce life-threatening storm surge, wind and rainfall
over portions of southwestern and west-central Mexico beginning on
Tuesday." It predicted that Willa could become a Category 5 hurricane later
Monday, generating life-threatening surf and rip tide conditions.
A hurricane warning was posted for
Mexico's western coast between San Blas and Mazatlan, including the Islas
Marias, a nature reserve and federal prison directly in the forecast track
of the storm.
Tropical storm warnings ranged from
Playa Perula north to San Blas and from Mazatlan north to Bahia Tempehuaya.
The center said Willa is expected make landfall late Tuesday or early
By early Monday, Willa had maximum
sustained winds of 255 kph — the same windspeed Hurricane Michael had at
landfall in Florida — and was centered about 325 kilometers south-southwest
of the Islas Marias and 250 kilometers south-southwest of Cabo Corrientes.
It was moving north at 11 kph.
Hurricane force winds extended 45
kilometers from the storm's core and tropical storm force winds were up to
150 kilometers out.
The hurricane center said 15 to 30
centimeters of rain should fall — and some places could see up to 45
centimeters — on parts of western Jalisco, western Nayarit and southern
Sinaloa states. It warned of the danger of flash flooding and landslides in
Farther to the south, Tropical Storm
Vicente weakened but was still expected to produce heavy rainfall and
flooding over parts of southern and southwestern Mexico.
By early Monday, its core was about 310
kilometers southeast of Acapulco with top sustained winds of 75 kph. The
hurricane center said it could produce 7.5 to 15 centimeters of rain in
parts of Guerrero, Michoacan, Colima and Jalisco states.
Koreas finish removing land mines from border village
United Nations Command, left, South Korean, center, and North Korean, right,
military officers attend a meeting at the southern side of Panmunjom in the
Demilitarized Zone, South Korea, Monday, Oct. 22. (South Korea Defense
Ministry via AP)
Seoul, South Korea (AP) — The
two Koreas have completed removing land mines planted at their shared border
village as part of efforts to disarm the area located inside the world's
most heavily fortified border, South Korean officials said Monday.
The announcement came following a
meeting among military officers from the Koreas and the U.S.-led U.N.
Command at the border's Panmunjom village earlier Monday. It's the second
such trilateral meeting to examine efforts to demilitarize Panmunjom, the
most well-known place inside the 248-kilometer-long Demilitarized Zone that
bisect the two Koreas.
Disarming the village was among a set
of tension-reduction agreements signed by the Koreas' defense chiefs on the
sidelines of their leaders' summit in Pyongyang last month.
As the next disarmament steps at
Panmunjom, the two Koreas and the U.N. Command agreed on withdrawing weapons
and guard posts there by Thursday. The three sides will then spend two days
jointly verifying those measures, Seoul's Defense Ministry said in a
statement. The Koreas eventually aim to have 35 unarmed personnel from each
side guard the village.
Officially, the entire DMZ area,
including Panmunjom, is jointly overseen by North Korea and the U.N.
Command, a legacy of the Korean War, which ended with an armistice, not a
peace treaty. North Korea and China signed the armistice on one side, while
the U.N. Command signed on the other side. South Korea wasn't a signatory to
Panmunjom is where the armistice was
signed. Numerous incidents of bloodshed and violence have taken place there
since the war's end, and rival soldiers face each other only feet away from
each other at Panmunjom.
As part of the September deals, the two
Koreas are separately clearing mines from another front-line area, where
they plan their first-ever joint searches for the remains of soldiers killed
during the Korean War. The Koreas also plan to establish buffer zones along
their land and sea boundaries, and a no-fly zone above the border.
Also Monday, officials from the Koreas
met at their recently launched liaison office at the North Korean border
town of Kaesong for talks on how to cooperate in forestry sectors.
General-level officers from the Koreas are to meet for bilateral talks at
Panmunjom on Friday to discuss more details about how to implement the
tension-reduction deals, according to the South Korean Defense Ministry.
Seoul's liberal government is pushing
for greater engagement with North Korea, but U.S. officials say such moves
should be in tandem with global efforts to denuclearize North Korea.
Zika outbreak in northern India state exceeds 100 cases
In this Jan.
27, 2016 file photo, an Aedes aegypti mosquito known to carry the Zika
virus, is photographed through a microscope at the Fiocruz institute in
Recife, Pernambuco state, Brazil. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
New Delhi (AP) — The number of Zika virus cases
has crossed 100 in Rajasthan, a state in northern India where palaces and
forts draw large numbers of tourists each year.
The Press Trust of India news agency reports eight new
cases were reported from the state capital of Jaipur on Saturday.
The agency says that the new cases come amid a state
health department investigation to track the outbreak of Zika in pregnant
women in their first trimester.
Zika symptoms include fever, rashes and joint pain, and
the disease has been linked to birth deformities in some cases.
The World Health Organization says that the first case
in India was reported from Ahmedabad in the western state of Gujarat in
WHO says Zika has been reported in 86 countries.
Norwegian hero Roenneberg who blew up Nazi plant dies at 99
war hero and resistance fighter Joachim Roenneberg is shown in this
Thursday, April 25, 2013 file photo. P (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
Jan M. Olsen
Copenhagen, Denmark (AP) —
Norway on Monday mourned World War II saboteur Joachim Roenneberg, who
headed a five-man team that daringly blew up a plant producing heavy water,
depriving Nazi Germany of a key ingredient it could have used to make
Prime Minister Erna Solberg said
Roenneberg, who died Sunday at 99, was "one of our finest resistance
fighters" whose "courage contributed to what has been referred to as the
most successful sabotage campaign" in Norway.
Roenneberg, then 23, was tapped by the
Special Operations Executive, or SOE — Britain's war-time intelligence
gathering and sabotage unit — to destroy key parts of the heavily guarded
plant in Telemark, in southern Norway, in a raid in February 1943.
In a 2014 Norwegian documentary in
connection with his 95th birthday, Roenneberg said the daring operation went
"like a dream" — a reference to the fact that not a single shot was fired.
Parachuting onto snow-covered
mountains, the group was joined by a handful of other commando soldiers
before skiing to their destination. They then penetrated the fortress-like
heavy-water plant to blow up its production line.
Roenneberg said he made a last-minute
decision to cut the length of his fuse from several minutes to seconds,
ensuring that the explosion would take place but making it more difficult to
escape. The group skied hundreds of kilometers across the mountains to
escape and Roenneberg, wearing a British uniform, ended up in neighboring
Operation Gunnerside has been recounted
in books, documentaries, films and TV series, including "The Heroes of
Telemark," starring Kirk Douglas and Richard Harris.
"We must not forget what he stood for
and has passed on to us," said Eva Vinje Aurdal, mayor of his hometown of
Aalesund, 380 kilometers northwest of the capital, Oslo.
The town ordered flags to fly at
half-mast Monday and flowers were laid at the foot of a sculpture of
Roenneberg, showing him in a uniform, walking up a rocky path. Inaugurated
in 2014 by Roenneberg, the granite monument carries the names of all the men
who took part in the World War II raid.
Health workers in Congo's Ebola outbreak attacked weekly
photo taken Friday, Oct 5, 2018, Congolese Soldiers patrol in an area
civilians were killed by The Allied Democratic Forces rebels in Beni,
Eastern Congo. (AP Photo/Al-hadji Kudra Maliro)
Johannesburg (AP) — Health teams
responding to Congo's latest Ebola outbreak are attacked three or four times
a week on average, a level of violence unseen in the country's nine previous
outbreaks of the deadly virus, the health ministry said Monday.
The coordinator of the outbreak
response, Dr. Ndjoloko Tambwe Bathe, spoke to reporters after a weekend
marked by deadly rebel attacks and violent protests that suspended Ebola
containment efforts in the epicenter of the outbreak.
In one attack, two health agents with
Congo's military were killed by rebels in the first such deaths since the
outbreak was declared Aug. 1. The next day, residents of Beni protested
another rebel attack that killed 15 civilians by pelting aid groups'
vehicles with stones.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres
is "outraged" by the violence against health workers and is calling on all
armed groups to immediately stop attacks, his spokesman said Monday.
The number of confirmed Ebola cases in
this outbreak is now 203, including 120 deaths. The virus is spread by
contact with bodily fluids of those infected, including the dead.
Each suspension of Ebola containment
work affects both vaccinations and the tracking of contacts of infected
people. A deadly rebel attack late last month in Beni, the outbreak's
epicenter, forced work to stop for days while angry residents traumatized
for years by conflict brought the community to a standstill.
Since then many of the new Ebola cases
have been in Beni, while aid groups have expressed alarm that the number of
new cases overall more than doubled since the start of this month. In the
week ending Sunday, 19 of the outbreak's 22 new cases were in Beni.
This is the first time an Ebola
outbreak has occurred in Congo's far northeast, where multiple rebel groups
are active. Resistance by wary communities has been a major concern, with
infected people slipping away and safe burials a flashpoint as families
bristle at outsiders telling them how to say goodbye to loved ones.
Bathe told reporters he regretted that
some community members were putting themselves in danger.
One group of youths in Beni recently
stole the body of an Ebola victim on the way to the cemetery with the
family's consent, he said. After touching the corpse, one of the youths
became infected and died.
Flash floods kill at least 13 people in southwest France
A man rides
past a damaged car in the town of Villegailhenc, southern France, Monday,
Oct. 15. (AP Photo/Fred Lancelot)
Paris (AP) — Flash floods tore
through towns in southwest France, turning waterways into raging torrents
that killed at least 13 people, nine of them in just one town, authorities
said Monday. People had to be helicoptered to safety from the roofs of their
homes as overnight storms dumped the equivalent of several months of rain in
just a few hours.
Worst hit was the town of Trebes, east
of the medieval walled city of Carcassonne. The rains that swept in from the
Mediterranean killed nine people there, Interior Ministry spokesman Frederic
de Lanouvelle said.
He told BFMTV that the floods in the
Aude region also killed four other people in other locations, left one
person missing and seriously injured five others.
In the town of Villegailhenc, witness
Ines Siguet said the waters rose so quickly that people were stranded on the
roofs of their homes and had to be helicoptered to safety. She posted video
of a ripped-up road where a bridge used to be, torn away by a flood torrent
that cut the town in half.
"There's nothing left. There's just a
hole," the 17-year-old resident told The Associated Press. "It was very
Other roads also were flooded, leaving
the town cut off, she said. Siguet's school was shut down amid the
destruction. Two people were killed in the town, according to the Aude
Alain Thirion, the prefect of Aude,
said some of the dead appeared to have been swept away by floodwaters. In
the town of Conques-sur-Orbiel, the river rose by more than six meters (20
feet), he said.
Floodwaters were in some cases too
powerful for emergency services to get through, even on boats, he said.
Television images showed waters
coursing through towns and villages, with cars stranded in the floods and
piled up on top of each other like children's toys.
The French government rushed hundreds
of rescue workers into the flood zone and helicopters buzzed overhead.
Schools were closed and authorities were urging people to stay home.
Microsoft co-founder, philanthropist Paul Allen dies at 65
In this Sept. 17, 2017 photo, Seattle Seahawks
owner Paul Allen waves to fans before an NFL football game against the San
Francisco 49ers in Seattle. Allen, who co-founded Microsoft with his
childhood friend Bill Gates before becoming a billionaire philanthropist who
invested in conservation, space travel, arts and culture and professional
sports, died Monday. He was 65. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Seattle (AP) — Paul G. Allen,
who co-founded Microsoft with his childhood friend Bill Gates before
becoming a billionaire philanthropist who invested in conservation, space
travel, arts and culture and professional sports, died Monday. He was 65.
He died in Seattle from complications
of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, his company Vulcan Inc. announced.
Gates said he was heartbroken about the
loss of one of his "oldest and dearest friends."
"Personal computing would not have
existed without him," Gates said in a statement.
"But Paul wasn't content with starting
one company. He channeled his intellect and compassion into a second act
focused on improving people's lives and strengthening communities in Seattle
and around the world. He was fond of saying, 'If it has the potential to do
good, then we should do it,'" Gates wrote.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella called
Allen's contributions to the company, community and industry
"As co-founder of Microsoft, in his own
quiet and persistent way, he created magical products, experiences and
institutions, and in doing so, he changed the world," Nadella wrote on
Allen, an avid sports fan, owned the
Portland Trail Blazers and Seattle Seahawks.
Over the course of several decades,
Allen gave more than $2 billion to a wide range of interests, including
ocean health, homelessness and advancing scientific research.
"Millions of people were touched by his
generosity, his persistence in pursuit of a better world, and his drive to
accomplish as much as he could with the time and resources at his disposal,"
Vulcan CEO Bill Hilf said in a statement.
Allen was on the list of America's
wealthiest people who pledged to give away the bulk of their fortunes to
charity. "Those fortunate to achieve great wealth should put it to work for
the good of humanity," he said.
Allen and Gates met while attending a
private school in north Seattle. The two friends would later drop out of
college to pursue the future they envisioned: A world with a computer in
Gates so strongly believed it that he
left Harvard University in his junior year to devote himself full-time to
his and Allen's startup, originally called Micro-Soft. Allen spent two years
at Washington State University before dropping out as well.
They founded the company in
Albuquerque, New Mexico, and their first product was a computer language for
the Altair hobby-kit personal computer, giving hobbyists a basic way to
program and operate the machine.
After Gates and Allen found some
success selling their programming language, MS-Basic, the Seattle natives
moved their business in 1979 to Bellevue, Washington, not far from its
eventual home in Redmond.
Microsoft's big break came in 1980,
when IBM Corp. decided to move into personal computers and asked Microsoft
to provide the operating system.
Gates and Allen didn't invent the
operating system. To meet IBM's needs, they spent $50,000 to buy one known
as QDOS from another programmer, Tim Paterson. Eventually the product
refined by Microsoft — and renamed DOS, for Disk Operating System — became
the core of IBM PCs and their clones, catapulting Microsoft into its
dominant position in the PC industry.
The first versions of two classic
Microsoft products, Microsoft Word and the Windows operating system, were
released in 1983. By 1991, Microsoft's operating systems were used by 93
percent of the world's personal computers.
The Windows operating system is now
used on most of the world's desktop computers, and Word is the cornerstone
of the company's prevalent Office products.
Gates and Allen became billionaires
when Microsoft was thrust onto the throne of technology.
With his sister Jody Allen in 1986,
Paul Allen founded Vulcan, the investment firm that oversees his business
and philanthropic efforts. He founded the Allen Institute for Brain Science
and the aerospace firm Stratolaunch, which has built a colossal airplane
designed to launch satellites into orbit. He has also backed research into
Allen also funded maverick aerospace
designer Burt Rutan's SpaceShipOne, which in 2004 became the first privately
developed manned spacecraft to reach space.
The SpaceShipOne technology was
licensed by Sir Richard Branson for Virgin Galactic, which is testing a
successor design to carry tourists on brief hops into lower regions of
Branson tweeted Monday: "So sad to hear
about the passing of Paul Allen. Among many other things he was a pioneer of
commercial space travel. We shared a belief that by exploring space in new
ways we can improve life on Earth."
When Allen released his 2011 memoir,
"Idea Man," he allowed 60 Minutes inside his home on Lake Washington, across
the water from Seattle, revealing collections that included the guitar Jimi
Hendrix played at Woodstock to vintage war planes and a 300-foot yacht with
its own submarine.
Allen served as Microsoft's executive
vice president of research and new product development until 1983, when he
resigned after being diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma.
"To be 30 years old and have that kind
of shock — to face your mortality — really makes you feel like you should do
some of the things that you haven't done yet," Allen said in a 2000 book,
"Inside Out: Microsoft in Our Own Words."
Two weeks ago, Allen announced that the
non-Hodgkin's lymphoma that he was treated for in 2009 had returned and he
planned to fight it aggressively.
"My brother was a remarkable individual
on every level," his sister Jody Allen said in a statement. "Paul's family
and friends were blessed to experience his wit, warmth, his generosity and
deep concern," she added.
Allen never married or had children.
His influence is firmly imprinted on
the cultural landscape of Seattle and the Pacific Northwest, from the bright
metallic Museum of Pop Culture designed by architect Frank Gehry to the
computer science center at the University of Washington that bears his name.
In 1988 at 35, he bought the Portland
Trail Blazers professional basketball team. He told The Associated Press
that "for a true fan of the game, this is a dream come true."
He also was a part owner of the Seattle
Sounders FC, a major league soccer team, and bought the Seattle Seahawks.
Allen could sometimes be seen at games or chatting in the locker room with
German police free hostage, injure suspect in train station
police operate outside the Cologne train station in Germany, Monday, Oct.
15. (Marius Becker/dpa via AP)
Berlin (AP) — German police
stormed a pharmacy in Cologne's main train station Monday, freeing a woman
who had been held hostage by a man for two hours, officials said. The
suspect sustained life-threatening injuries.
It wasn't immediately clear how the man
was injured and police said on Twitter that emergency personnel were trying
to revive him with CPR. The hostage was also slightly injured and treated on
Around the time of the incident, a
teenage girl was taken from the train station to the hospital with injuries,
police spokesman Christoph Schulte said. He wouldn't confirm local media
reports that the hostage-taker had first attacked the girl before taking the
other woman hostage.
Police didn't give details about the
hostage-taker's identity or motive. They also didn't reveal the hostage's
Before police stormed the pharmacy, the
entire train station, one of the biggest in Germany, was evacuated and all
train traffic was stopped, leading to delays and cancelations across western
Saudi-Turkish team to see consulate where writer vanished
wait to enter Saudi Arabia's Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, Monday, Oct. 15.
(AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)
Fay Abuelgasim, Suzan Fraser and
Istanbul (AP) — Turkish and
Saudi investigators on Monday were to begin conducting what Turkish
officials called a joint "inspection" of the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul,
where Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi went missing nearly two weeks ago.
A team arrived by unmarked police cars
at the consulate and said nothing to journalists waiting outside as they
entered the building.
International concern continues to grow
over the writer's Oct. 2 disappearance. American lawmakers have threatened
tough punitive action against the Saudis, and Germany, France and Britain
have jointly called for a "credible investigation" into Khashoggi's
A Foreign Ministry official had earlier
said the team would visit the diplomatic post Monday. The official spoke on
condition of anonymity in line with government regulations. Officials in
Saudi Arabia did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Turkish officials have said they fear a
Saudi hit team that flew into and out of Turkey on Oct. 2 killed and
dismembered Khashoggi, who had written Washington Post columns critically of
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The kingdom has called such
allegations "baseless" but has not offered any evidence Khashoggi ever left
Such a search would be an extraordinary
development, as embassies and consulates under the Vienna Convention are
technically foreign soil. Saudi Arabia may have agreed to the search in
order to appease its Western allies and the international community.
However, it remained unclear what
evidence, if any, would remain nearly two weeks after Khashoggi's
disappearance. As if to drive the point home, a cleaning crew with mops,
trash bags and cartons of milk walked in past journalists waiting outside
the consulate on Monday.
President Donald Trump has said Saudi
Arabia could face "severe punishment" if it was proven it was involved in
Khashoggi's disappearance. Trump tweeted Monday that he had spoken with
Saudi King Salman, "who denies any knowledge" of what happened to Khashoggi.
"He said that they are working closely
with Turkey to find answer," Trump wrote. "I am immediately sending our
Secretary of State (Mike Pompeo) to meet with King!"
On Sunday, Saudi Arabia warned that if
it "receives any action, it will respond with greater action, and that the
kingdom's economy has an influential and vital role in the global economy."
"The kingdom affirms its total
rejection of any threats and attempts to undermine it, whether by
threatening to impose economic sanctions, using political pressures or
repeating false accusations," said the statement, carried by the state-run
Saudi Press Agency.
The statement did not elaborate.
However, a column published in English a short time later by the general
manager of the Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya satellite news network suggested Saudi
Arabia could use its oil production as a weapon. Benchmark Brent crude is
trading at around $80 a barrel, and Trump has criticized OPEC and Saudi
Arabia over rising prices.
Saudi media followed on from that
statement in television broadcasts and newspaper front pages Monday.
The Arabic-language daily Okaz wrote a
headline on Monday in English warning: "Don't Test Our Patience." It showed
a clenched fist made of a crowd of people in the country's green color.
The Saudi Gazette trumpeted: "Enough Is
Enough," while the Arab News said: "Saudi Arabia 'will not be bullied'."
The Arab News' headline was above a
front-page editorial by Dubai-based real-estate tycoon Khalaf al-Habtoor,
calling on Gulf Arab nations to boycott international firms now backing out
of a planned economic summit in Riyadh later this month.
"Together we must prove we will not be
bullied or else, mark my words, once they have finished kicking the kingdom,
we will be next in line," al-Habtoor said.
Already, international business leaders
are pulling out of the kingdom's upcoming investment forum, a high-profile
event known as "Davos in the Desert," though it has no association with the
World Economic Forum. They include the CEO of Uber, a company in which Saudi
Arabia has invested billions of dollars; billionaire Richard Branson;
JPMorgan Chase & Co. Chief Executive Jamie Dimon; and Ford Motor Co.
Executive Chairman Bill Ford.
News that the CEO of Uber, Dara
Khosrowshahi, would pull out of the conference drew angry responses across
the region. The foreign minister of the neighboring island kingdom of
Bahrain, Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, tweeted Sunday night that there should
be a boycott of the ride-hailing app both there and in Saudi Arabia.
Late Sunday, Saudi King Salman spoke by
telephone with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan about Khashoggi.
Turkey said Erdogan "stressed the forming of a joint working group to probe
the case." Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, said King Salman thanked Erdogan "for
welcoming the kingdom's proposal" for forming the working group.
The king said Turkey and Saudi Arabia
enjoy close relations and "that no one will get to undermine the strength of
this relationship," according to a statement on the state-run Saudi Press
Agency. While Turkey and the kingdom differ on political issues, Saudi
investments are a crucial lifeline for Ankara amid trouble with its national
currency, the Turkish lira.
Prince Mohammed, King Salman's son, has
aggressively pitched the kingdom as a destination for foreign investment.
But Khashoggi's disappearance has led several business leaders and media
outlets to back out of the upcoming investment conference in Riyadh, called
the Future Investment Initiative.
The Saudi stock exchange, only months
earlier viewed as a darling of frontier investors, plunged as much as 7
percent at one point Sunday before closing down over 4 percent. On Monday,
Riyadh's Tadawul exchange closed up 4 percent.
Concerns appeared to spread Monday to
Japan's SoftBank, which has invested tens of billions of dollars of Saudi
government funds. SoftBank was down over 7 percent in trading on Tokyo's
Khashoggi has written extensively for
the Post about Saudi Arabia, criticizing its war in Yemen, its recent
diplomatic spat with Canada and its arrest of women's rights activists after
the lifting of a ban on women driving. Those policies are all seen as
initiatives of the crown prince.
Koreas agree to break ground on inter-Korean railroad
Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon, left, shakes hands with his North
Korean counterpart Ri Son Gwon during their meeting at the southern side of
Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone, South Korea, Monday, Oct. 15. (Korea
Pool/Yonhap via AP)
Seoul, South Korea (AP) — North
and South Korea continued their push for peace Monday with high-level talks
that resulted in a host of agreements, including a plan by the rivals for a
groundbreaking ceremony this year on an ambitious project to connect their
railways and roads.
The agreements come amid unease in
Washington over the speed of inter-Korean engagement. Many outsiders believe
that U.S.-led efforts to rid North Korea of its nuclear-tipped missiles are
lagging significantly behind the Koreas' efforts to move past decades of
There was also controversy over a
decision by South Korea's Unification Ministry to block a North Korean
defector-turned-reporter from covering the talks at the border village of
Panmunjom over concerns of angering North Korea. This drew a fierce reaction
from other journalists, who accused the ministry of infringing media
freedoms and discriminating against North Korea-born citizens.
A series of weapons tests by North
Korea last year, and an exchange of insults and threats between U.S.
President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, had many on the
Korean Peninsula fearing war. But there has since been a surprising peace
initiative, with three inter-Korean summits and a June meeting in Singapore
between Trump and Kim. The U.S. and North Korea are working on plans for a
second such summit.
Still, there is widespread skepticism
that North Korea will disarm. And, despite the fanfare for the proposed
railway and road projects, the Koreas cannot move much further along without
the lifting of international sanctions against North Korea, which isn't
likely to come before it takes firmer steps toward relinquishing its nuclear
weapons and missiles.
South Korea's Unification Ministry,
which handles affairs with the North, said in a statement that the
government will share details from Monday's meeting with the United States
and other nations and will closely coordinate with them to avoid any
friction over sanctions.
The ministry said the rivals agreed
Monday to hold general-level military talks soon to discuss reducing border
tensions and setting up a joint military committee that's meant to maintain
communication and avoid crises and accidental clashes.
The Koreas also agreed to use their
newly opened liaison office in the North Korean border town of Kaesong to
host talks between sports officials in late October to discuss plans to send
combined teams to the 2020 Summer Olympics and to make a push to co-host the
2032 Summer Games.
And the two countries will hold Red
Cross talks at North Korea's Diamond Mountain resort in November to set up
video-conference meetings between aging relatives separated by the 1950-53
Korean War and potentially expand face-to-face reunions between them.
Monday's talks were aimed at finding
ways to carry out peace agreements announced after a summit last month
between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Kim in the North Korean
capital of Pyongyang.
South Korean Unification Minister Cho
Myoung-gyon said it was meaningful that the Koreas are getting faster in
reaching agreements as their diplomacy gains traction. His North Korean
counterpart, Ri Son Gwon, who heads an agency dealing with inter-Korean
affairs, said "no group and no force will be able to prevent the path toward
peace, prosperity and our nation's unification."
At the most recent summit between Moon
and Kim, the two leaders committed to reviving economic cooperation when
possible, voicing optimism that international sanctions could end and allow
They also announced measures to reduce
conventional military threats, such as creating buffer zones along their
land and sea boundaries and a no-fly zone above the border, removing 11
front-line guard posts by December, and demining sections of the
Moon has described inter-Korean
engagement as crucial to resolving the nuclear standoff and is eager to
restart joint economic projects held back by sanctions if the larger nuclear
negotiations between the United States and North Korea begin yielding
However, South Korea's enthusiasm for
engagement with its rival appears to have created discomfort with the United
States, a key ally.
Moon's government last week walked back
a proposal to lift some of its unilateral sanctions against North Korea
following Trump's blunt retort that Seoul could "do nothing" without
South Korean Foreign Minister Kang
Kyung-wha also said U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressed
displeasure about the Koreas' military agreements. Kang was not specific,
but her comments fueled speculation that Washington wasn't fully on board
before Seoul signed the agreements.
Trump has encouraged U.S. allies to
maintain sanctions on North Korea until it denuclearizes to maintain a
campaign of pressure against Kim's government.
There also was criticism in South Korea
on Monday of efforts by Moon's government to keep North Korea happy.
Unification Minister Cho said his call
to exclude North Korea-born Kim Myeong-sung from a pool of reporters
covering the meeting was an "inevitable policy decision" to improve the
chance for successful talks.
He said the ministry would work harder
to assure that North Korea-born defectors can report on North Korea issues
without restrictions. But he didn't offer a straightforward answer when
asked whether he would make the same decision in the future.
Unification Ministry spokesman Baik
Tae-hyun earlier said North Korea did not demand that Kim be excluded from
covering the meeting. Kim is a reporter for the conservative Chosun Ilbo,
South Korea's biggest newspaper, which has been largely critical of Moon's
policies. The South Korean press corps covering the ministry issued a
statement denouncing it for a "grave infringement of media freedoms."
Myanmar demonstrators condemn foreign intervention
hold flags of Myanmar during a pro-military rally Sunday, Oct. 14, in front
of city hall in Yangon, Myanmar. (AP Photo/Thein Zaw)
Yangon, Myanmar (AP) — Several
thousand pro-military and nationalist demonstrators marched through Yangon
on Sunday, voicing their support for Myanmar's armed forces and government
while condemning foreign involvement in the country's affairs.
The march led to a stage lined with
portraits of Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, where speakers addressed a
flag-waving crowd and condemned the international community's involvement in
Myanmar, claiming groups would "fight back" against international bodies who
have called for the investigation and prosecution of the country's top
"We, the people of Myanmar, strongly
denounce and condemn any intervention or intrusion by the foreign countries,
international communities and various organizations which unrightfully
manipulate our nation and our Myanmar armed forces," proclaimed one of the
speakers of the event, reading from a prepared statement.
Nationalist monk Wirathu also gave a
speech calling for the international community to stay out of Myanmar's
"The day the International Criminal
Court comes to our country, that's the day R2P (road to repatriation) comes
to our country. That'll be the day that Wirathu picks up a gun," Wirathu
A United Nations fact-finding mission
reported last month that Myanmar's military systematically killed thousands
of Rohingya Muslim civilians, burned hundreds of their villages and engaged
in ethnic cleansing and mass rape. It called for top generals to be
investigated and prosecuted for genocide.
Myanmar government spokesman Zaw Htay
was unable to be reached for comment Sunday.
Saudis reject threats as stocks plunge after Trump comments
In this Oct.
7, 2008 file photo, the shadow of a Saudi trader is seen on a stock market
monitor in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)
Dubai, United Arab Emirates (AP) —
Saudi Arabia on Sunday threatened to retaliate for any sanctions imposed
against it after President Donald Trump said the oil-rich kingdom deserves
"severe punishment" if it is responsible for the disappearance and suspected
murder of Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi.
The warning from the world's top oil
exporter came after a turbulent day on the Saudi stock exchange, which
plunged as much as 7 percent at one point.
The statement was issued as
international concern grew over the writer who vanished on a visit to the
Saudi Consulate in Istanbul over a week ago. American lawmakers threatened
tough punitive action against the Saudis, and Germany, France and Britain
jointly called for a "credible investigation" into Khashoggi's
Turkish officials have said they fear a
Saudi hit team killed and dismembered Khashoggi, who wrote critically of
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The kingdom has called such
allegations "baseless" but has not offered any evidence Khashoggi ever left
Already, international business leaders
are pulling out of the kingdom's upcoming investment forum, a high-profile
event known as "Davos in the Desert," and the sell-off on Riyadh's Tadawul
stock exchange showed that investors are uneasy.
The exchange dropped by over 500
points, then clawed back some of the losses, ending the day down 264 points,
or more than 4 percent. Of 188 stocks traded on the exchange, 179 ended the
day with a loss.
"Something this big would definitely
spook investors, and Saudi just opened up for foreign direct investment, so
that was big," said Issam Kassabieh, a financial analyst at Dubai-based firm
Menacorp Finance. "Investors do not feel solid in Saudi yet, so it's easy
for them to take back their funds."
In an interview scheduled to air
Sunday, Trump told CBS' "60 Minutes" that Saudi Arabia would face strong
consequences if involved in Khashoggi's disappearance.
"There's something really terrible and
disgusting about that, if that was the case, so we're going to have to see,"
Trump said. "We're going to get to the bottom of it, and there will be
But the president has also said "we
would be punishing ourselves" by canceling arms sales to Saudi Arabia. The
sales are a "tremendous order for our companies," and if the Saudis don't
buy their weaponry from the U.S., they will get it from others, he said.
In a statement published by the
state-run Saudi Press Agency, the kingdom warned that if it "receives any
action, it will respond with greater action, and that the kingdom's economy
has an influential and vital role in the global economy."
"The kingdom affirms its total
rejection of any threats and attempts to undermine it, whether by
threatening to impose economic sanctions, using political pressures or
repeating false accusations," the statement said.
The statement did not elaborate.
However, a column published in English a short time later by the general
manager of the Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya satellite news network suggested Saudi
Arabia could use its oil production as a weapon. Benchmark Brent crude is
trading at around $80 a barrel, and Trump has criticized OPEC and Saudi
Arabia over rising prices.
"If the price of oil reaching $80
angered President Trump, no one should rule out the price jumping to $100,
or $200, or even double that figure," Turki Aldakhil wrote.
It's unclear, however, whether Saudi
Arabia would be willing to unilaterally cut production.
Aldakhil added that Saudi arms
purchases from the U.S. and other trade could be at risk as well. "The truth
is that if Washington imposes sanctions on Riyadh, it will stab its own
economy to death, even though it thinks that it is stabbing only Riyadh!" he
Prince Mohammed has aggressively
pitched the kingdom as a destination for foreign investment. But Khashoggi's
disappearance has led several business leaders and media outlets to back out
of the upcoming investment conference in Riyadh called the Future Investment
Initiative. That includes the CEO of Uber, a company in which Saudi Arabia
has invested billions of dollars, as well as billionaire Richard Branson.
Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesperson,
Counselor Ahmed Hafez, said Egypt is following with concern the
repercussions of the case of Khashoggi, and stressed the importance of
revealing the truth of the matter through a transparent investigation, while
emphasizing the gravity of preempting investigations and directing
Khashoggi has written extensively for
the Post about Saudi Arabia, criticizing its war in Yemen, its recent
diplomatic spat with Canada and its arrest of women's rights activists after
the lifting of a ban on women driving. Those policies are all seen as
initiatives of the crown prince.
Bavarian voters punish Merkel allies in state election
Seehofer, German Interior Minister and Chairman of the Christian Social
Union, CSU, arrives for a statement in the state parliament in Munich,
Germany, Sunday, Oct. 14, after his party lost in he Bavarian state
election. (AP Photo/Kerstin Joensson)
Berlin (AP) — German Chancellor
Angela Merkel's conservative allies lost their absolute majority in
Bavaria's state parliament by a wide margin in a regional election Sunday, a
result that could cause more turbulence within the national government.
The Christian Social Union took 37.2
percent of the vote, down from 47.7 percent five years ago. It was the
party's worst performance since 1950 in a state vote in Bavaria, which it
has traditionally dominated.
Constant squabbling in Merkel's
national government and a power struggle at home have weighed on the CSU. It
is traditionally a touch more right-wing than the chancellor's party and has
taken a hard-line on migration, clashing with Merkel on the issue.
There were gains for parties to its
left and right. The Greens won 17.5 percent to secure second place, double
their support in 2013. The far-right Alternative for Germany, or AfD,
entered the state legislature with 10.2 percent of the vote.
Meanwhile, the center-left Social
Democrats, Merkel's other national coalition partner in Berlin, finished in
fifth place with a disastrous 9.7 percent, less than half what they received
in 2013 and their worst in the state since World War II.
The CSU has governed Bavaria, the
prosperous southeastern state that is home to some 13 million of Germany's
82 million people, for more than six decades.
Needing coalition partners to govern is
itself a major setback for the party, which exists only in Bavaria and held
an absolute majority in the state parliament for all but five of the past 56
"Of course this isn't an easy day for
the CSU," the state's governor, Markus Soeder, told supporters in Munich,
adding that the party accepted the "painful" result "with humility."
Pointing to goings-on in Berlin, Soeder
said, "It's not so easy to uncouple yourself from the national trend
Still, he stressed that the CSU emerged
as the state's strongest party with a mandate to form the next Bavarian
He said his preference was for a
center-right coalition. That would see the CSU partner with the Free Voters,
a local conservative rival that made modest gains to win 11.6 percent.
The Greens, traditionally bitter
opponents of the CSU with a more liberal approach to migration and an
emphasis on environmental issues, are another possible partner. A
pro-business party, the Free Democrats, scraped into the state legislature
with 5.1 percent support but won't be needed to form a coalition.
The CSU has long leveraged its strength
at the state level to punch above its weight in national politics. In
Berlin, the party is one of three in Merkel's federal coalition government
along with its conservative sister, Merkel's Christian Democratic Union, and
the Social Democrats.
That government has been notable
largely for internal squabbling since it took office in March. The CSU
leader, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, has often played a starring role.
Back in Bavaria, a long-running CSU
power struggle saw the 69-year-old Seehofer give up his job as state
governor earlier this year to Soeder, a younger and sometimes bitter rival.
Seehofer has sparred with Merkel about
migration on and off since 2015, when he assailed her decision to leave
Germany's borders open as refugees and others crossed the Balkans.
They argued in June over whether to
turn back small numbers of asylum-seekers at the German-Austrian border,
briefly threatening to bring down the national government.
The interior minister also featured
prominently in a coalition crisis last month over Germany's domestic
intelligence chief, who was accused of playing down recent far-right
violence against migrants.
Seehofer has faced widespread
speculation lately that a poor Bavarian result would cost him his job. He
told ZDF television his party's election performance had causes in both
Berlin and Munich.
"Of course, I as party leader bear a
share of responsibility for this result," Seehofer said, adding that he was
prepared to discuss consequences for Sunday's outcome, but not immediately.
It remains to be seen whether and how
the Bavarian result will affect the national government's stability or
Merkel's long-term future.
Any aftershocks may be delayed because
another state election is coming Oct. 28 in neighboring Hesse, where
conservative Volker Bouffier is defending the 19-year hold of Merkel's CDU
on the governor's office. Bouffier has criticized the CSU for diminishing
people's trust in Germany's conservatives.
The CDU's general secretary, Annegret
Kramp-Karrenbauer, said the party must show discipline and focus on Hesse.
She acknowledged that the national government's woes have been unhelpful.
"It is totally undisputed that the way
we have treated each other in the coalition, and also the way we argued with
each other in the summer, was anything but inspiring for the state election
in Bavaria," she said.
Round of talks don't resolve Brexit problems ahead of summit
In this photo taken on Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018,
a sign in a parking lot of a cemetery reads: "No EU border in Ireland" near
Carrickcarnan, Ireland, just next to the Jonesborough Parish church in
Northern Ireland. (AP Photo/Lorne Cook)
Raf Casert, Gregory Katz and Jill Lawless
Brussels (AP) — A flurry of
talks between Britain and the European Union ended Sunday without a Brexit
agreement, leaving the two sides three days to close a gap in their
positions before a make-or-break summit.
An unscheduled, face-to-face meeting
between EU negotiator Michel Barnier and British Brexit Secretary Dominic
Raab, and a hastily scheduled meeting of 27 EU ambassadors in Brussels, had
sparked speculation that the long-awaited deal was imminent.
Barnier dashed those hopes Sunday
evening, writing on Twitter: "Despite intense efforts, some key issues are
still open" in the divorce talks. The key stumbling block remains the need
"to avoid a hard border" between Ireland and the U.K's Northern Ireland
after Brexit, he said.
British Prime Minister Theresa May is
under intense pressure from her Conservative Party and its parliamentary
allies not to give any more ground in negotiations, especially on the border
The British government said in a
statement issued Sunday night there were still "unresolved issues" but
insisted negotiators had made "real progress" toward a divorce agreement.
The lack of a breakthrough on the
border increased the chances that the Brexit negotiations will fail to
produce an agreement spelling out how the EU will interact with its former
member and vice versa. EU officials have warned that real progress is needed
at the summit starting Wednesday.
The British government said it remained
committed to making progress at the summit. An EU official said no further
negotiations were planned before the leaders of EU countries convene in
Brussels. Both sides previously agreed that a special November meeting — to
be called only if there is enough progress this week —would be the deadline
for reaching an agreement since Britain is set to leave the EU on March 29.
The EU and the U.K. are seeking an
elusive compromise position on the difficult Irish border question ahead of
the summit. The "Irish backstop" is the main hurdle to a deal that spells
out the terms of Britain's departure from the EU and future relationship
with the bloc.
After Brexit, the currently invisible
frontier between Northern Ireland and Ireland will be the U.K.'s only land
border with an EU nation. Britain and the EU agree there must be no customs
checks or other infrastructure on the border, but do not agree on how that
can be accomplished.
Raab, Britain's Brexit secretary, was
not expected in Brussels on Sunday, but he made a last minute trip for an
in-person meeting with Barnier.
"With several big issues still to
resolve, including the Northern Ireland backstop, it was jointly agreed that
face-to-face talks were necessary," Raab's office said.
The EU's "backstop" solution — to keep
Northern Ireland in a customs union with the bloc — has been rejected by
Britain because it would require checks between Northern Ireland and the
rest of the U.K.
The alternative — to keep the entire
U.K. in a customs union until a permanent solution can be found — has
outraged pro-Brexit members of May's divided government, who claim that
approach would limit the country's ability to strike new trade deals around
The idea is also anathema to the
Democratic Unionist Party, a Northern Ireland Protestant party that props up
May's minority government.
So even if May strikes a deal with
Brussels, she will struggle to get it past her government and Parliament at
Raab's predecessor, David Davis, wrote
in the Sunday Times that May's plans for continued close economic ties with
the EU even after Britain leaves the bloc is "completely unacceptable" and
must be stopped by her ministers.
May is struggling to build a consensus
behind her Brexit plans ahead of a Cabinet meeting Tuesday that will be
followed by Wednesday's EU summit. If Davis' call for a rebellion is
effective, the Cabinet meeting is likely to be fractious.
Davis and former Foreign Secretary
Boris Johnson resigned from May's Cabinet this summer to protest her Brexit
blueprint. While all three are members of the ruling Conservative Party, the
two men have become vocal opponents of May's plan, saying it would betray
the Brexit vote and leave Britain tied to the EU without any say over its
Johnson, who regularly uses his
newspaper column in the Daily Telegraph to excoriate May's Brexit plan, said
the EU's border backstop amounted to "a choice between the breakup of this
country or the subjugation of this country, between separation or
"It must be rejected, and it must be
rejected now," he wrote in Monday's edition.
May's Brexit plan has also been
rejected by leaders of the main opposition Labour Party, further dimming the
prime minister's hopes of winning parliamentary backing for any Brexit deal
she reaches with EU officials.
Update October 13-14, 2018
At least 34 die in Uganda mudslides triggered by heavy rains
Residents look at a river
filled with mud in Bududa District, Uganda, Friday, Oct. 12. (AP Photo)
Kampala, Uganda (AP) — At least 34 people died
in mudslides triggered by torrential rains in a mountainous area of eastern
Uganda that is prone to such disasters, a Red Cross official said Friday.
More victims were likely to be discovered when rescue
reams access all the affected areas in the foothills of Mount Elgon, said
Red Cross spokeswoman Irene Nakasiita.
People were killed by boulders and chunks of mud
rolling down hills following a sustained period of heavy rains Thursday
afternoon in the district of Bududa. Houses were destroyed in at least three
villages, and in some cases only body parts of the victims have been
recovered from the mud, she said.
"We expect the death toll to increase as some people
are still missing," she said. "It's really bad."
A river that runs through the area burst its banks,
destroying a bridge and threatening settlements nearby, according to Martin
Owor, a government commissioner in charge of disaster management.
At least 31 bodies had been recovered and identified,
It was difficult to establish the number of dead
because it had been a busy market day, lawmaker Godfrey Watenga Nabutanyi of
Luteshe County told broadcaster NTV. "Bridges are gone. Roads have been cut
Local official Wilson Watila estimated that about 100
houses had been swept away.
Residents wept over recovered bodies, while men dug
into the mud with blunt pieces of wood in desperate efforts to find others.
One survivor described running to safety with a friend
after spotting a house being wiped away by the mudslide.
"School children, those who were drinking, market
vendors, they were all swept away," Paul Odoki said.
In March 2010 at least 100 people died in similar
mudslides in Bududa, and injuries or deaths have been reported every year
since then during the wet season.
Efforts by Uganda's government over the years to
relocate all residents away from steep slopes have not succeeded. There also
have been calls for people to plant more trees on steep hillsides.
Pope accepts Washington cardinal's resignation amid scandal
Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2015 file photo shows Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop
of Washington, left, talking with Pope Francis after a Mass in the Basilica
of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. (AP
David Crary and Nicole Winfield
Vatican City (AP) — Pope Francis accepted the
resignation Friday of the archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Donald Wuerl,
after he became entangled in two major sexual abuse and cover-up scandals
and lost the support of many in his flock.
But in a letter released by Wuerl's office, Francis
asked Wuerl to stay on temporarily until a replacement is found and
suggested he had unfairly become a scapegoat and victim of the mounting
outrage among rank-and-file Catholics over the abuse scandal.
The pope's apparent reluctance to remove Wuerl was
evidence of the fraught personnel decisions he has been forced to make as he
grapples with the burgeoning global scandal that has implicated some of his
closest advisers and allies, including top churchmen in the U.S., Belgium,
Honduras, Chile and Australia.
With the resignation, Wuerl becomes the most prominent
head to roll after his predecessor as Washington archbishop, Theodore
McCarrick, was forced to resign as cardinal over allegations he sexually
abused at least two minors and adult seminarians.
A grand jury report issued in August on rampant sex
abuse in six Pennsylvania dioceses accused Wuerl of helping to protect some
child-molesting priests while he was bishop of Pittsburgh from 1988 to 2006.
Simultaneously, Wuerl faced widespread skepticism over his insistence that
he knew nothing about years of alleged sexual misconduct by McCarrick.
A Vatican statement Friday said Francis had accepted
Wuerl's resignation as Washington archbishop, but named no replacement; in
his letter, the pope asked him to stay on in a temporary capacity until a
new archbishop is found.
Wuerl, who turns 78 in November, initially played down
the scandal and insisted on his own good record, but then progressively came
to the conclusion that he could no longer lead the archdiocese.
"The Holy Father's decision to provide new leadership
to the archdiocese can allow all of the faithful, clergy, religious and lay,
to focus on healing and the future," Wuerl said in a statement Friday. "Once
again for any past errors in judgment I apologize and ask for pardon."
In a letter to the Washington faithful, which Wuerl
asked to be read aloud at Mass this weekend, Wuerl directed himself in
particular at survivors of abuse.
"I am sorry and ask for healing for all those who were
so deeply wounded at the hands of the church's ministers," he wrote. "I also
beg forgiveness on behalf of church leadership from the victims who were
again wounded when they saw these priests and bishops both moved and
In his letter accepting the resignation, Francis said
he recognized that, in asking to retire, Wuerl had put the interests and
unity of his flock ahead of his own ambitions. He once again referred
obliquely to the devil being at work in accusing bishops of wrongdoing,
saying the "father of lies" was trying to hurt shepherds and divide their
"You have sufficient elements to justify your actions
and distinguish between what it means to cover up crimes or not to deal with
problems, and to commit some mistakes," Francis wrote. "However, your
nobility has led you not to choose this way of defense. Of this I am proud
and thank you."
Francis' praise for Wuerl alarmed survivors' advocates,
who said it was evidence of the clerical culture Francis himself denounces
in which the church hierarchy consistently protects its own.
Terrence McKiernan, president of the online abuse
database BishopAccountability, said it showed that for Francis, "Cardinal
Wuerl is more important than the children he put in harm's way. Until Pope
Francis reverses this emphasis on coddling the hierarchy at the expense of
children, the Catholic Church will never emerge from this crisis."
Wuerl had submitted his resignation to Francis nearly
three years ago, when he turned 75, the normal retirement age for bishops.
But Francis kept him on, as popes tend to do with able-bodied bishops who
share their pastoral priorities.
But Wuerl made a personal appeal to Francis last month
to accept the resignation, following the fallout of the McCarrick scandal
and outrage over the Pennsylvania grand jury report that has led to a crisis
in confidence in the church hierarchy.
Wuerl was also named prominently in the 11-page
denunciation of the McCarrick cover-up that was penned by the Vatican's
former ambassador to the U.S., Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, who accused a
long line of U.S. and Vatican churchmen of turning a blind eye to
McCarrick's penchant for sleeping with seminarians.
Wuerl has not been charged with any wrongdoing but was
named numerous times in the Pennsylvania report, which details instances in
which he allowed priests accused of misconduct to be reassigned or
In one case cited in the report, Wuerl — acting on a
doctor's recommendation — enabled the Rev. William O'Malley to return to
active ministry in 1998 despite allegations of abuse lodged against him in
the past and his own admission that he was sexually interested in
adolescents. Years later, according to the report, six more people alleged
that they were sexually assaulted by O'Malley, in some cases after he had
In another case, Wuerl returned a priest to active
ministry in 1995 despite having received multiple complaints that the
priest, the Rev. George Zirwas, had molested boys in the late 1980s.
Wuerl apologized for the damage inflicted on the
victims but also defended his efforts to combat clergy sex abuse.
His defenders have cited a case that surfaced in 1988,
when a 19-year-old former seminarian, Tim Bendig, filed a lawsuit accusing a
priest, Anthony Cipolla, of molesting him. Wuerl initially questioned
Bendig's account but later accepted it and moved to oust Cipolla from the
priesthood. The Vatican's highest court ordered Wuerl to restore Cipolla to
priestly ministry, but Wuerl resisted and, after two years of legal
procedures, prevailed in preventing Cipolla's return.
"No bishop or cardinal in the nation has had a more
consistent and courageous record than Donald Wuerl in addressing priestly
sexual abuse," contended Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League.
Wuerl's archdiocese issued a series of similar plaudits
Friday, coinciding with the Vatican announcement. They included a letter
from the archdiocesan chancellor, Kim Vitti Fiorentino, who lamented that
Wuerl's "pioneering leadership in the enhancement, implementation and
enforcement of historically innovative child protection policies was
overshadowed by the (Pennsylvania grand jury) report's flaws and its
interpretation by the media."
The Rev. Thomas Reese, a Jesuit priest who writes for
Religion News Service, described Wuerl as an ideological moderate.
"He was totally enthusiastic about John Paul II, and
then Pope Benedict, and now he's totally enthusiastic about Pope Francis,"
Reese said. "There are not many people in the church who are totally
enthusiastic about all three of them."
Numerous conservative Catholic activists and
commentators, though, considered him too tolerant of the LGBT community and
too liberal on some other issues. They resented his pivotal role a decade
ago in resisting a push by some of his fellow bishops to deny Communion to
Catholic politicians who support the right to abortion.
Wuerl was born in Pittsburgh, attended Catholic
University in Washington and received a doctorate in theology from the
University of Saint Thomas in Rome. He joined the priesthood in 1966, was
ordained a bishop by Pope John Paul II in 1986, and served briefly as
auxiliary bishop in Seattle before going to Pittsburgh.
Optimism rises for Brexit breakthrough next week
Prime Minister Theresa May attends a roundtable meeting with business
leaders whose companies are inaugural signatories of the Race at Work
Charter at the Southbank Centre in London, Thursday Oct. 11. (Henry
Nicholls/Pool via AP)
Brussels (AP) — With just days
to go before a key Brexit summit next week, optimism is growing that a deal
can be reached to ensure a smooth transition for Britain's exit from the
European Union Commissioner Guenther
Oettinger said Friday that he sees room for a breakthrough in the talks next
week, when leaders from the 27 EU nations meet with British Prime Minister
Oettinger confirmed reports that
progress was being made on the difficult issue of the border on the island
"It does appear possible there will be
a breakthrough," he said.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said he
spoke to May by phone on Friday and added that "we hope that next week at
the European summit, if at all possible, the first results emerge."
"I am cautiously optimistic that we can
take steps next week but a lot depends on the talks happening in the coming
days," Rutte said at his weekly press conference.
Even if the negotiators themselves
agree on a deal, it is not the end of the matter. The EU leaders must also
back the deal and then so must the British and EU parliaments.
May in particular is likely to have a
tough time selling a deal to the House of Commons, which is divided on the
issue of Brexit and on what terms to leave the EU.
The U.K. is slated to leave the EU on
March 29. If there is no deal on future relations by then, widespread chaos
on the borders is expected. Tariffs could go up on trade, customs checks
could delay goods, and planes could not have permits to fly across the
borders, among other things.
EU leaders have a two-day summit
starting Wednesday to assess the progress in the talks and if there is no
breakthrough there, another summit could be planned for November.
In London, British Brexit negotiator
Dominic Raab cautioned not to be too optimistic and warned against a
compromise that would give away too much.
"If the EU doesn't match the ambition
and pragmatism we've showed, we have the plans in place to avoid, mitigate
or manage the risk of no deal - and make a success of Brexit," he said, as
the government released the last 29 of 104 technical papers on preparations
for a no-deal.
Philippine, Vietnam leaders discuss disputed sea boundaries
Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano talks to the media
as he bids farewell to his staff during the lowering of the flag ceremony
Friday, Oct. 12, 2018 in suburban Pasay city south of Manila, Philippines.
(AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)
Manila, Philippines (AP) —
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Vietnam's prime minister have
discussed efforts by their countries to delineate their maritime boundaries
in the disputed South China Sea, most of which is claimed by China.
Duterte said Friday, without
elaborating, that he told Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc in a meeting in
Indonesia that such boundary talks may take longer because the Philippines
is still establishing its continental shelf limit, or the country's
"I told him that in due time, but we
will take a longer period for we have to establish even our continental
shelf limits," Duterte said he told Phuc in a meeting on the sidelines of a
gathering of Southeast Asian leaders on Indonesia's Bali island.
Vietnam initiated the on-and-off talks
The Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei and
Malaysia, which belong to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, along
with China and Taiwan have been locked for decades in territorial disputes
in the South China Sea. Tensions flared after China turned seven disputed
reefs into islands which it later equipped with surface-to-air missile
defense systems, in moves that triggered alarm and protests.
"Vietnam is our ASEAN brother and they
have been supporting us in many ways and we have been supporting them,"
Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano told reporters.
"But they're also claimants like us.
They also have features that are inside our EEZ," Cayetano said, referring
to the stretch of waters in which a coastal state enjoys internationally
recognized rights to exclusively fish and extract oil and gas in the seabed.
Carl Thayer of the University of New
South Wales, Canberra, said China would oppose the Philippine-Vietnam talks
because Beijing claims most of the strategic waterway where the two
Southeast Asian neighbors want to define their maritime boundaries.
Efforts by the two Southeast Asian
nations to define their maritime boundaries are significant because ASEAN
and China are negotiating a regional code to prevent clashes arising from
overlapping claims. China, however, has not clearly defined its sweeping
claims, Thayer said.
Some Southeast Asian countries have
successfully forged agreements to delineate their overlapping exclusive
economic zones and continental shelves in the past, he said.
Pakistan delays ruling on blasphemy death sentence case
Saiful Malook, left, defense lawyer for Asia
Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman convicted of blasphemy, leaves the Supreme
court with a bodyguard in Islamabad, Pakistan, Monday, Oct. 8. (AP
Islamabad (AP) — Pakistan's
Supreme Court postponed its ruling Monday on the final appeal of a Christian
woman who has been on death row since 2010 after being convicted of
blasphemy against Islam.
The judicial panel listened to Asia
Bibi's defense lawyer challenge statements by those who accused her of
insulting Islam's prophet, an allegation punishable by death that can incite
riots in conservative Pakistan.
The three-judge panel, headed by
Pakistan's Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, did not say why they reserved
their judgment or when they would announce their decision. It ordered
everyone present to refrain from commenting on the case, in an apparent
attempt to avoid inflaming public opinion.
The charge against Bibi dates back to a
hot day in 2009 when she went to get water for her and her fellow
farmworkers. Two Muslim women refused to take a drink from a container used
by a Christian. A few days later, a mob accused her of blasphemy. She was
convicted and sentenced to death.
Bibi's lawyer, Saiful Malook, argued
that the many contradictions in witnesses' statements tainted the evidence.
The two Muslim women who leveled the charges against Bibi denied they were
quarrelling with her, saying her outbursts against Islam were unprovoked.
Yet several independent witnesses who gave statements recounted a
cantankerous exchange between the women.
The prosecution's case centered mostly
on religious texts that vilify those who make blasphemous statements.
Ahead of the hearing, Malook expressed
optimism that he would win the last legal appeal for Bibi. But if not, he
planned to seek a review, which could take years to complete.
"I am a 100 percent sure she will be
acquitted," Malook told The Associated Press in a telephone interview on the
eve of the hearing. "She has a very good case."
He refused to comment at the end of
Monday's hearing, citing the judges' orders.
Bibi's case has generated international
outrage, but within Pakistan it has fired up radical Islamists, who use the
blasphemy law to rally supporters and intimidate mainstream political
Even defending Bibi in court is
"I have lost my health. I am a high
blood pressure patient, my privacy is totally lost. You have to be in
hiding," her lawyer said ahead of the hearing. Everyone on his tree-lined
street knows his identity, he said. "They look at this house and they know
this is the home of a person who can be killed at any time by angry
Police provide round-the-clock security
around Malook's home, in the city of Lahore.
Members of Pakistan's religious
minorities have campaigned against the law, which they say is invoked to
justify attacks on them. For them, Bibi's case is seen as a watershed. Her
husband recently traveled to the Vatican to meet Pope Francis.
Joseph Francis, an activist for
Pakistan's Christians, said he currently is aiding 120 Christians facing
blasphemy charges. His organization, Center for Legal Aid Assistance and
Settlement, provides legal aid as well as finding a safe haven for
Christians who are targeted even after being cleared of blasphemy
"This law is misused and it is not only
misused against Christians but also against Muslims," he said.
France, Spain and Germany have all
offered to welcome Bibi should she be acquitted, said Francis, who said he
will help secret her out of the country.
But Khadim Hussein Rizvi, the leader of
a radical Islamist party, warned after the postponement that "no blasphemer
will be able to escape punishment.
In 2011, Salman Taseer, the governor of
Punjab province, was shot and killed by one of his elite guards for
defending Bibi and criticizing misuse of the blasphemy law. Malook
prosecuted his killer, Mumtaz Qadri, who was hanged for his crime.
Qadri has since become a martyr to
millions, who make a pilgrimage to a shrine erected in his name by his
family outside the capital, Islamabad. His supporters have called for the
immediate killing of anyone accused of blasphemy.
Pakistan's newly elected government is
led by Prime Minister Imran Khan, a former cricket star who has embraced
religious conservatism and bowed to some of the demands of radical
Islamists. Last month, a member of his government offered prayers at Qadri's
shrine, drawing outrage from rights activists.
An unprecedented number of religious
parties participated in the July elections that put Khan in power. As in
previous elections, they garnered less than 10 percent of the popular vote,
but they have allies among all the major parties.
According to the U.S. Commission on
International Religious Freedom, 71 countries have blasphemy laws — around a
quarter of them are in the Middle East and North Africa and around a fifth
are European countries, though enforcement and punishment varies.
Pakistan is one of the most ferocious
At least 1,472 people were charged
under Pakistan's blasphemy laws between 1987 and 2016, according to
statistics collected by the Center for Social Justice, a Lahore-based group.
Of those, 730 were Muslims, 501 were Ahmadis — a sect reviled by mainstream
Muslims as heretical — while 205 were Christians and 26 were Hindus. The
center said it didn't know the religion of the final 10 because they were
killed by vigilantes before they could get their day in court.
While Pakistan's law carries the death
penalty for blasphemy and offenders have been sentenced to death, so far no
one has ever been executed.
20 dead in crash of limo headed to a birthday celebration
Debris scatters an area Sunday, Oct. 7, at the
site of Saturday's fatal crash in Schoharie, N.Y. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink)
Michael Hill and Bob Salsberg
Schoharie, N.Y. (AP) — A
limousine carrying four sisters, other relatives and friends to a birthday
celebration blew through a stop sign and slammed into a parked SUV outside a
store in upstate New York, killing all 18 people in the limo and two
pedestrians, officials and victims' relatives said Sunday.
The weekend crash was characterized by
authorities as the deadliest U.S. transportation accident in nearly a
decade. The crash turned a relaxed Saturday afternoon to horror at a rural
spot popular with tourists viewing the region's fall foliage. Relatives said
the limousine was carrying the sisters and their friends to a 30th birthday
celebration for the youngest.
"They were wonderful girls," said their
aunt, Barbara Douglas, speaking with reporters Sunday. "They'd do anything
for you and they were very close to each other and they loved their family."
Douglas said three of the sisters were
with their husbands, and she identified them as Amy and Axel Steenburg,
Abigail and Adam Jackson, Mary and Rob Dyson and Allison King.
"They did the responsible thing getting
a limo so they wouldn't have to drive anywhere," she said, adding the
couples had several children between them who they left at home.
The 2001 Ford Excursion limousine was
traveling southwest on Route 30 in Schoharie, about 170 miles north of New
York City, when it failed to stop at 2 p.m. Saturday at a T-junction with
state Route 30A, State Police First Deputy Superintendent Christopher Fiore
said at a news conference in Latham, New York.
It went across the road and hit an
unoccupied SUV parked at the Apple Barrel Country Store, killing the
limousine driver, the 17 passengers, and two people outside the vehicle.
The crash "sounded like an explosion,"
said Linda Riley, of nearby Schenectady, who was on a shopping trip with her
sisters. She had been in another car parked at the store, saw a body on the
ground and heard people start screaming.
The store manager, Jessica Kirby, told
The New York Times the limo was coming down a hill at "probably over 60
mph." In an email to The Associated Press, she complained that the junction
where the crashed occurred is accident-prone.
"We have had 3 tractor trailer type
trucks run through the stop through our driveway and into a field behind the
business," Kirby wrote. "All of these occurred during business hours and
could've killed someone then."
She added that the state Department of
Transportation has banned heavy trucks from the intersection but there are
constant smaller crashes. "More accidents than I can count."
The National Transportation Safety
Board is investigating.
"This is one of the biggest losses of
life that we've seen in a long, long time," NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt
It's the deadliest transportation
accident since February 2009, when Colgan Air Flight 3407 crashed near
Buffalo, New York, killing 50 people, Sumwalt said.
And it appears to be the deadliest
land-vehicle accident since a bus ferrying nursing home patients away from
Hurricane Rita caught fire in Texas 2005, killing 23.
At the news conference, Fiore didn't
comment on the limo's speed, or whether the limo occupants were wearing seat
belts. Authorities didn't release the names of the victims or speculate on
what caused the limo to run the stop sign. Autopsies were being conducted.
Speaking through tears on the
telephone, Valerie Abeling said her 34-year-old niece Erin Vertucci was
among the victims, along with Vertucci's newlywed husband, 30-year-old Shane
"She was a beautiful, sweet soul; he
was too," Abeling said.
The couple was married in June at a
"beautiful wedding" in upstate New York, Abeling said. "They had everything
going for them."
Vertucci, who grew up in Amsterdam, New
York, was an administrative assistant at St. Mary's Healthcare in Amsterdam,
The vehicle was an after-market stretch
limousine, according to an official briefed on the matter who spoke on
condition of anonymity. The official was not authorized to discuss an
ongoing investigation publicly and thus declined further identification.
Safety issues on such vehicles have
arisen before, most notably after a wreck on Long Island in July 2015 in
which four women on a winery tour were killed. They were in a Lincoln Town
Car that had been cut apart and rebuilt in a stretch configuration to
accommodate more passengers. The limousine was trying to make a U-turn and
was struck by a pickup.
A grand jury found that vehicles
converted into stretch limousines often don't have safety measures including
side-impact air bags, reinforced rollover protection bars and accessible
emergency exits. That grand jury called on New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to
assemble a task force on limousine safety.
Limousines built in factories are
already required to meet stringent safety regulations, but when cars are
converted into limos, safety features are sometimes removed, leading to gaps
in safety protocols, the grand jury wrote.
On Sunday, New York's senior U.S. Sen.,
Chuck Schumer, noted he asked NTSB to toughen standards after the 2015
crash. "I commend the NTSB's immediate aid on scene and am very hopeful that
we will have concrete answers soon," Schumer said.
Limousine accidents remain rare,
according to NHTSA data. They accounted for only one death crash out of
34,439 fatal accidents in 2016, the last year for which data is available.
Cuomo on Sunday released a statement
saying, "My heart breaks for the 20 people who lost their lives in this
horrific accident on Saturday in Schoharie. I commend the first responders
who arrived on the scene and worked through the night to help ... I have
directed state agencies to provide every resource necessary to aid in this
investigation and determine what led to this tragedy."
France, Italy begin cleanup for Mediterranean fuel spill
photo provided Monday Oct.8 by the Marine Nationale, a Tunisian ship and a
Cypriot ship are seen after a collision in the Mediterranean Sea north of
Corsica island. (Benoit Emile/Marine Nationale via AP)
Paris (AP) — French and Italian
maritime authorities have begun cleaning up a fuel spill that has spread 20
kilometers in the Mediterranean Sea after two cargo ships collided north of
the island of Corsica.
Italy's coast guard said Monday it's
recovering some of the polluted material and monitoring the spill amid
changing weather conditions.
A Tunisian cargo ship pierced a hole in
the hull of a Cypriot container ship in Sunday's collision, causing the fuel
leak. No one was injured.
A spokesman for the regional French
maritime authority said the cleanup began Monday morning and spots of fuel
have spread for 20 kilometers.
The official said French and Italian
ships and oil spill experts are dragging a floating barrier to contain the
oil then will use a skimmer to suck up the fuel.
Munich: This year's Oktoberfest was a roaring success
In this Oct.
7, 2018 photo waitresses dance in the Hofbraeu tent after the closing of the
Oktoberfest beer festival in Munich, southern Germany. (Felix Hoerhager/dpa
Berlin (AP) — More than 6
million visitors, 7.5 million liters of beer, 124 rotisserie oxen and Bill
Clinton in lederhosen; another Oktoberfest in Munich has come and gone.
Festival organizers say good fall
weather helped attract 100,000 more people to the annual event than last
year; in all, 6.3 million from about 70 countries. That's despite this
year's Oktoberfest running only 16 days — two fewer than in 2017.
Former U.S. President Clinton and
former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton showed up Friday night — he
dressed in traditional Bavarian garb and she in a trademark pantsuit.
Security guards confiscated 101,000
liter-size beer mugs from sticky-fingered guests seeking souvenirs. Munich
authorities cleaned up 95 tons of garbage during the festival that ended
Russia dismisses suspected spy actions as routine Dutch trip
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov enters a hall during his meeting with Italian
Foreign Minister Enzo Moavero in Moscow, Russia, Monday, Oct. 8. (AP
Moscow (AP) — Russia's foreign
minister on Monday dismissed accusations made in the Netherlands against
suspected Russian spies, saying they were intended to distract public
attention from stark divisions between Western nations.
Sergey Lavrov's comments were a defiant
statement that comes amid soaring Russia-West tensions.
Last week, Dutch officials alleged that
four agents of Russian GRU military intelligence tried and failed to hack
into the world's chemical weapons watchdog, the Organization for the
Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
British authorities also accused the
GRU of a series of global cybercrimes, and the U.S. Justice Department on
Thursday charged seven GRU officers with hacking anti-doping agencies and
Commenting on the Dutch allegations,
Lavrov insisted that the four Russians were on a "routine" trip to The Hague
in April when they were arrested and deported by Dutch authorities.
"There was nothing secret in the
Russian specialists' trip to the Hague in April," Lavrov said at a briefing
after talks with Italian counterpart Enzo Moavero Milanesi. "They weren't
hiding from anyone when they arrived at the airport, settled in a hotel and
visited our embassy. They were detained without any explanations, denied a
chance to contact our embassy in the Netherlands and then asked to leave. It
all looked like a misunderstanding."
Dutch defense officials on Thursday
released photos and a timeline of the GRU agents' botched attempt to break
into the chemical weapons watchdog using Wi-Fi hacking equipment hidden in a
car parked outside a nearby Marriott Hotel.
The OPCW was investigating a nerve
agent attack on a former GRU spy, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter in
Salisbury, England; Britain has blamed on the Russian government. Moscow
vehemently denies involvement.
Photographs released by the Dutch
Ministry of Defense showed a trunk loaded with a computer, battery, a bulky
white transformer and a hidden antenna. Officials said the equipment was
operational when Dutch counterintelligence interrupted the operation.
Lavrov in his remarks didn't talk about
the evidence provided by Dutch authorities, but President Vladimir Putin's
spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, challenged the Netherlands to provide specific
information via official channels.
Asked if the Kremlin was considering
reshuffling the leadership of the Defense Ministry and the GRU following the
Dutch accusations, Peskov said "that kind of information naturally can't be
the basis for it."
Lavrov criticized Dutch officials for
using what he called "loudspeaker diplomacy" instead of using legal
mechanisms to look into the issue. He said Moscow summoned the Dutch
ambassador Monday to deliver the message.
Speaking to the media outside the
Russian Foreign Ministry building, Dutch Ambassador Renee Jones-Bos said,
"We can't tolerate cyberattacks on international organizations," noting that
Dutch officials made that clear last week.
"We made a very clear signal that this
has to stop" Jones-Bos added.
The Foreign Ministry said the Dutch
ambassador was told Russia views the assertions in the Netherlands a
"provocation" and part of a "propaganda campaign" that has caused
"irreparable damage" to bilateral ties.
Russia's Interfax news agency carried a
separate statement from the ministry, which said the technical devices
seized from the four men were to be used to test the resilience of the
Russian Embassy's information systems to cyberattacks.
The statement also said Russian envoys
regularly have stayed at the Marriott Hotel near OPCW headquarters.
Lavrov, meanwhile, argued that the
April incident was "dug up and thrown into the public domain now to help
distract attention from difficult issues on the agenda of the EU and NATO."
Lavrov also alleged that the
accusations could also be timed to this week's meeting of the international
chemical weapons watchdog, where Western nations would push for empowering
it to name culprits in chemical attacks. Russia strongly opposes that,
arguing that only the U.N. Security Council should have such authority.
Strong aftershock rattles north Haiti day after deadly quake
stand looking at a collapsed school damaged by a magnitude 5.9 earthquake
the night before, in Gros Morne, Haiti, Sunday, Oct. 7. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio
Port-de-Paix, Haiti (AP) — A
magnitude 5.2 aftershock struck Haiti on Sunday, even as survivors of the
previous day's temblor were sifting through the rubble of their cinderblock
homes. The death toll stood at 12, with fears it could rise.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the
epicenter of the aftershock was located 9.8 miles (15.8 kilometers)
north-northwest of Port-de-Paix, the city hard hit by Saturday night's 5.9
magnitude earthquake. Sunday's aftershock had a depth of 10 kilometers.
"I don't feel save even inside my
house," said Gary Joseph as he put various mattresses for himself and his
two sons to sleep on under a tree outside the house in Port-de-Paix.
He pointed to cracks left by the quake
and aftershock in a wall and said: "I have to protect myself and my sons."
The aftershock caused panic on streets
where emergency teams were providing relief to victims of Saturday's quake,
which toppled cinderblock homes and rickety buildings in several cities.
Haiti's civil protection agency said at
least eight people died in the coastal city of Port-de-Paix and three people
died in the nearby community of Gros-Morne in Artibonite province. Another
person died in Saint-Louis du Nord, Communication Minister Eddy Jackson
Among the dead from Saturday night's
quake were a 5-year-old boy crushed by his collapsing house and a man killed
in a falling auditorium. Authorities said 188 people were injured.
Impoverished Haiti, where many live in
tenuous circumstances, is vulnerable to earthquakes and hurricanes. A vastly
larger magnitude 7.1 quake damaged much of the capital in 2010 and killed an
estimated 300,000 people.
"I feel like my life is not safe here,"
said nun Maryse Alsaint, director of the San Gabriel National School in
Gros-Morne, where several classrooms were severely damaged.
She said that about 500 students would
not be able to return to school on Monday.
President Jovenel Moise urged people to
donate blood and asked international aid agencies to coordinate with local
agencies to avoid duplicated efforts. By Sunday evening the government
didn't provide an estimate of the damages.
The USGS said Saturday's quake was
centered 12 miles (19 kilometers) northwest of Port-de-Paix, which is about
136 miles (219 kilometers) from the capital of Port-au-Prince.
It was felt lightly in the capital, as
well as in the neighboring Dominican Republic and in eastern Cuba, where no
damage was reported.
In Haiti, officials have struggled to
shore up buildings despite the two major fault lines along Hispaniola, which
is the island shared with the Dominican Republic.
The damage from the temblors was
visible. In Gros-Morne, one bed was covered in rubble, while the exterior
walls of some homes were visibly cracked. Others tilted at precarious
Pierre Jacques Baudre, a farmer and
father of seven, said he was afraid to return to his home after one wall
built with rocks and cement crumbled.
"The house can fall at any time," he
Meanwhile, dozens of people could be
seen sifting through debris before hauling away rebar to recycle and sell.
The civil protection agency issued a
statement saying that houses were destroyed in Port-de-Paix, Gros-Morne,
Chansolme and Turtle Island.
Damage was also reported at the
Saint-Michel church in Plaisance and the police station in Port-de-Paix.
Parts of a hospital and an auditorium collapsed in Gros-Morne, where
parliamentarian Alcide Audne told The Associated Press that two of the
Haiti President Jovenel Moise said on
his Twitter account Sunday that civil protection brigades were working to
clear debris. He also said the government had sent water and food.
Congo ministry: At least 39 dead in Congo tanker truck fire
shows the aftermath of a burned tanker truck in Mbuba, Democratic Republic
of Congo, Saturday, Oct. 6. (Henri Alimasi/Congo’s health ministry via AP)
Kinshasa, Congo (AP) — Congo's
Health Ministry says at least 39 people are dead and more than 80 people
have been hospitalized after a tanker truck collided with another truck in
The ministry reduced the death toll from 50 announced
Saturday by the regional governor. The updated lower figure cites rescue
officials and hospital records.
The accident happened in the village of Mbuba, not far
from Kisantu city and about 200 kilometers (124 miles) southwest of the
Witnesses say villagers rushed to collect leaking fuel
from the vehicles when a fire broke out. The fire quickly spread to nearby
The ministry said 20 people died immediately and of
more than 100 transferred to a hospital, 19 later died. The toll is
President Joseph Kabila had Saturday ordered three days
of national mourning.
An investigation was launched into the cause of the
Indonesian officials fear 5,000 missing as Christians pray
sing inside a church at the earthquake and tsunami-hit town of Palu, Central
Sulawesi, Indonesia Sunday, Oct. 7. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)
Stephen Wright and Eileen Ng
Palu, Indonesia (AP) —
Christians dressed in their tidiest clothes flocked to Sunday sermons in the
earthquake and tsunami damaged Indonesian city of Palu, seeking answers as
the death toll from the twin disasters breached 1,700 and officials said
they feared more than 5,000 others could be missing.
Indonesia's disaster agency said the
number of dead had climbed to 1,763, mostly in Palu. Agency spokesman Sutopo
Purwo Nugroho said many more people could be buried, especially in the Palu
neighborhoods of Petobo and Balaroa, where more than 3,000 homes were
damaged or sucked into deep mud when the Sept. 28 quake caused loose soil to
"Based on reports from village chiefs
in Balaroa and Petobo, some 5,000 people have not been found. Our workers on
the ground are trying to confirm this," he said at a news briefing in
Jakarta, Indonesia's capital.
Nugroho said that efforts to retrieve
decomposed bodies in deep, soft mud were getting tougher and that some
people may have fled or been rescued and evacuated. More than 8,000 either
injured or vulnerable residents have been flown or shipped out of Palu,
while others could have left by land, he said.
Officially, Nugroho said only 265
people are confirmed missing and 152 others still buried under mud and
rubble, nine days after the magnitude 7.5 earthquake and powerful tsunami
hit Palu and surrounding areas.
The government targets to end search
operations by Thursday, nearly two weeks after the disaster, at which time
those unaccounted for will be declared missing and considered dead, Nugroho
In Palu on Sunday, at least 200 people,
including soldiers, filled the gray pews of the Protestant Manunggal church
for a service.
They sang as a young girl in a black
and white dress with a red bow danced in the aisle, prayed and listened to a
30-minute sermon from the pastor, Lucky Malonda. A woman in the front pew
Min Kapala, a 49-year-old teacher, said
she came to the city of more than 25 churches from an outlying area because
her usual house of worship was destroyed and liquefaction moved a different
piece of ground to its location.
"I'm here at this particular church
because my own church is no more; it's leveled, and on its location there's
a corn plant," she said. "That was very strange to me."
Outside the church, Malonda said the
intensity of the disaster had taken even scientists by surprise and called
it the will of God. Two people from his congregation were missing, he said.
"This is for sure part of godly
intervention, not outside the power of almighty God, that can't be predicted
or planned for by anything," Malonda said.
He said religious leaders are
discussing holding inter-faith prayers but nothing has been agreed yet.
Protestants, Catholics and Charismatics
make up about 10 percent of the population of Palu, the provincial capital
of Central Sulawesi. The province has a history of violent conflict between
Muslims and Christians, though tensions have calmed in the past decade.
Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim country.
As searchers continued to dig through
rubble Sunday, Central Sulawesi Gov. Loki Djanggola said local officials
were meeting with religious groups and families of victims to seek their
consent to turn neighborhoods wiped out by liquefaction into mass graves.
He said on local television that
survivors in the Petobo, Balaroa and Jono Oge neighborhoods could be
relocated and monuments be built in the areas, which now look like
wastelands, to remember the victims interred there. Officials have said that
it is not safe for heavy equipment to operate in those areas and that they
fear the risk of the spread of disease from decomposed bodies.
While grappling with immediate relief
needs, the government is also mapping out plans to help more than 70,000
people, including tens of thousands of children, who have been displaced by
the disasters to rebuild their lives.
Social welfare officials have set up
nurseries in makeshift tents as a stopgap to keep children safe and help
them heal from the trauma.
Market vendors have resumed business
and roadside restaurants were open in Palu, but long lines of cars and
motorcycles still snarled out of gas stations.
In Jakarta, volunteers walked around
thoroughfares empty of cars collecting donations for earthquake victims
during the weekly car-free morning in the city center.
Fuel spill in Mediterranean after ships collide near Corsica
photo provided by the Marine Nationale, a Tunisian ship and a Cypriot ship
are seen after a collision in the Mediterranean Sea north of Corsica,
Sunday, Oct. 7. (Marine National via AP)
Paris (AP) — Two merchant ships
collided north of the French island of Corsica on Sunday, causing a
4-kilometer (2.4 mile) fuel spill in the Mediterranean Sea that French and
Italian authorities are working to contain.
No one was injured in Sunday's
collision, but it smashed a hole of several meters (yards) long in the hull
of one of the ships, causing the spill, according to a statement from the
regional French maritime authority.
The spill created a trail of pollution
4 kilometers long and several hundred meters wide, heading away from Corsica
to the northwest, toward the French and Italian mainland, the statement
A spokesman for the regional French
maritime authority described the material as "propulsion fuel" without
Two French ships were sent to the area
and specialists were helicoptered in. The Italian coast guard also sent an
aircraft to monitor the operation and three ships to help contain the spill.
Cleanup work will resume work Monday
morning, when experts will decide how to safely separate the ships, the
French statement said.
The maritime authority said that a
Tunisia-registered ship carrying trucks with merchandise rammed into
Cyprus-registered container ship CSL Virginia on Sunday morning. A photo
released by the French navy showed the bow of the Tunisian ship smashed up
against the side of the other ship.
A spokesman for the maritime authority
said a lack of wind in the area, 28 kilometers (15 miles) from the Corsican
coast, gives authorities hope the spill can be contained quickly. He was not
authorized to be publicly named.
The collision occurred in French
waters, but the cleanup operation is part of a joint pact among France,
Italy and Monaco to combat pollution accidents in the Mediterranean.
The Corsican regional police
administration said an investigation is under way into the cause of the
Palestinian kills 2 Israelis in West Bank industrial zone
An Israeli policeman stand at the entrance of
Barkan industrial zone in the West Bank, Sunday, Oct. 7. (AP Photo/Oded
Jerusalem (AP) — A Palestinian
attacker opened fire inside a West Bank industrial zone Sunday morning where
Israelis and Palestinians work together, killing two Israelis and seriously
wounding a third, the military said.
Military spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan
Conricus said the preliminary finding is that a 23-year-old from a nearby
village carried out a "terror attack" in the Barkan industrial zone near the
settlement of Ariel before fleeing the scene. But other workers in the
industrial zone suggested the attack was carried out by a disgruntled
employee and was not politically motivated.
Conricus said the suspect was not known
to authorities and was not believed to belong to a Palestinian militant
group, saying it appeared to be a "lone wolf" attack. "We know he is still
armed and considered dangerous," he added.
Both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman denounced the attack and said the
perpetrator would be brought to justice.
Since 2015, Palestinians have killed
over 50 Israelis, two visiting Americans and a British tourist in stabbings,
shootings and car-ramming attacks. Israeli forces killed over 260
Palestinians in that period, of which Israel says most were attackers.
Gaza's Hamas rulers and other militant
groups praised Sunday's attack, but none claimed responsibility for it.
One of the victims was identified as
Kim Yehezkel, a 28-year-old mother of an infant son who worked in the office
that was attacked. The other victim was said to be a Jewish man in his 30s.
Another woman in her 50s was seriously wounded. Closed-circuit footage from
the scene showed a man holding a handgun and wearing a backpack, fleeing
down a flight of stairs and then dashing past stunned onlookers.
Israeli media reported that those
killed were found shot to death on their office floor with their hands
bound. At his weekly Cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said they had been killed
"with great cruelty."
Thousands of Israelis and Palestinians
work side by side at Barkan, an industrial zone in the West Bank that
includes some 160 factories. The Palestinian economy is heavily restricted
under Israeli military rule, forcing tens of thousands of Palestinians to
seek work in Israel as well as Jewish settlements.
Conricus said the attacker was employed
in one of the factories and had a valid working permit. While insisting the
attack was an act of terrorism, he acknowledged there were "other factors
involved as well," without elaborating.
Moshe Lev-Ran, an export manager at a
company whose factory is located next to the scene of the attack, said he
doubted the official account.
"One of the workers was fired and he
didn't like the owner... Everybody knew him. He went upstairs to the second
floor because he knew who he wanted to shoot, and he shot," he said. "That's
what I think happened. I don't believe it was one of the Palestinians who
just woke up in the morning and took a gun to shoot an Israeli."
"No way in our industrial zone," he
said, describing an atmosphere of camaraderie in Barkan.
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said:
"This was not only an attack on innocent people going about their daily
lives, it was also an attack on the possibility of Israelis and Palestinians
Desperation grows as death toll soars from Indonesia quake
the damage suffered by Balaroa neighborhood which was flattened by Friday's
earthquake in Balaroa neighborhood in Palu, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia
Tuesday, Oct. 2. (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara)
Niniek Karmini and Stephen Wright
Palu, Indonesia (AP) — Trucks
carrying food for desperate survivors of the earthquake on Indonesia's
Sulawesi island rolled in with a police escort Tuesday to guard against
looters, while the death toll from the disaster soared past 1,200.
Four days after the magnitude 7.5
earthquake and tsunami struck, supplies of food, water, fuel and medicine
had yet to reach the hardest-hit areas outside Palu, the largest city that
was heavily damaged. Many roads in the earthquake zone are blocked and
communications lines are down.
"We feel like we are stepchildren here
because all the help is going to Palu," said Mohamad Taufik, 38, from the
town of Donggala, where five of his relatives are still missing. "There are
many young children here who are hungry and sick, but there is no milk or
The death toll reached 1,234, national
disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said in Jakarta, the capital.
Hundreds of other people were injured, and scores of uncounted bodies could
still be buried in collapsed buildings in Sigi and Balaroa under
quicksand-like mud caused by Friday's quake.
The U.N. humanitarian office reported
that "needs are vast," with people urgently requiring shelter, clean water,
food, fuel and emergency medical care.
Water is the main issue because most of
the supply infrastructure has been damaged, U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq
told reporters at U.N. headquarters in New York.
More than 25 countries offered
assistance after Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo appealed for
international help. Little of that, however, has reached the disaster zone,
and increasingly desperate residents grabbed food and fuel from damaged
stores and begged for help.
Haq said the government is coordinating
emergency efforts, and U.N. and relief agencies are on the ground or
enroute. He said the agencies are working closely with the government to
provide technical support.
An aircraft carrying 12,000 liters
(3,170 gallons) of fuel had arrived. and trucks with food were on the way
with police escorts to guard against looters. Many gas stations were
inoperable either because of quake damage or from people stealing fuel,
The frustration of waiting for days
without help has angered some survivors.
"Pay attention to Donggala, Mr. Jokowi.
Pay attention to Donggala," yelled one resident in a video broadcast on
local TV, referring to the president. "There are still a lot of unattended
The town's administrative head, Kasman
Lassa, all but gave residents permission to take food — but nothing else —
"Everyone is hungry and they want to
eat after several days of not eating," Lassa said on local TV. "We have
anticipated it by providing food, rice, but it was not enough. There are
many people here. So, on this issue, we cannot pressure them to hold much
Nearly 62,000 people have been
displaced from their homes, Nugroho said.
Most of the attention has been focused
so far on Palu, which has 380,000 people and is easier to reach than other
More aid was being distributed, but "we
still need more time to take care of all the problems," Nugroho said.
Teams continued searching for survivors
under destroyed homes and buildings, including a collapsed eight-story hotel
in Palu, but they needed more heavy equipment to clear the rubble.
Many people were believed trapped under
shattered houses in the Palu neighborhood of Balaroa, where the earthquake
caused the ground to heave up and down violently.
"I and about 50 other people in Balaroa
were able to save ourselves by riding on a mound of soil which was getting
higher and higher," resident Siti Hajat told MetroTV, adding that her house
A handful of disaster personnel arrived
in the neighborhood Tuesday morning. A lone backhoe cleared a path into the
jumble of twisted buildings.
Sa'Adon Lawira, who lost a grandchild,
was angry that rescue efforts focused so quickly on places such as the Palu
hotel where tourists were staying.
"Why did the search-and-rescue agency
and others prioritize the search for victims in hotels?" he said, holding
back tears as he spoke. "Neighborhoods like this should take precedence
because the bodies of residents are buried, but there are no rescuers who
have searched for them."
Near the coast, the tsunami shattered
buildings, uprooted concrete and thrust boats inland. The deadly wave
reportedly reached as high as 6 meters (nearly 20 feet) in places,.
In Palu's Petobo neighborhood, the
quake caused loose, wet soil to liquefy, creating a thick, heavy
quicksand-type material that resulted in massive damage. Hundreds of victims
are still believed to be buried in the mud there.
Liquefaction of soil can be compared to
walking on a sandy beach.
"If you walk across some wet sand a
little back from the water's edge, it is usually firm walking, even though
you might leave footprints," said Adam Switzer, an expert at the Earth
Observatory of Singapore. "However, if you stand still and wiggle your toes
and feet, you will probably sink a little as the sand around your feet
becomes soft and unstable. This is similar to what happens during
Nugroho said 153 bodies were buried
Monday in a mass grave in Palu and that the operation continued Tuesday.
He said generators, heavy equipment and
tents are among the most-needed aid items. The countries that offered
assistance include the United States and China, he said.
Australian Prime Minister Scott
Morrison said his government has given $360,000 to help victims and is in
talks with Indonesian authorities about a second round of aid. The initial
funds are to go to the Indonesian Red Cross for the most obvious emergency
aid needs, such as tarpaulins.
Nugroho said only two of the 122
foreigners in the area remained unaccounted for — one from South Korea and
the other from Belgium.
The U.N.'s Haq said the Indonesian
Ministry of Social Affairs has asked the U.N. children's agency, UNICEF, to
send social workers to the affected area to support children who are alone
or became separated from their families. And he said the World Health
Organization is warning that a lack of shelter and damaged water sanitation
facilities could lead to outbreaks of communicable diseases.
Indonesia, a vast archipelago of 260
million people, is frequently struck by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and
tsunamis because of its location on the "Ring of Fire," an arc of volcanoes
and fault lines in the Pacific Basin. A powerful quake on the island of
Lombok killed 505 people in August.
Canada revokes Myanmar leader's honorary citizenship
Aung San Suu Kyi is shown in this June 15, 2012,
file photo. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
Ottawa, Ontario (AP) — Canada's
Parliament formally stripped Aung San Suu Kyi of her honorary Canadian
citizenship on Tuesday for complicity in the atrocities committed against
Myanmar's Rohingya people.
The Senate voted unanimously to strip
Suu Kyi, Myanmar's civilian leader, of the symbolic honor bestowed on her in
The upper house's move follows a
similar unanimous vote in the House of Commons last week.
Suu Kyi is the first person to have her
honorary Canadian citizenship revoked.
A United Nations fact-finding mission
reported last month that the Myanmar's military has systematically killed
thousands of Rohingya civilians, burned hundreds of their villages and
engaged in ethnic cleansing and mass gang rape. It called for top generals
to be investigated and prosecuted for genocide.
The Senate has also followed the lead
of the Commons in recognizing that the crimes against humanity committed by
the Myanmar military against the Rohingya constitute a genocide.
"We must recognize this atrocity for
what it is," said Sen. Ratna Omidvar, who introduced the motion to revoke
Suu Kyi's citizenship Tuesday.
"It is genocide. We must call it as it
Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace
Prize in 1991 for her fight for democracy in Myanmar.
"At that point she was a champion for
change and human rights ... The world pinned its hope on her as the shining
light and hope for a democratic and peaceful Myanmar," said Omidvar. "As we
all now know, that was not to be."
Omidvar said Suu Kyi has denied the
atrocities, restricted access to international investigators and
journalists, defended the military and denied humanitarian aid for the
"We need to send a strong signal here
in Canada and around the world that if you're an accomplice of genocide, you
are not welcome here. Certainly not as an honorary Canadian citizen."
US NATO envoy warns Russia to halt new missile development
U.S. Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchison. (AP
Photo/The Tyler Morning Telegraph, Jaime R. Carrero/Tyler Morning Telegraph
via AP, File)
Brussels (AP) — The U.S. envoy
to NATO on Tuesday said that Russia must halt development of new missiles
that could carry nuclear warheads and warned that the United States could
"take out" the system if it becomes operational.
NATO fears the 9M729 system contravenes
the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty, or INF. The Cold War-era
pact bans an entire class of weapons — all land-based cruise missiles with a
range between 500-5,500 kilometers, and the alliance says that the Russian
system fits into that category.
"It is time now for Russia to come to
the table and stop the violations," U.S. Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchison
told reporters in Brussels, on the eve of a meeting between U.S. Defense
Secretary Jim Mattis and his NATO counterparts.
She said that if the system "became
capable of delivering," the U.S. "would then be looking at the capability to
take out a missile that could hit any of our countries in Europe and hit
Washington has shared intelligence
evidence with its 28 NATO allies that Russia is developing the ground-fired
cruise missile and that the system could give Moscow the ability to launch a
nuclear strike in Europe with little or no notice.
Russia has claimed that U.S. missile
defenses violate the pact. In the past, the Obama administration worked to
convince Moscow to respect the INF treaty but seemed to make no progress.
Mattis said Tuesday that he intends to
bring the issue up during the NATO meeting. After four years of diplomatic
effort, he said, the U.S. is living by the treaty and Russia is not. He said
there is a lot of concern about that at the U.S. State Department and on
"I'm going to lay out the situation,"
Mattis said during a news conference in Paris. "I want their advice as I
return to Washington, D.C."
Hutchison said the U.S. doesn't want to
violate the treaty but that Russia could force its hand.
"There will come a point in the future
in which America will determine that it has to move forward with a
development phase that is not allowed by the treaty right now," she said.
Washington wants its NATO allies to
ramp up diplomatic pressure on Moscow, and NATO Secretary-General Jens
Stoltenberg said that all allies are concerned by Russia's continued work on
"Russia has not provided any credible
answers on this new missile," said Stoltenberg, adding that the INF is a
"crucial element" of trans-Atlantic security which is now "in danger because
of Russia's actions."
Pressure on UK foreign minister to apologize for Soviet barb
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May arrives at
the Conservative Party annual conference at the International Convention
Centre, Birmingham, central England, Tuesday Oct. 2. (Stefan Rousseau/PA via
Brussels (AP) — Pressure mounted
Tuesday on British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt to apologize for recent
remarks comparing the European Union to the Soviet Union.
While British Prime Minister Theresa
May effectively rebuked her foreign secretary for making the comparison,
leaders from the European Parliament urged Hunt to take back his remarks,
which caused particular offense in those East European countries that were
under the control of Moscow for 40-plus years after the end of World War II.
Guy Verhofstadt, the leader of the ALDE
liberals told European legislators at a plenary session in Strasbourg,
France that "he is insulting not us, but millions of ordinary citizens who
have lived under Soviet rule for such a long time."
Hunt's grating comparison — that any EU
attempt to prevent a smooth Brexit was akin to the Soviet Union stopping
people leaving — came at a very sensitive time for the British government as
it seeks to finalize a deal with the EU.
With Britain due to leave the EU next
March, the negotiations about the future relationship have reached a
particularly acute time. Both sides have indicated they want to secure a
deal by November so relevant parliaments can give their approvals in time
for actual Brexit day.
The European Parliament has to give its
approval to a withdrawal agreement and the response to Hunt's remark there
has been one of anger.
"Mr. Hunt you should apologize for what
you said," said Manfred Weber, the leader of the EPP Christian Democrat
group, the biggest in the legislature.
British Prime Minister Theresa May also
sought to distance herself from Hunt's remarks.
"As I sit around that table in the
European Union, there are countries there who used to be part of the Soviet
Union. They are now democratic countries," May told the BBC. "I can tell you
that the two organizations are not the same."
One of those countries is Latvia, and
its ambassador in London, Baiba Braze, sent a stinging rebuke, saying that
"Soviets killed, deported, exiled and imprisoned 100 thousands of Latvia's
inhabitants after the illegal occupation in 1940, and ruined lives of 3
generations, while the EU has brought prosperity, equality, growth,
Philippe Lamberts, the leader of the
Greens in the parliament, also reminded Hunt that Britain had hardly been
forced at gunpoint to join the EU back in 1973.
"Let he be reminded that the United
Kingdom decided freely to join the EU," he said.
Hunt, he added, had succumbed to "the
now commonplace rhetoric of the far right."
Charles Aznavour, known as France's Sinatra, dies at 94
In this June 6, 2015 file
photo, French and Armenian singer, songwriter and actor, Charles Aznavour
poses in Cannes, southeastern France. (AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau)
Paris (AP) — Charles Aznavour's performing
career endured eight decades, with a prompter in his final years the sole
concession to age — or to difficulty recalling a 1,000-song repertoire.
Known as France's Frank Sinatra, the dapper crooner and
actor, who got his start as a songwriter and protege of Edith Piaf, died
Monday at 94.
His versatile tenor, lush lyrics and kinetic stage
presence endeared himself to fans the world over, but nowhere more so than
in France. He sang to sold-out concert halls into his 90s and said he wrote
every single day.
"I throw most of it away. You write first, judge
later," he said in a 2015 interview before the release of the album
Often compared to Sinatra, Aznavour started his career
as a songwriter for Piaf, but it was she who took him under her wing,
encouraging him to sing his own material. Like her, his fame ultimately
reached well outside France, including being awarded a star on the Hollywood
Walk of Fame in 2017.
"What were my faults? My voice, my size, my gestures,
my lack of culture and education, my honesty, or my lack of personality,"
the 5-foot-3-inch (1.6-meter) tall performer wrote in his autobiography. "My
voice? I cannot change it. The teachers I consulted all agreed I shouldn't
sing, but nevertheless I continued to sing until my throat was sore."
In his career, Aznavour wrote upward of 1,000 songs,
for himself, Piaf and other popular French singers. The love ballad "She"
topped British charts for four weeks in 1974 and was covered by Elvis
Costello for the film "Notting Hill."
Aznavour sold more than 180 million records, according
to his official biography. He broke an arm in May but was set to start a new
tour in November in France, starting in Paris.
Liza Minnelli, who met Aznavour when she was a teenager
and he was in his 40s, described following him to Paris.
"He really taught me everything I know about singing —
how each song is a different movie," she said in a 2013 interview. The two
remained close through the decades, often performing together.
He resisted description as a crooner, despite decades
of torch songs that are now firmly fixed in the French lexicon.
"I'm a songwriter who sometimes performs his own
songs," was his preferred self-description.
But it was as a performer that Aznavour came most to
life, expression vibrating from his thick brows to his fingertips.
"On stage, I don't feel like I'm singing for the
audience. I'm singing for myself, and I give it to the audience. We share.
If it's not shared, it's not good," he said in 2015.
French President Emmanuel Macron paid tribute to
Aznavour's "masterpieces, voice tone" and "unique radiance."
"Deeply French, viscerally attached to his Armenian
roots, recognized throughout the world, Charles Aznavour will have
accompanied the joys and sorrows of three generations," Macron said in a
message posted on Twitter.
Shanoun Varenagh Aznavourian was born in Paris on May
22, 1924, to Armenian parents who fled to Paris in the 1920s and opened a
restaurant. His singer father — whose own father was a chef to Russian Czar
Nicholas II — and actress mother exposed him to the performing arts early
on, and he acted in his first play when he was 9.
Aznavour, who cut the Armenian suffix from his stage
name, decided to switch to music but still acted in films throughout his
career. His movie credits include Francois Truffaut's 1960 "Tirez sur le
Pianiste" (Shoot the Pianist), Volker Schloendorff's 1979 "Die Blechtrommel"
(The Tin Drum), and Atom Egoyan's 2002 "Ararat."
That last film dealt with the 1915 massacres of up to
1.5 million Armenians under the Ottoman Empire, an event that has strained
relations between Turkey and Armenia for a century.
Aznavour campaigned internationally to get the killings
formally deemed genocide. Turkey vehemently denies that the massacre was
genocide and insists it was part of the violence during World War I.
Aznavour became a piano player, and toured in New York
after World War II with Piaf. There, he performed on stage with Minnelli. In
1963, he performed in a sold-out Carnegie Hall. In addition to the
English-language "She," other best-selling songs included "La Boheme," ''For
me, Formidable" and "La Mamma." Other songs gained fame by their notoriety,
including the seductive "Apres l'Amour,"(After Love) which was banned by
French radio in 1965 as an affront to public morals, and the 1972 "Comme Ils
Disent" (As They Say) — a first-person narrative of a gay man's heartache.
His style varied little over the decades, his lyrics
sticking to traditional structures, his melodies catchy and smooth with a
swelling orchestra in the background — and lacking in imagination, some
critics said. But in live performances, his small, lithe frame exuded an
energy and emotion that made his songs something more.
If sometimes critics hinted that his voice wasn't quite
up to the task, they said people went to see one of the century's great
singer-songwriters in action.
"We continue to go to find this intimate link that each
one of us keeps with their songs and what they represent," critic Caroline
Rodgers wrote after a 2014 concert. "If there are failures, these
insignificant musical blemishes called false notes, advanced age has this
privilege — that you are simply overcome before such a monument who is still
singing after all these years."
With half a wink, Aznavour never quite forgot that
critics were less kind when he was younger.
"No one dares say what they said before. So when were
they lying — before or after?" he asked in the 2015 interview.
The singer also never forgot his Armenian roots.
He traveled regularly to Armenia after it earned
independence from the Soviet Union. He was named itinerant ambassador for
humanitarian action in 1993 by then-President Levon Ter-Petrossian, served
as Armenia's ambassador to U.N. cultural agency UNESCO and was named
Armenia's ambassador to Switzerland in 2009. He founded Aznavour and
Armenia, a nonprofit organization created after the devastating earthquake
that hit Soviet Armenia in 1988.
Aznavour was awarded France's prestigious National
Order of Merit In 2001, and in 2009, he received the National Order of
Quebec, a first for a singer.
"I am not trying to boast, but I have to admit that for
an uneducated son of an immigrant I could have done far worse," Aznavour
Along with other French celebrities, in April 2002 he
urged people to sing France's national anthem in a campaign to defeat
far-right politician Jean-Marie Le Pen, known for his anti-immigrant stance.
"If Le Pen had existed (in my parents' time) I wouldn't
have been born in France," Aznavour said at the time.
Aznavour owned La Boheme restaurant in Aix-en-Provence,
southeastern France. He also published two volumes of memoirs — "Aznavour by
Aznavour" in 1973 and "Le Temps des Avants" (The Times Before) in 2003.
For his 80th birthday, Aznavour sang at the renowned
Palais des Congres in Paris and then went on a tour of France and Belgium.
He celebrated his 90th birthday with a concert in Berlin.
Married three times, Aznavour had six children. He is
survived by his wife of more than four decades, Ulla.
Iran fires ballistic missiles at Syria militants over attack
In this photo released on Monday, Oct. 1 by the
Iranian Revolutionary Guard, missiles are fired from city of Kermanshah in
western Iran targeting the Islamic State group in Syria. (Sepahnews via AP)
Nassser Karimi and Jon Gambrell
Tehran, Iran (AP) — Iran's
Revolutionary Guard launched six ballistic missiles as well as drone bombers
early Monday toward eastern Syria, targeting militants it blamed for an
attack on a military parade last month while also threatening regional
adversaries as Tehran's nuclear deal with world powers unravels.
The missiles had enough range to strike
regional U.S. military bases and targets inside both Saudi Arabia and the
United Arab Emirates.
Iran's supreme leader has called out
the two Arab nations by name, accusing them of being behind the Sept. 22
attack on the parade in the Iranian city of Ahvaz, something denied by both
Riyadh and Abu Dhabi.
Monday's strike was the second missile
attack by Iran in a month's time, and came as tensions rise ahead of renewed
U.S. sanctions targeting Tehran's oil industry that will take effect in
"This is the roaring of missiles
belonging to the Revolutionary Guard of the Islamic Revolution," a state TV
reporter said as the missiles launched behind him. "In a few minutes, the
world of arrogance — especially America, the (Israeli) Zionist regime and
the Al Saud — will hear the sound of Iran's repeated blows." Al Saud is a
reference to Saudi Arabia's royal family.
Iranian state TV and the state-run IRNA
news agency said the missiles "killed and wounded" militants in Syria,
without elaborating. The missiles, launched from western Iran, flew over
Iraq and landed near the city of Boukamal in the far southeast of Syria,
"Terrorists used bullets in Ahvaz,"
Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, chief of the Guard's aerospace division, told the
semi-official Tasnim news agency. "We answered them with missiles."
The Guard, a paramilitary group that
answers directly to the supreme leader, said it followed the missiles with
bombing runs by seven remotely piloted drones, a first for Iran. State TV
aired footage of a drone dropping what appeared to be an unguided munition.
Boukamal is held by Syrian government
forces, but IS still maintains a presence in the area, despite being driven
from virtually all the territory it once held in Syria and Iraq.
Rami Abdurrahman, who heads the
Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told The Associated Press
that the Iranian missiles hit the IS-held town of Hajin, just north of
Strong explosions shook the area early
Monday, reverberating east of the Euphrates River, he said. U.S.-allied
Kurdish fighters have been battling IS in and around Hajin for weeks.
The U.S. military's Central Command
acknowledged that Iranian forces conducted "no-notice strikes" in the area.
"The coalition is still assessing if
any damage occurred, and no coalition forces were in danger," U.S. Army Col.
Sean Ryan said.
IS militants did not immediately
acknowledge the attack.
The missile launch further adds to
confusion over who carried out the assault on a military parade, which
killed at least 24 people and wounded over 60.
Iran initially blamed Arab separatists
for the attack in which gunmen disguised as soldiers opened fire on the
crowd and officials watching the parade from a viewing platform. The Arab
separatists, who have long complained of discrimination in Persian-majority
Iran, claimed the attack and provided accurate details about one of the
The Islamic State group also claimed
responsibility for the Ahvaz assault, but initially made factually incorrect
claims about it. Later, IS released footage of several men that Iran
ultimately identified as attackers, though the men in the footage are not
known to have pledged allegiance to the extremist group.
In announcing the launch, Iranian state
media said the missiles targeted both "takfiri" militants — a term it often
applies to the Islamic State group — and Ahvazi separatists. The separatists
have not been known to work with IS in the past.
Mohsen Rezaei, who formerly led the
Guard, praised the missile strike on Twitter, adding that the "main
punishment is on the way," suggesting more attacks could be imminent.
One missile shown on Iranian state
television bore the slogans "Death to America, Death to Israel, Death to Al
The semi-official Fars news agency,
believed to be close to the Guard, identified the six missiles used as
Zolfaghar and Qiam variants, which have ranges of 750 kilometers (465 miles)
and 800 kilometers (500 miles) respectively. Those missiles can reach
Emirati and Saudi targets, as well as U.S. bases.
Regional tensions have been mounting
since President Donald Trump pulled America out of Iran's nuclear deal with
world powers in May. The United Nations says Iran still honors the terms of
the accord, in which it limited its enrichment of uranium in exchange for
the lifting of economic sanctions.
Iran's already weak economy has
suffered since the American withdrawal, with its currency now trading at
170,000 rials to one U.S. dollar. In May, rate stood at around 62,000. A
year ago, it was 39,000.
This is the third time in about a year
that Iran has fired ballistic missiles beyond its borders.
Last year, Iran fired ballistic
missiles into Syria over a bloody IS attack on Tehran targeting parliament
and the shrine of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. In September, Iran fired
missiles into Iraq targeting a base of an Iranian Kurdish separatist group.
The separatists say that strike killed at least 15 people and wounded over
"The Iranian missiles are a message to
more than one side," said Talal Atrissi, a researcher in regional affairs at
Beirut's Al Maaref University. "It is a message that when Iran threatens, it
carries out its threats, and this is important for Iran. The second message
is that the sanctions will not prevent Iran from defending itself."
2 Koreas begin removing DMZ mines to ease military tensions
In this on Sunday, Sept. 30, 2018 photo,
military guard posts of North Korea, right top, and South Korea, left
bottom, are seen in Paju, at the border with North Korea, South Korea. (Kim
Do-hoon/Yonhap via AP)
Seoul, South Korea (AP) — North
and South Korean troops began removing some of the land mines planted at
their heavily fortified border on Monday, Seoul officials said, in the first
implementation of recent agreements aimed at easing their decades-long
The demining comes amid resumed
diplomacy over North Korea's nuclear weapons program after weeks of
stalemated negotiations. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is to visit
Pyongyang, North Korea's capital, this month to try to set up a second
summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
On Monday, South Korean army engineers
with demining equipment were deployed to the border village of Panmunjom and
another frontline area called "Arrow Head Hill" where the Koreas plan their
first joint searches for soldiers killed during the 1950-53 Korean War.
The troops began removing mines on the
southern part of the two sites. Later Monday, the South Korean military
detected North Korean soldiers engaged in what it believed was demining on
the northern part of the sites, a South Korean defense official said on
condition of animosity, citing department rules.
The official refused to provide more
details. North Korea's state media didn't immediately confirm its reported
At Arrow Head Hill, where some of the
fiercest battles occurred during the Korean War, Seoul officials believe
there are remains of about 300 South Korean and U.N. forces, along with an
unspecified number of Chinese and North Korean remains.
The Korean War left millions dead or
missing, and South Korea wants to expand joint excavations with North Korea
for remains at Demilitarized Zone areas. The Koreas remain split along the
248-kilometer (155-mile) -long DMZ that was originally created as a buffer
zone at the end of the Korean War. About 2 million mines are believed to be
scattered in and near the DMZ, which is also guarded by hundreds of
thousands of combat troops, barbed wire fences and tank traps.
Mines dislodged by flooding and
landslides have occasionally caused deaths in front-line areas in South
Korea. In 2015, a land mine blast blamed on North Korea maimed two South
Korean soldiers and pushed the Koreas to the brink of war.
The agreement to clear mines, the first
such effort since the early 2000s, was among a package of tension-easing
deals struck by the Koreas' defense chiefs on the sidelines of a leaders'
summit last month in Pyongyang. Aiming to reduce conventional military
threats, they also agreed to remove 11 front-line guard posts by December
and set up buffer zones along their land and sea boundaries and a no-fly
zone above the border to prevent accidental clashes.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in said
Monday the military deals will "end all hostile acts on land, sea and sky
between South and North Korea." In a speech marking South Korea's 70th Armed
Forces Day, Moon also called for a stronger national defense, saying "peace
can continue only when we have power and are confidant of protecting
Moon, a liberal who aspires to improve
ties with North Korea, is a driving force behind U.S.-North Korean nuclear
diplomacy. Critics of his engagement policy have lambasted the recent
inter-Korean military deals, saying a mutual reduction of conventional
military strength would weaken South Korea's war readiness because the
North's nuclear program remains largely intact.
"I think it's the worst-ever
South-North Korean agreement that made a concession in our defense posture
before (North Korean) denuclearization is achieved," Shin Wonsik, a former
vice chairman of the South's Joint Chiefs of Staff, said last week.
Many experts say the fate of
inter-Korean deals can be affected by how nuclear negotiations go between
the United States and North Korea. Past rapprochement efforts were often
stalled after a standoff over the North's nuclear ambitions intensified.
After provocative tests of three
intercontinental ballistic missiles and a powerful nuclear weapon last year,
North Korea entered talks with the United States and South Korea earlier
this year, saying it's willing to deal away its expanding nuclear arsenal.
Kim Jong Un has subsequently held a series of summits with U.S., South
Korean and Chinese leaders and taken some steps such as dismantling his
nuclear test site.
The nuclear diplomacy later came to a
standstill amid disputes over how sincere North Korea is about disarmament.
But Trump, Pompeo and other U.S. officials have recently reported progress
in denuclearization discussions with the North. Pompeo is to make his third
trip to North Korea soon.
Meanwhile, on Monday, South Korea held
a ceremony marking the recent return of the remains of 64 South Korean
soldiers missing from the Korean War. They were earlier found in North Korea
during a joint 1996-2005 excavation project between the United States and
North Korea. Forensic identification tests in Hawaii confirmed they belong
to South Korean war dead, according to Seoul's Defense Ministry.
UK Brexit chief criticizes EU as divided Conservatives meet
Britain's Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab
addresses delegates during a speech at the Conservative Party Conference at
the ICC in Birmingham central England, Monday, Oct. 1. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)
Birmingham, England (AP) —
Britain's Brexit chief appealed for Conservative Party unity on Monday, as
he warned the European Union that the U.K. will leave the bloc without a
divorce deal rather than accept one that makes Britain follow too many EU
Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab's call to
"come together, because this is a moment for the optimists" fell largely on
deaf ears at the Conservative conference in Birmingham. Instead, pro-Brexit
politicians took pot-shots at the EU, pro-EU Conservatives battled to stop
the U.K.'s exit from the bloc — and British Prime Minister Theresa May was
caught in the middle, trying to cling to power.
The Conservatives are holding their
annual meeting in the central English city 10 days after EU leaders told May
that her proposed divorce terms were unacceptable. That rejection has
sparking an impasse in Brexit negotiations and a crisis for Britain's
leader, with less than six months to go until Britain leaves the 28-nation
bloc on March 29.
Raab accused the EU of casting "jibes"
at Britain and having a "theological approach (that) allows no room for
Raab said that if the EU tried to "lock
us in via the back door" — by keeping Britain in the bloc's single market or
customs union — "then we will be left with no choice but to leave without a
Raab's combative comments followed
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt's remark on Sunday that the EU should not try
to prevent a smooth departure by Britain because "it was the Soviet Union
that stopped people leaving." His comparison of a bloc that includes several
former Communist countries to the USSR drew a rebuke from former British
diplomats and from the EU.
"We would all benefit, and in
particular foreign affairs ministers, from opening a history book from time
to time," said European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas.
Pro-Brexit flag-waving got a warmer
reception at the Conservative conference, where party members mixed with
lobbyists, think-tank academics and a group of men dressed as soldiers from
the Battle of Bosworth in 1485 — a time when Britain was engulfed in civil
war and Europe seemed far away.
May, meanwhile, faces a growing threat
to her leadership amid deepening opposition to her Brexit plan, which would
keep Britain in the EU single market for goods — in return for following EU
regulations — while leaving it free to make its own rules on services.
Advocates of "hard Brexit" argue that
would make the U.K. a "vassal" of the EU, wheraeas a clean break with the
bloc would let Britain strike new trade deals around the world.
Former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson,
a rival of May's who is a likely future contender for her job, has called
the prime minister's plan "preposterous" and "deranged." Johnson will
address hundreds of delegates on Tuesday, a day before May's keynote speech
to the conference.
On May's other flank are pro-EU
ministers such as Treasury chief Philip Hammond, who called Johnson's claims
about Brexit "fantasy land." Hammond used his own conference speech to
stress that the Conservative Party "is, and always will be, the party of
It's a sign of how Brexit has upended
British politics that the party of free-market former Prime Minister
Margaret Thatcher needs to make such an assurance.
But many British businesses are anxious
about Brexit, fearing barriers to trade and recruiting workers could hammer
the U.K. economy.
Hammond echoed their concerns, saying
"our businesses, and the workers whose jobs depend on them" need
"friction-free access" to EU markets.
Hammond backed May's Brexit plan, but
EU leaders say it amounts to "cherry picking" the benefits of membership in
the bloc without assuming the costs and responsibilities.
May is sticking to her proposal. But
with Brexit day looming on March 29, chances are rising that the U.K. could
find itself crashing out of the bloc without a deal. The government has
acknowledged that could leave planes grounded and trucks backed up at
Pro-EU Conservatives, who have been
sidelined since the country voted in 2016 to leave the EU, think opinion is
turning in their favor now that the downsides of Brexit are becoming
clearer. Several hundred people packed a meeting in Birmingham on Monday to
hear from Conservatives calling for a "people's vote" — a new referendum on
any final Brexit deal, with the option to remain in the EU.
Speakers warned that the party would be
punished by voters if it pushed through a "hard" Brexit.
"Every single socio-economic ill that
takes place between now and the next general election is going to be blamed
on 'Tory Brexit,'" said lawmaker Phillip Lee, who resigned as a junior
minister over his opposition to Brexit.
Lee claimed to know three government
ministers who privately supported a new referendum, and urged Conservative
lawmakers with doubts about Brexit to speak up.
Conservative legislator Anna Soubry
encouraged British businesses to go public with their concerns about Brexit.
"There are so many private
conversations that should now be public conversations — and notably by
British businesses," Soubry said. "We have only six months to save our
Roads blocked, students strike a year after Catalonia vote
Pro independence demonstrators march during a
protest in Barcelona, Spain, on Monday, Oct. 1. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
Renata Brito and Aritz Parra
Sant Julia de Ramis, Spain (AP)
— Pro-secession activists in Spain's Catalonia region blocked major
transportation routes and thousands of students marched in Barcelona on
the anniversary Monday of an independence referendum that was crushed by
police and failed to produce a separate Catalan state.
College and high school boycotted
classes and made emotional speeches at mass demonstrations to
commemorate the Oct. 1, 2017, vote that Spanish courts had deemed
illegal and ordered suspended.
The anniversary of the event that
sparked Spain's gravest political crisis in decades was being marked by
a fractured Catalan independence movement amid a timid dialogue with the
central government, now in the hands of a minority Socialist
In Girona, north of Barcelona,
hundreds of activists halted high-speed railway traffic for most of the
morning by occupying the train tracks. Some protesters then moved to the
local headquarters of the Catalan government's provincial delegation,
replacing the official Spanish flag from the public building with a
Local activist groups that emerged
after last year's independence declaration, known as Committees for the
Defense of the Republic, shared photos and posts on social media showing
blockages of regional roads and several points along the AP-7 highway,
the main north-south artery running through eastern Catalonia and
leading to the French border.
Traffic was affected in Lleida and
Barcelona, the regional capital, where marches were held throughout the
day. At midday, thousands of students walked behind a street-wide banner
that read, "We won't forget, neither will we forgive."
They shouted "Freedom for political
prisoners," a reference to the separatist leaders who have been in
pre-trial custody on rebellion and other charges for nearly a year.
Maria Vila, a protester who was
placing "Republic under construction" stickers in Barcelona's main
thoroughfare, said she wanted to highlight last year's violence and
demand more progress on secession.
"The Catalan government has not
done much and we are determined to make the Catalan Republic happen, in
any way we can, even if it is by holding another referendum, a legal
one," she told The Associated Press.
Meanwhile, members of the regional
government and other top authorities returned to Sant Julia de Ramis,
the northern town that has become a symbolic place for Catalan
separatists because one year ago police stormed into the local school to
prevent people from voting.
Carles Puigdemont, Catalonia's
president at the time, had been scheduled to vote there but had to find
an alternative polling station when anti-riot police broke the gates of
the school to confiscate ballot boxes and used batons to disperse and
injure voters refusing to leave.
The incidents were broadcast live
and brought pressure on the Spanish central government, at the time in
the hands of conservatives. Separatists claimed a victory for
independence in the vote despite its illegal nature, the police violence
and a lack of oversight.
In a brief speech Monday,
Catalonia's current president, Quim Torra, called on supporters gathered
outside of the Sant Julia de Ramis school to remember the lessons of the
referendum and to press ahead with efforts to secede from Spain.
He spoke while some people held a
banner behind him reading, in Catalan, "People demand, the government
obeys," a message that could be aimed at the Spanish government that
says the country's constitution doesn't allow a referendum on a region's
secession, but also at regional separatist politicians who have been
criticized for not delivering on the promise of independence.
Torra was hand-picked by Puigdemont
from Belgium, where the separatist leader successfully fought off
extradition and has been advocating for an independent Catalonia. On
Monday, he released a video on Twitter calling on Catalans to remain
united in persevering with the goal of breaking away from Spain.
"Let us not stray from the only
possible way to live in a full democracy: the (Catalan) Republic and its
international recognition," Puigdemont said.
Torra has asked the government of
Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez to authorize a binding vote on secession,
and also to release the nine separatist leaders that are in pre-trial
detention on rebellion and other charges.
Dialogue between the regional and
national administrations has so far delivered some economic deals for
funding the region but remains mired amid internal discord among
separatists on the best strategy going forward and the weak
parliamentary support for Sanchez's government.
The spokeswoman for his new
center-left government on Monday called last year's police violence "a
mistake" and blamed it for damaging the country's reputation
internationally. But Isabel Celaa also said the vote didn't succeed:
"There is nothing to celebrate" on Oct. 1, she told Cadena Ser radio.
Polls and recent elections show
that the region's 7.5 million residents are roughly equally divided by
the secession question.