Suu Kyi denies Myanmar genocide allegations at top UN court
Myanmar's leader Aung San Suu Kyi addresses judges of the
International Court of Justice for the second day of three days of hearings
in The Hague, Netherlands, Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
FURTULA and LORNE COOK
THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) —
Myanmar's former pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi on Wednesday denied
that her country's armed forces committed genocide against the Rohingya
minority, telling the U.N.'s top court that the exodus of hundreds of
thousands of Muslims was the unfortunate result of a battle with insurgents.
In a measured tone, Suu Kyi calmly
refuted allegations that the army had killed civilians, raped women and
torched houses in 2017 in what Myanmar's accusers describe as a deliberate
campaign of ethnic cleansing and genocide that saw more than 700,00 Rohingya
flee to neighboring Bangladesh.
She said the allegations stem from
"an internal armed conflict started by coordinated and comprehensive armed
attacks ... to which Myanmar's defense services responded. Tragically, this
armed conflict led to the exodus of several hundred thousand Muslims."
Her appearance at the International
Court of Justice was striking in that Suu Kyi was defending the very armed
forces that had kept her under house arrest for about 15 years. She was
awarded the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize in absentia for championing democracy and
rights under Myanmar's then-ruling junta. A small group of her supporters
gathered Wednesday outside The Hague-based court.
Suu Kyi told the court that the
African nation of Gambia, which brought the legal action against Myanmar on
behalf of the 57-country Organization of Islamic Cooperation, had provided
"an incomplete and misleading factual picture" of what happened in Myanmar's
northern Rakhine state in August 2017.
Gambia alleges that genocide was
committed and is still ongoing. It has asked the world court to take action
to stop the violence, including "all measures within its power to prevent
all acts that amount to or contribute to the crime of genocide" in Myanmar.
But Suu Kyi said developments in one
of Myanmar's poorest regions are "complex and not easy to fathom." She
detailed how the army responded on Aug. 25, 2017, to attacks by insurgents
trained by Afghan and Pakistan extremists.
Addressing the court in her capacity
as Myanmar's foreign minister, Suu Kyi insisted that the country's armed
forces had tried "to reduce collateral damage" during fighting in 12
locations. While conceding that excessive force might have been used and
that one helicopter may have killed "non-combatants," Suu Kyi said a Myanmar
investigation is looking into what happened and should be allowed to finish
"Can there be genocidal intent on
the part of a state that actively investigates, prosecutes and punishes
soldiers and officers who are accused of wrongdoing?" she asked the court.
Suu Kyi and Myanmar's legal team
argued that the genocide convention does not apply to Myanmar. They invoked
Croatia during the Balkans wars in the 1990s, saying that no genocide was
deemed there when thousands of people were forced from their homes by
On Tuesday, Justice Minister
Aboubacarr Tambadou urged the International Court of Justice to "tell
Myanmar to stop these senseless killings, to stop these acts of barbarity
that continue to shock our collective conscience, to stop this genocide of
its own people."
Also Tuesday, the U.S. slapped
economic sanctions on four Myanmar military officers suspected of human
rights violations. It sanctioned Min Aung Hlaing, commander of Myanmar's
armed forces, over allegations of serious rights abuses. Deputy commander
Soe Win and two other military leaders, Than Oo and Aung Aung, were also
"There are credible claims of
mass-scale rape and other forms of sexual violence committed by soldiers
under Min Aung Hlaing's command," a U.S. statement said.
The court's hearings on Myanmar are
scheduled to end Thursday.
Climate activist Greta Thunberg is Time 'person of the year'
This photo provided by Time magazine shows Greta
Thunberg, who has been named Time’s youngest “person of the year” on
Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019. The media franchise said Wednesday on its website
that Thunberg is being honored for work that transcends backgrounds and
borders. (Time via AP)
NEW YORK (AP)
— Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg was named Time's "person of the
year" Wednesday, becoming at age 16 the youngest person to whom the U.S.
magazine has given the title.
Thunberg emerged as the face of the
youth climate movement after she started skipping school once a week to
protest outside her country's parliament. In the past year and a half, she
has drawn large crowds at international conferences and demonstrations
Some have welcomed Thunberg's
environmental activism, including her speeches challenging world leaders to
do more to stop global warming. But others have criticized the teenager's
sometimes combative tone.
"For sounding the alarm about
humanity's predatory relationship with the only home we have, for bringing
to a fragmented world a voice that transcends backgrounds and borders, for
showing us all what it might look like when a new generation leads, Greta
Thunberg is TIME's 2019 Person of the Year," the media franchise said
Wednesday on its website.
Leaving a United Nations climate
conference in Madrid where she addressed negotiators on Wednesday, Thunberg
told The Associated Press she was "a bit surprised" by Time's recognition,
which she dedicated to all young activists.
Thunberg said she was hopeful the
message of urgency she and other activists are communicating — that
governments need to drastically increase their efforts to combat climate
change — is finally getting through.
She said the experience of the past
15 months, going from solo-protester outside the Swedish parliament to
addressing world leaders at the U.N. General Assembly, had changed her.
"I think life is much more
meaningful now that I have something to do that has an impact," Thunberg
said in a phone interview.
She plans to head home to Sweden for
some rest during the holidays. "If you don't take breaks, you won't be able
to continue," she said.
Last year's Time winners included
slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi; the staff of the Capital Gazette in
Annapolis, Maryland, where five people were shot to death; Philippine
journalist Maria Ressa; and two Reuters journalists, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo.
Nearly a half-billion in Asia-Pacific still going hungry
In this Feb. 11, 2019, file photo, woman cuts rice in the
village of Samroang Kandal on the north side of Phnom Penh, Cambodia. (AP
Photo/Heng Sinith, File)
In this Nov. 17, 2019, file photo, boys help their family
for collect rice during harvest season in Samroang Tiev village, outside
Phnom Penh, Cambodia. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith, File)
BANGKOK (AP) — Nearly a
half-billion people in the Asia-Pacific are still malnourished and
eliminating hunger by 2030 requires that millions escape food insecurity
each month, according to a report released Wednesday by UN agencies.
Data compiled by the United Nations
show slow progress and even backsliding in the areas of child wasting and
stunting and other problems related to malnutrition. Worsening inequality
means that despite relatively fast economic growth, incomes in the region
are not increasing fast enough to help ensure adequate, nutritional diets
for hundreds of millions still living in poverty, it says.
The report urges that governments
combine efforts to end poverty and with nutrition, health and
The UN's sustainable development
goals for 2030 call for ending hunger and ensuring all people have adequate
access to food all around the year.
"We are not on track," said Kundhavi
Kadiresan, the FAO's regional representative. "Progress in reducing
undernourishment has slowed a lot in the past few years."
More than a fifth of all people in
the Asia-Pacific region are facing moderate to severe food insecurity,
meaning they must scrimp on food or go hungry part of the year, and in the
worst cases go days without eating.
More than half of the 479 million in
the region who are undernourished live in South Asia, where more than a
third of all children suffer from chronic malnutrition, said the report
written by the Food and Agriculture Organization, UNICEF, the World Food
Program and the World Health Organization.
In India, nearly 21% of children
suffer from wasting, a more acute form of malnutrition.
Failing to ensure children are well
nourished jeopardizes their future development, especially their cognitive
abilities — a crucial handicap in the 21st century age of advanced
technologies, said Michael Samson, research director of the Economic Policy
Research Institute, who spoke at the report's release in Bangkok.
Cognitive abilities cannot be traded
or manufactured, so "Investing in the first 1,000 days (of a child's life)
is the most important investment you can make in future productivity," he
Governments have begun to implement
some policies aimed at addressing the severe shortfalls in child and
maternal nutrition . Thailand has provided subsidies that have helped
improve the health and diets of families with young children. In neighboring
Myanmar, trial programs in the Chin state are being expanded to cover more
of the country.
The focus is not just on providing
cash, but improving awareness about nutrition, family planning and water and
sanitation," said Shein Myint, an assistant director in the Social
Protection section of Myanmar's Ministry of Social Welfare.
"From monitoring we see that
beneficiaries mainly use the cash to have nutritious food and use it for
healthcare costs," Shein Myint said.
Cambodia is expanding a program
called NOURISH that originally was funded by the U.S. Agency for
International Development. It provides help for impoverished pregnant women
and families during the first 1,000 days of a baby's life. In areas where
the program was implemented there was a nearly 20% decrease in stunting and
marked improvement in toddlers' diets, said Laura Cardinal, who directed the
While many in Asia still do not get
enough calories to thrive, in the Pacific the problem is too many empty
calories: obesity rates in the Pacific islands are among the world's highest
and rising fast, partly because healthy foods are costly and less available
and partly because local cultures focus much on feasting, said Lu'isa
Manuofetoa, the acting chief executive for Tonga's Ministry of Internal
"People like to have feasts all the
time, that's something we need to change," she said.
India's Parliament passes contentious citizenship bill
Protesters shout slogans against the Citizenship
Amendment Bill (CAB) in Gauhati, India, Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019. (AP Photo/Anupam
NEW DELHI (AP) — Indian lawmakers
approved legislation on Wednesday granting citizenship to non-Muslims who
migrated illegally from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan despite ongoing
protests against the measure in the country's remote northeast.
The upper house of Parliament passed
the bill 125-105 on Wednesday night. The lower house had approved it on
Monday. It now needs to be signed by the country's ceremonial president, a
formality before becoming law.
The Citizenship Amendment Bill was
introduced by the Hindu nationalist-led government of Prime Minister
Narendra Modi following his resounding election victory in May.
Protesters say they oppose the
legislation out of concern that migrants who came to the country illegally
will move to the border region in the northeast and dilute the culture and
political sway of indigenous tribal people.
Protesters burned tires and blocked
highways and rail lines for a second day Wednesday. Police fired rubber
bullets and used batons and tear gas to disperse protesters in Dibrugarh
district in Assam state, the Press Trust of India news agency said.
State police official Mukesh
Aggarwal said a curfew was imposed in Gauhati, the state capital, and army
soldiers were standing by in case the violence escalated.
Street protests continued in Guahati,
with young demonstrators making bonfires across the city. Police used tear
gas and batons to disperse hundreds of protesters who tried to march to the
office of the state's top elected official.
The Press Trust of India said the
federal government was airlifting nearly 5,000 paramilitary soldiers to the
Introducing the bill in the upper
house, Home Minister Amit Shah said it was not anti-Muslim because it did
not affect the existing path to citizenship available to all communities. It
seeks to address the difficulties of Hindus and other minorities who
suffered persecution in Muslim-majority Pakistan, Bangladesh and
Afghanistan, he said.
Anand Sharma, a leader of the main
opposition Congress party, said the bill was discriminatory because India's
Constitution provides equal opportunities to all communities. Some
opposition members complained the the bill excludes Tamil Hindus who fled
Sri Lanka during its civil war.
The U.S. Commission on International
Religious Freedom criticized the bill as going against "India's rich history
of secular pluralism and the Indian Constitution," and sought American
sanctions against Home Minister Shah if the bill is approved.
Indian External Affairs Ministry
spokesman Raveesh Kumar said the U.S. commission's statement "is neither
accurate nor warranted.''
"The bill provides expedited
consideration for Indian citizenship to persecuted religious minorities
already in India from certain contiguous countries. It seeks to address
their current difficulties and meet their basic human rights," Kumar said in
a statement. "Such an initiative should be welcomed, not criticized by those
who are genuinely committed to religious freedom.''
Aung San Suu Kyi watches UN court hear Rohingya genocide case
Myanmar's leader Aung San Suu Kyi sits in the court room
of the International Court of Justice for the first day of three days of
hearings in The Hague, Netherlands, Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Peter
People stand in the court room of the International Court
of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands, Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2019 as the U.N.'s
highest court begins a hearing into allegations of genocide in Myanmar over
the military campaign against the Rohingya minority. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
FURTULA and LORNE COOK
THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — The
justice minister of Gambia appealed to the U.N.'s top court Tuesday to
recognize that genocide against Myanmar's Rohingya minority took place and
to ensure it does not continue, while Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi
prepared to defend the actions of her country's military.
Former pro-democracy icon Suu Kyi
watched from the front row as lawyers gave the International Court of
Justice detailed accounts of Rohingya men, women and children killed and the
destruction of tens of thousands of Muslim minority homes in Myanmar's
northern Rakhine state.
"It is indeed sad for our generation
that 75 years after humankind committed itself to the words 'never again,'
another genocide is unfolding right before our eyes," Gambian Justice
Minister Aboubacarr Tambadou told the court in The Hague . "Yet we do
nothing to stop it."
"This is a stain on our collective
conscience, and it will be irresponsible for any of us to simply look the
other way and pretend that it is not our business," he said.
Gambia, a nation in West Africa,
filed the case in the world court on behalf of the Organization of Islamic
Myanmar's military began a harsh
counterinsurgency campaign against the Rohingya in August 2017 in response
to an insurgent attack. More than 700,000 Rohingya fled to neighboring
Bangladesh to escape what has been called an ethnic cleansing campaign
involving mass rapes, killings and the torching of homes.
The head of a U.N. fact-finding
mission on Myanmar warned in October that "there is a serious risk of
genocide recurring." The mission also found that Myanmar should be held
responsible in international legal forums for alleged genocide against the
Myanmar has strongly denied the
charges but says it stands ready to take action against wrongdoers if there
is sufficient evidence.
A recent statement on the website of
the nation's Ministry of the Interior said the renewed international
pressure was due to a lack of understanding of "the complexities of the
issue and the narratives of the people of Myanmar."
Beyond detailing graphic accounts of
rape, mutilation and the killing of children by soldiers, Gambia's legal
team underscored what it alleged was Myanmar's "ongoing genocidal intent"
and the government's continued incitement of racial hatred.
Gambia asked for provisional
measures to prevent "extrajudicial killings or physical abuse; rape or other
forms of sexual violence; burning of homes or villages; destruction of lands
and livestock, deprivation of food" and other actions "calculated to bring
about the physical destruction of the Rohingya group in whole or in part."
Suu Kyi, who was awarded the 1991
Nobel Peace Prize for championing democracy and rights under Myanmar's
then-ruling junta, sat attentively in the front row as Gambia's
representatives made their case. She is leading the Myanmar delegation to
The Hague in her capacity as foreign minister.
Scores of Rohingya supporters
gathered outside the court behind a banner reading "Stop Genocide." Some
carried photos of Suu Kyi with "Shame" and "agent of the military" written
The International Court of Justice
hearing is set for an extraordinary scene on Wednesday, when Suu Kyi - once
a global beacon of hope for human rights — is expected to defend the actions
of an army that held her under house arrest for years.
A group of seven fellow Nobel Peace
Prize winners has called on Suu Kyi "to publicly acknowledge the crimes,
including genocide, committed against the Rohingya. We are deeply concerned
that instead of condemning these crimes, Aung San Suu Kyi is actively
denying that these atrocities even occurred. "
They wrote in a signed statement
ahead of the court hearing, which runs until Thursday, that "Aung San Suu
Kyi must be held criminally accountable, along with her army commanders, for
In Myanmar, hundreds of people have
rallied to show their support for her in recent days.
At one rally, around 700 people,
including many members of Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party,
gathered outside the colonial-era City Hall in Yangon, Myanmar's largest
As the crowd waved national flags
and listened to music and poetry, a popular local singer told them "Mother
Suu is the bravest human being in the world — her weapon is love."
6 dead from New Zealand volcano as helpers describe horror
New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, right, talks
with first responders in Whakatane, New Zealand, Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2019.
(Dom Thomas/Pool Photo via AP)
This Dec. 9, 2019, photo provided by Michael Schade shows
a damaged helicopter following the eruption of the volcano on White Island,
New Zealand. (Michael Schade via AP)
By NICK PERRY
WHAKATANE, New Zealand (AP) —
Survivors of a powerful volcanic eruption in New Zealand ran into the sea to
escape the scalding steam and ash and emerged covered in burns, say those
who first helped them.
The accounts Tuesday came as some
relatives were forced to continue waiting for news of their loved ones, with
authorities deciding it remained too dangerous for crews to land on the
island and remove bodies.
Six deaths were confirmed after
Monday's eruption of the White Island volcano. Five people died at the time
of the blast or soon after, while a sixth person died Tuesday night at an
Another eight people are believed to
have died, with their bodies remaining on the ash-covered island for now.
Experts said there was a 50 percent
chance of another small eruption within a day and rescue teams didn't want
to take any chances. Police said they planned to send up drones to measure
whether gas levels were safe.
The tragedy will have an ongoing
effect on the town of Whakatane, which road signs tout as the gateway to
White Island. As well as being an important tourist draw for the 20,000
people who live here, the volcano has an almost mystical significance, its
regular puffing a feature of the landscape.
Whether the island will ever host
tourists again remains uncertain after the horrific tragedy that unfolded
when the volcano exploded a little after 2 p.m. Monday.
Geoff Hopkins was in a boat offshore
after visiting the island with his daughter, the tour a 50th birthday
present for him. He told the New Zealand Herald the eruption at first looked
beautiful but quickly turned menacing.
As injured people were transported
onto their boat screaming in pain, Hopkins and his daughter Lillani poured
fresh water onto them, cut them out of their clothes and tried to keep them
He told the Herald they were
"horrifically" burned on their exposed skin and faces, even under their
In all, police believe there were 47
visitors on the island at the time. They say 24 were Australian, nine were
American and five were New Zealanders. Others were from Germany, Britain,
China and Malaysia. Many were passengers aboard the Royal Caribbean cruise
ship Ovation of the Seas.
About 30 of the survivors remained
hospitalized on Tuesday, many flown to burn units around the country. The
first confirmed death was of a local man, Hayden Marshall-Inman, a guide who
had shown tourists around the island.
Former Whakatane Mayor Tony Bonne
said Marshall-Inman was a keen fisherman and well-liked. He was so kind,
Bonne said, that he would often leave extra money at the grocery store for
those he knew were struggling to pay.
Many people were left questioning
why tourists were still allowed to visit the island after seismic monitoring
experts raised the volcano's alert level last month.
"These questions must be asked and
they must be answered," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in Parliament.
New Zealand's Deputy Police
Commissioner John Tims said Tuesday that police were opening a criminal
investigation into the deaths that would accompany an investigation by
health and safety regulators.
But hours later, police put out a
statement saying that while they were investigating the deaths on behalf of
the coroner, "To correct an earlier statement, it is too early to confirm
whether there will also be a criminal investigation."
Australian Prime Minister Scott
Morrison said 11 Australians are unaccounted for and 13 were hospitalized.
Three Australians were suspected to be among the initial five confirmed
dead, he told reporters in Sydney. "I fear there is worse news to come,"
Relatives of a newlywed American
couple say the husband and wife were severely burned. Barbara Barham told
The Washington Post that her daughter Lauren Urey, 32, and son-in-law
Matthew Urey, 36, from Richmond, Virginia, were on a honeymoon trip.
A few locals laid flowers Tuesday at
a fence on the waterfront near where the rescue boats had returned with the
White Island, also known by the
indigenous Maori name Whakaari, is the tip of an undersea volcano about 50
kilometers (30 kilometers) off New Zealand's main North Island.
New Zealand's GeoNet seismic
monitoring agency had raised the volcano's alert level on Nov. 18 from 1 to
2 on a scale where 5 represents a major eruption, noting an increase in
sulfur dioxide gas, which originates from magma. It also said volcanic
tremors had increased from weak to moderate strength. It raised the alert
level to 4 for a time after Monday's eruption but lowered it to 3 as the
Richard Arculus, an Australian
National University volcanologist who has made numerous visits to White
Island, said the eruption likely sent a ground-hugging lateral blast from
the crater to the jetty, as well as blasting rock and ash vertically
"In that crater, it would have been
a terrible place to be," Arculus said. "There would have been nowhere safe
for you to be hiding, thinking that, 'Oh well, if it explodes, it just goes
straight up in the air.'"
At least 10 people were killed on
the island in 1914 when it was being mined for sulfur. Part of a crater wall
collapsed and a landslide destroyed the miners' village and the mine itself.
The island became a private scenic
reserve in 1953, and daily tours allow more than 10,000 people to visit
"Tourism has been a growing market,
and White Island has been an anchor for that," Bonne said. "It's something
unique that pulls people from all around the world."
He said it was sad to think that
might all now come to a stop.
Cambodia dismayed over US sanctions for corruption, logging
In this Nov. 3, 2019, file photo, Cambodia's Prime
Minister Hun Sen participates in ASEAN-U.N. summit in Nonthaburi, Thailand.
(AP Photo/Wason Wanichakorn, File)
Cambodia (AP) — The Cambodian government expressed "strong dismay"
Tuesday over a U.S. Treasury decision to sanction two businessmen suspected
of corruption and illegal logging.
A Foreign Ministry statement said
the sanctions were based on groundless accusations.
"The Executive Order is an ambush
against the ongoing efforts to restore trust and confidence between Cambodia
and the United States," the statement said.
It defended both of the influential
businessmen and former officials targeted by the sanctions, which freeze
their U.S.-based assets and ban doing business with them.
The ministry "expressed strong
dismay over the arbitrary designation" of the Cambodian citizens. It said
Kim had made a "great contribution" to the country's peace, stability and
social order. Pheap has "played an active role in supporting Cambodia's
socio-economic development," it said.
The U.S. Treasury Department said it
had designated Try Pheap and 11 companies owned or by controlled by him for
sanctions for alleged graft and illegal logging. The companies engage in
various businesses including tourism, real estate development and energy.
It said Pheap, who has been an
advisor to Prime Minister Hun Sen, has built up a vast illegal logging
network that purchases protection from government officials and the military
and export lumber to Vietnam, China, Russia and European countries.
Pheap has responded to past
corruption allegations in Facebook postings saying his businesses are all
legal and abide by the law.
The Treasury Department also
designated former Gen. Kun Kim, three of his relatives and their family
businesses for sanctions for allegedly engaging in corruption and illegal
extraction of natural resources.
Kim is a longtime associate and
supporter of Hun Sen and now is the senior minister for veterans' affairs.
The businesses and people cited in the announcement also are involved in
rubber plantations and financial and security services.
Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin
said the sanctions, announced Monday on International Corruption Day,
targeted people and entities based in Latvia, Serbia, Venezuela, Hong Kong
and Cambodia suspected of illicit activities that "undermine the foundations
of stable, secure and functioning societies."
The human rights group Global
Witness welcomed the Treasury Department's announcement, saying both Pheap
and Kim are suspected of serious human rights and environmental abuses.
"As Hun Sen's supporters have
accumulated more and more wealth and impunity, their incentive to help him
cling to power has increased," Patrick Alley, director of Global Witness,
said in a statement.
"Accountability for those sustaining
the corrupt dictatorship that is oppressing Cambodians on a daily basis is
long overdue," he said.
Hun Sen has been prime minister
since 1985. Critics say he has kept his hold on power by rewarding cronies
and family members and allowing them to plunder the country's forests and
The Treasury statement cites a
Chinese resort development project in Koh Kong, on the scenic southern
coast, that involved land seizures carried out by armed soldiers.
In late 2017, Cambodia's Supreme
Court ordered the main opposition party dissolved on the unsupported pretext
that it conspired with the United States to overthrow Prime Minister Hun
Sen's government. That move was seen as a government effort to ensure his
ruling Cambodian People's Party won a July 2018 general election. It ended
up sweeping all 125 National Assembly seats.
Because they considered the
elections neither free nor fair, some Western nations applied diplomatic
sanctions against Hun Sen's government.
The European Union is considering
withdrawing preferential tariff privileges from Cambodia. That would be a
blow to its economy, which is powered by garment exports.
Suspect shoots 6 dead in Czech hospital, then kills self
Police personnel outside the Ostrava Teaching Hospital
after a shooting incident in Ostrava, Czech Republic, Tuesday, Dec. 10,
2019. (Vladimir Prycek/CTK via AP)
PRAGUE (AP) — A man with an illegal
gun shot six people dead and wounded three more in a hospital in the eastern
Czech Republic Tuesday, the prime minister and officials said. The apparent
suspect later shot himself dead as police approached his car.
Prime Minister Andrej Babis told
Czech public television the shooting took place around 7 a.m. in a waiting
room. The attacker opened fire at people's heads from close range, Babis
The prime minister canceled an
official visit to Estonia and was heading for the site, at the University
hospital in the eastern city of Ostrava, 350 kilometers (220 miles) east of
"It's a huge tragedy," Babis later
said. "It's an unfortunate, individual act."
He said the suspect had been treated
in the hospital, but didn't offer details.
Interior Minister Jan Hamacek said
police found the suspect's car and he shot himself in the head as they
approached and died from his injuries about half an hour later. Hamacek said
police will be investigating his motive.
"I'd like to assure the public that
there's no danger anymore," Hamacek said.
Police identified the suspect as a
42-year-old man. Several hundred police officers had launched an extensive
manhunt, using two helicopters, for the suspect and his silver-gray Renault
Regional police chief officer Tomas
Kuzel said the suspect used an illegally held Czech-made 9 mm gun. He said
police believe the suspect who had a criminal record acted alone.
Police published a photo of the
suspect, having withdrawn an earlier photo of a different man. They said
that man was now considered to be a witness.
Clinic director Jiri Havrlant told
media the dead were four men and two women. Another man and a woman had to
be operated on, while one person was more lightly wounded.
All the victims were adult patients
waiting for treatment.
5 dead, many more missing in eruption of New Zealand volcano
aerial photo shows White Island after its volcanic eruption in New Zealand
Monday, Dec. 9, 2019. (George Novak/New Zealand Herald via AP)
image released by GeoNet, tourists can be seen on a trail near the volcano's
crater Monday, Dec. 9, 2019, on White Island, New Zealand. (GNS Science via
By MARK BAKER and
WHAKATANE, New Zealand (AP) — A
volcanic island in New Zealand erupted Monday in a tower of ash and steam
while dozens of tourists were exploring the moon-like surface, killing five
people and leaving many more missing.
Police said the site was still too
dangerous hours later for rescuers to search for the missing.
Police Deputy Commissioner John Tims
said the number of missing was in the double digits but he couldn't confirm
an exact number. He said there were fewer than 50 people on the island when
it erupted and 23 had been taken off, including the five dead.
Tims said experts had told them the
island remained unstable but search and rescue teams wanted to get back as
quickly as they could. He said there had been no contact with any of those
who were missing.
He said both New Zealanders and
overseas tourists were among those who were dead, missing or injured. He
said most of the 18 who survived were injured and some had suffered severe
Some of those involved were tourists
from the Royal Caribbean International cruise ship Ovation of the Seas.
"A number of our guests were touring
the island today," the company said. "We will offer all possible assistance
to our guests and local authorities. Please keep all those affected in your
The cruise ship, which had left from
Sydney last week, was scheduled to sail to the capital Wellington on Monday
night but the company said it would instead remain in the Tauranga port
overnight until it learned more on the situation.
"My god," wrote Michael Schade on
Twitter as he posted video of the eruption. "My family and I had gotten off
it 20 minutes before, were waiting at our boat about to leave when we saw
it. Boat ride home tending to people our boat rescued was indescribable."
His video showed a wall of ash and
steam around the island and a helicopter badly damaged and covered in ash.
He said one woman was badly injured but seemed "strong" by the end.
White Island is northeast of the
town of Tauranga on North Island, one of New Zealand's two main islands, and
sits about 50 kilometers (30 miles) offshore. The island itself is the top
of an undersea volcano.
Experts say it's New Zealand's most
active cone volcano. Already people are questioning why tourists were still
able to visit the island after scientists recently noted an uptick in
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern
traveled to the region late Monday. She said the incident was "very
"All our thoughts are with those
affected," she said.
Australian Prime Minister Scott
Morrison said he'd offered Ardern his support.
"Australians have been caught up in
this terrible event and we are working to determine their wellbeing,"
Morrison wrote on Twitter.
Brad Scott, a volcanologist with
research group GNS Science, said the eruption sent a plume of steam and ash
about 12,000 feet (3,660 meters) into the air. He said it had also affected
the whole of the White Island crater floor.
The GeoNet agency, which monitors
volcanoes and earthquakes in New Zealand, raised the alert level on White
Island from one to two on Nov. 18, noting an increase in the amount of
sulfur dioxide gas, which originates from magma deep in the volcano. It also
said at the time that over the previous weeks, the volcanic tremor had
increased from weak to moderate strength.
Scott said the alert level was often
raised and then later dropped again without any eruption. He said there
hadn't been any major incidents with tourists visiting the island in the
past, although there had been some close calls.
Scott said it was not for him to say
whether the island was safe enough to host tourists immediately before
Ardern said the focus remained on
the search and rescue mission for now and questions about whether tourists
should be visiting would be addressed later.
GeoNet at first raised its alert
level to four, on a scale where five represents a major eruption. It later
dropped the alert level back down to three. Scott said that was because the
eruption wasn't sustained beyond the initial blast.
"In the scheme of things, for
volcanic eruptions, it is not large," said Ken Gledhill from GeoNet. "But if
you were close to that, it is not good."
Twelve people were killed on the
island in 1914 when it was being mined for sulfur. Part of a crater wall
collapsed and a landslide destroyed the miners' village and the mine itself.
The remains of buildings from
another mining enterprise in the 1920s are now a tourist attraction,
according to GeoNet. The island became a private scenic reserve in 1953, and
daily tours allow more than 10,000 people to visit the volcano every year.
The island is also known by the
indigenous Maori name Whakaari.
Traffic jams cripple Paris as pension strikes halt trains
An empty platform is pictured during a railway strike at
the Saint Germain au Mont d'Or train station, around Lyon, central France,
Monday, Dec. 9, 2019. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)
ACHOUI-LESAGE and ANGELA CHARLTON
PARIS (AP) — Paris commuters inched
to work Monday through massive traffic jams as strikes against retirement
plan changes halted trains and subways for a fifth straight day.
French President Emmanuel Macron
girded for one of the toughest weeks of his presidency as his government
prepares to present a redesign of the convoluted French pension system. He
sees melding 42 different retirement plans into one as delivering a more
equitable, financially sustainable system. Unions see the move as an attack
on the French way of life even though Macron's government is not expected to
change the current retirement age of 62.
Citing safety risks, the SNCF
national rail network warned travelers to stay home or use "alternative
means of locomotion" to get around Monday instead of thronging platforms in
hopes of getting the few available trains running.
As a result, the national road
authority reported more than 600 kilometers (360 miles) of traffic problems
at morning rush hour around the Paris region — up from 150 kilometers (90
miles) on an average day.
The road traffic was worse Monday
than when the strike started last week, because many French employees
managed to work from home or take a day off then. But that's increasingly
difficult as the strike wears on.
Gabriella Micuci from the Paris
suburb of Le Bourget walked several kilometers (miles) in cold rain and then
squeezed into a packed subway on one of the two automated Metro lines that
don't need drivers. Other commuters used shared bikes or electric scooters.
"I left home earlier than usual, I
thought I was going to be able to catch an early train but not at all,"
Micuci told The Associated Press. "It's a real catastrophe, people are
becoming even more violent, they are pushing you."
Fortified by the biggest nationwide
demonstrations in years when the strike launched last Thursday, unions plan
new protests on Tuesday and hope to keep up the pressure on Macron's
government to back down on the retirement reform.
Only about a sixth of French trains
were running Monday and international train lines also saw disruptions.
Union activists also blocked bus depots around Paris, limiting bus routes.
Macron summoned Prime Minister
Edouard Philippe and other top officials Sunday night to strategize for a
The prime minister will present
details of the government's plan on Wednesday, which is expected to
encourage people to work longer. Currently some French workers can retire in
The reform is central to Macron's
vision of transforming the French economy. Government ministers insist the
current system is unfair and financially unsustainable, while unions say the
reform undercuts worker rights and will force people to work longer for
Seeking to head off public anger,
Macron asked veteran politician Jean-Paul Delevoye to hold months of
meetings with workers, employers and others to come up with recommendations
for France's new retirement plan. Delevoye is presenting his conclusions to
unions on Monday.
Historical documents show Japan's role in WWII sex slaves
In this Dec. 28, 2017, file photo, a statue representing
sex slaves is seen near the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, South Korea. (AP
Photo/Lee Jin-man, File)
TOKYO (AP) — Japan's army
during World War II asked the government to provide one sex slave for every
70 soldiers, according to historical documents reviewed by Kyodo News
service that highlight the state role in the so-called "comfort women"
The 23 documents were gathered by
Japan's Cabinet Secretariat between April 2017 and March 2019, including 13
classified dispatches from the Japanese consulates in China to the Foreign
Ministry in Tokyo dating back to 1938, according to Kyodo.
The sex slaves issue has been a
source of a painful dispute between South Korea and Japan. The women were
from Korea, Taiwan and Australia, the Philippines as well as Japan.
In 1993, then-Chief Cabinet
Secretary Yohei Kono, the government spokesman, apologized for the "comfort
women" system and acknowledged the Japanese military's involvement in taking
women against their will.
The Kyodo reports shows one dispatch
from the consul general of Jinan to the foreign minister that said the
Japanese invasion had caused a surge in prostitution in the area, with 101
geisha from Japan, 110 comfort women from Japan, and 228 comfort women from
It says "at least 500 comfort women
must be concentrated here by the end of April" for Japanese soldiers.
Presumably, the records imply that
the women referred to as "geisha" might have come on their own, as opposed
to sex slaves, who were coerced.
Another dispatch from the consul
general of Qingdao in Shandong province in China says the Imperial Army
asked for one woman to accommodate every 70 soldiers, while the navy had
requested 150 more comfort women and geisha, Kyodo said.
The number of sex slaves is not
certain, but historians say they numbered in the tens of thousands or more,
and their purpose was to prevent the spread of disease and curtail rapes
Japan's colonization and wartime
record continue to strain relations with Asian neighbors. The Japanese
government says reparations are settled but it has set up funds to support
the victims. That has had mixed results with continued demands for a more
thorough apology. Lawsuits are ongoing in South Korea.
Some have denied official Japanese
involvement, and think the women were prostitutes who came of their own
More recently, the sour relations
between Japan and South Korea have affected trade and tourism and set off
other controversies, including one earlier this year over the display of a
statue depicting a young "comfort woman."
Palestinians in Bethlehem look beyond religious tourism
In this Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019, photo, a Palestinian
wearing a Santa Claus costumes welcomes Christian visitors outside the
Church of the Nativity, traditionally believed by Christians to be the
birthplace of Jesus Christ, in the West Bank city of Bethlehem. (AP Photo/Majdi
In this Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019, photo, a wooden figure is
displayed in the Church of the Nativity, traditionally believed by
Christians to be the birthplace of Jesus Christ, in the West Bank city of
Bethlehem. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)
In this Friday, March 3, 2017 file photo, People pass by
the "The Walled Off Hotel" and the Israeli security barrier the West Bank
city of Bethlehem. (AP Photo/Dusan Vranic, File)
KRAUSS and MOHAMMAD DARAGHMEH
BETHLEHEM, West Bank (AP) —
For decades, the people of Bethlehem have watched tour buses drive up to the
Church of the Nativity, disgorge their passengers for a few hours at the
traditional birthplace of Jesus, and then return to Israel.
But in recent years a new form of
tourism has taken root, focused on the West Bank town's Palestinian
residents, their culture and history and their struggles under Israeli
As pilgrims descend on Bethlehem
this Christmas, they have the option of staying in restored centuries-old
guesthouses, taking food tours of local markets, and perusing the dystopian
art in and around a hotel designed by the British graffiti artist Banksy.
The centerpiece of tourism, and the
focus of Christmas celebrations in the coming weeks, is the 6th-century
Church of the Nativity, built on the site where Jesus is believed to have
been born in a manger. Extensive renovations in recent years have saved the
roof from collapse and revealed colorful wall mosaics depicting angels and
Earlier this month, the Vatican
returned a small part of what Christians believe to be the original manger,
which was sent to Rome as a gift to the pope in the 7th century. The
thumb-sized relic, displayed in an ornate silver case, can be seen in a
chapel adjoining the church.
In Manger Square, just outside the
church, a massive Christmas tree has been set up and festivities are planned
in the coming weeks as various denominations hold staggered Christmas
celebrations. On Jan. 7, Bethlehem will host an international Santa
Tourism has suffered in the past
during outbreaks of violence between Israel and the Palestinians. But the
Palestinian Tourism Ministry expects 3.5 million visitors to Bethlehem in
2019, up from 3 million the previous year, and many think there is still
room for growth.
"The general situation in Palestine
and the Holy Land is that there is very good security, better than most
countries in the world, and so the people are visiting," said Elias al-Arja,
chairman of the local hotel association.
He noted that while the Holy Land
includes the most important sites in Christianity, including the places
where tradition says Christ was born, where he grew up, was crucified and
resurrected, it attracts far fewer visitors than the Vatican. "We have the
opportunity to draw more people," he said.
Religious tourism is a boon for the
local economy, but many Palestinians feel the city's modern residents are
Israel captured the West Bank, along
with east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, in the 1967 Middle East war. The
Palestinians view the territories as part of their national homeland and
hope to one day establish an independent state.
Visitors travelling to Bethlehem
pass through a sprawling Israeli checkpoint and then drive along the
separation wall, which Israel began building during the second Palestinian
intifada, or uprising, in the early 2000s. Israel says the barrier is needed
to prevent attacks, but the Palestinians view it as a land grab because its
route places almost 10% of the West Bank on the Israeli side. Bethlehem
itself is almost completely surrounded by the barrier and a string of Jewish
The town's predicament is on vivid
display in and around the Walled-Off Hotel, which was designed by Banksy and
opened in 2017. The hotel looks out on the separation wall, which itself is
covered with artwork, graffiti and museum panels explaining life under
occupation. Inside, a number of Banksy pieces are depicted in a haunting
lobby, which this time of year is dimly lit with Christmas lights.
The hotel offers weekly performances
by local musicians and daily tours of a nearby Palestinian refugee camp.
Tours of Banksy's public artwork elsewhere in the town can be organized on
A different form of alternative
tourism, conceived by Palestinians themselves, can be found in the city
center, just a few hundred meters (yards) from the church. There the
municipality, with Italian aid, has restored an 18th-century guesthouse and
rented it out to Fadi Kattan, a French Palestinian chef.
The Hosh Al-Syrian Guesthouse
includes 12 tastefully furnished rooms ranging from $80-150 a night. At its
Fawda Restaurant — Arabic for chaos — Kattan uses local ingredients to cook
up traditional Palestinian cuisine with a modern twist.
"My vision was to say religious
tourism will promote itself by itself, it doesn't need the private sector to
promote it," he said. "Let's promote everything else. Let's promote our
food, let's promote our culture, let's promote our history."
Kattan is especially keen to promote
Palestinian cuisine, which he says has been appropriated by Israeli chefs
and food writers. As with nearly everything else having to do with the
Middle East conflict, there are two sides: Israeli cuisine owes much to
Jewish immigrants from ancient communities across the Middle East and North
The guesthouse partners with a local
group known as Farayek to offer food tours in which visitors wander through
the local market, meeting farmers, butchers and bakers before having lunch
at the guesthouse. Another program includes cooking classes taught by a
"What I was hoping to achieve is to
have people stay three nights in Bethlehem, to have people go to the fruit
and vegetable market, to have people meet the people of Bethlehem, not just
the very short tour into the city," he said.
When the guesthouse opened in 2014,
the average stay was one night, but now it has risen to three and a half,
with steady occupancy throughout the low season, Kattan said.
A handful of other restored
guesthouses have also opened in recent years, including Dar al-Majus, Arabic
for House of the Maji, named for the three kings said to have visited the
manger after Christ was born.
The guesthouse is part of a wider
initiative by the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land and a local
association to support the Christian community. Bethlehem's Christian
community, like others across the Middle East, has dramatically dwindled in
recent decades as Christians have fled war and conflict or sought better
economic opportunities abroad.
A local family living next to the
guesthouse cooks breakfast and traditional meals for guests, and the
guesthouse employs members of another two families. The guesthouse mostly
supplies itself from the local market, and there are plans to expand to
another restored house in the old quarter next year.
Bethlehem's mayor, Anton Salman,
expects the recent growth in tourism to continue.
"Each season is more active and more
organized and more attractive for the local community in Palestine and for
the tourists," he said.
Devastating factory fire kills at least 43 in New Delhi
A fire engine stands by the site of a fire in an
alleyway, tangled in electrical wire and too narrow for vehicles to access,
in New Delhi, India, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)
By SHEIKH SAALIQ and ASHOK SHARMA
NEW DELHI (AP) — A fire believed to be caused by
an electrical short circuit engulfed a building in India's capital on Sunday
where handbags and other items were made by workers earning as little as 2
dollars per day, killing at least 43 people.
The blaze in New Delhi's Karol Bagh neighborhood, a
warren of narrow alleyways with electrical wiring strung helter-skelter, was
the second major fire there this year. In February, 17 people were killed in
a blaze that started in a six-story building's illegal rooftop kitchen.
Karol Bagh contains the city's largest wholesale market
for household goods, known as Sadar Bazaar. The area's aging buildings are
stacked with apartments, shops, storage facilities and manufacturing units.
Assistant New Delhi police commissioner Anil Kumar
Mittal said that "the fire appears to have been caused by an electric short
circuit," adding that authorities were investigating whether the factory was
operating legally. Building laws and safety norms are routinely flouted in
New Delhi, making fires common.
The building's owner, Rihan, who goes by one name, was
detained on suspicion of culpable homicide not amounting to murder, Mittal
Firefighters had to fight the blaze from 100 meters
(yards) away because it broke out in one of the area's many alleyways,
tangled in electrical wire and too narrow for vehicles to access,
A resident of the area, Mohammed Naushad, said he was
woken by people wailing at around 4:30 a.m. He went outside to find smoke
and flames shooting out of a building near Sadar Bazaar. Inside, he found
the fourth floor engulfed in flames. One floor below, he saw "20 to 25
people lying on the floor."
"I don't know if they were dead or unconscious, but
they were not moving," Naushad said.
He said he carried at least 10 people out of the flames
on his shoulders and into the arms of emergency responders.
Maisuma Bibi, a day laborer making plastic handbags,
survived the blaze. She said she was sleeping in a room with about 18 other
women and children on the building's first floor when she woke to find a bag
full of plastic parts on fire. Her brother-in-law carried her to safety, she
Outside a mortuary that was guarded by dozens of police
officers, some of the workers' relatives said they had received phone calls
from the men trapped inside, who begged them to call the fire brigade.
Family members identified the dead from photos on police officers' phones.
Many of the men were migrant workers from the
impoverished border state of Bihar in eastern India, relatives said. They
earned as little as 150 rupees ($2.10) per day making handbags, caps and
other garments, sleeping at the factory between long shifts.
Many of the victims were asleep when the blaze began,
according to Yogesh, a police spokesman who uses one name.
Dr. Kishore Singh said rescuers brought victims to his
government-run hospital and two others in the city. Another 16 people were
being treated for burns or smoke inhalation and were in stable condition,
Police barred relatives from entering Lok Nayak
hospital, where some of the victims were taken. Relatives of the workers
cried, consoled one another and jostled for information.
"I was told by someone my nephew is inside, but I
haven't seen him," said Mohammad Moti, who was searching for his 22-year-old
nephew, Mohammad Chedi.
Fire Services chief Atul Garg said it took 25 fire
trucks to put out the blaze. About 60 people, including some of the dead,
were taken out of the building, said Mittal, the assistant police
New Delhi's chief minister, Arvind Kejriwal, appeared
at the scene of the fire, promising victims' families compensation.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi described the fire as
"My thoughts are with those who lost their loved ones.
Wishing the injured a quick recovery," Modi tweeted.
Hong Kong protests mark 6-month mark with massive rally
Pro-democracy protesters carry countries' flags as they march on a street in
Hong Kong, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
By JOHN LEICESTERER
HONG KONG (AP) — Almost hidden among the throngs
of demonstrators who marched in Hong Kong on Sunday was one woman who
crawled, literally on hands and knees on the rough road surface — an apt
metaphor for the arduous path traveled by Hong Kong's protest movement in
the past six months.
Dragging bricks and empty soda cans on pieces of string
behind her, the young woman elicited shouts of encouragement from fellow
protesters. "Go for it!" they yelled.
"Her performance art is about the difficulty, or the
repetitiveness, of demonstrations," said one of her friends, who walked
alongside and identified herself by her surname, Chan. "This is really a
And one that shows few, if any, signs of flagging.
Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators crammed into
Hong Kong's streets, their chants echoing off high-rises, in a mass show of
support for the protest movement entering its seventh month.
Chanting "Fight for freedom" and "Stand with Hong
Kong," the sea of protesters formed a huge human snake winding for blocks on
Hong Kong Island, from the Causeway Bay shopping district to the Central
business zone, a distance of more than 2 kilometers (1 1/4 miles). It was
one of the biggest rallies in months, and remarkably peaceful.
Crowds were so large and dense that the march ground to
a standstill at times. Protesters spilled into narrow side streets, crying
"Revolution in our times." Organizers said 800,000 people participated,
while police had no immediate estimate.
The demonstrator who crawled part of the route wouldn't
give her name. But her protest turned heads, gave pause for thought and
raised the question: How much longer can Hong Kong keep up its push to
preserve its freedoms that make it unique among China's cities?
She offered this cryptic response.
"We have too much burden, but perhaps we have enough
hope to make us go further," she said.
Many marchers held up five fingers to press the
movement's five demands. They include democratic elections for Hong Kong's
leader and legislature and a demand for a probe of police behavior during
the months of sustained protests.
Marchers said they hoped the huge turnout might help
win concessions from the government of Chief Executive Carrie Lam.
Protesters spanned generations. One man's young son marched in his Spiderman
"So many people are still supporting this movement. You
can see how determined Hong Kong people are," said demonstrator Justin Ng, a
"I heard a small kid yelling slogans — 4, 5 years old,"
Ng said. "That really encouraged me because it's not just this generation
but future generations, too."
Marchers said protesting has become part of the fabric
of their lives since mass demonstrations erupted in June against a
now-withdrawn government measure that would have allowed criminal suspects
to be sent for trial in Communist Party-controlled courts in mainland China.
The protests have since snowballed into a broad
anti-government campaign, presenting the communist leadership in Beijing
with a major headache and battering Hong Kong's economy.
Police in riot gear deployed in numbers on the edges of
the march. Earlier in the day, they arrested 11 people and seized a cache of
weapons, including a firearm with more than 100 bullets. Police said the
suspects apparently planned to use the weapons during the protest to frame
police, who have been accused of using excessive force against the
Violence was limited, with a bank vandalized and police
reporting that gasoline bombs were thrown outside Hong Kong's High Court.
Rally organizer Eric Lai had called for police
restraint and for no use of tear gas.
"We hope this will be a signature for our movement
after six months to show to Carrie Lam as well as to the world that people
are not giving up. People will still fight for our freedom and democracy,"
Authorities, who have liberally used tear gas, water
cannons and rubber bullets at previous demonstrations, say force has been
necessary to disperse hard-core protesters who have battled riot officers,
vandalized shops and thrown gasoline bombs. Police banned mass marches as
protests turned increasingly violent, but relented and allowed Sunday's
march after a few weeks of relative peace.
The rally was called by the Civil Human Rights Front, a
group that has organized some of the biggest demonstrations since hundreds
of thousands of protesters first marched on June 9 against the extradition
Chief among the protesters' complaints Sunday was that
police have been overly heavy-handed, making thousands of arrests since
"They are out of control," said Ernest Yau, a
28-year-old consultant. He said the movement has brought Hong Kong together.
"We understand our common enemy," he said. "We
understand that we have to be united to fight against China, to fight
against a government that doesn't listen to its people."
St. Nicholas and devils parade in Czech villages
Revelers depicting devil and a grim reaper brave a snow
storm during a traditional St Nicholas procession in the village of Valasska
Polanka, Czech Republic, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
Revelers depicting grim reapers and devils pose for a
photo during a traditional St Nicholas procession in the village of Valasska
Polanka, Czech Republic, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
Czech Republic (AP) — Dozens of people in grim reaper and devil costumes
accompany St. Nicholas on his journey through the village of Valasska
Polanka in this eastern corner of the Czech Republic.
It's an old pre-Christmas tradition
that has been surviving for centuries in a few villages in the Wallachia
The whole group parades together
from door to door for the weekend. St. Nicholas presents the children with
sweets to soothe them after they see the scary costumes. The devils wear
homemade masks of sheepskin and travel with white creatures representing
death who carry scythes.
The custom reportedly dates from the
pagan era before Christianity, when the masks helped the people of
mountainous region defend themselves against the demons of winter.
St. Nicholas was a Christian bishop
in the ancient town of Myra who lived in the third and fourth centuries and
was known for his goodness and generosity. He is said to have inspired the
creation of Santa Claus.
Protests subside, but economic aftershocks rattle Haitians
In this Dec.
4, 2019 photo, street vendors sell their produce in Petion-Ville, Haiti. A
growing number of families across Haiti can't afford to buy food since
protests began in Sept., with barricades preventing the flow of goods
between the capital and the rest of the country. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)
By EVENS SANON and DANICA COTO
Port-au-Prince (AP) — The flaming barricades are mostly
gone, protesters have largely dissipated and traffic is once again clogging
the streets of Haiti's capital, but hundreds of thousands of people are now
suffering deep economic aftershocks after more than two months of
The protests that drew tens of thousands of people at a
time to demand the resignation of President Jovenel Mo´se also squeezed
incomes, shuttered businesses and disrupted the transportation of basic
"We are nearing a total crash," Haitian economist
Camille Chalmers said. "The situation is unsustainable."
Haiti's economy was already fragile when the new round
of protests began in mid-September, organized by opposition leaders and
supporters angry over corruption, spiraling inflation and dwindling
supplies, including fuel. More than 40 people were killed and dozens injured
as protesters clashed with police. Mo´se insisted he would not resign and
called for dialogue.
The United Nations World Food Program says a recent
survey found that one in three Haitians, or 3.7 million people, need urgent
food assistance and 1 million are experiencing severe hunger. The WFP, which
says it is trying to get emergency food assistance to 700,000 people, blames
rising prices, the weakening local currency, and a drop in agricultural
production due partly to the disruption of recent protests.
In the last two years, Haiti's currency, the gourde,
declined 60% against the dollar and inflation recently reached 20%, Chalmers
said. The rising cost of food is especially crucial in the country of nearly
11 million people. Some 60% make less than $2 a day and 25% earn less than
$1 a day. y.
A 50-kilogram (110-pound) bag of rice has more than
doubled in price in the local currency, said Marcelin Saingiles, a store
owner who sells everything from cold drinks to cookies to used tools in
The 39-year-old father of three children said he now
struggles to buy milk and vegetables.
"I feed the kids, but they're not eating the way
they're supposed to," he said, adding that he has drained the funds set
aside for his children's schooling to buy food.
A growing number of families across Haiti can't even
afford to do that since the protests began, with barricades preventing the
flow of goods between the capital and the rest of the country.
Many of those live in Haiti's rural areas, which also
have been hardest hit by demonstrations that continue in some cities and
Wadlande Pierre, 23, said she temporarily moved in with
her aunt in the southwest town of Les Cayes to escape the violent protests
in Port-au-Prince. However, she had to move back to the capital because
there was not gas, power or water in Les Cayes, and food was becoming
"There is no access to basic items that you need," she
Pierre is now helping her mother, Vanlancia Julien,
sell fruits and vegetables on a sidewalk in the neighborhood of Delmas in
Julien said she recently lost a couple hundred dollars'
worth of produce because she could not go out on the street to sell due to
"All the melon, avocado, mango, pineapple, bananas, all
of them spoiled," she said. d.
Last year, sales were good, but she is now making a
third of what she used to earn before the protests began, even though
streets have reopened.
"That doesn't amount to anything," she said. "The fact
that people don't go out to work, it's less people moving around and makes
it harder for me."
That also means businesses like the small restaurant
that 43-year-old Widler Saint-Jean Santil owns often remain empty when they
used to be full on a regular afternoon.
He said the protests have forced many business owners
to lay off people, which in turn affects him because clients can no longer
afford to eat out. t.
"If people are not working, there is no business," he
Among the businesses that permanently closed was the
Best Western Premier hotel, which laid off dozens of employees.
Chalmers warned that economic recovery will be slow if
the political instability continues, adding that the situation is the worst
Haiti has faced in recent history.
"A lot of crises came together," he said. "Not only the
economic one, but the political and fiscal ones."
US House Speaker Pelosi rebukes reporter: 'Don't mess with me'
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., responds
forcefully to a question from a reporter who asked if she hated President
Trump, after announcing earlier that the House is moving forward to draft
articles of impeachment against Trump, at the Capitol in Washington,
Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
WASHINGTON (AP) — Finger pointing
and voice hoarse, US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday delivered a
broadside to a reporter that might well apply to all of impeachment-era
Washington: "Don't mess with me."
It was a warning scarcely needed
among the official set, least of all by President Donald Trump as he fights
Pelosi and the Democrats in their drive to impeach him. Only a few hours
earlier, Pelosi had instructed the Judiciary Committee to write articles of
impeachment — formal charges — against Trump for pressuring Ukraine to
investigate Democrat Joe Biden and resisting Congress' probe.
The House speaker insisted she
brought impeachment proceedings because Trump's conduct and the
Constitution left the House no choice.ce.
"The president's actions have
seriously violated the Constitution," Pelosi said from the speaker's office
at the Capitol. "He is trying to corrupt, once again, the election for his
own benefit. The president has engaged in abuse of power, undermining our
national security and jeopardizing the integrity of our elections."
But as the California Democrat began
exiting a news conference two hours later, James Rosen, a reporter for
Sinclair Broadcast Group, asked, "Do you hate the president, Madam Speaker?"
What followed was a remarkable
display from the famously poised Pelosi.
She stopped near the edge of the
podium, jabbed a finger and said tersely: "I don't hate anybody."
Pelosi went on to call Trump a
"coward" on gun policy, "cruel" on immigration and "in denial" on climate
"This is about the Constitution of
the United States and the facts that lead to the president's violation of
the oath of office. And as a Catholic I resent your using the word hate in a
sentence that addresses me.''
Trump tweeted that Pelosi "just had
a nervous fit."
"She says she 'prays for the
President.' I don't believe her, not even close," he added.
Pelosi, a native of Baltimore, often
speaks of her faith as a guide to matters ranging from legislation to life
in general. Catholic catechism states that "deliberate hatred is contrary to
charity" and urges believers to pray for those who hold animosity toward
them, a teaching that Pelosi has invoked by saying that she prays for Trump.
It's not the first time she's
confronted the challenging interplay between politics and her faith. In
2009, during her previous stint as House speaker, Pelosi, who supports
abortion rights, met with Pope Francis' predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, for
a conversation that the Vatican later said touched on "protecting human life
at all stages of its development."
On Thursday, she returned to the
podium after the reporter's question about "hate," and finished by pointing
a thumb toward herself.
"Don't mess with me when it comes to
words like that."
Moments later, Trump and House
Republicans lashed out in heated personal tones.
House Republican leader Kevin
McCarthy tweeted, "Pelosi and the Democrats are clearly are blinded by their
hate for the President."
Pelosi has generally dominated
confrontations with Trump all year in her second turn as House speaker,
second in line to the presidency.
In January, she forced Trump to
re-open the government without the border wall he was demanding. She allowed
him into the House chamber to deliver the traditional State of the Union
speech, but stole that show by clapping sideways and smirking at Trump from
her seat above and behind him.
Trump knows her finger-pointing
well. Most recently, during a White House meeting, she stood, pointed at him
and said, "all roads lead to Putin," Russia's president — and walked out.
OPEC talks end without announcement of expected cuts
General view of a meeting of
oil ministers of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries,
OPEC, at their headquarters in Vienna, Austria, Austria, Thursday, Dec. 5,
2019. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)
METZLER and DAVID McHUGH
VIENNA (AP) — The countries that
make up the OPEC oil-producing cartel ended talks late Thursday without an
announcement on possible deep cuts to production that would support the
price of fuel around the world.
An OPEC spokesman told waiting
journalists at 10 p.m. (2100 GMT) that an expected news conference would not
take place and that a written statement might come later. Saudi Arabia's
energy minister, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, and other officials then left
the meeting without announcing any deal.
OPEC's members have been expected to
prolong production cuts that they agreed on for the past three years, while
Russia's energy minister said that even deeper cuts were under discussion.
The price of crude has been held down in recent years by a resurgence in
supplies from countries outside OPEC, particularly the United States.es.
As it stands, OPEC nations have
agreed to cut production by 1.2 million barrels per day through March.
Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak, whose country is not part of OPEC
but joins part of the meeting to coordinate production, said Thursday that
the group was discussing a further cut of 500,000 barrels a day "in order to
safely go through the seasonal demand trough in the first quarter 2020."
OPEC officials were to broaden
discussions to include non-OPEC members on Friday.
Saudi Arabia is bearing the burden
of the largest share of OPEC's production cuts. But some member countries
such as Iraq have been breaching the agreement and producing more than their
Analysts note that if countries are
already not complying with the current agreement, voting for more cuts could
"I think the Saudi position is
they're willing to cut more if needed, but they want better compliance,"
said Bhushan Bahree, executive director of global oil at research group IHS
Brent crude oil hovered near $63 per
barrel Thursday. Prices have fluctuated throughout the year, reaching nearly
$75 in April after U.S. sanctions on Iran and Venezuela limited world
supply, but lingering trade tensions between the U.S. and China dampened
economic expectations pushed prices back down.wn.
West Texas Intermediate, the U.S.
benchmark crude, was trading above $58.
Russia has indicated it wants its
oil production re-calculated to exclude gas condensate, a liquid byproduct
of natural gas production. Condensate is counted against production totals
for non-OPEC members but not for members.
Even if members of the cartel cut
production, there is more oil coming to market from non-OPEC nations,
including the U.S., Canada, Brazil, Norway and Guyana, which will more than
make up for any drop in production, according to IHS Markit.
Putin offers US an immediate extension to key nuclear pact
Russian President Vladimir
Putin speaks during the International Volunteer Forum at the Olympic Park in
Sochi, Russia, Dec. 5, 2019. (Shamil Zhumatov/Pool Photo via AP)
By VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV
MOSCOW (AP) — Russian
President Vladimir Putin offered Thursday to immediately extend the only
remaining nuclear arms reduction pact with the United States, but a senior
U.S. official said Washington wants a broader deal involving China.
Speaking at a meeting with military
officials, Putin said that Russia has repeatedly offered the U.S. to extend
the New START treaty that expires in 2021 but that it hasn't heard back.
"Russia is ready to extend the New
START treaty immediately, before the year's end and without any
preconditions," he said.
The pact, which was signed in 2010
by U.S. President Barack Obama and then Russian President Dmitry Medvedev,
limits each country to no more than 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads and 700
deployed missiles and bombers. The treaty, which can be extended by another
five years, envisages a comprehensive verification mechanism to check
compliance, including on-site inspections of each side's nuclear bases.
Its expiration would remove any
limits on Russian and U.S. nuclear arsenals for the first time in decades.es.
Arms control advocates have argued
that the failure to extend the pact would be highly destabilizing at a time
when Russia-U.S. relations have sunk to the lowest levels since the Cold
Putin and other Russian officials
have repeatedly voiced concern about Washington's reluctance to discuss the
"Our proposals have been on the
table, but we have got no response from our partners," Putin said.
In Washington, a senior Pentagon
official suggested the Trump administration is not interested in an
immediate extension and sees no rush anyway as New Start doesn't expire
until Feb. 2021.
John Rood, the undersecretary of
defense for policy, told a Senate committee that the administration's main
priority is getting Russia and China to agree to begin negotiations on a
broader arms treaty to supplant New START.
"If the United States were to agree
to extend the treaty now, I think it would make it less likely that we would
have the ability to persuade Russia and China to enter negotiations on a
broader agreement," Rood said.
In an apparent bid to encourage the
U.S. to extend the treaty, the Russian military last month showed its latest
hypersonic weapon to U.S. inspectors. The Defense Ministry underlined that
it demonstrated the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle as part of
transparency measures under the New START.
Putin unveiled the Avangard in 2018
along with other prospective weapons, noting that its ability to make sharp
maneuvers on its way to a target will render missile defense useless.
New START is the only remaining
U.S.-Russian nuclear arms control treaty after both Moscow and Washington
withdrew from the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty
earlier this year.
The U.S. said it pulled out because
of Russian violations, a claim the Kremlin has denied.
Putin reaffirmed Russia's pledge not
to deploy missiles banned by the INF treaty until the U.S. and its allies do
"Russia isn't interested in
unleashing a new arms race," he said.
Democrats say Trump impeachment charges must come swiftly
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., makes a
statement at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019. Pelosi
announced that the House is moving forward to draft articles of impeachment
against President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
MASCARO and MARY CLARE JALONICK
WASHINGTON (AP) P) — House
Democrats moved aggressively to draw up formal articles of impeachment
against President Donald Trump on Thursday, with Speaker Nancy Pelosi saying
he "leaves us no choice" but to act swiftly because he's likely to corrupt
the system again unless removed before next year's election.
A strictly partisan effort at this
point, derided immediately by Trump and other leading Republicans as a sham
and a hoax, it is a politically risky undertaking. Democrats say it is their
duty, in the aftermath of the Ukraine probe, while Republicans say it will
drive Pelosi's majority from office.
Congress must act, Pelosi said. "The
democracy is what is at stake."
"The president's actions have
seriously violated the Constitution," she said in a somber address at the
Capitol. "He is trying to corrupt, once again, the election for his own
benefit. The president has engaged in abuse of power, undermining our
national security and jeopardizing the integrity of our elections."
Trump has insisted he did nothing
wrong. He tweeted that the Democrats "have gone crazy."
At the core of the impeachment probe
is a July phone call with the president of Ukraine, in which Trump pressed
the leader to announce investigations of Democrats, including political
rival Joe Biden, at the same time the White House was withholding military
aid from an ally bordering an aggressive Russia.
Drafting articles of impeachment is
a milestone moment, only the fourth time in U.S. history Congress has tried
to remove a president, and it intensifies the rigid and polarizing
partisanship of the Trump era that is consuming Washington and dividing the
The speaker delivered her historic
announcement in solemn tones at the Capitol, drawing on the Constitution and
the Founding Fathers in forcefully claiming Congress' oversight of the
president in the nation's system of checks and balances. Democrats are
already beginning to prepare the formal charges, pushing toward House votes,
possibly before Christmas.
"Sadly, but with confidence and
humility, with allegiance to our founders and a heart full of love for
America, today I am asking our chairmen to proceed with articles of
impeachment," Pelosi said.
Seemingly eager to fight, Trump
tweeted that if Democrats "are going to impeach me, do it now, fast." Though
he has fought the House investigation, trying to bar current and former
officials from testifying, he said he now wants to move on to a "fair trial"
in the Senate.
Approval of articles of impeachment
is considered likely in the Democratic-majority House. Conviction in a
following trial in the Republican-dominated Senate seems very unlikely.
Once reluctant to pursue
impeachment, warning it was too divisive for the country and needed to be
bipartisan, Pelosi is now leading Congress into politically uncertain
terrain for all sides just ahead of the election year.
Republican are standing lockstep
with Trump, unswayed by arguments that his actions amount to wrongdoing, let
alone impeachable offenses. That is leaving Democrats to go it alone in a
campaign to consider removing the 45th president from office.
Pelosi emphasized the Russia
connection, from special counsel Robert Mueller's probe into 2016 election
interference to the president's phone call this summer with Ukrainian
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy that set off alarms in Washington.
Russia and President Vladimir Putin
benefited most from Trump's actions toward Ukraine, she said.
"All roads lead to Putin. Understand
that," she declared at a news conference. "That was the a-ha moment."
She spoke solemnly and calmly, but
that changed when she was asked as she was leaving if she hates Trump.mp.
Pelosi stiffened, returned to the
podium and responded sharply that the president's views and politics are for
the voters to judge at elections but impeachment "is about the
Constitution." She said that as a Catholic, she does not hate the president
but rather is praying for him daily.
Trump quickly tweeted back that he
didn't believe her.
Trump's allies argue that voters,
not lawmakers, should decide the president's future. But Democrats say the
nation cannot wait for the 2020 election, alleging Trump's past efforts to
have foreign countries intervene in the presidential campaign are forcing
them to act to prevent him from doing it again. Pelosi said the
still-anonymous whistleblower's complaint about Trump's Ukraine call changed
the dynamic, creating the urgency to act.
The number of articles and the
allegations they will include will be both a legal and political exercise
for the House committee chairmen, who will be meeting privately. They must
balance electoral dynamics while striving to hit the Constitution's bar of
"treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors."
Pulling from the House's 300-page
investigation of the Ukraine matter, Democrats are focusing on at least
three areas — abuse of power, bribery and obstruction — that could result in
two to five articles, they say.
They argue that Trump abused the
power of his office by putting personal political gain over national
security interests; engaging in bribery by holding out $400 million in
military aid that Congress had approved for Ukraine; and then obstructing
Congress by stonewalling the investigation.
Some liberal Democrats want to reach
further into Trump's actions, particularly regarding the findings from
special counsel Mueller's report on Russian interference in the 2016
election. That could produce an additional article of obstruction not only
of Congress, but also of justice.
But more centrist and moderate
Democrats, those lawmakers who are most at risk of political fallout from
the impeachment proceedings, prefer to stick with the Ukraine matter as a
simpler narrative that Americans can more easily understand.
The GOP Leader of the House, Kevin
McCarthy, said Pelosi is more concerned about tearing the president down
than building the country up. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.,
criticized Democrats for focusing on impeachment over other issues, though
many House-passed bills are waiting for action in his chamber. "It's all
impeachment, all the time," he said.
At the White House, press secretary
Stephanie Grisham tweeted that Pelosi and the Democrats "should be ashamed."
House members are preparing to vote
on the articles of impeachment in the Judiciary Committee, possibly as soon
as next week. The committee set a Monday hearing to receive the Intelligence
Committee's report outlining the findings against the president.
The House is expecting a full vote
by Christmas. The would send the issue to the Senate for a trial in the new
Trump calls Trudeau '2-faced' after palace gossip goes viral
In this grab taken from video on Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2019,
France's President Emmanuel Macro, centre right, gestures as he speaks
during a NATO reception. (Host Broadcaster via AP)
WATFORD, England (AP) — NATO
leaders professed unity on Wednesday at a summit near London — but a spat
over off-the-cuff chit chat at a royal reception rattled their show of
U.S. President Donald Trump branded
the leader of America's northern neighbor "two-faced" after Canadian Prime
Minister Justin Trudeau appeared to gossip about Trump in comments caught on
camera and microphone.
Trudeau was seen standing in a
huddle with French President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Boris
Johnson, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Britain's Princess Anne,
daughter of Queen Elizabeth II at Tuesday evening's Buckingham Palace
reception for NATO leaders.
After Johnson asked Macron, "is that
why you were late?" Trudeau could be heard saying "he was late because he
takes a 40-minute press conference off the top." Trudeau confirmed that was
a reference to Trump's long and unscheduled question-and-answer session with
journalists earlier Tuesday.
Trudeau also said: "You just watched
his team's jaws drop to the floor." He explained Wednesday that was in
reference to Trump's decision to hold the next Group of Seven meeting at
Camp David, the presidential retreat.
Footage of the palace reception was
recorded by a pool camera. The clip was posted online by Canadian
broadcaster CBC and has been viewed more than 5 million times.
Speaking Wednesday at the summit
venue in Watford, outside London, Trump said Trudeau was likely upset that
the U.S. president had broached the fact that Canada falls short of the NATO
target of spending 2% of its gross domestic product on defense.
"Well he's two-faced," Trump told
reporters. "And honestly, with Trudeau he's a nice guy, I find him to be a
very nice guy but you know the truth is that I called him out on the fact
that he's not paying 2% and I guess he's not very happy about it."
Trudeau had a quiet word and a
handshake with Trump as he arrived at the summit Wednesday, and later tried
to shrug off the episode.
"As you all know, we have a very
good and constructive relationship between me and the president," Trudeau
told reporters at a news conference.
Asked if the incident had given him
pause for thought, Trudeau said that ensuring the focus of attention
remained on matters of substance "is something that we're all going to try
to do a little harder."
Johnson, meanwhile, professed
ignorance when asked by reporters about the conversation.
"That's complete nonsense," he said,
adding: "I really don't know what is being referred to there."
Leaders of the 29 NATO states met to
mark the 70th anniversary of the military alliance — and trying to patch up
differences over defense spending, the alliance's strategic direction and
member nation Turkey's military action in northern Syria.
The two-day gathering ended with a
show of unity, as the leaders declared their commitment to the alliance's
principle of collective defense, saying in their final declaration that "an
attack against one Ally shall be considered an attack against us all."
French trains stop as mass strike begins over pensions
In this May 14, 2018 file photo, a striking rail worker
walks on the tracks of the Saint-Charles train station, in Marseille,
southern France. (AP Photo/Claude Paris, File)
CHARLTON and ALEX TURNBULL
PARIS (AP) — French trains rolled to
a halt Wednesday evening, kicking off massive nationwide strikes and
protests against President Emmanuel Macron's plans to overhaul the
retirement system, seen as an untouchable symbol of the French way of life.
Tourists canceled travel plans and
Paris deployed thousands of police to cope with what was expected to be a
challenging day Thursday.
The walkout was expected to hit
transportation the hardest, as flights, trains and buses canceled service
and most of the Paris subway system came to a halt. Workers at the national
railway SNCF stopped work Wednesday evening, while other services planned to
shut down Thursday morning for an indefinite period.
In Paris, where workers' unions were
planning a big march Thursday, police warned of possible violence and
damages and ordered all businesses, cafes and restaurants along the protest
route to close. Authorities also issued a ban on protests on the Champs-Elysees
avenue, around the presidential palace, parliament and Notre Dame Cathedral.
Paris police chief Didier Lallement
said that 6,000 police officers would fan out around the city, notably amid
fears that protest groups and extremist troublemakers could join the action.
The Eiffel Tower warned tourists to
delay a visit to the iconic monument because the strike would disrupt access
The Louvre Museum said its opening
Thursday could be delayed, and some viewing rooms may be closed.
Hotels across Paris reported
receiving numerous cancellations ahead of the strike, as wary tourists eyed
closing transportation routes and decided to skip their Paris vacations.
The SNCF railway expected nine out
of 10 high-speed trains to be canceled. International train lines were
expected to be affected, too. No tickets were available on Eurostar trains
across the English Channel until Tuesday.
Air France said about 30% of its
domestic flights would be canceled.
The government said 55% of teachers
would be on strike Thursday, and hospitals also would be affected.
Workers are angry at Macron's plan
to streamline the country's 42 state pension systems, fearing they will have
to work longer and earn less upon retirement.
For Amina Hamade, 17, who lives in
the Paris suburb of Poissy and takes the train to her high school in the
nearby town of Les Mureaux, the strike provides a good excuse to skip school
Thursday and Friday.
Tarik Slimani, a butcher in Les
Mureaux, sees the strike as a political stunt that will hurt the economy.
Everyone who relies on public transportation to get to work will pay the
price, he said.
At Montparnasse train station,
Samira Quasan, a 28-year-old tourist from Chicago, described moving around
her travel plans to and from Bordeaux because of the strike. Parisian Marie
Boudal had to do the same for her grandchild's baptism in Lyon.
Some travelers complained about the
disruptions, while some showed support for the striking workers.
"They really are attacking something
that was one of the few remaining things that we had" — the pension system,
said Sylviane Charles, a 57-year-old school principal whose school was
slated to close Thursday. "And so you end up with widespread despair."
Kim again rides horse up sacred peak as N. Korea raps Trump
This undated photo provided on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019,
by the North Korean government shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center,
with his wife Ri Sol Ju, right, riding on white horse during his visit to
Mount Paektu, North Korea. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) —
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un rode a white horse up a sacred mountain in
his second symbolic visit in less than two months, state media reported
Wednesday, as his military chief lashed out at U.S. President Donald Trump
for talking about a possible military option against the North.
Mount Paektu and white horses are
symbols associated with the Kim family's dynastic rule. Kim has made
previous visits there before making major decisions.
The comments by his military chief
are the latest sign that prospects for a resumption of nuclear talks between
North Korea and the U.S. are unclear. North Korea has threatened more
provocation if the United States fails to meet a year-end deadline set by
Kim for it to make a proposal to salvage the negotiations.
On Wednesday night, Pak Jong Chon,
chief of the General Staff of the (North) Korean People's Army, issued a
statement berating Trump for suggesting that the U.S. could use military
force against North Korea if diplomacy fails and warned that any attack
would cause a "horrible" consequence for the Americans.
"One thing I would like to make
clear is that the use of armed forces is not the privilege of the U.S.
only," Park said.
He said Kim was also "displeased to
hear" about Trump's comments.
Speaking in London where he was
attending a NATO summit, Trump on Tuesday said his relationship with Kim was
"really good" but also called for him to follow up on a commitment to
denuclearize. Trump added, "We have the most powerful military we ever had,
and we are by far the most powerful country in the world and hopefully we
don't have to use it. But if we do, we will use it."
Trump has previously threatened to
bring down "fire and fury" on North Korea and derided Kim as "little rocket
man" when he carried out a series of weapons tests in 2017 aimed at building
nuclear-armed missiles capable of reaching the mainland U.S. But his comment
Tuesday on the possible use of military force enraged North Korea because he
hasn't recently used such threats and instead has bestowed Kim with praise.
In September last year, Trump called Kim "very open" and "terrific" and said
he and Kim "fell in love."
In London, Trump also said Kim
"likes sending rockets up, doesn't he?" He added that "That's why I call him
North Korea didn't immediately
respond to Trump's "rocket man" comment. Kim previously called Trump a
"mentally deranged U.S. dotard."
Earlier Wednesday, the North's state
media released many photos showing Kim riding a horse to snow-covered Mount
Paektu along with his wife and other top lieutenants, all on white horses.
Kim last climbed the mountain, the highest peak on the Korean Peninsula, on
horseback in mid-October.
"The imperialists and class enemies
make a more frantic attempt to undermine the ideological, revolutionary and
class positions of our party," Kim said in an apparent reference to the U.S.
and South Korea. "We should always live and work in the offensive spirit of
The nuclear negotiations have
remained stalled for months, with North Korea trying to win major sanctions
relief and outside security assurances in return for partial
denuclearization. Kim and Trump have met three times.
The North's Foreign Ministry warned
Tuesday it's entirely up to the United States to choose what "Christmas
gift" it gets from the North. North Korean officials have previously said
whether North Korea lifts its moratorium on long-range missile and nuclear
tests depends on what actions the U.S. takes.
Last week, North Korea test-fired
projectiles from what it called a "super-large" multiple rocket launcher
that South Korea's military said landed in the waters off the Norths' east
The North's official Korean Central
News Agency said Wednesday the ruling Workers' Party will hold a central
committee meeting in late December to discuss unspecified "crucial issues"
in line with "the changed situation at home and abroad." The specific agenda
On Monday, Kim visited Samjiyon
county at the foot of Mount Paektu to attend a ceremony marking the
completion of work that has transformed the town to "an epitome of modern
civilization," KCNA said. It said the town has a museum on the Kim family, a
ski slope, cultural centers, a school, a hospital and factories.
Samjiyon was one of the main
construction projects that Kim launched in an effort to improve his people's
livelihoods and strengthen his rule at home. The construction spree has also
been seen as a demonstration of his power in the face of international
sanctions designed to squeeze his economy and get him to give up his nuclear
Albania PM optimistic of world support on quake recovery
In this Thursday, Nov. 28, 2019 photo, a wall clock that
was stoped working during the time of the deadly earthquake that struck in
Albania early Tuesday, is seen inside a damaged building in the city of
Durres.(AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)
(AP) — Albania's prime minister said Wednesday he was pleased with the
international support he secured at a NATO summit on dealing with the
aftermath of a 6.4-magnitude earthquake that killed 51 people and injured
more than 3,000 others.
Edi Rama said before leaving the
NATO summit in London that he had positive meeting with U.S. President
Donald Trump and other leaders from Europe and Canada and that he received a
positive reaction to his aspiration to hold an international donors'
The European Union and the United
Nations are coordinating international efforts, including those from the
United States, to assist Albania after the earthquake that affected more
than half of the country's 2.8 million population.
Ursula von der Leyen, the new
president of the European Commission, said in a tweet that the EU's
executive branch has pledged 15 million euros to Albania and that it will
help organize a donors' conference.
The Nov. 26 quake damaged more than
11,000 buildings and left an estimated 12,000 people homeless who are now
sheltering in hotels, public buildings, tents, with relatives and in
The worst-hit areas were Durres, a
popular beach vacation spot for Albanians, 30 kilometers (20 miles) west of
Tirana, and the nearby northern town of Thumane. Many schools still remain
Tesla CEO Musk facing defamation trial for 'pedo guy' tweet
Elon Musk speaks before unveiling the Model Y at Tesla's design studio in
Hawthorne, Calif. March 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)
cave expert Vernon Unsworth talks with guests at an event titled the "United
as One" in Bangkok, Thailand Sept. 6, 2018. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit, File)
By BRIAN MELLEY
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Elon Musk is going on trial Tuesday
for his troublesome tweets in a defamation case pitting the billionaire
against a British diver he allegedly branded a pedophile.
The Tesla CEO will be called to testify early in the
case in Los Angeles federal court to explain what he meant when he called
Vernon Unsworth, who helped rescue youth soccer players trapped underwater
in a Thailand cave, "pedo guy" in a Twitter spat more than year ago.
Musk later apologized for lashing out at Unsworth on
Twitter after the diver belittled Musk's efforts to build a tiny submarine
to save the trapped boys as a "PR stunt." The tweet, widely interpreted as a
reference to a pedophile, was removed by Musk, who disputed that's what he
"'Pedo guy' was a common insult used in South Africa
when I was growing up," Musk said in a court declaration. "It is synonymous
with 'creepy old man' and is used to insult a person's appearance and
Unsworth's lawyers have laughed off that explanation
and said his claim was undercut by a subsequent tweet when he said, "Bet ya
a signed dollar it's true" in response to a question about whether he had
accused Unsworth of being a pedophile.
The lawyers also said he hired private investigators to
dig up evidence Unsworth was a child molester, which they never found,
according to Unsworth's lawyers.
The lawsuit is not the first time Musk's tweets have
landed him in hot water.
Musk and Tesla reached a $40 million settlement with
the Securities and Exchange Commission last year on allegations he misled
investors with a tweet declaring he had secured financing to buy out the
electric car maker. He agreed in the settlement to have future tweets about
the company screened.
He was forced back into court on accusations he
violated that agreement by tweeting a misleading figure about how many cars
Tesla would manufacture this year. The SEC sought to hold him in contempt of
court, which led to a new agreement imposing tighter controls on Musk's
tweets about the company.
The cave drama played out for more than two weeks in
the summer of 2018 when the 12 boys — ages 11-16 — and their soccer coach
were trapped in a flooded cave in northern Thailand.
Musk and engineers from his SpaceX rocket company
custom built a mini-submarine to help with the rescue. The device was
heavily publicized but never used.
Unsworth, a diver and caving expert whose advice was
considered crucial in the rescue operation, said the sub would never have
fit in the cave's tight spaces. He told CNN that Musk could "stick his
submarine where it hurts."
Musk responded two days later with his series of
Musk claims he wasn't making a factual statement and no
one reading his tweet would take it seriously and interpret it as
Despite removing the tweets, he later suggested in
emails to the news website BuzzFeed that Unsworth was a "child rapist" and
had moved to northern Thailand to take "a child bride who was about 12 years
old at the time." He provided no evidence.
Unsworth is seeking unspecified damages for pain,
suffering and emotional distress. The defense has resisted efforts to turn
over financial records to show Musk's wealth but has stipulated his net
worth exceeds $20 billion.
Powerful typhoon leaves at least 4 dead in Philippines
pass by toppled electrical poles as Typhoon Kammuri slammed Legazpi city,
Albay province, southeast of Manila, Philippines on Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2019.
inspect a truck that was damaged as Typhoon Kammuri slammed Legazpi city,
Albay province, southeast of Manila, Philippines, Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2019. (AP
By JIM GOMEZ
MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Typhoon Kammuri barreled
across the Philippines with fierce winds and rain Tuesday, leaving at least
four people dead, forcing hundreds of thousands of villagers to abandon
high-risk communities and prompting officials to shut Manila's international
Kammuri toppled trees and electrical posts, ripped off
tin roofs and battered a provincial airport as it blew across island
provinces in the southern fringes of the main northern Luzon island before
blowing into the South China Sea. It weakened but remained dangerous with
maximum sustained winds of 130 kilometers (81 miles) per hour and gusts of
up to 200 kph (124 mph) as it exited, forecasters said.
At least four people died and several others were
reported injured, with officials attributing the low casualty figure to the
early evacuation of hundreds of thousands of villagers from villages prone
to high waves, flash floods and landslides.
A villager was electrocuted while fixing the battered
roof of his house in Libmanan town in Camarines Sur province in the hard-hit
Bicol region, regional disaster response officer Claudio Yucot said. In
Oriental Mindoro, one of the last provinces to be lashed by the typhoon, a
man died after being pinned by a fallen tree and another perished after
being hit by a tin roof, Gov. Humerlito Dolor said.
A construction worker on his way home on a motorcycle
was hit by a falling tree and died in the port city of Ormoc in Leyte
province, police said.
"There could have been more if we did not do
pre-emptive evacuations," Dolor told reporters.
The Philippines is battered by about 20 typhoons and
tropical storms each year and has frequent earthquakes and volcanic
eruptions, making the archipelago of more than 100 million people one of the
world's most disaster-prone nations.
Evacuating entire villages and communities and
providing supplies to huge numbers of residents camped in schools and
government buildings used as emergency shelters is common during typhoons,
volcanic eruptions and earthquakes, largely because many mostly poor
communities are in disaster-prone areas.
Kammuri's pounding rain and wind damaged the airport in
Legazpi city in Albay province, collapsing a portion of its ceiling,
scattering chairs in the arrival and departure areas and shattering glass
panes. A truck turned on its side after being buffeted by strong winds in
the city, near Mount Mayon, one of the country's most active volcanos.
Albay is one of several provinces in the Bicol region
which lost post power due to toppled posts and downed transmission lines.
Nearly 2 million people were affected by the power outages, officials said.
In Manila, officials shut the international airport for
seven hours starting before noon Tuesday as the typhoon roared through
provinces south of the capital. More than 400 domestic and international
flights were canceled due to the airport closure, airport manager Ed Monreal
Authorities moved thousands of Boy Scouts attending a
jamboree in the mountainous town of Botolan in the northwestern province of
The Philippines postponed several competitions in the
Southeast Asian Games, which it is hosting, because of the stormy weather,
including wind surfing, polo and tennis matches in Manila and outlying
provinces. Organizers said other events would be delayed if needed for
safety but there was no plan to extend the 11-day games which opened
The coast guard suspended sea travel in the northeast,
stranding more than 7,000 travelers along with thousands of cargo ships and
smaller watercraft in the archipelago nation.
UK politicians hold breath as Trump arrives mid-campaign
Secretary Priti Patel, center left, Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson,
center, and MP Will Quince pose holding a sign before a rally event as part
of the General Election campaign, in Colchester, England, Monday, Dec. 2,
2019. (Hannah McKay/Pool Photo via AP)
leader Jeremy Corbyn speaks outside Birkbeck/SOAS University of London, as
he announces his party's plan for the extension of workers' rights, whilst
on the General Election campaign trail, in London, Tuesday, Dec.3, 2019.
Britain goes to the polls on Dec. 12. (David Mirzoeff/PA via AP)
By JILL LAWLESS
LONDON (AP) — U.S. President Donald Trump says
he doesn't want to interfere in Britain's election campaign. But his
presence in London nine days before the Dec. 12 vote is a complication for
Prime Minister Boris Johnson — and ammunition for Johnson's opponents.
Trump, who is attending a meeting of NATO leaders, said
Tuesday he'd "stay out of the election."
"I don't want to complicate it," he said.
Too late. Britain's opposition parties are relishing
the visit by Trump, who is widely unpopular in the U.K., and whose
statements of support for Johnson and Britain's departure from the European
Union are seen as more harmful than helpful.
Trump repeated his support for Brexit and for Johnson
"I think Boris is very capable and I think he'll do a
good job," he said.
The main opposition Labour Party seized on Trump's
two-day visit to renew allegations that a post-Brexit U.S.-U.K. trade deal
could damage the U.K.'s state-funded National Health Service.
Labour is campaigning heavily on the claim that the
overstretched but treasured NHS is not safe in Conservative hands.
Johnson has called that allegation "nonsense."
"This is pure Loch Ness Monster, Bermuda Triangle
stuff," he said Tuesday.
But Labour says the U.S. could try to demand during
trade talks that Britain pay American pharma firms more for drugs. It could
also push for extended patents that would prevent Britons buying cheaper
generic versions of U.S.-patented drugs — something that happened in talks
on a U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade deal.
Documents from preliminary talks between U.S. and U.K.
negotiators over two years from July 2017 — obtained and released by Labour
last week — mention that "patent issues" around "NHS access to generic drugs
will be a key consideration" in talks.
Trump said Tuesday that the United States had no
interest in the NHS.
"We have absolutely nothing to do with it and we
wouldn't want to. If you handed it to us on a silver platter, we want
nothing to do with it," he told reporters as he met with NATO
Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.
Trump has sent mixed messages on the issue, however. In
June, he said "everything" — including the NHS — would be "on the table" in
future trade negotiations.
All 650 seats in the House of Commons are up for grabs
in next week's election. Johnson wants to secure a majority in the election
so he can push through the Brexit divorce deal he negotiated with the EU.
Under the terms of that deal, the U.K. would leave the
EU on Jan. 31 but remain part of the EU's single market, and bound by the
bloc's rules, until the end of 2020.
Polls suggest Johnson's Tories have a lead over the
Labour opposition, and Corbyn is trying to close the gap by focusing on
domestic issues such as education and health care, which have been stretched
by years of public spending cuts by the Conservative government.
Johnson says Corbyn, a socialist who has often
criticized NATO and Western military intervention, would endanger Britain's
national security if he became prime minister. He told The Sun newspaper
that Britain's allies "are very anxious" about the prospect of a Corbyn
Asked Tuesday about Corbyn, Trump said: "I know nothing
about the gentleman."
"I can work with anybody, I'm a very easy person to
work with," he added.
The Conservatives have sought to avoid any slip-ups
that could cost the party its poll lead. Opponents have accused Johnson of
running scared of scrutiny after he declined to take part in a televised
debate on climate change with other party leaders last week and refused to
commit to a one-on-one TV interview.
The Conservatives complained to Britain's broadcasting
regulator after Channel 4 put an Earth-shaped ice sculpture on a podium in
Johnson's place during the climate debate.
Regulator Ofcom rejected the complaint Tuesday, saying
Conservative views had been adequately represented.
"This program, including the use of the ice sculpture,
did not raise issues warranting further investigation under our due
impartiality and elections rules," it said.
Greta Thunberg says voyage 'energized' her climate fight
activist Greta Thunberg waves as she arrives in Lisbon aboard the sailboat
La Vagabonde Tuesday, Dec 3, 2019. (AP Photo/Pedro Rocha)
By BARRY HATTON and FRANK JORDANS
LISBON, Portugal (AP) — Climate activist Greta
Thunberg arrived in Portugal on Tuesday after a three-week voyage across the
Atlantic Ocean, telling cheering supporters that the journey had "energized"
her for the fight against climate change.
The Swedish teen, whose one-woman protests outside the
Swedish parliament helped inspired a global youth movement, sailed into the
port of Lisbon after making a last-minute dash back from the United States
to attend this year's U.N. climate conference.
Thunberg has been steadfast in her refusal to fly
because of the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by planes, a stance that
put her planned appearance at the meeting in doubt when the venue was moved
from Chile to Spain a month ago.
"We've all been on quite an adventure," Thunberg told
reporters shortly after stepping off the catamaran La Vagabonde, on which
she'd hitched a ride back home to Europe. "It feels good to be back."
Thunberg's appearances at past climate meetings have
won her plaudits from some leaders — and criticism from others who've taken
offense at the angry tone of her speeches.
"I think people are underestimating the force of angry
kids," Thunberg said. "If they want us to stop being angry, then maybe they
should stop making us angry."
The 16-year-old said she planned to spend several days
in the Portuguese capital before heading to Madrid, where delegates from
nearly 200 countries are discussing how to tackle global warming.
"We will continue the fight there to make sure that
within those walls the voices of the people are being heard," she said.
The white 48-foot (15-meter) yacht carrying Thunberg,
her father Svante, an Australian family and professional sailor Nikki
Henderson sailed into Lisbon amid blue skies, with a small flotilla of boats
escorting it to harbor.
Her trip contrasted with the many air miles flown by
most of the U.N. meeting's 25,000 attendees.
Thunberg wanted a low-carbon form of transport to get
to the climate meeting, which was switched at short notice to Spain from
Chile due to unrest there.
The yacht leaves little or no carbon footprint when its
sails are up, using solar panels and hydro-generators for electricity.
"I am not traveling like this because I want everyone
to do so," said Thunberg. "I'm doing this to sort of send the message that
it is impossible to live sustainable today, and that needs to change. It
needs to become much easier."
Chile's Environment Minister Carolina Schmidt, saluted
Thunberg's role speaking out about the threat of climate change.
"She has been a leader that has been able to move and
open hearts for many young people and many people all over the world,"
Schmidt told The Associated Press at the summit in Madrid.
"We need that tremendous force in order to increase
climate action," she said.
Near to the conference, some 20 activists cut off
traffic in central Madrid and staged a brief theatrical performance to
protest climate change.
Members of the international group called Extinction
Rebellion held up a banner in Russian that read: "Climate Crisis. To speak
the truth. To take action immediately."
Some activists jumped into a nearby fountain while
others threw them life jackets. They chanted: "What Do We Want? Climate
Others dressed in red robes with their faces whitened
to symbolize the human species' peril danced briefly before police moved in
to end the protest.
Meanwhile, the U.N. weather agency released a new
report showing that the current decade is likely to set a new 10-year
temperature record, providing mounting evidence that the world is getting
Preliminary temperature measurements show the years
from 2015 to 2019 and from 2010 to 2019 "are, respectively, almost certain
to be the warmest five-year period and decade on record," the World
Meteorological Organization said.
"Since the 1980s, each successive decade has been
warmer than the last," the agency said.
While full-year figures aren't released until next
March, 2019 is also expected to be the second or third warmest year since
measurements began, with 2016 still holding the all-time temperature record,
This year was hotter than average in most parts of the
world, including the Arctic. "In contrast a large area of North America has
been colder than the recent average," the U.N. said.
The World Meteorological Organization's annual report,
which brings together data from numerous national weather agencies and
research organizations, also highlighted the impacts of climate change
including declining sea ice and rising sea levels, which reached their
highest level this year since high-precision measurements began in 1993.
Russian scientists present ancient puppy found in permafrost
This is a handout photo taken
on Monday, Sept. 24, 2018, showing a 18,000 years old Puppy found in
permafrost in the Russia's Far East, on display at the Yakutsk's Mammoth
Museum, Russia. (Sergei Fyodorov, Yakutsk Mammoth Museum via AP)
This is a handout photo taken on Monday, Sept. 24, 2018,
showing a 18,000 years old Puppy found in permafrost in the Russia's Far
East, on display at the Yakutsk's Mammoth Museum, Russia. (Sergei Fyodorov,
Yakutsk Mammoth Museum via AP)
By DARIA LITVINOVA and ROMAN KUTUKOV
YAKUTSK, Russia (AP) — Russian
scientists on Monday showed off a prehistoric puppy, believed to be 18,000
years old, found in permafrost in the country's Far East.
Discovered last year in a lump of
frozen mud near the city of Yakutsk, the puppy is unusually well-preserved,
with its hair, teeth, whiskers and eyelashes still intact.
"This puppy has all its limbs,
pelage – fur, even whiskers. The nose is visible. There are teeth. We can
determine due to some data that it is a male," Nikolai Androsov, director of
the Northern World private museum where the remains are stored, said at the
presentation at the Yakutsk's Mammoth Museum which specializes in ancient
In recent years, Russia's Far East
has provided many riches for scientists studying the remains of ancient
animals. As the permafrost melts, affected by climate change, more and more
parts of woolly mammoths, canines and other prehistoric animals are being
discovered. Often it is mammoth tusk hunters who discover them.
"Why has Yakutia come through a real
spate of such unique findings over the last decade? First, it's global
warming. It really exists, we feel it, and local people feel it strongly.
Winter comes later, spring comes earlier," Sergei Fyodorov, scientist with
the North Eastern Federal University, told The Associated Press.
"And the second very serious, deep
reason, of why there a lot of finds is the very high price of mammoth tusk
in the Chinese market."
When the puppy was discovered,
scientists from the Stockholm-based Center for Palaeogenetics took a piece
of bone to study its DNA.
"The first step was of course to
send the sample to radio carbon dating to see how old it was and when we got
the results back it turned out that it was roughly 18,000 years old," Love
DalÚn, professor of evolutionary genetics at the center, said in an online
Further tests, however, left the
scientists with more questions than answers — they couldn't definitively
tell whether it was a dog or a wolf.
"We have now generated a nearly
complete genome sequence from it and normally when you have a two-fold
coverage genome, which is what we have, you should be able to relatively
easily say whether it's a dog or a wolf, but we still can't say and that
makes it even more interesting," DalÚn said.
He added that the scientists are
about to do a third round of genome sequencing, which might solve the
Prosecutors say Russia let MH17 suspect leave the country
In this July 17, 2014. file
photo, people walk amongst the debris at the crash site of MH17 passenger
plane near the village of Grabovo, Ukraine, that left 298 people killed. (AP
Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky, File)
By MIKE CORDER
THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — Russia
deliberately allowed a suspect in the 2014 downing of Malaysia Airlines
Flight 17 to leave the country, Dutch prosecutors said Monday, calling it a
breach of a European extradition treaty.
Prosecutors announced that Volodymyr
Tsemakh is considered a suspect in the shooting down of the passenger plane
and deaths of all 298 passengers and crew. He has not been charged with any
The Boeing 777 flying from Amsterdam
to Kuala Lumpur was shot down by a Buk missile on July 17, 2014, over
territory in eastern Ukraine that was controlled at the time by pro-Moscow
An international team of
investigators has concluded that the missile and its launcher came from the
Russian army's 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile brigade, based in the Russian city
The international investigation is
being led by prosecutors in the Netherlands because nearly 200 of the
passengers killed were Dutch citizens.
Russia has always denied
responsibility for shooting down the flight and claimed that the Buk missile
came from Ukrainian army arsenals.
Tsemakh, a Ukrainian who was
questioned by investigators probing the downing of the flight known as MH17
while in custody in Ukraine in connection with other allegations, was handed
to Russia as part of a prisoner swap in September.
Dutch prosecutors said in a
statement that they asked Russia to arrest Tsemakh after the swap so he
could be extradited.
While Russia does not extradite its
own citizens, it could have handed over Tsemakh since he is Ukrainian, the
Dutch prosecutors said, adding that they had contacted Moscow several times
to warn authorities there that Tsemakh might attempt to flee.
Prosecutors said that Dutch Prime
Minister Mark Rutte and Foreign Minister Stef Blok also both urged Moscow to
Despite those efforts, Russia now
says that Tsemakh's whereabouts are no longer known and media reports
suggest he has returned to eastern Ukraine, prosecutors said.
"The Public Prosecution Service has
concluded that Russia willingly allowed Mr. Tsemakh to leave the Russian
Federation and refused to execute the Dutch request. While under the
European Convention on Extradition, it was obliged to do so," the
prosecution statement said.
The Kremlin did not immediately
respond to a request for comment.
Three Russians and a Ukrainian have
been charged with murder over their alleged roles in bringing down flight
MH17. None of them have been extradited. Their trial is scheduled to start
March 9 at a courtroom near Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport.
The trial will go ahead without the
suspects if they are not turned over to Dutch authorities.
Philippine capital warned as strong typhoon approaches
Residents ride a pedicab as
they evacuate to higher grounds in preparation for the coming of Typhoon
Kammuri in Legazpi, Albay province, southeast of Manila, Philippines on
Monday Dec. 2, 2109. (AP Photo)
MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The Philippines' main
island, including the national capital, Manila, is under a tropical cyclone
warning for a typhoon forecast to hit Monday night into Tuesday.
Local governments told thousands of
people to evacuate vulnerable areas such as coastal communities. The worst
conditions are forecast for southeastern provinces on Luzon, the most
populous island in the archipelago.
Officials said Manila's Ninoy Aquino
International Airport would close from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Tuesday.
Philippine forecasters say Typhoon
Kammuri (also called Tisoy) had3 maximum sustained winds of 150 kph (93 mph)
near the center and gusts up to 185 kph (115 mph) at midafternoon Monday.
The Philippine Atmospheric,
Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration warned of potentially
severe flooding for Albay province, Samar and Leyte islands. For the
metropolitan Manila region in western Luzon, intense rainfall was possible
Some events during the Southeast
Asian Games being hosted in the Philippines have been rescheduled and
postponed for safety reasons.
EU leads international help to Albania quake recovery
In this Wednesday, Nov. 27,
2019 photo, a plastic flower among rubbles of a collapsed building damage
building in Thumane, western Albania following a deadly earthquake.(AP
By LLAZAR SEMINI
TIRANA, Albania (AP) — Dozens of
structural engineers from Europe and elsewhere are heading to Albania to
help rebuild the country after a devastating earthquake last month killed 51
people and destroyed thousands of buildings, officials said Monday.
The European Union and the United
Nations are coordinating international efforts to assist Albania after a
6.4-magnitude earthquake struck Nov. 26, affecting more than half of the
An EU team is leading the damage
assessment and distribution of aid. Six EU member states have sent 50
structural engineers, with more to come, to assess the damage together with
the local counterparts.
"In the midst of sorrow, grief and
fear, this week has shown the unfailing links between Albanians and their
friends in the EU," said Luigi Soreca, the EU ambassador to Albania.
The U.S. Agency for International
Development also has deployed structural engineers from the Fairfax County
and Los Angeles County fire departments to assist with damage assessments.
Albanian Defense Minister Olta
Xhacka praised the international response so far, saying the 780 rescuers
who rushed to the country right after the quake helped to prevent more
The quake that hit Albania's
Adriatic coast also injured more than 3,000 people. Authorities give
preliminary figures of 7,900 damaged buildings countrywide and more than
6,000 homeless sheltered in hotels, public buildings, tents and with
relatives, while neighboring Kosovo has provided shelter to others.
The quake has affected about 1.9
million people out of the country's 2.8 million population, according to the
EU office in the capital of Tirana.
The worst-hit areas were the port
town of Durres, a popular beach vacation spot for Albanians 33 kilometers
(20 miles) west of Tirana and the nearby northern town of Thumane.
U.S. singer-songwriter Bebe Rexha
visited Bubq village, 30 kilometers (18 miles) west of the capital Tirana,
to hand over aid.
Rexha, who is of ethnic Albanian
origin, said she raised money through her fans to build two homes and is
hoping to raise more.
"It's really sad what's happening
here. That's why I came here," she said.
Prosecutors have started an
investigation into possible illegal construction and violations of
Poor construction, building code
violations and corruption are considered among the main reasons for the
Albania's government has called on
the international community for financial aid and expert assistance, saying
it is incapable of doing it alone.
"The hardest part of this situation
starts now because the material damage is really great," said Xhacka before
leaving for the NATO summit in London where Albania will also look for help.
Soreca said Monday that Brussels
will look into how it will help Albania rebuild itself with a mid- to
On Thursday, the new European
Commissioner for Crisis Management, Janez Lenarcic, who started his post
Monday, visits Tirana to talk about the reconstruction planning.
July 25 forecast: Sunny, with cloud of impeachment for Trump
Capitol at sunset in Washington Jan. 24, 2019. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite,
In this Sept. 25, 2019, file photo, a White
House-released memorandum of President Donald Trump's July 25, 2019,
telephone conversation with Ukraine's newly elected president Volodymyr
Zelenskiy is photographed in Washington. If there was one day that
crystallized all the forces that led to the impeachment investigation of
President Donald Trump, it was July 25. That was the day of his phone call
with Ukraine’s new leader, pressing him for a political favor. (AP
Photo/Wayne Partlow, File)
By NANCY BENAC
WASHINGTON (AP) — The forecast for
July 25 was typical for Washington: sunny, mid-80s. President Donald Trump
had good reason to be feeling bright and sunny himself.
It was the morning after Robert
Mueller's congressional testimony at the conclusion of the Russia
investigation, and Trump and his allies were expressing relief, thinking the
rumblings about impeachment would at last fade, even if the special counsel
hadn't offered the president the total exoneration Trump claimed.
By 7:06 a.m., Trump was tweeting
positive reviews from his favorite TV show, "Fox & Friends," where co-host
Ainsley Earhardt declared, ``Yesterday changed everything, it really did
clear the president."
An hour later, Trump moved on to a
tweet talking up his approval ratings, the stock market, unemployment and
more. ``Country doing great!" he wrote.
But a reconstruction of what started
as an unremarkable summer Thursday reveals that even before daybreak,
anxiety was coursing through the White House about a coming phone call that
didn't appear on the president's public schedule.
By nightfall, Trump had set in
motion events that would trigger only the fourth impeachment inquiry in
history, imperiling his presidency and further calcifying divisions in a
At the time, it seemed no one had a
complete picture of what was afoot. But through weeks of congressional
investigation and hearings, a timeline of the day's events has emerged,
offering a portrait of one of the most consequential days of Trump's
Trump was scheduled to talk with
Ukraine's new president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy at 9 a.m. Zelenskiy, a former
comedian fond of showing off his bulging biceps, was angling to lock in a
visit to the White House, a valuable currency that he hoped would
demonstrate to Russia that he had Trump's backing.
Trump and Zelenskiy had gotten along
just fine during their first chat in April, basically an exchange of
pleasantries. National security officials were worried that this time would
There were "some concerns that, you
know, there could be some stray voltage," Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the
National Security Council's top Ukraine expert, testified later.
He was referring to growing
indications that Trump was fixated on baseless conspiracy theories that
Ukraine had tried to take down candidate Trump in the 2016 elections. There
was talk that Zelenskiy would only get a White House visit if he agreed to
investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, one of Trump's top Democratic
rivals, and the 2016 U.S. elections.
None of that was in the National
Security Council's "call package," with its suggested talking points for
Trump's conversation. Nor was any of that in the prewritten "readout" of the
call, laying out what was expected to happen.
Both of those turned out to be
Shortly before the call, Gordon
Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, got on the phone with
Trump to offer his own advice.
Sondland, working with Trump lawyer
Rudy Giuliani, had put together a plan under which Ukraine would get its
White House meeting only in exchange for agreeing to investigations of Joe
Biden and his son Hunter, who served on the board of a gas company in
Ukraine, and the 2016 election, when Trump defeated Democrat Hillary
At 8:36 a.m., Kurt Volker, then
Trump's special envoy to Ukraine, texted a Zelenskiy aide after talking to
Sondland: "Heard from White House — Assuming President Z convinces trump he
will investigate / "get to the bottom of what happened" in 2016, we will
nail down date for visit to Washington. Good luck!"
DOUR v. OBSEQUIOUS
The half-hour call started with
pleasantries but quickly took a sharp detour.
Trump, his voice lower than normal,
was "dour," according to Vindman, who was among a dozen or more people
listening in from the U.S. side.
Zelenskiy, overly eager to please,
was "obsequious," according to Tim Morrison, Vindman's boss and one of the
other sets of ears on the call.
Zelenskiy's attempts at humor fell
flat. They "just didn't seem to carry with the president," Vindman recalled.
Soon, Trump was stressing how much
the U.S. had done for Ukraine and grousing about Europe's failure to do
And then came 10 words from Trump
that triggered the impeachment investigation: "I would like you to do us a
Trump asked Zelenskiy to look into
Crowdstrike, part of a debunked theory that Ukraine interfered in the 2016
election to benefit Clinton. From there, Trump segued to pressing for
investigation of another discredited notion — that Biden had ousted a
Ukrainian prosecutor who was looking into Hunter Biden's dealings with
Burisma, the energy company where he was on the board.
Zelenskiy, speaking a mix of
Ukrainian and choppy English, had one mission: find as many ways as possible
to say yes, yes and yes again. Four times he said "yes." Twice, he assured
Trump he was "absolutely right," and "not just 100% but actually 1,000%."
"I agree with you 100%," he added
More important to Trump, though,
Zelenskiy promised that "all the investigations will be done openly and
Yet Zelenskiy wasn't committing
precisely to the investigations of Democrats that Trump wanted. He was
speaking generally of his commitment to clean up corruption in his country.
He was short one very important
"IT WAS WRONG"
Trump would later insist the call
was "perfect," but some of those who listened were gravely alarmed. Even
while Trump was still speaking, there were some worried glances among those
taking notes in the Situation Room.
The call ended at 9:33 a.m., and
within an hour, Vindman was in the office of NSC lawyer John Eisenberg.
The idea of an American president
pressuring a foreign leader to investigate his political foes was "troubling
and disturbing," Vindman told congressional investigators. "I thought it was
Acting separately, Morrison, a Trump
political appointee, also made his way to Eisenberg's office that day.
Morrison was worried that details of the call would leak and damage
Ukraine's bipartisan support in Congress.
Jennifer Williams, an adviser to
Vice President Mike Pence who was also on the call, told legislators she
found the call's detour into domestic politics "unusual and inappropriate."
By that night, NSC staff had
finished editing a rough transcript of the conversation. and Eisenberg made
sure that access to it was more closely restricted than usual to keep
details from leaking.
A readout is a description of a
private conversation or meeting, prepared for public consumption. It's often
written before the event because such phone calls, and scripts, are
typically choreographed in advance.
The NSC's prewritten readout of the
phone call, though, was worthless. It turned out there had been little
discussion of the anticipated topics, and Trump had said a lot of things
that weren't expected.
"Basically we struck almost all the
materials from that statement because we hadn't covered any of the terrain
that we thought we were going to," Vindman told legislators.
The bland three-sentence statement
issued by the White House at 12:51 p.m. gave no hint of what had really
A six-sentence statement issued by
the Ukrainians at almost the same time wasn't much more illuminating — and
seemed to be yet another highly aspirational take on the matter.
"Donald Trump is convinced that the
new Ukrainian government will be able to quickly improve image of Ukraine,
complete investigation of corruption cases, which inhibited the interaction
between Ukraine and the USA," it read.
'WHAT WAS GOING ON?'
The inbox for Laura Cooper's staff
at the Defense Department filled in more pieces of the puzzle that
A pair of emails from the State
Department — one at 2:31 p.m., the second at 4:25 p.m. — made it clear that
the Ukrainians were already worried about whether they would get hundreds of
millions of dollars in U.S. military assistance that had been approved by
Congress. It wasn't just about a White House visit.
The Trump White House wanted to hold
up the aid until Zelenskiy made a public pledge to conduct investigations.
Republicans have argued there was no "quid pro quo" — a pledge of
investigations in exchange for military aid — because the Ukrainians weren't
aware the aid was on hold when Zelenskiy spoke to Trump. But these emails
indicate the Ukrainians knew or suspected the aid was frozen when the call
Cooper, a deputy assistant defense
secretary, also testified that her staff got a question that day from a
contact at the Ukrainian Embassy asking "what was going on" with the
Talk about delaying the military aid
had been percolating for weeks by then.
But that night, at 6:44 p.m., a
staffer in the White House's Office of Management and Budget signed a
document that officially put the money on hold. All it took was a footnote
stating that the money was "not available for obligation" while its use was
The document was signed by Mark
Sandy, OMB's deputy associate director for national security, who told
lawmakers that he had been handling aid apportionments for years and had
never before been told to put one on hold. He had asked his bosses
repeatedly why it was being done. He didn't get an answer.
SUNGLASSES AND UMBRELLAS
While fallout from the call
ricocheted within the White House, much of Washington went about its
business unaware of the looming threat to Trump. So did Zelenskiy.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who
months later would give a green light to an impeachment investigation, was
meeting with House Democrats when the call took place. Then she strode down
the steps at the Capitol for an outdoor news conference. Whipping off her
sunglasses, she pledged to make August "too hot to handle" for Republican
senators who were blocking Democratic legislation.
On a rainy day in Ukraine,
Zelenskiy's social media team posted a photo of the president holding his
own umbrella — and contrasted it with a photo of his predecessor relying on
someone else to hold one.
Trump had plenty more to say that
day. He spoke at a sunlit Pentagon ceremony for new Defense Secretary Mark
Esper. He also made a State Dining Room appearance to help his daughter
Ivanka promote the administration's job training initiatives.
DOWN THE DRAIN
Trump ended his day as he began it,
in his comfort zone with Fox News.
On Sean Hannity's show, the
president said he'd been "through hell" during the Mueller investigation.
Hannity declared that with that investigation over, impeachment fantasies
had been "totally completely flushed down the drain."
Eighteen days later, a whistleblower
sent a nine-page complaint to Congress about the president's July 25 call.
On Sept. 27, Pelosi announced the
The EU ushers in its new heads of commission and council
From left, European Central Bank President
Christine Lagarde, European Parliament President Sassoli, European
Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, and European Council President
Charles Michel pose for photographers as they mark the 10th anniversary of
the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty at the House of European History
in Brussels, Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Olivier Matthys)
BRUSSELS (AP) — New leaders took over Sunday at the top of the
European Union's executive and council, taking their positions at a
turbulent time for the bloc with the looming British departure and other
Germany's Ursula von der Leyen officially replaced
Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, two days after a handover
ceremony, becoming the first woman in the job. Belgium's Charles Michel
succeeded Donald Tusk as EU Council president and chair the summits of EU
Von der Leyen and Michel marked the day in Brussels
with events for the 10th anniversary of the Lisbon Treaty in the House of
European Parliament President David Sassoli hosted the
ceremony, welcoming the new leaders — all the while calling on them to
deliver on promises made to its 508 million citizens, saying "it is now time
"We need to turn the promises of the past few months
into results that improve people's lives," Sassoli said. "From the fight
against climate change to tackling the rise in the cost of living, Europeans
want to see real action."
Momentum is building to face the challenge of climate
change and von der Leyen has said it will be a top priority for her.
The future of how the British Brexit decision will play
out should become more clear after a new election on Dec. 12.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants to secure a majority
in the election so he can push through the Brexit divorce deal he negotiated
in October with the EU. Under the terms of that deal, the U.K. would leave
the EU on Jan. 31 but remains part of the EU's single market, and bound by
the bloc's rules, until the end of 2020.
After wind scare, balloons fly in Macy's Thanksgiving parade
Participates make their way down New York's Central Park West during the
Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, Thursday, Nov. 28, 2019, in New York. (AP
Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)
Snoopy balloon makes its way down New York's Central Park West during the
Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, Thursday, Nov. 28, 2019, in New York. (AP
Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)
balloon floats down Sixth Avenue during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade,
Thursday, Nov. 28, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)
A woman in
a flower costume marches in front of the Wiggle Worm balloon during the
Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, Thursday, Nov. 28, 2019, in New York. (AP
with balloons fights with winds as it make its way down Columbus Circle
during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, Thursday, Nov. 28, 2019, in New
York. (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)
By SABRINA CASERTA
NEW YORK (AP) — The beloved balloons flew, but lower
than usual, in a windy Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade after an anxious
Wind had threatened to ground the giant inflated
characters. But officials announced less than an hour before Thursday's
start time that the balloons could fly, if in a down-to-Earth way.
As the parade continued — even while city emergency
officials sent out a public alert about wind gusts — handlers struggled with
some giant balloons and pulled them close to the ground. Meanwhile, winds
did keep giant balloons out of Philadelphia's Thanksgiving Day parade.
The Macy's parade balloons might have been lowered, but
Susan Koteen's spirits weren't. She has traveled from Florida, three years
in a row, to see the parade.
"We love it. Because it's exciting, it's patriotic, and
it just — it warms your heart," she said.
Spectators lined up a half-dozen deep along the route
on a gusty fall day, with leaves and confetti swirling in the wind.
A "Green Eggs and Ham" balloon joined the lineup,
Smokey Bear returned for the first time since 1993, and spectators got to
see new versions of favorites Snoopy and SpongeBob SquarePants.
A smaller new balloon, Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama's
"Love Flies Up to the Sky," and two star-shaped balloons ultimately didn't
make the lineup because of tears and stress from inflation before the
parade, Macy's said. A giant Ronald McDonald balloon also tore before the
parade and was pulled out midway through, the company said. The McDonald's
character had a visibly deflated leg.
Macy's spokesman Orlando Veras called the parade "a
fantastic event despite these minor challenges."
During the middle of the parade, the wind was 13 mph
(21 kph) with gusts up to 32 mph (51 kph), according to the National Weather
City rules require balloons to be grounded if sustained
winds exceed 23 mph (37 kph) and gusts exceed 34 mph (55 kph). The balloons
have been grounded only once for weather-related reasons, in 1971.
On Thursday, in a windy spot near the start of the
2.5-mile (4-kilometer) route, a Nutcracker balloon knocked into a handler,
who fell down but then continued along. A Grinch balloon touched some trees
as it passed a corner, drawing an "ooh!" from the crowd.
To parade-goer Kate O'Connor, the wind was "scary,
especially around the corners — they're like wind tunnels."
It was still cool to see the balloons up close, "but
they're really meant to be seen from underneath," said the resident of
Newtown, Connecticut, who comes to the parade every other year with her
daughter, Megan, 8.
Joanna Mammen and her family came from Bradford County
in northern Pennsylvania to revisit the parade she attended every year while
growing up in the Bronx.
"My favorite float, as a kid, was Santa Claus," said
Mammen, 69. "Most of the other floats from that time, the kids these days
wouldn't even recognize. But it's a beautiful tradition, to come out and
experience the crowd."
It was a first-time experience for her husband, Bill.
And for him, it was all about sharing the fun with the couple's son, Jason,
and 2-year-old grandson, Lincoln.
"Thanksgiving is not just about the people I love. It
is the people I love," he said.
Willie Brown traveled from Dallas to see the parade,
particularly entertainers Ciara and Kelly Rowland.
"This was really a bucket list item for me, Macy's Day
Parade in New York City," the 23-year-old said. "You grow up seeing glimpses
on TV, but it's something I knew I needed to experience."
The parade, one of the city's most popular events,
features about 8,000 marchers, two dozen floats, entertainers and marching
bands, ending with an appearance from Santa Claus.
The character balloons can go as high as 55 feet (16
meters) off the ground and as low as 10 feet (3 meters).
The rules requiring them to be grounded in high winds
came after a "Cat in the Hat" balloon blew into a lamppost near Central Park
in 1997, critically injuring a woman.
In 2005, an M&M's balloon smacked into a lamppost in
Times Square, causing cuts and bruises to a woman in a wheelchair and her
In 2017, a gust on an otherwise calm day sent a smaller
balloon into a tree branch. That one popped and fell harmlessly onto the
Hundreds rally in Myanmar to show support for Suu Kyi
People attend a rally Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019, in
Yangon, Myanmar. About 700 people rallied Sunday to show support for
Myanmar’s leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, as she prepares to defend the country
against charges of genocide at the U.N.’s highest court. (AP Photo/Thein Zaw)
YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — About 700 people rallied
Sunday to show support for Myanmar's leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, as she
prepares to defend the country against charges of genocide at the U.N.'s
Members of Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy
party swelled the ranks in front of the colonial-era City Hall in
Yangon, Myanmar's largest city, as the crowd waved national flags and
listened to music and poetry. A popular local singer told them that
"Mother Suu is the bravest human being in the world – her weapon is
Many carried banners saying, "We stand with you,
The case before the International Court of Justice
in The Hague relates to a harsh counterinsurgency campaign waged by
Myanmar's military against members of the country's Muslim Rohingya
community in August 2017 in response to an insurgent attack.
More than 700,000 Rohingya fled to neighboring
Bangladesh to escape what has been called an ethnic cleansing campaign
involving mass rapes, killings and the torching of homes.
The head of a U.N. fact-finding mission on Myanmar
warned recently that "there is a serious risk of genocide recurring."
Gambia filed the case at the ICJ, also known as the
world court, on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
The case alleges that Myanmar's actions against the
Rohingya are "genocidal in character because they are intended to
destroy the Rohingya group in whole or in part."
Myanmar has strongly denied the charges but says it
stands ready to take action against wrong-doers if there is sufficient
A statement on the website of the Ministry of the
Interior said recently that the renewed international pressure on the
country was due to a lack of understanding of "the complexities of the
issue and the narratives of the people of Myanmar."
Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, will lead
the delegation to The Hague in her capacity as foreign minister.
Hearings are due to start on Dec. 10. The case is
expected to last several years..