Make Chiangmai Mail | Bookmark

Chiangmai 's First English Language Newspaper

Pattaya Blatt | Pattaya Mail | Pattaya Mail TV

 

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Update November, 2019


Home
Thailand News
World News
World Sports
Arts - Entertainment - Lifestyles
Book Review
Health & Wellbeing
Odds & Ends
Science & Technology
Update by Natrakorn Paewsoongnern
 
 
 
World News
 

Toll rises in Australian wildfires with more danger ahead

In this image made from video, huge plumes of smoke billow from wildfires in forest in Wollemi, New South Wales state, Australia, Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019. (Australian Broadcasting Corporation via AP)

SYDNEY (AP) — The death toll for wildfires raging across Australia’s most populous state has risen to four as authorities warned Thursday of worsening weather conditions to come.

A body was found late Wednesday in a scorched forest near the town of Kempsey in northeast New South Wales, police said. He is suspected to be a 58-year-old man who lived in a nearby shed and had not been seen since Friday when ferocious wildfires across New South Wales killed three other people and destroyed at least 150 homes.

About 60 fires were burning around New South Wales on Thursday morning, with 27 uncontained while being battled by more than 1,000 firefighters, the Rural Fire Service said.

"We had a better day yesterday, only one fire got to emergency warning, but even in these pretty benign conditions we're seeing quite a lot of aggressive fire behavior simply because it's so dry," Rural Fire Service Deputy Commissioner Rob Rogers told the Seven Network television.

"Conditions starting to warm up tomorrow, into the weekend and then heating up early next week, a return to more gusty conditions. We're in for the long haul," he added.

U.S. Ambassador to Australia Arthur Culvahouse Jr. said firefighting Tanker 911, a converted McDonnell Douglas DC-10 jet that can drop 35,600 liters (9,400 gallons) of fire retardant, was on its way from New Mexico to the Australian east coast to help. He said in a statement he would reach out to Australian national and state leaders to offer more help if needed.

At least 50 homes were damaged or destroyed in New South Wales on Tuesday by wildfires that had burnt into the suburbs of Sydney, Australia’s largest city.

A weeklong state of emergency was declared for New South Wales because of the extraordinary fire danger. The emergency declaration gives the Rural Fire Service sweeping powers to control resources and direct other government agencies.

The annual Australian fire season, which peaks during the Southern Hemisphere summer, has started early after an unusually warm and dry winter.


Chinese, other students flee Hong Kong as violence worsens

A student hurls a molotov cocktail into a train parked inside the Chinese University MTR station in Hong Kong, Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

By KEN MORITSUGU and PATRICK QUINN

HONG KONG (AP) — University students from mainland China and Taiwan are fleeing Hong Kong, while those from three Scandinavian countries have been moved or urged to leave as college campuses become the latest battleground in the city’s 5-month-long anti-government unrest.

Marine police used a boat Wednesday to help a group of mainland students leave the Chinese University of Hong Kong, which remained barricaded by demonstrators after violent clashes with police on Tuesday.

Authorities announced that primary and secondary school classes would be suspended Thursday as clashes turn increasingly violent.

The protests have taken on a strong anti-China bent, with radical demonstrators trashing branches of mainland banks, China’s official Xinhua News Agency and restaurant chains whose owners support the Beijing government.

Hong Kong is part of China but has its own legal system and greater freedoms than the mainland. The protesters say those freedoms are under threat from a city government that is beholden to Beijing. China says the protesters are rioters who want to break away from Chinese rule.

For the third day in a row, protesters widely disrupted train service, blocked streets and rallied in the central business district. They hunkered down for possible clashes with police at university campuses.

The Technical University of Denmark urged 36 students in Hong Kong to return home, saying “some of our students have been forced to move from their dormitories because they were put on fire." Sweden’s Royal Institute of Technology also recommended that its 26 students in the city leave.

Norwegian student Elina Neverdal Hjoennevaag told her country’s broadcaster NRK that students are being sent to a hotel, adding, "I don't really know what is happening. I must pack."

Mainland students have said in online posts that they are being targeted by protesters who have broken into their dormitories, spray-painted insults on walls and banged on their doors, the Beijing Evening News reported.

Many are taking advantage of a program that offers a week of free accommodation in one of a dozen hotels and hostels in the neighboring mainland city of Shenzhen, Chinese media reported.

The service was established in 2013 for recent graduates looking for jobs in the tech hub.

Taiwan arranged flight tickets for 126 of its students at Chinese University to fly home Wednesday night, public broadcaster RTHK reported.

Many subway and rail stations were closed after protesters threw debris on tracks and vandalized train cars. University classes remained suspended.

Hong Kong Baptist University told students that instruction and exams would be conducted online for the two remaining weeks of the semester, with arrangements for students who have returned to the mainland to join in.

The Education Bureau suspended classes at primary and secondary schools for safety reasons. Describing the situation as outrageous, the bureau said students should stay at home “and must not participate in any unlawful activities.”

Many of the masked protesters are thought to be high school and university students. Of the more than 4,000 people arrested since the protests began, nearly 40% are students, police said.

Police subdued a few protesters as a crowd gathered for a third straight day in a central business and high-end retail district, RTHK reported. Office workers watched from the sidewalks.

Many students at Chinese University on the outskirts of the sprawling metropolis were armed with gasoline bombs while some carried bows and arrows.

“We are afraid the police will come to attack our home and our school, and we have to protect our home and our school,” said one student, who gave his name as X Chan.

The clashes at the campus Tuesday were particularly intense. Police said protesters threw more than 400 gasoline bombs, more than on any other day in the protests.

Police fired 1,567 tear gas canisters, 1,312 rubber bullets and 380 beanbag rounds throughout Hong Kong on Tuesday. A total of 142 people were arrested and 10 people were taken to hospitals with injuries.

Security Secretary John Lee said the use of force at Chinese University was needed because protesters were dropping objects onto a roadway below.

“The police have a duty to ensure that this public safety is maintained,” he told reporters. “That is why they had to ensure that they would take charge of this bridge, which previously was occupied by the mobsters.”

The university’s student union president, Jacky So, appealed for an injunction from the High Court to ban police from entering the campus without a warrant or the school’s approval.

The injunction would also block police from using crowd control weapons, such as tear gas and rubber bullets, at the university.

Religious leaders called on both police and protesters to show restraint: “At this very critical point, the people of Hong Kong must unite and say no to violence,” the heads of Hong Kong’s six major religious groups said in a statement.

The Chinese government’s liaison office in Hong Kong said the semi-autonomous territory is “slipping into the abyss of terrorism.” It called the setting of a man on fire an act of “flagrant terrorism.”

On Monday, a police officer drew his gun during a struggle with protesters, shooting one in the abdomen. In another neighborhood, a 57-year-old man who was defending China was set on fire after an apparent argument.

The man remained in critical condition Wednesday, and the protester was in serious condition, the Hospital Authority said.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said members of the U.S. Senate should stop trying to promote bills on human rights or democracy in Hong Kong.

"I want to reiterate that Hong Kong is China's Hong Kong. Hong Kong affairs are purely China's internal affairs and cannot be interfered by any external forces," he said at a daily briefing.

The movement began in June over a now-withdrawn extradition bill. Activists saw it as another sign of an erosion in Hong Kong's autonomy and freedoms, which China promised would be maintained for 50 years under a "one nation, two systems" principle when the former British colony returned to Chinese control in 1997.


Sri Lankan journalists fear situation may worsen after vote

In this Nov. 6, 2019 photo, Sri Lankan media rights activist Udaya Kalupathirana stands in his office looking at posters of Sri Lankan journalists who had been allegedly tortured by groups of government soldiers during the last stages of president Mahinda Rajapaksa's regime in Colombo, Sri Lanka. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)

By BHARATHA MALLAWARACHI

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Forced to flee their country a decade ago to escape allegedly state-sponsored killer squads, Sri Lankan journalists living in exile doubt they’ll be able to return home soon or see justice served to their tormentors — whose alleged ringleader could come to power in this weekend’s presidential election.

Exiled journalists and media rights groups are disappointed by the current government’s failure in punishing those responsible for crimes committed against media members during President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s tenure from 2005 to 2015.

And with Rajapaksa’s younger brother Gotabaya Rajapaksa — the former defense chief suspected of being behind the attacks — favored to win Saturday’s election, they do not believe the situation will change anytime soon.

The current government led by President Maithripala Sirisena came to power in 2015 and promised to end impunity on crimes against journalists and media organizations. But more than four years later, police investigations still have not led to any convictions on media attacks.

“We are not satisfied with the measures taken by this government in probing the attacks on media,” said Duminda Sampath, president of the Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association, the largest media organization in the country, adding that “none of the culprits accused of attacks on media have so far been exposed or punished.”

During Mahinda Rajapaksa’s time as president, several journalists were assassinated by unidentified killers, while others were abducted in mysterious white vans and tortured before being either killed or released. The abductions and killings took place during the final years of Sri Lanka’s long civil war, which ended in 2009. While there are no proper records to show how many were abducted or killed, Sampath said around 60 journalists fled the country during this period out of fear for their lives.

The abductions of journalists and critics of the government in the white vans was a symbol of oppression during the presidency of Mahinda Rajapaksa, who is credited with ending the quarter century-long civil war. The war ended with the military crushing the Tamil Tiger rebels, who were fighting for a separate homeland for the Indian Ocean island nation’s ethnic Tamil majority.

Poddala Jayantha is one of the few journalists who survived after being abducted by a van squad. He was taken on June 1, 2009, just after the war’s end, and was brutally tortured — his legs crushed, fingers broken and body burned — before being released.

Jayantha was hospitalized for 29 days. Even after being discharged, he could barely walk for six months.

At the time of his abduction, he was president of the Working Journalists Association, speaking against suppression of the media and organizing protests at a time when doing so was considered dangerous.

Six months after his attack, he fled the country with his wife and daughter, as threats to his life increased. He now lives in New York.

Speaking with The Associated Press by a Facebook chat, Jayantha expressed disappointment over the authorities’ failure to bring the people responsible for his attack to justice.

“So far no significant progress has been made on my case. Police have only recorded statements from some people,” he said.

Only a few high-profile cases are being heard in the courts, albeit at a slow pace, while investigations haven’t even begun on dozens of others.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa, considered the leading candidate in Saturday’s election, served as the powerful defense secretary during the last few years of the civil war under his brother, and is considered a hero among Sri Lanka’s ethnic majority Sinhalese for his role in ending the war. The bomb attacks on Sri Lankan churches and hotels last Easter Sunday that killed 269 people have only boosted his popularity, with many looking for a leader who will prioritize security.

But in addition to allegedly being behind the attacks on journalists and government critics, Gotabaya Rajapaksa also has been accused of condoning rape, extrajudicial executions and abductions of civilians during his time as defense chief.

Rajapaksa’s office did not respond to requests for comment from him, but he has repeatedly denied the allegations. His spokesman Sarath Amunugama said recently that “all sorts of allegations can be made. But there must be proof and judicial processes.”

Sampath lamented comments made by Rajapaksa at his first election rally, when he said he will release all military personnel under detention if he comes to power. Dozens of soldiers have been arrested over some of the attacks on journalists, and a few are still being detained.

“Releasing them without a trial would lead to a collapse of the rule of law and the situation will be worsened,” Sampath said.

Steven Butler, Asia program coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists, said his group has heard from journalists who are frightened by a potential Rajapaksa presidency. “Just the prospect of his election has already had an impact on press freedom,” he said.

Jayantha, the journalist who survived an abduction, fears that investigations would come to a halt if Rajapaksa comes to power. “All the investigations on attacks on journalists will be doomed,” he said.

Jayantha was hoping to return to Sri Lanka after his daughter’s college graduation in New York in June and restart his journalism career in his home country.

But if Rajapaksa comes to power, he said, “I don’t think I would be able to come to Sri Lanka again.”

“My family will not allow me to come here. Even if I come, I don’t think I could perform my role as a journalist, especially in a society where my attackers are still at large,” he said.

Athula Vithanage, a Sri Lankan journalist who has lived in exile in Paris since 2009, also criticized the government’s failure.

He said by phone that he had been planning to return to Sri Lanka after the change of government in 2015 but changed his mind because “nothing significant happened” to improve the safety of journalists or to investigate attacks on them.

Vithanage, who along with other exiled journalists runs a website that gives details on 44 media workers who were killed from 2004 to 2009, said if Rajapaksa becomes president, none of the exiled journalists will be able to return home.

“Whatever hope that we have in coming back will be shattered if he comes to power,” he said.


US and Turkey have friendly talks but differences persist

 

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump welcome Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his wife Emine Erdogan to the White House, Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

By DEB RIECHMANN

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump says he and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan are “very good friends,” but their meeting Wednesday at the White House failed to resolve an issue that has badly strained relations between the two NATO allies.

Trump and Erdogan concluded a visit without achieving an agreement on Turkey’s decision earlier this year to accept delivery of a Russian air defense system that poses such a threat to NATO security that the U.S. suspended Turkish participation in the multinational F-35 fighter jet program.

The Turkish president told reporters he might be persuaded to use the U.S.-made Patriot system “as well” as the Russian S-400. Trump said they would agree to keep working on the issue.

“The acquisition of the S-400 creates some very serious challenges for us,” Trump said. “Hopefully we'll be able to resolve that situation.”

Despite the differences, Trump said he believes the two sides can substantially increase trade, which amounted to about $24 billion in 2017.

“We think we can bring trade up very quickly to about $100 billion between our countries,” Trump said.

The dispute over the competing air defense systems is a major component of the tension between the two countries. Turkey has also come under fire on Capitol Hill for its incursion into Syria last month to attack the Kurdish forces that fought with the U.S. against the Islamic State. And Turkey has been criticized for repression of political opponents, journalists and others.

Turkey, meanwhile, is angered at the U.S. for supporting the Kurdish forces it views as a threat and for refusing to extradite a Muslim cleric it accuses of fomenting a 2016 coup attempt against Erdogan.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., acknowledged Turkey's concerns regarding certain Kurdish elements of the Syrian Democratic Forces that partnered with the U.S., but said they should be addressed by creating a safe zone and not with a "disruptive" incursion that "must end."

He also said nearly all lawmakers in Congress see the S-400 as being incompatible with America's F-35.

"Turkey's activation of the Russian S-400 will require the U.S. to keep Turkey from the F-35 program and issue sanctions," Graham said. "Turkey has been a valuable ally and member of NATO. I'm hoping to salvage this relationship, but only time will tell if that is possible."

Erdogan used the meeting as a chance to defend his military offensive against U.S.-backed Kurdish forces in northeastern Syria, some of whom have links to the separatists who have waged a violent campaign in Turkey for decades.

“We’re just fighting terrorists, period,” he said. “If you don't fight back, you will have to pay a very hefty price.”

His words failed to placate members of Congress and others who accuse Turkish-backed forces of killing Kurdish civilians and causing a humanitarian crisis in the incursion, which prompted the U.S. last month to hurriedly evacuate a small number of American troops from near the Syria-Turkey border.

"There has been a callous disregard for civilian lives, including attacks on residential areas," said Margaret Huang, executive director of Amnesty International USA.

The leaders’ scheduled afternoon news conference, following a meeting with Republican lawmakers at the White House, gave Trump a stage to counter the first public hearings in the House impeachment inquiry. Trump said he was busy and didn’t watch a minute of the televised hearings, which he called a “hoax.”

Republicans and Democrats in Congress didn’t think Trump should meet with Erdogan at all.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said it was "mindboggling" and "appalling" for Trump to roll out a red carpet for Erdogan after the invasion of Syria.

"Erdogan suppresses free speech, arrests opponents and does so many other terribly things to his country, which was once a much more shining example of democracy," Schumer said.

In the Senate, two Democrats have introduced legislation denouncing Turkey's targeting of journalists, political opponents, dissidents, minorities and others. They said the Turkish government had imprisoned more than 80,000 Turkish citizens, closed more than 1,500 non-governmental organizations on terrorism-related grounds and dismissed or suspended more than 130,000 civil servants from their jobs.

During the news conference, Trump joked that Erdogan should only call on a friendly Turkish reporter. When Erdogan called on a female Turkish reporter, according to several people in the room, Graham leaned over and quietly told someone seated next to him, "She's the only reporter left over there" in Turkey.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said lawmakers have significant concerns about both the S-400 and the attack on the Kurds, who “have risked a lot to stand with America” and battle the Islamic State.

“If we can resolve those two issues, I think there is the opportunity for enormous trade, enormous strategic cooperation, but those two issues are real and significant,” Cruz said.


Winds fan ferocious fires in Australia's most populous state

Sydney Opera House is backdropped by haze from wildfires near the city, in Sydney, Australia, Tuesday Nov. 12, 2019. (Mette Estep / NTB scanpix via AP)

Locals watch smoke from a large bushfire outside Nana Glen, near Coffs Harbour, Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2019. (Dan Peled/AAP Images via AP)

A National Parks and Wildlife crew member fights flames at Half Chain road at Koorainghat, near Taree in New South Wales state Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2019. (Darren Pateman/AAP Images via AP)

Jamie Fato prepares to stop an out of control fire entering Owen Whalan's property at Koorainghat, near Taree, New South Wales state, Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2019. (Darren Pateman/AAP Images via AP)

By ROD McGUIRK

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Ferocious wildfires were burning at emergency-level intensity across Australia's most populous state and into Sydney's suburbs on Tuesday as authorities warned most people in their paths that there was no longer time to flee.

New South Wales state is under a weeklong state of emergency, a declaration that gives the Rural Fire Service sweeping powers to control resources and direct other government agencies in its efforts to battle fires. The worst fires on Tuesday emerged in the state's northeast, where three people have died and more than 150 homes have been destroyed since Friday.

A catastrophic fire warning was in place for Sydney, Australia's largest city, where a large blaze threatened homes on Tuesday afternoon in northern suburban Turramurra, 17 kilometers (11 miles) from the city's downtown area.

A firefighter suffered a fractured arm and ribs before the fire was rapidly contained with the aid of a jet dumping fire retardant and a helicopter dropping water, officials said. Turramurra residents reported trees catching fire in their backyards from embers.

Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said many people had heeded his warning and evacuated their homes in the danger zone well ahead of the escalating fire threat on Tuesday.

"We've got very tight, winding roads into a lot of these areas, which is why we talked about leaving early as the safest option," Fitzsimmons told reporters.

"The last thing we want to do is be managing mass evacuations in pretty difficult to access areas and running the risk of having a whole bunch of congested roadways and seeing people incinerated in their cars," he added.

Of 85 fires burning across New South Wales, 14 were rated as emergencies and burning out of control by late afternoon, the Rural Fire Service said. That's the largest number across the state in decades apart from Friday, when an unprecedented 17 emergency fires blazed.

"It is too late to leave on most of these fires and sheltering is now your only option as fire approaches," Fitzsimmons said.

Kirby Ardis took Fitzsimmons' advice, driving her family from their home in the small town of Deepwater 42 kilometers (26 miles) to the larger center of Glen Innes at about midday Tuesday.

"With the winds, the embers are traveling many kilometers, so it's just not worth it," she said. "The general consensus is that people are just evacuating. Better safe than sorry."

Alison Johnson said she'd stay as long as she could in the village of Nana Glen to protect her business, the Idle Inn Cafe, from embers that can carry 30 kilometers (19 kilometers) ahead of the fire front.

"If one ember lands on it, it'll go up," Johnson said. "When you look above the paddock at the end of the street, you can see the smoke behind the tree line."

"The trees are a muted gray, shrouded in smoke. The first sign of a fire front and we'll be out," she added.

Winds were reaching 80 kph (50 mph) in some areas and were expected to gather pace as the day progresses. There were reports of potential destruction of homes south of the town of Taree near where a 63-year-old woman died in her home on Friday, Fitzsimmons said.

A "small number of properties" appeared to have been destroyed or damaged by late Tuesday, he said.

More than 600 schools and technical colleges were closed because they are close to woodlands at risk of fire.

The Australian fire season, which peaks during the Southern Hemisphere summer, has started early after an unusually warm and dry winter.

More than 1 million hectares (3,800 square miles) of forest and farmland had already burned across the state this fire season, more than three times the 280,000 hectares (1,080 square miles) that burned during all of last season.

The catastrophic fire warning is a first for Sydney. World Meteorological Organization spokeswoman Clare Nullis told reporters in Geneva that "catastrophic" was the top of the danger scale in Australia, and probably anywhere.

"The current fires are due to a combination of factors, including low soil moisture, heat and importantly, wind direction and wind speed," she said.

She cited figures from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology saying New South Wales had endured its driest 34-month period on record, and that Australia overall has faced its second-warmest January-to-October period based on records dating back 110 years.


Police, protesters face off in renewed clashes in Hong Kong

Students stand near a charred vehicle during a face-off with riot police at the Chinese University in Hong Kong, Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

A pro-democracy protester arranges bricks on a road to block traffic in Central, Hong Kong, Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

Firefighters help an elderly woman as commuters walk on the railway after their train service is disrupted by pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2019. (AP Photo)

Commuters walk on the railway after their train service is disrupted by pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2019. (AP Photo)

By KEN MORITSUGU

HONG KONG (AP) — Police and protesters battled outside university campuses and several thousand demonstrators blocked roads as they took over a central business district at lunchtime on Tuesday in another day of protest in Hong Kong.

The clashes followed an especially violent day in Hong Kong's five months of anti-government demonstrations, in which police shot one protester and a man was set on fire.

Protesters littered streets with bricks and disrupted train service during the morning rush hour on Tuesday. Commuter train passengers were escorted along the tracks, and subways were shut because of disruptions.

Police used tear gas in faceoffs with protesters in and around universities, where classes were canceled.

Following a standoff outside Chinese University, scores of officers charged onto the campus after firing tear gas, arresting student protesters who tried to block their way with makeshift barricades, including a burning car.

A few thousand protesters took over several blocks of the central business district at lunchtime. The demonstrators chanted "Five demands, not one less" holding up one hand with five outstretched fingers. Their demands include democratic changes and investigation of police treatment of protesters.

Traffic was blocked on two major roads by the crowds, with half a dozen of Hong Kong's famous trams lined up unable to move. The words "Join Us" were spray painted on the front window of a halted double-decker bus abandoned by the driver and passengers and one of its windows was broken.

Office workers filled the sidewalks and overhead walkways to watch the action, with some joining the protesters in chanting.

One 24-year-old man, who would not give his name, said he was there to support the protesters and accused the police of using excessive force, a common complaint among the city's 7.4 million people.

Police fired tear gas to disperse protesters and onlookers who were hurling abuse at the officers. At least one person was injured when he was struck on the head by a tear gas canister. But protesters returned by evening and were again blocking roads with bricks and commandeered buses.

Recent weeks have been marked by escalating vandalism against shops linked to mainland China and train stations, and assaults by both protesters and pro-Beijing supporters.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam, speaking to news media after a weekly meeting with advisers, called the blocking of the morning commute "a very selfish act."

"People from different sectors in society are holding fast to their positions and refusing to concede to violence or other radical actions," she said. "I hereby express my gratitude to those who are still going to work and school today."

On Monday, a police officer drew his gun during a struggle with protesters, shooting one in the abdomen. In another neighborhood, a 57-year-old man was set on fire after an apparent argument.

Both remained hospitalized Tuesday, the shot protester in serious condition and the man who was burned in critical condition, the Hospital Authority said.

Video of another incident showed a policeman on a motorcycle riding through a group of protesters in an apparent attempt to disperse them.

Police say those events are being investigated but defend the officers' actions as necessary for their own safety.

Police spokesman Kong Wing-cheung said the burning had been registered as a case of attempted murder and called on the public to provide information about the assailant.

"Hong Kong's rule of law has been pushed to the brink of total collapse," Kong said, calling those who defend or maintain ties with violent protesters "accomplices."

In Beijing, foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang lambasted the U.S. and Britain over statements of concern over the spike in violence.

"The United States and Britain pretend to be fair on this incident, but it only reveals how they confuse right and wrong and how hypocritical they are. And their verbal justice once again exposes their double standards and ulterior motives," Geng said at a daily briefing.

China accuses the U.S. and other foreign powers of fomenting and encouraging the protests.

Lam pledged Monday to stop the violent protests in comments suggesting harsher legal and police measures could be coming.

"I do not want to go into details, but I just want to make it very clear that we will spare no effort in finding ways and means that could end the violence in Hong Kong as soon as possible," she said.

Lam refused to accept the protesters' demands. "These rioters' actions have far exceeded their demands, and they are enemies of the people," she said.

One of their five demands is for the government to stop labeling the demonstrators as rioters, which connotes that even peaceful protest is a criminal activity. They also want criminal cases to be dropped against protesters.

In Washington, the U.S. government said it is watching the situation with "grave concern."

"?We condemn violence on all sides, extend our sympathies to victims of violence regardless of their political inclinations, and call for all parties — police and protesters — to exercise restraint," State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.

She urged the government to address the underlying concerns behind the protests and the protesters to respond to efforts at dialogue.

Police said they arrested more than 260 people on Monday, raising to 3,560 the number of arrests since the movement erupted in June. The Hospital Authority said 128 people were taken to hospitals, with one in critical condition and five others in serious condition on Tuesday.

The protests began over a proposed law that would have allowed criminal suspects to be extradited to mainland China, where they could face opaque and politically sensitive trials. Activists saw the bill as another sign of an erosion in Hong Kong's autonomy and civic freedoms, which China promised would be maintained for 50 years under a "one nation, two systems" principle when the former British colony returned to Chinese control in 1997.

Lam eventually withdrew the extradition bill but has insisted the violence stop before any further political dialogue can take place.

District council elections on Nov. 24 are seen as a measure of public sentiment toward Hong Kong's government. Pro-democracy lawmakers have accused the government of trying to provoke violence to justify canceling or postponing the vote.


Air quality sinks to 'severe' in haze-shrouded New Delhi

A sweet candy vendor walks amidst thick layer of smog as he looks for customers in New Delhi, India, Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

By RISHAB R. JAIN

NEW DELHI (AP) — A thick gray haze blanketed India's capital on Tuesday, with authorities attempting to reduce the pollution by sprinkling water to settle dust and banning some construction.

The air quality index exceeded 400, considered "severe" and about eight times the recommended maximum, according to the state-run Central Pollution Control Board.

Buildings and monuments in New Delhi were largely obscured by the haze and residents complained of health effects.

"We can't breathe properly. My eyes are burning," said Urmila Devi, who lives in Ghaziabad, one of the capital's most polluted areas.

Favorable winds had briefly halved the level of pollutants, but winds blowing from the northwest carried air-borne particles from burning crops in Punjab and Haryana states to New Delhi, leading again to high levels of pollution, according to the government's air quality monitoring system, SAFAR.

Air pollution in northern India peaks in the winter due to smoke from agricultural fires. Farmers say they are unfairly criticized and have no choice but to burn stubble to prepare their fields for the next crop.

The smoke from fields mixes with vehicle emissions and construction dust, making New Delhi the world's most-polluted capital.

Rising pollution levels have also irked foreign visitors, with some saying they plan to cut short their trips because of health concerns.

"We are in the capital of India. The government should put more effort into tackling this problem," said Rijil Odamvalappil of Abu Dhabi, who was visiting New Delhi with his wife.

Some residents say the pollution is so bad that it should be the most important issue for the government.

Pollution controls have been imposed, such as sprinkling water from high-rises and banning some construction to settle or avoid dust, but the capital's poor air quality has continued amid calls for the government to do more to address the root causes.

Restrictions on private vehicles meant to reduce emissions were relaxed on Monday and Tuesday for the 550th anniversary of the birth of Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh religion.

Doctors in the city of 20 million people say many of their patients are complaining of ailments related to the filthy air they breathe.

New Delhi's chief minister, Arvind Kejriwal, has made fervent appeals on Twitter and in newspaper advertisements for residents to help tackle the pollution problem.

India's top court last week asked the city government, its neighboring states and the federal government to work together to improve air quality.

World Health Organization data released last year showed India had 10 of the world's 20 most polluted cities.


Clinton criticizes UK for blocking Russian influence report

US former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, left, talks to Classicist Mary Beard, at the Southbank Centre in London during the launch of Gutsy Women: Favorite Stories of Courage and Resilience, a book by Chelsea and Hillary Clinton, in London, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019. (Aaron Chown/PA via AP)

By DANICA KIRKA

LONDON (AP) — Hillary Clinton says she's "dumbfounded" that the U.K. government has failed to release a report on Russian influence in British politics as the country prepares for national elections.

The former U.S. presidential candidate told British media that the public needs to know what is in the report by Parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee before Britain's Dec. 12 vote.

The government said it needs more time to consider the report before releasing it to the public. Critics, however, claim the report has been withheld until the next Parliament because it is embarrassing to Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Conservative Party, which is trying to win a majority and push through Johnson's Brexit plan to take Britain out of the European Union.

"I'm dumbfounded that this government won't release the report ... because every person who votes in this country deserves to see that report before your election happens," Clinton told the BBC on Tuesday.

Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into the 2016 U.S. presidential election found that Russia interfered in the vote in a "sweeping and systemic" fashion.  U.S. President Donald Trump has dismissed the Mueller report's conclusions, but the investigation has put Russia into the crosshairs of a debate on freedom and the integrity of elections worldwide.

Clinton also spoke about the British report with the Guardian newspaper at an event promoting "The Book of Gutsy Women," a work she co-authored with her daughter, Chelsea.

"I am, as a great admirer of Britain, concerned, because I can't make sense of what is happening," Clinton told the Guardian . "We have a president who admires dictators and takes their help and does all kinds of crazy stuff. So we need you to be the sane member of this partnership going forward."

Bill Browder, a former investment manager in Russia, told the BBC that he gave the intelligence committee evidence on wealthy Russians who were working to influence British politics. The Sunday Times reported nine Russian business people and other wealthy Conservative Party donors were named on the report on illicit Russian activity in Britain.

The Intelligence and Security Committee report was sent to the prime minister on Oct. 17, and it needs government approval before it is made public. Johnson's Downing Street office said the report has not yet gone through the necessary clearance process for publication.

Lawmakers from a range of parties, including Johnson's Conservatives, have urged the government to publish the report during a debate in the House of Commons. But Foreign Office minister Christopher Pincher argued it was "not unusual" for the review of such reports to "take some time."

The Russian report comes amid increasing concerns about the security of an election being fought in an increasingly digital world. Britain's election laws are woefully out of date to face the new age, written more for a time when leaflets were pushed through the mailbox instead of Facebook and other social media publishing political ads.

Following an 18-month investigation into online privacy and the use of social media to spread disinformation, an influential parliamentary committee in February urged the British government to urgently approve new laws addressing internet campaign techniques, insisting that democracy itself was under threat.

While the government agreed with many of the recommendations made by the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, it has done little other than circulate its own report for public comment in preparation for future legislation.

Former Committee Chairman Damian Collins said the government had been following a timetable that would have modernized Britain's electoral laws by 2021 or 2022, the original date for the next general election.

But Johnson called an early election on Dec. 12 in response to the political turmoil caused by Britain's pending departure from the European Union, which is now scheduled for Jan. 31. Britain's 46 million eligible voters will be choosing 650 lawmakers in the House of Commons.

The campaign has already shown signs of being fought fiercely online. In one example, a video posted on Twitter and Facebook by the Conservative Party contains a misleading edit of a television interview with Keir Starmer, a senior Labour Party figure. The video had been altered to show Starmer failing to answer a question about Brexit, when, in fact, he responded quickly.

The chairman of the Conservative Party called the doctored video lighthearted satire but it highlighted the gray area being exploited by the campaigns.

In another sign of the shift, Britain's Labour Party announced Tuesday that it had experienced a "sophisticated and large-scale cyberattack" on its digital platforms. The main opposition party says the attack did not succeed, because of "robust security systems" and that it had referred the matter to the National Cyber Security Centre.

Collins had been appealing for a coordinated approach across all parts of government to combat disinformation campaigns and protect the electoral system.

The work has heaped pressure on social media companies, who have faced global scrutiny following allegations that political consultant Cambridge Analytica used data from tens of millions of Facebook accounts to profile voters and help Trump's 2016 election campaign.

In other election news, Brexit Party chief Nigel Farage changed course, announcing Monday that his party would not challenge Conservative candidates in nearly half of the U.K.'s districts. The tactic may make it easier for pro-Brexit forces to prevail in the election and should boost the chances that Johnson's Conservatives win a majority.


Hong Kong police shoot protester, man set on fire

In this image made from video, a police officer, left, prepares to shoot a protester, center, in Hong Kong Monday, Nov. 11, 2019. The police shot the protester as demonstrators blocked subway lines and roads during the Monday morning commute. (Cupid Producer via AP)

Medical volunteers help an injured man after being attacked by pro-democracy protesters during a crash between protesters and police in Hong Kong, Monday, Nov. 11, 2019. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

A protester with an umbrella runs away from tear gas fired by riot police on a street scattered with bricks during a protests in Hong Kong, Monday, Nov. 11, 2019. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

By ALICE FUNG Associated Press

HONG KONG (AP) — Following a day of violence in which one person was shot by police and another set on fire, Hong Kong's leader pledged Monday to "spare no effort" to halt anti-government protests that have wracked the city for more than five months.

The comments by Carrie Lam are likely to fuel speculation that harsher legal and police measures may be in the works.

"I do not want to go into details, but I just want to make it very clear that we will spare no effort in finding ways and means that could end the violence in Hong Kong as soon as possible," Lam told reporters.

Lam also refused to accept the protesters' demands for political concessions.

"If there is still any wishful thinking that, by escalating violence, the Hong Kong SAR government will yield to pressure to satisfy the so-called political demands, I am making this statement clear and loud here: That will not happen," Lam said, using the initials for Special Administrative Region, which describes the city's status as a semi-autonomous Chinese territory.

"These rioters' actions have far exceeded their demands, and they are enemies of the people," she said.

Following Lam's comments, confrontations between protesters and police continued into the night, with black-clad demonstrators torching at least one vehicle and blocking an intersection in the Mongkok district that has been the scene of many clashes. A taxi driver was taken away by ambulance with head wounds, although it wasn't immediately clear how he had been injured.

The violence is likely to further inflame passions in Hong Kong after a university student who fell from a parking garage during an earlier protest succumbed Friday to his injuries and police arrested six pro-democracy lawmakers over the weekend on charges of obstructing the local assembly during a raucous May 11 meeting. All were freed on bail.

China's ruling Communist Party has also indicated it may try to find a way to enact anti-subversion laws in the territory. Such measures were shelved previously due to public opposition.

While Beijing has dismissed reports it may replace Lam next year, the party last week issued a statement saying it would "perfect" the system to appoint and dismiss Hong Kong's leader and top officials.

In a widely distributed video, a police officer is shown shooing away a group of protesters at an intersection Monday morning, then drawing his gun on a masked protester in a white hooded sweatshirt who approaches him.

As the two struggle, another protester in black approaches, at whom the officer points his gun. He then fires at the stomach area of the second protester, who falls to the ground. The officer appeared to fire again as a third protester in black joined the tussle.

The protester in white flees up a nearby stairway, and the officer and a colleague pin the two in black to the ground.

Police said only one protester was hit and that he was undergoing surgery. The Hong Kong hospital authority said the person was initially in critical condition but was stable after surgery.

It was the second protester shot since the demonstrations began in early June, although police have repeatedly drawn their firearms to ward off attacks. Police said they arrested more than 260 people on Monday, adding to the more than 3,300 arrests since the movement erupted in June.

Few details were available about the burning incident in the Ma On Shan neighborhood. Video posted online shows the victim arguing with a group of young people before someone douses him with a liquid and strikes a lighter. The man was reported in critical condition.

Police fired tear gas and deployed a water cannon in parts of the city and charged onto the campus of Chinese University, where students were protesting. Online video also showed a policeman on a motorcycle riding through a group of protesters in an apparent attempt to disperse them.

Police spokesman Tse Chun-chung said the shooting, burning and motorcycle incidents were all under investigation, but defended the officers' actions as necessary for their own safety. Tse said two people were arrested in the shooting incident, including the person shot, but no one has yet been detained over the burning.

Protesters built barricades and blocked roads at about 120 locations across the city of 7.4 million and demonstrations were still ongoing, Tse said.

"Continuing this rampage is a lose-lose situation for Hong Kong. Everyone is a loser," Tse said.

Rail service was partly suspended because of fires and obstacles on the tracks and windows were smashed at a branch of the state-owned Bank of China. Large parts of the downtown business district were closed to traffic as protesters surrounded by onlookers engaged in a standoff with police.

The protests began over a proposed extradition law and have expanded to include demands for greater democracy and police accountability. Activists say Hong Kong's autonomy and Western-style civil liberties, promised when the former British colony was returned to China in 1997, are eroding.

The video of the shooting was posted on Facebook by Cupid Producer, an outlet that started last year and appears to post mostly live videos related to local news.

The shooting occurred in a crosswalk at a large intersection strewn with debris that had backed up traffic in Sai Wan Ho, a neighborhood on the eastern part of Hong Kong Island.

In a statement, the Hong Kong government said police had been responding to vandalism and disruptions of traffic, including protesters throwing heavy objects onto roads from above.

"During police operations, one police officer has discharged his service revolver, one male was shot," the statement said, adding that officers also drew their guns in the Shatin and Tung Chung neighborhoods.

The statement denied what it called online rumors that police had been ordered to "recklessly use their firearms," calling the allegation "totally false and malicious."

"All police officers are required to justify their enforcement actions," the statement said.

A patch of what looked like dried blood could be seen in a cordoned-off area after the shooting, as onlookers shouted insults at the police.

Masked protesters continued trying to block other intersections in the area, but police chased them away with pepper spray, hitting some bystanders as well.

On Sunday, police fired tear gas and protesters vandalized stores at shopping malls during demonstrations. They targeted businesses whose owners are seen as pro-Beijing and also damaged the Sha Tin train station.

Police said they arrested at least 88 people on charges including unlawful assembly, possession of an offensive weapon, criminal damage and wearing masks at an unlawful assembly.

Hong Kong is preparing for Nov. 24 district council elections that are seen as a measure of public sentiment toward the government. Pro-democracy lawmakers accuse the government of trying to provoke violence to justify canceling or postponing the vote.


Winds, heat pose extreme fire danger in Australian southeast

In Monday, Nov. 11, 2019, photo, firefighters work on a controlled burn in Koorainghat, New South Wales state, Australia. (Darren Pateman/AAP Images via AP)

By ROD McGUIRK Associated Press

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Hundreds of schools were closed and residents were urged to evacuate woodlands for the relative safety of city centers Tuesday as hot, dry and windy weather posed an extreme fire danger across Australia's most populous state.

New South Wales state is under a weeklong state of emergency, a declaration that gives the Rural Fire Service sweeping powers to control resources and direct other government agencies in its efforts to battle fires. The worst fires are expected in the state's northeast, where three people have died and more than 150 homes have been destroyed since Friday, as well as around Sydney, Australia's largest city.

Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said 3,000 firefighters were available to fight more than 50 fires blazing across the state. The fires are expected to worsen as winds are forecast to gust at between 70 kmh (43 mph) and 90 kmh (56 mph) later Tuesday.

"Now is the time to exercise those decisions to leave, leave early and go to safer locations, safer towns and villages or safer places in your local community, such as the shopping centers," Fitzsimmons told reporters.

"We plan for these sorts of days. But we always hope they never come," he added.

More than 600 schools and technical colleges were closed because they are close to woodlands at risk of fire.

The Australian fire season, which peaks during the Southern Hemisphere summer, has started early after an unusually warm and dry winter.

More than 1 million hectares (3,800 square miles) of forest and farmland had already burned across the state this fire season, more than three times the 280,000 hectares (1,080 square miles) that burned during the entire last season, Fitzsimmons said.


China's Alibaba, JD report booming Singles Day sales

A big screen shows the online sales for e-commerce giant Alibaba surpassed RMB 100 billion or US14 billion at 01:03:59 after the Nov. 11 Tmall Shopping Festival started midnight in Shanghai, China Monday, Nov. 11, 2019. (Chinatopix Via AP)

By JOE McDONALD

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese e-commerce giants Alibaba and JD.com reported nearly $70 billion in sales Monday on Singles Day, an annual marketing event that is the world's busiest online shopping day.

The day was a temporary relief to retailers that face fading demand as Chinese consumers tighten their belts, anxious over slowing economic growth and the tariff war with Washington.

University students created Singles Day in the 1990s as an alternative to Valentine's Day for people without romantic partners. Alibaba adopted it as a marketing tool a decade ago.

Rivals including JD.com, China's biggest online direct retailer, and electronics seller Suning joined in. The tactic has caught on in other Asian countries, too.

The creators picked Nov. 11 because the date is written with four singles - "11 11."

On Monday, retailers offered discounts on goods from smartphones to craft beer to health care packages.

"Yesterday night, I was browsing past 11 p.m. Many of my friends around me were staying up till 2 a.m. to buy stuff," said Zhu Yirun, a graduate student in Beijing.

Alibaba said sales by merchants on its platforms totaled 268.4 billion yuan ($38.3 billion) for the 24 hours ending at midnight Monday after passing its 2018 total before 6 p.m. JD.com said its sales were 204.4 billion yuan ($29.1 billion).

Alibaba kicked off the event Sunday night with a concert by Taylor Swift at a Shanghai stadium.

E-commerce grew rapidly in China due to a lack of traditional retailing networks and government efforts to promote internet use. The country has the biggest online population with more than 800 million web users.

Alibaba, JD.com, Baidu and other internet giants have expanded into consumer finance, entertainment and offline retailing.

Monday was Alibaba's first Singles Day since its founder, Jack Ma, stepped down as chairman in September. He stayed on as a member of the Alibaba Partnership, a 36-member group with the right to nominate a majority of the company's board of directors.

E-commerce has created some of China's biggest fortunes.

Ma, 55, is China's richest entrepreneur with a net worth of $39 billion, according to the Hurun Report, which tracks the country's wealthy.

Colin Huang of Pinduoduo was No. 7 on Hurun's list at $19 billion. Zhang Jindong of Suning was No. 15 at $14 billion and Richard Liu of JD.com was No. 28 at $11 billion.

Last year, Alibaba reported Singles Day sales of 213.5 billion yuan ($30.8 billion), or more than 13 times its daily average of about 16 billion yuan ($2.3 billion).

Suning said sales of smartphones and other electronics passed 1 billion yuan ($160 million) in the first minute after midnight. The company said later sales were up 86% over 2018's Singles Day but gave no total.

Dangdang, an online book retailer, said it sold 6.8 million copies in the first hour.

Chinese online spending is growing faster than total retail sales but also is weakening as economic growth decelerates. Growth declined to a multi-decade low of 6% over a year earlier in the quarter ending in September.

Online sales of goods rose 16.8% over a year earlier in the first nine months of 2019 to 5.8 trillion yuan ($825 billion), according to official data. That was more than double the 8.2% growth rate for total consumer spending but down from an average of about 30% in recent years.

E-commerce made up 19.5% of Chinese consumer spending, compared with about 11% of spending for American consumers.

Yang Wei, a migrant worker in Beijing, planned to skip the online rush.

"I feel like the difference (in price) is not that big, and since everyone's buying all at once, the logistics and delivery are slower," said Yang. "I think that it's actually better for me to buy when not everyone's buying."


Iran discovers new oil field with over 50 billion barrels

 

In this photo released by the official website of the office of the Iranian Presidency, President Hassan Rouhani speaks in a public gathering at the city of Yazd, some 410 miles (680 kilometers) southeast of the capital Tehran, Iran, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019. (Office of the Iranian Presidency via AP)

By AMIR VAHDAT Associated Press

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran has discovered a new oil field in the country's south with over 50 billion barrels of crude, its president said Sunday, a find that could boost the country's proven reserves by a third as it struggles to sell energy abroad over U.S. sanctions.

The announcement by Hassan Rouhani comes as Iran faces crushing American sanctions after the U.S. pulled out of its nuclear deal with world powers last year.

Rouhani made the announcement in a speech in the desert city of Yazd. He said the field was located in Iran's southern Khuzestan province, home to its crucial oil industry.

Some 53 billion barrels would be added to Iran's proven reserves of roughly 150 billion, he said.

"I am telling the White House that in the days when you sanctioned the sale of Iranian oil and pressured our nation, the country's dear workers and engineers were able to discover 53 billion barrels of oil in a big field," Rouhani said.

Oil reserves refer to crude that's economically feasible to extract. Figures can vary wildly by country due to differing standards, though it remains a yardstick of comparison among oil-producing nations.

Iran currently has the world's fourth-largest proven deposits of crude oil and the world's second-largest deposits of natural gas. It shares a massive offshore field in the Persian Gulf with Qatar.

The new oil field could become Iran's second-largest field after one containing 65 billion barrels in Ahvaz. The field is 2,400 square kilometers (925 square miles), with the deposit some 80 meters (260 feet) deep, Rouhani said.

Since the U.S. withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal, the other countries involved — Germany, France, Britain, Russia and China — have been struggling to save it. However, they've offered no means by which Iran can sell its oil abroad.

Any company or government that buys Iran's oil faces harsh U.S. sanctions, the threat of which also stopped billions of dollars in business deals and sharply depreciated Iran's currency, the rial.

Iran has since gone beyond the deal's stockpile and enrichment limits, as well as started using advanced centrifuges barred by the deal. It also just began injecting uranium gas into centrifuges at an underground facility.

The collapse of the nuclear deal coincided with a tense summer of mysterious attacks on oil tankers and Saudi oil facilities that the U.S. blamed on Iran. Tehran denied the allegation, though it did seize oil tankers and shoot down a U.S. military surveillance drone.


Despite fires, California wine is doing just fine - for now

In this Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019 photo, Izzy Lewkosky, of Kansas City, Kan., tastes a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon while looking out at the wildfire incinerated Soda Rock Winery in Healdsburg, Calif. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

In this Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019 photo, partner Bret Munselle of Munselle Vineyards stands with his dogs and looks out at the hillside where he lost about half of the young vines he had planted before a fire raged through the upper part of his ranch in Geyserville, Calif. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

In this Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019 photo, Paul Witt and his wife Cindy, of Forney, Texas, stop to take pictures beneath a 20-foot sculpture of a boar that still stands in front of the wildfire incinerated Soda Rock Winery in Healdsburg, Calif. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

In this Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019 photo, Paul Witt and his wife Cindy, of Forney, Texas, stop to take pictures beneath a 20-foot sculpture of a boar that still stands in front of the wildfire incinerated Soda Rock Winery in Healdsburg, Calif. If you're worried that wildfires might have created shortages of Northern California's 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon, or even just imparted it with an undesirable smoky flavor, you can relax. The wine is just fine. For now. Despite a late October blaze that raged through one of the world's best-known wine-growing regions. forcing evacuations in two mid-sized towns, wine production in Sonoma County escaped largely unscathed. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

By RACHEL LERMAN AP Business Writer

HEALDSBURG, Calif. (AP) — If you're worried that wildfires might have created shortages of Northern California's 2019 cabernet sauvignon, or even just imparted it with an undesirable smoky flavor, you can relax. The wine is just fine. For now.

Despite a late October blaze that raged through one of the world's best-known wine-growing regions. forcing evacuations in two mid-sized towns, wine production in Sonoma County escaped largely unscathed.

Limerick Lane Wines, for instance, avoided serious damage despite flames that licked at two sides of its property in the Russian River Valley just south of Healdsburg. Limerick's grapes were already harvested, crushed and stored in tanks and barrels. The winery's sealed cellar prevented smoke damage to its inventory, said owner Jake Bilbro, although its tasting room now has an acrid smell.

"I have to thank the people who planted our vineyards and built our house 100 years ago," Bilbro said. "Our buildings are all surrounded by vineyards, and vineyards are excellent fire breaks."

Overall, vintners estimate that the region lost only about five percent of its harvest to fire and smoke — not a perfect outcome, but better than in 2017, when wildfire struck with only about 90% of the harvest in. The remaining grapes weren't all lost, but that year's vintages were rumored to have a "smoky" taste, and winemakers were taking no chances this year.

Many in Sonoma, a sprawling county larger than Rhode Island located about an hour north of San Francisco, say they're hoping that fires don't become the new normal. But with the smell of smoke lingers in the air and the charred hills serving as a reminder, they're also making plans in case they do.

Fire season isn't over yet, of course, and the now largely contained Kincade fire did incinerate the historic Soda Rock Winery, although most vineyards sustained no damage and lost no production. But the region has suffered a precipitous drop in fall tourism, which could undermine the economic health of its wineries and hospitality industry alike.

Bret Munselle lost about half of the young vines he had planted just two months before when a fire raged through the upper part of his ranch at Munselle Vineyards in Alexander Valley, between Healdsburg and Geyserville. The drainage below the plants was also damaged, and will probably cost $150,000 to repair, he said.

It could have been much worse if mature vineyards were more appealing to fire. Water-rich vines and grapes planted in plowed rows don't offer them much fuel, he said.

"My family has lived on this property for 130 years," Munselle said. "We've never seen it burn from the tops of mountains to the valley floor."

Climate change is making summers warmer and drying out more forest brush, creating greater fuel reservoirs for wildfire, said Noah Diffenbaugh, a professor of earth system science at Stanford. The late-autumn rains that typically end fire season have started later in recent years, he said, although it's not yet clear whether that's also climate-related.

Oddly enough, those same effects can help protect the grape crop by accelerating ripening of the fruit and reducing the chance that unexpectedly early rains might damage it.

Wine researchers have suggested vineyards might need to adjust harvest times, evaluate what they plant, even possibly move to cooler areas over time.

Few grape growers are dramatically changing their practices yet. No one is talking about closing up shop or moving elsewhere. But winemakers are tinkering anyway — and everyone is buying backup generators.

Clay Mauritson of Mauritson Wines said he and his family are experimenting with different pruning methods to increase shade on the plants, although they don't see any need to shift to new growing areas.

"We don't want to be too dramatic or reactionary," he said. "We are going to take baby steps to make sure we're prepared for what comes down."

Tourism, which is usually booming amid the fall colors and mild temperatures, has taken a serious blow. Evacuations of nearby Healdsburg and Windsor, along with planned blackouts by the region's utility, PG&E — plus, the widespread misperception that the vineyards themselves burned — led to a rash of cancellations for hotel, restaurant and tasting-room reservations.

Joe Bartolomei, owner of the upscale boutique hotel Farmhouse Inn in Forestville, said he would normally be sold out this time of year. But on Nov. 1, his inn had only two of 25 rooms filled. He's trying to get the message out that the county businesses are intact and open for visitors.

But, he said, "it's going to be a slow, gradual education."

Visitor numbers had just started recovering from a similar drop-off following the 2017 fires, said Sonoma County Tourism president Clauda Vecchio.

So the tourism bureau now plans to promote wine country as a spring destination rather than fall, and is devoting the bulk of its $750,000 advertising budget to that end. That means convincing visitors to come celebrate "bud break," when green shoots make the vineyards colorful, rather than the harvest itself.

But to boost tourism numbers to a level she'd like, Vecchio says she would really need roughly ten times the budget.

The good news, Diffenbaugh said, is that people have a long history of figuring out how to thrive in all kinds of environments.

"Humans are really good at dealing with a variety of different conditions," he said. "What climate change is doing is changing which conditions occur where."


Over 100,000 greet Japan's emperor at enthronement parade

Japanese Emperor Naruhito, left, and Empress Masako, right, wave during the royal motorcade in Tokyo, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

Japanese well-wishers hold Japanese national flag at the Imperial Palace before the royal parade of Japanese Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako in Tokyo, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

By MARI YAMAGUCHI

TOKYO (AP) — Japan's Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako waved and smiled from an open car in a parade Sunday marking Naruhito's enthronement as more than 100,000 delighted well-wishers cheered, waved small flags and took photos from packed sidewalks.

Security was extremely tight, with police setting up 40 checkpoints leading to the parade area. Selfie sticks, bottles and banners — and even shouting — were not allowed inside the restricted zone. Residents in high-rise apartment buildings along the road were advised not to look down from their windows or balconies.

Naruhito succeeded his father, Akihito, on May 1 following his abdication, and formally ascended the Chrysanthemum Throne in a palace ceremony last month. He's pledged to follow his father's example to fulfill his responsibilities as a state symbol, stick with pacifism and stay close to the people. Under Japan's postwar constitution, the emperor has no political power and is limited to ceremonial roles.

Sunday's parade started from the Imperial Palace, with the Kimigayo national anthem played by a marching band.

Naruhito, wearing a tail coat decorated with medals and carrying a brimmed hat, and Masako, in an off-white long dress and a tiara, waved from a Toyota Century convertible. The car was decorated with the Chrysanthemum emblems and the emperor's flag during the half-hour motorcade on the 4.6-kilometer (3-mile) route from the palace to the Akasaka imperial residence in the soft afternoon sun.

Naruhito, sitting on the right side on the slightly raised backseat, constantly turned his head to the right and left, responding to the people cheering from the opposite side of the street as the motorcade slowly moved at a jogger's speed, led by a fleet of police motorbikes.

The parade was postponed from its original October date due to a typhoon that left more than 90 people dead and tens of thousands of homes flooded or damaged.

An estimated 119,000 people came to watch the parade Sunday, local media reported.

The parade wraps up Naruhito's official succession events, though he'll perform a highly religious imperial rite later this week. Some experts say the government's funding of the Shinto harvest ritual could violate constitutional separation of state and religion.

Thousands of people had lined up at checkpoints hours before the parade, trying to secure their place to get the best possible view of the royal couple.

Takahiro Suzuki, a 75-year-old retiree who traveled from Chigasaki, west of Tokyo, arrived two hours ahead of the parade, but said it was worth it.

"The sky is so blue and this is a great day for taking photos, as if it's the heaven's blessing for (the emperor)," said Suzuki, an amateur photographer.

He said he admired the former emperor and wants to see Naruhito continue his father's work.

"I hope he will continue to stick with peace, as his father did," Suzuki said, but added that Japan should think seriously about the stability of the monarchy as it faces a shortage of eligible successors. Conservatives insist on the male-only succession, but Suzuki says he wouldn't mind a female monarch.

The parade was the first since Naruhito and Masako's marriage in June 1993, just three years after their parents celebrated their enthronement in a Rolls Royce.

Naruhito and Masako have been warmly welcomed by the public. Many Japanese were especially impressed by the couple freely conversing with President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump during their visit weeks after Naruhito's succession in May, according to palace watchers.

There are expectations that Naruhito — who is Japan's first emperor with a college degree and who studied abroad — and his Harvard-educated wife will internationalize the imperial household.

Naruhito, who studied at Oxford, is a historian, a viola player and an expert on water transport. Masako, a former diplomat, has struggled for more than a decade and had largely withdrawn from public appearances until recently. She developed "adjustment disorder" after giving birth to the couple's only child, Princess Aiko, and facing pressure to produce a boy in Japan's monarchy.

Despite concerns about her health and skepticism over her ability to fulfill even part of the hugely popular former Empress Michiko's work, Masako has been seen in good health and in smiles as she attended most of her duties recently.

Opinion polls show public support and a sense of friendliness to the royal family have increased over the past three decades, owing largely to Naruhito's parents' effort to bring what used to be an aloof palace closer to the people.


Queen, politicians out in force as UK remembers its war dead

 

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, right, and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, attend the Remembrance Sunday ceremony at the Cenotaph in Whitehall in London, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019. Remembrance Sunday is held each year to commemorate the service men and women who fought in past military conflicts. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

Military veterans arrive for the Remembrance Sunday ceremony at the Cenotaph in Whitehall in London, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019. Remembrance Sunday is held each year to commemorate the service men and women who fought in past military conflicts. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

By JILL LAWLESS

LONDON (AP) — Queen Elizabeth II joined Britons in remembering their war dead, as the country's political leaders paused campaigning for the Dec. 122 election to take part in a somber Remembrance Sunday service in London.

The queen, dressed in black, watched from a balcony as her son and heir Prince Charles laid a wreath of scarlet poppies on the Cenotaph war memorial near Parliament.

The 93-year-old monarch, who served as an army mechanic during World War II, performed the wreath-laying for most of her 67-year reign, but has cut back on her public duties. An aide laid a wreath on behalf of the queen's 98-year-old husband Prince Philip, who has retired from public engagements.

The ceremony takes place every year on the nearest Sunday to the anniversary of the end of World War I at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1918.

Thousands of military personnel, veterans and members of the public gathered in the streets around the Cenotaph to honor those killed in that war and subsequent conflicts.

As Parliament's Big Ben bell sounded at 11 a.m., the crowd fell silent for a two-minute pause. The silence was broken by a single artillery blast and Royal Marines buglers sounding "The Last Post."

A military band played as royals, politicians, leaders from many religious faiths and diplomats from the Commonwealth of former British colonies laid wreaths on the Portland stone monument, erected after World War I and inscribed with the words "the glorious dead."

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and other political leaders took time out from campaigning to join the ceremony on a cold, sunny autumn morning.

But the politicians did not entirely steer clear of partisan point-scoring. In a Remembrance Sunday message, Johnson said the Conservative government had established an Office for Veteran Affairs "as a sign of my commitment to those who have served."

In his own message, Corbyn claimed that service personnel "have faced pay cuts, service accommodation left in disrepair, and are worried their children are left without the support that they need."

After the formal wreath-laying, thousands of veterans, war widows and their families marched past the monument to the sound of a military band, applauded by well-wishers lining the sidewalks. Almost everyone wore a red paper poppy — the official symbol of remembrance — on their lapel.

Similar ceremonies were held in dozens of towns and cities across Britain and at British military bases overseas.


Over 100,000 celebrate 30 years since fall of Berlin Wall

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier is seen on giant video screens as he delivers a speech in front of the Brandenburg Gate as part of stage presentations to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall in Berlin, Germany, Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

BERLIN (AP) — Police and organizers say more than 100,000 people took part in an open-air party celebrating the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Despite the cold and damp, crowds flocked to Berlin's Brandenburg Gate late Saturday for music and fireworks.

The boulevard leading up to the Brandenburg Gate was covered with a giant rainbow-colored net made of 100,000 streamers, many with messages of love and peace, created by American artist Patrick Shearn.

Elsewhere in the city, images and video of the events around the Nov. 9, 1989 fall of the wall were projected onto buildings.

In the once-divided town of Moedlareuth, auto enthusiasts re-enacted the moment when East Germans first cross the border in their modest 'Trabi' cars to the cheers of welcoming West Germans.


650 seats, 46 million voters: The UK election in numbers

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits an optician shop after flooding, in Matlock, north England, Friday Nov. 8, 2019. A woman died after being swept away by surging waters as torrential rain drenched parts of north and central England, swelling rivers, forcing evacuations and disrupting travel for a second day Friday.(Danny Lawson/PA via AP)

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner during a visit to the Scrap Creative Reuse Arts Project while on the General Election campaign trail in Leeds, England, Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019. British political leaders are swapping blame over floods that have drenched parts of England as the deluge becomes an issue in the campaign for the Dec. 12 election. (Nigel Roddis/PA via AP)

Britain's Liberal Democrats leader Jo Swinson makes a speech at a rally at the Battersea Arts Centre in Lavender Hill, while on the General Election campaign trail in London, Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019. Britain goes to the polls on Dec. 12. (Aaron Chown/PA via AP)

By JILL LAWLESS

LONDON (AP) — There's just over a month to go until Britain's Dec. 12 election, and the country's political parties are battling over funding promises, policy priorities and Brexit plans.

Here is a look at some key numbers in an election that could determine not only who governs Britain, but when, how — or even whether — the country leaves the European Union:

46 million: The number of eligible voters in the U.K.

650: The number of seats in the House of Commons, all up for grabs in the election. Any party that wins a majority — or becomes the largest party, even without a majority — can form a government, with its leader as prime minister.

298: The number of seats held before the election by Prime Minister Boris Johnson's ruling Conservatives — more than 20 short of a majority. The government's lack of a majority meant it struggled to pass key measures needed for Britain to leave the European Union.

243: The number of seats held by the left-of-center opposition Labour Party, which is battling to return to office for the first time since 2010. Labour plans to downplay Brexit and focus on health care, education and social welfare, which all saw funding cuts under Conservative governments.

96: The number of years since Britain last had a December election. British elections are usually held in the late spring, when the weather is better and the days are longer.

82: The number of days until Britain is due to leave the EU. Brexit day was supposed to be Oct. 31, but with Britain's politicians deadlocked, the EU granted a three-month delay until Jan. 31.

72: The number of lawmakers not running for re-election amid Britain's toxic political atmosphere. Politicians on both sides of the Brexit argument have received abuse and threats. Those leaving include many moderate pro-EU Conservatives, Labour legislators who say their party has not stamped out anti-Semitism and high-profile female legislators, who have received a disproportionate amount of abuse.

42.8%: The portion of political parties' campaign spending that went to digital advertising during the last election in 2017 — up from just 0.3% in 2011. It's expected to be even more this time.

35: The number of seats in Parliament held by the Scottish National Party, which opposes Brexit and wants Scotland to leave the U.K. and become an independent country.

20: The number of seats held in Parliament by the pro-EU Liberal Democrats, who want to cancel Brexit altogether.

19.5 million pounds ($25 million): The maximum a party can spend on advertising, campaigning costs and other expenses if it contests all 650 constituencies across the U.K. The spending limit is calculated at 30,000 pounds ($38,650) per seat.

9: The number of years the Conservative Party has been in power.

3: Number of televised debates that Johnson and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn have agreed to take part in. The Liberal Democrats are angry that their leader, Jo Swinson, has only been invited to one of them.

0: The number of seats in Parliament now held by the recently formed Brexit Party, which wants to leave the EU without a divorce deal. The party, led by Nigel Farage, plans to run hundreds of candidates in the Dec. 12 election.


Hong Kong protesters blame police after student dies in fall

A protester holds up a photo of Chow Tsz-Lok as they disrupt a graduation ceremony at the University of Science and Technology in Hong Kong on Friday, Nov. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

By EILEEN NG

HONG KONG (AP) — A Hong Kong university student who fell off a parking garage after police fired tear gas during clashes with anti-government protesters died Friday in a rare fatality after five months of unrest, fueling more outrage against authorities in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.

The Hospital Authority said the 22-year-old died Friday morning, but didn't provide further details.

Some 1,000 masked protesters marched through the busy central district at lunchtime, chanting "Disband the police force," ''Hong Kong people, revenge" and "A blood debt must be paid in blood." Some carried white flowers and placards that read "Hong Kong is a police state."

Protesters demanded justice for Chow Tsz-Lok and hurled abuse at several police officials on site, calling them "murderers."

"His death is a reminder to us that we cannot give up," one protester said on local television.

Although the cause of his fall has not been determined, it deepened anger against police, who have been accused of heavy-handed tactics including widespread use of tear gas and pepper spray since protests demanding democratic reforms started in June.

Local media reported that Chow has been in a coma with brain injury since he was found early Monday sprawled in a pool of blood on the second floor of the building. Police believed he plunged from an upper floor but it wasn't captured by security cameras.

Minutes earlier, television footage showed riot police firing tear gas at the building after objects were hurled down at the officers in the street when they chased off a mob. Police didn't rule out the possibility he was fleeing from tear gas but noted officers fired from a distance. Police also denied claims that officers pushed the victim down and had delayed emergency services.

The government expressed "great sorrow and regret" over Chow's death despite undergoing surgery and treatment.

"The police have stated earlier that they attach great importance to the incident and the crime unit is now conducting a comprehensive investigation with a view to finding out what happened," it said in a statement.

There have been only few fatalities amid the unrest, with previous reports of deaths by suicide and a man who fell to his death while hanging pro-democracy banners on a building. Last month, two teens were injured after police fired their guns in self-defense in separate incidents but both recovered.

Prominent youth activist Joshua Wong said Chow's death made protesters' demands for an investigation into police conduct more crucial than ever.

"Reforming the Hong Kong police force has become a big demand in the society. Obviously, the Hong Kong police force has to be accountable for Chow's death," he told reporters outside a court. Wong was charged in August with organizing an illegal rally.

At the University of Science and Technology, Chow's schoolmates staged rallies this week and on Thursday disrupted a graduation ceremony. The university president dabbed away tears as he announced Chow's "tragic" death Friday on the second day of the convocation, with the audience standing to observe a moment of silence.

The ceremony was cut short, and black-clad masked students turned the stage into a memorial for Chow. White flowers were laid below the stage as students announced plans to boycott class for a week and demanded the truth in Chow's death.

The student union said they would hold another vigil in the evening while the university urged students to stay calm to "avoid further clashes and tragedy."

Calls also emerged online for other memorial events Friday to mourn Chow in multiple locations including at the suburban garage where he fell. Protesters have been urged to dress in all black and wear masks to remember Chow. More rallies can be expected over the weekend.

The protests were sparked by a now-shelved extradition bill to mainland China that many sees as Beijing's creeping interference on legal and other rights guaranteed to Hong Kong when the former British colony returned under Chinese rule in 1997. The movement has since expanded to include other demands, including direct elections for the city's leaders.

The city's embattled leader Carrie Lam has refused to budge and provoked more anger last month by invoking emergency powers to ban the wearing of facial coverings at rallies. More than 3,300 people have been arrested and Beijing has indicated it may tighten its grip to quell the unrest.
 


Thailand set to hinder Cambodian opposition's return plans

Cambodia's ambassador to Indonesia Hor Nambora, left, interrupts the press conference held by Mu Sochua, right, Vice President of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) and Executive Director Kurawal Foundation Darnawan Triwibowo, center, in Jakarta Indonesia, Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)

By GRANT PECK and PREEYAPA T. KHUNSONG Associated Press

BANGKOK (AP) — Plans by self-exiled leaders of Cambodia's banned opposition party to return to their homeland hit a major roadblock Wednesday when Thailand's prime minister said their top leader would not be allowed in to make his way through the country to the Cambodian border.

Leaders of the Cambodia National Rescue Party have vowed to return home on Saturday despite efforts by their government to thwart them. They are led by party co-founder Sam Rainsy, who has been in exile since 2015 to avoid serving a prison term on charges that he says are politically motivated.

The opposition politicians had said they hoped to return accompanied by a mass of followers, including from the huge community of Cambodian migrant workers in Thailand. They say they seek to spark a popular movement to oust long-serving Prime Minister Hun Sen, an autocratic leader who has clamped down on his opponents and demolished democracy.

Sam Rainsy said that he was shocked and disappointed by Thailand's position, but that he would still try to carry out the plan to return.

"I don't give up. I will try to the last minute. I think no one should stand with Hun Sen — he is a dictator," the 70-year-old politician, who maintains dual Cambodian and French citizenship, told The Associated Press by phone from Paris.

Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha told reporters that in keeping with the agreement of member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, not to interfere in each other's domestic affairs, he has given an order that no resistance organization will be allowed to operate on Thai territory.

"So, he won't be able to enter Thailand," Prayuth said, referring to Sam Rainsy.

The Cambodia National Rescue Party was dissolved by court order in late 2017, allowing Hun Sen's ruling Cambodian People's Party to sweep a 2018 general election. Cambodian courts are widely considered to be under the influence of the government, which employs the law to harass its opponents.

Hun Sen's government has barred the opposition politicians' return, alerting airlines that they would be turned back, and also conveyed its position to neighboring countries. Cambodian security forces have been put on high alert and scores of opposition supporters have been detained.

Officials have repeatedly warned that if the opposition leaders did make it into Cambodia, they would immediately be arrested. Most if not all have convictions or charges pending against them, including inciting armed rebellion despite their avowedly nonviolent intentions.

Cambodia's ambassador to Indonesia on Wednesday had a face-to-face confrontation with a top opposition politician who was holding a news conference at a hotel in Jakarta, Indonesia's capital, to explain the returnees' plans.

Ambassador Hor Nambora barged into the news conference and spoke in front of the assembled journalists as Cambodia National Rescue Party vice president Mu Sochua sat waiting to speak. The envoy described the opposition politicians as fugitives and criminals, and accused Mu Sochua of trying to mislead Indonesian immigration authorities into thinking she was only a tourist by using her American passport. She holds dual Cambodian and U.S. citizenship.

Hor Nambora did not further disturb the proceedings, though he paced at the front of the conference room as Mu Sochua spoke. As he left, he apologized to journalists for any disruption, but reiterated that Cambodian courts had ruled against the opposition politicians.

"We are risking our lives, we will go to Cambodia empty-handed with bare hands," Mu Sochua told the news conference, which was also attended by Indonesian activists. "Returning home for democracy in Cambodia, it's not a revolution, it's not a coup d'etat."

"We have asked neighboring countries to permit us safe passage to Cambodia and to have free movement when we are in Cambodia," she said. "We have been asking governments all around the world to witness our return to our nation, our homeland, with good intentions and totally transparent."

After the news conference, the Cambodian Embassy in Jakarta issued a press release saying that Mu Sochua was a fugitive from the law because a Cambodian court on Oct. 2 had issued an arrest warrant against her for her allegedly seeking to overthrow a legally elected government.

"It is unfortunate that Indonesia, a fellow member state of ASEAN, allows Ms. Mu Sochua to enter in Indonesia despite of her arrest warrant and conduct anti Cambodian activities in Jakarta," it said.

The statement said the embassy "requests Indonesian authorities to arrest Ms. Mu Sochua and deport her to Cambodia immediately in the true spirit of ASEAN."

It also mentioned that Malaysia, another ASEAN member, had stopped and detained two youth activists with the Cambodia National Rescue Party as they sought to board a flight to Thailand.

The decision of Thailand to bar entry to Sam Rainsy was foreshadowed late last month when immigration officials turned Mu Sochua back on arrival at Bangkok's international airport, saying she was on a blacklist.

The embassy statement described that action as being "in true ASEAN spirit."


US official says Moon-Abe meeting was 'encouraging sign'

David Stilwell, left, U.S. assistant secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, and his South Korean counterpart Cho Sei-young pose for photos during their meeting at the Foreign Ministry in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019. (Heo Ran/Pool Photo via AP)

By KIM TONG-HYUNG Associated Press

SEOUL, South Korea (AP)) — A senior U.S. official said Wednesday an unexpected meeting this week between the leaders of South Korea and Japan was an "encouraging sign" that the Asian U.S. allies are on track to improve a relationship strained by deep disagreements over trade and history.

David Stilwell, U.S. assistant secretary of state for East Asia and the Pacific, spoke while visiting South Korea weeks before the expiration of a military intelligence-sharing agreement between Seoul and Tokyo. The Trump administration been pressuring its allies to keep the deal, which symbolizes the countries' trilateral security cooperation with Washington in face of the North Korean nuclear threat and China's growing influence.

On Monday, South Korean President Moon Jae-in initiated an 11-minute meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the sidelines of a regional forum in Thailand, the latest step taken by Seoul to deescalate the feud with the deadline on the military agreement approaching.

"President Moon and Prime Minister Abe had the opportunity to talk and that's an encouraging sign as we watched the relationship improve," Stilwell told reporters after a meeting with South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha.

Seoul's Foreign Ministry said in a statement that during her talks with Stilwell and Keith Krach, U.S. undersecretary of state for economic growth, energy and the environment, Kang explained South Korean efforts to find "rational solutions" through dialogue over the issues with Japan.

Stilwell also met with Kim Hyun-chong, deputy chief of South Korea's presidential National Security Office, and they had "constructive and future-oriented" talks over the Seoul-Tokyo military pact and ongoing negotiations between Washington and Seoul on sharing the costs for keeping U.S. troops in South Korea, the presidential Blue House said. South Korean and U.S. officials didn't share the specifics of their discussions.

In recent months, Seoul and Tokyo have seen their relations sink to a low unseen in decades.

Japan has denounced South Korean court rulings calling for Japanese companies to offer reparations to aging South Korean plaintiffs for their World War II forced labor, insisting that all compensation matters were settled when the two countries normalized relations under a 1965 treaty.

South Korea accused Tokyo of ignoring the suffering of South Koreans under Japan's brutal colonial rule of Korea from 1910 to 1945 and furiously reacted to Japanese moves to tighten controls on key technology exports to the country and downgrade its trade status..

The dispute spilled over to security issues, with Seoul saying it plans to terminate the military agreement with Tokyo. Following an angry reaction from the Trump administration, Seoul said it could reconsider its decision to end the military agreement if Japan relists South Korea as a favored trade partner. The pact will expire in late November.

Monday's meeting between Moon and Abe was their first since they held a summit on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in September 2018..


Standing tall: Scientists find oldest example of upright ape

A man holds bones of the previously unknown primate species Danuvius guggenmosi in his hand in Tuebingen, Oct.17, 2019. Palaeontologists have discovered fossils in southern Germany that shed new light on the development of the upright corridor. (AP Photo/Christoph Jaeckle)

By FRANK JORDANS

BERLIN (AP) — The remains of an ancient ape found in a Bavarian clay pit suggest that humans' ancestors began standing upright millions of years earlier than previously thought, scientists said Wednesday.

An international team of researchers says the fossilized partial skeleton of a male ape that lived almost 12 million years ago in the humid forests of what is now southern Germany bears a striking resemblance to modern human bones. In a paper published by the journal Nature, they concluded that the previously unknown species — named Danuvius guggenmosi — could walk on two legs but also climb like an ape.

The findings "raise fundamental questions about our previous understanding of the evolution of the great apes and humans," said Madelaine Boehme of the University of Tuebingen, Germany, who led the research.

The question of when apes evolved bipedal motion has fascinated scientists since Charles Darwin first argued that they were the ancestors of humans. Previous fossil records of apes with an upright gait — found in Crete and Kenya — dated only as far back as 6 million years ago.

Boehme, along with researchers from Bulgaria, Germany, Canada and the United States, examined more than 15,000 bones recovered from a trove of archaeological remains known as the Hammerschmiede, or Hammer Smithy, about 70 kilometers (44 miles) west of the Germany city of Munich.

Among the remains they were able to piece together were primate fossils belonging to four individuals that lived 11.62 million years ago. The most complete, an adult male, likely stood about 1 meter (3 feet, 4 inches) tall, weighed 31 kilograms (68 pounds) and looked similar to modern-day bonobos, a species of chimpanzee.

"It was astonishing for us to realize how similar certain bones are to humans, as opposed to great apes," Boehme said.

Thanks to several well-preserved vertebra, limb, finger and toe bones, the scientists were able to reconstruct how Danuvius moved, concluding that while it would have been able to hang from branches by his arms, it could also straighten its legs to walk upright.

"This changes our view of early human evolution, which is that it all happened in Africa," Boehme told The Associated Press in an interview.

Like humans, Danuvius had an S-shaped spine to hold its body upright while standing. Unlike humans, though, it had a powerful, opposable big toe that would have allowed it to grab branches with its foot and safely walk through the treetops.

Fred Spoor, a paleontologist at the Natural History Museum in London, called the fossil finds "fantastic" but said they would likely be the subject of much debate, not least because they could challenge many existing ideas about evolution.

"I can see that there will be a lot of agonizing and re-analysis of what these fossils mean," said Spoor, who wasn't involved in the study..


A CGI James Dean is cast in new film, sparking an outcry

This May 27, 2005 file photo shows plants and flowers at the grave of actor James Dean in Fairmount, Ind. Dean hasn’t been alive in 64 years, but the “Rebel Without a Cause” actor has been cast in a new film about the Vietnam War. The filmmakers behind the independent film “Finding Jack” said Wednesday that a computer-generated Dean will play a co-starring role in the upcoming production. The digital Dean is to be assembled through old footage and photos and voiced by another actor. (AP Photo/John Harrell, File)

By JAKE COYLEE

NEW YORK (AP) — James Dean hasn't been alive in 64 years, but the "Rebel Without a Cause" actor has been cast in a new film about the Vietnam War.

The filmmakers behind the independent film "Finding Jack" said Wednesday that a computer-generated Dean will play a co-starring role in the upcoming production. The digital Dean is to be assembled through old footage and photos and voiced by another actor.

Digitally manipulated posthumous performances have made some inroads into films. But those have been largely roles the actors already played, including Carrie Fisher and Peter Cushing, who first appeared together in "Star Wars" and were prominently featured in the 2016 spinoff "Rogue One."

But the prospect of one of the movies' most beloved former stars being digitally resurrected was met with widespread criticism after the news was first reported by The Hollywood Reporter . Chris Evans, the "Captain America" actor, was among those who called the plans disrespectful and wrongheaded..

"Maybe we can get a computer to paint us a new Picasso. Or write a couple new John Lennon tunes," said Evans on Twitter. "The complete lack of understanding here is shameful."

Rights to Dean's likeness were acquired by the filmmakers and the production company Magic City Films through CMG Worldwide. The company represents Dean's family along with the intellectual property rights associated with many other deceased personalities including Neil Armstrong, Bette Davis and Burt Reynolds.

Mark Roesler, chairman and chief executive of CMG, defended the usage of Dean and said the company has represented his family for decades. Noting that Dean has more than 183,000 followers on Instagram, Roesler said he still resonates today.

"James Dean was known as Hollywood's 'rebel' and he famously said 'if a man can bridge the gap between life and death, if he can live after he's died, then maybe he was a great man. Immortality is the only true success,'" said Roesler. "What was considered rebellious in the '50s is very different than what is rebellious today, and we feel confident that he would support this modern day act of rebellion."

Adapted from Gareth Crocker's novel, "Finding Jack" is a live-action movie about the U.S. military's abandonment of canine units following the Vietnam War. Directors Anton Ernst and Tati Golykh are to begin shooting Nov. 17. In an email, Ernst said they "tremendously" respect Dean's legacy.

"The movie subject matter is one of hope and love, and he is still relevant like the theme of the film we are portraying," said Ernst. "There is still a lot of James Dean fans worldwide who would love to see their favorite icon back on screen. There would always be critics, and all we can do is tell a great story with humanity and grace."

Dean had just three leading roles before he died in a car crash in 1955 at the age of 24: "Rebel Without a Cause," ''East of Eden" and "Giant.";


Moon, Abe meet briefly, agree to more talks to settle row

In this photo provided by South Korea Presidential Blue House, South Korean President Moon Jae-in, center right, talks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, center left, ahead of the ASEAN+3 Summit in Nonthaburi, Thailand, Monday, Nov. 4, 2019. (South Korea Presidential Blue House via AP)

By KIM TONG-HYUNG Associated Press

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met one-on-one Monday for the first time in more than a year and called for more dialogue between the countries to settle a deep dispute over trade and history.

Seoul's presidential Blue House said Moon talked with Abe for 11 minutes on the sidelines of a regional summit in Thailand where they "agreed to the importance of South Korea-Japan relations and reaffirmed the principle of resolving pending bilateral issues through dialogue.";

Moon proposed high-level talks and Abe in response said the countries should exhaust "every possible method" to settle the dispute, Blue House spokeswoman Ko Min-jung said.

"It was the first meeting between the leaders in a very long time, so we hope that the dialogue would pave way (for an improvement) in South Korea-Japan relations," Ko said at a news briefing.

The two U.S. allies in past months have seen their relations sink to a low unseen in decades.

Japan has denounced South Korean court rulings calling for Japanese companies to offer reparations to aging South Korean plaintiffs for their World War II forced labor, insisting that all compensation matters were settled when the two countries normalized relations under a 1965 treaty.

South Korea accused Tokyo of ignoring the suffering of South Koreans under Japan's brutal colonial rule of Korea from 1910 to 1945 and furiously reacted to Japanese moves to tighten controls on key technology exports to the country and downgrade its trade status.

Ko avoided a specific answer when asked whether the leaders were able to narrow their differences over wartime history. Japanese broadcaster NHK said that during his meeting with Moon, Abe repeated Tokyo's stance that Seoul abide by the 1965 agreement regarding the issue of compensating forced laborers.

The dispute has spilled over to security issues, with Seoul saying it plans to terminate a military intelligence-sharing pact with Tokyo that symbolized their three-way security cooperation with Washington in face of the North Korean nuclear threat and China's growing regional influence.

Following an angry reaction from the Trump administration, Seoul said it could reconsider its decision to end the military agreement if Japan relists South Korea as a favored trade partner. The pact, known as the general security of military information agreement, or GSOMIA, will expire in late November.

Monday's meeting between Moon and Abe was their first since they held a summit on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in September 2018. Abe passed up a chance for a meeting when Moon visited Osaka, Japan, for the Group of 20 events in June, weeks before his government announced strengthened export controls on certain chemicals South Korean companies use to produce computer chips and smartphone displays.

In recent weeks, South Korea has taken steps to de-escalate the feud, apparently because the deadline is approaching on the military agreement. Moon sent Prime Minster Lee Nak-yon, Seoul's No. 2, to Tokyo last month to attend Emperor Naruhito's enthronement ceremonies and propose more diplomatic efforts between the countries.


UN chief urges Myanmar to resolve Rohingya crisis

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks during a press conference at The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Nonthaburi, Thailand, Sunday, Nov. 3, 2019. (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)

By PREEYAPA T. KHUNSONG and GRANT PECK Associated Press

NONTHABURI, Thailand (AP) — U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed concern Sunday over the plight of the 730,000 Muslim Rohingya refugees from Myanmar's Rakhine state, calling on Myanmar's government to take responsibility by dealing with the "root causes" of their flight to Bangladesh and working toward their safe repatriation.

Guterres spoke as he held a meeting with leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, to which Myanmar belongs. ASEAN leaders meet annually to try to work out common positions on pressing issues, but also maintain a policy of noninterference in each other's affairs.

The ASEAN ministers' chairman statement, released by host Thailand summarizing the consensus positions of the group, accentuated the positive in suggesting how to deal with the Rakhine crisis, without directly acknowledging the major problems of Bangladesh hosting such a vast number of refugees and the hurdles in sending them home.

The statement pointed out the various agreements already agreed upon involving repatriation while reiterating "the need to find a comprehensive and durable solution to address the root causes of the conflict and to create a conducive environment so that the affected communities can rebuild their lives."t;

Its words partially echoed those of Guterres, who earlier said he remains "deeply concerned about the situation in Myanmar, including Rakhine state, and the plight of the massive number of refugees still living increasingly in difficult conditions."

"It remains, of course, Myanmar's responsibility to address the root causes and ensure a conducive environment for the safe, voluntary, dignified and sustainable repatriation of refugees to Rakhine state, in accordance with international norms and standards," he said.

Guterres said Myanmar should take measures "to facilitate dialogue with refugees and pursue confidence building measures" and "to ensure humanitarian actors have full and unfettered access to areas of return, as well as communities in need."

ASEAN members' attitudes toward the Rakhine crisis vary. While most of the group's 10 countries are content to honor the organization's principle of noninterference in each other's affairs, Malaysia and Indonesia, which have Muslim-majority populations, would prefer ASEAN take a more proactive position in ensuring just treatment of the Rohingya. ASEAN's active involvement is mostly limited to helping with humanitarian aid.

The Rohingya fled to Bangladesh after Myanmar's military began a harsh counterinsurgency campaign against them in August 2017 in response to an attack by a fringe group of Rohingya militants.

U.N. investigators and human rights groups say Myanmar security forces carried out mass rapes, killings and burning of Rohingya homes, for which they could be charged with ethnic cleansing, or even genocide.

In September, a special U.N. fact-finding mission urged that Myanmar be held responsible in international legal forums for alleged genocide against its Muslim Rohingya minority.

The ASEAN chairman's statement said the regional group expects an investigative commission established by Myanmar's government to carry out "an independent and impartial investigation into alleged human rights violations and related issues." U.N. experts and independent human rights groups dismiss the possibility that the commission could conduct a fair investigation, noting that some members are considered to be biased in favor of the military.

The Rohingya have been harshly discriminated against, even though many have been settled in Myanmar for generations. Many in Myanmar consider them illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, and they have largely been denied citizenship and most of its privileges.

Myanmar refuses to call the Rohingya by their self-chosen name, and instead refers to them as Bengalis. Guterres in his statement avoided using either term, though the details and context made clear he was talking about the Rohingya.

Although Myanmar and Bangladesh have a formal agreement to repatriate the refugees, none have officially returned, fearing for their safety. Rights groups say Myanmar has neither made adequate arrangements for their return nor set up a process ensuring they will have full civil rights.

Guterres also spoke about the urgent need for measures to cope with climate change, a subject that has become his priority.


Cambodian opposition chief readies return from exile

In this Nov. 4, 2019, photo, Cambodian opposition politician Sam Rainsy speaks during an interview in front of the European Parliament in Brussels. Rainsy, co-founder of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, told The Associated Press he hopes his planned return Saturday will trigger a People's Power-style movement to force Prime Minister Hun Sen from office. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)

By BISHR ELTOUNI and JERRY HARMER

BRUSSELS (AP) — Cambodia's most prominent opposition politician says he's ready to risk imprisonment or death by returning to his country from self-imposed exile to unseat the country's longtime ruler.

Sam Rainsy, co-founder of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, told The Associated Press that he hopes his planned return on Saturday will trigger a nonviolent People's Power-style mass movement to force Prime Minister Hun Sen from office.

"I expect to bring about a democratic change, meaning to put an end to the current regime, which is a brutal dictatorship," he said in an interview Monday in Brussels, where he was seeking support from European Parliament lawmakers.s.

He said he plans to jet back to Asia from Brussels and prepare to cross into Cambodia from a neighboring country on Saturday, which is Cambodia's Independence Day.

The plan is fraught with jeopardy. If he should succeed in entering his country, prison is a near certainty for him. According to the Justice Ministry, Sam Rainsy has convictions on six offenses — including the criminal libel charge that caused him to go into exile in 2015 to avoid serving a two-year prison sentence — and at least eight other cases are pending. He and several colleagues face charges of armed rebellion for their return plan, which could earn them prison terms of 15-30 years.

In 1997, Sam Rainsy survived an assassination attempt when grenades were tossed at a small rally he was leading in the center of Phnom Penh, Cambodia's capital. At least 16 people were killed and scores were wounded.

"We have to take the risk. I have assessed those risks and they are worth taking, worth taking because the Cambodian people have been suffering for a long time, so we have to try to put an end to the sufferings," he said.

Sam Rainsy's party was touted as posing a threat to Hun Sen's ruling Cambodian People's Party in last year's general election, but it was dissolved ahead of the polls by the courts, which are viewed as doing the government's bidding. In the 2013 election, his party won almost half the seats in the National Assembly. Huge crowds came out in support when he claimed fraud had robbed his party of victory.

The same late 2017 crackdown that shut down his party and resulted in its lawmakers tossed out of Parliament also closed virtually all critical media outlets and saw the opposition party's co-founder, Kem Sokha, arrested on a charge of treason for having links with an American democracy promotion organization. Other leading party members fled the country.

Hun Sen has maintained his position of prime minister for almost 35 years with a mix of wile and ruthlessness, and has publicly stated his intention to stay in office for two more five-year terms. Sam Rainsy has been a thorn in his sides for decades.

Hun Sen is taking no chances with his arch-enemy's intended return, keeping up a drumbeat of invectives and threats. Local media have reported the strengthening of military forces at Cambodia's borders, showing photos of marching troops.

Even if Sam Rainsy does manage to return, there are questions about whether he could lead a popular uprising.

Hun Sen biographer Sebastian Strangio says while there is a desire for change, people have learned from bitter experience not to challenge Hun Sen and his Cambodian People's Party, or CPP.

"I think the threat to the CPP is real. The question of whether the people would rise en masse at the first, as Sam Rainsy plants his foot on Cambodian soil for the first time in four years, remains much more of an open question," Strangio said.

"I think people in Cambodia know that Hun Sen has a track record of using force to shape the political realities to his liking and he will not hesitate to use force if he thinks his hold on power is threatened," he said.

But the situation might not arise. Cambodian officials have said they have told neighboring countries — all fellow members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations — that Sam Rainsy is unwelcome and should not be allowed to cross the border into Cambodia.

Last week, immigration police in Thailand deported the opposition party's vice president, Mu Sochua, when she arrived at Bangkok's international airport. She is one of several colleagues who are planning to return with Sam Rainsy, despite Cambodia's government also declaring them unwelcome.

Cambodian aviation authorities said they ordered airlines with flights into the country not to carry Sam Rainsy or his colleagues.

Nonetheless, Sam Rainsy insisted he is going ahead.

"This may be the last time you see me alive or as a free man," he said. "Because in a few days I may be dead, I may be put in jail, so while I am a free man I want to express my conviction that democracy will prevail."t;


EU's Barnier warns of tough times ahead on UK trade deal

European Union chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier rides an escalator on his way to a meeting about Brexit outside the EU headquarters in Brussels, Friday, Oct. 25, 2019. European Union ambassadors are meeting in Brussels Friday to discuss what kind of extension to the Brexit deadline they could propose to Britain. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

By RAF CASERT and BARRY HATTON

LISBON, Portugal (AP) — European Union Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier on Tuesday drew the battle lines for the upcoming free trade talks with the U.K. once it has left the bloc and warned Britain not to undercut EU standards.

Barnier said the trade talks after Britain leaves as expected on Jan. 31 might be as tough as the long-running Brexit divorce negotiations, which have consumed much of the last three years. He said whatever trade agreement emerges, it will cost U.K. businesses, since they would now be outside the 28-nation bloc.

Currently, there is seamless trade and zero tariffs under common regulations since the U.K. is part of the EU and has unfettered access to a market of almost half a billion consumers.

With its Brexit departure, the U.K. hopes to maintain as much access as possible to that wealthy market while at the same time be free to revamp its whole economy, unshackled from EU rules and regulations.

Barnier's message was clear — there is no way that will happen.

In the EU, there are fears that Britain will transform itself into a low-regulation economy that would undercut stringent EU social, environmental and other standards.

Barnier warned that "the U.K. should not think that zero tariffs, zero quotas will be enough. The EU will insist on zero tariffs, zero quotas and zero dumping."

"There will be more economic competition — OK — between the EU and the U.K., and that is normal. But the EU will not tolerate unfair competitive advantage," he warned at the Web Summit in Lisbon.

Outgoing British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has insisted he wants a "best-in-class" free trade agreement, which comes down to the  best trade deal that still allows the U.K. to diverge from EU standards, and potentially head to a U.S.-style low regulation economy.y.

The EU definition of "best" is different, Barnier said.

"For us, it means a free trade agreement whose aim is not only economic and financial profit with zero tariffs and zero quotas but which is also in the interest of the people, their environmental and living standards," he said.

Current plans call for Britain to leave the bloc on Jan. 31 and end a transitional trade period  as soon as the end of 2020. Considering that major international trade deals can often take over half a decade to clinch, that seems a precipitously short time.

Barnier told the Web Summit that by next summer, it will be clear if the Brexit trade transition period will have to be extended beyond the end of next year.


Lindsay Hoyle chosen to replace Bercow as UK Commons speaker

In this image made from video, Lindsay Hoyle, center, is dragged to the speaker's chair after being voted the new Speaker of the House of Commons, in London, Monday, Nov. 4, 2019. (House of Commons via AP)

By JILL LAWLESS Associated Press

LONDON (AP) — Long-serving Labour Party lawmaker Lindsay Hoyle was elected speaker of Britain's House of Commons on Monday, taking up the job with a clear message: I'm not John Bercow.

Hoyle was chosen by lawmakers from among seven candidates to replace the influential but contentious Bercow. Bercow retired last week after a decade as speaker that saw him become a central player in Britain's Brexit drama.

Hoyle took 325 of the 540 votes in a runoff with Labour colleague Chris Bryant after the seven-member field was winnowed down in three previous voting rounds.

After his election, Hoyle was dragged to the speaker's chair by colleagues with a show of reluctance — a tradition dating back to the days when speakers could be sentenced to death if they displeased the monarch.

He vowed to bring a change of tone and temperament to a political system that has been strained by Brexit; to restore Parliament's battered reputation and to be "neutral" and "transparent."

Hoyle remarked that lawmakers have "got to make sure that tarnish is polished away."

He said the House of Commons will change, "but it will change for the better."

Hoyle, 62, was elected to Parliament in 1997, has served as one of the three deputy speakers since 2010 and is widely popular and respected by colleagues. Like Bercow, he will run the daily business of the Commons.

With his northern English accent and blunt manner, Hoyle has a contrasting style to the verbose Bercow. And he is likely to adopt a more cautious approach than that taken by Bercow, who prided himself on making the government answer to Parliament and became a thorn in the side of the Conservative administration.

The speaker is supposed to be an impartial arbiter of Parliament's rules, but critics accused Bercow of favoring anti-Brexit politicians at the expense of those supporting Britain's departure from the European Union.

As Parliament wrangled angrily for months over Brexit, Bercow became a celebrity around the world with his garish ties, bellowed calls of "Or-derrr!" and sharp-tongued rebukes to noisy lawmakers "chuntering from a sedentary position."

Bercow denied Brexit bias, but clashed with the government, and strongly opposed Prime Minister Boris Johnson's attempt to suspend Parliament for five weeks as an Oct. 31 Brexit deadline approached. The U.K. Supreme Court overturned Johnson's shutdown.

Bercow also interpreted Parliament's rules in ways that let lawmakers direct the government's hand at key moments. One such move forced Johnson to ask the EU to delay Brexit until Jan. 31, the current deadline.

The new speaker is set to oversee months more of high-stakes debate and votes over Brexit.

Conservative lawmaker Charles Walker, who backed Hoyle, said he hoped the new speaker would bring "a period of calm and reflection."

Johnson, the prime minister, told Hoyle in the House of Commons that he was sure the new speaker would bring his "signature kindness and reasonableness to our proceedings, and thereby ... help to bring us together as a Parliament and a democracy."

Four of the speaker candidates were women — Eleanor Laing, Rosie Winterton, Harriet Harman and Meg Hillier — but the winner was a man, just like all but one of his 157 predecessors.

Betty Boothroyd, who served from 1992 to 2000, is the only female speaker in U.K. House of Commons history.

The selection of a new speaker came a day before Parliament was to be dissolved for a Dec. 12 national election in which all 650 seats in the House of Commons are up for grabs. Johnson's Conservatives are hoping to win a majority that could unblock Britain's political deadlock and let Johnson fulfill his pledge to take Britain out of the EU.

The opposition left-of-center Labour Party is trying to shift the campaign's focus from Brexit to domestic political issues such as schools, health care and Britain's social inequities.

The centrist Liberal Democrats, who want to cancel Brexit, and the single-issue Brexit Party, which favors a no-deal exit from the bloc, are battling for British voters with strong views on whether the U.K. should quit the 28-nation EU.


30 years after Berlin Wall fell, East-West divides remain

In this Nov. 11, 1989, file photo a Trabant car, made in East Germany, with a graffiti slogan 'Es lebe die Arbeiterklasse' (Shall the laboring classes live on) is pictured driving in West Berlin, Germany, two days after the boarder between the two Germanys was abolished. (AP Photo/File)

In this July 12, 1990, file photo, the body of scrapped and stripped Trabant car sit on top of a bulky garbage container at a residential area in former East Berlin, Germany. The former two stroke, two cylinder dream of the once Socialist East Germany now finds itself used as art objects, but mostly is disposed illegally at open places or just left to rot at the side of a road. (AP Photo/Hans Werner Oertel, File)

By DAVID RISING

BERLIN (AP) — The walls of the Bornholmer Huette pub were last painted in 1973, a light beige that has gradually cracked and darkened into a caramel brown from decades of cigarette smoke.

The "Huette," as regulars call it, has been in Matthias Gehrhus' family since 1954 and he doesn't plan on changing it any time soon. Its Spartan styling recalls the days when it was a meeting place in communist East Berlin's Prenzlauer Berg neighborhood, somewhere you'd go to catch up with an old friend over a cheap beer.

Gehrhus, 50, was born into that world and doesn't want it back. But he also understands the feelings of many former East Germans that, 30 years after the Berlin Wall fell and communism collapsed, not everything has improved.

"It was a simple life then. Today, everything's so complicated you collapse under the weight of it, and there's always new regulations, new rules," he said.

"There was never a problem with money," Gehrhus added, noting that life's necessities were taken care of, even if travel abroad was restricted.

"Sure you couldn't check out the world, but in the last 30 years I still haven't checked out the rest of the world," he said.

A government report this year lauds the state of German reunification as "an impressive success story," with per capita GDP in the former East Germany growing from 43% of that in West Germany in 1990 to 75% in 2018, and its unemployment rate falling from a crest of 18.7% in 2005 to 6.4% in October, not far above Germany's 5% national unemployment figure.

But the report notes many former East Germans still perceive themselves as second-class citizens, something Chancellor Angela Merkel, who herself grew up in East Germany, had highlighted.

"Official German reunification is complete. But the unity of the Germans, their unity was not fully complete on Oct. 3, 1990, and that is still the case today," she said last month. "German unity is not a state, completed and finished, but a perpetual process."

About three months after the Nov. 9, 1989, opening of the Berlin Wall, West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl spoke of wanting quick German reunification — saying it could come as early as 1995, said historian Ilko-Sascha Kowalczuk.

Kohl's prognosis and famous promise of "blooming landscapes" in the East seemed optimistic to many, who found it hard to believe that the Soviet Union — with a half-million troops in East Germany — would let it happen easily, said Kowalczuk, whose book on reunification, "The Takeover," was published in German this year.

In fact, reunification came just months later, as much a shock to the 16 million East Germans as to the rest of the world.

"Nobody could imagine that unification could come so quickly," Kowalczuk said. "Nobody in East Germany, nobody in the White House, nobody in Downing Street, nobody in the Elysee Palace, nobody in Bonn. Nobody could imagine that Moscow would give up its strategically most important outpost practically overnight for peanuts."

The opening of the Berlin Wall was even more abrupt. The first border crossing to open was on Bornholmer Strasse, only a few hundred meters (yards) from the Bornholmer Huette pub.

Gehrhus had gone to bed early that fateful night. When his parents woke him up to tell him what happened, he grumpily told them to "drink a little less" and rolled back over to sleep.

The streets were empty the next morning as he rode his motorcycle to the industrial kitchen where he worked as a cook. When he got there, the doors were open, the lights were on and nobody was there.

"I was standing alone in the kitchen," he said. "Then it clicked: My parents were telling me the truth."

After the Wall fell, East Germans voted for the quickest route to unification, buoyed by dreams of freedom and prosperity.

But the rapid transition in about two years from an industrial economy to a service economy was a shock to the system. That was compounded by the move from a communist system, where the state covered child care to old-age care and everything in between, to capitalism, where people could more easily fall through the cracks.

"People thought that they would now be living in a television commercial, in a glossy magazine, many were entirely unprepared to accept that not everything was so shiny in the West, that there were also problems in the West," Kowalczuk said.

Kohl's implementation of a monetary union with East Germany — offering a one-to-one exchange rate that far overvalued the eastern mark against its West German counterpart — also had unintended effects.

Citizens welcomed the instant boost to their savings, but East German companies could no longer afford wages and the market for their largely inferior products was destroyed overnight.

That helped spark the exodus of young working people to the West. Still today, only 16 of the country's top 500 companies by revenue are based in the east, according to a study in Die Welt newspaper, and none of those are on Germany's flagship stock market index, the DAX.

Gehrhus lost his kitchen job, but the end of communism also removed bureaucratic hurdles that led to him taking over his parents' pub.

Not everyone had such a soft landing.

Many easterners feel they have still not caught up, with 48% of 1,029 voting age residents telling Berlin's Policy Matters researchers in September that they're underrepresented in top political positions — despite having an East German chancellor for 14 years. Some 60% said they feel underrepresented in top business roles.

Many in the poll for Die Zeit newspaper recognized some positives — 88% saw improvement in services and goods and 54% thought their overall living standard had improved. But 73% thought their job security was worse and 70% thought protection from crime was worse.

That discontent and other factors have made the eastern region fertile ground for the far-right Alternative for Germany party, even though many of its leaders are from the former West Germany. The party has surged to strong second-place finishes in three eastern state elections this year.

While disparities still exist between the former East and West, economist Stefan Legge said part of the issue with perceptions in the East is that they're comparing themselves to the former West Germany, Europe's economic powerhouse, rather than to Europe as a whole.

Figures from last year show all former East German states have reached per capita income at least 75% of the European average, while none of the Eastern European countries like Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, which all joined the European Union in 2004, have reached that level nationwide, he said.

"In Germany, the expectation was that after reunification they would achieve some sort of parity with western Germany, and it's still used as a benchmark," said Legge, who teaches at the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland but is originally from western Germany.

He suggested that eastern German cities could highlight their lower living costs to appeal to university students, helping expand the educated workforce that startups and other companies want when seeking new locations.

"Don't give up. There's a lot that can be done, and you've started at a pretty good level," he said.

Although Gehrhus fondly recalls some parts of East German life, he thinks it's time for people to quit complaining.

"No matter where I live in this country, I have a roof over my head, I have warm water and cold water from the tap. I can eat. I can go on vacation, whether I go to work or am on welfare," he said. "We grouse at a really high level."


Iran marks 1979 takeover of US Embassy, hostage crisis

Iranian demonstrators chant slogans as they set fire a representation a makeshift U.S. flag during an annual rally in front of the former U.S. Embassy in Tehran, Iran, Monday, Nov. 4, 2019. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

By NASSER KARIMI and JON GAMBRELL

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Reviving decades-old cries of "Death to America," Iran on Monday marked the 40th anniversary of the 1979 student takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and the 444-day hostage crisis that followed as tensions remain high over the country's collapsing nuclear deal with world powers.

Demonstrators gathered in front of the former U.S. Embassy in downtown Tehran as state television aired footage from other cities across the country.

"Thanks to God, today the revolution's seedlings have evolved into a fruitful and huge tree that its shadow has covered the entire" Middle East, said Gen. Abdolrahim Mousavi, the commander of the Iranian army.

However, this year's commemoration of the embassy seizure comes as Iran's regional allies in Iraq and Lebanon face widespread protests. The Iranian Consulate in Karbala, Iraq, a holy city for Shiites, saw a mob attack it overnight. Three protesters were killed during the attack and 19 were wounded, along with seven policemen, Iraqi officials said.

Associated Press video showed a fire burned the consulate's gate as demonstrators threw gasoline bombs and climbed its walls, some waving an Iraqi flag. Iranian media only reported a "protest outside" of the diplomatic post, adding that things had returned to normal.

President Donald Trump retweeted posts by Saudi-linked media showing the chaos outside the consulate. The violence comes after the hard-line Keyhan newspaper in Iran reiterated a call for demonstrators to seize U.S. and Saudi diplomatic posts in Iraq in response to the unrest.

Demonstrators at other rallies on Monday cried: "Death to America!" and "Death to Israel!" Lawmakers in parliament echoed those cries after approving the outline of a bill that would include anti-American teachings in school textbooks. Others at protests burned U.S. flag replicas and waved signs mocking Trump and America.

A billboard at Tehran's Vali-e-Asr Square, used by hard-liners to highlight their political views, showed people waving flags from around the world and cheering as an American flag burned. A caption on it read: "We are the superpower."

Speaking in front of the former U.S. Embassy in Tehran, Mousavi referred to America as a "scorpion" and said the "era of imposing pressure with zero expense is over."

The U.S. is pushing for the "surrender of Iran in a gift wrap of words like negotiation and engagement," the general said.

Typically, members of Iran's regular armed forces don't speak at the embassy on the anniversary, rather civilians and those in its paramilitary Revolutionary Guard hold speeches. Mousavi's appearance likely represented an effort by Iran's theocratic government to show a united front against the pressure it faces from the U.S. under Trump.

On Sunday, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei reiterated his opposition to negotiation with the U.S., saying Tehran had outmaneuvered America in the four decades since its Islamic Revolution.

What exactly led to the 1979 takeover of the embassy was obscure at the time to Americans who for months could only watch in horror as TV newscasts showed Iranian protests at the embassy. Popular anger against the U.S. was rooted in the 1953 CIA-engineered coup that toppled Iran's elected prime minister and cemented the power of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.

The shah, dying from cancer, fled Iran in January 1979, paving the way for the country's Islamic Revolution. But for months, Iran faced widespread unrest, ranging from separatist attacks, worker revolts and internal power struggles. Police reported for work but not for duty, allowing chaos to unfold, including for Marxist students to briefly seize the U.S. Embassy.

In this power vacuum, then-President Jimmy Carter allowed the shah to seek medical treatment in New York. That lit the fuse for the Nov. 4, 1979, takeover by Islamist students, who initially planned a sit-in at the embassy.

But the situation quickly spun out of their control.

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the long-exiled Shiite cleric whose return to Iran sparked the Islamic Revolution, gave his support to the takeover. He would use that popular angle to expand the Islamists' power.

Some hostages would be released as the crisis unfolded, while several others who escaped the embassy and found safety with Canada's ambassador, left Iran via a CIA-planned escape — dramatic moments that were recounted in the 2012 film "Argo."

Another 52 American hostages would be held for 444 days until the inauguration of President Ronald Reagan, when they were freed.

The anniversary comes as Iran appears poised to announce it was breaking another limit imposed by the 2015 nuclear deal, which saw Tehran limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. Already, Iran has gone beyond its enrichment and stockpile limitations, and has begun using arrays of advanced centrifuges prohibited under the accord.

Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, reportedly traveled to the country's Natanz enrichment facility on Monday ahead of the announcement.

The collapse of the nuclear deal coincided with a tense summer of mysterious attacks on oil tankers and Saudi oil facilities that the U.S. blamed on Iran. Tehran denied the allegation, though it did seize oil tankers and shoot down a U.S. military surveillance drone.

The U.S. has increased its military presence across the Mideast, including basing troops in Saudi Arabia for the first time since the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks. Both Saudi Arabia and the neighboring United Arab Emirates are believed to be talking to Tehran through back channels to ease tensions.


Iran students seize US Embassy in Tehran: Nov. 4, 1979

In this Nov. 8, 1979 file photo, one of the hostages held at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, Iran is shown to the crowd by Iranian students. Forty years ago on Nov. 4, 1979, Iranian students overran guards to take over the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, starting a 444-day hostage crisis that transfixed America. (AP Photo, File)

By The Associated Press

EDITOR'S NOTE: On Nov. 4, 1979, Iranian students overran guards to take over the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, starting a 444-day hostage crisis that transfixed America.

After a three-hour struggle, the students took hostages, including 62 Americans, and demanded the extradition of the deposed Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who was receiving medical treatment in the United States for the cancer that ultimately would kill him. Some hostages would later be released amid the crisis, but it would take over a year for all to be freed.

On the day of the takeover, The Associated Press actually had no presence in Iran. Two months earlier, Iranian authorities had shut down the AP's bureau in Tehran, throwing out four foreign correspondents for the cooperative over its reporting of a Kurdish uprising in western Iran. Two Iranian staffers for the AP were ordered to stop working for the agency.

The AP story shows how the agency adapted, relying on bureaus around the world to monitor broadcasts and make calls, including its Middle East headquarters, which at the time was in Nicosia, Cyprus.

Iranian authorities ultimately relented and allowed the AP to resume its news operations. But by January 1980, Iran threw out the AP and all American journalists. The AP ultimately would return to Iran and re-establish a presence in 1995 and later a bureau that it still operates there today.

Now, 40 years later, the AP is making its story and photos of the U.S. Embassy takeover available. The story has been edited for typographical errors, but maintains the AP style of the day.

___

A mob of Iranian students overran U.S. Marine guards in a three-hour struggle Sunday and invaded the American Embassy in Tehran, seizing dozens of staff members as hostages, Tehran Radio reported. They demanded that the United States send the exiled shah back to Iran for trial, the radio said.

No serious injuries were reported. Tehran Radio said as many as 100 hostages were being held, but an Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman said he believed it was fewer than 45 — about 35 Americans and seven or eight Iranians.

The spokesman, reached in Tehran by telephone from New York, said an estimated 200 or 300 students were involved.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Jack Touhy said it was estimated 59 persons were being held captive and there was no firm evidence the invaders were armed. He said a State Department working group was set up to monitor the situation and added the U.S. government would have no immediate comment on the demand that the shah be returned to Iran.

White House spokesman Alan Raymond reported in Washington that President Carter, spending the weekend at the Camp David retreat, was in contact with his national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance and Defense Secretary Harold Brown.

The Tehran Radio broadcasts, monitored in London, said the embassy's Marine guards hurled tear-gas canisters but were unable to hold back the waves of students. None of the broadcasts mentioned any weapons besides the tear gas.

Japan's Kyodo news service reported from Tehran that the invaders called a news conference in the embassy compound and a sweater-clad man in his mid-20s told reporters, "We will continue to stay here and won't release any of the hostages until the United States returns the ousted shah, which is what the Iranian people want."

There were reports that the hostages were blindfolded and handcuffed. The Foreign Ministry spokesman denied this, saying the embassy takeover was "a very peaceful exercise. They are dealing with them very nicely."

But television film broadcast in some Western countries showed a few hostages in front of an embassy building who were blindfolded and either bound or handcuffed.

Asked if the students were armed, the Foreign Ministry spokesman said he had heard no reports that they were.

He said a Scandinavian ambassador in Tehran would act as a mediator "to try to convince the students to get out of the compound." He reported an Iranian Moslem religious leader also was trying to talk the invaders into leaving.

The spokesman, who asked not to be named, said he was unsure of the identities of the two mediators.

The State Department said in Washington the Iranian government had "given assurances that our people being held are safe and well."

Tehran Radio said the Marines and other "mercenaries" — not further identified — were safe in a room and "No violent action has been taken against them."

An official at the British Embassy, reached by phone from London, said it appeared "as though the hostages are having to spend the night in the basement. There is no knowing how long they are going to be held."

The Foreign Ministry spokesman said that after the takeover thousands of other Iranians converged on the spacious embassy compound, on a major avenue in central Tehran, and milled around outside, shouting anti-American slogans.

Just hours after the embassy invasion, seven demonstrators chained themselves inside the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor to protest the ousted Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi's presence in New York, where he is hospitalized for cancer treatment. After 3 1/2 hours authorities cut the chains and took them into custody.

Pahlavi went to New York last month on a special medical visa and underwent gallbladder surgery and testing. Doctors recommended he stay in the United States for six months to a year for drug treatment of his cancer. He fled Iran in January and later took up residence in Mexico.

The Tehran broadcasts, some not clearly received, said the students were motivated by a "message" from the leader of Iran's Islamic revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

The Iranian Embassy in Washington released a statement issued by the Foreign Ministry in Tehran after the takeover accusing the United States of engaging in an "imperialist plot" to reinstate the former monarch. Iranian officials have claimed the deposed ruler is faking illness.

"The action taken today by a group of our countrymen reflects the natural feeling of the Iranian nation towards the U.S. government's disregard" of an official Iranian protest of Pahlavi's presence in New York, the statement said.

It said the U.S. government ignored the protest and refused to allow two Iranian doctors living in the United States to examine the shah, who could have been treated in Mexico or another country.

"The people of Iran were extremely concerned about any relocation and activities of the shah and ... would consider the shah's illness a pretext for his going to the United States in order to have access to better activities against the Islamic revolution in Iran," the statement said.

State Department spokesman Touhy said the U.S. charge d'affaires in Tehran, Bruce Laingen, and two other American officials were at the Foreign Ministry at the time the embassy was seized, and had contacted Iranian Foreign Minister Ibrahim Yazdi. No U.S. ambassador currently is assigned to Tehran.

Touhy said Laingen remained at the ministry, negotiating with officials there, and negotiations were not being conducted with the embassy invaders. He said families of U.S. personnel held in the embassy were being advised that the hostages had not been harmed. He did not release any names of the Americans.

The State Department had issued a statement earlier, saying Laingen "had been given assurances by the Iranian government that it will do its best to resolve the matter satisfactorily. We appreciate the efforts of the Iranian government."

This was the second time the embassy has been taken over since the revolution. Gunmen believed to be renegade revolutionaries invaded the embassy last Feb. 14, killing one Iranian and taking 101 hostages, including Ambassador William Sullivan and 19 Marine guards. Pro-Khomeini forces drove the insurgents from the badly damaged compound after 3 1/2 hours.

A Baghdad Radio broadcast reported that Iraq had lodged a strong protest with Iran over what was described as an attack on the Iraqi Embassy in Tehran Saturday and the abduction of four persons. The Khomeini regime accuses Iraq of aiding autonomy-seeking minorities in Iran.


Riot police storm Hong Kong malls to thwart more protests

A riot police fires pepper spray toward people at a shopping mall in Hong Kong, Sunday, Nov. 3, 2019. (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara)

District councilor Andrew Chiu receives medical treatment in Hong Kong, on Sunday, Nov. 3, 2019. (Elson Li/HK01 via AP)

People stand inside the lobby of China's Xinhua News Agency after it was damaged by protesters in Hong Kong, Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

By EILEEN NG

HONG KONG (AP) — Riot police stormed several malls in Hong Kong on Sunday in a move to thwart more pro-democracy protests, though violence did break out when a knife-wielding man slashed several people and bit off part of the ear of a local pro-democracy politician.

There were calls online urging protesters to gather in seven locations to sustain a push for political reform following a chaotic day of clashes with police on Saturday, as the anti-government movement shows no signs of letting up after nearly five months.

Most of the rallies didn't pan out Sunday as scores of riot police took positions, searching and arresting people, dispersing crowds and blocking access to a park next to the office of the city's embattled leader, Carrie Lam.

Some small pockets of hardcore demonstrators were undeterred.

As protesters chanted slogans at the New Town Plaza shopping mall in Sha Tin, police said they moved in after some "masked rioters" with fire extinguishers vandalized turnstiles and smashed windows at the subway station linked to the mall.

At two malls in the New Territories in the north, protesters vandalized shops, threw paint and attacked a branch of Japanese fast food chain Yoshinoya, which has been frequently targeted after the chain's owner voiced support for the Hong Kong police.

Police rushed into one of the malls after objects were thrown at them. At another, protesters used umbrellas and cable ties to lock the mall entrance to prevent police from entering.

Later in the day, police stormed the Cityplaza shopping complex on Hong Kong Island after some protesters sprayed graffiti at a restaurant. A human chain by dozens of people was broken up and angry shoppers heckled the police.

On Sunday night outside Cityplaza, a man slashed several people with a knife and bit off part of the ear of a district councilor who was trying to stop him from leaving. Local media said the man told his victims that Hong Kong belongs to China, and that the councilor was a pro-democracy politician.

Television footage showed the man biting the councilor's ear and being badly beaten up by a crowd after the attack, before police arrived. At least five people were injured, reports said.

The protests began in early June over a now-shelved plan to allow extraditions to mainland China but have since swelled into a movement seeking other demands, including direct elections for Hong Kong's leaders and an independent inquiry into police conduct.

Lam has refused to budge on the demands, and instead has focused on measures that she said contributed to protesters' anger, such as creating jobs and easing housing woes in one of the world's most expensive cities. She invoked emergency powers last month to ban face masks at rallies, provoking further anger.

Her office said Sunday that Lam, currently in Shanghai, will head to Beijing on Tuesday. She is due to hold talks Wednesday with Chinese Vice Premier Han Zheng and join a meeting on the development of the Greater Bay Area that aims to link Hong Kong, Macao and nine other cities in southern China.

The ambitious project will help make it easier for Hong Kong residents to work and reside in mainland Chinese cities, and bolster the flow of people and goods, Lam's office said in a statement.

But the plan has also sparked concerns over China's growing influence over the territory. Many protesters fear Beijing is slowly infringing on the freedoms guaranteed to Hong Kong when the former British colony returned to Chinese control in 1997.

On Saturday, protesters for the first time attacked the Hong Kong office of China's state-owned Xinhua News Agency in a show of anger against Beijing, a day after China warned of tightening its grip on the city to quell the unrest. The attack on Xinhua came after chaos broke out downtown, with police firing tear gas and protesters tossing gasoline bombs.

Xinhua in a statement strongly condemned the "barbaric acts of mobs" that had vandalized and set fire to the lobby of its Asia-Pacific office building. The Hong Kong Journalists Association also deplored "any act of sabotage against the media" and called for an end to violence against the press.

Protesters have frequently targeted Chinese banks and businesses. In July, demonstrators threw eggs at China's liaison office in Hong Kong and defaced the Chinese national emblem in a move slammed by Beijing as a direct challenge to its authority.

On Friday, the Communist Party in Beijing vowed to "establish and strengthen a legal system and enforcement mechanism" to prevent foreign powers from sowing acts of "separatism, subversion, infiltration and sabotage" in Hong Kong.


Merkel: 1 million car charging points in Germany by 2030

German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks with a driver of an electric vehicle at a metro station in New Delhi, India, Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019. India and Germany agreed on Friday to enhance cooperation in tackling climate change, cybersecurity, skill development, artificial intelligence, energy security, civil aviation and defense production. The two countries signed several agreements, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying India is eager to benefit from Germany's expertise. (AP Photo/Shonal Ganguly)

BERLIN (AP) — German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Sunday she wants to drastically increase the number of charging stations for electric cars in Germany to give consumers more confidence to switch over to electric from internal combustion engines.

Speaking in her weekly video podcast, Merkel said she wants Germany to have 1 million charging stations by 2030. Germany currently has about 21,000 charging stations.

The comments come ahead of her meeting Monday with automobile industry executives as part of efforts to help Germany's transport sector meet emissions targets.

In addition to talking about Germany's charging infrastructure, Merkel says those at the meeting will discuss government and industry incentives for electric cars and how to protect auto industry jobs amid the transition to producing more environmentally friendly vehicles. She says the development of hydrogen-powered cars can also play a role.

Germany is home to several major automobile manufacturers, including Daimler, BMW and Volkswagen, which includes many subsidiaries such as Audi, Skoda and Porsche.

Volkswagen's reputation was tarnished and its bottom-line hit by a widely publicized diesel emissions cheating scandal that violated rules to protect air quality. But the Wolfsburg-based company is now leading the push into electric vehicles in Europe, launching its ID.3 battery-powered compact car at prices it says will make zero-local emission vehicles a mass phenomenon.


UK's Boris Johnson apologizes for missing Brexit deadline

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson gestures, during a visit to Metropolitan Police training college in Hendon, north London, Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019. (Aaron Chown/Pool Photo via AP)

By GREGORY KATZ

LONDON (AP) — Britain's election campaign heated up Sunday even before it officially started, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson saying he would apologize to Conservatives for failing to take the U.K. out of the European Union by Oct. 31 and Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage saying he won't personally run for a seat in Parliament.

Johnson's promise to have Britain leave the bloc by Oct. 31 had been his central platform in the party leadership competition that brought him to power in July.

He told Sky News on Sunday that it was a matter of "deep regret" that he failed to do so. Asked if he was sorry about missing the deadline, Johnson said: "Yes, absolutely."

Johnson's plan to leave by Oct. 31 with or without a divorce deal was blocked by Parliament, which required him to seek a Brexit extension. The EU has granted a three-month Brexit extension until Jan. 31.

Johnson pushed hard for an early national election on Dec. 12 in which he hopes to get a more Brexit-friendly Parliament.

One of his political rivals, Nigel Farage of the Brexit Party, has pushed for his one-theme party to team up in a coalition with Johnson's Conservatives for the December election, but the prime minister has refused the offer. The two parties are both vying for Brexit-backing voters.

Farage has vowed that his party will contest every seat in England, Scotland and Wales against the Conservatives unless Johnson drops his Brexit agreement, which Farage and his party think is worse than a no-deal Brexit.

On Sunday, Farage told the BBC that he can "serve the cause of Brexit" better by traveling throughout Britain to support 600 Brexit Party candidates rather than by seeking a seat for himself.

"I don't want to be in politics for the rest of my life," he said.

Farage has failed in earlier attempts to win a seat in the British Parliament, although he has long been a member of the European Parliament, which he has used as a pulpit to criticize the EU.

He said it was difficult to back party candidates nationwide while trying to win over a local district.

All seats in the 650-seat House of Commons are up for grabs in the Dec. 12 election, chosen by Britain's 46 million eligible voters. While the Conservatives have a wide lead in most opinion polls, analysts say the election is unpredictable because Brexit cuts across traditional party loyalties.

The opposition left-of-center Labour party is trying to shift the campaign focus from Brexit to domestic political issues such as schools, health care and Britain's social inequities. Labour is vulnerable over Brexit because the issue divides the party.

The centrist Liberal Democrats want to cancel Brexit and are trying to woo pro-EU supporters from both the Conservatives and Labour in Britain's big cities and liberal university towns.
 


Jane Fonda spends night in jail after demonstration arrest

In this Friday, Oct. 25, 2019, file photo, actress and activist Jane Fonda is arrested at the Capitol for blocking the street after she and other demonstrators called on Congress for action to address climate change, in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Actress and activist Jane Fonda spent a night in a local jail after her fourth arrest in as many weeks while participating in a climate change demonstration on Capitol Hill.

The 81-year-old Oscar winner was among more than 40 people arrested Friday while sitting in the atrium of the Hart Senate Office Building. A spokesman for Fire Drill Fridays, Ira Arlook, says Fonda was the only one who spent the night in jail, her first as part of the ongoing demonstration.

Arlook says Fonda appeared in Superior Court about 1 p.m. Saturday and was released.

Fonda has said she plans to get arrested every Friday as she advocates for reducing the use of fossil fuels. A rally with speakers on various climate-related topics precedes the civil disobedience.


Cambodian official says British backpacker died of drowning

Linda Schultes, right, mother of British backpacker Amelia Bambridge, arrives in a van together with her family members at the Sihanoukville Referral Hospital in Sihanoukville province, Cambodia, Friday, Nov. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

By SOPHENG CHEANG

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — An autopsy has determined that a British backpacker whose body was found at sea a week after she disappeared on a Cambodian island had died from drowning, an official said Friday.

Kuoch Chamroeun, the governor of Preah Sihanouk province, said by phone that the body of Amelia Bambridge was examined at the main hospital in Sihanoukville, the coastal city to which it was taken after being retrieved Thursday from the Gulf of Thailand.

The 21-year-old woman disappeared after attending a beach party late on the night of Oct. 23 on the island of Koh Rong. Her body was discovered by fishermen about 60 miles (100 kilometers) to the northwest.

Maj. Gen. Chuon Narin, the provincial police chief, said earlier Friday that the autopsy would be attended by forensic police, a hospital doctor, a court prosecutor, a representative of the British embassy and members of Bambridge's family.

Before the body was found, Bambridge's family had speculated that she might have been abducted or become lost in the heavy jungle in Koh Rong's interior, but Cambodian officials had leaned toward the theory that she had drowned because her bag with money and a cellphone was found on a rock near the edge of the ocean.

The victim's brother, Harry Bambridge, viewed the body Thursday and in a message posted on his Facebook page confirmed it was his sister.

Kuoch Chamrouen said the Bambridge family and the British embassy had told Preah Sihanouk authorities that they wished to take the body to Phnom Penh, Cambodia's capital, and then have it sent to Britain.

The governor said he did not oppose the request and the body would be released.


Farage tells Johnson: Drop Brexit deal and I'll help you win

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage launches his party's manifesto ahead of the upcoming General Election, in London, Friday, Nov. 1, 2019. Farage kicked off the Brexit Party campaign Friday for Britain's December general election.(AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)

By JILL LAWLESS

LONDON (AP) — Nigel Farage, the minor-party leader who played a major role in Britain's decision to leave the European Union, is trying to throw his weight around again in the U.K.'s Brexit-dominated election.

Farage on Friday piled the pressure on British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, saying his Brexit Party will run against Johnson's Conservatives across the country in the Dec. 12 early election unless Johnson abandons his divorce deal with the EU.

Farage's party, which was founded earlier this year, rejects Johnson's Brexit deal, preferring to leave the bloc with no agreement on future relations in what it calls a "clean-break" Brexit. It holds seats in the European Union's legislature but has none so far in Britain's Parliament.

Launching the Brexit Party's election campaign, Farage said Johnson's deal "is not Brexit" because it would mean continuing to follow some EU rules and holding years of negotiations on future relations.

"Boris tells us this is a great new deal. It is not. It is a bad old treaty. And simply, it is not Brexit," Farage said.

All 650 seats in the House of Commons are up for grabs in the election that is coming more than two years early, with winners to be chosen by Britain's 46 million voters.

If the Brexit Party runs in only a small number of seats, that would help the Conservatives, who are vying with Farage for the support of Brexit-backing voters.

Farage spoke a day after U.S. President Donald Trump barged into the British election campaign, urging his friend Farage to make an electoral pact with Johnson's Conservatives. Trump told Farage on the Euroskeptic politician's own radio phone-in show Thursday that he and Johnson would be "an unstoppable force."

Trump also undermined Johnson by claiming that "certain aspects" of the prime minister's EU divorce agreement would make it impossible for Britain to do a trade deal with the U.S.

The ability to strike new trade agreements around the world is seen by Brexit supporters as one of the key advantages of leaving the EU. Most economists, though, say trade deals with the U.S. and other countries are unlikely to compensate for Britain's reduced commerce with the EU, which currently accounts for half of U.K. trade.

Forecasters say a no-deal Brexit would have an even more severe effect on the U.K. economy and would hurt EU nations as well.

Purist Brexiteers such as Farage dislike the Brexit agreement struck by Johnson — as they did a previous effort by his predecessor Theresa May —because it keeps the U.K. bound by EU rules and financial obligations for up to three years while a new trade relationship is negotiated. The terms would also see Northern Ireland bound by EU trade and customs rules indefinitely to avoid checks on the border with EU member Ireland that could undermine both the regional economy and peace in Northern Ireland.

Farage, who played a key role in the 2016 campaign for Britain to leave the EU, said if Johnson agreed to abandon his deal, the Brexit Party would form a "non-aggression pact" with the Conservatives, standing aside from running against them in many areas.

"I believe the only way to solve this is to build a 'leave' alliance across this country," Farage said. "If it was done, Boris Johnson would win a very big majority."

Farage warned that if Johnson rejects the offer, "we will contest every single seat in England, Scotland and Wales."

He said Johnson needs to make up his mind before the nominations for candidates close on Nov. 14.

Johnson, however, has already ruled out an electoral pact with Farage.

"We are not interested in doing any pacts with the Brexit Party or indeed with anybody else," Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said Friday. "We are in this to win it."

The prime minister sought this early election to break the political impasse over Britain's stalled departure from the EU.

Johnson had promised for months that the U.K. would leave the 28-nation bloc on the scheduled date of Oct. 31 "come what may." He struck a divorce deal with the EU last month, but Parliament blocked his plan to rush it into law in a matter of days. Amid the impasse, last week the EU granted Britain a three-month Brexit delay, setting a new Jan. 31 deadline.

Johnson accuses opposition politicians for the failure to leave the EU on Thursday.

While the Conservatives have a wide lead in most opinion polls, analysts say the election is unpredictable because Brexit cuts across traditional party loyalties.

The Brexit Party also poses a threat to the main opposition Labour Party in traditionally Labour-supporting post-industrial areas of Wales and northern England, which voted in 2016 to leave the EU.

On the other side of the divide, the centrist Liberal Democrats, who want to cancel Brexit, are wooing pro-EU supporters from both the Conservatives and Labour in Britain's big cities and liberal university towns.

Left-of center Labour, which has its own internal divisions over Brexit, is trying to shift the election battleground onto more comfortable domestic terrain: the rising inequities in Britain. Labour is hoping that voters want to talk about health care, the environment and social welfare — all of which saw years of funding cuts under Conservative governments — instead of holding more debates on the seemingly endless topic of Brexit.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, whose Scottish National Party is running on a pro-independence, anti-Brexit platform, said if the Conservatives won, "you'll have Nigel Farage and Donald Trump pulling Boris Johnson's strings."

"A Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson coalition would be scary," she said. "I know Halloween was yesterday, but it's the kind of Halloween monster that no one in Scotland wants to see."

A majority of Scottish voters backed staying in the EU in the 2016 referendum.


Science Says: How daylight saving time affects health

In this Thursday, July 25, 2019 photo, workers at the Electric Time Company in Medfield, Mass., test a 20 foot high clock, built for the a new train station in Bangkok, Thailand, prior to packing and shipment. The clock features a "9" in Thai number script. Daylight saving time ends at 2 a.m. local time Sunday, Nov. 3, 2019, when clocks are set back one hour. Losing an hour of daylight sounds like a gloomy preview for the dark winter months, and at least one study found an increase in people seeking help for depression after turning the clocks back to standard time in November _ in Scandinavia. But far more research says that the springtime start of daylight saving time may be more harmful, linking it with more car accidents, heart attacks in vulnerable people and other health problems that may persist throughout the time change. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

By LINDSEY TANNER

Office workers bemoan driving home in the dark. Night owls relish the chance to sleep in. As clocks tick toward the end of daylight saving time, many sleep scientists and circadian biologists are pushing for a permanent ban because of potential ill effects on human health.

Losing an hour of afternoon daylight sounds like a gloomy preview for the dark winter months, and at least one study found an increase in people seeking help for depression after turning the clocks back to standard time in November — in Scandinavia. Research shows the springtime start of daylight saving time may be more harmful, linking it with more car accidents, heart attacks in vulnerable people and other health problems that may persist throughout the time change.

Here's what science has to say about a twice-yearly ritual affecting nearly 2 billion people worldwide.

SLEEP EFFECTS

Time changes mess with sleep schedules, a potential problem when so many people are already sleep deprived, says Dr. Phyllis Zee, a sleep researcher at Northwestern Medicine in Chicago.

About 1 in 3 U.S. adults sleep less than the recommended seven-plus hours nightly, and more than half of U.S. teens don't get the recommended eight-plus hours on weeknights. One U.S. study found that in the week following the spring switch to daylight saving time, teens slept about 2 hours less than the previous week. Many people never catch up during the subsequent six months.

Research suggests that chronic sleep deprivation can increase levels of stress hormones that boost heart rate and blood pressure, and of chemicals that trigger inflammation.

HEART PROBLEMS

It has also been shown that blood tends to clot more quickly in the morning. These changes underlie evidence that heart attacks are more common in general in the morning, and may explain studies showing that rates increase slightly on Mondays after clocks are moved forward in the spring, when people typically rise an hour earlier than normal.

That increased risk associated with the time change is mainly in people already vulnerable because of existing heart disease, said Barry Franklin, director of preventive cardiology and cardiac rehabilitation at Beaumont Health hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan.

Studies suggest that these people return to their baseline risk after the autumn time change.

CAR CRASHES

Numerous studies have linked the start of daylight saving time in the spring with a brief spike in car accidents, and with poor performance on tests of alertness, both likely due to sleep loss.

The research includes a German study published this year that found an increase in traffic fatalities in the week after the start of daylight saving time, but no such increase in the fall.

Other studies on how returning to standard time in the fall might impact car crashes have had conflicting results.

OUR INTERNAL CLOCKS

Circadian biologists believe ill health effects from daylight saving time result from a mismatch among the sun "clock," our social clock — work and school schedules — and the body's internal 24-hour body clock.

Ticking away at the molecular level, the biological clock is entrained — or set — by exposure to sunlight and darkness. It regulates bodily functions such as metabolism, blood pressure and hormones that promote sleep and alertness.

Disruptions to the body clock have been linked with obesity, depression, diabetes, heart problems and other conditions. Circadian biologists say these disruptions include tinkering with standard time by moving the clock ahead one hour in the spring.

A mismatch of one hour daily is enough for ill effects, especially if it lasts for several months, according to Till Roenneberg, a circadian rhythm specialist at Ludwig-Maximilian University in Munich, Germany.

PRESSURE TO CHANGE

In the U.S., daylight saving time runs from the second Sunday in March to the first Sunday in November. It was first established 100 years ago to save energy. Modern-day research has found little or no such cost savings.

Federal law allows states to remain on standard time year-round but only Hawaii and most of Arizona have chosen to. Proposed legislation in several states would have them join suit — or switch to year-round daylight saving time, which would require congressional approval.

Roenneberg and Northwestern's Zee are co-authors of a recent position statement advocating returning to standard time for good, written for the Society for Research on Biological Rhythms.

"If we want to improve human health, we should not fight against our body clock, and therefore we should abandon daylight saving time," the statement says.


Final 'Or-derrrs': UK Commons speaker John Bercow bows out

In this photo released by the UK Parliament, Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow gestures during his final day in the Chair in the House of Commons, in London, Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019. The speaker of Britain's House of Commons, who has become a global celebrity and online meme-magnet for his loud ties, even louder voice and star turn at the center of Britain's Brexit drama, stepped down on Thursday after 10 years in the job. (UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor via AP)

By JILL LAWLESS

LONDON (AP) — It's last or-derrrs for John Bercow.

The speaker of Britain's House of Commons, who has become a global celebrity and online meme-magnet for his loud ties, even louder voice and star turn at the center of Britain's Brexit drama, stepped down on Thursday after 10 years in the job.

Bercow closed business on his final day in the post with words that have become synonymous with him: "Order, order."

Some lawmakers were sad to see him go, but others were delighted. With his innovative interpretation of the role, Bercow has become a hero to opponents of leaving the European Union, a villain to Brexit advocates and a thorn in the side of Britain's Conservative government.

"He has as many detractors as he has people who worship the floor that he walks on," said Sebastian Whale, author of a "Call to Order," a forthcoming biography of Bercow. "And that's the nature of the man. He is the speaker for the times. He's divisive, abrasive and controversial."

Prime Minister Boris Johnson paid Bercow a respectful but barbed tribute in the House of Commons on Wednesday. He said the tennis-loving Bercow wasn't just "a commentator offering your own opinions on the rallies you are watching, sometimes acerbic and sometimes kindly, but above all as a player in your own right."

"Although we may disagree about some of the legislative innovations you have favored, there is no doubt in my mind that you have been a great servant of this Parliament and this House of Commons," Johnson said.

Bercow, the 157th House of Commons speaker, transformed the centuries-old role, whose powers include running Commons business, calling on lawmakers to speak — or making them shut up — overseeing votes and ruling on questions of parliamentary procedure.

Elected to the post on June 22, 2009, as the reputation of British politics was tarnished by an expenses scandal, Bercow took a more activist role than many of his predecessors. Seeing himself as the champion of Parliament against the executive branch, he took every opportunity to let lawmakers hold the government to account.

Under his guidance, urgent questions to ministers and emergency debates on big issues, once rare, became commonplace. At crucial moments in the Brexit process, Bercow allowed lawmakers to seize control of Parliament's agenda. One such intervention led to the law that forced Johnson to ask for a three-month delay to Brexit, postponing Britain's departure from the bloc until Jan. 31.

"John Bercow said from the beginning, 'I want to be the champion of the backbenchers. I want to give backbenchers and Parliament a voice," said Bronwen Maddox, director of independent think-tank the Institute for Government. "It was when he began running across conventions — changing conventions in ways that shape the Brexit process — that it all got very, very controversial."

A London cab driver's son who began his career in the 1980s as a right-wing acolyte of Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Bercow became a modernizing speaker and sought to rein in the rowdy, booze culture of Parliament.

During his tenure, late-night hours were scaled back and a nursery was set up for the children of lawmakers and staff. He appointed the first black woman to the post of chaplain of the House of Commons and he clamped down on some lawmakers' noisier heckling.

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said Bercow had transformed Parliament "from being a gentleman's club that happens to be in a royal palace to a genuinely democratic institution."

But he was also accused by some who had worked with him of bullying — allegations that he denies.

Whale said Bercow, 56, is a complex character "from a very right-wing, staunch Thatcherite to a center, even center-left, soft Tory."

He angered some on the political right by saying in 2017 that President Donald Trump shouldn't be allowed to address Parliament, an honor given to some of his predecessors.

"He was bullied at school, and I think when you understand that, you can start to really understand the man," Whale said. "I think he has an antipathy towards the powerful using their majority for means that he thinks aren't correct or right. You can see that with how he stands up to government.

"I think also, coming from a relatively working-class background — his dad was a taxi driver — you can see how he's always wanted to be part of the establishment as yet had problems with it."

Britain's decision in 2016 to leave the European Union made Bercow a star — and a figure of controversy. The speaker is supposed to be impartial, but Bercow revealed in 2017 that he had voted to remain in the EU. That helped fuel claims by Brexit-backing politicians that he favored pro-EU lawmakers in his decisions.

He pointed out, however, that he had often championed the rights of the Brexiteers when they were in the minority.

"Throughout my time as speaker, I have sought to increase the relative authority of this legislature, for which I will make absolutely no apology to anyone, anywhere, at any time," Bercow said when he announced his resignation in September.

Brexit gave Bercow a platform, but his personal style made him a star. As the twisting political drama unfolded, millions around the world became familiar with Bercow's bellowing cries of "Or-derrr!" and "The ayes have it!" and his rhetorical flourishes. One of his favorites is to tell off heckling lawmakers for "chuntering from a sedentary position."

Whale said Bercow modeled some of his verbal flourishes on characters in the Jane Austen novels that he loves.

"But that's just who he is, he's a kind of eccentric character," Whale said. "And as I understand it, he's like that in private as he is in public. He doesn't necessarily change because the camera's on him. He just is that kind of slightly bewildering character from a different age."

Bercow's replacement will be elected by lawmakers on Monday from among the 650 members of Parliament. There are nine candidates, including Bercow's three deputy speakers.

Maddox said "the Commons may well go for a safe pair of hands after this and someone less controversial."

"But the questions are still there," she said. "What exactly is the speaker's discretion to decide when backbenchers can bring an amendment to a government motion and not? And exactly what powers does Parliament have compared to the government?"


Sharply divided House approves Dems' impeachment rules

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., talks to reporters just before the House vote on a resolution to formalize the impeachment investigation of President Donald Trump, in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

This image from video made available by House TV on Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019 shows the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington and the vote count to approve the rules for its impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump. (House TV via AP)

House Republican Conference chair Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., speaks during a news conference with other Republicans on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

 

By ALAN FRAM and MATTHEW DALY

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats swept a rules package for their impeachment probe of President Donald Trump through a divided House Thursday, as the chamber's first vote on the investigation highlighted the partisan breach the issue has only deepened.

By 232-196, lawmakers approved the procedures they'll follow as weeks of closed-door interviews with witnesses evolve into public committee hearings and — almost certainly — votes on whether the House should recommend Trump's removal.

All voting Republicans opposed the package. Every voting Democrat but two supported it.

Underscoring the pressure Trump has heaped on his party's lawmakers, he tweeted, "Now is the time for Republicans to stand together and defend the leader of their party against these smears."

Yet the roll call also accentuated how Democrats have rallied behind the impeachment inquiry after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spent months urging caution until evidence and public support had grown.

She and other Democratic leaders had feared a premature vote would wound the reelection prospects of dozens of their members, including freshmen and lawmakers from Trump-won districts or seats held previously by Republicans. But recent polls have shown voters' growing receptivity to the investigation and, to a lesser degree, ousting Trump.

That and evidence that House investigators have amassed have helped unify Democrats, including those from GOP areas. Rep. Cindy Axne, D-Iowa, said she was supporting a pathway to giving "the American people the facts they deserve," while Rep. Andy Kim, D-N.J., said voters warrant "the uninhibited truth."

Yet Republicans were also buoyed by polling, which has shown that GOP voters stand unflinchingly behind Trump.

"The impeachment-obsessed Democrats just flushed their majority down the toilet," said Michael McAdams, a spokesman for House Republicans' campaign arm.

Elsewhere at the Capitol on Thursday, three House panels led by the Intelligence Committee questioned their latest witness into the allegations that led to the impeachment inquiry: that Trump pressured Ukraine to produce dirt on his Democratic political rivals by withholding military aid and an Oval Office meeting craved by the country's new president.

Tim Morrison, who stepped down from the National Security Council the day before his appearance, testified — still behind closed doors — that he saw nothing illegal in Trump's phone call with the Ukrainian president that is at the center of the Democrat-led investigation.

Yet, Morrison also largely confirmed much of what William Taylor, the highest-ranking U.S. official in Ukraine, said in earlier, highly critical testimony about the call, which Taylor said he and Morrison discussed several times.

The Democrats are still waiting to hear if Morrison's one-time boss, John Bolton, will testify. They have subpoenaed former national security adviser Bolton, who quit the administration after disagreements with Trump over his handling of Ukraine.

In the House inquiry vote, the only Democratic "no" votes were by Reps. Jeff Van  Drew, a New Jersey freshman, and veteran Collin Peterson of Minnesota, one of the House's most conservative Democrats. Both are battling for reelection in Republican-leaning districts.

Also supporting the rules was independent Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, who left the GOP this year after announcing he was open to considering Trump's impeachment.

Thursday's House debate was laced with high-minded appeals to defend the Constitution and Congress' independence, as well as partisan taunts.

"What are we fighting for? Defending our democracy," said Pelosi. She addressed lawmakers with a poster of the American flag beside her and opened her comments by reading from the preamble to the Constitution.

She also said the rules would let lawmakers decide whether to impeach Trump "based on the truth. I don't know why the Republicans are afraid of the truth."

But her counterpart, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California cast the process as a skewed attempt to railroad a president whom Democrats have detested since before he took office.

"Democrats are trying to impeach the president because they are scared they cannot defeat him at the ballot box," he said.

No. 2 House GOP leader Steve Scalise, R-La., accused Democrats of imposing "Soviet-style rules." His backdrop was a bright red poster depicting the Soviet hammer and sickle emblem and the famous St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow's Red Square.

The House is at least weeks away from deciding whether to vote on actually impeaching Trump. If it does, the Senate would hold a trial on whether to remove him from office. That GOP-run chamber seems highly likely to keep him in the White House.

Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., likened Democrats to a "cult," accusing them of bouncing from "one outlandish conspiracy theory to another." Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., pointedly said she looked forward to Republicans "prioritizing country over party, just as we took an oath to do."

Democrats said the procedures are similar to rules used during the impeachment proceedings of Presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton.

Pelosi decided to have the vote following a GOP drumbeat that the inquiry was tainted because lawmakers hadn't voted to formally commence the work. The rules direct House committees "to continue their ongoing investigations" of Trump.

Democrats hope Thursday's vote will undercut GOP assertions that the process has been invalid. They've noted that there is no constitutional provision or House rule requiring such a vote.

The rules require the House Intelligence Committee — now leading the investigation — to issue a report and release transcripts of its closed-door interviews, which members of both parties have attended.

The Judiciary Committee would then decide whether to recommend that the House impeach Trump.

Republicans could only issue subpoenas for witnesses to appear if the committees holding the hearings approve them — in effect giving Democrats veto power.

Attorneys for Trump could participate in the Judiciary Committee proceedings. Democrats would retain leverage by empowering panel Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., to deny requests by Trump representatives to call witnesses if the White House continues to "unlawfully refuse" to provide testimony or documents Congress demands.


Police say body of British tourist missing in Cambodia found

Family members of missing British backpacker Amelia Bambridge, right, shake hands with provincial police officers on a pier on Koh Rong island off southwestern Cambodia, Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2019. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

By SOPHENG CHEANG Associated Press

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — The body of a British backpacker missing for more than a week in Cambodia was found at sea Thursday dozens of miles (kilometers) from the island where she disappeared, officials said.

The police chief for Preah Sihanouk province, Maj. Gen. Chuon Narin, said the body of 21-year-old Amelia Bambridge was discovered in the Gulf of Thailand northwest of Koh Rong, where she disappeared after attending a beach party on the night of Oct. 23.

It was found near another island, Koh Chhlam, close to Cambodia's maritime border with Thailand.

The Facebook page of Cambodia's deputy navy chief also reported the discovery.

Authorities had launched an intensive land, air and sea search on and around Koh Rong, joined by members of the missing woman's family who came after learning she was lost.

Bambridge's family had speculated she could have become lost in the heavy jungle in the island's interior, but Cambodia officials had openly leaned toward the theory that she drowned in the sea, because her bag with money and a cellphone was found on a rock near the edge of the ocean.

Deputy Navy Commander Tea Sokha said the authorities were tipped off to the body by fishermen who saw it. He said it was then identified as Bambridge's on the basis of its Western appearance and especially because of the clothing and tattoos, both of which matched photos of the woman taken on the night she disappeared.

He said the body was being taken to the mainland port of Sihanoukville for forensic experts to confirm the identification and to examine for the cause of death. In addition, officials were checking with local fisherman to see if there were any reports of other missing women who might have been lost at sea.

Bambridge's mother, father and brother have been both on Koh Rong and in Sihanoukville in recent days, but it was not immediately known if or when they might view the body.


Fires spare Reagan library but menace homes near Los Angeles

 

Fabio Losurdo comforts his horse, Smarty, at a ranch in Simi Valley, Calif., Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2019. A brush fire broke out just before dawn in the Simi Valley area north of Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

By BRIAN MELLEY and MARCIO JOSE SANCHEZ

SIMI VALLEY, Calif. (AP) — A wind-whipped outbreak of wildfires outside Los Angeles on Wednesday threatened thousands of homes and horse ranches, forced the smoky evacuation of elderly patients in wheelchairs and narrowly bypassed the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, protected in part by a buffer zone chewed by goats.

With California tinder dry and fires burning in both the north and south, the state was at the mercy of strong winds, on high alert for any new flames that could run wild, and weary from intentional blackouts aimed at preventing power lines from sparking more destruction.

The blaze near the Reagan library in Simi Valley was driven by strong Santa Ana winds that are the bane of Southern California in the fall and have historically fanned the most destructive fires in the region.

The cause was not yet determined, but Southern California Edison filed a report with state regulators to say it began near its power lines. Electrical equipment has sparked some of California's worst wildfires in recent years and prompted utilities to resort to precautionary power outages. SoCal Edison had not cut power in the area at the time this fire started.

The library, which holds the presidential archives and includes grounds with the graves of Reagan and his wife, Nancy, was well-equipped when flames surrounded it. It relies on a combination of high-tech defenses such as fireproof doors, sprinklers and an underground vault, as well as a decidedly no-tech measure — hundreds of goats brought in every year to graze on brush and create a firebreak.

An army of firefighters helped protect the hilltop museum, and helicopters hit the flames, leaving some neighbors resentful as they frantically hosed down fires in the surrounding subdivisions and open ranchland.

Armed with just a garden hose and wearing a mask, Beth Rivera watered down the perimeter of her large home to prevent embers from igniting dry grass and trees. Friends helped evacuate 11 horses from the property. Soaring flames were only 30 yards (27 meters) away and blowing toward her house, with no firetrucks in sight.

Animals could be heard shrieking in a barn burning next door on Tierra Rejada Road, where large ranches with riding stables and horse rings line the road. Two horses bolted into the street from the flaming barn, trailing a cloud of smoke.

"Oh gosh, this isn't fun," Rivera said. "There isn't a fire unit (here) at the moment because they're busy working on the fire close to the library. This is why I'm very worried. Because I can't ... save my home."

Within minutes, a fire crew arrived to help Rivera and her boyfriend protect their home.

The brush fire broke out before dawn between the cities of Simi Valley and Moorpark north of Los Angeles and grew to 2.5 square miles (6.4 square kilometers), Ventura County officials said. About 7,000 homes, or around 30,000 people, were ordered evacuated, authorities said.

Wind gusts of up to 68 mph (109 kph) were reported, forecasters said. Other spots in Southern California were buffeted by even stronger winds. The gusts knocked over a truck on a freeway.

Another wildfire forced the evacuation of two mobile home parks and a health care facility in Jurupa Valley, 45 miles (72 kilometers) east of Los Angeles, where elderly people were taken out in wheelchairs and gurneys as smoke swirled overhead. The blaze was at least 200 acres in size.

Meanwhile, about 750,000 people statewide remained without power amid efforts to prevent more wildfires.

In wine country north of San Francisco, fire officials reported progress in their battle against a 120-square-mile (310-square-kilometer) blaze in Sonoma County, saying it was 30% contained.

The fire destroyed at least 266 structures, including 133 homes, and threatened 90,000 more, most of them homes, authorities said. Fewer than 6,000 people were still out of their homes after authorities lifted most of the evacuation orders.

Winds topped out at 70 mph (112 kph) north of San Francisco Bay and began to ease early Wednesday, but forecasters said the fire danger would remain high because of continuing breezes and dry air.

In Southern California, fire crews continued making progress in trying to snuff out a wildfire in the celebrity-studded hills of Los Angeles that destroyed a dozen homes on Monday. About 9,000 people, including Arnold Schwarzenegger and LeBron James, were ordered to evacuate and most of those orders were lifted Wednesday.

No deaths have been reported from the recent fires, but toppled trees claimed three lives.

In the battle taking place in the dry hills around Simi Valley, 800 firefighters worked on the ground as helicopters precisely dropped water on the leading edge of the flames and a jet streamed red fire retardant to slow the fire's growth.

Firefighters successfully protected the library, leaving it looking like an island in a soot-black sea. Flames came within about 30 yards (27 meters) of the property, but there was no damage, library spokeswoman Melissa Giller said.

Residents were warned of evacuations when their cellphones blared with emergency messages and police officers went door to door.

"Everything started rolling so fast," said Elena Mishkanian, describing the time from the text to when she heard sirens.

Her family was able to gather only some basics. Her daughter, Megan, 17, took some photos and mementos of trips she had taken. Her son, Troy, 13, netted six pet fish from a tank and put them in pots.

"Fish have feelings!" he said when Megan teased him about it. "Even if they don't make it, at least I know I tried."

As they left the house, police tied yellow caution tape around their front door to show they had left.


Fire nearly destroys historic Japanese castle

 

Smoke and flames rise from burning Shuri Castle in Naha, Okinawa, southern Japan, Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019. A fire early Thursday burned down structures at Shuri Castle on Japan's southern island of Okinawa, nearly destroying the UNESCO World Heritage site. (Jun Hirata/Kyodo News via AP)

By MARI YAMAGUCHI

TOKYO (AP) — A fire broke out early Thursday and spread quickly through historic Shuri Castle on Japan's southern island of Okinawa, nearly destroying the UNESCO World Heritage site.

Firefighters battled the blaze for about 12 hours before bringing it under control in the afternoon.

The fire in Naha, the prefectural capital of Okinawa, started from the castle's main wooden structure and quickly jumped to other buildings, in part because of windy weather. Three large halls and four other structures burned down, a fire official said.

No one was injured. The cause was not immediately known.

An annual weeklong castle festival that began Sunday was to run for a week but the remaining events were canceled. Event organizers were preparing the next day's events at the castle until after midnight, but no one was there when the fire broke out, officials said.

Video on NHK public television showed parts of the castle engulfed in orange flames, then turning into a charred skeleton and collapsing to the ground. Many residents watched from a hillside road and quietly took photos to capture what was left of the castle before it was largely  lost. Some people were crying.

"I feel as if we have lost our symbol," said Naha Mayor Mikiko Shiroma, who led an emergency response team. "I'm shocked."

Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki cut short a trip to South Korea to return to Naha. "My heart is broken," he said. "But I also feel strongly that we must reconstruct Shuri Castle, a symbol of the Ryukyu Kingdom filled with our history and culture."

The castle is a symbol of Okinawa's cultural heritage from the time of the Ryukyu Kingdom that spanned about 450 years from 1429 until 1879, when the island was annexed by Japan.

It is also a symbol of Okinawa's struggle and efforts to recover from World War II. The castle burned down in 1945 during the Battle of Okinawa near the war's end, in which about 200,000 lives were lost on the island, many of them civilians.

The castle was largely restored in 1992 as a national park and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2000 as part of a group of ancient ruins, castles and sacred sites that "provide mute testimony to the rare survival of an ancient form of religion into the modern age."

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters that the central government will do its utmost to reconstruct the castle.

The government dispatched officials from the Agency for Cultural Affairs and other government organizations to join efforts to investigate the cause of the fire and study ways to protect other historical sites from disasters, Suga said.

Tokyo University of Science Professor Ai Sekizawa, an expert on fire prevention, told NHK that the extensive damage occurred because the fire broke out in the middle of the night when nobody was around, delaying the initial firefighting effort. He said the design of the castle might also have allowed the fire to quickly expand in the spacious main hall and move to other buildings connected by hallways.

Kurayoshi Takara, a historian at the University of the Ryukyus who helped reconstruct Shuri Castle, said he was speechless when he saw the fire. He told NHK that the castle reconstruction was a symbolic event for Okinawans to restore their history and Ryukyu heritage lost during the war.

"I still can't accept this as a reality," Takara said. "It has taken more than 30 years and it was a monument to the wisdom and efforts of many people. Shuri Castle is not just about the buildings, but it reconstructed all the details, even including equipment inside."

UNESCO Director General Audrey Azouley expressed her sympathy. "Deep emotion and sincere solidarity with the Japanese people as we see the tragic fire at the beautiful #shuricastle," she wrote on her Twitter account. "This is a loss for all humanity."

Okinawa was under U.S. occupation until 1972, two decades after the rest of Japan regained full independence.


Denmark allows Russia-Germany gas pipeline

In this Friday, April 9, 2010 file photo a Russian construction worker speaks on a mobile phone in Portovaya Bay some 170 kms (106 miles) north-west from St. Petersburg, Russia, during a ceremony marking the start of Nord Stream pipeline construction. Wednesday’s decision by the Danish Energy Agency to approve the Nord Stream 2 pipeline’s route is a blow to the U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration, which had fiercely opposed it, and a victory for Russia and Germany which staunchly supported it.  (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky, file)

By JAN M. OLSEN Associated Press

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Denmark said Wednesday it is giving permission for a joint German-Russian underwater gas pipeline to be laid to through its territory, in a blow to the United States, which had fiercely opposed the project.

The decision by the Danish Energy Agency to approve the Nord Stream 2 pipeline's route is a victory for the governments of Russia and Germany, which had staunchly supported it.

The plan to transport natural gas about 1,200-kilometers (746-miles) through the Baltic Sea from Russia to Europe has come under fire from U.S. President Donald Trump's administration and several European countries, who argue it could increase Europe's dependence on Russia for energy.

The Danish government agency said it had granted a permit "to construct a section of the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipelines on the Danish continental shelf southeast of Bornholm in the Baltic Sea."

"We are pleased to have obtained Denmark's consent," said Samira Kiefer Andersson, a representative for Nord Stream 2 AG, the company that manages the project. "We will continue the constructive cooperation with Danish authorities to complete the construction of the pipeline."

She said preparatory work and the pipelay will start in coming weeks.

The U.S. government, which wants to sell its liquefied natural gas to Europe, has threatened sanctions against companies involved in the undersea pipeline.

In Russia, Konstantin Kosachev, head of the foreign affairs committee in the upper house of the Russian parliament, noted that the permission was issued despite the "powerful pressure" of the project's foes "from Ukraine to Poland to America."

A refusal to allow the pipeline's construction would have "inflicted serious losses to European companies without any real reason," Kosachev wrote on Facebook. "It looks like the project could be completed within months."

While the pipeline is wholly owned by Russian gas giant Gazprom, half of the project's 8 billion-euro ($8.9 billion) cost is covered by five European energy and chemicals companies including Shell, BASF and ENGIE.

Germany, Europe's biggest economy and the world's biggest importer of natural gas, already relies heavily on Russian gas. So far, Chancellor Angela Merkel has deftly kept the pipeline off the table while imposing sanctions against Russia for its actions in Ukraine.

Asked whether any political obstacles to the project remain after the Danish decision, German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said: "We have always said that there is a political dimension to Nord Stream 2, and we have always said that gas transit through Ukraine must have a future."

Seibert noted that Merkel discussed the issue with Russian President Vladimir Putin two days ago, and said Germany continues to support three-way talks between Russia, Ukraine and the European Commission on gas transit.

In Denmark, a left-wing party that supports the minority Social Democratic Party government said the decision was "disastrous for the climate and the European energy policy."

"In light of the climate crisis, Nord Stream 2 is a blatantly stupid decision," said Mai Villadsen, a member of the Red-Green Alliance. "It makes no sense to approve a huge new gas pipeline without assessing the consequences for the climate."

The Nord Stream 2 pipeline starts in Russia and passes through Finnish, Swedish, Danish and German marine areas before going ashore at the German coast. It can transport 55 billion cubic meters of natural gas per year. 

Russia, Finland, Sweden and Germany earlier issued permits.
 


DAILY UPDATE

|

Back to Main Page

HEADLINES [click on headline to view story] : 

Toll rises in Australian wildfires with more danger ahead

Chinese, other students flee Hong Kong as violence worsens

Sri Lankan journalists fear situation may worsen after vote

US and Turkey have friendly talks but differences persist


Winds fan ferocious fires in Australia's most populous state

Police, protesters face off in renewed clashes in Hong Kong

Air quality sinks to 'severe' in haze-shrouded New Delhi

Clinton criticizes UK for blocking Russian influence report


Hong Kong police shoot protester, man set on fire

Winds, heat pose extreme fire danger in Australian southeast

China's Alibaba, JD report booming Singles Day sales

Iran discovers new oil field with over 50 billion barrels

Despite fires, California wine is doing just fine - for now


Over 100,000 greet Japan's emperor at enthronement parade

Queen, politicians out in force as UK remembers its war dead

Over 100,000 celebrate 30 years since fall of Berlin Wall

650 seats, 46 million voters: The UK election in numbers


Hong Kong protesters blame police after student dies in fall

Thailand set to hinder Cambodian opposition's return plans

US official says Moon-Abe meeting was 'encouraging sign'

Standing tall: Scientists find oldest example of upright ape

A CGI James Dean is cast in new film, sparking an outcry


Moon, Abe meet briefly, agree to more talks to settle row

UN chief urges Myanmar to resolve Rohingya crisis

Cambodian opposition chief readies return from exile

EU's Barnier warns of tough times ahead on UK trade deal


Lindsay Hoyle chosen to replace Bercow as UK Commons speaker

30 years after Berlin Wall fell, East-West divides remain

Iran marks 1979 takeover of US Embassy, hostage crisis

Iran students seize US Embassy in Tehran: Nov. 4, 1979


Riot police storm Hong Kong malls to thwart more protests

Merkel: 1 million car charging points in Germany by 2030

UK's Boris Johnson apologizes for missing Brexit deadline

Jane Fonda spends night in jail after demonstration arrest


Cambodian official says British backpacker died of drowning

Farage tells Johnson: Drop Brexit deal and I'll help you win

Science Says: How daylight saving time affects health

Final 'Or-derrrs': UK Commons speaker John Bercow bows out


Sharply divided House approves Dems' impeachment rules

Police say body of British tourist missing in Cambodia found

Fires spare Reagan library but menace homes near Los Angeles

Fire nearly destroys historic Japanese castle

Denmark allows Russia-Germany gas pipeline